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Toi Degree: Invasion of the pumpkin spice!

Breakfast pumpkin

Submitted photo While avoiding gluten, you can also enjoy pumpkin spice at breakfast.

Submitted photo While avoiding gluten, you can also enjoy pumpkin spice at breakfast.

SALISBURY — ‘Tis the time of year where everything pumpkin flavored is back.

Within the last few years, we have seen an explosion of pumpkin-spice products. There are pumpkin doughnuts, bagels, muffins, hamburgers and chips.

Pumpkin-spice beers and liqueurs are beverage options. There is cereal, lip balm and dish soap.

Pumpkin-spice yogurts, salty snacks, almonds and cheese are even offered. Some more bizarre pumpkin products like dog treats and toothpaste are even available.

The U.S. pumpkin-spice trend is bigger than ever, according to Nielson. It says sales of pumpkin products have grown 79 percent since 2011, totaling $361 million in the year ending July 25, compared with $201 million five years ago.

And, nearly 40 percent of consumers bought a pumpkin-flavored item last year. So, since there are so many pumpkin-spice lovers out there, I am here to share a few quick and easy recipes to induce you further into your pumpkin-spice world.

I only have two that I can offer up as tried and true recipes, since I am not a member in good standing of the pumpkin-spice club. Below are the recipes:

Here are two dips that are great with either ginger snaps or graham crackers. Both offer the pumpkin goodness that you seek and are super easy to make.

Pumpkin Dip

1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 (15 oz.) can solid pack pumpkin

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. frozen orange juice concentrate

In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Gradually mix in the pumpkin. Stir in the cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and orange juice until smooth and well blended. Chill until serving.

Pumpkin Fluff Dip

1 (16 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

1 (5 oz.) package instant vanilla pudding

1 (15 oz.) can solid pack pumpkin

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

In a large bowl, mix together instant vanilla pudding mix, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Fold in the thawed frozen whipped topping. Chill in the refrigerator until serving.

Both recipes from allrecipes.com

Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix — pumpkin pie spice and pecans are the secret ingredients that make this snack mix holiday-ready. I have made this one before for a past holiday program, and I can tell you that this one is awesome. Or, at least my family and I thought so. I brought along a bag on a road trip; it was gone long before we arrived at Myrtle Beach. This one’s a keeper so try it out and see how it goes over with your group.

Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup butter

2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups Cinnamon Chex cereal

2 cups Wheat Chex cereal

2 cups Honey Nut Chex cereal

8 ounces pecans

In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice; set aside. In small microwave-safe dish, microwave butter on high about 30 seconds or until melted. Stir in vanilla. In large microwavable bowl, mix all cereals and pecans. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly distributed. Add sugar and spice mixture and stir until coated.

Microwave uncovered on high 5 minutes or until mixture begins to brown, stirring every minute. Spread on wax paper or a cookie sheet to cool. Store in airtight container.

Here are some additional places that you can look for recipes; the Food Network site has “50 Canned Pumpkin Recipes” (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/articles/50-canned-pumpkin-recipes.page-5.html). They begin with soups and end with yogurt and everything in between.

I also ran across another site which offered “29 Unexpected (but Awesome) Ways to Use Canned Pumpkin” (http://greatist.com/health/awesome-weird-healthy-recipes-canned-pumpkin). This site has a wide range of pumpkin treats, including smoothies, teas, shakes, snacks, Crock Pot Apple Pumpkin and so much more.

Pumpkins are a cultivar of a squash plant that is round with smooth, slightly ribbed skin and a deep yellow to orange coloration. The thick shell contains the seeds and pulp.

Pumpkins are truly versatile and therefore a fall pantry staple for some households. Pumpkin purée can become a pie and many other dishes — there are many uses for that unassuming can. Pumpkins are packed with vitamins A, C, K and fiber. Pumpkin makes everything more delicious. Because of its smooth, warming quality and mild flavor, it can be paired with almost anything.

A few pumpkin facts:

Pumpkins can be purchased right here in Rowan County from our local farmers.

The top pumpkin production states are Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California.

Pumpkins are grown primarily for processing, with a small percentage grown for ornamental sales through you-pick-farms, farmers’ markets and retail sales.

Pumpkin seeds can be roasted as a snack.

Pumpkins are used for animal feed.

Pumpkin flowers are edible.

The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs, and took six hours to bake.

Enjoy pumpkin-spice season!!

Toi N. Degree is a Family & Consumer Education Agent for Rowan County Cooperative Extension. You may reach her at 704-216-8970, or email me at toi_degree@ncsu.edu

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