To celebrate the end of the work week, I decided to assemble a cheese plate for me and my inamorato. The Murray's cheese counter at Kroger is a great place to pick up discounted fancy cheeses; several times, I have scored a whole mini-wheel of Epoisses for just $5.
Having picked out several of my favorite runny, stinky cheeses, I realized the plate would need some more mild cheeses for balance. An adjacent display of this pumpkin cream cheese caught my eye and I considered the delicious vulgarity of pairing some gourmet selections with a potentially gutter store brand "cheese spread."
Well, lo and behold the pumpkin spice cream cheese stole the show. Its smooth texture, not-too-sweet squash flavor provided a welcome contrast to the pungent cheeses on the plate but even more exciting was the effect it produced when paired with a cracker. A schmear of cream cheese atop a Town House rectangle gave rise to a layered sweet pumpkin-salty carbohydrate taste experience reminiscent of eating a slice of pumpkin pie.
I can't wait to eat this stuff with a well-toasted sesame bagel.
...many hours later I returned home from work to find my croissant triplets had doubled in size. That development certainly boded well for the texture. I crossed my fingers, set the stove dial to 350, and like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, slid the children into the oven.
Seventeen minutes later I retrieved the croissants, which had browned lightly. FYI, I prefer I slightly soft croissant, but if you're aiming for a very crispy exterior, leave them in the oven longer.
This breakfast pastry fairy had an insanely happy ending. I cannot believe how a croissant resurrected from its frozen state could have such amazingly buttery, light, and flaky dough. Complementing this savory casing studded with roasted seeds was a sweet, intense pumpkin and cinnamon filling. I consumed two of these babies post haste and forced myself to leave one for my husband.
Very often you do not get what you pay for with regards to pricey gourmet food. This product is a wonderful exception.
When it comes to what I am willing to pay for food, I'm all over the map. I rummage through the discount bin at Kroger like I only have two nickels to my name, then go home and purchase overpriced cheese online. And then there's the fact that I steal lemon slices from HEB to put in my water bottle.
Williams-Sonoma is known for its extravagant, unnecessarily expensive food and I am known to purchase it on occasion.
When their Pumpkin Croissants (12 per pack) went on "sale" to $31 and I had a coupon for $10 off my order plus free shipping, I couldn't resist. Fast-forward to this morning when as per WS's very detailed preparation instructions, I removed half of the batch so that they could rise for approximately 7 hours prior to baking.
Stay tuned for the outcome...
True story: my lovely Aunt June and Uncle Joe live in Whitman, Massachusetts, birthplace of the Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie, and were featured in a television special celebrating its 75th anniversary.
Although my childhood in central Pennsylvania made fiercely loyal to Hershey products (which, btw, taste 10 times better when consumed fewer than 10 miles from the factory), I look to Nestle for my chocolate chips. This year, I think, is the first they have jumped on the pumpkin bandwagon and offered a pumpkin spice-flavored chip. The intensely sweet, creamy pumpkin taste in these luscious bits can easily lead one to eat them by the handful or mix them with candy corn and raisins for the world's most saccharine trail mix (hey, there's an idea!), but they probably shine best in a baked good.
For that reason, I incorporated approximately one cup into the brownies I "needed" to make for work colleagues.
The name is a mouth and so is the cereal. Continuing in my search for some healthier pumpkin-flavored alternatives, I sampled Nature's Path pumpkin raisin crunch, one of two pumpkin-inflected cereals they offer, the other of which is the pumpkin flax granola. These people really like flax, apparently.
Comprising a mixture of whole wheat and bran flakes, raisins, sticky oat clusters, and pumpkin seeds, this cereal didn't have as intense a pumpkin flavor as I had hoped. Not particularly surprisingly, given that squash is only represented through seeds. Nevertheless, this cereal is terrific for its peerless diversity in textures and strong taste of molasses and cinnamon.
Which leads me to the "problem": a 3/4 cup serving is 210 calories and 4.5 grams of fat, all well and good if you're a normal person but if you're a carb monster like me, at least three servings are needed to fill the stomach. Coulda had three donuts instead.
