My household is starting to buzz with the excitement that is autumn. My husband is thrilled that football season has started and it's time for some gonzo October baseball. The past two Sundays, my 2-year-old has run around the living room with a pair of underwear pulled over his head so that his face is peeking out the leg hole. He wears an NFL T-shirt while yelling, "Ack! Ack! Ack!" His brothers inform me that he is a football player when he does this. I'm just making sure my camera is ready for next Sunday so I can use this against him later.
The boys are waiting with bated breath for the first piles of fallen leaves into which they can throw their bodies while screaming for joy. The dogs are sitting on the porch with their eyes trained on the tree line, expecting to see, at any moment, the first of many white-tailed deer venturing out for a bite to eat in the field.
And me? I'm crazy about the stunning colors the trees are wearing, the blue skies and cotton ball clouds, the slight nip in the evening air and the overwhelming desire to curl up on the couch with a good book and a cup of tea. But more than anything else in fall, I adore the food; butternut, acorn and hubbard squash, potatoes and more potatoes, beets, strong greens, rutabagas, and -- at the top of the cornucopia -- apples and everything you can do with them.
I have three wonderful fall recipes to share with you. Each of them is a family favorite and I hope you enjoy them, too.
Until next time, see you in the pumpkin patch and the orchard.
Oven Baked Toffee Apples From Pille Petersoo of Nami-Nami
This is an amazing last minute autumnal dessert that will wow your family, friends and guests. And this is no guarantee, but if you should happen to bring this to a potluck you just might find yourself the most popular person there.
While serving with vanilla ice cream or cold, heavy cream splashed over the top takes this dish to the level of decadent, it is still delicious served simply by itself after a few minutes out of the oven. Do wait a little bit before digging in, though, if you value your tastebuds and mouth. The apples are HOT straight out of the oven.
5-6 large, firm tart baking apples
1/2 c. almond slices
1/2 c. unsalted butter
3/4 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1 c. plus 1 T. heavy or whipping cream
1 T. potato flour or all-purpose flour (this can be omitted if you have gluten concerns)
Additional butter, for baking dish
Choose a baking dish that will snugly hold all your apples once they're halved. Halve and core all your apples.* Fit them, cut side down, into the baking dish. Set pan dish aside.
Arrange oven racks so that you have one in the center and preheat to 350 degrees.
In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, blend together potato flour and brown sugar. Add butter, heavy cream and almonds and slowly bring to a boil over medium-low to medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. When mixture has boiled and thickened just slightly, spoon over the prepared apples in the baking dish.
Bake on the center rack for 20-30 minutes or until apples are tender. The time will vary based on the size and type of the apples.
* Peeling the apples for this dish is optional. They hold together better with the peel intact. However, you may wish to remove the peel from your apples if they're coated with a food-grade wax and/or have been sprayed. It comes down to personal preference, so make them however you and yours like them best.
Slow-cooker Ginger and Cinnamon Applesauce
There is nothing like coming in from the outdoors on a crisp, cool fall day to a kitchen filled with the smell of this applesauce. Better yet, you can customize this recipe in many ways. You can make it as tart or sweet, smooth or chunky as you wish. The variety of apples you use in this sauce is completely up to you. In a perfect world I prefer a blend of tart and sweet apples but I'd just as happily make it with all one sort. You can also add sugar, if desired, to the final applesauce. I encourage you to try it without the added sweetener, though. Apples are fantastic this time of year and they don't really need the extra sugar.
With the aroma of slow-cooked ginger, cinnamon and apple you'll feel like you're eating apple pie -- without the guilt. Of course, since it's such a healthy dish you might occasionally splurge by topping your warm bowl of applesauce with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. I won't tell anyone if you don't.
3 lbs. apples, peeled, cored and quartered
2 T. lemon juice, fresh or bottled
1 cinnamon stick
1-2" piece of fresh ginger root, peeled
2 T. water, optional (use only if your apples seem dry or you like runny applesauce)
Sugar, to taste (also optional)
Combine all ingredients (except sugar) in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on the high setting for 3-4 hours or until the apples are super tender and falling apart. Remove cinnamon stick and piece of ginger. Add sugar if desired.
For chunky applesauce, leave as is or mash lightly with a potato masher. For moderately smooth applesauce, pulse apples and liquid in a food processor in several batches. For silky smooth applesauce, puree apples and liquid in food processor or blender until totally smooth and no chunks remain. To serve to beginning-eater infants, omit ginger and cinnamon from the recipe, prepare cooked apples and liquid as instructed for the silky smooth applesauce and then strain through a fine mesh sieve. Cool thoroughly before feeding. This can be frozen in ice cube trays for individual servings.
Store uneaten applesauce in a Mason jar or other container with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing
These rolls are redolent with fall flavors; pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. They're a little less guilty-feeling than the usual cinnamon rolls since they're made with whole wheat flour and wonderful-for-you pumpkin.
A note about the method: I started these the night before I wanted to serve them. You can certainly make them in one day; just allow the second rise to occur on your countertop instead of in the fridge.
2/3 c. milk
4 T. butter
1 c. canned pumpkin or mashed, cooked, drained pumpkin
4 T. sugar
1 t. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 T. plus 1 1/2 t. instant yeast (or 2 packages dry yeast)
2 c. bread flour
2 c. whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur White Wheat)
Canola oil, for brushing dough before rising (Only needed for the manual method)
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 T. plus 1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. grated nutmeg
4 T. melted butter
1/4 c. cream cheese, softened
3 T. milk
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
Bread Machine Dough Method: Put the milk and butter in a microwave safe container and heat until the butter is mostly melted into the milk. Pour into your bread machine's pan and add all the remaining ingredients for the dough in the pan in the manufacturer's recommended order. Program for the dough cycle and press start button. Allow cycle to finish.
Manual Dough Method: Put the milk and butter in a microwave save container and heat until butter is mostly melted into the milk. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, butter, pumpkin, sugar, and salt until evenly combined. Add 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast to the bowl and stir with a large wooden spoon until smooth. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour and stir until a soft dough comes together. You may need to add a little extra flour to make the dough workable, but only add it one tablespoon at a time so that it doesn't get too dry. This is supposed to be a very soft dough! Lightly flour your countertop and knead the dough for a couple turns until you have a smooth dough. Lightly grease another large bowl and turn dough into it. Rub the surface of the dough lightly with a neutral oil, such as canola, cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Assembly: In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling. Set aside to prepare the dough.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into a 24"x10" rectangle. Brush generously with melted butter to within 1/2" of the edges. Sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar mixture. Roll up from a long side in jelly-roll style. You can use a bench knife to help you along if your dough is sticking a little. Pinch the seams shut to seal. Using a sharp knife- preferably serrated- cut the roll into 24 1" slices. Grease two 9" square baking pans. Place 12 rolls in each pan with cut sides facing up and down. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise overnight in the fridge.
About an hour before you want to serve the rolls, remove plastic wrap from the rolls and set in an oven with the light on. Place a pan of boiling water on the rack below the rolls, close the oven and allow to warm for about 30 minutes. When you can no longer feel a chill coming from the dough when your hand is lightly placed on top, remove pans from the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Bake rolls for about 30 minutes or until they're golden brown. Remove from oven to a rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
While rolls are cooling, whisk together the cream cheese and milk. Add the powdered sugar and whisk vigorously until smooth.
Turn rolls out on a plate if desired or leave in the pan and drizzle with the cream cheese icing.
You can read more of Rebecca's recipes, kitchen tips and parenting adventures at www.foodiewithfamily.com