I love it when I find a recipe for a dish that is fun, seasonal, healthy, and pretty. This month, I had an acorn squash sitting on my counter top for longer than I would care to admit. (Luckily, they keep really well!) I wanted to use it, but I just kept putting it off. Then a couple of days ago, I was leafing through one of my many favorite cookbooks, Mrs. Chard’s Almanac Cookbook: Hollyhocks and Radishes, by Bonnie Stewart Mickelson. This cookbook is so much fun to simply look at, with lots of stories and beautiful illustrations about life in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. And the recipes are beguiling too, with many of them based on local, seasonal produce. I found a recipe for acorn squash that caught my eye, and I am so glad I found it that I wanted to share it as soon as I could get a blog post together. The recipe combines acorn squash with apples and a brown sugar/lemon juice/ginger mixture. Not only does this combination taste really great together, but it also looks so festive. And it is super-easy–most of the time it is simply baking away in the oven, warming up your kitchen and making it smell divine. You can scoop out the apple/squash mixture and serve it in bowls, but if you find small enough acorn squashes, they serve as their own pretty bowls. The only thing I did to change the recipe is that I cut it down by thirds, since I was only making enough for my husband, myself, and our children this time. And truth be told, not everyone in the family is a squash-lover. But some of us are, and we really enjoyed this side dish. (I even converted one non-squash-lover into a squash fan!) For the recipe I post below, I will use the amounts given in the above-mentioned cookbook. However, if you are cooking for a smaller group, just divide by half or thirds. If you are looking to jazz up a standard squash dish or need a fun dish to make for guests, this is a good one to use.
“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” –Henry David Thoreau
There is something so beautiful, yet so humble about pumpkins. They are all unique in size and shape, and their deep orange color is energizing and appealing. They are inexpensive and at least around here, they are overflowingly plentiful. I drive by a big field full of ripe pumpkins almost every day. As the grass and trees fade to shades of browns and grays, the pumpkins glow bright orange in comparison. I know there are a lot of pumpkin recipes floating around right now, but it’s pumpkin season. So I am going to add this pumpkin bread recipe to the pumpkin conversation. What makes this recipe stand out to me is there is no oil or butter in it. The bread is incredibly moist, but the moistness comes from the applesauce and pumpkin puree. I am always on the lookout for appealing cookbooks to explore and new recipes to try. I checked out a really great book from our tiny but wonderful local library, called Beyond the Mediterranean Diet: European Secrets of the Super-Healthy by Layne Lieberman. This book was published in 2013 and is full of inspiring advice on living a high-quality lifestyle, and it has recipes to try as well (and pretty photos–I really like a book about food to have appealing photos). The recipe for pumpkin bread below comes from this book. I found this bread to be truly both enjoyable and healthy, with the pumpkin seeds on top being a fun addition. My sweet son and his good friend came home ravenous from school yesterday, and they pounced on this pumpkin bread immediately. They both gave it a thumbs-up, and decided it tasted like pumpkin pie without the crust. A pretty sweet way to sneak in a vegetable and a fruit.
2 cups pumpkin puree (canned or fresh–I used a 14 ounce can)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and spices. In a separate large bowl, whisk together applesauce, eggs, pumpkin puree and vanilla. Slowly fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones; combine, but don’t over mix.
Lightly grease a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan (or a shallow 8-inch baking pan) with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the baking dish and sprinkle with optional pumpkin seeds if desired. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, checking for doneness. (Bread is done when the top begins to crack and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.) Let cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen. Enjoy!
Absolutely gorgeous weather we are having these days! The birds are gathering in large flocks in the sky, getting ready to migrate, and pumpkins are ripe in the fields, waiting to be collected. The sun is still warm and the light is golden. It reminds me of this quote from Walt Whitman: “Give me the splendid silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling, give me juicy autumnal fruit ripe and red from the orchard.” It is the time of ripeness and fullness. My mom recently gave us a bag of Empire apples from an orchard near where she lives. It is such a good feeling to have lots of apples piling up in the kitchen, just waiting to be eaten or baked into a tasty concoction. I promised more apple recipes for apple season, and below I have posted a recipe for apple cinnamon muffins. I made a dozen yesterday morning and they are already gone. They are so moist and delicious, and they work great as part of a breakfast or for a snack. I know my kids love them, so it is a good way for me to be sure they eat something filling for breakfast before rushing out the door. I originally got the recipe from “The Family Circle Cookbook: New Tastes for New Times” many years ago, and have made only minor changes to it because it has worked so well for me. I hope you enjoy these muffins, and hope we all can savor the beautiful autumn while it is here.