WHY YOU SHOULD GIVE PUMPKIN TO YOUR DOG

Wendy is excited to eat some pumpkin.

Fall is almost behind us, and soon we will be in full holiday mode. I tend to buy a variety of pumpkins throughout the fall season, and I am often asked what I do with those pumpkins after Halloween and Thanksgiving. If the pumpkins have not rotted, I carve them and feed the insides to my dog. 

Pumpkins have many health and skin benefits for humans, but they are also great for the pups in the family too. Pumpkin can help regulate blood pressure, improve muscle health and boost your dog’s metabolism. It can also improve eye health, skin and coat, and digestion. Consuming pumpkin can even help prevent parasites. 

Wendy eating her pumpkin fresh from the source.

There are several ways you can prepare the insides for consumption. My German shepherd loves eating it straight out of the pumpkin including the seeds. You can also boil the pumpkin or use canned pumpkin puree instead. Be careful not to give them pumpkin pie filling– the added ingredients are not good for them.  

Wendy giving puppy eyes for her pumpkin.

Not only is feeding pumpkin to your dog good for them, but it is also a great way to utilize every part of the pumpkin. Before you toss yours in the trash, cut it open and give some to your furbaby for a special treat– they will love it.

All photos were taken by me.

FOUR DESSERTS THAT AREN’T PUMPKIN PIE FOR THANKSGIVING

A non-traditional pumpkin dessert.

I will be the first to admit that I hate pumpkin pie. I won’t go into the details about why, but let’s just say there are many more delicious ways to have pumpkin in a dessert. When Thanksgiving rolls around, I always dread dessert because no matter where I am it’s always pumpkin pie. This year I am seizing this opportunity to have a non-traditional pumpkin dessert.

Pumpkin cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory.

For those of you who do like pumpkin pie, I recommend upping up your pumpkin dessert by serving pumpkin cheesecake. It is similar to pumpkin pie, but is more complex and creamy. I have made one from scratch before, and it turned out well, but for those of you who don’t want to stress out over baking, I suggest ordering from a bakery or a restaurant such as The Cheesecake Factory.

A pumpkin pecan cupcake from My Delight Cupcakery.

Another great option is pumpkin cupcakes. There are several advantages to serving these cute little beauts on Thanksgiving. They are individually sized so no one can complain about someone else getting a bigger piece, and they require little to no clean-up. My favorite place to order cupcakes is My Delight Cupcakery.

A pumpkin macaroon from Kaylas Cake.

If you are not into a lot of pumpkin flavor, but still want to be festive, I think pumpkin macaroons are a great option. The pumpkin flavor will vary based on where you buy them, but these are great to serve with coffee after dinner. Not only do they look fancy, but they are always a crowd pleaser. They are also another easy clean-up option. Trader Joe’s is a great place to buy them.

A pumpkin spice donut from The Donut Man.

My last suggestion for you is pumpkin donuts. I recently discovered that many chains and local donut shops make pumpkin donuts during the fall season. I love this idea for dessert. I recently went to The Donut Man and was really impressed. These are essentially a glazed donut with piped pumpkin and a dollop of cheesecake on top. They also look really pretty, and will please anyone who is a donut fan.

I am looking forward to having anything but pumpkin pie this year on Thanksgiving. I know that I am probably in the minority on this, but honestly pumpkin pie is so boring. If you decide to switch things up this year for your dessert, I promise you will never go back to plain ole pumpkin pie. 

All pictures were taken by me.

PUMPKIN TREATS AT DOWNTOWN DISNEY

Halloween Time at Disneyland holds a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, due to the current state of the world, Disneyland has shut its gates temporarily. Fortunately, Downtown Disney is open, and there are plenty of pumpkin treats.

When you first arrive at the gates of Downtown Disney you go through several screenings before you are allowed inside. The cast members are very through when it comes to the rules, and overall I felt very safe being there. 

Pumpkin Spice Churro from California Churro in Downtown Disney.

I started off with a Pumpkin Spice Churro. I loved this pumpkin twist on a park classic. It comes with cream cheese icing on the side for dipping– beware it’s super sweet. 

Kayla’s Cake is a hidden gem in Downtown Disney. This little macaroon stand has little pieces of France, all individually wrapped, which I appreciate now more than ever. The pumpkin cheesecake macaroon is delectable, and I ate mine with a Pumpkin Cream cold brew from Starbucks.

Next I ordered a scoop of Mummy’s Pumpkin Potion from Salt & Straw which was both delicious and refreshing. 

I honestly couldn’t eat all the pumpkin treats in one day. I will be going back for the pumpkin raviolis from Naples Ristorante, Pumpkin toffee from Marceline’s Confectionary and a Pumpkin Down Ale from Black Tap. The Disney Parks Blog has a foodie guide that is helpful in knowing what is offered. If you are feeling the Halloween Disney blues, make a trip to DTD and fill that void with pumpkin treats, and Disney Park music.

A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO PUMPKIN BEERS

All six pumpkin beers tasted.

