Confessions of a Fall Ho....liday Cook

Yesterday I was reading a fantastic essay a friend of mine posted on Facebook by Dorothy Parker about her love affair with NYC.  As I read it I realized that I also have a love affair, but it is with a season.  It begins as the first wisps of fire smoke and burning leaves of the season reach my nose and continues until the first snowfall.  It catches me unawares and I am suddenly madly, passionately smitten again.  The beginning of a love affair; heart racing, butterflies in my belly, can't get enough, breathing deep of the fragrant, spicy scent, all up in the nesting mode, pumpkin til you puke, utter unabashed, abounding JOY that is fall.  And I have it bad, folks.  This isn't any flash in the pan, one night gas and flame thing.  This is the smolder that starts deep inside and runs through your veins building as it goes.  This is a disease with no cure and if-loving-you-is-wrong-I-don't-wanna-be-right kind of stuff.  It's any way you like it cause I'm gonna make it happen kind of action.  Oh yes, my friends, my love affair is with Fall and I've got it bad.

This weekend the temperatures took a nose dive into the oh-my-gosh-it's-really-here range and the boots and sweaters came out!  WOO HOO!!  Being an autumn baby, I went into full on nesting mode and started arranging wheat and pumpkin centerpieces and menu planning for the weekend.  Nothing restores me quite like some kitchen/house/yard time and that's exactly what I did.

I have been collecting all sorts of fabulous autumn recipes over the last few weeks and I pulled out all of them to hone three days worth of menu items.  I also wanted some leftovers for the week and these were home runs on all accounts.  I was going to just do a highlights reel of the recipes, but, honestly, they are all too good not to mention.  I'll try to sum up.

Friday night was a Rosemary Garlic Chicken with Wild Mushroom Sauce.  This was served over creamy grits and with a side of greens and was perfect comfort food for a rainy Friday night.  I did chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken because it was just the two of us and bone in breasts and carved them when they were ready.  The sauce is fantastic.  Like lick the plate fantastic.  And if you think it's good the first night, wait until you have it day 2 or 3 as leftovers.  Sweet Baby Jesus!  Make sure you have some bread for sopping.  The recipe is from Epicurious and required no tweaks of any kind.  None.  Yep.  It was that good. 

Saturday we were at St. James Art Fair in the morning (what has happened to all of the good artists?  Oy- Please no more crap craft stuff at a "juried show".  But that is another post) and I came home to cook and bake some goodness. I did two soups.  Black bean and a Vegetable Barley with a poached egg (cause I look for a reason to poach an egg).  So quick and hearty and wonderful.  Perfect weeknight dinner.  I substituted kale for the spinach because the last of it needed to be harvested from the garden.  I tried a new recipe that I have had saved forever and a friend reminded me about it last week.  Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good is literally the title of this recipe.  How can you go wrong with a title like that, I ask you?  This recipe is a stuffing recipe and I want it to be a fondue-in-a-pumpkin recipe so I tweaked it.  Cut the bread down to 1/4 what it asks for.  Add 1# Emmentaler cheese, 1# Fontina cheese, 3/4 cup white wine and 1/2 cup of cream.  Keep the garlic and herbs.  See how that does.  If you want stuffing- do the original.  It's awesome too.  I also did my pumpkin brownies.  I came up with them quite a few years ago in one of my "You know what would be good..." moments where I Frankenstein some stuff and it works.

Pumpkin Brownies

1 box brownie mix, batter prepared according to package instructions
3/4 can of Pumpkin puree
8 oz softened cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie spice
1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

Mix brownies and place batter in prepared pan (pan size will depend on the mix you are using).  In a separate bowl, mix the pumpkin, cream cheese, and sugar with electric mixer.  Add vanilla, egg, and spices and mix.  Spoon pumpkin batter in mounds on top of brownie batter in all four corners and one in the middle.  Take a knife and swirl batters together.  Be careful not to over mix.  The color contrast is great here.  You may not need all of the pumpkin batter.  Don't stress if you don't.

Bake at 325 for 1 hour or until skewer comes out clean.  Cool and serve with cinnamon whipped cream.

On Sunday, I went back into the kitchen for more soups.  I found a Roasted Tomato Soup on Pinterest from Smitten Kitchen (love her) that I forgot about and it was the rock star soup of the weekend.  With just a handful of ingredients, it will be repeated again a few times.  When I harvested kale on Saturday, I discovered the last of our tomatoes hiding in the weeds and lots of peppers.  This recipe took care of all of the tomatoes for us and was perfect for a cool Sunday.  It also marries my very favorite things in one bowl- tomato soup and grilled cheese.  Bonus!!  I added 1/4 cup of basil to it as well as tripled the roasted garlic it called for.  I was prepared to add cream to it, but once I put the immersion blender to it, it didn't need it and was lovely and creamy on it's own.  

The black bean soup recipe is linked with the Cheddar soup recipe that was the final soup-tacular food event of the weekend.  Cheese and soup in the same bowl?  Yes please.   Be sure to cook the flour enough before adding stock and cream.  2 minutes may not do it.

I also did two new baking recipes.  One of a pumpkin bread that was pretty good but not my very favorite from Cook's Illustrated last month.  There are no links for that one online, but it was not rocking my socks off.  I wanted a deeper pumpkin flavor than it offered and it was super high maintenance.  The last recipe of the weekend was a flourless peanut butter cookie recipe that is to. die. for.  You do not need any other peanut butter recipes ever again as this one is the be all end all.  I used natural peanut butter but will use a creamier one next time.  Also as a note- whatever shape you put the cookie in on the pan is exactly how it bakes.  They don't spread when they bake, so smash them down with the tines of a fork or back of the spoon before they go in the oven.  What comes out is the densest, loveliest, chewy, DEEP peanut butter flavored cookie you have ever eaten.  It is perfection.  No butter, no flour, just PB and a handful of other things.   Bliss in your mouth.  

Next weekend is one of my top 5 favorite events of THE YEAR with the Annual Fall Festival at a BFF's house.  It is fire pits and chili cook offs and hayrides and general Autumn merry making.  I can't wait.  I'll post pics.  

In the meantime, go make a pot full of soup and some PB cookies, drag your Halloween drag out of the basement and start thinking about your Thanksgiving menu.  Then make your own What I Love about Fall list and decide how far you will go with the season you love. 

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  1. I just love reading your posts, and this one is making me soooo jealous of your fall weather! I am madly, deeply in love with this season, too, and every year that I'm in Southern California makes me yearn even more painfully for it. It just ain't the same when it's 90 degrees and all the leaves on the trees are still green.... So I'm living vicariously through you right now. :-)

    1. GIRL! It has been awesome! I'll keep photographing it all. Of course, Cali doesn't suck when you are able to put stuff in the ground in Feb and March and we are freezing our tail feathers off here!

      And I can't WAIT to see your Halloween Extravaganza this year! You better be blogging it! Miss you, sister! Any chance we will see you in December? XOXO