by Ana L. Palles
In these modern and fast-paced times, where frozen meals and fast food are a way of life for most Americans, more and more people seemingly long for the old ways. Many people are getting back to the basics, to the simpler times when the food was good and wholesome, and made with the finest of ingredients. A time when there were no instant mixes, no preservatives to watch out for, no processed artificial imitation anything!
On a lazy, rainy afternoon you may find yourself longing to go back in time. To crank up the oven, light up the hearth, and create a simple masterpiece of your very own. To smell the aroma of good, honest home baking, and have it permeate every room with its irresistibly cozy invitation. To seduce your spouse out of his nap on the couch with the unmistakable smell of hot Apple Pie teasing him out of his sleep.
Cooking doesn't have to be scary or all that complicated. The difference in quality, nutrition, and enjoyment of something made fresh and with love is alchemy. If you have any doubts about the power of cooking, rent "Like Water for Chocolate" and "Chocolat."
In her book, "Eating With the Seasons", Paula Bartimeus discusses the link between good food and good health. She writes
According to the ancient Chinese, the secret of good health was to live in harmony with nature … As a nutritionist, I believe that the most fundamental link we have with nature is through our diet. By eating the food that grows around us from season to season, we can maintain our connection with the earth and receive the best nourishment to support and balance us …
Living in harmony with nature means that we use the fruits and vegetables that are in season at the time. Considering that our bodies naturally tend to crave those things which we associate with the seasons, this is not a difficult feat to accomplish.
We all know that Autumn is a time of harvest. Corn, pumpkins, apples and a host of squash varieties appear at farmer's markets and produce shelves. We crave the richness of these fruits and vegetables. Somewhere deep in our instinctual knowledge we remember to prepare for winter. We put up jars of jams and jellies; we freeze some of the tomato sauce from the bountiful backyard garden.
A cup of hot tea and some homemade scones can taste like heaven on earth on an overcast weekend afternoon. The recipe below for Saturday Afternoon Scones is a favorite. It is easy, adaptable and the taste has even diehard dieters coming back for another "small bit."
Saturday Afternoon Scones
2 cups unbleached flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup softened butter
1 ½ cups golden raisins or currants
½ - ¾ cups milk
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: ½ cup flax seeds
Place flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir the dry ingredients. Add softened butter. Using a pastry cutter, or a fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in the grated orange rind and raisins or currants. If adding flax seeds, do so at this time. Add vanilla to the milk. Begin to stir the milk into the flour mixture until a soft dough forms. Mix until all the flour is incorporated.
Lightly grease a baking sheet and pat dough down in a circle. Slice the top of the dough into wedges using a sharp knife. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes.
The apple pie recipe below is unforgettable. Adding that touch of Irish Cream to the apples creates such a decadent richness of flavor that this pie never lasts long. It will be your secret ingredient!
Sit yourself down with a bowl full of fruit and a good peeler and enjoy preparing these apples for your pie. It will be hard to resist stealing a few fresh, crisp slices before they ever make it into the pie.
Apple Crumb Pie
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and let sit while you prepare the Crumb topping.
4 cups sliced pared fresh apples
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream Liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of salt
1 unbaked pie crust shell
Put the cold butter and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Begin to stir and add the flour ¼ cup at a time. Mix only until the flour is incorporated and the topping looks like gravel.
1/2 cup cold butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Scoop the apple mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Cover the top of the pie with the crumb topping. Be generous. If you have leftover crumb topping, this can be frozen for next time.
Place the pan on a baking sheet to catch any overflow. Bake the pie in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375. The pie will bake for about another 35 minutes. You will know it is done when you can begin to see bubbling juices coming thru the topping. Serve and enjoy!
The air is cool, the clouds are rolling in and you smell the water in the air. It isn't long before you hear the first fat drops of rain falling on the roof. A perfect setting for some afternoon baking. Enjoy these Autumn recipes!
Enjoy the magic!
Bartimeus, Paula. Eating With the Seasons. Boston: Element Books Limited, 1998. 4.