Monday, October 31, 2011

Weekend Report: Pancakes and Pizza in NYC

On Saturday, Christine, Jess and I re-convened à la my sophomore year of college. But instead of Boston, it was NYC...and instead of their Student Village apartment, it was Christine's new home in the Flatiron District...and instead of the three of us, there was one new addition who integrated seamlessly into our trio - Christine's husband Phil! 

But other than that, some things will always be the same. We worked out, then lazed around, talked excessively, baked something, and went out to eat. The perfect way to spend an absolutely disgusting day (it sleeted - ugh). 

We are all Food Network-watching, Serious Eats-reading, blog-following foodies, so the opportunity to eat in NYC was an occasion for extensive planning.

First up, the best pancakes in NYC at Clinton St. Baking Company on the Lower East Side. Serious Eats aptly describes them as "Thick but crazily light, with buttery, crisp edges...but really, it's the maple butter that makes 'em."  I can't put my finger on it, but there's something almost donut-y about the flavor. Brunch starts at 9 am. We thought we could beat the crowds by arriving at 9:15, but there was still a 45 minute wait! I guess after beating Bobby Flay in Throwdown Blueberry Pancakes a place will always be crowded.

But once we sat down it was totally worth it. Service was quick but not rushed, and they were great about re-filling my coffee.  Clearly I went for the Blueberry Pancakes. The maple butter that comes with the pancakes is like a cross between maple syrup and maple glaze. It is divine. And another great discovery -- each table has a pot of fresh raspberry jam. Fresh like you can see (and taste) the chunks of raspberries. Yummm!

For dinner we went to another super-popular NYC restaurant: Co. Pizzeria. Much like Clinton St. Baking Company this place is usually line-around-the-block crowded, but since we went early (6:30 pm) and the weather was terrible, we walked right in! 

The restaurant is known for its pizza crust, which bakes to a chewy crusty perfection in a 700 degree oven. 

We skipped the salads and soups and went straight for the important stuff, easily consuming 6 pizzas between the four of us. We started with the Pizza Bianca with coarse sea salt and olive oil

The salt was so faint that we had to request more, which was totally fine. We also asked for Parmesan cheese. The only thing they wouldn't/couldn't give us was a side of extra sauce. The waitress explained that their sauce is literally fresh  crushed tomatoes, so it's not something they can scoop into a bowl for a side. 

After that nice warm-up, we all split a traditional Margherita Pizza. In my opinion it needed more sauce and a bit more basil. 

Then we each ordered our own personal pies. Christine and Jess both went for the Stracciatella, which has crushed tomato, stracciatella (a cheese softer and creamier then mozzarella), arugula, and black pepper

Phil got the Meatball Pizza with tomato, mozzarella, veal meatballs, caramelized onions, olives, aged pecorino, and oregano. We all agreed that it was an excellent rendition of a for-a-party normal type of pizza. 

I felt adventurous and opted for the Shiitake Pie with caramelized onion-walnut puree, olive oil, rosemary, and sea salt. It was like an umami explosion! I think I'm going to try to re-create the onion/walnut puree - it was fantastic.  Look at all those mushrooms!

Read the Co. Pizzeria's full menu here

Clearly we ate a lot, but much more importantly, we had a lot of fun! With Jess in Boston and me in DC, it's perfect that Christine and Phil now live mid-way between us! I'm looking forward to more NYC food days in the future...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Corgis and Decorative Gourds

Alas, I am again too busy saving the world to blog today. I hope you have a fantastic pre-Halloween weekend! What are you dressing up as? I still haven't thought of anything good...sad face...

Want to see more adorable corgis in costume? Go here. But be warned, death by corgi cuteness is entirely possible.

Also, read the oh-so-seasonal classic "It's Decorative Gourd Season M************!" It will make your day. 


This is the last time I recommend it, I promise. Read!

Happy (almost) Halloween!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How I Lounge On Top Of A Mountain

Sorry all, no time to post today. Unfortunately I am not currently lounging on top of a mountain...but I wish I were!

(Picture from Old Rag last weekend.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Marine Corps Marathon Info and Fun Facts

The 26th Marine Corps Marathon is this weekend. On Sunday morning 30,000 runners cover 26.2 miles around the District and Virginia, testing out MCM’s new course. And it’s not just a marathon - a total of 43,000 runners are registered to participate in the Marathon, 10K, and Healthy Kids Fun Run.  

This post is a mixture of useful information and fun facts for both runners and spectators. If you’re racing this weekend – good luck!

An average of one third of the MCM's annual 30,000 runner race field is comprised of first time marathons. If you’re a first timer, you can register for the First Timers Pep Rally on Friday, October 28 for an MCM Expert Panel Q&A, great music, cheerleaders, and giveaways.
  • The course records are held by Maryland native Jeff Scuffins, 2:14:01 (1987), and Russian Olga Markova 2:37:00 (1990).
  • Last year’s winners were J. Bradosky, (Lt. USAF) from Centerville, OH in 2:23:30, and Janet Cherobon, Rome, GA in 2:39:19.

This year over 400 service members overseas will participate in the Marine Corps Marathon. Called the MCM Forward event, the satellite races will include 405 stationed in Afghanistan, 5  runners in Iraq, and 31 Sailors aboard the USS Bush.
 “MCM Forward offers the opportunity for service members on deployment to train and run the MCM who could not otherwise do so and receive the same medal as those finishers at the Marine Corps War Memorial,” says Rick Nealis MCM Director. (read more)
Can you imagine running a marathon on a treadmill on a ship? Or training in a desert in Afghanistan? Clearly, I’m impressed.

  • Why the nickname "The People's Marathon”? Because MCM is the largest marathon in the world that doesn't offer prize money, so it caters more to the people than the professionals.

If you’re more of a marathon spectator (like me), MCM offers some really cool runner tracking tools:
  1. There’s the Mobile Locator, which is essentially a web application to help you find yourself, locate mile markers, aid and water stations, etc. on the course. The website is
  2. And for the first time, MCM is offering runner tracking through social media. "By registering for a new runner tracking program, available on the MCM website, runners and spectators will be able to receive continuous updates as an individual runner reaches the 10K, 20K, 30K and 40K splits and across the MCM finish. These updates can be automatically posted on a runner’s personal Facebook and Twitter page, or they can be received via email or over SMS text messaging." 
Be sure to hit up the Expo to pick up your packet and check out the free stuff, merchandise, raffles, and speakers offered. It’s free and open to the public from Oct. 27 through Oct. 29 at the DC Armory located at 2001 E. St. SE. 
  • How the MCM it start?  Colonel Jim Fowler had an idea back in 1975. "After the Vietnam War, popularity of the military services declined in the eyes of many. At the same time, distance running was gaining considerable positive attention." 
  • The first MCM was held on 7 November 1976 and welcomed 1,175 participants.

The new course is only slightly tweaked from past races. The elevation profile is still hilly at the beginning and a bit at the end, so don't go out too hard and kill yourself in the first couple miles.

This is a great list: 8 Things You Need to Know about the MCM:
1. Look up about 7:30 a.m. You won’t want to miss the spectacle of a low-flying fixed-wing plane and the two tandem jump teams that kick off the race. Awesome.3. Double-fist the oranges between mile markers 9 and 10 – they’re surprisingly refreshing.
7. When you’re at your most miserable and every fiber of your body is screaming “QUIT!” between miles 25 and 26, look to your left and consider the fallen soldiers at Arlington Cemetery. Yeah. It’s powerful.8. Thank each and every Marine along the course – not only for giving you the opportunity to have such a life-changing experience but also for their service to our country. None of it would be possible without them. (Read the full list here.)

For more tools, info, race-prep and race weekend information, check out MCM's website

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cake of the Week: Spiced Pumpkin Latte Cake

Every October people go crazy for pumpkin lattes. They're like a bizarre seasonal drug – every coffee shop carries a version, and suddenly the question is, Have you had your pumpkin latte yet? These caffeinated concoctions fall somewhere between a guilty pleasure, religion, and addiction. Devotees praise the latte’s deliciousness, while simultaneously bemoaning the effects on bank accounts and waist-bands nationwide.  They’re expensive and high calorie, but 'tis the season, right?

