Fall Flavors

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How do you define "autumn"? 

To some, it may be the smell of burning leaves, the first nip in the air, unearthing cable-knit sweaters and packing away the shorts.  To others fall is defined by the flavors it summons.  I am of the latter.

Apples, squash, pears, roasted chestnuts, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, hearty stews and the smell of cinnamon. Gingerbread, candy canes, caramel, baked ham, Brussels sprouts, chutneys, cranberry relish, and turkey roasting are soon-on-the-heels of the above.

It's my absolute favorite time of year.  Absolute.  Hands down.  No-other-season-comes-close.

I adore autumn.

I long for the first days of winter.  These chillier months cause us to seek the warmth of family, friends, food, and fellowship.  The cold beckons us in, among the hearth, where alluring aromas waft from the kitchen.

If summer is about being outside, about partaking in succulent fresh fruit and grilled veggies, then fall and winter are defined by staying in, by the savory, deep, rich flavors that come from the earth.  From the harvest.

During the summer I cook less, opting for quick meals that take little time to prepare so that we can get the most out of the warm weather.  But when autumn sets in I am beckoned back into the kitchen, among my dutch ovens and cast iron skillets.  The kitchen begs to be revisited, and I am ready.

This is it.  We have entered the season.  Welcome, fall-almost-winter.  I've missed you.

To celebrate, I'm sharing two of my all-time favorite fall treats.  Both are sweet-treats, but satisfying and light.

Enjoy, my friends!

Apple Praline Bread

This recipe is adapted from one I found here.  I've added/changed a few things to make it a bit healthier.

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2  cups  chopped pecans, divided
  • 1  (8-oz.) container plain, non-fat yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 1/2  cup  brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1/2 cup applesauce or apple butter
  • 1  Tbsp  vanilla extract
  • 1  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 2  tsp  baking powder
  • 1/2  tsp  baking soda
  • 1/2  tsp  salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2  cups  finely chopped, peeled apples (about 3/4 lb.)
  • 1/2  cup  butter
  • 1/2  cup  firmly packed light brown sugar

Instructions: 

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Toast 1/2 cup pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring after 4 minutes.  Don't burn!

2. Beat yogurt and next 3 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until blended.

3. Stir together flour and next 5 ingredients. Add to yogurt mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in apples and 1/2 cup toasted pecans. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 9- x 5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup chopped, untoasted pecans; lightly press pecans into batter.

4. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or a touch longer until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.  If you notice the top browning too quickly, shield with aluminum foil until finished baking. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack.

5. Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, and spoon over top of bread; let cool completely (about 1 hour).  Makes 1 loaf.

Note: To freeze, cool bread completely; wrap in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature.
Here a few shots of the finished product:



The topping is quite sinful.
Don't.  Think.  About.  It.  People.
Really.


Just remember the wheat germ and flaxseed meal....
And yogurt.
All of which makes it somewhat better on the waistline.
Ha.


Next Up, Pumpkin Pudding!



Ingredients:

-2 Tbsp granulated sugar
-1 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-3 Tbsp cornstarch
-1 1/2 cups half-and-half
-3 large egg yolks
-1 Tbsp salt
-1 Tbsp molasses
-1/2 cup boiling water
-1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree (make sure it is pure pumpkin and not pie filling!)
-Your choice whipped cream

Instructions: 

1. Combine brown sugar and cornstarch in a large heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add half-and-half, egg yolks, molasses, and salt; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture starts to thicken. Add the water in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Stir in pumpkin puree; cook until very thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool slightly.  Pour into desired serving dishes, refrigerate until set.  Makes 4 cups.
2. When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and savor the flavor of autumnal bliss! 


OR if you are fancy-schmancy and want to jazz up your pudding you can serve it in hollowed-out little pumpkins, a la Martha:


Or, you can create a lovely trifle.  I have actually done this (not my photo) and it is absolutely divine.  Just layer with crushed gingersnaps or cut up gingerbread, whipped cream, and/or your choice of nuts.  


There you go, my friends.
Enjoy every moment of this flavorful season.
Excuse me while I go sip my caramel brulee latte and ponder
what I shall delight you with next...