As the air becomes crisp and the leaves crisper, I find myself craving all things involving pumpkins, apples and candy corn. There’s something about the cold that makes me go into squirrel mode, causing me to eat obscene amounts of food to prepare for the long winter months of dormancy and nesting. In addition, I find myself wanting to bake — the warmth of the oven, the smell of spices and the taste of batter in my mouth remind me of home. My favorite way to embrace fall’s offerings is to prepare chocolate chip pumpkin muffins; they make the whole hibernation process much tastier. These muffins are relatively easy to make and relatively easy to rationalize eating (I mean, they have yogurt in them, so clearly they’re super healthy). If you’re looking to buy the love of your friends, family, or hot TA, nothing says “I care” like freshly baked goodies. Especially when there are chocolate chips involved.

This recipe is easy to play around with. Add pumpkin seeds, raisins, or nuts for interesting texture and flavor. To amp up the spice factor, add nutmeg, ginger or a few drops of molasses to the batter. If you’re looking to make these muffins into something a little more decadent, whip up some cream cheese frosting to spread on top — beat together four ounces of softened unsalted butter, four ounces of softened cream cheese, and a teaspoon of vanilla, gradually adding two cups of powdered sugar.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

* Cooking spray

* 2 cups all-purpose flour

* 1 teaspoon baking soda

* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

* 3/4 cup packed brown sugar

* 1/4 cup canola oil

* 2 eggs

* 1 cup canned pumpkin

* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* 3/4 cup yogurt

* Two generous handfuls chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, oil and eggs until combined. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the yogurt.

Pour the batter into the muffin pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of one of the muffins comes out clean.