Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Power in One...

I'm going to take a short break from all of my favorite fall recipes to make an observation. Its' not an "OMG" moment. Not even a "gee, I never thought about that." But more of a "oh, that never occurred to me" moment in time. Let me go back to yesterday afternoon.

I was outside placing some autumn decorations around my yard and porch. I had made the rounds over the past couple days of some of my favorite farm markets and landscape yards to gather my fall haul, and I was ready. A few weeks ago, I actually assembled a small cart that was difficult because what looked beautiful in a catalog, shipped to me as a pile of wood, a bag of bolts, with no directions. There was nothing to do but to lay all the parts across the basement floor and treat it with the same methodology of assembling a 1,000 piece puzzle. While, of course,  adding a great deal of sweat and questionable language. But I finished. There were two parts that were left over. Guess they weren't too important because the cart's outside and they are still in the basement.

Anyway, I was rather enjoying my exterior designing when two elderly neighbors walked over. "You, young lady, are an asset to this neighborhood." I'm not young, just younger than they are. I live in a 55 and older community that is kind of in transition. Our development was built about 30 years ago and some of the original residents have, um....moved on, so to speak, or in with their children or onto Florida. Meaning, that a lot of units are once again filled with us "young" ones. The streets and courts are alive each evening with people walking, biking, talking...and decorating.
A complete puzzle solved!

"Each season, we wait to see what you are going to do outside," the lovely gentlemen continued. His wife had moved in to examine the cart and its contents. "My, my. Where did you buy that?" You can imagine my pride when I answered her question. They both stood motionless as I explained how I ordered it online then ended up building it myself.

"Amazing," the woman said nodding her head. "You do all this and you live alone." Now I was the one standing motionless. She continued, "I use to do this kind of stuff when I had kids at home, but no more." I looked over at her plain front door. "Why, did you stop?" She bent over to smell the Chrysanthemums, "it's just the two of us now. We don't have the company that you do. What's the point." It was a statement, not a question, but I answered it anyway.

"The point is, it's your home." But I stopped myself from going further. After all, these people have lived decades longer then me. Who I am to tell them...well, anything, so, I softened my approach. "I do have a lot of family and friends in the area, but I have to tell you, I do this for me."

Too warm for a fire, but the mantel is ready for fall!
She smiled and patted my shoulder, "you have more energy then I do." She may be right there, but I have always enjoyed seasonal decorating. It just makes me happy.

When I moved here alone at the end of last summer,with fall fast approaching, there was a split second, a mere instant in time, that I too thought, "what's the point?" But I quickly realized that doing things the way I liked to, the way that made me the happiest, was crucial to my survival. And there was no looking back!

Not all of the neighbors in my community feel the way the couple next door does. So many doors and porches are full of Autumn's splendor. Corn stalks, wreaths, pumpkins and gourds are more the norm than the exception. And it's not just us "young" ones!

Both the inside, and the outside of my home are ready for fall. In the coming months, there will be many people in and out of my front door. But truth be told, even if I lived in the deep of the woods, where my only neighbors were the deer eating the Indian corn, my porch would be decorated. It's who I am...and it doesn't occur to me to be anything less.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Applesauce Bread & Fall...Perfect Together!

Apples, apples, apples! This fruit has history! I mean, after all, wasn't it used in a famous garden as a means of temptation? Well, let me tell you, I'd have taken a bite! A big bite! It is my favorite fruit, snack, companion of pork, and of course, dessert. And as days grow cooler and shorter, the waft of apples baking in any form, offers the most perfect aroma from the kitchen.

Of course, my love of this fruit may be tied to a memory that is so clear in my mind it seems like yesterday. It involves an annual trip on a mid-fall Sunday, when my kids were little.The whole family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc, would gather at a local farm, climb on wagons pulled by tractors, and trek into the orchards in search of the perfect apples. All the kids would scamper up the branches and go for the one that always seemed just out of reach. My Dad, known as "Pop" to his grand kids, would stand in the middle of the clan with a pocket knife, peeling apples for the little ones around him. Once back at the stand for weighing, the aroma of hot apple cider donuts would entice us. A perfect day every year. Now, my boys are men and that particular orchard is a housing development, but the memory lingers like a warm apple pie. 

