All Things Pumpkin

Pumpkin Spice

It does exist! I’d heard rumors about sugar-free pumpkin spice syrup but had not spotted this rarely seen creation in all of my many meanderings through T.J. Maxx grocery aisles … until now. I found this lone bottle tucked away behind the vanilla and hazelnut flavors on the top shelf in the Tupelo store (which is one of my favorite T.J.s, with its smattering of good-zip-code designer finds and a truly breathtaking hair and skin-care section). Not sure if I had broken into someone’s pumpkin-spice stash or if it had inadvertently been pushed to the back, but I grabbed the pumpkin-spice and put it in my cart immediately, under the jealously watchful eyes of two other shoppers who were not as quick. Or fast. Or, perhaps, pumpkin-spice obsessed. Yeah, yeah, I know. I know that “pumpkin spice” is (brilliant) marketing and mostly has nothing to do with actual pumpkins. I know that Starbucks and other retailers have wiggled their way into my head and made me lust after cozy & rustic & warming pumpkin stuff I didn’t even know I wanted. (Candles! Lotions! Pringles!) I know that no actual real pumpkins are harmed in the making of almost everything claiming a connection to our favorite orange squash. And yet. Here I am drinking pumpkin spice coffee and eating a pumpkin spice muffin with pumpkin butter, thinking about lunch with pumpkin beer to go with pumpkin salsa and pumpkin-seed crackers. I may need an intervention. But could you wait until Christmas, please? I’ve got a bunch of pumpkin soup leftover in the fridge.

Purple Potatoes

Thanks to everybody who’s worried that I’ve already dropped my plan to cook supper for my husband at least one night a week. It’s true that the week of Thanksgiving I did take a break (hey, I’d cook two or three times by then!) since we were fed practically everywhere we went, but I got back in the groove this week and for our weekly-supper-at-home, I fixed … wait for it … stir-fried vegetables. But the big surprise was the PURPLE baked sweet potatoes. Yes. Purple. I got the potatoes and the broccoli, onion and red pepper at the Jack-O-Lantern Farms market in Muscle Shoals (I think fall broccoli has a sweeter taste than its spring version) and added some mushrooms and baby carrots from the grocery. We liked the potatoes — which I’ve seen in specialty grocery stores, too, such as Earth Fare — although they weren’t what we expected. They have the creamy consistency of sweet potatoes combined with the subtle  taste of white potatoes. But how much fun is it to eat purple food? I think purple mashed potatoes would be sort of wonderful. Husband got a kick out of them, anyway. So score another victory for Week No. 3 of Cooking Supper At Home. And before you start congratulating us for unpacking all the boxes that have been evident in the previous CSAH photos, I have to tell you that they’re still there — Husband simply was sitting on the other side of the table for this photo. I know, I know, but surely you don’t expect me to cook supper once a week AND unpack boxes, too???

Oh My Gosh! I’m A Squash!***

All signs point to one thing: It definitely is fall. You can tell by the football games, the cooler temps, the changing leaves … and of course, my favorite: the food. Fall food is simply the best. Who doesn’t love warm, fresh and satisfying? At Jack-O-Lantern Farms market in Muscle Shoals this past week, we got a taste — literally — of fall’s abundance when Marriott chef Josh Quick prepared some winter-squash recipes. One word: Yum. Also, more words: Quick, easy and good-for-you. Quick demystified winter squash and made it seem like something I could tackle myself.  As enticing as these big and colorful vegetables are, they often seem overwhelming. I mean, what, really, can you do with a butternut squash? Plenty, Quick says. Roast it, saute it, blend it — it’s versatile enough to play with whatever flavors you want. It’s even easy to peel, Quick said, and he proved it by whipping out a simple plastic Y-shaped peeler. So you no longer have an excuse for passing up these squash treasures. And the rumor that you can make spaghetti squash look just like spaghetti noodles is true. See the pile of “pasta” in the right-hand corner of the top left photo? That, my friends, is spaghetti squash. Read Quick’s winter-squash secrets and try out his recipes at my food story in this past Wednesday’s TimesDaily.

*** This post title is in honor of a favorite book 2 1/2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable and I like to read: “The Ugly Pumpkin.” In this wonderfully illustrated tale, an “ugly pumpkin” can’t figure out where he belongs until he realized he isn’t a pumpkin at all.