Clearly, being myself and doing what I do, I took the beverage inspiration and turned it into a cake. Spiced Pumpkin Latte Cake. Yes.  

Saturday afternoon I was feeling lazy. I started a run but aborted mission about 3 minutes in (it just felt awful), and walked back home.  After a brief sit-up session I decided that it was dance-around-my-kitchen-and-bake time. Aka my favorite time.

I cranked up Pandora to Kenny Chesney (believe it or not, sometimes I listen to music other than ZBB), closed my door in the interest of minimizing the Mollie-singing my roommates would have to experience, and started baking. 

I saw this Pumpkin Spice Cake recipe on Not So Humble Pie a couple weeks ago. It’s super simple and doesn’t require any odd ingredients. But be warned: it makes a ton of cake. I made three layers and the finished cake was so huge that it didn’t fit under my cake-dome. I wish I’d measured it in inches, just to be able to report back…but let’s just settle for gi-normous and call it a day. 

My one addition is the most important part – one capsule of finely ground espresso mixed into the batter. The resulting cake isn’t super coffee-y. It’s more subtle, much like a pumpkin latte. If you like an extra shot in your latte, by all means add another tablespoon of espresso to this cake. 

And the frosting…oh the frosting. SO FREAKING GOOD. My usual cream cheese frosting is half cream cheese, half butter. But this recipe is half cream cheese, half whipped cream. It’s light and not overly sweet and absolutely divine. Seriously, I dipped my finger into the bowl and the heavens opened up and angels started singing. True story. 

Spiced Pumpkin Latte Cake
yields or 3 8" or 9" cake rounds
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg (I cheated and used the usual grocery store ground nutmeg. It would probably be even better with freshly ground, but I'm just too lazy.)
  • 1 cup golden brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin puree (This is slightly more than one can - most are 15 oz - you'd be fine using one can.)
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 capsule or 2 1/2 tablespoons finely ground espresso powder

Preheat your oven to 350°F and prepare two 8" or 9" round cake pans with a light coating of non-stick spray and then line the bottoms with parchment. Or you can spray and flour them. 

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Once sifted, give it a good mixing with a whisk to ensure everything is evenly distributed and then set aside. 

In a second large bowl, add the brown sugar and a third of the pumpkin puree. Combine the two with a spatula, pressing firmly to ensure there are no rogue lumps of sugar.  Once lump free, add the remaining pumpkin and oil. Blend with a whisk and then add the eggs, one at a time, stirring with the whisk to incorporate after each addition. 
Add the dry ingredients a third at a time, blending after each addition. Add the espresso powder. 

Divide the batter between your pans and place into the oven on a lower-middle rack.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. 
Let the cakes stand in the pans on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Then unmold onto the racks and turn right-side up to cool completely. 

Ms. Humble's Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields enough to frost a 8" or 9" double layer cake. 
  • 1lb (16oz) cream cheese, softened but still cool
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream (use the ultra heavy 40%+ cream if you can find it)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

Sift the powdered sugar and add the cream cheese to the bowl of your mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat them thoroughly until fluffy and completely smooth/lump free. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream to nearly stiff peaks, then add the whipped cream into the cheese mixture, scrape down the sides of your bowl and quickly and briefly beat to combine. Do not over beat.

Assemble your cake by trimming any humps off the top of the cake and place trimmed side down on your serving platter. Tuck strips of parchment under the cake to protect the platter during frosting, if desired. Dollop a generous amount of frosting onto the first layer-and smooth into an even layer, about 2 cm thick. If you're going for three layers, repeat with the second layer. Then frost the entire outside of the cake. 

