Autumn: oranges, golds, burgundy reds, rich browns, and bright yellows – that is what comes to my mind when I think of fall.
Pumpkins, apples, squashes, turkeys, persimmons, cranberries, and pecans – all of these wonderful fall foods come to my mind also. In fact, my little pea brain gets so busy I can barely slow it down.
I love the autumn season. I love the craft fairs and bake sales, the excitement in young children’s faces on Halloween night, the smell of farmers’ fields burning off, rows of hay bales bound up for storage, and colorful leaves to stroll through. It is just a wonderful time of year for me.
I am an outdoor person, and I guess, if I am honest with myself, there is not a season I don’t love. Unfortunately, with age, enjoying the outdoors during one particular season is getting a bit more difficult. More precisely – winter. Winter is quickly becoming an indoor season for me. Indoors and by the fire!
The last time I enjoyed winter just a little outside was when our youngest son, David, returned home from his first deployment to Iraq. It was two weeks shy of his birthday, so hubby, daughter Amy, and myself took him to Steamboat Springs, Colo., for a week of skiing and relaxation. Amy and David skied, and hubby and I spent our time in the lodge cozied up to the fireplace, watching them ski down the slope (although I did get outside to play around some). We rode the ski lift up to the top of the mountain; plus, we walked around the city quite a bit.
But now I am concentrating on fall and all of the wonderful things it holds, which brings me back to pecans, pumpkins, and squash, and some of my favorite fall recipes – and today I have two of my favorites. The first one is so delicious and hearty that your tummy is smiling all over when you finish. Serve it up with a piping hot slice of sourdough bread.
Italian Sausage and
Butternut Squash Soup
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large butternut squash (about five pounds), peeled, seeded,
and cut into one-inch pieces
1 package (16 ounces) frozen corn, divided
4 cups water
1 tablespoon chicken base
2 cans (15-1/2 ounces each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Heavy whipping cream and minced fresh parsley, optional
In a stockpot, cook sausage, onion, and red pepper over medium heat nine to 11 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink and onion is tender, breaking up sausage into crumbles. Add garlic; cook one minute longer. Remove with a slotted spoon; discard drippings.
Add squash, 1-1/2 cups corn, water, and chicken base to same pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes or until squash is tender.
Remove soup from heat; cool slightly. Process in batches in a blender until smooth. Return to pot. Add beans, tomatoes, salt, pepper, sausage mixture, and remaining corn; heat through. If desired, drizzle servings with cream and sprinkle with parsley.
Freeze option: Freeze cooled soup in freezer containers. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Heat through in a saucepan, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if necessary. Yield: 12 servings (4-1/2 quarts).
The second recipe is a wonderful pecan cake. This cake is made from scratch and so takes a bit longer, but you will be delighted with the results. It is a perfect ending to the soup! Both of these recipes came from Taste of Home magazine.
Maple Pecan Cake
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/3 cup pecan halves
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon maple syrup
1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking soda, and salt. Combine the buttermilk, butter, syrup, and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until combined. Fold in chopped pecans.
Pour into two six-inch round baking pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
In a small saucepan, bring corn syrup to a boil. Cook and stir for one minute or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in pecan halves until coated. Place in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425° for two to three minutes or until golden brown. Cool.
For frosting, in a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, and syrup until smooth. Beat in confectioners’ sugar. Place one cake layer on a serving plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with second layer; frost top and sides of cake.
Note: This recipe does not use eggs.
So until summer 2016, goodbye Cave City, Arkansas watermelons, fresh ripe-off-the-tree peaches, juicy farmer’s market strawberries, Olathe, Colorado sweet corn, swimming pools, fragrant freshly mowed grass, baseball games, children catching fireflies, sunny days on the lake, driving with all the windows down, and showy flowers adorning the yards. Fall has fell.
Kay Bona is a staff writer for the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at email@example.com.