Fall deliciously places the baking, cooking, decorating, and entertaining emphasis on apples and pumpkins, appropriately planting a seed of inspiration.
Palettes o’plenty are in place under the pines awaiting a pumpkin haul for this year’s local pumpkin patch picking.
I’ve been in fall baking, cooking, decorating, and entertaining with apples and pumpkins development for a week or so. Introducing hints of fall finery and a new or improved recipe to the troops here at Places In The Home is part of the fall of it all.
Baking & Cooking
Those of you who get into fall baking and cooking and taste testing know apples and pumpkins are the stars of the show.
Sprinkles and dustings of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg deliciously dress cored, chopped, sliced, minced, cubed, grated, or diced apples.
In the Fall Kitchen with Apples and Pumpkins
One small apple measures 2 ¼ inches across.
One medium apple measures 2 ½ to 2 ¾ inches across.
One large apple measures 3¾ inches across.
How many apples are there in a cup?
1 medium apple equals:
About 1 1/3 cups sliced or cubed.
About 1¼ cups diced.
About 1 cup finely sliced, minced, or grated.
How many apples are in a pound?
4 medium apples equals approximately 1 pound.
2 large apples equals approximately 1 pound.
1 pound of apples equals approximately 3 cups sliced or cubed apples.
Coring and Peeling an Apple
Carefully cut the skin off the apple using a paring knife.
Cut the apple into four wedges.
Remove the core out of each wedge.
Cut, slice, or chop the apples according to recipe preference.
One 2½ pound pie pumpkin equals 1¾ cups pumpkin puree (which is equivalent to one 15 ounce can pumpkin).
A 3½ pound pie pumpkin equals 2½ cups pumpkin puree.
Did you know that the pumpkin is really a squash?
Pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin sangria, and the big daddy of fall desserts, pumpkin pie, is in the fall tastes and treats spotlight.
How to Prep and Puree A Pumpkin
You can substitute homemade pumpkin puree for any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin. With that fall baking fact in mind, let’s check out how to make homemade pumpkin puree.
Here we will be using a sugar pumpkin (also called a pie pumpkin), the best for cooking and baking.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Carefully cut off the top of the pumpkin. Using a large metal spoon, scoop out the seeds and the “strings”.
Cut the pumpkin in half.
Line a baking sheet with foil and place the pumpkin halves cut side down onto the baking sheet. Generously rub the outer skin of each pumpkin half with olive oil.
Place in a 375°F preheated oven and roast for 45-60 minutes or until a fork easily inserts into each pumpkin half. Allow to cool for twenty minutes or until cool enough to handle without risk of burning your hands.
Using a large metal spoon, scoop out the softened pulp. Place the pulp into in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
Pumpkin Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons
2 Sugar Pie pumpkins (each about 2 lb.)
Substitution: 4 cups of canned pumpkin puree
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing and drizzling
6 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 shallots, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs. minced fresh thyme, plus whole sprigs for garnish
¼ cup Marsala
5 cups vegetable broth, plus more as needed
3 Tbs. maple syrup
1 cup half-and-half
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the grilled cheese croutons:
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 slices artisan white bread or sourdough bread
1 ½ cups grated Gruyére cheese
To make the soup, using a sharp knife, carefully cut off the top of each pumpkin to remove the stem, then halve each pumpkin vertically. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and any stringy fibers and discard. Brush the flesh of the pumpkins generously with olive oil, then place them, cut sides down, on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the pumpkins are very tender when pricked with a fork, about 50 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes, then scoop the flesh from the peel into a bowl; discard the peels. You should have about 4 cups of pumpkin. Set aside.
In a Dutch oven or large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt 3 Tbs. of the butter. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the Marsala and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the pumpkin and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the broth and maple syrup. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Stir in the half-and-half.
Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. (Alternatively, working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour back into the pot.) Add the remaining 3 Tbs. butter to the soup and stir until the butter is melted. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in more vegetable broth, if desired, to achieve the desired consistency. Keep warm over low heat while you make the grilled cheese croutons.
