Thursday, October 30, 2014

Squashtober Spice Countdown Days 28, 29, 30: The Final Trader Joe's Haul

If you're looking to get a bunch of pumpkin crap from Trader Joe's go in the next few days. Because they have transferred all their pumpkin accouterments into one giant food rack and marked everything down. 

And might I suggest starting with:

These were less pumpkin-ish and more just... like Trader Joe's collected all the spices that go into a pumpkin pie, and put them in a cookie. But didn't add the pumpkin. Still pretty good.

Grade: A

Now who wants to try a pumpkin spice organic Pop-Tart?!

Well too bad because I managed to burn the most easy to prepare food in this universe.

In my defense, it's been 7 years since I've toasted a Pop-Tart. I think they must have changed the chemical composition so that it cooks faster.

I toasted another so that I wouldn't be unbiased, but I needn't have bothered. These were bad. Pretty flavorless, and the flavor that was there was bizarre. Plus super dry. Could have used my mom's secret Pop-Tart ingredient: butter spread along the unfrosted side.

Grade: D

And finally, we come to the pumpkin bread. Something that everyone has tried, I'm sure.

I have nothing ground-breaking to add here, except that the Trader Joe's brand is pretty good. Moist, yummy, etc. A little crumbly, though. Which is what lead to my slice of bread looking more like dog food. To dress it up, a smiley face was attempted. Scones were added. 

To no avail. 

Grade: B+

Overall Thoughts: Trader Joe's is a magical place. A place with enormous 98 cent bags of off-brand Cheetos and frozen naan. They do - unfortunately - judge your decisions to buy ten pumpkin-flavored items and also hot dogs. They don't like it when you buy hot dogs. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Squashtober Spice Countdown Day 27 - Pillsbury Pumpkin Cookies

This was one of the first items that I bought, but I was so utterly convinced that I would hate them, that they sat in the refrigerator for weeks.

Mostly it's because I thought that the chocolate chips were white chocolate. And due to an unfortunate situation from my childhood where I threw back 5 Hershey's Cookies and Cream Bars...

Never. Again. Truly. Until the day I die, a piece of this candy bar will never touch my lips.

But as it turns out, the chips are cream cheese flavored. That changes things. The cookies were pretty good. They taste like pumpkin pie filling that you take out of a can. Which sounds gross, I suppose. But it's not. And the cream cheese chips work with the canned pumpkin pie filling. It all just sort of... blends. 

Overall Thoughts: These are an excellent way to entertain a 4-year-old for about 5 seconds. What a fool I was, thinking I had bought myself 20 minutes worth of fun. 
Grade: B+

Monday, October 27, 2014

Squashtober Spice Countdown Day 26 - Chipotle Pumpkin Salsa

Do you know Chef Rick Bayles? Because I sure as hell didn't. But this salsa places a lot of faith in the fact that you have heard of Chef Rick Bayles and that you trust him enough that you'll eat his pumpkin salsa.

Ol' Rick uses words like "velvety pumpkin" and "sweet-smoky glow" to describe his salsa. Which... yeah sure. I get that. You can definitely taste the pumpkin, but it's not overwhelming. And you can also taste the chipotle, which is also not overwhelming. I could sit down and consume half a jar of this.

Overall Thoughts: Chef Rick Bayles recommends that you eat this with artisanal Frontera tortilla chips. However, I found that stale Wheat Thins will also do the trick.
Grade: A

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Squashtober Spice Countdown Days 24 & 25 - The Alcohol Smorgasborg

So I went to a Kroger and purchased all the pumpkin beers that I could find. Plus a non-alcoholic pumpkin spice bubbly drink thing.

Due to circumstances beyond my control (Existing in a NyQuil/DayQuil fevered haze in order to stave off cold/flu symptoms) I could not consume any alcoholic beverages, or my liver would explode. 

