Fall

Image You really don’t need to be German to have fun celebrating Oktoberfest. And, you don’t need to travel to Munich to enjoy the food we associate with Germany and its festival that lasts several days, providing a gateway for summer to turn to fall. This year, the celebrating began September 18 and will run through October 4th.

My dad was German, so I’ve eaten plenty of roast pork, sauerkraut and huge boiled dumplings that my Hungarian mom became proficient at creating. But when Oktoberfest rolls around, I start thinking about sausage. And sauerkraut. With boiled potatoes. Thick slices of red potatoes blanketed with a smooth, creamy beer-spiked sauce, tender bits of onion swimming through it. I’ve served these potatoes with grilled bratwurst and sauerkraut that’s simmered in beer. It’s delicious.

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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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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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donut ball bread pudding 015The applesauce doughnuts I made the other day didn’t stick around in the kitchen very long. Off they went to the guys at the gas station, to the owner of the tea shop in town, along with one of her customers who happened to be in for a cup of tea, and a few to my friends at the food co-op.

Fourteen little doughnut balls remained on a plate on my kitchen counter. My two-year-old doughnut-ball-loving grandson lives hours away from me, so this time, I couldn’t share with him.

I decided to surprise my bread-pudding-loving husband. I mixed up a liquid mixture, rich with egg and butter, sweet with white and brown sugars and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. Broken doughnut balls (there were only 12 little balls on the plate by this time. Apparently, there is a doughnut-ball-loving person right in my own house.) took a long bath in that liquid before I stirred in some chopped apples.

There was just enough to fill two ramekins. Breakfast in bed on a chilly autumn Saturday morning? Dessert by the fire after dinner? If you decide to serve this for dessert, it can be baking while you’re eating dinner. If you decide to serve it for breakfast, it can be chilling while you’re sleeping.

Fragrance of fall. Warm. Delicious. Comfort. Just for two.

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applesauce.jpgMy local market recently had a sale on apples. I spent 10 minutes carefully selecting the most perfectly shaped, shiny Macs, Rome Beauties, and Pink Ladies I could find.

I gently placed my bags of apples on the conveyor belt at the checkout. As I continued to unload my remaining groceries, from the corner of my eye I saw my apples disappear from the belt: blam! onto the scale, then blam! into the grocery bag. Before I could utter a word, it was too late. My previously pristine apples were irrevocably spotted with unsightly blemishes.

Rather than trying to eat around the bruises, I did what any resourceful cook would do: I made apple sauce.

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