Fall is my favorite time of the year. Ok, maybe a very close runner up to Spring, but for different reasons. I love the smell of Fall the most. Like an aged book or worn leather. It feels warm and cosy. I especially enjoy the crisp tendrils of wind encircling about, announcing the encroaching presence of Fall. I love sweaters, soup, hats and scarfs. As much as I have enjoyed summer this year I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of Fall. Fall is being quite timid this year. We had a few chilly days followed by several muggy hot ones.
I have been working tirelessly trying to organize our home in preparation for the winter. The whole house goes toppsy turvy as we work to clean up the yard, trimming trees and bushes, and washing down the windows and the exterior. Our goal to declutter the inside has been a month long project. There are not enough hours in a day anymore with all the schooling and extra curricular activities going on during the school session.
Making snacks is one item of business that cannot be put on hold. With all the ingredients my kids have allergies to we have to make the majority of our meals from scratch. Here are a few of our favorite Fall after school snacks that do not require too much time to make.
Muffin Tin– My favorite way to serve snacks is in a muffin tin. If you want your kids to eat fruits and veggies try putting them in a muffin tin. The Muffin Tin Mom has loads of exciting edible creations to serve in a muffin tin.
Apple Smile– You have probably seen these on Family Fun. I love the ghastly teeth for Halloween. We use peanut butter instead of the butterscotch chips.
Apple People– Little kids love to make apple creations. Place all the materials in a muffin tin or on a baking sheet and let them decorate.
Crunchy Apple Sandwich– There are serval variations to this snack. We use pears or whole grain crackers in place of the apple. Replace the peanut butter and serve with just jam.
Fig Newtons– Berry newtons are a nice alternative for children who dislike figs.
Bear cookies– On Fridays we like to make cookies for movie night. It signifies the week is over. Time to relax. The recipe calls for a boxed brownie mix. You can make your own cookies from a brownie recipe. I have not figure it out just yet. So we use a chocolate brownie cookie recipe instead.
Spider Crackers– Substitute your preferred cracker. We use Triscuits because they are on our approved list. Substitute real spreadable cheddar cheese for the peanut butter. Chocolate chips, frosting or nuts for the eyes.
Fluffer Nutter Bites– We buy our gluten free ricemallow cream from Natural Candy. I have not tried the vegan marshmallows yet. You can also make it following step by step instructions on Ginger Lemon Girl.
August and September is stone fruit season. Our little tree in the backyard had a nice bumper crop of nectarines last year. I scarcely knew what to do with them all. This year, sadly our little tree developed curl leaf in the spring. My plan to can nectarine jam this summer was thwarted.
One day while at Stephen’s parents house, their neighbor brought over a hefty supply of nectarines. I took several pounds home with me to make into jam. Trying to decide which recipe to use was quite a chore. I settled on this recipe with vanilla and a more traditional recipe.
This recipe for vanilla nectarine jam is more like a chutney. It is thick and lighter in color. It lacks the glossy brightness of a classic jam. I found it an amazing compliment to chicken or pork. Just add a little cinnamon and butter or light oil and bake.
Source: Canning for a New Generation
Large canning pot, with insert
Large stock pot
4-5 sterilized 1/2 pint jars with lids and rings
3 pounds ripened nectarines
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 whole vanilla bean
Fill both canning pot and stock pot with water. Bring to a boil.
Wash jars and lids. Set jars in canning pot with simmering water until ready to use. Put the lids in a small sauce pan with water. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Leave the lids in the hot water until ready to use.
Wash the fruit removing any mushy fruit, stems and leaves. Cut a shallow X on the bottom of each nectarine. Place fruit in the boiling water in the stock pot. Let process for a minute (if ripe) or longer (if unripe). Drain water. Pour ice cold water and ice over gently over nectarines. Cover with a lid for 1 to 2 minutes. The skins should easily peel off.
Remove the nectarine from the pot. Rinse pot.
Cut fruit into quarters and dice. Place back in stock pot. Mash fruit slightly leaving some whole bits.
Combine nectarines, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla; bring to a boil over high heat.
Boil for at least 5 minutes to thicken. The jam is ready when a candy themometer reads about 220.
* To Test: place a spoon in the freezer. Dip the spoon into the jam. Set on an ice cube to cool. If the jam begins to conceal it is done.
Turn off heat and remove from stove.
Remove jars and lids from the water and place on a towel.
Skim off any foam from the top of the jam. (Use the sugary foam to sweeten popsicles or smoothies.)
Place the funnel in the mouth of a jar. Use the ladle to pour hot jam into prepared jars; filling up no higher than a 1/4-inch from the top of the jar. Wipe the rim of the jar with a warm wet cloth or paper towel to remove any syrup.
Cap with the lid and screw on the ring. Return the filled jars to the pot of water. Adjust the water level to cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and process (boil) for 5 minutes.