Thankfully, my boyfriend bravely offered to take the bullet and consume the beers with great gusto while I wrapped myself in a Superman Snuggie and watched Hocus Pocus for the first time.

The non-alcoholic stuff:

That's not my picture. I forgot to take a picture, in fact. And now that bottle is in another state. But you get the idea.

My first thought when I drank this was, "Oh yeah, I would love this if I was 12 years old and drinking it out of a wine glass at my first year at the 'adults table' on Thanksgiving."

But beyond that, it was crazy fruity and tasted a lot like apples, actually. Which makes sense, since I think it's about equal parts apple and pumpkin.

Grade: B-

The alcoholic stuff:

The boyfriend wanted to be super thorough and snooty with his assessments. Which are as follows:

Wilhelm Scream by Magic Hat
Appearance: Gold Amber
Head: Thin
Nose: Sweet Malt
Palate: Sweet Corn with metallic pumpkin spice. Thin and watery.
Notes: This beer is horrible, don't buy it. 

Woodchuck Pumpkin Reserve
Appearance: I forgot to fill this line out and now the beer is gone. 
Head: Non existent
Nose: Sweet nutmeg
Palate: Semi-Dry cider with pumpkin and spice
Notes: Only tastes like pumpkin when warm, but a good cider.

Jawjacker Arcadia Brewing
Appearance: I forgot to fill this line out and now the beer is gone. 
Head: None
Nose: Flemish Sour
Palate: Tastes like Hannah's pumpkin pie that she made with too much spice. Horrible beer, the bottle might have gone off.

Notes: Pumpkin pie in a bottle. End of Story.


Let it be known that I resent his assessment of my pumpkin pie. It was delicious. Delicious and spicy. 

Working on a post with a play-by-play of my first experience with Hocus Pocus. I have a lot of thoughts. A lot of Bette Midler thoughts. 

Squashtober Spice Countdown Day 23: ICE CREAM

I like to play it fast and loose when it comes to lactose sensitivity. Am I going to eat ice cream right before boarding a plane with no chance for escape and federal laws mandating that I not leave my seat? Probably not.

But do I risk a bowl of Pilgrim Joe's pumpkin ice cream from the safety of my own apartment and its proximity to a familiar bathroom?


After searching high and low for an ice cream bowl that would be ideal for presenting this delicious treat, I remembered that I don't have any ice cream bowls, and instead I scooped it all into a mug.

And then I added pumpkin spice whipped cream.

Pretty freaking delicious. Ice cream is one of those things that isn't hurt by being pumpkin flavored. You don't find yourself wishing you were just eating the original flavor, because there isn't really an "original" flavor with ice cream.

Unless you are one of those people that gets into a huge line at an ice cream place just to order vanilla at the end. Which - why? And... ugh.

Overall Thoughts: "Pilgrim Joe's" - Is that a cutesy name for any and all food at Trader Joe's that could conceivably be eaten during autumn? Or maybe you would have to be able to consume it at Thanksgiving dinner for it to merit the name?
Grade: A

Friday, October 24, 2014

Squashtober Spice Countdown Days 21 & 22: Pumpkin Breakfast

Pumpkin for breakfast, pumpkin for lunch, pumpkin for dinner. These are the sacrifices I make when I'm trying to make up a week of missed posts.

Pumpkin bars and Pumpkin O's?! Trader Joe's, you always provide.

So the pumpkin O's basically taste like Apple Jacks but... pumpkinier? That's a word. Ooo I bet they'd be good mixed up with Apple Jacks. Or Cocoa Pebbles? Or Lucky Charms?! Ugh, no. That would be terrible. Just stick with plain Pumpkin O's.

The pumpkin bars, however? Pretty good. I would eat those outside of pumpkin season, which I think probably indicates that it's good food.

