Fall

AppleCider-2Baby, its cold outside! I’ve found myself sippin’ and savorin’ a warm drink of sorts all day – Earl Grey this morning, Orange Zinger later on, the latter two combined and then for my nightcap, this warm cider was just the ticket.

Every year, my fair peach state yields the last of its famed crop towards summer’s end. Afterwards, apples from our northern mountain counties’ orchards start coming in, giving us another fabulous fruit for a season. Pies, cakes, tarts, butter, and sauce all come from the apple crop, but one apple product in particular is nostalgic with the crisp autumn days – apple cider.

Velvety smooth, delightful to the taste, and luscious warm or even chilled, apple cider is the result of concentrating the apples’ juice with flavors oh so complementary of apples: cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar, and a dash of citrus.

Whenever I journey into the mountains during apple season, I am sure to bring home to the Peach Country stores of apple cider to get me through fall and into winter. In lieu of trekking to these mountain caches for a jug or two of this delectable nectar today, this recipe was not a bad consolation at all.

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pearcake.jpgIt's the same every autumn. Pears sit quietly in the wings while apples take center stage.

It's no wonder. Think about it. Do kids crave candied pears every Halloween? Do moms pack pear sauce in their kids' lunch boxes? Can something be as "all-American as pear pie"?

Pears are good. Some pears, such as Seckel pears – diminutive, super sweet fruits – are surprisingly good. Overall though, they just don't get the respect of apples.

When it comes to baking, however, pears blossom into something special. In fact, I have made this cardamom coffee cake with pecan streusel twice – once with apples and once with pears. You can tell which one I preferred.

Given their mild flavor, pears work beautifully with cardamom, a enticingly fragrant spice. Though a relative of ginger, cardamom has a unique flavor that is difficult to describe. It is intensely aromatic yet not overwhelming in flavor. It has notes of ginger, clove, and citrus, which is why it works so well when paired with fall fruits.

So, go ahead and give pears a little limelight.

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porkpeachesI have always associated peaches with July and August. That is until a few years ago when I discovered the most succulent peaches I ever tasted -- in September.

Peach season in California is long and abundant; it runs from May to October and peaks from July through September. In general, peaches are picked early to withstand shipping and to have a longer shelf life. The problem is when you take home many of these peaches, they are as hard as a rock (and taste like one too). That's why buying locally grown peaches is a better option when possible.

A couple of years ago at a local farmers' market I discovered Summerset peaches, which peak in September. Like a California sunset, these fruits are a dazzling blend brilliant reds, warm oranges, and golden yellows. In addition to being visually beautiful, they emit a delicate floral aroma and are amazingly juicy and succulent, as if warmed by the sun.

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BUNDTS spotato2I always look forward to Thanksgiving. Sharing the holday with my family, extended family, and a handful of friends. Each year, my sister-in-law and I alternate with hosting it. I do like having it my house because it makes me organize my clutter, clean where I wouldn’t normally clean, and repair whatever seems to be broken at the moment.

This year I will be a guest. Yet, I am not off the hook with contributing to the meal. Volunteering to make Rustic Herb Stuffing, Cranberry-Raspberry Relish, Pecan Pie, and a delicious Sweet Potato Casserole with a Pecan Crumble.  YUM!  The rest of the meal was equally delicious; roast turkey, roasted brussel sprouts, butternut squash soup, carmelized string beans with hazelnuts, and the list goes on.

For the Sweet Potato Casserole, I had roasted way too many sweet potatoes and after peeling and ricing them I realized I had gone a bit overboard. With left overs on hand, I was inspired to create something new. In the past, I have made muffins, waffles, and pancakes, but today I chose to make a pound cake.

Using pantry staples, I whipped up the batter in minutes and made 6 mini bundts and 2 small loaves. This cake is so light and airy and down right delicious. To date, this is one of my favorites.

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perfectapplepieFall is here and what better way to celebrate it than by baking an apple pie from scratch. Making your own crust is so much more rewarding than using frozen pie shells from the grocery store.

This recipe for hearty apple pie can be put together in minutes once the dough is prepared ahead of time.

And to make the process even easier, roll out the dough between two layers of plastic wrap or parchment paper.

By not using bench flour you will have an even flakier, more delicate crust, plus cleanup is as easy as throwing away the wrap.

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