To store, keep refrigerated for up to five days.  Keep the cake well covered to prevent it from absorbing any odors while in the fridge. Allow to stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Weekend Report: Hiking Old Rag in Shenandoah

Three things I really like: being outside, hiking, and scrambling over rocks. Luckily, spending the day at Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah Valley on Sunday was the perfect combination of all three. Plus it was the most glorious fall weather known to humanity.

I did this hike way backin June 2010 and have been dying to do it again ever since. Fall is peak Old Rag season (accidental pun, I swear) because all of the beautiful foliage. Who wouldn’t want to climb one of the highest mountains in Shenandoah Valley in October?

Living in the city, the change of seasons can be more about the clothes I wear. I switch to pants and sweaters and am psyched to enjoy my lunchtime walks instead of sweat through them. But when I get out into the country I remember how much more exponentially beautiful fall can be when all you see is colorful trees for miles.

We got up long before the crack of dawn on Sunday (4:50 am – kill me) to get to the trailhead by 8 to beat the crowds.

The early wake-up was definitely worth it and I strongly recommend it. We arrived just before the bulk of the crowds hit the trail, so as we hiked there were definitely people around but it really wasn’t as bad as expected.

Our group was about 15, probably one of the largest on the trail. I led a pretty good pace up the mountain (waiting and water breaks are not my strong points). At the top we scrambled up one last boulder to find ourselves on top of the world.  

After a long lunch break we hiked our way down. Again, beautiful!

Total Distance: about 9 miles from the parking lot
Peak Elevation: 3,291 feet (the parking lot is at about 900 feet)

Hooray for fall weekends!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Best of the Week #36

I hope you’re ready - this Best of the Week is pretty epic. Get excited.

First of all, I had a great run this morning! So yet again, I’m uncharastically happy this fabulous Friday. (I don’t know how/why/when Best of the Week became a state-of-Mollie report, but apparently it is...)

Anywhoozle, I skipped Best of the Week last week (for a great guest post), so this list is 2 weeks of fun from the interwebs! Plus some unsolicited but greatly appreciated contributions from the Newbie.

My most popular post this week was Time Spent on Workouts.

I love this website - Bookshelf Porn. If you like books, or architecture, or beautiful pictures you’ll love it too.

Serious Eats tells us the Cheeses Everyone Should Know. Camenbert has always been my favorite cheese. Yum! 

Continuing in the food vein, from Shannon Eileen – 
“Have you heard of Gojee? Go there now and faint. When you wake up, type in what foods you're craving, any allergies or dislikes, and what's in your fridge. You'll be shown image after image of mouth watering recipes that work with your tastes and ingredients on hand. You can even link your grocery store rewards card to automatically integrate your new food purchases. Amazing, right?”
This is my worst nightmare: “SURFER STANDS ON GREAT WHITE SHARK INSTEAD OF BOARd.” Really, I don’t have nightmares very often, but when I do they involve sharks.
Niblack recalled feeling his longboard hit something as he surfed about 50 yards off the Oregon Coast. After that bump, he said he saw a dorsal fin in front of him, with his feet planted on 10 feet of shark back. As this was going on, he said the shark's tail thrashed back and forth."It was pretty terrifying just seeing the shape emerge out of nothing and just being under me," Niblack told the AP on Wednesday. "And the fin coming out of the water. It was just like the movies.
If you’ve ever done yoga, this CraigsList add is hilarious.
11:45a Register for hot yoga class. Infinite wisdom tells me to commit to 5 class package and purchase a yoga mat. I pay $89.74. Money well spent, I smugly confirm to myself.

11:55a Open door to yoga room. A gush of hot dry air rushes through and past me. It smells of breath, sweat and hot. Take spot on floor in back of room next to cute blonde. We will date.

11:57a I feel the need to be as near to naked as possible. This is a problem because of the hot blonde to my left and our pending courtship. She will not be pleased to learn that I need to lose 30 pounds before I propose to her.
Haiti Doesn't Need Your Yoga Mat - A visual history of the West's misguided attempts to send its hand-me-downs to the developing world.

I want this – yummm! It’s literally a cup of coffee cake

Have you heard of Reggie Watts? He’s a seriously funny improv musician in NYC – youcan watch his performance on Conan (right side of the website).