I recently went to my local (alcohol) retailer BevMo, and bought every pumpkin beer I could find. I enjoy a good seasonal beer, but not all beers are created equal, and pumpkin beers are no exception. 

There are two types of pumpkin beer, that I have seen– ales and porters. Ales are brewed a specific way that makes the yeast rise to the top of the barrel during fermentation which creates a rich color and a complex flavor. Porters are darker in flavor and color due to the dark malts that are used during brewing. 

I found four ales– Punkin Ale by Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales, Night Owl Pumpkin Ale by Elysian, Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale by Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co. and America’s Original Pumpkin Ale by Buffalo Bill’s Brewing. 

Punpkin Ale from Dogfish Head.

I started with Punkin Ale from Dogfish Head. It has 7% alcohol volume with claims of pumpkin, brown sugar, all spice, cinnamon and nutmeg in the notes. I found it overall generic and it was my least favorite. 

Night Owl Pumpkin Ale from Elysian.

Next was the Night Owl Pumpkin Ale from Elysian. It’s a little weaker at 6.7% alcohol volume and has notes of pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger and all spice. You can really taste the spices, and it has a strong pumpkin flavor. This was a winner for me.

Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale from Lexington Brewing.

I then moved to Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale from Lexington Brewing. It’s higher on the alcohol volume at 10%. The notes include pumpkin pie, fall spices and vanilla oak. This beer was solid, but I wasn’t a fan of the finish– it’s a little bitter.

Pumpkin Ale from Buffalo Bill’s Brewery.

Pumpkin Ale from Buffalo Bill’s was last. It has the lowest alcohol volume at 6%. The notes listed on the bottle are pumpkin and natural spices. This ale was good, but the aroma was generic. 

I only found two porters– Imperial Pumpkin Porter by Epic Brewing and Punkuccino (a coffee pumpkin ale) by Elysian. 

Imperial Pumpkin Porter by Epic Brewing.

I started with Imperial Pumpkin Porter by Epic Brewing. It has 7.8% alcohol volume and is brewed with pumpkin and spices. I loved the aroma, but the flavor fell short– there wasn’t much pumpkin.

Punkuccino by Elysian.

Ending out the night was Punkuccino by Elysian. It has 6% alcohol volume and has notes of coffee, pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. This was my favorite of the two. 

My score sheets and my two favorites– the Punkuccino and the Night Owl Pumpkin Ale.

It was fun drinking pumpkin beers with my boyfriend and discussing all the various components of each one. I prefer beers where you tasted the pumpkin and spices over the beer flavor. 

All photographs were taken by me.

THE BEST PUMPKIN PATCH IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Picking out a pumpkin. Photo credit Trent Wilson.

Every October I have a tradition of going to a real pumpkin patch– meaning one that actually grows their pumpkins on property. A few years ago I serendipitously found the Pumpkin Factory at Live Oak Canyon in Yucaipa, California, and I have never gone anywhere else since.

The entrance to the Pumpkin Factory and various pumpkins for sale.

This year was a very different experience than past years due to COVID-19. The Pumpkin Factory has implemented safety measures for guests and employees. Masks are required, there are several hand sanitization stations around and there are limitations on crowds. I felt very safe, which was extremely important, and I had a great time.

Me inside of a pumpkin house. Photo credit Trent Wilson

There are numerous fun features including a small train, food vendors, performers, a large corn maze, several photo-op spots and lots of pumpkins of all shapes, colors and sizes. The pumpkin houses that you can walk through are one of my favorite things. There is also a section with rides and games.

Train Ride at The Pumpkin Factory.

Being in this pumpkin patch was like food for my soul. Not only have I been inside for far too long, but being around so many pumpkins made me feel the Halloween spirit. I was very happy to be doing something familiar in a time of such uncertainty.

PUMPKIN SEASON AT TRADER JOE’S

Pumpkin Season at Trader Joe’s.

I am an avid Trader Joe’s fan, and one of my favorite times of  year that makes me truly blissful is Pumpkin Season. During this time of year the stores are transformed into pumpkin wonderlands with old favorites and new items to discover. Every aisle feels like a scavenger hunt to see which product has that sacred pumpkin insignia on its label.

Pumpkin Spice Coffee, La Colombe Pumpkin Spice Draft Latte and Pumpkin Spice Roobios Tea.

I like to start in the coffee section because nothing gets me in the mood to shop like a wall full of coffee choices. The Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Coffee is delicious and conveniently comes in ground and K-Cups. There is also a delicious Pumpkin Spice draft latte by La Colombe in the refrigerated section. If you are more of a tea drinker, then I would recommend trying out the Pumpkin Spice Rooibos tea. Not only is the tin festive, but the flavor is amazing.

Pumpkin Spice Protein Smoothies, Pumpkin Waffles, and Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mixes.

Breakfast items are one of the more popular pumpkin food choices. There are pumpkin protein smoothies, waffles, cereals, and pancake mixes. You can also buy pumpkin bagels, as well as a pumpkin cream cheese to make yourself a delicious pumpkin-centric breakfast.

