There are two types of people in this world, right? The ones who really like their pumpkin spice lattes…..and the ones who really like their pumpkin spice lattes with extra nutmeg and whipped cream.
No matter how you take your frothy taste of fall, you can place your order for a pumpkin spice latte at any one of the many coffee shops convenient to The Retreat at Mountain Brook, in Birmingham, Alabama, whether you want to sit and relax and enjoy your steaming mug along with a scone at Seeds Coffee Co. on Oxmoor Road in Homewood, or grab one to go from Red Cat Coffee House at Pepper Place on your way to work or class.
Of course, on the sleepy Sunday mornings you don’t want to meet up with friends at Revelator Coffee Company, you might be more inclined to light your favorite pumpkin spice-scented candle and lounge on your couch or porch after enjoying some warm oatmeal flavored with a little something from Jordan’s Skinny Syrups Limited Edition Pumpkin Trio. As we’ve shared with you before, our resident lifestyle professionals, the Idea Specialists™, use Jordan’s Skinny Syrups for everything from comfy coffees to classic cocktails, with some baking in between. We really couldn’t make up our mind which one of this fall’s pumpkin offerings was our favorite!
Back to candles: There are about a million places to buy them, right? Well, one always-reliable source is Bath & Body Works, and its Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin 3-Wick Candle made O: The Oprah Magazine’s list of Fall 2020 candles that smell “almost as good as fresh pie.”
There are also about a million recipes for this pumpkin spice latte out there; if you don’t already have one you prefer, try the one from Delish (we’ve put the recipe at the end of this blog).
Before we go any further down this yummy-smelling road, though, we probably ought to pause and ask ourselves: What, actually, is pumpkin spice? You may think you have a gourd idea, but you might not…..
Seriously, what is it in pumpkin spice, and what is it about it, that makes so many people crave bonfires and boots and sweaters and snuggles? Well, the basic recipe most often is a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Different blends might contain a little allspice and cardamom. Some chefs even add lemon peel. There is not a bit of pumpkin in it whatsoever.
The elements alone, though, don’t work the special magic that has us buying everything from pumpkin spice protein smoothies (this is our favorite recipe right now!) and Kind bars to dog treats and tortilla chips. The ingredients also have to be heated together. That’s what creates the aroma compounds that get us—and food chemists—all excited. Taken to that next level, the “pumpkin” spice when we taste it is kind of caramelized, maybe a little bit burned, and evocative of wood fire. Get out your flannel shirts, we are going to that bonfire! And taking some chemists with us!
Because, they’ve educated us: The scent is supposed to remind us of pumpkin pie—can’t you just smell grandma’s at the Thanksgiving table? It turns out, though, that the pie filling used by a lot of us, and our mothers and grandmothers, often is not made with pumpkin, either. Instead, inside those familiar cans we’re all used to seeing each fall is usually a sweet squash that is specially bred to be less watery and hard to chew than the pumpkins you might use to make a Jack-o-Lantern and decorate your porch. Combined, of course, with one of our favorite spice blends. Don’t take our word for it, check out the American Chemical Association’s Chemical & Engineering News website.
Now, back to baking. If a busy schedule means you can’t take the time to make your own muffins, just pop over to Starbucks. (Pop over? Did we mean to do that? Maybe…..) Can’t you just taste their pumpkin cream cheese muffin? And their pumpkin bread? Which of course you will order along with that classic latte. And if you’re too busy even for Starbucks, just pour yourself up a mug of some Califia Farms Pumpkin Spice Latte Cold Brew straight from your own refrigerator; it’s available at Whole Foods Market in Cahaba Village Plaza.
Depending on how much pumpkin spice lights up your life, you also could make the quick run down to the Sephora at The Summit and pick up the Too Faced Pumpkin Spice Warm & Spicy Eyeshadow Palette. And the Sephora Collection Mini Pumpkin Infused Brush Set. Then head next door to Trader Joe’s for some Howling Gourds Pumpkin Ale or non-alcoholic Pumpkin Spice Ginger Beer. You can use the latter of course, to flavor your favorite Moscow Mule for fall.
Thank you for letting The Retreat at Mountain Brook have a little bit of fun with a beloved fall tradition. What’s your recipe using favorite pumpkin or pumpkin spice? What’s your favorite candle? Do you bring out your pumpkin-orange throw for your couch around this time every year? We’d love to hear from you with your fall fun ideas!
1 c. whole milk
2 tbsp. pumpkin purée
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, plus more for garnish
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 c. hot espresso or coffee
Whipped cream, for garnish
- In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together milk, pumpkin, maple syrup, spice, and vanilla extract. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is warmed, then blend mixture with an immersion blender until frothy.
- Pour hot espresso into a mug, then top with pumpkin-spice foamed milk. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice
Need A Little Diversion?
See how many words you are able to make out of the letters P U M P K I N S P I C E. We got to 50 by ourselves, 63 with a little help from the internet (and no we didn’t include any of those special two- or three-letter words from Scrabble).
Want to Know More About What’s in a Can of Pumpkin Pie Filling?
The U.S. Food & Drug administration has issued some pretty firm guidance about this. For real. FDA policy states: “In the labeling of articles prepared from golden-fleshed, sweet squash or mixtures of such squash and field pumpkin, we will consider the designation ‘pumpkin’ to be in essential compliance with the ‘common or usual name’ requirements of sections 403(i)(l) and 403(i)(2) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and the ‘specifying of identity’ required by section 1453(a)(1) of the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act.”
Want Something a Little More Savory?
Pumpkin and Gorgonzola Soup has been a fall staple at our houses for quite a long time. Served by itself or as a first course at a fall dinner party, it’s good with or without cheese—and, if gorgonzola is too strong for you, feta is a fine substitute.
1 can pumpkin puree
1 ½ cups chicken stock
1 tsp. sage
1 can evaporated milk
¾ cup crumbled gorgonzola
1 large green onion, finely chopped
- Cook pumpkin, chicken stock and sage in large saucepan, stirring frequently, until comes to a boil.
- Stir in evaporated milk and cheese.
- Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring frequently, until most of cheese is melted.
- Sprinkle with green onion before serving.
- Season with ground black pepper.