We all know that pumpkin spice isn’t actually pumpkin. It’s cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, maybe a little ginger.
We also know that it’s a mega marketing scheme that originated from Starbucks and now extends to every single aisle of the grocery store, including the one where you buy hand soap.
For the first few years of the craze, I ugh’ed my way through pumpkin spice season. It’s not that I don’t like pumpkin pie or those deliciously fall spices. My beef is that I don’t like my tongue feeling like it got run over by a Mack truck carrying a year’s worth of pumpkin pie spices. I also don’t love finding pumpkin spice in pasta sauce or tortilla chips or apple juice.
Last year, I did a taste test video of a whole bunch of pumpkin spice products, but this year, I’m just snapping them for Instagram. Today, I found pumpkin spice Cheerios, a new product from one of the country’s biggest cereal makers which, apparently, just couldn’t leave those pumpkin spice dollars on the table.
The Austin-based cold-brew coffee company High Brew isn’t interested in anything that has to do with pumpkin spice.
Just after I got back to the office from the store, I received a box of samples from High Brew that included a card that said, “Pumpkin Spice Latte? Don’t be basic.”
I got a good laugh out of that, but it did get me thinking that if this pumpkin spice craze keeps at the current pace, it’s only a matter of time before High Brew jumps on board.
Are you pumpkin spice-ing this fall? With pride or is the anti-PSL shade lingering over your head? I’d love to hear about your favorite pumpkin spice products or the very craziest you’ve seen.
Someone told me they saw pumpkin spice dog biscuits recently, which makes me think we’re a long way from seeing the end of this trend.
I have a number of bad habits when it comes to shopping and cooking, and one of my top offenses is buying winter squashes that I don’t actually use.
They sit in my pantry, or next to some pumpkins on the dinner table, or in the potato bin, and they sit and sit and sit some more. I put off using them for so long that they start to dry out and become even harder to peel and chop. Some of the squashes are so hard that I worry about losing a finger when I do get around to it. That peeling and chopping — let’s be honest — is not that difficult in the first place, but it is a hassle.
That’s why I was excited when I was at Trader Joe’s last week and saw a package of butternut squash that was already peeled, seeded and chopped. (Costco sells a similar product.) The 12-ounce package cost $1.99, which is comparable to what a full butternut squash would cost without the prep work. You might get a little more of the squash meat out of one you prepare yourself, but 3/4 of a pound was plenty squash for the dish I had in mind.
A few days later, I squeezed two links of andouille sausage out of their casings and into a heavy-bottom pot. After crumbling and cooking the meat, I removed it and left some of the fat behind. Into the pot went some chopped onions and, in the two seconds it took for me to open the bag, the butternut squash. Add salt, pepper and a garlic spice blend. Stir. Cover. Stir again.
While the vegetables cooked, I boiled some farfalle pasta (aka bowtie, my favorite since childhood), and as the squash started to soften, I added the meat back to the pot to reheat for another minute or two. I put one scoop of pasta in a bowl with another scoop of the squash and andouille mixture on top, and a delicious weeknight dinner was ready.
I’ll be buying that packaged squash again.
On the other hand, I picked up some English muffins from Trader Joe’s that same day that had already molded by the morning of their “best by” date. Trader Joe’s is good at some things, but bread and baked goods are not one of those things.
We all have must-buy products at some stores that we won’t dare buy at others, like H-E-B’s cane sugar cola, and on the flip side, there are certain products that I’ll never buy at certain stores, like cereal at Sprouts. Sprouts, on the other hand, is where I buy almost all of my fresh cased sausage, like that andouille.
Tell us about some of your grocery must-buys and never-buys. You can post photos of them on social media with #Austin360Cooks or email me at email@example.com. I always love hearing from readers by phone, too: 512-912-2504
You can check out all the recently submitted pics in the Austin360Cooks gallery below:
Taking a cue from its other popular in-store festivities, Central Market is debuting an apple-centric promotion that includes an apple recipe contest. “The Great Apple Harvest” will take place at both Austin locations of Central Market through Oct. 4 and will feature more than two dozen varieties of apples for sale, as well as apple cooking classes, apple and cider tastings and specialty products available for sale.
Home cooks can submit their best apple recipes for the store’s inaugural apple recipe contest, which has a $500 Central Market gift card as a prize. (Each store will have a winner.) Each participant can submit up to five recipes, and they can be sweet, savory, desserts, beverages, breakfasts, side dishes, mains, appetizers or anything else you might come up with. The deadline to submit your recipe is the end of the day Oct. 4. You can enter and find out more about all the apple-related events at centralmarket.com.
Even Stef Ferrari gets bored with most ice cream books.
Ferrari is a lifelong ice cream fanatic (and beer nerd) who ran an ice cream shop in Brooklyn that, though short-lived, took a whole new approach to one of America’s most quintessential desserts.
“I quickly realized how many parameters we’ve placed around the enjoyment of ice cream. It’s got to be scooped. Eaten in a cup or a cone, usually in warm weather. Flavors should always be sweet, and don’t dare touch the stuff before dinner,” Ferrari writes in her new book, “Ice Cream Adventures: More Than 100 Deliciously Different Recipes” (Rodale, $24.99). “I knew that ice cream would need to be liberated. It needed to be set free.”
