Cookies and Snacks Edition
Yeah, I know I’ve covered these sorts of things before (I think I’ve tried over a hundred Little Debbie snacks by now right? It felt like a hundred anyway, in my mouth all at once, with so, so much sugar), so grouping them all into one article by now may feel pointless, but I have enough recent experiments to do so this time, so let’s bake! That’s a deep cut reference to a Little Debbie slogan I saw on one of their non-pumpkin spice products (I think it was the bat-shaped brownies). That’s just Tuesday for Little Debbie, of course, just like shopping for pumpkin spice is just my Tuesday. Today I spice!
Betty Crocker Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cookie Mix
There’s a ton of butter in the recipe for these make-and-bake-them-yourself drop cookies, so they’re certainly not a health food, but wow, they’re pretty effective at what they do. I have no idea what “SPICES” are in them, but they do seem sort of pumpkin spicey, at least near the back end; the front end loads you up with a pleasant pumpkin taste, and it’s maybe the most pumpkin-forward thing I’ve tasted, especially for a baked item. Still, think of them as a brown sugar and butter cookie first, then a pumpkin cookie next, and finally a not really gingerbread, gingersnap, or pumpkin spice, but quite enjoyable cookie.
But would I recommend this powdered cookie mix to you? Oh god no. The ingredients list aside from the SPICES has just seven items (two of them brown sugar and sugar; another dried pumpkin), which is certainly all well and good up until you hit the, yep you guessed it, Frank Sta– I mean palm oil. Ooooh damn! We were so close! Why has any oil of any sort been used here, when this is a dry mix? Why is it even needed when you’re making these with a whole damn stick of butter?! Why Ms. Crocker, whyyyy?! And then on the back, the package suggests we “try with Betty Crocker Cream Cheese Frosting & celebrate Autumn!” I question the use of an ampersand there, but maybe it avoids the whole Oxford Comma trauma that I’m sure has been rocking the baking world; I mean, should I “try the Betty Crocker Cream Cheese Frosting” AND try “celebrating autumn” or what?). Is that frosting is made of awful stuff – oh god, I just looked it up and… it is, so much. I’d sooner drink a pumpkin spice oil change. The package says that this is “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” which yes is capitalized weirdly. Who’s Betty been going to for this package design anyway? Betty Crocker’s worst impulses just can’t be held back I guess. But she can make a tasty cookie mix. Maybe we should try to avoid Betty Crocker Cream Cheese Frosting & Celebrate Autumn Instead!
Voortman Bakery Pumpkin Spice Cookies
“Baked with real pumpkin!” Cool! I finished off these cookies some time ago, like early September? And I don’t recall much about these now, which alone probably means something. I recall they were basically ginger snaps, that “we aimed and missed pumpkin spice, so here’s the consolation prize” flavor. And they were fine as an unremarkable gingersnap, although they were soft so I dunno about that ‘snap’ part. The label has claimed they used “the best real ingredients” and they came close, but aside from the pumpkin and “spices” (whatever those were), they also contain palm oil, again, so although there were pleasant enough, they’re also probably skippable. For really good Voortman’s trash, try their Pumpkin Spice Wafers which I covered previously and were a really solid junk food (I’ve tried a few combs of other Voortmann’s wafers by now and they’ve all been shockingly tasty). I feel I’ve failed you by not having more to say about these, but… that was really a long time ago.
Pumpkin Spice Cookies (Gluten, Dairy, And Egg Free)
I bought these at a local food co-op just down the street from my house, so good luck trying to find these! But don’t worry, they aren’t really worth the effort. These are some kind of drop cookie except they didn’t spread out as they baked, so “clump cookies,” and they also seem to have not been baked quite long enough, giving them a sort of odd doughy sensation – not that like wet or anything but just… undercooked. They tasted OK as far as the pumpkin spice goes, but not memorably so, even though the label notes they were made with actual “pumpkin spice.” The guy who made these also included vanilla extract (bah, pumpkin spice doesn’t need vanilla or any other spice’s help!) and extra cinnamon (which is my second favorite of all the pumpkin spices, so yay?). The back label of the package says “this product was produced in a home kitchen that is not subject to state licensure or inspection and that may also produce food allergens such as tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, soy, wheat, milk, fish and crustacean shellfish.” Which sounds like a rather risky “sovereign citizens rights” kitchen, but hey, looking at my own kitchen (cats, dirty dishes in the sink, dried coffee spots on the counter), I don’t really think have much to fear. The guy also included his phone number, so maybe I should call up and ask about the state of his kitchen, what with all those allergens possibly flying about. Maybe these really are just like mom used to make!
Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe-joe’s [sic]
“Pumpkin sandwich cookies with pumpkin cream filling in every bite!” shouts the box, as if TJ’s cult needed any more strenuous peddling. These cookies are like pale Oreos, but thicker like Oreo double-stuffed cookies, so there’s nothing skimpy here. My fiancee and I found them very ginger-bready, but be warned that if you’re one of those poor souls who likes to dissect your Oreos to scrape out the innards first, the wafers will disappoint. Nicely patterned like little cookie manhole covers, their flavor is almost nonexistent, they’re just phoning it in to hold the “cream” stuff, which is usually called “creme” but anyway. But that creme makes up for it in spades. Hell these cookies even look pleasingly hand-assembled, no doubt from people rushing to keep up with the pumpkin spice conveyor belt at Trader Joe’s that they can’t turn off and keep speeding up at this time of year. The label says these are made with natural flavors and then later lists “nutmeg” like a forgotten second cousin, which of course we all know is wrong (the relative to be ashamed of is cloves). Even with that cookie fail, these are a go-go if you like cream-filled cookies. Shame about the palm oil in them, so it’s probably no better for you than that Betty Crokker stuff up above, even though they do have otherwise mostly real ingredients like pumpkin puree and pumpkin powder. And yeah, a weird second apostrophe.
Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds.
Another thing I ate some time ago and have only hazy memories about, they’re made of just sugar, butter, pumpkin spices and salt coating those pumpkin seeds, so this is real food and hey, they taste all right! They’re sweet but not too crazily so. Someone in the past commented to me that they put them in yogurt and yeah, that would prolly work really nicely. Not being raw pumpkin seeds, they also have a nice crunch and a toasted flavor that’s pumpkin spice, but nothing to hit you over the head with. No cloves in there? Good for you TJ!
Perfect Bar Limited Edition Pumpkin Pie.
“The original refrigerated protein bar” are the words I saw on the wrapper when I sat down with this product. Oh great, I had forgotten about that after I got it home and left it sitting on my kitchen counter for a week and a half, like I might with any other protein bar. Well, the first bite I just now had didn’t’ seem off. An addiction is something like a transgressing lover we’ll always forgive, no matter how poorly they treat us, so with my relapsing into pumpkin spice madness, here goes. Of course I’m going to eat it, it’s pumpkin spice. Hopefully I’ll live to post this.
Opening the wrapper, the pale bar inside didn’t look promising, “just another ‘sludge’ protein bar,” but it was actually very dry, almost like halva, and is apparently made mostly of just peanut butter material – and it’s not bad! Honey is the second ingredient and while these bars are sweet (but not too, thank god), the honey’s flavor is pretty absent, which is a relief. The peanut butter flavor hits front and center while the pumpkin spice sort of brings up the rear. Also like halva, it’s made with a lot of oil, five types of oil in fact, including yes sesame oil and oh hey, pumpkin seed oil. How many pumpkin spice products out there can claim that? And actual dried pumpkin comes before the oils on the ingredients list. This one bar is 29% of my daily fat intake what with those oils, but none of them are palm and they’re also all organic, just like nearly every other thing here. “Organic spices” also pops up early on, but again, mum’s da woid about which of any of the usual four show up, but the bar does taste right – strange, considering these also have rosehip, orange, lemon, tomato, apple, and about half a dozen more fruit and vegetable “dried whole food powders.” Still, that must mean it’s good for you! These would be worth picking up a second or third time, if I can remember to put them in the fridge.
Rubicon Bakers’ Handcrafted Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
These were one of the first things I bought after choosing to cross the pumpkin spice Rubicon again, so that name is fitting. “Bake a better world filled with cream cheese” is also right there on the label, but… what if not with cream cheese? These very ginger-bready muffins were just fine but for that extraneous lump of cream cheese hiding out in the middle, just sort of sitting there, surrounded by all that moist muffiny goodness, going “here I am, I sure am cream cheese alright”, otherwise not bringing a damn thing to these otherwise fine muffins. There must be plenty of pumpkin in there too as it’s the second ingredient listed right past the flour and all the requisite spices (and a bit of palm oil of course), but that cream cheese is just… insistently there. Even my fiancee who is more of a cream cheese aficionado that I’ll ever be agreed that was a dull spot. Like maybe mix in some spices into the cream cheese maybe? Ah well. Still pretty good.
Trader Joe’s Organic Pumpkin Bread
This bread was sprinkled with “cinnamon bits,” pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds and a few rolled (or flattened) oats, you know, like that visual flourish you might add to the top of a muffin, but here they occur all over the loaf. This bread wasn’t heavily sweet and it’s flavor was subtle, if not at risk for being too bland. Maybe if you toasted it and spread it with a bit of pumpkin butter, it would be really great, but on it’s own, it’s just kind of dull. The ingredients list is pretty long, but all of them are actually reasonable things to find in food, and very few of them are not organic (those that aren’t are things like water and salt), they included pumpkin puree and the usual spice accoutrements — except for ginger, which seems like a strange thing to leave off the list, doesn’t it? There’s little to crow over here, yet also nothing to deeply regret or outright loathe, which is still something of a win.
Megara Justice Machine would like you to understand that, as the header picture indicates, everything he posts in these columns are not mere demon-haunted opinions but are indeed solid facts about pumpkin spice, facts that have been scientifically verified, and are not for arguing over or attempting to overturn. He would also like to thank you for your understanding on this matter. If you’d like to read some more of his terribly scientific research on pumpkin spice, please click the encircled arrow to the right of this page and type “pumpkin spice” into the The Avocado search feature.