Fall is one of my favorite times of the year.
The weather is neither too cold nor too hot, the vegetable garden is yielding its delectable goodies for me to munch, and of course, the colors are nothing less than fantastic! It is at this time of the year when I especially love to get out and get creative.
With nature providing such a rich palette and fresh bounty for me to use, there is always something fun and interesting to do, make, or bake.
In this article, I am going to share some of my favorite fun fall activities with you. Ironically, most of them involve squash in one form or another.
I say ironically because I can remember a time not too many years ago when my mother planted some strange seeds in our garden (squash), and when the plants matured we had no idea what to do with them! Of course, we figured it out and because of this ‘experimentation,’ I now have a lot of great memories and more than a few festive fall ideas.
As no two people enjoy doing exactly the same things, I’ve tried to provide a range of activities that can be suitable for various members of the family.
For example, one is for bakers or those who may simply love to try out a great new recipe, one is for those who like to create fun and interesting table decor for entertaining, and one is for those who enjoy nothing better than sharing some time with their children or grandchildren.
So without further ado, I’d like to start off with a delicious recipe I found quite by accident while scanning the internet.
It is easy (even a non-cook like me was able to pull it off!), fast, and as I said earlier, simply delectable. If you have any squash growing in your gardens, I’m sure this will soon become a favorite.
And for those of you who didn’t plant any squash this year, this may very well give you a reason to do so next season!
Acorn Squash Soup
This recipe is included courtesy of Stephen Ruffin. With cooler weather upon us, one of my famous soups has come into season. Acorn Squash Soup is delicious and warming.
Read Also :
As a way of adding a little extra “oomph”, I’ve added cinnamon to the soup as well as cinnamon croutons to round out the fall flavor.
These croutons consist of cubed bread, butter, cinnamon, salt, and white pepper.
The crouton isn’t sweet, but the scent of cinnamon will add a great dimension to the soup.
Traditional recipes call for chicken stock for this recipe.
Why make squash like chicken? By using clear vegetable broth instead of chicken stock we still have a rich flavour while keeping the chicken out and keeping it vegetarian.
Also, I’ve added the vegetables, onion, parsnips, and celery which is known as a “white mirepoix” to further enhance the vegetable flavor.
If acorn squash is not to your liking, you can always exchange it for any other squash like butternut, calabaza, or pumpkin (approx. 1 1/2 pounds). Be careful with the pumpkin though, as these may require a longer cooking time to reduce the grainy texture.
- 2 small acorn squash, halved, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 parsnips, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 4 cups clear vegetable broth
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup milk
- 2-3 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
In a medium saucepan bring the squash, vegetables, and stock to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
Strain the soup and reserve the liquid. In a food processor, puree the solids with 1 cup of the reserved liquid.
In a medium saucepan, warm the butter over low heat. Stir in the spices and cook for 2 minutes.
Stir in the puree and 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Bring to a boil.
Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the milk, salt, and pepper. If you prefer your soup thinner, add more of the reserved liquid.
For the croutons:
- 4 slices of stale bread, cubed
- 1/2 stick of butter, melted
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of salt and white pepper
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine all four ingredients in a bowl and toss until butter is absorbed and spices completely coat.
Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes tossing often to ensure proper browning and crispiness. Divide soup into 4 bowls and top with warm croutons.
Table Of Plenty
Come autumn we find ourselves spending more time inside of our houses, safely tucked away from the cooler weather and seasonal changes.
Often times this presents a wonderful opportunity to bring a little bit of nature inside with us.
Each season brings us a fantastic fresh new palette, exciting aromas, and a virtually unlimited number of ideas we can use to spice up or calm down our living spaces.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to do this is by painting the walls and adding new accessories.
If you don’t have the time, energy, or budget for painting, though, here are a few faster and easier ways you can really bring that fabulous fall feeling indoors.
Throws, pillows, and bought accessories aside, adding that touch of nature to your home really isn’t as difficult as it may seem.
Next time you are out on a walk, for example, try picking up a few handfuls of the beautiful autumn leaves.
