One of my first favorite things about Autumn is its cool temperature – a very pleasant change from a hot sultry summer. Now that fall has officially arrived it’s nice to don a cozy sweater or jacket and go on a brisk walk through the crisp fall air, admiring all the abundant colorful leaves in tones of vibrant orange, red and gold. Don’t you just love shuffling your feet through the falling leaves on the pavement and hearing them crunch with each step you take?
Fall makes me feel like a kid again. What fun visiting the pumpkin patch and seeing fields strewn with pumpkins in their natural state with curly vines and long stems. Which to choose? Fat and round, oblong and thin, orange, white, green, bumpy or smooth? Since I want to make a pumpkin topiary for on my urn at the base of my porch, I will use three different shapes and sizes of pumpkins, stacking one on top of another and securing it with a dowel rod poked down through the middle to connect all three. I also need a few Indian corn stalks for the porch columns or lamp post. And don’t forget the mums – so many beautiful colors. The burgundy or purple hues always seem to be my favorite. Why not be neighborly and pick one up for a friend to enjoy and it will let them know you were thinking of them that day?
Tastes of fall
Fall has so many flavors and it’s no secret that pumpkin is my absolute favorite flavor. As a child I loved pumpkin pie so much that my dad would search during the nonseasonal months (that wasn’t an easy task that many years ago) for a pumpkin pie and surprise me with it; I was a lucky girl. I get a big smile on my face when I start to see the major food chains in the area start to display their pumpkin flavor treats on their signs. That’s when you definitely know fall has arrived. They have pumpkin lattes, donuts, shakes, waffles and much more to tempt your taste buds this season. Here’s an easy pumpkin recipe:
There are more flavors to fall than just pumpkin. It’s also a season of comfort foods such as the savory flavors of hearty soups and stews. Turkey and stuffing, heaping mounds of mashed potatoes and gravy, baked mac and cheese, casseroles made with love and goodness. Delectable desserts include caramel apples, gingerbread, oatmeal cookies, apple and berry pies, homemade sweet breads, served right out of the oven to enjoy and share with our family and friends. I fondly recall the glorious aroma from the Manbeck Bread Company in the west end of Hagerstown many years ago. Sweet memories to treasure!
Pumpkin Ice Cream Bars
- 1/2 gallon of your favorite vanilla ice cream (let it sit on the counter to soften)
- 1 large can of pumpkin pie filling (not just a can of pumpkin)
- graham crackers
Mix together softened ice cream and pie filling in a large bowl. Place whole graham crackers end to end and side by side in a 9×13 baking dish until bottom is covered. Next pour ice cream mixture evenly over the crackers and chill in the freezer for several hours or overnight until firm. Cut into bars and serve.
- Are you ready for some football? Here are a few tips for tailgaters:
- Use a toolbox to hold all your tailgating essentials – everything from cooking utensils, cleaning products and first aid items – all kept in a tidy little box right at your fingertips.
- Don’t discard that six pack cardboard beverage holder: use it to carry all your condiments such as hot sauces, catsup and mustard and so on. It has its own little handle for easy carrying.
- Keep your food hot when off the grill by turning a cooler into a warming oven. First, line the inside of the cooler with tinfoil. Next, wrap a few bricks in foil and place on the grill to get hot. After they are hot, place the foil-wrapped bricks in the bottom of the foil-lined cooler. Wrap a board in foil that will fit on top the bricks for stability when you place your food on top. Close the lid and voila! You have a warming oven!
- Cupcake papers turned upside-down make a great cover for an open beverage, even better if they have your team’s logo or color on them!
Trick or Treat
Try dressing up this Halloween as a family, such as going as the characters from the Wizard of Oz, Toy Story, The Addams Family or The Flintstones.
You don’t always have to give out sugary treats to trick or treaters – try something different this season. Kids love glow sticks, bracelets and necklaces. You can find these in bulk on line for the same price that would pay for several bags of candy. Rent a helium tank and give out halloween-themed balloons on a string for kids to tie to their wrist. This will help parents keep an eye on their children as well, especially if the balloons glow in the dark. Another sugar-free idea is wacky waxed lips or vampire teeth.
What are you thankful for this year? One of the things I am thankful for is the love and the kindness of my sister. My mother passed away 18 years ago this October and my sister took on my mother’s big tradition of having the entire family at her home for Thanksgiving. My sister makes her home cozy and inviting for this special occasion, with her fall decorations of beautiful leaf garlands on the mantel with scattered pumpkins and gourds and a vintage banner depicting thanksgiving scenes. Her table is set with stoneware dishes that have a grand looking turkey on each one, all atop a long dining table with lovely Thanksgiving themed linens and a silver footed dish full of velvety pumpkins as a centerpiece.
In the kitchen it’s all hustle and bustle with pans steaming and pots whistling and bursting with savory aromas such as a hot turkey and gravy, baked corn, sweet potatoes, veggie casserole and hot buttered rolls. My brother in law makes some “mean” mashed potatoes, just like my mama used to. The sideboard is full of delectable treats: pumpkin pies, a giant carrot cake from our good friend Sallie, candies and cookies for dessert. Vintage decorations are scattered about. The very best part is our mother’s stuffing recipe, a tradition and a family favorite.
My sister has a heart as big as our mother’s and it shows through her hospitality, inviting guests besides family that are widowed or alone to join us in her home for good meal and good conversation. This season is all about giving, being thankful and love. Love is always the key, isn’t it? So pass it on.
The secret to this stuffing is that it’s not stuffed in a turkey or spread out in a baking dish; it’s actually rolled into balls (the size of a tennis ball) and baked in a baking dish. This allows the stuffing balls to get crisp on the outside and nice and juicy on the inside.
This recipe makes about a dozen stuffing balls:
- 2 loaves of day old bread ripped into 1 inch pieces
- 6 nice size celery stalks, chopped
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 egg
- about 1 cup of turkey broth or canned chicken broth (I prefer Swanson)
Preheat oven to 350. Fry onions and celery in a skillet with butter or oil. Add salt and pepper as desired. Cook until onions are opaque. In a very large bowl, mix together bread, celery, onion and egg. Next add the broth a little at a time until just moistened enough to form a tennis ball size shape. Place the stuffing balls in a baking pan, side by side, and pour the rest of the remaining broth over the stuffing balls. You may want to add a little more broth if needed. You just want to have enough to baste each one, and you don’t want them soggy. Bake for one hour or until golden brown. Serve with gravy. These are even great warmed up the next day. (And I have eaten them cold right out of the refrigerator!)