This Pumpkin Walks Into A Bar, Petite Pumpkin Spice Cookies, Pumpkin Tortilla Chips, and Fall Harvest Salsa.

For all my snack people out there, Trader Joe’s has you covered. You can buy pumpkin spice cookies, cereal bars, tortilla chips, salsa and pumpkin spice pumpkin seeds. I was very intrigued to try out the tortilla chips, and they are, not surprisingly, delicious.

Fall Zucchette Pasta, Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce, Pumpkin Ravioli, Pumpkin Butternut Squash Bisque, and Autumnal Harvest Soup.

If you are more interested in fall comfort food, there are cute pumpkin pastas, sauces and a variety of harvest inspired soups. This is the time of year where I heavily lean into my love for pasta. The Harvest Sauce is delicious, and I love putting it on pasta as well as lasagna. 

Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mixes, Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookie Mix, and Pumpkin Ice Cream.

I saved the best for last–all those delicious baking and dessert goodies. I love the baking items from TJ’s. They are such good quality and people always ask me if they’re made from scratch– which is a win in my book. You can pick up pumpkin chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie mix, pumpkin bread mixes, pumpkin butter spread, pumpkin cheesecake and various pumpkin ice creams. 

Pumpkin Tree Branches and pumpkin display.

You can, of course, purchase actual pumpkins and some household items like pumpkin candles and pumpkin body care. Trader Joe’s has a plethora of choices when it comes to all things pumpkin.  No matter what you decide to try, it will bring some fall flavor into your life. 

All pictures were taken by me.

THE BENEFITS OF PUMPKIN SKIN CARE

Pumpkins are everywhere this time of year– in your coffee, in your food, and in your skin care. Yes, you read that right. Over the past few years there has been a surge in pumpkin skin care products. Face masks, scrubs, body butter, and lip care all get a fun seasonal twist this time of year. While pumpkins are festive, and delicious if I do say so myself, there are actual benefits to putting them on your skin.

Me wearing the “Too Cool For School” Pumpkin Purifying 24k Mask.

Pumpkins are naturally rich in Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Zinc and are high in antioxidants. Vitamin C helps fight sun damage as well as free radicals, fights pesky wrinkles, and reduces the appearance of brown spots. Vitamin A helps minimize the appearance of acne scars, and Vitamin E reduces acne. Pumpkin will also leave your skin glowy and hydrated. 

When it comes to pumpkin skin care, there are many choices in price point and benefit. It is always best to read the label on the product to know specifically what it will do for your skin. I personally love the “Too Cool For School” line, which can be found at Target and Ulta. It is reasonably priced, has lots of options, and the packaging is super cute. If you are more of a DIY connoisseur, there are many pumpkin face mask recipes.

All pictures were taken by me.

BATTLE OF THE PUMPKIN SPICE LATTES


There is one thing you can count on towards the end of summer– the return of pumpkin spice lattes. It seems every coffee shop in town has a version of this fall favorite, but who makes the best one? I went to many coffee shops taste-testing pumpkin spice lattes and ranked them on a scale of five pumpkins to see which one reigns supreme.

Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks.

Starbucks has the original Pumpkin Spice Latte (also known as the PSL) and is credited with starting the whole pumpkin trend. This cult classic is creamy, and the pumpkin flavor is prominent. The spices follow the initial taste of the pumpkin, and the espresso is the last note. I find the PSL a little too sweet, and it doesn’t blend well with the sharpness of the espresso. I give it three out of five pumpkins.

Pumpkin Spice Latte from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is not a place I frequent, but for the purpose of research, and personal intrigue, I stopped by to try their Pumpkin Spice Latte. This is definitely a weaker latte in terms of espresso. Pumpkin is the main flavor, and the only spice I can pick out is nutmeg. The latte overall is very smooth and is good if you aren’t looking for a prominent coffee flavor. I give it four out of five pumpkins.

Pumpkin Latte from RAD Coffee.

 If you are a pumpkin coffee lover, RAD Coffee has an entire menu full of pumpkin coffee concoctions. Though tempted, I stuck to the classic Pumpkin Latte, and it did not disappoint. The espresso flavor is very smooth, and the drink itself is wonderfully balanced. You get hints of the espresso, pumpkin, and spices all at once. It is one of those drinks that gets better with every sip. I give it five out of five pumpkins.

The Real Pumpkin Latte from Klatch Coffee.

Klatch Coffee has the “Real Pumpkin Latte” on the menu this time of year. This version is not overly sweet or over-spiced, and that’s one of the reasons I really like it. Everything blends together seamlessly to create a pumpkin latte that you can’t stop drinking. You get sweet-smooth pumpkin and cinnamon in every sip. I give this latte five out of five pumpkins.

RAD Coffee and Klatch Coffee had the best pumpkin spice lattes. The large chain coffee shops, while more abundant, seem to fall short against the local coffee hangouts. I would recommend trying out your local coffee shop to see if it stands up to the coffee giants– you might be pleasantly surprised.

All Photos were taken by me. All graphics were created by me.