Overall Thoughts: 8am is too early for pumpkin. It's an afternoon squash at best.
Grade: Pumpkin Bars - A
Pumpkin O's - B

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Squashtober Spice Countdown Days 17, 18, 19, 20: All the Pumpkin Desserts

Trying to catch up, here. I went to Trader Joe's and discovered that they have ALL THE PUMPKIN. So get ready for a ton of Trader Joe's stuff coming up, here.

My dessert smorgasbord:

1) Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Salted Caramels
2) Trader Joe's pumpkin seed brittle
3) Jell - O Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake
4) Pumpkin Whipped Cream 

My personal favorite of the group? The brittle and the salted caramels. Both were saltier than you'd imagine, but still good.

And really, there's only one way to eat a pumpkin Jell-O cup, and that's with pumpkin whipped cream on top.

The whipped cream was good, the Jell - O was disgusting. They took the whole cheesecake thing too far. It tasted... sour. Somehow. However I would (and will) add that whipped cream to my coffee tomorrow because deep down, I am Leslie Knope.

Overall Thoughts: Why must all pumpkin items come in bulk? It's not a flavor that people usually want to gorge themselves on. You just want a little bit and then you're done. 

Unrelated note: If you want 3.5 uneaten pumpkin spice Jell - O pudding cups, just let me know. 

Grade (s): 
Whipped Cream: B+
Brittle: A
Caramels: B
Jell - O : D

Squashtober Spice Countdown Day 16: Pumpkin Spice Creamer

No idea why it took me so long to get to pumpkin spice creamer. It's probably the most standard pumpkin spiced item of the season.

And yes, that's an owl mug. Ol' owly made it through 4 years of college with me. And anyone who went through 4 years of roommates knows that having the same mugs at the end of the year that you had at the beginning is quite a feat. I had to make an effort to make sure he always ended up packed in my kitchen supplies box at the end of every year.

Or rather, that he ended up in some Ikea bag that I threw all the odds and ends into at the end of the year.

Anyway, horror of horrors. The creamer has this freaking tin foil cover on it. Why did God himself create the plastic pull-tab if not to prevent the foil cap?

Well now I remember why it took me so long to get to the pumpkin spice creamer. Because everyone has already had it before! It tastes exactly how you think it's going to taste. Reminds you of fall, very nice comforting flavor.

Overall Thoughts: Some big wig up there in the corporate creamer-distribution world has decided to only sell pumpkin spice creamer in absurd sizes. The one I have here is the smallest I could find, by far. Otherwise they only come in those gigantic sizes that are usually reserved for the boring flavors that everyone likes. Hazelnut, French Vanilla, etc.

My current theory is that they know people will buy pumpkin spice creamer every year out of nostalgia, and they want to capitalize on their month of pumpkin-obsessed clientele. Make them buy in bulk.

Grade: A

The owl abides.

Squashtober Spice Countdown Day 15: Pumpkin Spice Yogurt Pretzels

Let me tell you - If you are at any point in your life trying to recreate this noble pursuit of mine, there is no better grocery store than Kroger for pumpkin spiced items.

Every aisle endcap you walk past is a veritable cornucopia of fall-flavored items. I mean really.... pumpkin spice pretzels?!

Now, these didn't look the most appetizing. If I had to name their color, I would call it: Hannah's skin tone.

Like a crazy pale peach with powder on it.

They tasted pretty good. All yogurt pretzels remind me of those little pretzel/white chocolate/m&m Christmas cookie things. These bad boys:

Like many pumpkiny things I've eaten this month, it just made me wish that I was eating the typical flavor. Like chocolate covered pretzels, or something.

But still, pretty good.

Overall Thoughts: Does anyone make those m&m pretzel Christmas cookies anymore? I feel like those were discovered in the 90s and have yet to make their glorious return. Probably on Pinterest.
Grade: B

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Squashtober Spice Countdown Day 14: Pumpkin "It's It" Ice Cream Sandwich

Hey. Okay. Wow. So... I fell behind. 

