Book & a Bite: The Cabinet of Curiosities & Pumpkin-Oat Mini Muffins

Looking for some tricks and treats? Check out The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne for some spooky short stories, perfect for staying up way past bedtime. While you’re up, snack on Pumpkin-Oat Mini Muffins (recipe below): nothing scary there, they’re gluten-free!

Ostensibly a collection of middle-grade stories, neither of my middle-grade readers wanted to hear about “The Cake Made Out of Teeth” or “Just a Little Graveyard Game.” Linked together into Drawers labeled things like Cake, Tricks, Travel, and Song, the very short stories are truly creepy and weird, definitely not for sensitive readers (not all of the kid-characters make it out alive!).

And yet…

there’s such a gleefully macabre quality to the stories, which are lush and disturbing in the ways of old fairy tales. In “Johnny Knockers,” a boy found inside a whale brings great luck to a whaling ship…only whether it’s good luck or bad luck is uncertain until the end. “The Sandman Cometh” to lead a boy through several nightmares, with surprising results. Surprises are also in store for naughty “Mabel Mavelia,” who finds a secret garden in her attic, as well as for the sisters who discover “The Wolf Inside.” You don’t even want to know what happens with “The Other House,” which has…gulp…spider legs.

I adored this book. Each story was more inventive and creepy than the next. I loved the interstices, too, written as correspondence in which the Curators of the Cabinet describe their journeys to find their stories. If you’re a fan of Coraline or the Nightmare Before Christmas, this book’s for you.

And if you prefer treats rather than tricks, try this easy, yummy recipe for mini-muffins that are even kinda good for you. Not like “Fairy Cakes” at all.

Pumpkin-Oat Mini Muffins from Eating Well magazine

(If you’d rather make 12 regular-size muffins, bake for 18 to 20 minutes and let cool for 10 minutes before turning them out of the pan.)

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 large eggs

1 cup plain pumpkin puree

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

3 Tbsp canola oil

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped dried cranberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 24-cup mini muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Pulse oats in a blender until finely ground. Add baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt; pulse once or twice to blend. Add eggs, pumpkin, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla; puree until smooth. (You can also mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients in a bowl if your blender is too small!) Stir in chocolate chips or cranberries. Fill the prepared muffin cups 2/3 full.
  3. Bake the muffins until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out to cool completely.

Have a spook-tacular Halloween!