Carefully remove the jars from the water bath. (Let sit overnight on a towel.) The lids should immediately make popping sounds. This indicates that the jars are sealed. Test each lid by pressing down in the middle of the lid. If there is a slight bump that is raised and pops back up when pressed, the jar is not sealed. Store the jar in the refrigerator. Sealed jars can be stored in the pantry.
Cornbread as we know it today is a modern interpretation to the flat cakes of the 17th century. Corn, or Maize, was once a form of wild grass called Teosinte used by the ancient peoples of Central America 6000 to 10,000 years ago. The Teosinte kernels were small and unfused. In fact Biologist were certain that the Teosinte plant was a relative to rice. There was no possible way corn could have mutated from the Teosinte plant. Upon further investigation the science community discovered that the Native Americans selected particular Teosinte plants and developed the first hybrid corn plant through genetic modification. The hybrid was a shorter replica of the modern ear of corn.
Corn was a staple in the Native American diet. It was easy to cultivate as it grew well in the soils of South America. The Native Americans learned to dry and grind corn into corn meal for food. The husks were used to make shoes, baskets and mats. When the British Colonist arrived, in the 17th century, they taught the settlers how to grow and harvest the corn. Corn plants were planted with bean plants to provide support for one another. The spaces in between the mounds of earth were filled with ground covering melons. This method of planting provided an abundant supply of food in a small space. Cornmeal became a substitute for traditionally used grains of wheat and oats.
The type of cornbread depends on the area and family. Most culinary enthusiasts claim there are two factions of cornbread, Southern and Northern. Southern cornbread is made using bacon grease and little to no sugar. It is grainier and crumbly. Northern cornbread is a sweet cake-like bread with added sugar. Still there are more varieties of corn breads. Yeasted cornbread has a bread like texture. Savory cornbread mixes in fruits, vegetables and herbs. Skillet cornbread, or hoe cakes, are fast fried in fat before putting the pan in the oven. Corn Pone is a fried corn dough. Johnny cakes are corn pancakes.
This recipe for cornbread is a Northern cake-like bread. It is sweet and has a significant rise similar to a cake. I like to serve it as a dessert with honey butter.
Be sure to check out the variations after the recipe for some yummy alternatives.
Source: Patricia Bergstrom
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
For Honey Butter: Whip 1/2 cup butter with 1/3 cup honey until smooth.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.
In a small bowl, combine cornmeal and milk; let stand for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix in the cornmeal mixture, eggs and oil until smooth, about 5 minutes on low speed. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean. Serve with a dab of fresh whipped honey butter.
– Substitute the white sugar with half white and half light brown sugar.
– If using a glass pyrex reduce oven temp by 25 degrees.
– For muffins bake 25 minutes
– For more corn flavor use 2 cups cornmeal and 1 1/2 cups flour.
– For a gluten free alternative replace all-purpose flour with amaranth flour using 2 cups cornmeal and 1 1/2 cups amaranth.
– Melt 1 tablespoon bacon grease in a 10 or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the grease is sizzling hot add the cornbread batter to the pan. Smooth the batter. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. This creates a nice crispy outside.
– If you are looking to incorporate more whole grains into your diet try grinding your own cornmeal from popcorn. You read right, yes popcorn. Since popcorn is extremely hard a professional grinder like the WonderMill is recommended. (Grind with the dial turned as far to the right as it can go.)
Artwork: “Evening Stroll”, by Ludmila Korol
My summers as a kid were fantastic. It was not all about getting away from the confines of school; although, I am sure that was a great source of my happiness. I was glad to have the wind in my hair and the grass between my toes. The majority of each summer was spent alternating between my Aunt Sandra’s house and my Aunt Ruth’s; both lived in rural areas of Florida. My Aunt Sandra lived north of Tampa in the small town of Brooksville. Her house was nestled on a spacious piece of land on the outskirts of town. When we were younger my cousin Jean boarded a horse on part of the land. It was a real treat to feed the horse sugar cubes and carrots. The horse was old; still Jean would let us climb on for a short jaunt around the yard.
During the week when my Aunt had to work the house served as a base station for our mini day trips. The days we stayed in were spent lounging around watching movie rentals, playing games, or listening to music. At night after dinner we would take a walk around “the loop”. The exercise helped to ease digestion after stuffing our bellies. It also served as an outlet for our wiggles. During the cooler months with flash lights in hand we half-jogged and half-walked the mile long loop. Crazy as it may seem of the many memories I have while visiting my Aunt’s house, walking the loop is one of my favorites. It was sort of a mini adventure, walking around in the darkness.
My son has been begging to go on an after dark excursion. In the fall when the sunsets earlier in the evening the kids get so excited when they get to take their flashlights with them. Walks are not only to help wear out the kids for bedtime. They can be a free date night activity and a form of stress management.
