The Pumpkin Spice Blahs
Welcome to another The Pumpkin Spice Must Flow, where I irregularly post about products made with that most extraordinary combination of flavors, pumpkin pie spice (or just “pumpkin spice”). A handful of pumpkin spice products have stubbornly resisted inspiring me to write about, which has left to me keeping their empty wrappers around in hopes I’ll finally get around to this chore, but they just weren’t inspiring enough as pumpkin spice or anything else, really. Nothing was repellent per se, which might have been more fun to write about obviously, but these just failed to impress in any manner. So now it’s mid-November and I really need to get these stupid empty wrappers off my desk, so here’s a shortened entry dealing with the forgettable misses of the pumpkin spice experience. Doesn’t that sound exciting? No? Ah well, the best always burn out rather than just fade away, and so does pumpkin spice.
Bard Valley Natural Delights Pecan Pumpkin Spice Date Rolls
Dates are wonderful, nature’s candy. Pecans are wonderful nuts. Pumpkin pie spice is a wonderful mix of flavors. What’s not to like? These aren’t so much a chore I have to get round to writing about, but instead a definite win, especially as they have all the pumpkin pie flavors but for cloves, but do include allspice. Really, if you like any of those ingredients (and that’s all they contain), you’ll enjoy these marshmallow-sized sweets.
Trader Joe’s Harvest Spice Trek Mix
Falling into the candified granola trap, this stuff was still a decent enough mix of salty and sweet for those who enjoy such, but I’m not really one of them. I mean, candied pecans are always fun, as pecans are scientifically the best nut, but that doesn’t lead me to wish I was eating them with something salty too. My favorite part of this was the candied ginger, because that’s always wonderful, but I could have just bought that separately and been done with it; same goes for those pecans. The label says the cashews were “holiday spiced” and did contain all of the usual pumpkin spice flavors but for cloves (same for those pecans apparently) and allspice, but I just didn’t really get a sense from them that the holidays were anything but an afterthought. I can see the appeal of these and I recall one of you was telling me how much they loved these, but they weren’t for me. Not so much a failure as just a “OK I guess” thing.
Trader Joe’s Pecan Pumpkin Instant Oatmeal
Both off-puttingly flowery in scent and taste, as well as treading that no-man’s-land of sweet and salty (the sweet is the stronger). The pecans are OK I suppose, if one likes nuts in stuff; I feel added nuts wreck the mouthfeel of the rest of the thing (oatmeal, cookie, muffin, what have you), so they didn’t help here much. As you might expect from the product name that lists them first, the pecan flavor is also stronger than the pumpkin spice, which I suspect is a bit heavy on the cloves for that flowery weirdness, but “natural flavor” and a distant last ingredient “spices” means we’ll never know for sure. After the Quaker Oats version, this is another sad strike-out for pumpkin spice oatmeal, so I’d again suggest buying regular oatmeal and adding your own spices for a real pumpkin spice experience. If you really do want to buy a pumpkin spice instant oatmeal though, I’d recommend this one over the Quaker. I’m eating a bowl of the Big Q’s right now for comparison’s sake and it’s just not working, it’s kind of medicinal and has a strange aftertaste.
CLIF Bar Spiced Pumpkin Pie (bar)
Sticky-gloppy, grainy granola bar-ish lump that did nonetheless taste rather pumpkin pie, thanks to the dried pumpkin in it and all four of the pumpkin pie spices represented. One could do much worse for that “I have to eat breakfast on the train” sort of uses. As I’ve said before, this isn’t my thing but hey, you take decent quality where you can.
Sprouts Organic Pumpkin Spiced Apple Cider
My girlfriend – excuse me, fiance, yes! – and I opened this and took one taste and put it back into the fridge for like a month, finding it somehow too pumpkiny, what with pumpkin puree being the second ingredient on the list and all, just after apple juice (on a list with only four ingredients, so bully for that). Just tasting it again now, I actually find it decent! Maybe the time spent in the fridge gave the sweet a chance to overtake the vegetably pumpkin puree taste. “Natural flavors” mean I can’t say exactly what I’m tasting in it past the apple cider, maybe a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg? Well, I’m glad I’m getting around to finally writing about this as I was planning to just pour it out, but now I’m finding it actually fairly pleasant. My next step will be mixing some of the Capt. Morgan pumpkin spice Jack-O-Blast with it, which always seems to improve everything. Maybe that’s my take-away message for all these articles.
Sprouts Organic Pumpkin Spice Applesauce
Maybe I was confusing this with the above apple cider, because this still tastes weird to me, too pumpkiny, which is to say something like a gourd, which is not a flavor I think applesauce has been crying out for. I ate about half the jar out of sheer cussedness some weeks back, but didn’t really enjoy it. I may finish it as I dislike to waste food, but I doubt I’ll grow to enjoy it. Maybe that oddball flavor is the added carrot juice (an odd choice, right?), but the “organic blend of spices” do come out stronger than the in the apple cider, but I don’t think it’s a good mix or something. For being so aggressively “merely edible,” I can’t help but feel that just buying any ol’ jar of applesauce would be better, or even better yet, roasting an apple or two with some pumpkin spice butter (Land-O-Lakes makes a good one which I’ve discussed in the past) and some pumpkin pie spice would be great. I did that last weekend and that was a real “chef’s kiss” treat.
