Fall

roastedtomatosoupEven though summer is considered the pinnacle of tomato season, in many parts of the country the last fall harvest before the first hard frost brings some of the tastiest and meatiest fruits to market.

And this is a recipe that gives those end of season tomatoes a last hurrah in a hearty dish perfectly suited to fall…Oven Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup.

Best of all, this version lightens up the calories and the clean up!

The original recipe from the Barefoot Contessa calls for 6 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter…which adds 920 calories and 104 grams of fat.

Instead, we’re using fat free half-and-half to add the creamy richness…which cuts the calories per serving by more than half and removes virtually all of the fat.

And while the original recipe requires roasting the tomatoes in the oven for 45 minutes, then transferring them to a pot and cooking them on the stove for another 45, you can now cook everything in the oven….which frees you up to do other things and saves you the trouble of washing another pan.

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ImageIs there anything more disappointing in October than biting into what you think will be a crisp, snappy apple only to have your teeth sink into mushy flesh? What do you do? Continue to eat it not to be wasteful, or toss it aside for something else?

Neither. Don't eat something you don't enjoy. You'll only be unsatisfied and crave something more. If you can, don't toss it either. Use it in something where the texture of the apple isn't critical, like applesauce. Or add it diced and cooked to oatmeal, quinoa, or barley for a delicious hot breakfast.

This Apple-Maple Walnut Breakfast Quinoa is a protein-rich, filling breakfast alternative to oatmeal. Plus, when you bake the apples on the stovetop, the scent of freshly baked apple pie will float in the air. How can a day not be good when you start it off with warm, soothing, spiced apples?

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fallflowers2With autumn beginning to wax, the garden is coming into its own, offering the bounty and plethora of blooms only an early fall garden can provide. Salvias, pentas, lantanas, Artemisia, and pomegranates are looking quite lovely this time of year for they have appreciated and endured the heat and now bestow their blossoms as trophies of survival from the heat of summer.

One other great garden tiding that comes into play at the end of summer and into early fall is the flower spike of Liriope muscarri ‘Variegata’ or variegated monkey grass for the lay people. My Auburn professors knew I was from Middle Georgia because of my pronunciation of “liriope.” I pronounce it like leer-o-pee. While I’ve heard a myriad of other pronunciations, that is the way this Farmer says it. I digress.

The soft purple spikes of tiny florets make for a punch of color in small bouquets and even dry well…somewhat like lavender the herb. Other varieties of the Liriope genus such as ‘Big Blue’ also make for beautiful cut stem specimens and the berries, with their deepest amethyst to eggplant blackness.

They are lovely in holiday décor. Just imagine those dark berries with fir, pine, and magnolia in some blue and white cache pots or jardinières…quite lovely indeed. As September rolls into October, the Southern landscape yields these spikes along the aforementioned perennials and annuals for arrangements a plenty.

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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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polebeansraw.jpgWhen the pole bean trellis blew down for the second time, we left it. Granted, we were a bit annoyed at the pole beans. They took a lifetime to germinate and what seemed like eternity to start yielding. Meanwhile the bush beans were churning out lovely filet beans by the pound every day.  We would have ignored the pole beans altogether except for this nagging voice I had in my head, “Pole beans are better than bush beans.” I grew up with this voice. My father’s.

My father and his mother (my grandmother Honey, who “put up” pole beans at the end of every summer) were always carrying on about the superiority of “pole beans” over bush beans. (Pole beans are green bean varieties like Kentucky Wonder that grow on vines as long as 12 feet, therefore needing support in the form of poles or some other trellising.)  I needed to find out the truth for myself, as it seemed to me that our bush beans (a variety from FedCo called Beananza) were pretty darn tasty—and oh-so-lovely to look at, too. The pole beans looked kind of gnarled up and blotchy the minute they appeared on the scene.

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