I am apparently the only person in the world without a smartphone. (It’s ok, I’m not upset about it.) But for my more technologically advanced friends, these 5 best time saving apps are supposed to be good.

Did I share this link already? Maybe I did...animal sounds around the world.

I can’t decide if this video is clever or just weird. It’s what English soundslike to non-English speakers

Some really cool images from early missions to Everest.

Speaking of mountains, I want to ski down a meringue frosted cupcake. (more)

Dag Hammarskjöld is my favorite Secretary General,  for reasons far too wonky even for this blog…email me if you want more details! He was recently recognized by the UN.
Mr. Hammarskjöld was guided by an inner voice “never to do what was expedient or popular [but] always to do what he believed was right,” said Mr. Ban, speaking at Mr. Hammarskjöld’s graveside in Uppsala, Sweden. “For that, he stands out among the leaders of the past century.”
A Tibetan rap about pastry and listening to your parents. Adorable and surprisingly catchy! (source)

We all know I have a soft spot for everything Niger, so clearly this caught my eye: Arid Niger desert is 'Noah's ark.'

This baking process video is weird but kinda cool.

Going viral: Feminist Ryan Gosling. Perfect.

And in case you’re interested – go here for a video of Ryan Gosling reading FuckYeahRyanGosling posts.

I am a huge Anthropologie fan, but fully recognize the ridiculousness of some of their clothes and housewares. So does the writer of this site, Anthroparodie.

Fully Furnished Bohemian Crack Den
curl up and let your problems and worries drift away
into a sea of sapphire rococo walls and plush iridescent bedding
this cozy and secluded retreat is injected with a soothing hash of azure patterns
perfectly tousled to enable your next fix of inspiration 

feed your addiction to opulence

$1738 / month

These state-shaped are cutting boards are pretty cool – Christmas is coming up, so start thinking presents!

This post looks like it’s about alcohol, but it’s actually about my second-favorite holiday: Marathon Monday! Aka the Boston Marathon.
But I found it hard to root for this Ryan or for the female version of him who threatened to win before falling apart at the very end when she remembered that she was not, in fact, from the part of Michigan that is in East Africa.
If you made it to the end of this post - congrats! And thank you for reading. Have a great weekend! 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Literary Bite: The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers is the ultimate adventure/action book. It’s totally over-the-top -- gallantry and chivalry and duels and honor and all that, but in a really fun way. The book was originally written in serial form, much like Charles Dickens’ books. But unlike Dickens, Dumas writes all-action (no philosophizing). Every chapter ends with a cliff-hanger that makes you want to keep reading. 

The story is about four comrades in arms – Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan (yes, that “Three” in the title is misleading). They are men of honor serving King Louis XIII of France in the King’s guards, aka the musketeers. The intrigues they get mixed up in involve all levels of royalty and require dashing deeds of bravery (or stupidity, if you want to look at it too seriously). One great adventure mid-book is their ride across the country to France. All four set off with their lackeys on a desperate mission to retrieve two diamond studs from Lord Buckingham for the Queen of France. It’s a pretty awesome story-line…I won’t give anything away. 

There’s also a bit of romance – every knight must have his lady to honor, right? They fall in love with women (D’Artagnan especially), and fight a ridiculous number of duels. “Fight duels on all occasions, the more so because duels are forbidden and consequently it takes twice as much courage to fight them.”

I think it’s interesting that the most evil character is a woman – Milady is one of the smartest characters and is also pure evil.  “It was easy to conquer, as she so often had, men who were used to the gallantries and intrigues of life at court and who were quick to let themselves be seduced. She was beautiful enough not to find much resistance on the part of the flesh, and clever enough to prevail over any obstacles of the mind.”

Athos' thoughts on that: “I do not trust women, particularly fair women. Can it be otherwise? I bought my experience dearly.”

The writing is a little dated, but very clever. Dumas is funny and his characters are kind of sassy. 

“You are very amiable, no doubt, but you would be charming if you would only depart.” 