Even though she grew up on mint chocolate chip and butter pecan ice creams, those recipes were already in the ice cream canon. She wanted to push back against the rules and conventions by not only creating new flavors but also new ways to enjoy ice cream. Her ice cream shop was perhaps a little ahead of its time, but Ferrari has poured her passion into this new book.
You’ll find seemingly crazy flavors, such as sriracha popcorn ice cream, root beer and goat cheese soft serve or feta tomato swirl ice cream, and also eye-opening ways to use it, including serving a scoop of cacio e pepe ice cream with a bowl of spaghetti. (You read that right: Parmesan and black pepper ice cream, served over hot spaghetti so that the ice cream becomes the sauce.)
These melted ice cream pancakes perfectly capture Ferrari’s spirited approach to embrace ice cream in new ways. Here, the ice cream replaces the milk and sugar you might find in a traditional recipe. She likes to use an oatmeal cinnamon ice cream, another recipe in the book that calls for soaking oats in milk before making the ice cream, but you could use just about any flavor that’s already in your freezer.
Melted Ice Cream Pancakes
Once I realized just how basic it was to build pancakes from scratch rather than the store-bought box, I felt as if I’d been lied to my whole life. Sure, just-add-water makes it seem like a cinch, but when you take into account the wildly superior flavor of scratch-made, skillet-fresh hotcakes, there’s hardly a reason to go back.
Strawberry ice cream makes a killer pink-hued pancake, and you never even have to worry about seeds sticking in your teeth. The use of melted ice cream also precludes the need for additional sugar in the mix, as you’ll be obtaining an adequate amount of sweetness from the flavor of your choice.
— Stef Ferrari
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups melted ice cream, flavor of your choice
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
2 Tbsp. melted butter
Heat the oven to 200 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, ice cream, vanilla bean seeds and butter. Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture until well incorporated.
Place a large skillet over medium heat and coat it with nonstick cooking spray or butter. Test the heat by sprinkling water on the pan; if it sizzles, it’s ready to go.
Drop the desired amount of batter into the skillet (I like silver dollars). Once small bubbles form and begin to pop, flip the pancakes. Repeat until all the batter has been used. Keep cooked pancakes warm on a baking sheet in the oven until ready to serve. Makes 8 to 12 pancakes.
Springdale Farm and Edible Austin are hosting the Springdale Harvest Fest from 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 16 to celebrate the fall harvest and raise money for the Springdale Center for Urban Agriculture and the local nonprofit Operation Turkey.
The family-friendly event at the farm at 755 Springdale Road will feature food and drinks from local restaurants, including Eden East, Emmer & Rye, Epicerie, Chicon, Counter 3. Five. VII, Justine’s Brasserie, Swift’s Attic and Texas French Bread, and VIP tickets will include samples of Franklin Barbecue with libations and a book signing session with the James Beard-winning Aaron Franklin.
General admission tickets are $45 and VIP are $75, which also includes early access to the event. You can buy tickets and find out more at springdalefarmaustin.com.
Freddie Prinze Jr., the 90s actor heartthrob and husband of Sarah Michelle Gellar who, according to Wikipedia, also worked for World Wrestling Entertainment at some point, is now a cookbook author, and next month, he’ll be in town for an event at the Alamo Drafthouse.
Now that it’s officially fall, your slow cooker might just stay on your countertop for the next few months.
This slow cooker chicken tortilla soup is pretty straightforward and utilizes a combination of canned ingredients and some freshly chopped produce. Don’t skip the lime juice or the tortilla chips, or else it just isn’t tortilla soup.
I like to put the tortilla strips in the soup for the last 10 minutes of cooking so they get a little soggy and infuse the soup with that flavor of toasted corn, and then I add even more crunchy chips on top as I eat. You can serve this with shredded cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, additional cilantro or even a scoop of guacamole. Increase the chili powder and taco seasoning for even more heat.
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 (14 oz.) cans chicken broth (or about 5 cups homemade)
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can corn, drained
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 Tbsp. taco seasoning
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips
Optional toppings: shredded cheese, pico de gallo, avocado, sour cream
Place the chicken in a slow cooker and pour in the broth. Sprinkle the chili powder and salt on top. Add the black beans, corn, tomatoes with their juice, green chilies, onion, bell pepper and cilantro and stir. Sprinkle lime juice, taco seasoning, garlic and cumin over the top and stir. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours.
Remove the chicken and shred or cut it into bite-size pieces. Return the chicken to the slow cooker and cook on low for 30 minutes more. Season with salt and black pepper. Just before serving, add tortilla strips. You can also add cheese, pico de gallo, avocado and sour cream, if desired. Serves 6.
Cream cheese adds the most wonderful savory element to desserts, including carrot cake and cheesecake, but what about cookies?
