Pumpkin Spice Muffins & Cheerios

It’s no secret that I love pumpkin spice. A lot of people joke that it’s a flavouring made specifically for white women, and there may be some substance to that. After all, it does smell distinctly like the pumpkin pie that was a treat in my family around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I’m guessing that other people of a similar background have similar nostalgia. They say that smell has a great deal of power when it comes to memory, at any rate.

When I was growing up, though, pumpkin spice wasn’t in everything come fall. Pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, if you were lucky, and that was about it. The popularity of Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte is what really got the ball rolling, at least around here. I’m not a coffee drinker, so I was later than many about hopping on the bandwagon. I really rather liked the Oreos and the Kahlua. That being said, I firmly believe that some things really don’t need to be pumpkin spice flavoured, or have been poorly done, so I like to try out a few new dishes every autumn as a kind of experiment.

The first dish that I tried this week was pumpkin spice muffins baked from Krusteaz Pumpkin Spice Quick Bread Mix, which I bought from Costco on a recent trip. The box says that you can make loaves, pancakes, cookies, and muffins, but I was feeling lazy so I just made the muffins. They rose nicely and looked great in the pan, but they fell and became rather overly moist once they left the oven, despite being cooked through. Even so, they were fairly tasty; the kids especially liked them.

For my part, I think I will stick to the Joy of Cooking‘s Pumpkin Bread recipe for this kind of muffin. I’ve had better luck with this recipe in the past. However, I do wonder, in the case of the mix, if it’s trying to do too many things — or if a different preparation might suit the mix better? At any rate, I have three more packages of mix to cook, so I should be able to try them all out.

I also tried some Pumpkin Spice Cheerios. These are definitely a sweet cereal, which to me isn’t suited to breakfast at all. Actually, I found them quite cloying in (unsweetened almond) milk. However, they’re not half bad dry, and make quite a nice snack. However, if I’m going for a sweet Cheerio, I much prefer Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. They came out in 1988, so they have a place in my heart as being a special treat from my childhood (we weren’t allowed sugary cereal except on special occasions). Also, I just find that they taste less sweet and cloying, which is funny because according to the nutrition info, pumpkin spice has 8g of sugar per serving, and apple cinnamon has 9g. Maybe it’s how it’s cooked, or just the spice mixture? It’s even stranger when you realize that one of the major components in pumpkin spice is actually cinnamon. At any rate, I still like Apple Cinnamon Cheerios better.

Apple Jack-O

I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about a wonderful alcoholic beverage that I have recently discovered. The way that I write this blog might have given you the impression that I am a teetotaler; this is patently untrue, although I’m not a heavy drinker by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t like beer or wine, but I am quite fond of coolers and mixed drinks. So when I saw the pumpkin-shaped bottle of Captain Morgan Jack-O’Blast Pumpkin Spice Flavoured Liquor at the local LCBO, I figured I had to try it out. (For non-natives, the LCBO is short for “Liquor Control Board of Ontario”, which are the liquor stores run by the provincial government.)

The liquor smells wonderful and one of the serving suggestions is to drink it as a chilled shot. I’m more of a sipper, myself, so I went with the Apple Jack-O recipe on the package, which tastes just like apple pie. I can’t recommend it enough.

Apple Jack-O
Yields one serving

Stir together:
1.5oz Captain Morgan Jack-O’Blast Pumpkin Spice Flavoured Liquor
4oz apple cider
Add ice cubes as desired. Serve.

As I said, I’m not a beer drinker, but the recipe card on the bottle also suggests a mixed drink using lager. Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s just that I don’t like beer, but it sounds kind of gross. So please, if anyone else tries it, let me know what you think!

Jack-O-Lager
Yields one serving

Pour into a glass:
1.25oz Captain Morgan Jack-O’Blast Pumpkin Spice Flavoured Liquor
4oz lager
Serve.

Dairy-Free Pumpkin Spice Cashew Spread Recipe

I’m still working through a batch of pumpkin puree that I thawed and then didn’t end up needing. One of my favourite pumpkin-based recipes is Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Spread by Pinch My Salt. The original recipe is simple — no cooking required, it’s as easy as throwing everything in a blender and pushing a button. Sadly, since I now have to avoid dairy products, any recipe based on cream cheese is out. So I made my own slightly-more-labour-intensive dairy-free version, and I think it tastes just like pumpkin pie.

My first version of this recipe was made with tofu, but that was a wash — despite the spices, it still mostly tasted like beans. My successful version is made with cashews as the base, which means it definitely contains nuts and is not school-safe. That’s okay, my kids can have dairy, I can send them to school with the cream-cheese-based version. My version also doesn’t use premixed pumpkin spice, but instead all of the individual spices that are usually found therein, allowing for a bit more customization. The recipe is vegetarian, and could be made vegan if you source your ingredients right (many brands of sugar, including brown sugar, use bone char as part of the filter process).

I like both versions of the spread as a dip for a freshly-cut-up cold, crisp apple. It also works well as a spread for bagels, toast, or a topping/core for muffins or cupcakes.


Pumpkin spice cashew spread with sliced gala apples

Dairy-Free Pumpkin Spice Cashew Spread
Yields about 1 1/2 cups

Pour into a heat-safe container:
1 cup roasted unsalted cashews
Cover the cashews with boiling water and leave them to sit for a minimum of 1 hour, up to 4 hours. Cashews should be plump and soft after soaking.
Drain water and place cashews in a blender.
Add to the blender:
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp corn starch
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
6 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
1/2 cup water
Blend mixture until smooth.
Pour mixture into a cooking pot. Stirring constantly, cook until the mixture just begins to simmer. This recipe will burn to the bottom of the pot very quickly, so stirring constantly is essential. Once the mixture has reached a simmer, remove it from the heat. Scrape the mixture into a container with a lid that seals, then refrigerate until cooled through. Serve.