Based on the failure of that last product, let me swing back to positive and offer up a very simple recipe, which comes from a woman I work with. She was born and raised in Ukraine and has a pretty non-American take on food that seems to jibe rather well with my own. Anyway, she does a lot of cooking and rarely eats processed foods and seems to carry that “old world wisdom” about food. For all I know, most people from “the Old World” might move to the US and would happily subsist on a diet of Mickey D’s given half the chance 1 so maybe she’s just a loon like I am when it comes to foods. Anyways. ,
Keep in mind that I haven’t tried the recipe below, but hey what could go wrong with something so simple? She also doesn’t do “heavily sweet,” so I dunno, maybe sweeten the following to taste or something. As this recipe (“vague guidelines,” really) involves putting fruit in a fruit and then that one inside another, I’m going to call this a Tur-pumpkin after the Turducken, because that sounds dumb enough to keep people reading, and dumb enough to keep me interested.
- One whole pumpkin, probably fairly small
- One whole apple, probably kind of big
- Handful or so of literally any other kind of fruit
- Pumpkin spices, or a mix if you’re a philistine (really, if you’re not grinding your own by this point you only have yourself to blame)
- Some butter; I’ll recommend the Land-O-Lakes Pumpkin Spice Butter
You can see how exacting a recipe this is. So anyway, clean out the pumpkin, get out all those seeds and the guts. Most likely you’ll want to skin the pumpkin too, even pureed the rind would probably leave an unpleasant grittiness to the whole thing, but who knows, maybe you have a real chef’s-grade blender that could hack it. Me, I’d say leave it because it’s got fiber and probably much of the mineral vitamin goodness, but the safest move would be to skin it. To make this sound more professional, butter the inside of the pumpkin a bit, maybe dash in a bit of pumpkin spices.
Next, take the apple and core it, but I’ll resent you if you peel it, as the apple peel really is where the best flavor and fiber of an apple come from. Butter and spice the apple too, why not. This might be a good time to mix a Jack-O-Blast drink too; I find cooking more enjoyable when I’m not worrying about measuring anything except my alcohol intake.
Next, take that “literally any other fruit.” You want about a good handful at most, because it’s going to go into the apple. Cranberries, pineapple, cherries, strawberries, pears, a different breed of apples, blueberries, literally any other fruit you have. Chop it up a bit so it can be compacted into the apple hole, maybe add a bit of that butter and pumpkin spices again, then stuff it into the apple and try not to snigger too much about the phrase “apple hole.”
Bake the whole thing for however long it takes to make a pumpkin soft – half an hours? Forty-five minutes? I’m no baker, shut up. Just keep poking it with a fork until it goes in soft. Stop sniggering.
Once done, pull it out, let it cool off; go ahead and snigger, get it all out already. If you perhaps halved the pumpkin and roasted it open, scoop out all the soft stuff and toss the rind, then mash everything into a blender and puree it. Eat it with a spoon. That’s it, the end.
If you wanted something to taste a bit more pumpkin pie-like, it’s occurred to me you might pour in some condensed milk at some stage, presumably before the baking I suppose? Or maybe some of the various pumpkin spice liqueurs I’ve written about in the past, that always sounds like a good idea. You might even add some condensed milk and an egg and then pour it into a pie shell and bake that like a regular pumpkin pie.
Even half-assing this as I described above, I ‘m willing to bet a sawski that it’s going to come out tasting better than that applesauce above. The good thing about a lax recipe like this is that you can adjust it any way that pleases you – more or less sugar, liqueur, butter, or pumpkin spice, maybe a pineapple ring around the apple or something, a banana in the apple hole (OK, now I’m sniggering), whatever – go nuts. Oh hey yeah, maybe add some nuts (pecans of course). Peanut butter. End the tyranny of recipes! Just don’t add in any more cloves unless you really, really feel you have to.
Megara Justice Machine is tired, so very tired. He’s been writing about pumpkin spice stuff for months now and might just be burned out on this whole holiday-flavored product obsession. But hey, eggnog season has already begun! Maybe he’ll go that route next. But in the meantime, should you still wish to read more blathering about pumpkin spice, you can find links to them below.
- Part 1: https://the-avocado.org/2018/05/29/the-pumpkin-spice-must-flow-1/
- Part 2: https://the-avocado.org/2018/06/19/the-pumpkin-spice-must-flow-2/
- Part 3: https://the-avocado.org/2018/07/10/the-pumpkin-spice-must-flow-3/
- Part 4: https://the-avocado.org/2018/09/11/the-pumpkin-spice-must-flow-4/
- Part 5: https://the-avocado.org/2018/09/18/the-pumpkin-spice-must-flow-5/
- Part 6: https://the-avocado.org/2018/09/26/the-pumpkin-spice-must-flow-6/
- Part 7: https://the-avocado.org/2018/10/23/the-pumpkin-spice-must-flow-7/
- Part 8: https://the-avocado.org/2018/10/31/the-spice-pumpkin-must-flow-8/