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Think autumn and you can almost smell the cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove wafting through the kitchen. It is harvest through most of the country and we are the benefactors. This is my favorite season for cooking in my own kitchen.
In the fall I stock my pantry with grains, oats, maple syrup, and hard squash. Butternut squash, acorn squash, calabasa, and spaghetti squash are plentiful and make easy dinners. Turnips, beets, and Brussels sprouts all make their annual appearance, waiting to be roasted with some olive oil and lemon.
Almost any squash can be prepared by cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds before placing cavity-side up on a baking pan. Drizzle with a glaze made of a cup of orange or apple juice, 1/4 cup (36 g) of brown sugar or maple syrup, and a drizzle of soy sauce. Cut a small sliver off the bottom of the squash so it sits flat on the baking pan and bake in a 375°F (190°C) oven for 40 minutes until tender.
For a faster option, you may first microwave the squash in a ceramic dish with an inch of water for 15 minutes until cooked three-quarters of the way through, then transfer to a baking dish, brush with glaze, and finish it off by browning it in the oven for roughly 10 minutes. Try making this glaze up in double batches; it will keep in your refrigerator for a month.
Curiously, cranberries—which when fresh are loaded with antioxidants and flavor—are one of the simplest ingredients to prepare, yet are most likely to be purchased as cranberry sauce. For a relish that will keep for weeks, just pour a bag of fresh cranberries in a pan and cover with water and cranberry, orange, or apple juice (experiment until you find a water-to-juice ratio that's to your liking). Add a cinnamon stick and some brown sugar to taste and simmer for 20 minutes until a thick sauce is formed.
Enjoy this wonderful cranberry relish this autumn on poultry, pork, or sandwiches. I can still taste the delicious cranberry and cheddar quesadilla I made one night when I needed to make a quick dinner. It’s an easy addition to the tortillas and cheese of your choice. Heat the tortillas and cheese in a frying pan with a touch of oil, or even pop into a toaster oven.
Desserts can easily be made by baking apples and pears with fruit juice, cranberries, and ginger ale, with almost no effort beyond peeling half way up the sides of the fruit, removing the core, and then placing semipeeled and cored fruit in a baking dish. Fill the cavities with granola or rolled oats, dried fruits, and maple syrup, and bake uncovered for about 35 minutes in a 350°F (177°C) oven until tender and the filling is cooked through.