DAY 21: Actual Pumpkin & Actual Pumpkin Spice. Seriously.

Somehow lost in the selection of pumpkin spice products for sale at Trader Joe’s is the fact they sell blended actual pumpkin and actual pumpkin spice for the fall. So as I face down the homestretch of this challenge, I figured it was time to taste the real thing.

And here we go!

DAY 21: Actual Pumpkin & Actual Pumpkin Spice. Seriously.
Item(s): Trader Joe’s Blended Pumpkin, Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice
Cost: $1.99 (both)
Purchase Location: Trader Joe’s

We've tasted a good number of options, and we think this is the freshest-tasting canned pumpkin you can find, primarily because the certified-organic, vine-ripened fruit is pureed within hours of harvest and packed on-site. There's nothing added—it's just pumpkin—so you can use it in pies, cakes, breads, cookies, muffins, tarts, soups, puddings and any other favorites, and add exactly the spices you want to make it just perfect... for you.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice is a sweet, warm blend of cinnamon, ginger, citrus, nutmeg, cloves and just a hint of cardamom. It is, quite unsurprisingly, ideal for pumpkin pie. Contrary to its somewhat restrictive nomenclature might imply, it's also excellent sprinkled over things like sweet potatoes, Kabocha Squash, and applesauce. Try it on hot cereal or sprinkled over a bowl of Joe's Pumpkin O's, use it to add a little extra character to banana bread or oatmeal cookies.

I spent a few days looking at recipes online, and was overwhelmed by the variety of unique dishes that pumpkin can be incorporated into. It is impressively versatile as a base, and can be served sweet or savory, spiced or spicy. I wasn’t sure what the best way would be to present the pumpkin itself, but then I came across a picture of pumpkin parfait and was intrigued. The concept is relatively simple: you alternate layers of spiced pumpkin and greek yogurt, and top with a nut to add crunch.

But before putting together the parfait, I decided to flavor the pumpkin with the spice mix. I emptied the can into a pyrex and added several shakes of the seasoning. After a vigorous whisking and a nip (it was delicious!), it was ready.

The blended pumpkin has the texture of applesauce and a smell/taste similar to sweet potato. Tasting it alone, the usual flavor is stronger (because it is not folded into anything), but still pleasant. As for the seasoning: it was familiarly fragrant, with a smell that hits the nose sharply (likely because of the cinnamon).

For my parfait, I chose vanilla whole milk Chobani. I chose to go with a flavored yogurt to add sweetness because the pumpkin does not have any of its own intrinsically. I could have used honey, but I didn’t want to add anything else to the pumpkin other than seasoning.

Assembling the layers was fun, especially with the pumpkin and the yogurt contrasting in color so much. I only went with two layers of each, but I’ve seen pictures where people go all the way to the top of the mason jar with it. For my crunch, I sprinkled on some of the pumpkin spiced pumpkin seeds. Finally, I finished it with a dusting of the spice seasoning.
The important thing to remember with parfaits is that you have to get all of the layers for the bite to count. Scooping through, I made sure to get some of the seeds, yogurt, and pumpkin. At first bite, the pumpkin and yogurt work really well together texturally, and the vanilla in the yogurt folds in and supports the spice seasoning well.
With the pumpkin and the yogurt, I finally felt like I got the taste that I expected from the pumpkin spice Chobani that was just awful in my review. The best way to describe it is that it just tasted like Fall.

The pumpkin seed topping added a fun crunch, and if I were making this again, I would probably add them between the layers too (if you’re wondering - they won't get soggy like oats or granola).

Overall, this pumpkin and the accompanying spice were great for what they were. The fact that pumpkin is so light (but with a nice flavor that holds in whatever it is added to) allows it to be a great utility ingredient. If I can handle the taste after this month, I might even try some more recipes.

Final Rating: 5 /5 Pumpkins (for both)

 


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