One of the things that amazed me about California when I first moved out here was the varied terrain. It really is true that you can find desert, ocean, and snowcapped mountain landscapes all within driving distance. Last week James and I took a drive up to Oak Glen, California to adventure around the lovely farms hugging the San Bernardino Mountains.
We went apple picking at Willowbrook Apple Farm, which was filled with Stayman Winesap apple trees that were over one hundred years old.
A lot of the smaller apples were within a hand’s reach…
…but a lot of the big red ones were very high on the trees.
After picking apples, we headed to the farm’s cider press station where you can fill a basket with apples prepped for cider. In order to get a good balance of sweet and tart, they had both Winesap and Fuji apples.
We were able to use the press ourselves, and fill up a container with deliciously fresh cider.
The day made for a perfect autumn outing, and a new tradition that we plan to repeat every year.
I’m training for a half marathon and prepping to go wedding dress shopping in two months (eeek!), so indulging in holiday treats isn’t that much of an option for me right now. If you’re looking for a healthy fall treat (that tastes like a cheat), I would highly recommend these muffins. They came out moist, not too sweet, and rich with pumpkin and autumn spice flavors. It’s a great midday treat that we enjoyed with some fresh coffee.
1 cup of pumpkin purée
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup of honey (I’ve read using just honey works well too – just double the amount to replace the brown sugar)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
1 tablespoon coarse raw sugar for topping
Pre-heat oven to 375F.
In a bowl, mix the flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar. Sift the dry ingredients together and add the pumpkin puree, oil, eggs, honey, and chocolate chips. Thoroughly mix all ingredients together with a spoon.
Line a muffin pan with paper liners and scoop the mixture evenly into the pan. If desired, sprinkle a little bit of coarse raw sugar over each muffin – it will give the top a sweet crunch and it looks very pretty.
Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Then try to let them cool before eating…which can be the most difficult part.
Autumn is hands down my favorite season. Being from New England, I grew accustomed to the crisp air, colorful leaves, and that ‘back to school’ feeling. Now I live in sunny Los Angeles, but I still love the change of season to slightly chilly mornings and brisk air. To embrace the season even further we like to have a visual transition in our home as well.
I replaced our summer table set that consisted of cool blues and cream colored plates and napkins with table pieces in oranges, browns, and yellows.
For the living room, I purchased some flowers that lean toward autumn colors instead of going for the bright pinks and reds that I love for summer. Clearly, I have a thing for owls, and I find them just right for this season. I can’t wait for fall recipes, hot beverages, sweaters, and apple picking!
I am not actually a vegetarian, but I often tend to lean in that direction. I enjoy meat, and am not willing to completely give it up, but I find myself seeking out vegetable based dishes more often than not. I also love finding ways to swap out ingredients in dishes in favor of making it healthier. There are many vegetables that work so well to replace starches such as eggplant lasagna or spaghetti squash, so taking a cue from the latter I decided to try making ‘noodles’ out of zucchini. I am so excited with the results. I flavored it as I would a light pasta salad, and served it warm. It was a perfect light and comforting meal for these early autumn nights.
INGREDIENTS (makes 4 large servings):
5 zucchini (I used green, you can of course use yellow squash as well)
1 1/2 cups cooked chick peas
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 corn husk
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 orange bell pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Goat cheese for sprinkling on top
Cut your zucchini long ways in half and carefully make thin long slices from each half. I laid the zucchini flat on my cutting board and make horizontal slices to get thin flat slices. If you have a mandolin this process should be much easier, I had to use a knife. After you’ve cut all your thin slices slice the zucchini into thin long strips. You can make them as thick or thin as you would like, the idea is just to emulate spaghetti. Keep in mind that zucchini shrinks when it cooks. On a griddle (or in your oven on a piece of aluminum foil) roast the corn until it is evenly cooked. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and sprinkle a little bit of olive oil and salt just enough to lightly coat them. Add tomatoes to griddle and let them roast for a couple of minutes. I used tongs to keep them moving so they would grill from both sides.
Once the corn is cooked, remove from heat and let it cool down. When it is safe to handle, use a knife to remove the corn kernels from the husk. Add the zucchini to a pot and cook until they are slightly tender but not soggy. Mix in the other vegetables and add remaining olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with little dollops of goat cheese. You can have this hot or cold, it’s yummy either way.