Now it's fall and I spent most of last weekend thinking about things I had planned to do this summer and never did. I wanted to go to some plays and concerts. I had planned to go to my favorite lake for a weekend or two. I wanted to have a bunch of friends over for a small party. This summer definitely will not go down in the annals of time as one to be remembered.
Now I have to get into the fall frame of mind. Part of me wants to run to the department store and stock up on notebooks, pens and highlighters. I haven't gone back to school in several decades, yet the urge remains. I used to love the smell of a new package of pencils; maybe I'll indulge. Do kids still use pencils anymore and do schools still have hand-cranked pencil sharpeners? I'm also fighting the urge to buy new shoes and clothes for the new school year.
Fall is my second favorite season. I love the warm days and cool nights, and in late fall, curling up in flannel sheets on the bed and wearing soft, comfy sweaters. I also love how fall smells, especially when someone in the neighborhood is burning leaves.
I also love the flavors of autumn, apples and pumpkin — especially pumpkin. Pumpkin whoopie pies, cookies, cakes, breads, coffee and even beer.
I love walking through fallen leaves and hearing them crunch under my feet. (I admit being hit in the head by a falling acorn the other day did hurt a bit, though.)
Another tradition for our family has been to pick out a pumpkin for Halloween, pick out and tag a Christmas tree and stop at the apple orchard for some apples the second weekend of October. Sometimes, if I find the right pumpkin stand, I can also pick up some winter squash. Yum!
To get in a full autumn state of mind, why not try one of these recipes.
Apple Cinnamon Loaf
1/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup white sugar
1 2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 apple, peeled and chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and set aside. Beat white sugar and butter together in a bowl using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated; add vanilla extract.
Combine flour and baking powder together in another bowl; stir into creamed butter mixture. Mix milk into batter until smooth. Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Next add half the apples and half the brown sugar cinnamon mixture. Lightly pat apple mixture into batter.
Pour the remaining batter over apple layer; top with remaining apples and add more brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Lightly pat apples into batter; swirl brown sugar mixture through apples using a finger or spoon.
Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.
Loaded Caramel Pumpkin Blondies
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash of cloves
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 cup Pumpkin Spice Hershey's Kisses, roughly chopped (about 28)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee pieces
1 bag (11 oz) caramels, unwrapped
1/3 cup evaporated milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with parchment paper or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
In a bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cloves. In another bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Stir in the egg and vanilla, then add in the pumpkin. Add in the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Add in the chopped Hershey's Kisses, white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips and toffee pieces.
Pour about 2 3 of the mixture into the prepared pan. The mixture will be fairly thick -- use a spatula to spread the mixture to the edges. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
While the blondies are baking, combine the caramels and evaporated milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until the caramels are melted and the mixture is smooth.
After the blondies have baked for 10 minutes, remove and carefully pour the caramel over the top. Take the remaining dough and drop by spoonfuls over the top of the caramel. Return the pan to the oven and let bake an additional 30 minutes, or until cooked through.
Let cool completely before slicing and serving.