Friday, September 27, 2013

VeganMoFo Day #27: Even Vegans In The Keys Love Us Our Pumpkin!

Within a few short days, VeganMoFo will be ending. October 1 marks the official end of this year's MoFo event. October 1 is also the day I traditionally consider the beginning of autumn, even in the Keys.

It's a funny thing this tropical island living... year round warm temperatures, palm trees, beaches and sunshine yes.... but so many people still crave season changing. If you've lived in the Keys a while, you know full well there ARE seasonal weather changes here too, just not quite as dramatic. October can still be scorching hot (as last year was for us), but typically it's in October when there will be the first smell of fall in the air. I usually notice it while I'm running, I truly smell a change in the air. And with that smell usually comes the first noticeable break in humidity here too. Where I come from, the humidity was horrid. If I heard "it's not the heat, it's the humidity" once, I heard it a million times. Then again, I didn't much care. My response was I'll take the humidity if it's the only way I'll get the heat. You know me well enough by now... I really dislike cold. I'm the crazy one down here running around in July in jeans and a sweatshirt (sometimes I do it just to freak people out too...) I cannot recall ever being one to complain about the heat, or the humidity. When I lived up north, I found great ways to cope with the relentless heat that came from living inland; things like buying a convertible, finding respite at the shore as often as humanly possible, and eating lots of watermelon (true!) What I had much more difficulty with was coping with the arrival of fall up there. Granted it WAS pretty to watch the leaves change, but I came to truly despise that time too, all it eventually meant to me was dead, gray sticks would soon be my landscape, then before too long, dreaded snow. When Labor Day came at the shore, people were gone, and I was sad. Humans are a funny lot.... we simply "do" things because we're used to it (witness the eating of meat, right?) So, with Labor Day people dig out the geraniums and plop in those horrid mums. Then they stick a pumpkin on the stoop, rake some leaves and decide autumn has arrived, even on those magical October/November days when the sky is so blue it hurts your eyes, the temperatures hover in the mid-70s, and the house windows are flung open.... just like in July.

I've been a little bit better since moving down here with the arrival of fall. I don't dread it anymore. I still don't like the sight of mums or pumpkins, but with a little more time I'm sure that won't be as annoying to me either. And, I've come further in embracing more traditional seasonal ingredients for this time of year, especially pumpkin.

I grew up not really understanding that pumpkin is a totally edible thing. That seems practically unbelievable, but never forget about the huge disconnect I had of where my food was sourced from (especially animals). And, so it was with pumpkins. I knew people ate pumpkin pie, but I never saw anyone COOK a pumpkin to make a pie. My childhood years were mostly influenced by 1970s advertising like "when it says Libby's Libby's Libby's on the label label label... you will like it, like it, like it, on the table table table." SOME of you know what I'm talking about. Pumpkin pie came from a can. And, it was absolutely disgusting. That is NOT meant to be eaten.

Just a few short years ago I discovered that all pumpkin really needed to be loved was a chocolate hug. I've come to embrace pumpkin in my baking and cooking. Yesterday one of my goals in the kitchen was to perfect my pumpkin biscotti recipe. Mission accomplished. It is so good, I ate 2 of them with NO regrets (although during today's run I had a momentary "why, oh why" lapse. It passed).

There's been a lot of chatter on the net lately about Starbucks pumpkin spice latte. It's not vegan, even if you order it with soy milk. The problem is the spice mixture, not just the moo crap. So, people every fall freak out over Starbuck's pumpkin spice latte not being vegan. I mean seriously, can we talk about FAIR TRADE issues at Starbuck's? I'm not really sure why people go there... status? I used to go there in a prior lifetime, but once I learned about things like fair trade I have changed my ways. I've seen a fair trade offering now and again at Starbucks, and I do know most (not all) have soy milk. But, it's still a minefield in there as far as what's vegan and what's not, and they're not really using their worldwide influence as much as I think could be done for farmer's rights and human rights conditions of where product is sourced.

I remember someone sharing a recipe for a vegan pumpkin spice latte recipe, so I printed it out. Tonight I REALLY wanted to make that, but I couldn't for the life of me find the recipe. I went to the internet, and began a search. I found so many vegan latte recipes I got overwhelmed, yet couldn't find the one I wanted. Then I found one I liked from (which I am going to share with you) and as I was making it, I realized this IS the recipe I was seeking! What sets this one apart is that the foam is PUMPKIN foam. I'm so in love with my $3 thrift shop stainless steel manual frother that I cannot get enough action out of this baby. So pumpkin foam made this one a no-brainer standout.

By the way.... I've cut the espresso and coffee out at night. My insomnia is already close to a death sentence for me, the espresso took it to a new level. Instead, I made my pumpkin spice latte with Yogi Mayan Cocoa Spice tea. It has caffeine, but doesn't seem to bother me as much ... I know what to expect when I drink the chai.  I have just about drained my Yogi tea pumpkin spice latte as I've put this post together. Thus without further delay, here's the recipe with pictures for you.

Kathy's Real Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte
(courtesy of

1.5 cups vanilla soy milk (I used about 1 cup water instead of soy milk)
1-2 shots espresso OR 1/2 cup strongly brewed coffee (I steeped 1 Yogi Mayan Cocoa Spice tea bag in the water and used NO coffee/espresso)
1.5T canned pumpkin (I used 1T since I was using less than 1.5 cups water)
sweeten to taste (agave is recommended as the sweetener... I used NONE)
1/2t pumpkin pie spice OR cinnamon/nutmeg (I used my own blend)
1/2 t vanilla
dash of cayenne (optional, but recommended) I omitted

Sweet Pumpkin Foam
1/4 cup warm soy milk (I used unsweetened reduced fat coconut milk)
1t canned unsweetened pumpkin
1t agave syrup (omitted by me)
dash of pumpkin pie spice OR cinnamon/nutmeg
tiniest pinch of salt

TOOL: hand foaming tool (yay! My $3 thrift shop foamer!)

In a small soup pan heat all the base ingredients. Note, if you are using coffee you can add it directly to the pan here, however if you are using fresh hot espresso, you can add it last. 

Stir all the base ingredients until simmering. Make sure the pumpkin dissolves and the spices don't clump.  All I did was dump all the base ingredients into a small saucepan, bring it to boil, whisk it a little, tie my tea bag on the handle and let it steep a couple minutes.

Pour hot base ingredients into a mug, and get to the foam...

Whip up your pumpkin foam by heating all the ingredients in a glass til warm (I used a measuring cup and microwaved it, yikes!), then whip with a foaming wand. All I did was remove from the microwave, pour into my frother, and go to town.

Pour the foam onto the hot base ingredients. If you're using espresso and haven't added it yet, add it now. Dash of spice on top (I forgot), top w/soy whip if desired.

This took me about 3 minutes to make, and was delicious. 

The main ingredients.

Boiled the base ingredients and didn't even set the tea bag on fire!

My frother!

This is my pumpkin biscotti, and in the corner is my pumpkin latte.
I didn't eat any biscotti tonight, but I sure am continuing to admire it.

Anyone can make this recipe at home. If you don't have a frothing wand, or a $3 thrift shop frother, use an immersion blender. If you don't have that, simply pour your foam ingredients into a bowl, and try whipping it by hand with a whisk, or maybe using a hand beater. It's all good.

It's almost autumn, and even in the Keys people love the pumpkin. It's been a long road for me, but this vegan is loving her some pumpkin too. Now fix yourself a nice vegan pumpkin latte and get back to reading VeganMoFo blogs!

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