I had grand plans that when I went to San Francisco for my sister's wedding, I would be greeted by a million tiny grocery stores that sold adorable local pumpkin fare and I would take adorable pictures of my adorable niece and nephew eating said local pumpkin fare. 

As it turns out, San Francisco does not seem to have the same pumpkin spice obsession as the rest of the country. They also don't seem to have pumpkins. 

So I'm going to have to make up for lost time in the upcoming days. In the meantime, here's the one pumpkin thing available in San Francisco!

"It's It" ice cream sandwiches!

So okay these are basically chocolate-covered flavored ice cream sandwiched between oatmeal cookies. I mean... right? Amazing. 

I know what you're thinking: "Hannah, I'm not located in San Francisco. Nor do I live in the limited locations in California and the Pacific Northwest where these are sold. What good does this review do for me?"

Ugh, dudes. Can't we all just like...chill for one second? Let me have this one? I scoured high and low. Aside from actual pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, this was it. 

General Thoughts: Delicious. I mean, really. How could it not be? Do you like pumpkin? Do you like cookies? Do you like chocolate? Do you like ice cream? Then get on the "It's It" train. It's our most confusingly named train available. You're gonna love it. 
Grade: A

Monday, October 13, 2014

Squashtober Spice Countdown Day 13: Pumpkin Eggnog

Because I have never tried eggnog before, I had a lot of questions before trying a pumpkin-spiced version.

1. What is eggnog?
2. Does it taste like egg?
3. Has anyone ever invented a name for a food that was less palatable than eggnog?
4. How is it prepared? Do you drink it on its own? I have heard tell that you're meant to put rum in it, but I'm not sure that's wise on the day before a  five-hour flight.
5. How does one serve eggnog?

I answered that last question for myself. I decided it looked best in a wine glass.

I think perhaps that the packaging here is sending mixed messages. An orange carton (Halloween) paired with the image of a snow-covered cabin (Christmas) but it's flavored pumpkin (Halloween) but it's eggnog (Christmas).

It was.... thick. Seems like I was probably supposed to cut it with something. Milk? Is that something that people do? Made me want to mix it into some kind of alcoholic milkshake.

*Food Truck Idea* A truck that's opened only in the summer that serves alcoholic milkshakes.

There's something there.

Overall Thoughts: Don't you dare steal my idea for an alcoholic milkshake truck.
Grade: Can I mix it into something? Or mix something into it? If so, B. 

Squashtober Spice Countdown Day 12: Pumpkin Tortilla Chips

Just when I thought grocery stores were starting to run out of pumpkin-flavored items, God sends me a blessing. A blessing in corn chip form. 

I need to entertain more. Because these were awesome, and are screaming to be eaten with some sort of dip. The type of dip that a person with far more hosting experience can whip up in a moment's notice.

For real, these would go great with sweet dips. Like a marshmallow dip, maybe. Or salsa. Or sweet salsa. Hm, yes. A mango salsa. Do these chips better justice than I, and dip them in mango salsa.

Don't just eat dry fistfulls of them while you stave off hunger until your frozen chicken nuggets are cooked.

Overall Thoughts: These pair well with chicken nuggets and tater tots.
Grade: A

Squashtober Spice Countdown Day 11: Woodchuck Pumpkin Hard Cider

I cannot for the life of me figure out how to put the words together that describe this drink.

Woodchuck Pumpkin Hard Cider?
Woodchuck Hard Pumpkin Cider?
Woodchuck Hard Cider with Pumpkin?

Apparently Woodchuck gave up, too. They just threw the word "pumpkin" around the neck.

Whatever it's called, it has really cool packaging. Well done, Woodchuck Cider. You sucked in another 20-something girl with interesting packaging. This is exactly how I ended up with an extremely pretty version of "Crime and Punishment" which I never read and will never read and I'm now realizing is no longer in my possession.

