Friday, October 5, 2018

A Taste of Autumn

It's that time of year when the temperature drops and we have gorgeous, crisp mornings, and lovely warm afternoons. A time when nature gives us the most gorgeous displays of color that will pass all too quickly. This is my favorite time of year. I love the smells, the colors, the temperatures and the food. It's the time for pumpkins, squash, apples, cabbage and other long keepers that will fill many cold cellars and pantries. Stews, soups, casseroles and roasts will now be the staples of meals until the warmer temperatures visit us again next year. Sweaters, cozy pants and and heavier jackets will be taken out of storage. Knitters are pulling out their needles and casting on and starting to make mittens and other cold weather needs. Hot chocolate and cider are now the beverages thought about. The cozy season is now beginning.

The stores are also reflecting the new season. Everywhere you go, you can see pumpkins, squash and apples featured. The smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves is in the air, and grocery stores are featuring these items in seasonal items. We went to Sam's Club and picked up a few items that feature pumpkin. Their Member's Mark Pumpkin Cheese Cake is absolutely delicious! Think of a New York style cheese cake and swirl pumpkin pie filling in it. It's not overly spiced and comes pre-sliced in 14 pieces with papers between each piece for easy removal of the slices. This is perfect for me, as I can keep it frozen and remove just a piece or two whenever we want to eat it. No worrying about such a large cake for only one or two people.  It can be found in the frozen section of the store. This is only available for a limited time and always sells out quickly. This is the first year I've been able to get my hands on it!

I always look forward to the panettone. I'll keep a eye out for them to surface. There was a time they'd only be around for Christmas, but last year, I found an autumn version and was over the moon with excitement to try something new. The GranDuCale Pumpkin Panettone is such a treat. This cake has candied pumpkin and pumpkin cream throughout. Although it is a cake, I love to cut off a thick slice and put it in the toaster oven to toast it. After it's toasted, I spread some real butter over it. The outside is toasted, the inside is soft and the butter just enhances the flavor even more. We've also used this instead of bread for French toast. My daughter loves it that way!

I love Lara Bars, so when I heard that Sam's was carrying a date roll that only had 3 ingredients, I was eager to try them. Made from dates, pecans and pumpkin pie spice, the Natural Delights Pumpkin Pie Spiced Date Rolls are perfect for those that don't want processed sugar in their diet but still want something sweet. Well, ingredients wise they are perfect. These date rolls could have been absolutely delicious, but they weren't. They were overloaded with spice - so much so that they were obnoxious. With pumpkin pie spice, a little goes a long way (at least for me it does). The great thing about Sam's is the guarantee. If you don't like it, you can take back the unused portion and receipt for a full refund. I didn't. I just mixed these up with some plain Medjool dates to tame down the spice.

Next stop was Trader Joe's. I got a copy of their Fearless Flyer and saw some items I really wanted to try. If you are blessed with a Trader Joe's, you probably know that you can taste test anything in the store before buying it. I didn't, and wished I had on a couple of items. But if I had - I wouldn't have had a challenge of figuring out how to use the items so that they became much better tasting. What fun would have that been?

I love Biscotti. One of these days I'm going to take time to learn how to make it. Until then, I pay a premium price to purchase hard, break-your-teeth type cookies. Or to be more correct - "a coffee dunkin' cookie", as my husband would say. I found some Pumpkin Biscotti at Trader Joe's. It was a surprise, since I didn't see it listed anywhere on their site. The container isn't very large and holds 18 approximately 3" pieces. Perfect for a small family. These delicious cookies remind me of being close to homemade. You get a sort of creamy sensation, probably from the butter that is listed in the ingredients. The ingredients list is simple: Enriched unbleached flour, brown sugar, butter, eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice, baking powder and natural vanilla flavor. That's it - all the ingredients you'd put in your own home-baked biscotti with no items you can't pronounce. Trader Joe's Pumpkin Biscotti is definitely something I'll be buying again!

In the cereal section, we found Trader Joe's Pumpkin O's. The picture reminded me of Cherrios and I immediately thought of Cinnamon Cherrios. That went strait into the cart. Pumpkin spiced cereal had to be good, right? Well, next time I really need to read the label before going into the cart. The first thing I noticed when pouring them out into my bowl, was how shiny they were. UH-OH. You know what that means - a sugar coating! These guys are SWEET! I'm really surprised how much sugar they have in them. Sugar is the second and 4th ingredient listed!! I know that dry cereal is processed and not great for you to begin with, but honestly I didn't expect it with this cereal. Once I got past the sweet, I was disappointed there was not a lot of flavor to it. On the website, it tells to pair their pumpkin spice with this cereal, so you know you don't have much for spices here. This is not a buy again for me. If I want something sweet for breakfast, I'll have a pumpkin doughnut with some coffee.

I love fruit butters - they are a real treat for us. I do can my own apple butter, but according to the USDA, canning other fruit butters may not be safe because of the thickness of the finished product and the heat penetration/temps while processing. Finding Pumpkin Butter at Trader Joe's made my day. The ingredients they use: pumpkin, sugar, honey, lemon juice concentrate, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg, are almost the same as what I used back in the day. So, opening this jar created sheer happiness on my part. It was like walking down memory lane. The honey and lemon could be detected and it all tasted so real - nothing artificial here! One surprise was, there was a recipe on the side to make a soup using the pumpkin butter. I'm not sure about that, because fruit butters are sweet - but I may just experiment and see how it turns out.

Who can resist a good sandwich cookie? They're crunchy, have a cream filled center and are perfect for dunkin'. We found these Pumpkin Joe-Joe's and thought, "Why not?" I mean, how can you go wrong with a creamed filled cookie? Our reasoning was right. These guys are quite good. They consist of two crunchy pumpkin cookies on the outside and a nice creamy pumpkin cream filling on the inside. They have a pumpkin spice flavor to them, but it's not overwhelming. These have a nice all-around flavor and are a perfect treat when you are craving something sweet and crunchy. These are a definite buy again. One sad thing is, they aren't supposed to be around long - so it's a get them while they last scenario.

Tortilla chips are a must when one is making taco salad or having a nice bowl of chili. We were looking for tortilla chips for tonight's chili when we stumbled across Trader Joe's Pumpkin Tortilla Chips. My husband and I looked at each other and wondered if they'd be any good. We could have taken them up to the sampling area, but that was at the other side of the store and we were in the last aisle before checking out. We decided to take a chance. If we had tried them at the store, these guys would have never come home with us. No one here likes them plain, but I put some of the chili I'm making on one, and WOW! it's really good. The cinnamon flavor compliments the chili nicely. I'm looking forward to what my husband thinks of the pairing when we have it tonight. I think he's going to be pleasantly surprised. For me - it's actually worth getting another bag just for when I make chili!

We have purchased a few more pumpkin and squash items that we haven't tried yet. If you are interested in hearing what they are, what we think about them or have enjoyed reading or not reading this post, please leave a comment below. This will help me decide what types of posts to do in the future. Thanks for reading. Have a blessed weekend!

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