November 11, 2013 at 1:00 am

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food: Healthier Chocolate Cupcakes, and what are you doing with pumpkin puree?

My mother-in-law's Healthier (can you believe it?) Chocolate Cupcakes (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)

OK, quick note – if you missed Saturday’s cookbook giveaway and plea for cookie swap inspiration, check it out. I don’t want to miss one great idea!

I had no plans to write a Let’s Talk Food for today; I was off Friday and I’m off today, as my husband and I had signed up for a marriage retreat this past weekend (one of many things I love about my husband; he believes and really lives the idea of a marriage being worth time and energy even if it’s not at risk. Having gotten married old enough to have seen some friends go through the agony of a marriage falling apart — and others struggle more than necessary without support — I was awfully glad to marry a guy who was proactive about investing in ours.)

Anyway, I was going to take it easy today, but then I came home Thursday to these gorgeous chocolate cupcakes my mother-in-law, in town to watch the baby while we went to the retreat, had concocted. The batter was so thick and luscious-looking that the cupcakes had soft-serve-ice-cream-like swirls on top.

Beautiful as they were, what fascinated me most was she’d made a variation on something I’d tried before — chocolate cake mixed essentially with pumpkin puree — and my husband hadn’t liked mine. But my mother-in-law had added some tweaks (a couple eggs, and a handful of chocolate chips) that seemed to make them enjoyable for him — though secretly I wonder if there’s just some irreplaceable magic in your mom making you a treat.

In any case, I loved having such goodies on hand and was especially glad she provided a tip for my next round in my breakfast bar quest — this week, I’d made Round 7 and we’re still not there. God bless a good mother-in-law!

Of course, if you are in the mood for a more decadent chocolate cake, don’t miss Kate’s mouthwatering Cinnamon Chocolate Bundt Cake infused with espresso from Homestyle Friday. Let me tell you, I heard some serious oohs and aahs out of nearby journalists when she brought the leftovers to the newsroom last Tuesday.

Meanwhile — as a person who has only used pumpkin puree in a failed attempt at similar cupcakes and for eating straight out of the can (OK, with some pumpkin pie spice and sweetener) — I thought I’d poke readers about whether you have ideas. (If you need ideas, by the by, check out our pumpkin soup piece.)

So much for a Let’s Talk Food-free Monday. What can I say, talking with and hearing from you all is so fun it’s hard to take a day off. Nothing to complain about there.

How do you use pumpkin puree? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below the recipe. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re easy to sign up for, and free. Over the next few days, Detroit News Food Editor Maureen Tisdale will respond to comments or questions. You also can follow her on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!

Healthy Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

1 box chocolate cake mix

1 15-oz can plain pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

2 eggs

A handful — about 1/4 to 1/3 package — semisweet chocolate chips

Mix all together and scoop into cupcake papers (my mother-in-law says she wishes she’d sprayed them with cooking spray – which I didn’t know was an option – because with the cupcakes being lower in fat, they didn’t let the papers peel off easy). Bake according to box directions.