Fresh from four days in Seattle, I can tell you the city was both everything and nothing like I expected, the way most things we envision tend to be, the way you could also describe a certain pumpkin recipe I’d tried before I left.

trees in seattle

I mean, I liked Seattle. But before I went, I envisioned thick forests, days of rain, majestic mountains, lots of coffee, something called a Space Needle—and, I don’t know, people wearing lots of flannel or North Face jackets. In fact, it was all of those things. Despite our trip’s unending sunshine, the effects of rain were all around us: in the canopies of green over city streets, the fall leaves scattered on street corners, the fresh and wet smell throughout beautiful Bainbridge Island. We saw mountain peaks off in the distance, we ate soup with a view of the Space Needle, we passed more Starbucks coffee shops than I could count.

seattle fall leaves

seattle ships

wooded seattle

Indeed, Seattle is Pikes Place Market and the smell of the sea and a need for a jacket everywhere you go. But it is also something else. It is a city, like any other city, filled with tall buildings, urban architecture, the familiar retail shops. It’s hilly, like San Francisco, with steep sidewalks leading up ascending street numbers. It’s a place that makes it easy to eat organic or local or vegan or gluten-free.

seattle pines

organic ice cream

parfait ice cream

delancey pizza

Seattle is a gorgeous farmers market, a crowded Friday morning, a great dinner at Delancey—the Neapolitan-style pizza place I (and every other Orangette lover) watched develop online and now can say I’ve dined at.

Seattle was and wasn’t what I thought it would be, and that was exactly right, which is precisely the story of these muffins.

pumpkin muffins

See, just like you can have visions of a place you’ve never visited, you can have expectations of a recipe you’ve never tried.

whipped cream

And sometimes you bake something, say a cookie, expecting what a cookie recipe normally yields, be it a hard and crunchy biscuit you can dunk in tea, a large and cracked dessert speckled with powder sugar or a crumbly and mouthwatering morsel you can hold in your hand, but when you go to the kitchen, follow a recipe, make some adaptations and bake, you find surprise. What you’ve made aren’t the cookies of your imagination; they’re something else entirely—more like muffins, dense and fluffy, spreading and flattening into wide, round cakes on the baking sheet.

pumpkin muffins with whipped cream

So you pour them into muffin molds as you embrace the reality of what is, accepting and appreciating it. And you realize pumpkin muffins are exactly right.

I guess these are the preconceptions and surprises that make up our lives—be they new cities or new recipes or new faces that become friends. They’re everywhere. They’re worth noticing. I just hope they always involve such good things to eat.

pumpkin muffins

Seattle Recap (highlights)
Where we ate: Groceries and buffet from Whole Foods Market Westlake, 2210 Westlake Avenue, Seattle, WA, 98121 // Breakfast at BOKA, 1010 First Avenue // Dinner at Restaurant Zoe, 2137 Second Avenue // Snacks at Blackbird Bakery, 210 Winslow Way E, Bainbridge Island, WA // Organic Ice Cream from Parfait at the Queen Anne Farmers Market, W Crockett at Queen Anne // Pizza at Delancey, 1415 NW 70th Street // Breakfast at Fonte Cafe & Wine Bar, 5412 6th Ave South

Within Pike Place Market, 1501 Pike Place, Seattle, WA, 98101: Organic pluot-peach-strawberry smoothies from Tiny’s Organic// Soup from Pike Place Chowder // Bakery from Le Panier // Bakery from Cinnamon Works

Full photo album viewable on Flickr.

Not-Pumpkin-Cookie Muffins
Loosely adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about two dozen regular-sized muffins

You can top these with whatever you like, be it a thick cream cheese frosting or nothing, totally plain. I used some leftover homemade lemon whipped cream, just a simple blend of heavy whipping cream, lemon zest and a few teaspoons of organic sugar.

2 cups white spelt flour (or all-purpose)
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1.5 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 cups Sucanat (or brown sugar)
2 large eggs
15 ounces canned solid-pack pumpkin (I got mine at Trader Joe’s)
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter 24 muffin cups (or fit with paper). Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl; set aside.

Put butter and coconut oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add Sucanat and mix well on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low. Add pumpkin, milk and vanilla; mix until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; mix until combined.

Pour or scoop batter into muffin molds, filling them about 1/2 to 3/4 full. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, keeping an eye on them along the way. Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 29 Comments


    Great photos. I love Seattle. The pumpkin muffins sound delicious and healthy too!

  2. Susan

    I went to Seattle once when I was younger, but I want to go back! Great photos!

  3. Jacqui

    gorgeous! your travel posts always give me the itch to leave town.

  4. Tim

    Looks like a great time… wish I could go to Delancey!

  5. Lan

    so incredibly jealous of your travels this year and this particular destination looks to be such a good time and good dining!

  6. claire

    Lovely words about Seattle! I have yet to go but you reminded me how much I want to. The story behind the muffins is wonderful too…they look delicious!