This month, apple trees in the northeast are starting to pop with this sweet/tart/tangy/red/green/golden bounty, and throughout Autumn I will post some amazing recipes, but for today, I am going with applesauce bread, which is always my first go-to fall baking endeavor.When I make the switch from ice tea to hot tea, applesauce bread is the perfect accompaniment. I have tried several recipes, but what I love about the one below is that it uses so little added sugar, and is still very sweet in flavor. The recipe is hand written on a well worn note page, and not sure where I got it, but it's at least 20 years old and absolutely worth keeping. And trying!!!

Applesauce Bread


So moist!
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup applesauce
2 large eggs
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 by 4 by 3-inch loaf pan.
Cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the remaining ingredients except the raisins and nuts. Mix well until blended. Stir in the raisins and nuts. Pour into the loaf pan. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes.


Monday, September 1, 2014

September...And so it begins!

Yes, it will be 88 degrees today with humidity that hits you like a throat punch. And yes, tomorrow will be 94 degrees. But it doesn't matter to me because it's September. If I could, I would send you a bouquet of bright yellow, freshly sharpened pencils. Along with a brand new notebook where all the
pages are fresh, crisp and blank, along with a challenge to fill the pages, to make your mark!

I know that September is the ninth month of the year, but for some reason to me it's a renewal. Not just the start of a new school year, but after months of down time, days lacking a schedule, and meals on the fly, September challenges us to get organized, to get our acts together. It's a motivator! Once the wreckage of summer is gone, the days of September clean up good! Like fresh linen waving on a clothesline, they become unflappingly clean and crisp.

I saw the promise of September in the eyes of my nieces and nephews in the "back to school" photos posted on Facebook, which I share with you. I can only image that there are so many challenges in teaching young student these days. It's a wonder how teachers keep kids focused who live in a bedazzled world of  fast-action video games and the internet. And yet, in each photo, the excitement  of going back to the unique environment that they get to call their own, is evident. A room of peers, friends in the making. Drew, Lauren, Abby, Fallon and Cole, I am excited for you! Carpe Diem! You will learn what that means, so pay attention.

And what else does September bring us? The start of everything "apples" I am an apple snob. I eat them almost year round. Now, I can celebrate all the varieties in their freshest splendor. From Jonathon's to Jazz, from Galas to Pink Ladies, they are all starting to put on a show at local markets. Still a little too early for my favorite Winesap's (they debut in October), I will be sharing many recipes from slow cooked pork loin with apple glaze, to the best ever Applesauce bread with Kitchen Clatter readers over the next several weeks.

Which is another reason to love September! It is the official start of cooking season. While the long, warm days of summer brought us outdoors to the grill, fall brings us back indoors where we're no longer afraid of the oven competing with the air conditioner!

In fact, my fall hosting calendar is already taking shape with an "Appetizers Only Girls Night" planned, and a long promised Italian meal for the friends of my sons that helped move me in! And, it will be perfect timing!

Fallon & Cole
As farmers markets will soon be brimming with the harvest from a type of summer that, at least locally, as been a growers friend. Mild temps and just enough rain to keep things going. As a matter of fact, last week, as I past a farm that I go passed early every morning, it was the first time I had seen the irrigation system spraying man-made rain through the air.

September. The subject of so many songs and poetry, is upon us. It, like all autumn months do, speaks to me. Join me in its' celebration! Now, I just couldn't end without re- posting an easy, three ingredient cookie recipe that my niece Beth introduced me to last year. It quickly became a favorite of where ever I brought it. It smells like fall. It taste like fall. Amazingly easy, amazingly delicious. Let get's this season started!

  • 1 box Spice Cake Mix
  • 1 15oz can of pure pumpkin 
  • 1 cup of raisins 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Grease cookie sheets
  • In large bowl, stir together the cake mix, pumpkin and raisins until well blended
  • Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared sheets
  • Bake 18 to 20 minutes
  • Allow cookies to cool five minutes before moving to wire racks