Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fall Comfort Foods

Don planned on attending a local college football game for a few hours today, so I hustled through the vacuuming and sweeping before he left at 10:30 am. Large scale vacuuming sends my children into a weird frenzy, either because of the noise, or because they're secretly afraid of it. Either way, I hate having to do it when I'm alone with them.

I needn't have worried today though. This computer program the boys checked out at the library had them totally enthralled. It was all about running trains, coupling them, switching tracks, etc. Oh, my! I've never seen them so excited about a computer program! I guess it tapped into both their learning styles in some way.

Both boys and their Daddy are train buffs. Our Thomas and Geo Trak sets get used regularly. Daddy loves to be involved when he's here, but the boys have become masters of design and ingenuity over the years and do fine without him too. It's fun to see, except that Rosey wants to get involved now and tries their patience. They usually have to wait until her nap.

After Don left I did laundry and played with Rosey for about 90 minutes, completely amazed that my active boys were sitting at the computer all that time. This can't be good, I thought. Ninety minutes is too long for their ages, it seemed to me. However, trying to get them interested in something else proved unsuccessful, so I suggested a trip to a local apple orchard so we could make apple crisp and apple sauce. The weather was in the fifties and sixties this week, so fall foods are beckoning me.

I absolutely love fall. Everything about it! It was barely noticeable in San Diego or in the high desert of California, so when I moved here, I was in heaven! The boys really enjoy it too. Hiking this time of year is wonderful! The mosquitoes are mostly gone, the temperature is perfect, there's so much color in the trees, and so many leaves to collect along the path, which my children love. We usually have leaves in baggies in our refrigerator for most of the fall. The boys always find something to do with them, whether it's for art, math, or science.

We bought a whole peck of apples, both Cortland and Daddy's favorite - Macintosh. Unfortunately, the recipe I was using for the crisp didn't give a suggested time, so I guessed at thirty minutes for eight large apples in a 13X9 baking dish. The crisp part was delicious, but the apples were overbaked and too mushy.

I suffer from a childish kind of disappointment when a recipe doesn't turn out right. I'm no cook, but I'm very eager to learn. I was never interested while single, so now I'm having to play catch up. It's not like the kids or Don care much (Timmy is so picky, he doesn't even try most things), but I want them to have fond memories of seasonal favorites. I might try a do over tomorrow, with half the recipe.

For me, the most frustrating and challenging thing about baking is keeping track of how one's oven behaves with different pans and with different recipes. We've lived here three years, and I still don't remember from season to season how to adjust for this oven. I'll have to tape a notecard somewhere so I can start keeping notes.

I want to leave you with a recipe for this delicious fall desert soup I found a few years ago. It's a nice, cozy stand in for pumpkin pie.

BTW: One lone pumpkin survived in our garden and should be ready to pick in about two weeks. We are so proud of it! The boys have it in their minds that we're going to make pumpkin pie with it, but it's not the right type. I haven't broken the news to them yet, partly because I've never made pumpkin pie from scratch and I have to Google it for details. It's the cute little ones that you use, right?

Pumpkin Cheesecake Soup


2 cans (30 ounces each) pumpkin pie mix
2 cans (14 ounces each) chicken broth
2 cups (1 pint) half-and-half
Top with sour cream and nutmeg

In soup pot, whisk the pumpkin pie mix and the chicken broth over medium-high heat and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until hot. Slowly stir in the half-and-half and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until heated through. If desired, top with sour cream and nutmeg.

Really delicious, but plenty rich. A little bit goes a long way. I have it in a mug on cold nights when I need some comfort and relaxation, or when we have company for fall.

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