But enough about required reading from an 11th grade english class. On to the cider! It tastes.... weird. It's supposed to be pumpkin flavored, but they seem to have forgone the usual pumpkin spices. No cinnamon, no nutmeg, no cumin. It's more fruity. Which probably has to do with the fact that it's cider.

Tastes a bit like they stumbled into a flavor that didn't taste like normal apple cider so they instead decided to say it was flavored like something else.

However, I've been assured that I'm wrong and that it tastes great. So says my boyfriend, anyway. Take from that what you will, because he's currently in the other room trying to teach himself to play bagpipes on a tinwhistle.

Overall Thoughts: Must remember that orange and black go well together. I wonder if there's a holiday that uses those colors?
Grade: B-

Squashtober Spice Countdown Day 10: Pumpkin Spice Portillo's Shake

Sorry to alienate anyone who doesn't like in the Chicagoland area, but Portillo's is the greatest restaurant ever, forever. 

They look like this on the outside:

And you eat this on the inside:

So when I heard about the pumpkin spice shake, I had to try it out. Although based on the cashier's reaction when she took my order, not many people are ordering. 

Me: I'd like a pumpkin shake, please. 
Cashier: Heh?
Me: A pumpkin shake. 
Cashier: Vanilla?
Me: Pumpkin. 
Cashier: *blink*
*looks at menu board*
Cashier: Pumpkin it is!

Looks can be deceiving. This was really good. It's like... pumpkin ice cream. If you let the pumpkin ice cream melt to the consistency of a liquid.

I should have expected no less from a restaurant that has this on the menu:

Don't think about the fact that it is a cake with mayonnaise in it. Don't wonder about whether they slipped mayonnaise into the pumpkin shake. Just sip, and enjoy.

General Thoughts: How much mayonnaise would it take for me to not eat a slice of chocolate cake?
Grade: A

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Squashtober Spice Countdown Day 8 & 9: Pumpkin Spice Bagel & Cream Cheese

Well I'm squeezing two days together again, but this time it was intentional. Some food are meant to go together! Like peanut butter and jelly. Or salt and pepper. Or, you know... bagels and cream cheese.


The bagels:

Pretty good. Not such a fan of the fact that they have little bits of smashed pumpkin in them, like raisins in raisin bread. But otherwise, a nice pumpkin-y flavor.

The cream cheese:

Do you have a problem eating foods that are a different color than what you're used to? Perhaps like that dark period in the early 2000s when somebody thought it was a good idea to create green ketchup.

Who approved this? WHO?! Probably the same person who invented Wow! chips. The early 2000s were a simpler time. A time of LiveJournal and clever away messages on AIM that incorporated Hoobastank lyrics.

All of this to say: The cream cheese is orange.

But if you can get over that, it's good! Perhaps overwhelming when pumpkin cream cheese is spread on a pumpkin bagel (Did I learn nothing from dipping pumpkin Milano cookies into pumpkin greek yogurt?)

Overall thoughts: Just eat the pumpkin bagel with butter on it, or plain cream cheese. And put the pumpkin cream cheese on a plain bagel. You probably would have already done that without my advice. But I had to try! I suffer for my art, you know.
Grade: B+
Similarity to raisin bagel: High.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Squashtober Spice Countdown Day 6 & 7: Pumpkin Spice Candy Corn and Pumpkin Mousse

Yes, it's another twofer. Today my excuse is that I had to go to the DMV the first day it was open after a three day break. It destroyed my soul. My soul and my dignity. My soul and my dignity and my patience for 16-year-olds who listen to their music far too loud.

"Beats By Dre" are soundproof for WHOM, Dr. Dre? For WHOM? For YOU?! Not for everyone else in the DMV, I'll tell you that much.

But fear not. I have managed to scrounge up a couple of pumpkin spice items that I had no idea existed. I've never seen these in stores until this year, although maybe I'm just not looking.

First and firstmost, we have pumpkin spice Jell-O

Fairly straightforward. Tastes a bit like you're eating pumpkin pie filling. But THEN. You have a brilliant stroke of genius because you are a culinary genius and your wisdom knows no bounds. That, and the recipe is on the box: Pumpkin Mousse! With pecans!

It looks disgusting. It tastes pretty awesome. 

Overall Thoughts: Have a recipe that you could use it in? Go for it! But a giant vat of pumpkin flavored pudding is a little much. 
Grade: For pudding alone? B. For mousse? A-
Thoughts on price of pecans: LUDICROUS.

Up next we have my least favorite candy and possibly least favorite food in the world:

... Candy corn. The devil's candy. Tastes nothing like candy and looks nothing like corn. 

Have you seen Lewis Black's stand-up on candy corn? If not, watch this video. You should start about 40 seconds in. I don't know what the first part is all about. 

Unsurprisingly, I did not like pumpkin spice candy corn. However, I had my mom try it (she loves candy corn) and she concurred. It's just not good. If you like candy corn (WHY?) then just get then normal stuff. 

Overall thoughts: Absolutely not. 
Grade: D, because my mom said it wasn't the worst. I'm not sure what is the worst. We'll see. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Squashtober Spice Countdown Days 4 & 5: Pumpkin Spice Oreos and Pumpkin Spice Bread

Well I fell a day behind. In my defense, I had to move yesterday. And also there are a LOT of unwatched episodes of Gilmore Girls in this world, and I feel that I can't be blamed for watching every single one of them in the course of one week.

Tell them how it is, Liz Lemon.

So let's get a couple of pumpkin items in one post. First, Pumpkin Spice Oreos.

I had a LOT of hesitation about these. They didn't sound appetizing to me at all. I didn't see why Oreo would mess with perfection. Just dye the cream filling orange and call it a day, like they usually do.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. Quite delicious. Certainly worth adding to your repertoire once a year when you're feeling particularly autumnal.

Overall Thoughts: This is the first thing I've tried so far that has enough pumpkin taste to merit being called "pumpkin spice" and doesn't go overboard with it.
Grade: A

Okay, now for the pumpkin spice bread.

I figured you can't really go wrong with pumpkin spice bread. It's basically just cinnamon bread. And I was right! Worth buying, will taste exactly like you think it will.

But the real question is: Will dogs eat it?

The fearless leader surveys the sacrifice you offer her.

"Is it poisonous?" She wonders, trying to determine if the humans would attempt a coup d'├ętat.

And ultimately deciding that the pumpkin aroma is too alluring. She must taste the bread. Even if she risks outright rebellion.

Overall Thoughts: Not poisonous to dogs. Also not poisonous to humans. If anyone was curious.
Grade: A

Friday, October 3, 2014

Squashtober Spice Countdown Day 3: Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows

I spent today packing and re-watching Gilmore Girls, and I have one thing to say to everyone: If you prefer Dean over Jess then we have nothing in common and I really don't see a reason why we should continue pretending to be friends. Why don't you just go and ruin a perfectly good dance marathon with your hurtful words?!?

Like Dean did.

At the dance marathon.

In Season 3 Episode 7.

Oh, Rory. You deserve better. We all deserve better. We all deserve... Jess.

But aside from watching an entire season of Gilmore Girls, I also went grocery shopping today. We may have gone overboard with the pumpkin spice beers.

Waste not, want not. And all that. Though I'm not sure it really applies here.

I also discovered the perfect packing snack:

It's perfect because
A) They're light and can get thrown around
B) In a pinch, they can act as replacement packing peanuts
C) They don't taste good enough that you'll be sad when you accidentally open the bag too exuberantly and they go flying all over your freshly packed clothes.

Overall thoughts: I would absolutely melt these down and put them in a s'more. They would make the s'more a little more autumnal. But mostly they just taste like normal marshmallows with a tiny little bit of cinnamon on them.
Grade: B