Fall

chunky-apple-snack-cakeThis cake. It was my Dad's favorite. He had a Fall birthday and this is the dessert my Mom made him every year for his office celebration. It was also the batter my Mom could barely keep us kids away from....it was so good, even before it was baked. This was back in the day when no one cared about eating raw cake batter.

This is one of those delicious, moist cakes I crave and love eating every, single time. It has such great memories for me. I can still see my Dad getting down the special crystal tray my Mom used to send with the cake. It was on a high shelf above the stove she could not reach. The platter wasn't anything expensive, just the best one she had. A bowl of real whipped cream was also packed up and served with each slice, trust me you don't want to forget the whipped cream.

My Mom acquired this recipe from a woman she used to work with over fifty years ago in downtown Los Angeles. Beyond that we have no idea where it originated from. I just know I love it. Just like my Dad.

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roastedsquashNever mind the name, these sweet, nutty squash are harvested in the fall. They are called "winter" because their hard shells allow them to be stored for extended periods, and in the days before refrigeration, that was a quality more worth honoring than mere harvest seasonality. The earliest winter squash are just beginning to trickle into the market -- kabocha, butternut and acorn, mostly.

When they’re first picked, they can be a little short on flavor. But after a week or two that changes, particularly for squash such as butternut and kabocha. These benefit from a couple of weeks of "curing" after being harvested, which allows time for enzymes to convert some of their starch into sugar.  Acorns are from another family and do not require curing. They're better bets this early in the season.

How to choose: Look for squash with deep, saturated colors and no soft spots or cracks. The stem should be hard and corky too.

How to store: Keep winter squash in a cool, dark place. You don't need to refrigerate them.

How to prepare: Here's a recipe for happiness during the coming rainy season: Hack off a chunk of winter squash and remove the seeds; place it cut-side down in a pan with just a little water, and roast it at 400 degrees until the whole thing collapses into a sweet, fragrant, slightly caramelized puree.

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pumpkinsoup.jpgPumpkins are as much a part of fall as apples, cider, turning leaves, and chilly weather. The months of October and November call out for pumpkins—just think Jack-o'-lanterns and pumpkin pie! Like their brethren squash, pumpkins work well in countless recipes—and not just sweet desserts but savory dishes too.

Soup is one of my favorite ways to enjoy pumpkin. I make it every October. When I cook pumpkin soup, it officially feels like fall. Flavored with a little nutmeg for warmth and then garnished with pumpkin seeds, it's perfectly comforting. (Don't throw away the pumpkin's seeds, use them in this soup.) A hot bowl of soup always warms me right up.

I start this recipe by roasting the pumpkin. But with the shortage in pumpkins, you could also substitute butternut squash or acorn squash. The base of the soup is a vegetable stock, making it vegetarian-friendly. I like to use my own homemade stock because I can flavor it the way I want. 

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winepears.jpgPears have a special place in my childhood. When I was a kid, my family would pick pears from the trees in my aunt and uncle's backyard. They always had more pears than they knew what to do with. My aunt made pear sauce, much like apple sauce, and my mom would can the pears to be eaten as compote. We would also eat them raw, when their so sweet, juicy, and buttery. I love them that way, but often enough the ones you buy in the market are not the best to eat out of hand. That's when I like to poach pears to create a unique dessert.

Poaching pears in red wine turns them into glowing red jewels with tender and succulent flesh, flavored by the spiced poaching liquid. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, or star anise can be added for exotic flavor. Citrus rind or tea leaves, like Earl Grey, also add flavor. The composition is up to you but the cooking method is simple. Once the pears are cooked, the poaching liquid can be reduced to create a syrup. Serve the pears with the reduction sauce and a dollop of crème fraîche for a very elegant dessert that would make a lovely ending to any dinner party.

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From the Huffington Post

maplecoctailWhile summer cocktails conjure up a specific image -- usually of tiny umbrellas and slices of watermelon -- autumn brings about libations that are, shall we say, less photogenic. The dearth of the fresh ingredients that make summer drinks such colorful beachside accompaniments force harvest season cocktails into a comparatively substandard role. But this seems wrong considering the other pleasures we gleefully anticipate with first nip in the air. People salivate on line at Starbucks eagerly awaiting their pumpkin spice lattes and delight in slipping on lightweight jackets to compliment the blushing foliage. Why too shouldn't lifting the year's first glass of Apple Brandy be part of the tradition?

The beauty of it is, cocktails that evoke the changing of the seasons don't have to be entirely new drinks. They can follow the same basic template classics cocktails do, just with seasonal substitutions. Here are a few suggestions.

The best place to start is swapping out the sweetener in a drink, it's the simplest and most effective way alter a cocktail. Take for instance a whiskey sour which we know is generally two parts whiskey -- bourbon, rye, Tennessee, your choice -- one part simple syrup, and one part fresh lemon juice depending on taste. Instead of simple syrup make it with maple syrup and bam(!), the autumn whiskey sour.

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