Jordan Bauman, the local blogger behind Gingersnap Jordan (gingersnapjordan.blogspot.com, @gingersnapatx on Instagram) decided earlier this month that what her triple chocolate cookies really needed was a salted caramel mascarpone glaze on top. Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese that, when paired with a little caramel sauce, balances out the cocoa, butter and sugar in the cakelike cookies, Bauman says.
The cookies themselves have cream cheese in them, which adds to both their texture and flavor, just don’t forget to soften it before you blend it in with the rest of the ingredients. The toasted almonds on top are, of course, optional, but they add a nice crunch and another savory element to these goodies.
Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing social media series called Austin360Cooks. Share what you’re cooking by adding #Austin360Cooks to your posts on Instagram! Each week, we publish one of our favorites in print, and you can find all the recent submissions in a gallery below the recipe.
Triple Chocolate Cookies
For the cookies:
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, slightly softened
2 Tbsp. caramel sauce
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 oz. chocolate bar, chopped in large chunks (I used one with almonds and sea salt)
1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips For the salted caramel mascarpone glaze:
4 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened (cream cheese would also work just fine)
3 Tbsp. prepared caramel sauce, or homemade caramel
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Sea salt, to taste For the topping:
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add butter, brown sugar and sugar and beat for 3 minutes. (Or, add to a large mixing bowl and use a hand mixer.)
Add cream cheese, caramel sauce, egg yolk and vanilla extract. Beat until combined. Incrementally add the dry ingredients to wet ingredients in the bowl of the mixture. Mix until combined between additions until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in chocolate chunks and miniature chocolate chips.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. The dough will be very sticky, and difficult to roll, so refrigerate for 15 minutes.
While the dough is cooling, combine all glaze ingredients and add to a plastic zip-top bag, and trim the corner of the bag for piping. If the glaze is too runny, add some powdered sugar. If too thick, add a teaspoon of milk.
To make the almonds: Heat butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat until just melted. Add almonds, brown sugar and salt. Toss to combine and cook until just toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat.
Form 1 1/2-inch cookie dough balls (they may not roll perfectly, but they will even a bit during baking) and place on a lightly sprayed cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes.
Allow cookies to cool completely, pipe with glaze and sprinkle with almonds. Makes about two dozen cookies.
Potluck dishes can be tricky because you’re serving food outside the conditions of a normal kitchen, so the food has to be contained and enjoyable to eat neither hot nor cold. Former Food & Wine editor Kristin Donnelly decided that the traditional macaroni salads and casseroles could use an update, so she compiled fresh favorites in “Modern Potluck: Beautiful Food to Share” (Clarkson Potter, $27.50).
She offers lots of tips, including how to pack and label the food and ideas for if you want to host a themed potluck, but the book is mostly recipes for dishes such as miso baked beans, poblanos stuffed with samosa filling, beet-cured salmon and four seasons’ worth of potato salads.
These crunchy sweet potato chip magic bars are a retro recipe, but her version includes a rice flour option if you need a gluten-free dessert for your next gathering.
Potato Chip-Crusted Magic Bars
1 (10-oz.) bag plain salted potato chips, preferably not thick-cut
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour or rice flour
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-oz.) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup large unsweetened coconut flakes, such as Bob’s Red Mill, or sweetened coconut flakes
1 cup salted smoked almonds, or your nut of choice, roughly chopped
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan, preferably metal, and line with parchment paper so it overhangs by a couple of inches on the long sides of the pan.
In a food processor, pulse the potato chips with the flour until they resemble coarse bread crumbs. Pour in the butter and pulse until the chips are evenly moistened and finely chopped. Press the mixture into the prepared baking pan.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until the crust is dry and very lightly browned. Let cool.
Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the crust and tip the pan so it forms an even layer. Scatter the chocolate chips, coconut and nuts on top and use a fork or the back of a spoon to press the ingredients into the sticky condensed milk. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the coconut is toasted and the condensed milk is lightly browned at the edges. Transfer to a rack and let cool.
When the bar is cool, use the parchment paper to lift it out of the pan. Cut into any size squares you desire and serve. Makes one 9-inch-by-13-inch pan of bars.
Green Gate Farms just east of U.S. 183 is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a potluck and, in true Austin style, a barn hug from 4 to 10 p.m. on Saturday.
The certified organic farm at 8310 Canoga Ave. is located on the 114-year-old Swedish Bergstrom farm site, and the property’s future was uncertain after the land was sold to a developer last year. The farmers, Erin Flynn and Skip Connett, have had some successful negotiations with Roberts Resorts, which bought the 250-acre parcel of land that includes the farm, and was able to extend their lease and make other improvements to the farm.
The event on Saturday is free, and guests can bring a dish to share, as well as a blanket, cups, cutlery and plates. There will be live music, kid-friendly farm activities, bites from Hillside Farmacy and Olive & June and drinks from Live Oak Brewing Company, Black Star Co-op Pub & Brewery, Hops and Grain, Real Ale Brewing Company and Epoch Coffee. Bands on the line-up include The Honey Trap, The Djembabes, January & June and Bridger & Boyd. For more info, go togreengatefarms.net/10th-anniversary-party.