We are getting into the birthday and holiday spirit in our household.
It's hard to believe that another year is almost done. With all five kids having birthdays in the same three-month span as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, we're in full party and costume mode around here.
I usually let the kids get creative with their trick-or-treating costumes. Translation: I help them make their own cheap/free costumes.
Liam wanted to be a ghost. I vetoed that, as our rule is "no costumes that could scare your or someone else's little brother or sister." He has decided he's "too old for anything that isn't scary" and so will be trick-or-treating as a preteen with an attitude. Oh help!
The rest of the crew has made up their collective mind, too. Aidan wants to be a cowboy. Ty wants to be a ninja. Leif wants to be a cowboy ninja.
Rowan? He'll be a little ol' bumblebee. He doesn't care as long as he gets a little thing of M&Ms.;
In light of the upcoming emptying of our family's wallet, I'm making many economical meals that take advantage of pantry staples and the bounty of seasonal fall vegetables available at roadside stands and farm markets in my neighborhood. Eating local and seasonal food is not only a great way to ensure your food is fresh, it also supports your neighborhood farmers and provides great variety in your diet.
It is surprisingly easy on the bank account, too. Oftentimes you can find produce at half the price or less than you pay elsewhere. Here are some fantastic seasonal recipes our family loves.
My friend Joy's mother, Mrs. Piersma, has been making this first recipe for her family for years. She explained that she has changed it a little every year and sometimes tops it with toasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or pine nuts. I think you'll see why it's a regular on their table.
Mrs. Piersma's Perfect Pumpkin
1 large pie or baking pumpkin
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 lb. bulk pork sausage (substitute 1 lb. sliced mushrooms for a vegetarian main dish)
2 c. uncooked brown or long grain rice
1/2 c. dried cranberries, cherries or raisins, optional
11/4 c. apple, pumpkin or cranberry butter (or any combination thereof!)
11/4 c. chili sauce or tomato chutney
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top of the pumpkin off like you're going to carve a jack o'lantern. If you want to get fancy, you can cut the cap off by making V-shaped or scalloped cuts around the perimeter. Remove seeds and stringy insides and either toast seeds or discard.
Replace cap, put pumpkin on a baking sheet with sides, tent with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender and is easily pierced with a butter knife or skewer near the base.
While pumpkin is baking, cook rice according to package directions and set aside in a large mixing bowl.
Cook pork sausage and break up well while cooking. When sausage is browned, remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. When sausage is drained, add that to rice.
Over medium heat, melt butter in a heavy bottomed skillet and cook onions and garlic until tender, taking care not to brown them. Add to bowl with rice and sausage. Add the apple butter and the chili sauce and dried fruit, if you're using it, to the rice mixture. Stir carefully to avoid smashing the rice.
Remove pumpkin from oven and cap from pumpkin. Stuff pumpkin with rice mixture and replace cap. Put pumpkin back into the oven for at least 15 minutes or until stuffing is hot throughout and pumpkin is soft. Carefully transfer pumpkin to a serving platter. You can either scoop servings from the pumpkin or you can cut into wedges to serve.
With the exceptions of the olive oil, salt and pepper, everything in this dish grows underground. This dish is overflowing with the warming flavors of fall and the smell of this cooking is without compare.
Sous Terre Roasted Root Veggies
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 medium red onions, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1- 11/2-inch chunks
4 medium beets, peeled and cut into 1- 11/2-inch chunks
4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1- 11/2-inch chunks
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1- 11/2-inch chunks
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line two rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, toss all ingredients to coat veggies evenly with oil. Distribute evenly between the two pans and roast for 40 minutes or more, depending on how browned and tender you like your roasted vegetables. You can serve this hot and puree the leftovers with chicken stock the next day to make a wonderful autumn roasted vegetable soup.
Rebecca Lindamood is a northern Lower Michigan native now living in New York state. A food lover and mother of five children, she writes occasionally about preparing creative, yet affordable, meals for a family. Drop Rebecca an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to her care of the Record-Eagle.