Pumpkin Date Muffins and Is Not Having Cooking Skills a Special Need?

Hi everyone!

Before I get to the muffins, I wanted to talk about something interesting.

With all of my years helping struggling individuals get to where they need to be in the kitchen, I have seen many parallels to my son and his special needs. Am I saying some novice chefs have special needs? Maybe. Hear me out.

My son has an aide, also known as a paraprofessional, who helps him to work on his classwork and his socialization to the best of his ability by knowing his history, his strengths and his limitations. Without this aide, my son simply could not function successfully, could not reach his academic or social goals. It is simply the nature of his syndrome that he needs some hand holding, some understanding of his needs, for concepts and strategies to be explained in a way that he and only he can understand. My son does not have dyslexia, he is not visually or hearing impaired. He does not have   a sensory integration disorder. He has a number of intellectual, emotional and behavioral issues, however, that are specific to him. Those issues need to de identified and addressed thoughtfully by anyone working with him in order for him to succeed in a healthy and safe manner in our schools, a microcosm of our community and world. Giving him braille to read, a hearing aide or strategies for dyslexia would provide zero assistance to him.

Working to include my son in this diverse world is no picnic since he needs so much help. He rarely fits in. There are so many struggles for him and for our family. A few steps forward in school where he makes friends and then a few steps back where if not watched and engaged carefully, he will demonstrate some socially stigmatizing behavior. It is a constant effort,  emotionally draining, depressing at times and I often want to give up and send him to a special school out of district, away from his own community.  I know that that is not good in the long run for him or his peers who need to learn from him.  There are times, however, that with the right interventions, strategies and soft touch, he exceeds everyone’s expectations and is capable of typical endeavors and beyond. It is at these joyful times that he is proud of himself. We are proud, too.

This brings me to you and the kitchen. Just because you struggle in the kitchen does not mean you have all the same issues as someone else who struggles in the kitchen. For example, if we discover that your challenges really have to do with a dread of shopping, a fear of giving raw meat to your kids when serving chicken, or not wanting to spend half your day cooking, me giving you advice on which cookbooks to buy are really not going to help you get comfortable in the kitchen. You need to explore your cooking past and present and be heard. You are an individual and you may need hand holding, understanding and strategies and interventions that will be useful to you and only you so that you can be as successful as you can be.

To drive it home a bit further, just as with my son and his/our desire for differentiated learning, we can talk about a therapist and their clients’ issues. As a therapist, If I see 100 clients for anxiety, they have different reasons for anxiety in their past, different triggers that bring on the anxiety and different motivators/incentives for not being anxious anymore. I would address every single one of those clients in a different way, asking some general questions, but our main discussions would revolve around much more individual topics once I got to know them and they got to know themselves.

As for my revelation, I feel that if we take a step back and really look deeper into our challenges, perhaps we all have special needs that can be overcome or at least dealt with in a way that is less stressful and more productive. Whether it is in the classroom, the playground, the world at large or simply in our kitchens, feeling and being included is pretty darn important.

That’s all :-). Here’s the muffin recipe:

Pumpkin Date Muffins:


1 1 /2 cups cashew flour (or almond flour)
1/2 cup chestnut flour (or other compliant flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large seedless orange or two small clementines, scrubbed and cut into sections (peel left on)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup canned  pumpkin puree

1/4 cup blended dates
3 tablespoons avocado oil
3/4 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Coat one dozen muffin tin with paper muffin liners.
Whisk flours, baking powder, baking soda,chopped nuts, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Puree orange sections in a food processor.

Add eggs,  pumpkin, dates, and oil and process until mixed.

Add the wet ingredients and dates to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Scoop the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake the muffins 18 to 20 minutes.

Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then carefully remove them.

Great for freezing and toasting later!


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