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Food for Thought
For those who expected this month's column to be a Martha Stewartlike display of my garden's bounty on a perfectly decorated Thanksgiving table, I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you. My garden was anything but bountiful this year. It was, sadly, an unimpressive gardening season. Some of that I can blame on the late, soggy, springbut some of it was due to other projects that took priority this year.
I will be able to put home-grown potatoes, beans, and sweet potatoes on the table, at least. I am hoping the marshmallows will hide the fact that the sweet potatoes are about the size of my thumb. I can make rolls with my own wheat. One pumpkin made it to perfect ripeness, so the pie will be fresh. But this is not going to be a table-groaning example of abundance. And that's okay! There are lots of other good things going on in the kitchen this month.
Fall sees me back in the kitchen, baking and singing with joy. I'll spare you the singing part, but here's what I've been cooking up:
Pies! After trying every pie crust recipe out thereordering leaf lard from the East Coast, trying sour cream, butter, shortening, and even bear fatI am finally sticking with the recipe that never fails. I can't claim it as my own; it's been around for decades. But it is consistently flaky and tender, and it will be my go-to crust forever.
Never-Fail Pie Crust (printable recipes).
We picked several bushels of apples this year, from our yard and the neighbor's impressive orchard. The combination of different types of apples makes for a wonderful apple pie. My favorite recipe is a cross between an apple crisp and a pie, with a sour cream filling and streusel top. The fragrance as it cooks will make you giddy, and you don't have to worry about creating a picture-perfect top crust. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream while the pie is still warm, and savor.
Cookies! Nothing, but nothing, says autumn like my grandma's pumpkin cookies. These go to deer camp with my husband, get mailed to the kids, and disappear quickly here at home. You may want to double the icing recipe, since a lot of it seems to disappear from the pan. Hey . . . it evaporates. It does!
Seeds, nuts, and popcorn! Eaten separately or combined into big, sugary clusters, these are wonderful fall and winter treats. I grow and roast jumbo grey-striped sunflower seeds, which are delicious, but I am even more in love with my Lady Godiva pumpkin seeds. If you have a 5'x5' piece of ground you can spare, you should try planting a couple of these "naked seeds" next spring. Their taste is very similar to pumpkin seeds, but here's the good part: there is NO shell! Just a wisp of cellophane-like seed cover that melts in your mouth.
Harvested before the first frost, these striped pumpkins store well for months. When you want to roast the seeds, just cut the squash around the equator and, using a small spoon (or your finger) scoop the seeds out of their trenches and into a bowl. Rinse and dry them, coat them lightly with olive oil and a dusting of salt, spread them out on a cookie sheet or pie pan, and pop them into a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes, or to taste. You'll hear them popping like popcorn. The hard part is waiting for them to cool down! Though it may seem wasteful, the pumpkin either gets thrown onto the compost pile or fed to the chickens or deer. It can be baked for use in pies or soups, but isn't very tasty. Luckily, my chickens will eat every bit of it except the outer shell.
Caramel corn, with its perfect blending of sweet and salty caramel enrobing the popcorn and nuts, is the perfect fall splurge. Here's an easy recipe that comes out perfectly every time. Be sure to use real butter!
Soup! Since there are always some spoilsports who want real food, I am including my chicken soup recipe. It includes homemade egg noodles (no pasta maker necessary) that are plump and chewy, and surprisingly simple to make. The recipe involves making your own chicken stock, but if you don't have enough time, don't worry. Use canned chicken broth and add the remaining ingredients according to the recipe. When there's a chill in the air, nothing hits the spot like a pot of spicy chicken soup!
While the crisp air boosts your energy, enjoy experimenting in the kitchen before the chaos of December holidays descend. Let the flour fly!
Contact Lorinda at email@example.com
Lorinda resides in Eastern Washington, where she joyously combines her love of cooking and gardening. Baking is her passion, and licking the batter off the spoon after making a cake is her reward. When she's not in the kitchen, she's out in the garden pulling weeds and snacking on young peas. Enjoy Lorinda's blog, The Rowdy Baker.
Food for Thought copyright 2013.