The Dowdy Deciduous

 

SONY DSCMaybe autumn by you this year is spectacular. Maybe the trees are blazing with vermilion red and juicy orange and Fort Knox gold leaves.

Or maybe, like me, you are seeing deciduous trees that should be reaching their glory days but instead are fading to a meek grayish-brown. Their leaves hang from the trees as though too exhausted to put up a fight against winter—the kind of gritty brawl  culminating in those vibrant primary-tinted bruises of foliage that won’t go down without a fight. No, the trees here are waving dingy dishrag-color leaves in surrender.

What is the deal? Our hit-and-miss precipitation of the last past season may be responsible. We’ll go for months with almost constant rain and then see weeks of iron skies and parched earth. The leaves may be tired of all the drama and just want to drift quietly to the ground with little fanfare.

Are these leaf-shedders following the spirit of the times, ashamed of their deciduous privilege? Or, conversely, envious of their evergreen siblings? Who knows. And who knows but that autumn might surprise me and coming storming back in a blaze of eye-searing hues.

It could happen.

In the meantime, (and for my Midwest-homesick son living in gravelly L.A.) I will feast my eyes on these visions of Autumn Past.

Happy almost-October!

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Apples Mellow, Pumpkins…Yellow?

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Where did I learn this song? Was it born into me? I never remember not knowing it.

Apples mellow,

pumpkins yellow,

Tell the time of year.

Nuts are falling, nature’s calling.

Autumn time is here.

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The yellow pumpkins always bothered me a bit, but since the rhyme’s the thing I didn’t question.

Recently I learned that the name for that bright blend of red and yellow—orange—is fairly recent in the history of the world. It used to be called red, or possibly yellow. Which is why you have a robin redbreast whose lower regions are actually orange, in our modern etymology.

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So maybe my “pumpkins yellow” song is old, old old. Maybe it came down through generations. I sang it to my boys and now I’m teaching it to my grandsons because I LOVE AUTUMN!

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It is 90 degrees here on the first day of fall, a temperature no self-respecting Midwest autumn should tolerate. However, the heat and humidity will be kicked to the curb sometime next week and we can pull on cozy sweaters and simmer pots of chili and take long, mosquito-free walks and kick up our heels in the leaves. Happy autumn, my friends!

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S’mores Smorgasbord

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Once a year, on a perfect night after the mosquitoes have finally died and before the snows come, we have a bonfire for family and makes s’mores.
This year we thought we’d try to expand the role of the classic bonfire sweet dessert to encompass a savory starter course.
Both savory and sweet varieties were a big hit.
Next time you make s’mores, consider changing things up. You won’t be disappointed!

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I’ve included a recipe for salted caramel sauce. You can buy the stuff but honestly, when the homemade type is this easy, inexpensive and crazy-delicious, why not give it a try?

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Options for sweet s’mores:

Bases:
-cinnamon, honey and chocolate graham crackers
-twisted pretzels
-cookies (we used chocolate chip)

Toppings
-marshmallows
-candy bars—milk or sweet chocolate, Andes candies, Rollos, toffee bars, etc
-peanut butter, peanut butter ice cream topping, salted caramel, etc
-sliced bananas, strawberries, apples

 

Options for Savory s’mores

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Bases
-crackers like Carr whole wheat (we used Breton sweet potato and Breton dried cranberry)

Toppings (We heated the cheese and meat on pudgie pie makers. The just don’t stay on the end of a skewer or stick very well)
-mozzarella balls
-goat cheese (ours was mild cheddar—didn’t even know such a thing existed!)
-prosciutto
-bacon
-basil

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Prosciutto AND Bacon

The goat cheese on sweet potato crackers with the prosciutto or bacon and basil was a big hit.
So was the peanut butter on honey grahams with bacon, banana and marshmallow.
And a new classic for us all is the cinnamon crackers with apples, caramel and marshmallow.

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The new classic

Happy November! Happy S’moring!

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Salted caramel sauce
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons (90g) salted butter, cut up into  pieces
1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
Heat granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula.Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn.Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes.Very slowly, drizzle in 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added.Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils.
Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Allow to cool down before using.
Cover the caramel tightly and store for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Warm the caramel up for a few seconds before using in a recipe.