To make grilled cheese croutons, spread the butter on one side of each slice of bread, dividing it evenly.
Heat a large fry pan over medium heat. Place 3 slices of the bread, butter side down, in the fry pan. Divide the cheese evenly between the 3 slices in the pan, then top with remaining bread slices, butter side up. Cook until the bottom of bread is golden brown, then carefully flip each sandwich and continue to cook until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes, turning down the heat if the bread is browning too quickly.
Transfer the grilled cheese sandwiches to a cutting board and let cool slightly while you ladle the warm soup into 6 individual bowls. Drizzle each serving of soup lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a few grinds of pepper. Cut the grilled cheese sandwiches into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes and divide them evenly among the bowls of soup.
Garnish with thyme sprigs and serve immediately. Serves 6.
Never underestimate the visual impact of the simple yet elegant seasonal decor accessory.
Gorgeous is in the eye and the glue gun of the beholder.
Faux apples, a natural grapevine wreath, and several yards of burlap ribbon is all you need to DIY your way to a lovely fall wreath.
In the case of my fall wreath DIY project, I chose to go with a Styrofoam wreath. Using burlap ribbon from the dollar store, I wrapped the entire wreath to conceal the Styrofoam.
Using a hot glue gun, I glued various sizes of red faux apples and green mini pears from Michaels around the top and sides of the wreath.
Spanish moss serves as an excellent filler and gap cover, and as in the image of the grapevine apple wreaths, burlap ribbon (5½” wide) with a finished edge completes the look.
There’s a bevy of pumpkin decorating ideas out there. This DIY pumpkin project from Proven Winners utilizes late summer/early fall blooms and foliage to create a Mod Podge magnificent botanical pumpkin.
Simple makes a simply beautiful statement.
Part of the fun of entertaining is coming up with festive and creative ways to put a seasonal spin on the presentation of drinks, snacks, entrées, sides, and desserts.
“I try to greet my friends with a drink in my hand, a warm smile on my face, and great music in the background, because that’s what gets a dinner party off to a fun start.”
Our Canadian snowbird son and daughter-in-law have mastered the art of the charcuterie board.
I wish they would master the art of prepare it, shoot it, send a photo of it this way, but I digress.
Charcuterie | shahr-ku-tuh-ree refers to the art of preparing and assembling cured meats.
Charcuterie boards feature an array of dried meats, cheeses, fruits and nuts, crackers, breads, jams, preserves, marmalades, olives, pickles, and the like.
A recent conversation on the topic included a rundown of their charcuterie board essentials. Great entertaining minds think alike, and we all agreed a gathering of friends or/and family on a crisp fall late afternoon into evening is an excellent entertaining opportunity to bring on a fall cheese or charcuterie board.
There’s no wrong way to do a cheese or charcuterie board. I put together a small with fall in mind cheese board this afternoon. It’s meatless, so it doesn’t officially qualify to be referred to as a charcuterie board.
Crisp apples, fresh dates, red grapes, assorted nuts, blue cheese, white cheddar, cream cheese with fig preserves, and dried cranberries fill the board.
A quick walk around the yard later I had fresh rosemary sprigs and mint leaves to use as garnish and filler.
The aroma is spectacular.
What’s in the little vintage creamer?
Honey drizzled over a slice of cheese topped with an apple is the taste of fall.
I love these carved wooden spoons for spooning up preserves and marmalades.
Ciders, seasonal wines, and apple flavored sangria are all excellent beverage choices to serve at a fall gathering. Cinnamon water is a recent fall perfect beverage discovery that’s as tasty as it is easy to make.
This stove top method brings out the flavor and color of the cinnamon. Begin by adding 2 cinnamon sticks to 2 cups of water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Allow concentrate to cool before adding to cold water and ice.
Baking, cooking, decorating, and entertaining with apples and pumpkins on a crisp fall day or evening is part of the tradition and pure fall fun.