This month we Quills are sharing what we think are some of the best things about the fall Season. Come, join us!
Please be sure to follow the links of my fellow Quills.
Autumn is a lovely time of year. In my neck of the woods, it is also that time when we prepare ourselves mentally and physically for the bitter cold months to come. As the temps begin to fall and the nights grow colder, we add more layers of clothing, turn the thermostat up—and attend to some of our favorite things about this time of year. Here are five of mine ...
1. It’s time to start putting fires into the fireplace again. What a cozy environment! Of course, this means having the chimneysweep out, as well. My cleaning is scheduled and I can hardly wait to start my first fire of the season.
2. The changing colors. What is not to love about looking out and seeing God’s wondrous creation turn from fresh greens that have grown weary over the months, to golden yellows, fire-like oranges, and intense reds. The best part is looking up through the branches for a glimpse of the unique blue of an autumn sky. I always enjoy watching my island home change from week to week.
3. October it a difficult month when it comes to “bills coming due.” In addition to the standard costs, there is the second half of the property tax to pay and my home insurance and one of my life insurance payments come due. This year I’m adding an unintended payment for my new double ovens. I would have hoped for more years out of the unit I purchased and installed when I revamped my kitchen a decade or so ago, but I’m told I actually got an unexpectedly long life out of them. So, while the cost is something I’m not thrilled to have to take on (in October of all months), I guess that’s life. The best part of the new unit though? French doors on the upper oven—which I’m sure I’ll appreciate more and more as the years go on. Oh, will that be nice!
I’m excited about getting the new unit delivered and installed (particularly since I am currently without an oven at all), so that I can start filling the house with glorious fall scents once again, like those of baking bread among other things—which is another great thing about autumn. (Pictured above: my new ovens. Pictured here: one of my absolute favorite breads, which is my Pepper, Chili, Cumin, and Cheese, Bread. I've added the recipe for you at the end. Do enjoy.)
4. Thanksgiving. This might well be my favorite holiday of the year. Having a heart filled with gratitude acts as good insurance against all sorts of troubles, and this holiday is a good reminder to be grateful at all times.
5. I already told the kids to start their holiday lists. Hopefully, they don’t share the same items with others who ask for lists from them, because I have a terrible habit of going down their lists and (barring something extraordinary!) ordering whatever they have there. (Somehow, they still seem surprised at the number of packages under the tree and at what's inside each when they start opening.) In truth, I don’t get much joy from going out in the cold to shop, so I do nearly all my shopping online these days. As the packages begin to arrive, I get to enjoy an extended holiday season. I even started a wish list of my own this year, to avoid that awkward moment when the kids ask me what’s on my list and I can’t think of a thing—because I am in need of nothing but to see them and to spend time with them. And that brings me to what is sure to be the best part of this holiday season—my first grandchild’s first Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am truly blessed.
My Pepper, Chili, Cumin, and Cheese Bread
5 to 6 cups flour (roughly)
2 packages dry yeast (4-1/2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons sugar (or less, if you prefer)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili seasoning - I used Trader Joe’s which is a mix of chili pepper, cumin, garlic and oregano. (For the pepper, cumin and chili, if you like, add more, but I probably would not go beyond an extra teaspoon of each, as I wouldn’t want it to get overpowering.)
2 cups warm water (120° to 130° degrees)
2 tablespoons avocado oil (or shortening, if you like)
2 to 2-1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used a finely shredded blend of Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Asadero and Queso Blanco. A more coarsely grated cheese would leave small fissures of yellow—which would be great if that’s your preference.)
Makes 2 loafs about 8”X4”.
Blend 2 cups flour, the yeast, sugar, salt, pepper, cumin and chili. (The cheese doesn’t come until after the first rise.) Add the hot water and oil. With a mixer, blend all, then beat on med-high for 3 minutes. (This is a rather unusual step for bread, but it works so I won’t mess with it. I suspect it may account, at least in part, for the quick rise.)
Stir in the next 2 to 2/12 cups flour, 1/2 cup or so at a time. (I only need just 5 cups total, including for kneading, but humidity and temp can play into that.)
When you can work with the dough, turn it out on a floured work surface and knead for 8-10 minutes. (This is a sturdy, dense dough.)
Place the kneaded ball in a lightly greased or buttered bowl. Let rise until double—about 45 minutes. It’s ready when, if you poke your finger in it, the dent remains.
Punch the dough down, move to a very lightly floured work surface. Work in the cheese. You will actually have to knead the cheese in, a half cup or so at a time, as the dough doesn’t want to accept it. When ready, split the dough in half and shape two loaves. Put in greased bread pans and cover with wax paper until risen sufficiently (to the top of the pan or so) —about an hour.
You don't want your oven too hot because of the cheese, which on the outside of the bread, can get quite brown. I go 350° for 45-ish minutes.
The bread crust is a deep brown, but be prepared to cover with foil while baking if it starts to get too dark (after about the first 30 minutes).
The loaves are done when you can turn them out and hear a hard hollow sound when you tap on the bottom. Because the crust is quite firm, I butter the top so it is easier to slice, later.
Cool before slicing. (I know it’s hard, but as with any bread, if you don’t want to end up with goo inside for the next few slices, it is highly advised.)
This bread is GREAT toasted for sandwiches, makes terrific grilled cheese-type sandwiches, too, and is fabulous for avocado bread. (I toast, butter, lightly garlic salt it, and then top with sliced avocado.)
Let me know if you try it and if so, what you think!
I wonder what PS. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse, will list as his five favorite things about fall. His list is sure to come complete with his signature humor.
Let's see then.
There are so many things I love about fall. And it’s more than fall, really. It all starts with Indian Summer, my favorite time of the year.
Where I grew up in the high desert mountains of the West late August kicked off Indian Summer. The monsoon season would finally settle the dust that had hung in the air since March. Cool, crisp mornings refreshed the land and the soul. The days would be warm and, well, perfect, extending through the first part of October.
And finally, Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies.
Check back for more from Robin! In the meantime, you'll find her site here.