They look fabulous when placed face-out inside a clear glass vase, or when scattered on a dinner table.
They also make fabulous placemats when gathered together and laminated, but I’ll talk more about that later on when we discuss activities you can share with your children.
One of my favorite fall accessories for the house, though, is squash. Any small variety of squash can be hollowed out (much like a pumpkin) and used with tea lights to create a beautiful fall ambiance at any table.
Use a variety of these large and small squash of different types, shapes, and sizes, hollowed out and placed as a grouping inside a fireplace, to add a warm glow (not to mention a great conversation piece) to a room without heating up the whole house in the process.
If you really want to get into the fall feeling, try using a medium-sized squash (again, prepared as above) as a vase for the table centerpiece.
When holding brightly-colored flowers cut fresh from the gardens out back, the effect is simply stunning.
A nice-looking butternut or autumn cup squash will work best as it tends to have a pleasing shape that is not too deformed (as some squash can be) and a consistent color.
A word of caution. When using squash to hold candles, avoid using anything bigger than a small tea light and make sure that the tops of the squash are left off.
Also, make sure that the flames do not touch the edges of the squash or you will end up not only cooking it but burning it as well (and that won’t add to your ambiance one bit!).
Also remember that just like pumpkins, squash will not last forever as display pieces and should be changed or discarded promptly when signs of aging such as softening or wrinkling begin to appear.
This can be anywhere from one day to a week depending on where and how you use them.
Fall Fun With The Kids
I love spending time with kids. They have a great zest for life and are almost always interested in trying something new.
These next activities are suitable for kids of all ages – even infants. Just remember to keep the child’s stage of development in mind and permit them to be directly involved only in those tasks that are safe for that stage.
For example, a two-year-old may not be old enough to use glue, but will certainly be old enough to help you collect leaves and decide where they go on the page. A safe activity is a fun activity!
Fall Leaf Placemats
For this activity, you will need A letter-size piece of paper (construction paper works best), a glue stick or other non-toxic liquid glue, a nearby printshop with a laminating machine (you can find these in your local Yellow Pages), a pair of scissors (optional), the ability to pick up fall leaves, and an enthusiastic partner!
- Go out on a walk and collect about 2 dozen fall leaves. You may need more or less leaves depending on their size and shape. Pick whatever ones you like – a wide variety, only certain colors, or just certain shapes – you chose! Just make sure that the leaves you pick are supple and flexible (not dry or crumbly) so they will work well in this project.
- Bring the leaves home and make sure they are clean and free of dirt or bugs.
- Glue the leaves, one at a time, onto the paper until the entire sheet is covered. Overlap your leaves, create patterns – you be the artist!
- (optional step) If desired, use the scissors to trim the leaves to the edges of the paper for a clean look.
- Take the entire creation to a quick printer and have it laminated. Note that this should be done as soon as possible (the same day if possible), as once the leaves dry out they will crumble in the machine and the project will literally fall apart!
And voila! You now have a decorative seasonal placemat to help keep the table or art area clean! Congratulations!
Ah yes, here I am with the squash again.
But really, this is great fun and is an especially neat activity when working in the kitchen (maybe even while preparing the squash soup…). All you need is a bit of imagination and an interested or perhaps “in-the-way” kid. The rest is…well….just ridiculous fun!
You will need the following: A box of toothpicks, peas, carrots, squash (either whole, just peels, or whatever works!), beans, raisins, etc. (any vegetable or ‘body-part-like” food can be used here), markers (optional), and a great imagination.
Using the toothpicks, attach various foods to the squash to make hair, eyes, arms, etc. If you are cooking with squash, use another vegetable as the body and use the peels as the hair.
See if you can make a squash person who looks like Mom or Dad or even Jr.! Make a silly squash. Make an animal squash. Make whatever you like. Use the markers to help add detail to the features (if you want). When you are done, put on a play or pretend to ‘eat’ the monster. It is a great way to spend an afternoon and the kids will find it hilarious!