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Itâ€™s pumpkin season.Â Or is it?Â The roadside stands and grocery sidewalks that were covered in umpteen varieties of pumpkins just over a month ago are now covered with dry evergreen trees and poinsettias.Â Fine.Â But donâ€™t let that fool you.Â Though pumpkin-flavored eats (and drinks) may have begun appearing prominently on store shelves and in magazine recipes a couple of months ago, they are still around.Â And Iâ€™m glad.Â
The first pumpkin-related sweet that I look for every year is, I confess, not pumpkin-flavored at all. Itâ€™s the pumpkin-shaped Reeseâ€™s.Â I know, I know. Thatâ€™s cheating.Â Some might even say that itâ€™s not only bereft of pumpkin flavor, it also not a real Reeseâ€™s, what with the peanut butter to chocolate ratio being thrown off completely.Â Not me.Â I say â€śVive le difference!â€ťÂ Enjoy the real thing from May until October, then fully engage in the pumpkin-tree-heart-egg cycle that will carry you until sometime in April or longer if you plan ahead and hit the after-Easter sales just right.Â
Normally, the first true pumpkin-flavored grocery entry we encounter is in the liquid coffee creamer cooler.Â We are a liquid coffee creamer family.Â True to form, The Wife generally stays within a narrow genre of flavors and is perfectly content to rotate among those three to four varieties.Â Not me.Â When I am doing the shopping and creamer is on the list, I look first to see whatâ€™s new, or what special edition has become special again.Â We have been known to have multiple flavors in the refrigerator at the same time, mostly after I have shopped and bought more than we could possibly use. You never know if that flavor will be there next week.Â But the pumpkin-spiced kind is a perennial favorite for both of us, and weâ€™ll keep buying it until itâ€™s gone again.
A unique item I came across this year while wandering hungrily in Piggly Wiggly was the pumpkin-spiced whoopie pie.Â If you have not ever had a whoopie pie, my first suggestion is to go out and find one as soon as youâ€™ve finished reading this column.Â The classic whoopie is made of two round chocolate cake-like discs (about the size of a Moon Pie) with white icing â€” or some sort of sweet white goo â€” sandwiched in between.Â I have also had a few delicious red velvet whoopie pies.Â But I think my favorite was the one with dark, rich pumpkin-spiced cake and a cream-cheese flavored icing.Â They must truly be a special edition, so grab one when you see it.Â
Krispy Kreme also puts out a glazed pumpkin-spiced cake doughnut this time of year.Â Iâ€™m pretty excited that they only come out that often, because they are addicting. I only eat them a bite at a time (i.e. a bite each time I walk by the box), but that makes them seem less caloric in a â€śGarfield the Catâ€ť kind of world.Â Plus thereâ€™s the exercise factor from walking by the box so many times.Â But even with such nibbling, a box usually lasts under 24 hours at my house.
Another first for me this season in the pumpkin genre has been Blue Bellâ€™s Spiced Pumpkin Pecan ice cream.Â I havenâ€™t looked for it in local stores, but have been buying it by the scoop in the out-of-Starkville store I work in twice a week.Â Thatâ€™s probably a good thing â€” it limits my intake due to simple geography. (Look for my upcoming million dollar best seller, â€śDr. Jayâ€™s Geography Diet â€“ Get Far Away from the Foods You Love.â€ť)Â Regular readers know that I have mixed feelings about pecans in my food, but I do make exception with Pralines and Cream ice cream. Spiced Pumpkin Pecan is a close cousin, described by Blue Bell as, â€śA delightful spiced pumpkin ice cream combined with tasty sugar-coated pecans and a rich cinnamon-honey-praline sauce.â€ťÂ One scoop is not enough. Just sayinâ€™.
Last year during the holidays I experimented with pumpkin swirl cheesecake.Â I took my favorite cheesecake recipe, mixed some canned pumpkin with a portion of the cheesecake filling, and swirled them together before baking.Â The family remembers that particular cheesecake as the one with the unbreakable crust.Â Somehow the recipe I was using called for a cup of sugar and a cup of butter mixed with the graham cracker crumbs.Â And I was foolish enough to follow it.Â Pools of butter appeared.Â Pools, I tell you.Â And though I was able to squeeze some of that out, the sugar remained.Â Imagine a piece of hard candy infused with graham cracker â€” nearly impossible to cut, but tasty once a chunk was hacked out.Â
This year I took a more conservative approach. I used the pumpkin-pecan cheesecake with praline topping recipe from the October edition of â€śSouthern Livingâ€ť, with a few substitutions.Â Instead of graham crumbs, pecans, and brown sugar in the crust, I used shortbread cookies (plain Sandies) and maple sugar â€” no nuts at all.Â In fact, no pecans came near this thing.Â And to be completely honest, I also substituted sweet potato for the pumpkin.Â So I guess itâ€™s not a pumpkin-pecan cheesecake anymore, is it?Â Oh, well, nobody complained, and with the decadent praline layer on top, anything underneath was just a bonus.Â
Happy pumpkin season. Whoopie!
Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist.Â The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff. HeÂ Â Â welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.View more articles in: