Friday, October 18, 2013

Pumpkin Products, Part 1

Well, it's autumn again: beta-carotene's time to shine! Root-Vegetable Madness! Squash-Varietal Mania! ...and pumpkin EVERYTHING at Trader Joe's.
First, before I review any products, I would like to humbly put forth my take on why food manufacturers go nuts with pumpkin in the fall and why we, the consumers, all giddily go along with it: My suspicion is that those hundreds of thousands of us who zealously hop on the pumpkin bandwagon are actually most excited about pumpkin pie, a Thanksgiving staple, of course, but understand that we can't actually eat pumpkin pie every day from September through December because that would be weird, impractical, and really not that good for us. So we seek out that pumpkin-pie flavor in whatever other format it is presented to us: waffles! ice cream! bagels! pasta! bread! and on and on, and the food manufacturers know this. (Enablers!)
And so we've got this symbiotic relationship whereby TJ's sells us all manner of pumpkin product, and we buy it.
What do you think? Am I right?
Anyway, earlier this week I made my first trip to TJ's in about three weeks (!) and brought home the following pumpkin-flavored products: Pumpkin Waffles, Pumpkin Bagels, Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread, and Honey-Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli.
I feel ridiculous as I look at that list, honestly. Pumpkin bagels? Come on! How desperate for pumpkin-pie substitutes can I be, right?
Anyway, for what it's worth, here are my highly subjective and unscientific reviews of each:

Pumpkin Waffles. OK, first of all, are you a toaster-waffle person? If you're not, then never mind, this product isn't for you. However, if toaster waffles are popular in your home, as they are in mine, I urge you to try these. They get two thumbs up from both of my kids, even Hunter, who hates vegetables so deeply he once literally threw up the entire contents of his stomach after I paid him to try a Brussels sprout. (I realize there isn't much "vegetable" in pumpkin waffles, but there is some, and it says something that Hunter knows this and eats the waffles anyway.)
These waffles are the right combination of light, crispy, soft, hearty, and sweet, and the pumpkin and pumpkin-pie-spice flavors are present but not overpowering. Plus, as with all TJ's waffles, the ingredient list isn't scary: these waffles contain flour, eggs, leavening, pumpkin, spices, salt, an assortment of added vitamins, and not much else, so I feel pretty good about feeding these to my kids. (And a bonus: 20% RDA of both vitamin A and iron!)

Pumpkin Bagels. Meh. I mean, these aren't a horror show or anything, but they're really not great, either, and I can't say we are likely to buy these again. The pumpkin flavor is minimal, and their texture is that of a typical grocery-store bagel: chewy and doughy and roll-like without any of that loveliness that comes from boiling the bagels first the way good bagel shops do it.
These bagels do, however, contain "pumpkin pie spice bits," which are pleasant to encounter (albeit a desperate attempt to win over pumpkin-pie fans). So that's kind of fun. But otherwise...meh.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread. Now THIS is good stuff right here, if you're into bagels. Get your bagels elsewhere (might I suggest Brooklyn Water Bagel?) and slather this stuff on them liberally! I eagerly await this product's arrival at TJ's every autumn, because it is creamy and pumpkin-y and spicy, and it just makes sense. It's the marriage of pumpkin-pie filling and cream cheese, which is a happy marriage indeed.

Honey-Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli. I really like this stuff. I don't believe it's for everyone (like, for instance, my daughter), but I do recommend it if you're into pumpkin and you're up for a seasonal diversion from traditional ravioli. The filling is mainly ricotta and small chunks of roasted pumpkin, with some additional sweetness and spice crammed in there. I just drizzled melted butter* over it after boiling it for a few minutes, and voila, dinner's main course was ready(...and veggie-hatin' Hunter ate two bites!). It was yummy for lunch the next day, too. I will buy it again.

I've heard from you that the pumpkin-cranberry cracker thingies are delish, so I'll for sure try them next time, as well as the pumpkin macarons another friend suggested. And good old Pumpkin Butter, which I actually have eaten so much of in previous years I had to take a break from it, but I feel ready to dive in again this fall.

Other pumpkin-flavored TJ's suggestions?

*Actually Earth Balance whipped spread, which is the only "butter" my kids will eat.

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