Even though walking is a form of exercise it is a relaxing way to improve energy levels and boost your mood. Walking in the evening helps to unwind the body relieving the stresses of the day. The soothing rhythmic motion can clear away negative thoughts. It gives the mind time to resolve problems.
It is uncanny how a simple tradition of walking can create a lifetime of fond memories. Not to mention a happy soul and healthy color.
If you are looking to really stretch a dollar enchiladas are the way to go. A little bit of shredded meat can really go a long way. Use left over cooked chicken or a roast for more savings and shorten cooking time. Double or even Triple the batch to freeze for a later date.
The spice rub for the shredded beef is my go to taco seasoning recipe. For tacos I mix the quantity as stated but only use a tablespoon or two. Try ethnic markets or wearhouses to find good deals on spices and herbs.
Shredded Beef (recipe below)
Enchilada sauce (recipe below)
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 small can sliced olives
1/2 cup chopped red onion
Cojitas cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread a 1/4 cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 13X9 baking pan. Dip each side of a tortilla in the enchilada sauce. Fill tortilla with a few tablespoons shredded beef and cheese. Fold up the sides and place seam side down in baking dish. Pour another 1/4 cup of sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with cheese, chopped onions and olives. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until cheese is melted and the sauce in the dish is bubbly.
Source: Old Church Cookbook
2 1/2 cups of beef broth
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup onion minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 to 3 pounds chuck roast
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. In a small bowl mix the cumin, chili powder, oregano, coriander, paprika, salt, and pepper. Rub the spice mixture all over the roast, completely coating the meat.
Place the beef in the hot pan for 2-3 minutes on each side to sear the meat. Transfer to a crock pot or deep casserole with a lid. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the beef broth to the pan stirring and scraping the bottom to loosen all the charred bits. Pour over roast. Add cilantro, garlic, and onion to pot with the meat. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake 2-3 hours. Remove any fat then shred the beef using two forks.
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 1/4 cups water or broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced onion
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and chili powder, reduce heat to medium, and cook until the sauce starts to thicken slightly, stirring constantly to prevent burning the flour.
Gradually stir in tomato sauce, water, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder until smooth. Continue cooking over medium heat about 5-7 minutes, or until thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Science is fascinating. I hate math. But, science is fascinating to me. I can’t get enough. Sites such as Khan Academy, Discovery Education Streaming, and Math Magic offer amazing educational videos…for FREE.
I am a visual learning as is my son. Digital media is an invaluable tool we use at home to learn to cook, understand science and keep up with current events. If you have a child who is struggling to grasp the WHY, show them a video. Conduct your own experiments. Khan Academy, Discovery Education Streaming and Math Magic are the means to do and learn just about anything.
Discovery Education and Khan Academy is set up for use by both teacher and parent.
Clipart Source: Scientopia.org
Khan Academy is a self paced learning tool for math, science, and history. The site offers an extensive video library, practice exercises, and the ability to monitor each student’s progress from any computer anywhere. Kids can track their work on a really cool spider grid and earn badges for the completion of subjects.
Discovery Education is a learning site that provides both students and teachers with access to thousands of videos and webinars. The webinars are great. Sign up to listen to scholars around the world. When you sign up for the free webinar session your child has the opportunity to submit a question to be answered by the speaker during a Q&A after the webinar. Teachers and parents can use the building tool to create lesson plans, quizes, search for thematic ideas and keep track of each students progress. My kids love the Spaced Out! videos in the video streaming area of the site. Here you can search a vast library of videos by topic and/or grade level.
On our last outing of the summer before school started we stopped by our favorite fruit stand. We like to stock up on strawberries, cherries, and a bag of farm stand made chocolates. I had planned on making cherry turnovers; however, with the onset of school I ended up throwing the cherries into the freezer until a later date.
While researching a recipe for Pavlova, a native Australian meringue based dessert, I came across a cherry and goat cheese appetizer. My brain got to wheeling and I came up with a balsamic cherry compote idea. Two weeks later as I am making plain boring salt and pepper seasoned pork chops the thought occurs to me to have a go at the cherry compote. The compote was not intended for our picky eaters. Yet, surprisingly they each gobbled it up asking for more.
Source: Adapted from Just A Pinch
8 thickly cut boneless pork chops
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 1/2 cups frozen cherries
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Season pork chops with salt, pepper and sage.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Coat bottom of skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Place pork chops in skillet. Cook 3 minutes per side, until no longer pink in the middle. Remove from skillet.
(If grilling drizzle chops with oil, season then place on grill 8-10 minutes each side at medium heat.)
Add onions and butter to same skillet. Saute until onions are translucent. Add the sugar; continue cooking over low heat for 5 minutes longer, until caramelized. Add the cherries and vinegar to onions and increase heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes more.
Serve each chop with a spoonful of cherry sauce.