You’ll like The Three Musketeers if you liked The Count of Monet Cristo, or Les Misérables.

And conveniently I read it just before a new movie comes out

(Hmm, just watched the trailer...looks even more over-the-top ridiculous than the book is...)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Time Spent on Workouts

I work out a lot. I have a bit of a reputation at my office as the crazy-workout-girl (seriously – I just ran into someone in the kitchen who called me that). My reputation has developed over a few months. I don't talk about running too much at work, but it's not something I hide either. 

Sometimes I pass up happy hours in favor of workouts. When people complain about the rain because it slows the Metro I might mention that it's also annoying for running, and when we go rock climbing my arms might be a little tired from the morning's pool run. No big deal...just facts.

A year and a half ago, I calculated how many full days of mylife I’ve spent running - at that point it was up to 1,780 hours , or 74.16 days.

In the past few months I’ve been doing less actual running and more cross-training/yoga, which takes even more time.

I don’t mind – I strongly believe that time spent on workouts is time well spent. For runners (and other kinds of athletes), working out is a lifestyle, not a chore. It’s just something I know I’m going to do every day. I definitely run into scheduling conflicts, but with some planning and foresight (and a willingness to work out at odd hours), it’s not that hard to fit running into any schedule.

And I think this sort of lifestyle is more common than most people think. Not everyone talks (or blogs) about their workouts all the time, so you may not realize how many friends and co-workers are also on the excessive-workout-train.

Obviously I have nothing on my marathoning or triathlete friends, but here’s an “average” week for me right now:
  • Sunday – afternoon run - 1 hour
  • Monday – evening run – 1 hour
  • Tuesday – morning pool run – 1.5 hours, evening rock climb – 2 hours
  • Wednesday – evening run – 1 hour
  • Thursday – morning yoga – 1.5 hours
  • Friday – morning run – 1 hour
  • Saturday – pool run – 2 hours, yoga – 1.5 hours
(All these times are estimated, and  I’m including warm-up/cool-down time, since that’s part of the workout.)

Week total time working out: 12.5 hours

What do you think? Totally normal, right?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cake of the Week: LLC's Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Cake for breakfast is frowned upon, but luckily muffins are the ultimate cake loophole. And Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins incorporate an extra decadent cheesecake component that makes me swoon, just a little bit. 

If you sit down at the breakfast table next to your roommate/spouse/mama with a slab of frosted awesomeness I guarantee that someone will say something.

But if you sit down with a muffin, you’re just a normal person starting your normal day. (No matter how decadent, a muffin is a muffin, and I will not let anyone convince me otherwise.)

These muffins are an LLC creation and they are divine - pumpkin-y and spicy, with a cream cheese filling and streusel on top.  LLC doubled the spices, making them taste almost ginger-bread-ish with a pumpkin twist.

Friday night she delivered a tin-full to my apartment, and I’m not going to lie…I ate 2 a day (breakfast and dessert) until they were gone. She’s got to stop doing that to me! My life is so hard…

I feel slightly less cake-for-breakfast-guilt because she made some substitutions to health-ify them: whole wheat flour, applesauce, less oil, etc. But don't let that fool you - these muffins could qualify as cake and I'm a-okay with that!

LLC’s Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
Makes 24 muffins

For the filling:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
For the muffins:
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 can pumpkin puree (15 oz)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup applesauce

For the topping:
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours. The mixture will still be somewhat soft but firmer. (I did do this, because of Abby's description of needing another set of hands when she tried to do a recipe like this. I'm not convinced that it was very necessary because the cream cheese didn't get much firmer. I think whipping it together and putting the bowl in the fridge or freezer while you do the rest would be sufficient.)

To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated. (Clearly I didn’t use an electric mixer but whatever)

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. I always get inpatient here and mix it together with my hands so that it looks like the texture of wet sand. I know you aren't supposed to do it this way but I'm impatient. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons). Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. You want to put the cream cheese lower than you think because it will rise a lot during the baking process. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. I like them warm, cold, and room temperature.