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By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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50 Shades of Pumpkin

Uploaded: Oct 31, 2015

Every time I walked into our library lately – there it was - just sitting on the shelf staring at me– the Fifty Shades of Grey DVD. I missed the craze; didn’t read or watch it. But how can one not be at least a little interested, you know, from a current events point of view? I finally checked it out. And invited over the girls.

“I am not going to feed you until I have your written consent.” Taking a deep breath, they walk in.

“I have rules...... follow them and you get rewarded.”

A few bite lips nervously, and then rise up, “What do we get out of it?” they demand.

Well, how about Fifty Shades of Pumpkin? Sprawled across my dining room table is a cornucopia of practically every pumpkin thingy I could get my hands on from the annual Trader Joe's celebration.

Here’s my review. How about yours?

Pumpkin Ravioli – I love the idea but the essence didn’t come through. They really need a flavorful sauce. I did brown butter and fried sage, but that didn’t supply enough of a kick.

Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds – a little too sweet for me but S loved them.

Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps: Excellent! We paired with mascarpone and ate practically everyone one out of the box.

Pumpkin Ale: Nice. I’d call it a “girls beer.” Not too hoppy.

Pumpkin Tortilla Chips: Ok. Hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. Nothing memorable but good with mango salsa

Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Salted Caramels: Yum – I went back and bought a few more boxes as gifts.

Pumpkin Spiced Tea: Light pumpkin and spice. Not bitter. An easy drinking tea. Delicious chilled.

Pumpkin Panettone: Light and fresh with candied pumpkin. However, I am loosing interest in white floury foods. I don't feel like I have eaten anything after I eat them.

Pumpkin Cheesecake: Meh. And kind of pasty. The seasonal flavor came through with the spices, but the pumpkin flavor was lacking.

Pumpkin Ice Cream Ginger Cookies: Yes! Now we are talking.

The movie plays on while we spoon Pumpkin Butter (sweetened pureed pumpkin, a little would have been good on those ravioli’s) and Pumpkin Cookie Butter (sweeter, more like peanut butter, good on toast). The Cookie Butter coats my mouth with a silky, lickable cream. Like a dog, I smack it all around till tongue and lips go limp. Both butters blend perfectly with the movie action.

“I don’t just make food ladies, I cook…hard.” I keep feeding them and feeding them until they start to moan.

“We aim to please, but you know, there's a very fine line between pleasure and pain. They are two sides of the same coin, one not existing without the other. So who’s got room for the Pumpkin Chai?”

The movie ends and so does our pumpkin rampage.

The ladies leave and I collapse on the floor.

It’s just another day in the kitchen, raising the ordinary to the extraordinary.

I asked on the neighbor email group to borrow real handcuffs for this photo shoot. Someone replied, “I bet people have them, but no one will admit it!” Well, someone did respond and we are honored to feature Stanley Hoffman’s original cuffs from his time at the NYPD. After coming out of WWII as a radar man in the Navy where he was in the battle of Iwo Jima, Stanley started life as a motorcycle officer in NYC. The bikes then were the Indians. He spent seven years in Harlem as a sergeant during the toughest times in that section of NYC, and rode point for Pope Paul VI's motorcade in 1965. He ended his 28 years running the motorcycle division as Lieutenant. The cuffs were graciously loaned by his daughter, Ellen.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Joanna, a resident of another community,
on Oct 31, 2015 at 10:53 am

Fun evening, Laura, and great followthrough with the blog -- you captured it well. (Pumpkin ravioli deserved more points than you gave it, I think -- it was ultra yummy.)

But wait, about that pumpkin ale. I take issue with your description of it as a "girl's beer." Real women (girls) drink fine ales. This one could better be described as "a non-beer drinker's beer."

Keep up the great work!


Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Oct 31, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Joanna, Ah tis true. Some are more hoppier than I. From these I learn.

Posted by Oldbagalert, a resident of Gemello,
on Oct 31, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Ultra yummy?? That's going to be the stupidest description of anything I ever heard- just stick with "super good" next time...smh

Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Mountain View,
on Oct 31, 2015 at 2:44 pm

It seems like most pumpkin in US home cooking ends up pureed in sweet pies or, less often, soups. But central Europe too has cultivated pumpkins for the last few centuries, and done creative things with them that rarely surface here. In Austria each Autumn, local restaurants and neighborhood taverns go wild competing with each other and boasting of their seasonal produce specialties, especially wild mushrooms and pumpkins -- pumpkin derivatives including seed oil are popular there.

Parts of Italy have pumpkin traditions. I read that in earlier times, pumpkins became popular crops for large feudal landowners there. Being cheap and (as we'd now say) an intense Vitamin-A source, they helped to keep tenant peasants healthy. Savory recipes with pumpkin show up in cookbooks by Italians. One very simple recipe from Lombardy makes gnocchi from pureed pumpkin (or other squash) and flour; salt optional. Other dishes use pumpkin in chunks or puree as a basis for pasta sauces.

With pumpkins (including some very big ones) grown in quantity around Half Moon Bay, I'd expect to see promotion of their "other" cooking uses besides pumpkin pie!

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley,
on Oct 31, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Max Hauser - back in the house! Thanks for the info. Oldbagalert - we already got a complaint about your not-ultra-yummy comment - but Joanna is tough. I'll let her handle it if she chooses.

Posted by food nerd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 31, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Thanks for the TJ reviews.

(Iwo Jima)

Posted by Not a food nerd, but agree totally-ish, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 31, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Thank you food nerd... Iwo Jima it is!

But wait, there's more:
"after coming out of WW11 (huh, Eleven?) as a radar man in the Navy where he was in the battle of Iwo Gema (sic), Stanley started life as a motorcycle officer in NYC. The bikes than (way back than?) were the Indians."

But regardless (or irregardless) of my spelling nazi-ism, it was a great post on the pumpkinization of everything in the Fall. I blame Starbucks and their PPL success. Thank you for a fun read.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Nov 2, 2015 at 9:54 am

Thanks guys for the edits.

Posted by 50 shades of blushing, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Nov 2, 2015 at 1:17 pm

Yes, I also have handcuffs, though as predicted, I would not have admitted it. Not in the scenario described anyway...

Posted by FriendofChef, a resident of another community,
on Nov 5, 2015 at 3:00 pm

TJs pumpkin madness has overtaken my senses. I enjoyed the chips with mango salsa, didn't like the beer and missed the chocolates. I liked the spiced/sweet seeds.

thanks chef for a dark and pumpkin-y night.

Posted by Laura Stec, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 5, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Friend of Chef, good to hear. I'm actually enjoying the sun seeds more now! Anyone else out there have a review of TJ's pumpkin things? Some were good,but for the most part, it wasn't as pumpkiny as I hoped.

Posted by I'mWithTheChef, a resident of another community,
on Nov 5, 2015 at 9:09 pm

I'm late weighing in but MUST CONCUR with Ms. Laura that the Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps were excellent, the best of the foodstuffs we tried, followed by the ice cream ginger cookies. Somehow I missed the salted caramels, HEY! And as I'm more of a red wine type of gal, and rarely drink beer, I was surprised how much I liked the Pumpkin Ale! Truth be told though, for all of the lovely variety we sampled, I couldn't help but pine for my Grandma's pumpkin pie. Cheers!

Posted by Cathy, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Nov 6, 2015 at 8:07 am

Thank you Laura Stec. I just read your blog for the first time and it motivated me to sign up for more!

Posted by Fellow foodie, a resident of another community,
on Nov 14, 2015 at 6:08 pm

TJ's pumpkin cream cheese is divine on anything like a plain cracker or English muffin or the pump-cran crisps!

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