Sunday, November 22, 2020

Spice(ed) Pumpkin Custard Escape (for Stay-at-Home Thanksgiving)

  By Cal Orey

During the upcoming new normal holiday season, pumpkin will still be a favorite normal. A pumpkin spice combo seasoning is warming, which is perfect for autumn dishes, such as pumpkin fudge, muffins, scones, and pie. These favorite comfort foods take us back to fond memories of family and festive holiday meals. It is comforting because of its familiar aroma and spicy flavors give us a feel-good jolt – no more novelty for now.

            The fact is, pumpkin spice – the spice you use in baking and cooking -- includes cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove and allspice.  Pumpkin (it is a fruit not a vegetable) is a fall favorite – especially when sprinkled with a dash of pumpkin spice. Speaking of spices…

Shortly after I began my book research for The Healing Powers of Herbs and Spices, I found a big cardboard box on my doorstop—a gift. When I opened the package I was greeted by a strong wave of different aromas. The box was filled with dozens of individual packets containing a variety of herbs and spices.  It was if they were all are saying, “Look at me! Choose me!” I took out each cellophane wrapped and labeled packet. There were rows of small packages on my dining room table. Each one was filled with powders, pods, seeds and stems--some familiar, some not.

I brought out a kit of glass bottles with stick-on labels which I had ordered online and went to work filling each container with a dried herb or spice. Foolishly, I did not wear a mask. My eyes began to water, and sniffles started. I sneezed several times. I was experiencing the potent compounds in the botanical plants. But I persevered!

Within a few hours, all my seasonings were inside the glass bottles and labeled. I was ready to arrange them in racks. It was time to start my personal journey into the world of herbs and spices. Little did I know these timeless treasures would make a huge comeback during a pandemic stay-at-home lifestyle.

 Egg custard spiced up with pumpkin and spices gives it a festive deliciousness to it. Pumpkin spice is a must and extra spices are even nicer. This recipe is inspired by my childhood but I gave it a 21st century spice kick for the flavor.

Pumpkin Spice Custard Tarts

2 ½ cups organic half and half

¼ - ½ cup granulated white sugar or brown sugar

4 large egg yolks, beaten, room temperature

½ cup pumpkin puree

½ teaspoon pumpkin spice

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1 teaspoon cinnamon or ginger, ground

Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish

Whipped cream

* I used MeCormick spices

In a bowl combine half and half.  Add sugar, egg yolks, and pumpkin slowly into half and half, stir well. Add pumpkin spice and vanilla. Pour custard mixture into ramekins. Sprinkle tops with nutmeg. Place into baking dish, add half with water. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes or until custard is firm to touch. Do not over bake.  Serve warm or cold. Garnish with whipped cream, a dash of cinnamon or ginger, and sprigs of thyme. *You can you lemon grass or even saffron and nutmeg with an egg custard. (Recipe in the Healing Powers of Herbs and Spices.

Serves 4.

During the colder days, a warming and healthful dessert like the creamy custard is a must-have. It’s sort of a hybrid of pumpkin pie and a pumpkin latte with whipped cream. Stores to cafes bring on pumpkin spice-flavored items because it’s comfort food and warms up the body and soul.

 -- Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, Superfoods, Essential Oils, Herbs and Spices) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is  

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