I'm slightly embarrassed to say I had never heard of Rick Bayless or his Frontera Restaurant Group until I saw him helping Andrew Zimmern navigate the amazing world of Mexican street food in Chicago. It was fortuitous that after watching a re-run of this episode of "Bizarre Foods: America" that I ran into the Chipotle Pumpkin Salsa created by Bayless for sale at Central Market.
Before discussing the many merits of this salsa, let's consider first the label "medium" as a indicator of spice level. It's become clear to me that label is entirely subjective and pretty much meaningless; what is "medium" to me, an Irish-American lassie not raised on hot food is far different than what is "medium" to, say, a native Thai woman used to eating dragon peppers for breakfast.
So, when I say this salsa toasted my tongue (though not in a bad way), do not assume it actually has that many scoville units to its name. Do know, however, that whatever heat produced by the roasted tomatillos enhances, not masks, the other layers of flavor, which include a wonderful earthy taste of slightly over-ripened squash, onions, roasted garlic, and just a hint of sweet from some cane juice.
Although Central Market's Pumpkin and Blue Corn tortilla chips were a bust, this salsa certainly is not. I suggest pairing it plain yellow corn chips or as a garnish for an omelet.
Seasonal pumpkin-flavored products tend to fall into the not-so-healthy category (I'm looking at you Hostess Pumpkin Spice Donuttes), so it was refreshing to see Quaker Oats had gotten the squash bandwagon via its offering of a limited edition pumpkin spice instant oatmeal. Although Irish steel cut oats are my absolute favorite type of oatmeal, Quaker products in my tasting experience are extremely satisfactory.
Each box comes with eight packets of instant oatmeal that is easily reconstituted with hot water or warm milk or cream. (I suggest using the latter for a heartier, more decadent matutinal meal.) Along with oats, packets also hold various spices and a bit o'sugar.
This composition naturally (or rather, unnaturally) renders the instant oatmeal more caloric than plain oats; however, each packet is still only 160 calories and for that expense you still gain the profit of whole grains, fiber, and enhanced taste.
Speaking of which, the pumpkin flavor is strong, young padawan, in this hot cereal, and leaves one feeling satisfied and invigorated to take on all the challenges of the day ahead, be they navigating corporate mazes or wielding a light saber. Not that they are mutually exclusive.
Spotted at Central Market, these tortilla are purportedly made with "pumpkin" and "blue corn." That may be true, but they taste only of corn and salt and nothing of squash. Even the round orange-colored ones. #pumpkinfail
Central Market is also vending pumpkin salsa, which I very much is not another shameful squash sham.
Readers of the extensive canon of food writing know that I have an irrational devotion to Pillsbury products due in large part to my fascination with the Dough Boy. I find his pudge, his effeminate giggle, and pigment-less visage, utterly charming.
Thus, it took little convincing for me to sample Pillsbury's limited edition Pumpkin Spice Rolls made with Cinnabon Cinnamon (THAT'S A REGISTERED TRADEMARK, BITCH). Let's forgive Pillsbury for the redundancy that is "Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon" as standard pumpkin spice includes cinnamon.
Pillsbury has an extensive line of refrigerated cinnamon rolls , only some of which are the "Grands!" style, i.e., over-sized. Despite their excessive girth, I was able to eat three in one sitting, but more on that later.
Although I usually have no trouble wrangling Pillsbury's refrigerated dough products from their paper tube (and who doesn't love that satisfying POP when you crack the sphere against the counter), this particular time so doing proved ridiculously difficult. I nearly ruined half the rolls during the extraction process.
But time in a warm oven tends to heal all wounds with regards to injured baked goods, and fortunately, they emerged relatively unscathed, and more importantly, absolutely delicious.
Major props to Pillsbury for consistently delivering a mass-market dough with an amazing fluffy, chewy texture and a rich yeasty flavor only enhanced with ample amounts of cinnamon, sugar, and butter. "Pumpkin spice" in the form of nutmeg could be detected in the dough, but strong squash notes come in the thick glaze on hand to adorn the rolls. Tip: don't wait for the rolls to cool before executing this step as their warmth facilitating spreading the glaze evenly over the half dozen.
