Monday, October 11, 2010

Fall Marathon

While I would be psyched to say that I ran a marathon, that would, in fact, be a lie.  I am instead reporting a marathon of food, which I just couldn't resist with the festive Fall season upon us.  We began Saturday with a scenic drive to Carter Mountain, where the annual Apple Festival was being held.  Though it was unseasonably warm for an event like this, the sunshine made it a beautiful day.  We filled bags with Jonagold, Fuji and Granny Smith apples and selected a relatively massive pumpkin (that ended up taking Molly's place in the stroller for its trip to the a few comments about my adorable baby), as well as some decorative gourds before heading home.

My mind raced with what to make first with this stash.  I opted for a few tried and true classics.  This recipe is from my dear friend Jess, who made a batch for us after Andrew was born.  They have been a Fall staple in my house ever since!

Pumpkin Apple Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp clove
1/4 allspice
16 oz can pumpkin
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups tart apples, peeled & chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients, including spices.  Whisk together pumpkin, oil, sugar and eggs.  Add pumpkin mix to flour mix, and fold in apples.  Grease muffin or loaf pan. Cooking times:

Two loaves = 50 minutes
Regular muffins = 20 minutes
Mini muffins = 15 minutes

How could I not make apple sauce?  I love to prepare it at home, because I can control its sweetness, spice and texture.  I happen to prefer it with some recognizable pieces of apple as opposed to a smooth puree.  Here is the recipe, which I opted to cut in half this time (still makes a boatload). It bakes in the oven, making it beautifully simple!

As I was overcome by the spirit of Autumn, and Ryan was is always overcome with the desire to smoke meat, we compromised by making an early Thanksgiving feast featuring smoked bone-in turkey breast on Saturday night.  I'm useless on providing any insight on this process, but I can provide a picture and tell you that it was awesome.  It was the most perfectly moist turkey I've ever had, and it had a great - but not overpowering - smoke flavor.

For one of our sides, I made the balsamic vinegar dressed roasted brussel sprouts inspired by my friend Matt (mentioned in On the Side).  These have a complex, sweet flavor, and I really encourage you to try them!  I am a converted brussel sprout hater, so I get why so many people think they're heinous.  They just need the right treatment, and this is a great one:  Trim off the bottoms, slice them in half and spread them on a sheet pan.  Toss with a generous glug of olive oil, a good amount of salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Roast at 375 for about 20 minutes.  Add a couple shakes of balsamic vinegar, toss, and roast for another 10 minutes.

While we're talking brussel sprouts, I must mention that bacon is another amazing accompaniment for these little guys while they roast in the oven.

Continuing our heavily themed weekend, we made pumpkin pancakes before church on Sunday.  They are sweet and fluffy, and the delicate spices warm your belly in the best way.  The kids love 'em too.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Whisk 1 1/4 cups flour, 2 Tbsp sugar, 2 tsp baking
powder, 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt, 1/8 tsp nutmeg and a pinch of ground cloves.  Mix 1 egg, 6 Tbsp pumpkin puree, 2 Tbsp melted butter, and 1 cup milk; fold into dry ingredients...  You know the rest.

For Sunday lunch, we made Paninis using the leftover smoked turkey, topped with sliced brie cheese and cranberry conserve.   I so believe that a crusty bakery loaf is a must for Paninis.  That signature crunch just can't be achieved with the sliced stuff. 

Okay, I realize this post offers relative recipe/picture overload, but it was just that kind of weekend.  It's tough to not be inspired by the season!

PS - Apple pie is clearly on the list to enjoy the fruits of our apple picking labor, and I've already made the dough.  I'm holding out on making the pie itself until we've exhausted the rest of the carrot cake still living in the fridge... Yay for one exercise of restraint in a not-so-disciplined-otherwise weekend. 


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