Chatfield's Patches and Ina's Pumpkin Cupcakes (Revisited)

It's been a few months since we've taken the boys down to Chatfield-- a satellite of the Denver Botanic Gardens that's not too far from Littleton, Colorado. You can visit anytime of year and the grounds are generally pretty mellow, but there are a few special events that draw big crowds. The Pumpkin Festival is one of them. I heard on the radio that the festival was going to be enormous--with about 35,000 pumpkins. We were totally going...
When we got to the festival it was much more elaborate than I thought it would be. An amusement park had been set up on one of the large fields and hay rides were added to the garden's regular features -- which include a play area for kids, a chicken coup, an historic farmhouse and a barn that houses a few goats and ponies. The kids held up for most of the 4 hours we were there...with only one memorable tantrum right before we got inside. 
Which brings me to my motherhood-struggle of the moment (not including the "penny-fiasco" whereby Otis decided to swallow 2 pennies that were earmarked for an automated pony ride at the checkout line of our local supermarket. That story will be for another post...):
Otis (the older) has been having tantrums. They aren't too terrible, but they are bad enough to garner looks of pity and sympathy from perfect strangers. I never experienced the "terrible twos"-- which I had braced myself for throughout his first year of life. But man, are we in the midst of experiencing the "terrible threes." Otis has been pitching fits for a few months now, and they usually come out of nowhere. He goes boneless and I pretty much have to drag him out of the store/supermarket/farm/museum and evacuate the premise immediately. Now it doesn't happen all the time, but it doesn't really happen infrequently either. That said, the great moments with Otis are some of the best I've ever experienced, so I supposed you have to take the good with the bad and the ugly! And throughout this, our parenting philosophy has pretty much remained the same: carry on. And that's exactly what we did.
Twenty minutes after the first tantrum started we were back on track. Theodore, who is in the "golden spot"-- sleeping through the night and never fussy or tantrum-prone-- was happy to join his brother and spend some time with our other friends who met us at the garden. We had a great time.

After working our way through the barns and the historic part of Chatfield, we made our way to the festival. There were tons of pumpkins (pumpkin day-care included, obviously), carnival rides-- and food trucks too.
Growing up I think we only carved a pumpkin once or twice, but it's a tradition I'd love to start doing annually. 

Feeling inspired by all-things autumn (and the festival), I'm hoping to make pumpkin wedges this weekend. They would be a great accompaniment to a butternut squash farro risotto that's been on my recipe list. This triple-fennel and spelt salad looks healthy and delicious. Maybe a pumpkin-chocolate bread for Saturday morning? I'm pretty convinced that I'll make this pumpkin and black-bean chili because temps are supposed to dip below freezing (but this is Denver, so the cold-snap will only last a few days and then we'll be back in the 60s and 70s). And I'm positively certain that I'll be opening a few cans of pumpkin puree-- because these (below) are my favorite  cupcakes to make this time of year...
Since this weekend also marks the celebration of Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican chocolate cake and some Rancheros Tostadas might be in order too. Margaritas, anyone? So little time, so much to make! Feel free to chime in with your suggestions.
Happy week. xo
Ina's Pumpkin Cupcakes with Heath Bar Crunch Topping and Maple Frosting 
(Courtesy of Ina Garten @ House Beautiful)
Makes 10 cupcakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin purรฉe (8 ounces), not pie filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Maple Frosting (recipe follows)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Heath bars, for serving (2 1.4-ounce bars)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.
2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purรฉe, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
3. Divide the batter among the prepared tins (I use a level 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
4. Spread the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting and sprinkle with the chopped toffee bits.

Maple Frosting (Adapted)
Note: This makes a lot of frosting and could probably even top 2 batches of cupcakes!
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon Maple Syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple syrup and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.