I love how commercials advertise these things as suitable for feeding a nuclear family and I could have easily polished off the bunch and had an omelet.
Continuing on my evaluation of World Market's pumpkin products, I recently tested their pumpkin pasta sauce. Lovers of Italian cuisine know that choosing the right type of pasta to go with your sauce (or vice versa) is terribly important; Mario Batali has argued that pasta is just a vehicle for sauce and to some extent I agree with him.
Because I wanted my pumpkin sauce to adhere thoroughly to my pasta, I selected miniature rotelle, otherwise known as "wagon wheels," a highly textured circular noodle.
Success was evident as soon as I began to combine the thick sauce with the al dente rotelle, for when I extracted individual wheels they were evenly coated with sauce.
Then, in part for shits and giggles, but mostly because it was Saturday and I had time, I roasted a baby pumpkin to garner extra squash flesh and a handy serving dish for the my dinner.
I dressed my rotelle with some dried dill and a healthy dose of parmesan, both of which historically have proved complementary to pumpkin in my cooking experience.
The sauce was a one-hit wonder with regards to flavor; intense pumpkin with no distraction from other spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. A lovely change from other adulterated sauces I have tried that tend to confuse the palate. The dill contributed some additional botanical, salty notes and the cheese increased the overall creaminess.
Well done, World Market (or whatever other unnamed business you contracted with to produce this sauce).
Houston is finally settling into fall with some cool(er) weather...JUST KIDDING! WHY IS IT STILL 90 DEGREES??
Let's try that again: because summer in Houston this year will apparently be lasting through November, I am still actively craving ice cream even though my Halloween decorations have been up for a full two weeks.
The "problem", however, is that I have already moved on to binging on "fun size" Snickers bars I bought in preparation for trick-or-treaters, so I have been trying to balance this influx of calories by eating other desserts in moderation.
Lucky for me I ran into Dreyer's Slow-Churned pumpkin ice cream at Kroger this weekend. For those unfamiliar with the Dreyer's family of products, their "Slow Churned" line has significantly less fat and calories than their regular ice cream.
What's remarkable about Dreyer's "pumpkin patch" is not only its pungent pumpkin flavor, but also its consistently creamy texture. The latter feature is often lacking in "lite" ice creams.
Fantastic! Now I can have my candy bars and my triple-scoop ice cream cone, too.
Nooks and crannies and pumpkin spice? Sign me up, muffin man. I am a huge fan of English muffins, a breakfast bread that I believe boast a singular ability to absorb an amazing amount of melted butter yet still maintain a crisp surface. I adore Thomas' English muffins and any time I am in London I pick up homemade (real) English muffins at Borough Market.
MMM, Borough Market.
Anyway, these muffins were good but the flavor surprising in that one tastes more nutmeg and cinnamon than pumpkin, though squash notes are still present. To enhance the pumpkin, I suggest adding a thick layer of Oregon Growers Pumpkin Butter on top a generous amount of butter.
Two-word review: Absolutely amazing. I bought this mix at World Market, dubious of its pumpkin flavor given past Fails with pumpkin mixes. This mix, with its ease of preparation (just add oil and water), and intense, earthy squash taste and ample spices, is a great value.
Tip: Substitute milk instead of water for a denser, creamier texture and use ample butter to grease the pan and create a slightly crispy, savory surface to the cake.
A review of Hostess mini donettes? How much lower can you sink, Joanna?
Oh so much lower. Also, can we take a moment to appreciate the amazing spelling derivative of "doughnut"?
These donuts are one of 20-odd pumpkin-flavored products on special at Kroger this week that I plan to review. With the exception perhaps of pumpkin-spice coffee creamer because I don't do java.
Using a pint-sized cake donut as base, the Hostess bakers then add a cinnamon glaze and a dusting of spices not indiscernible to the tongue. It should be noted the cake texture is moister than you would expected from a processed baked good, suggesting an ample amount of lard and/or hydrogenated oils are at play. Overall, a lovely mouthfeel and pleasant but not overpowering pumpkin flavor.
So, get over yourselves, people. This donuts are good.