Some popular fall favorites

The plans for last week were changed after the column was written. That second week in the Catskills was cut short as husband Norm had to return to take care of some important business at his office (the joys of having one’s own business.) I offered to take him to the airport and I would drive home myself at the end of the week, but he declined. He did say he would leave me up there and I agreed, but he said he was just kidding. At least we had one great week with mostly great weather and good friends.

A plus of the entire situation was that I got to attend our church’s special retreat day for women. The theme for this year was “It’s a Jungle Out There.” We had good speakers, good workshops, a great luncheon, and an update on the Wilds. Those one day retreats are good to recharge one’s mind, soul and body.

The Wilds, close to Cumberland, Ohio, and just a few miles from our area, is an open range animal zoo where one can go on safari right in our own country. It is connected with the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo, one of the premier zoos in the country (Jack Hanna’s territory). I had not been out to the Wilds in a few years and was amazed to hear of all the new programs and facilities that are right in our own backyard. The land was originally AEP mining land which they gave to do this project. There are even overnight accommodations and a restaurant and tours that take one close to the animals. I am putting a visit on my calendar and will report more on it after I revisit it. You can check it out on the Internet. Sounds like fun for the entire family.

Now that the fall equinox has come and gone, we had better be serious about preparing for the winter months. We will really appreciate the warm days that we can expect during the next very few weeks, but the chilly nights are upon us. Time to put away the shorts and get out the warmer clothes. It seems I just got finished putting them away. Some of us look better with more clothes on than a bathing suit, so we welcome the seasonal change. I like the idea of getting my sweaters out, but I don’t like the idea of the increased cost of fuel to keep warm. We always can find something to complain about, can’t we? I get excited thinking about the warm soups and stews and the bread baking in the oven, then I check the LP gas gauge and all that expected joy gets a slap in the face. I need to get into my “thanksgiving mood” and be thankful for that LP and the house it warms, along with the sweaters in my closet and the food in the freezer and cellar. And don’t tell Norm, but I am even going to be thankful for a spouse who provides these things, even if he does make me come home early from vacation.

Many gardeners have put their gardens “to sleep for the winter”, but mine is not ready yet. The plan is to get it done in the next two weeks. Tomato stakes to pull, entire garden to be mowed down, all existing weeds pulled out and burned, and the soil conditioned for the next season. If the days are warm and sunny, it will be enjoyable exercise – if it is chilly and windy or wet, it will be work. If I keep smiling, maybe Mother Nature will give me a break and I can finish the garden season on a happy note. I haven’t (yet) gotten everything put up that I planned to do, but I still have a couple of weeks to visit the Farmers Market and the Chesterhill auction to get more veggies. If I don’t get it done, I know where the grocery stores are and I will just plan to do more next year. I don’t cook as much as I used to do, anyway. My thinking is that I want to save as much energy as possible to start the fun cooking for the holidays by the middle of October.

This coming week will be preparing for the Cookbook judging and helping judge the legion chili contest in Beverly. Next week I have tried to keep empty to enjoy the preparations for Amanda’s wedding (my oldest granddaughter). How the time flies — she was just a baby such a short time ago. I am so proud of her – she is a beautiful person inside as well as being a beauty.

We are very blessed to have such wonderful grandchildren to love and spoil. I guess all grandmothers feel that way, but I just know mine are the top of the heap…..

If you save every year’s cookbook from the contest as I do, you have more great soup recipes than you can manage to cook. Soup can really be made of any and all of your favorite foodstuffs and is so easy in a crockpot. It makes the house smell wonderful and is ready when you get home if you have to be away during the day. Almost anything can be fixed in a crockpot, but a soup is a great food to start off the cooler weather and give you a reason to move the crockpot from the pantry to the counter. Get some fresh local cider and make Mulled Cider in your crockpot – that makes a good aroma in the house, too. It seems un-American to not like Chili, and everyone was a different twist to it, so that is a good soup to start this food season. Experiment with it and then enter one of the many Chili Cookouts around our area. Try to remember what all you put into it as one of the judges may ask you what makes yours so good.

Enjoy this colorful season of the year and enjoy cooking something special, just for you.

Make up a mix or two to make it easy and fast to bake some goodies. Try a new recipe or two, and be certain to get that new Cookbook when it appears in the paper the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Cooking helps to keep the kitchen warm, so you will save on heating fuel, too. Stay warm, and God Bless.

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STUFFING MIX

Thirty slices day-old bread, -inch cubed

Two-thirds cup vegetable oil

Three tablespoons instant minced onion

Three tablespoons dried parsley flakes

Two teaspoons garlic salt

Three-fourths teaspoon ground sage

One-half teaspoon seasoned pepper

Cube the bread. Firm-textured bread works best. Put bread cubes on two cookie sheets and toast in preheated 300-degree oven for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Stir in oil, onion, parsley flakes, garlic salt, sage and seasoned peppered. Lightly toss to coat cubes with the seasonings. Store in a large, airtight container and label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dry place and use within 3 to 4 months. This makes a large batch to use as stuffing and/or crotons for salad. Use like store-bought stuffing mix to stuff chicken, turkey, roast, pork chops, in casseroles or as a side dish.

These cubes can be seasoned with powdered bouillon for beef, chicken, or vegetable flavors.

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SCALLOP CASSEROLE

One cup chopped onion

One tablespoon butter or margarine

One-half cup water or broth

One-half teaspoon salt

One pound frozen scallops, thawed

Four eggs, slightly beaten

Two cups Stuffing Mix (recipe above)

Four slices cheese, Gouda or Colby or your favorite

Saute onion in butter until tender but not brown. Add water and salt. Bring to a boil and add scallops. Cook 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Butter (lightly) a 2-quart casserole or baking dish. Combine eggs and stuffing mix in casserole dish. Stir in scallop mixture and bake in preheated oven to 350 oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Top with cheese slices and return to oven just until cheese is melted.

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SWEET QUICK-BREAD MIX

Twelve cups all-purpose flour

Two tablespoons baking soda

Two tablespoons baking powder

One tablespoon salt

Three cups granulated sugar

Three cups firmly packed brown sugar

Using a whisk, combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Spoon mixture into a 6 quart container that has a tight fitting lid. Label and store in a cool, dry place and use within 6 months.

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PUMPKIN BREAD

Three and 1/2 cups Sweet Quick-Bread Mix

One-third cup vegetable oil

One cup pumpkin puree

Two eggs, beaten

One-half cup milk or orange juice

One-half teaspoon each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves

One-half cup chopped nuts

One-half cup raisins

Combine above mix, vegetable oil, pumpkin, eggs, milk or juice, and spices until blended. Stir in nuts and raisins. Pour into two 7-by-3 or one 9-by-5 loaf pans and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes or until they test done with the toothpick test. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack, right-side up. Good to serve with Cinnamon Whipped Cream.

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CINNAMON WHIPPED CREAM

One cup whipping cream

One teaspoon ground cinnamon

Three tablespoons powdered sugar

Whip cream (in a chilled bowl) until soft peaks form. Gently stir in cinnamon and powdered sugar and refrigerate until serving time. CAUTION; Don’t whip too long or you will have butter.

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Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for the Parkersburg News & Sentinel.