Fall Favorites for the Whole Family

Now that summer is officially over, it’s time to celebrate fall and all of its wonderful seasonal foods. Days are cooling down and nights require an extra blanket on the bed. Time for hearty winter squash, fresh orchard fruits like warm apple treats and crisp delicious pears.
Today I stocked up on a variety of winter squash, from the deep orange red kuri to the smooth creamy butternut, from the yellow and green striped delicata to the required sugar pie pumpkin. Each has a different use in our house and perfect for it’s own individual recipe.
The red kuri is wonderful cut in half, baked until tender and scooped out for use in pancakes, cookies or other sweet, savory treats. The butternut is easy to peel and chop for use in soup, risotto, pan fried, or just roasted in the oven with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
The delicata has a thin skin and does not require peeling, making it a wonderful dish cut in half moons, tossed with oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and baked until tender.
Sugar pie is a standard in most American households, as it makes a perfect pumpkin pie. But lesser known are its uses in pumpkin flan, cut in half, filled and baked with a savory custard, or cut into wedges and roasted with herbs.
Another fall favorite in our house are Northwest apples and pears. We love them fresh, eaten straight-away in lunches or cut up as an afternoon snack. Or if we have a little extra time on our hands, we love to cut up apples, add a little water, boil, and blend to make our own homemade applesauce.
Today we made a batch with the kids at the Walla Walla YMCA after-school program and they couldn’t seem to get enough! So easy, so healthy, so delicious. And nothing more than fresh apples and a little water.
For a special treat, we like to slice apples, saute them with a little butter, honey and cinnamon, pour into a pie pan and cover with either pie crust or a streusel, and bake. Your house will smell amazing and no one can resist homemade apple pie.
If you want to go for something a little different, try baked apples or pears. Start with an under-ripe fruit, hollow the center, and fill with a combination of cinnamon, sugar, butter, your favorite nut and raisins, if you like. Add about a half cup of water or apple juice for every apple/pear and bake until tender. Mmmm!
If you have kids at home, don’t forget to include them in cooking. They love to help in the kitchen with any task you feel comfortable offering them. With the little ones, age 2-4, pull up a chair and let them stand high and stir the bowl or wash the produce. Ages 5-6 can help with rolling dough, peeling fruit or measuring out ingredients. For kids 7 and older, they can work along with a parent or caregiver and help out with much of the tasks in the kitchen.
Involve kids of any age with deciding on recipes by browsing cookbooks or searching the Internet. With any search, it helps to have an idea of what you are looking for and main ingredient in mind, so not to overwhelm you or the child.
Fall is a beautiful time of year, with the vivid colored leaves changing and falling to the ground. I look forward to pulling out the sweaters and long pants and bundling up for the cooler weather. The foods of the season match the mood with their warming hearty nature. The highlight of my day is sitting down to dinner with my family over a warm, nourishing soup or stew, crusty bread, and maybe even a sweet orchard fruit treat.

Baked Apples
4 large baking apples, such as Gala, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup chopped raisins
1 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 375°F. Wash apples. Remove cores to 1/2 inch of the bottom of the apples. It helps if you have an apple corer, but if not, you can use a paring knife to cut out first the stem area, and then the core. Use a spoon to dig out the seeds. Make the holes about 3/4-inch to an inch wide.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, raisins and nuts. Place apples in an 8-by-8-inch baking pan. Stuff each apple with this mixture. Top with a dot of butter.
Add boiling water to the baking pan. Bake 30-40 minutes, until tender, but not mushy. Remove from the oven and baste the apples several times with the pan juices.

Pumpkin Flan
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups of half-and-half
6 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
If using cooked pumpkin instead of canned, puree with a hand blender and put through a strainer, discarding any fibers that remain. Set aside.
Place 1/4 cup sugar in a 9-inch round cake pan and place over low to medium heat on your stovetop.
Using a hot pad, tilt the pan as the sugar melts, coating the bottom of the pan. When the sugar has melted and is a deep, golden brown, remove the pan from the heat and tip it so the melted sugar coats both the bottom and the sides of the pan. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Add the sugar, salt and vanilla. Pour the half-and-half slowly into the egg mixture, whisking constantly but gently until fully combined. Vigorous whisking will create bubbles, the ruin of many a flan. Stir in the pumpkin puree.
Place the cake pan in another pan and add the custard, filling it to just under the rim. Pour very hot water into the larger pan until it comes up halfway on the cake pan.
Bake the flan for about 40 minutes or until the center jiggles when given a gentle shake and a knife inserted into the middle of the flans comes out clean.
Remove flan from the oven and allow to come to room temperature. I usually refrigerate them overnight before serving.
To serve, run a knife around the edge of the flan, place a plate over the top and, holding both the plate and the cake pan firmly in your hands, flip them both together allowing the flan to drop onto the plate. You may have to give the cake pan a shake if it doesn’t immediately release the flan. The caramelized sugar will run over the flan and down the sides, making a sumptuous presentation.

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Categories: food with kids, menus, nutrition

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