  7. Anne Zimmerman

    I lived in Seattle for a year right out of college and still can’t figure out why I left. So glad I still have good friends there and visit regularly for food, wine, shopping, and a regular dose of the Seattle showers.

  8. Jessica

    Wow, I’ve never been to Seattle, but it looks amazing! I’ve heard good things about the food there too. Love the photos!

  9. TJ

    Yep, that’s Seattle! It’s always interesting to observe the similarities and differences between it and Portland. They are both great places to eat well with plenty of green and rain, yet each is so unique.

  10. Maddie

    My Seattleite roommate was always talking about the PNW (the abbreviation for the Pacific Northwest, apparently, to those who live there) and made it sound so wonderful. I haven’t been there yet, but I love living vicariously! Sounds like a lovely weekend, Shanna.

  11. Megan Gordon

    Ah, Seattle. I’ve always wanted to try Blackbird on Bainbridge–it’s gluten-free, no? And I’ve eaten at Restaurant Zoe while there, too. Nice, nice spot. Love the way you connected your expectations of the trip/visit with those we have of a recipe. So true!

  12. Shannalee

    Thanks, Nancy! They were!

    Susan, Thanks!

    Jacqui, Everything gives me an itch to leave town. : ) But coming home is nice, too.

    Tim, Me too!

    Lan, I know, I was thinking about how much I’ve gotten to travel this year–and although I didn’t mention it in the post, largely for F-R-E-E–and feeling very very blessed.

    Claire, Thank you!

    Anne, That’s great you can still visit regularly!

    Jessica, Yes – the food was all very good, and oh my word so many more healthy options everywhere.

    TJ, Portland is on my list of somedays. : )

    Maddie, I know just what you mean! I love reading or hearing about other people’s travels.

    Megan, Look at you! Knowing about Blackbird! Yes, they had loads of gluten-free options… I don’t think everything was, but I actually might be wrong about that. We split two (I’m pretty sure gluten-free) cookies!

  13. Gemma

    Ooh, the pizza at Delancey looks amazing! Sounds like a great trip!

  14. Lisa

    Shanna, do you think i could make the batter for these the day before and refrigerate it until I bake them??

  15. Shannalee

    Thanks, Gemma!

    Lisa, Hmmm. Truthfully, I don’t see why you couldn’t. I mean, people refrigerate pancake batter overnight, and that has eggs, right? Everything else for sure would be fine. If you’re nervous, maybe mix all the dry ingredients so all you have to do the next day is add the wet? Good luck!

  16. Lisa


  17. heather @ chiknpastry

    looks like you’ve had some good travels! we were in seattle in march for a long weekend and it was great fun! didn’t make it to delancey but did get some horribly good food elsewhere – the possibilities are endless and as long as the rain isn’t coming down, it’s a gorgeous place ;).

  18. Amanda

    JUST made these … with a Gluten Free Flour mix.. and they are AMAZING!! MMMM!!

  19. Ashley

    You were so close (I live around the corner from Delancey)! I am so glad you enjoyed your time in our fair city. Next time you’re in town drop me a line if you have time!

  20. Shannalee

    Heather, I wouldn’t even have minded the rain! And you’re right about the good food. : )

    Amanda, Yay! Sounds great!

    Ashley, You are seriously so nice. I feel so complimented that you even stop over here to read a post – I love your blog and its gorgeous pictures and recipes! Next trip to Seattle (or if you and the fam find yourselves in Chicago?), I would love to sit and chat!

  21. Amanda

    ok.. I had to come back and just say these were the best pumpkin muffins EVER! mmm! Dangerous… I’ve eaten so many in the last few days… I’ve had to start handing them out just to save myself from overload. I like that you have recipes using sucanat and coconut oil!

  22. Shannalee

    Amanda, I like that you like that I post recipes with sucanat and coconut oil. : ) You’re definitely in the minority on that, ha! So glad you enjoyed these muffins. Thanks for coming back to say so!

  23. molly

    Shannalee, thanks so much for this grand glimpse of home. Fall is when I miss it the most. I can all but smell it, from the pictures + words.

  24. Shannalee

    Molly, And wouldn’t you know it, I was in your current home state (Ohio, right?) this last weekend! Fall was looking pretty beautiful there, too. : )

  25. Rebecca

    It’s always amazing to read what people think of the place I call home. I often forget how wonderful, complex and just a bit hippy-ish it is. Thanks for reminding me why people like to visit Seattle and why I call it home.

  26. Shannalee

    Thanks, Rebecca! : )

  27. Pingback: Pizza at Porta Via Italian Kitchen | Food Loves Writing

  28. Claire


    Where did you guys stay while you were in Seattle? Patrick and I are going in November… can’t wait!

    1. Shannalee

      Good question, Claire — I had to check with my brother, but turns out we stayed at two different hotels: the first night was at the Hyatt Olive 8 (free because it was covered by his work), and the rest of the trip was at the Hotel 1000 (which we liked more). Hope you have a great trip! Please go to Delancey! : )

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