Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Perplexed About Pumpkin...

Anyone that knows me will confirm that I get really excited about food, and I get really excited about the fall.  It's by far my favorite time of year.  There is however, nothing that excites me more than to see the seasonal food shelves in grocery stores empty of pumpkin spice products and fill with the decidedly wintery flavors of peppermint and gingerbread.  Why, you might ask?  Because gingerbread and peppermint flavors know their place in the world of seasonal treats, and pumpkin spice has simply gotten too big for it's britches.  How can this be?  If I love fall, and I love food, do I not love the foods of fall? Oh I sure do!  

Give me Brussels sprouts, give me kale, give me squash or give me pumpkin and I'm excited.  Make a pesto out of kale, sneak some squash into mac and cheese, put some pumpkin in your chili...you name it and I’ve done it, but start filling my everyday foods with pumpkin pie spice and I'm not a happy camper.  

What's my beef with pumpkin spice?  Quite frankly, it’s just not very good outside of a few select baked goods, and those baked goods generally contain pumpkin, the natural partner to pumpkin spice.  For reasons I can't explain, Americans have gone gaga over pumpkin spice, and I just can't get on board with the trend.  

I honestly never gave it much thought until recently.  I’ve always liked pumpkin pie just fine, in fact, I usually save a piece post Thanksgiving dinner to have for breakfast the next day (don’t tell anyone!) I have also indulged in the occasional pumpkin bread, or pumpkin muffin, I kind of enjoy pumpkin beer, and I’ve even tried the beloved pumpkin spice latte (of which I'm not a huge fan) but that's pretty much where I draw the line for acceptable places pumpkin spice should be showing up.  I'm just plain over it being everywhere, and this year, it was EVERYWHERE.  

This season stores carried a particularly diverse, and in my opinion bizarre, selection of products calling themselves “pumpkin pie spice flavored.” People seem to have been drawn to them like zombies, dying to try whatever new food could now be found flavored with what should be cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and cloves, but was more likely to contain a chemical concoction that aims to taste like this mix.  My question to you is why?  Why must absolutely everything form late September to mid-November be trying to taste like pumpkin pie?

You can keep your bread and muffins, your pumpkin beer, and even your beloved PSL if you wish, but it is my hope that with the release of absolutely absurd products like this year’s failed pumpkin pie spiced M&M’s, Pringles, coffee creamer, marshmallows, Hershey’s kisses, pop tarts, and soymilk, maybe, just maybe we can go back to keeping pumpkin pie spice where it belongs…in the pie!

If you must have your spice, at least try to buy products that actually contain spices, not chemicals claiming to taste like them.  Better yet, you could always be adventurous and try to make a few things on our own.  Here’s a pumpkin granola recipe I came up with that’s just sweet enough, and makes a great breakfast with plain yogurt or vanilla ice cream topper for dessert.  To keep it extra healthy you can skip the white chocolate chips. Either way, if you’re craving pumpkin pie spice this is a much better option than a handful of Pringles any day!  Maybe this is what’s for breakfast on Thanksgiving day?

Pumpkin Pie Granola:

3 Cups Rolled Oats
1 Cup Chopped Pecans
1 Cup Pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
1/3 Cup Ground Flax Seeds
1/2 Cup Canned Pumpkin Puree
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Tablespoons Apple Cider
1/2 Cup Apple Sauce
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice
Pinch Salt
1/2 Cup White Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 275 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl combine: Rolled oats, pecans, pepitas, and ground flax seed.  In a smaller bowl whisk together all remaining ingredients EXCEPT white chocolate chips. Pour wet mixture onto dry mixture and mix well to coat oat mixture with pumpkin spice mixture.  

Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet at 275 degrees for 20 minutes then gently mix to turn granola and bake another 10 minutes.  Cool completely and toss with chocolate chips.  Store in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks.