Trader Joe's hasn't been open in Pinecrest a week, but that hasn't stopped the tiki-themed grocer from becoming the buzz of the community.
Even though there were some bumps in the road (like cars being towed from the next-door Burger King lot), last Friday the store was filled with happy shoppers who prowled the aisles in search of moshi ice cream and prewashed kale. That was all well and good, but we were on a mission to find pumpkin-flavored treats.
After all, the store's Fearless Flyer threw down the pumpkin gauntlet by featuring the autumn treat so prominently. "All Things Pumpkin: Pumpkin in All Things" it boldly proclaimed on the cover of the October issue that found its way into my mailbox.
So we foraged through the TJ pumpkin patch to find the great pumpkin of products. We uncovered every conceivable item -- pumpkin in crackers, in yogurt, and in soups. Pumpkins for eating, pumpkins for slathering on your skin, and pumpkins for decorating. Here are the tastiest items we discovered.
10. Halloween Joe Joe's
OK, so they're not pumpkin-flavored, but these jack-o'-lantern chocolate sandwich cookies are a better treat than the big-name brand that children (and laboratory rats) love so much. Made with dried cane sugar, they're chewier, more flavorful, and taste fresher than the popular brand. Oh, and they're cuter and cheaper ($2.99)!
9. Pumpkin Soup
So it's 90 degrees outside. Turn up the A/C and heat up a box of this rich soup. We like to add a dollop of sour cream and some fresh chives before serving. At $1.79, it's a great lunchtime pumpkin fix to take to the office.
8. Pumpkin Dog Treats
When we bought these, we weren't sure if Fido would like pumpkin as much as we do. Our dog went nuts over the pumpkin-shaped cookies that smelled of sweetness and spice. Not too hard, they easily broke in half. Perfect if you have little dogs, or older dogs who don't like hard biscuits ($3.49).
7. Pumpkin Ice Cream
When we sampled the ice cream at the store, we enjoyed the sweet and spicy tones. Then some guy said the ice cream would taste great as a shake with a little bourbon or rum in it. That got us thinking -- pumpkin ice cream floats, pumpkin pie à la mode, pumpkin pie boozy concoctions. Enough to make us throw a pint into the cart ($3.99).
6. Greek Pumpkin Yogurt
Made with real pumpkin purée and spices, this yogurt blends the tart creaminess of Greek yogurt with the sweet spice of a slice of pumpkin pie. It's a healthy way to indulge your pumpkin craving (99 cents).
5. Pumpkin Butter
Forget that strawberry jam you've put on your toast for the past 20 years. Try some pumpkin butter instead. You'll be instantly hooked. When baking, throw a few spoonfuls into your muffin batter or your bread, or slather on yams or potatoes before you bake them. Instant spicy goodness ($2.29).
4. This Pumpkin Walks Into a Bar
These cereal bars could be our new obsession. They're soft, sweet, and slightly spicy. Plus they're made with way less sugar than other supermarket brands. We're stockpiling them for car trips, stashing them in our carry-on bags, and bringing a few boxes to work for afternoon snack attacks ($1.99).
3. Pumpkin Spice Coffee
We've been brewing this coffee since Friday, which makes every morning smell like a festive fall day. If a hug came in a cup, it would taste like this. At $6.99 for a 14-ounce container, this coffee costs a little more than one pumpkin spice latte at that place with the green mermaid out front.
2. Pumpkin Bagels
When we sliced our first bagel in half to toast it, we were shocked to find actual bits of pumpkin baked inside the bread. Toasted, this bagel needs nothing -- no butter, no jam, no cream cheese. But because we're all about excess, cream cheese (and a smear of pumpkin butter) brought the bagel to new heights of breakfasty amazement ($1.99).
1. Sugar Pumpkins
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Pumpkin this, pumpkin that. Don't forget the actual pumpkin when shopping. Last year, we couldn't even find sugar pumpkins for our pie -- and we went to three stores. Trader Joe's has a bunch -- and gets more in every day. Besides, aren't they the cutest little things you ever saw? ($1.99).
For the record, we arrived at Trader Joe's to shop Friday afternoon around 4:30 and found a legal parking spot almost immediately. Though the store was extremely busy, people were excited and friendly. It took us no longer than five minutes to check out. A case of assorted wines and four bags of items (including fresh produce, seafood, and a six-pack of ale) rang up to about $123. Not bad for a first day's shopping excursion.