Pumpkin spice is a familiar treat in this crazy year

The world is in an uproar and many of us have had to change how we go about our daily life, however one thing is familiar and constant. Pumpkin spice season has arrived right on time and we can't seem to get enough of it. It flavors everything from the famous lattes sold by a well-known coffee chain, to salsa. You can purchase pumpkin spice ice cream, coffee creamer, breakfast cereal and even dog treats! Everywhere you turn, bright packages are boasting special, limited-edition pumpkin spice contents and they fly off the store shelves, or are delivered to your door. We love our pumpkin spice, however many people don't have a clue as to what it actually is.

What is pumpkin spice and when was it invented?

The spices that make up the famous flavoring have been around and used by humans for thousands of years. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves are all well known spices and most of us have all of these in our pantries. However, it was 1936 before the first mention of pumpkin spice in a recipe was actually published. It still took almost another twenty years before the flavorful mixture was actually marketed and branded as a stand-alone ingredient and the first pumpkin spice latte (that contained absolutely no pumpkin) was served in Seattle around 2004. Today, the baking aisles in any grocery store offer pumpkin spice year-round. That's right, you do not have to wait until autumn to enjoy it. Just pick up a box and shake it on anything you like. Make cookies, a cake, flavor hot chocolate, spin up your favorite fruit smoothie, create your own version of the famous latte, sprinkle a bit over a warm rum cocktail, or actually make a pumpkin pie. If you want to make your own pumpkin spice instead of purchasing it ready-made, simply combine 4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of ground ginger, 1 teaspoon of ground cloves and ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Store with your other spices in an airtight container and sprinkle liberally over anything that needs an extra seasonal kick.

Make fall treats with pumpkin and pumpkin spice

Pumpkin spice and pumpkin is great in baked goods and even in cheesecake, so why not combine the two for an extra-special desert that will sure to be a hit at whatever family gathering you have this fall? Blondies (the lighter, chocolate-free version of brownies) are easy to make and a good way to sneak some nutritious pumpkin into your family's diet. Most everything you see offered commercially only has pumpkin flavoring or just the spice itself, so let's cook up something containing the real thing. Pumpkin is a wonderful source of fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium and Vitamin E and has a whopping 245% of your Vitamin A requirements. I used unsweetened pumpkin puree sold in a can. There is also a canned pumpkin pie mix that already contains spices too, but I chose to use the plain stuff.

pumpkin spice blondies and spices

Pumpkin spice cheesecake blondies

You'll need to make the topping and the blondies in separate bowls and combine them in the baking pan for this special treat. No need for a mixer, a spoon or large whisk does just fine, so that makes it great for kids who cook. For the topping, you will need 1, 8oz brick of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of sour cream, 2 Tbsp. of flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Soften the cream cheese in the microwave in short bursts of about 20 seconds until it can be stirred with a spoon. Add the sour cream and other ingredients and stir well. For the blondies themselves, melt 2 sticks of unsalted butter, add 1 ½ cups of packed, light brown sugar and whisk or stir them together until smooth. Add 2 eggs, 2 tsp of vanilla and stir again until smooth. Add 1 cup of pumpkin puree and stir again. In another bowl, 2 ½ cups of all purpose flour, measured by spooning and leveling, and add 3 tsp of pumpkin spice, ½ tsp of baking powder and 1 tsp of salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the flour and spice mixture and then gently combine until it is incorporated into the pumpkin mixture. This batter will be thick. I thinned it a bit with 3 tablespoons of milk and it was still quite thick. Prepare a 9x13 pan by greasing it, or lining with parchment or aluminum foil, (grease the parchment or foil instead) leaving an overhang as 'handles'. Dip out ½ cup of the pumpkin batter and reserve. Spread the batter in the pan and pour the cream cheese mixture over the top. Spread the cream cheese over it, however leave a bit of the pumpkin batter showing around the edges. Spoon the reserved pumpkin batter on top of the cream cheese mixture and swirl gently with the end of a knife or a spoon handle and spread it the rest of the way to the edges. Leave distinct swirls in the batter for the prettiest blondies. Bake at 350F for about 35 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center will have just a few crumbs when they are done. Let cool and remove from the pan. Cut into bars and serve. The blondies were more cake-like than gooey like a brownie, but had a wonderful taste. This is a real pumpkin spice treat with actual pumpkin.

Make an easy pumpkin spice latte at home

For a pumpkin spice latte that actually contains pumpkin, you can use some of your left over pumpkin puree and whip this up in no time. Heat 2 cups of your preferred milk, (skim, whole, almond, soy...whatever you like.) Add 2 tablespoons of pumpkin puree and between 1 and 3 tablespoons of sweetener. I used 1 tablespoon of monkfruit 0 calorie sweetener. However, sweeten to your taste with whatever you like. Heat this mixture on the stove until hot. Don't let it boil. Taste and adjust the pumpkin. Some folks like more. Whisk in 1 tsp vanilla, ½ tsp of pumpkin spice and ½ to 1 cup of strong, hot coffee. Taste and adjust seasonings, divide between 2 large mugs and top with whipped cream and a dash of the pumpkin spice. If you're really wanting to splurge, drizzle a bit of caramel ice cream topping over that. And there you have pumpkin spice lattes for a fraction of what you'd pay in the store...and you can pronounce every ingredient in them. A note to the folks who prefer vegan lattes, many of the commercially prepared vegan lattes still contain a bit of non-fat powdered cow's milk that they don't tell you about, so preparing your own ensures proper ingredients.

Celebrate autumn

Celebrate the season change with pumpkin spice. There are tons of recipes out there, so there's bound to be some that will wow your family. The warm flavor goes well with so many foods and you can even sneak some nutritious pumpkin in for an extra boost of vitamins. Enjoy the season!