I know the first official day of autumn isn’t until Sept. 22, but the point is that it is now September and as of tomorrow, all of the NYC public school students will be in class. As of yesterday, Starbucks brought back its seasonal pumpkin spice latte. Grocery and liquor stores set up their displays of pumpkin ales. Labor Day weekend was the last hurrah of summer for a lot of people, and now it is time to transition into fall.
I don’t know if it’s because of having an October birthday or the fact that my family always had way more Halloween decorations on our house than Christmas ones growing up, but I think fall is simply the best. And I cannot express to you just how excited I am to experience my first real fall in a decade, since moving from four-season Maryland to forever-summer Florida (and Texas). I can’t wait to see the leaves change colors–even if I have to leave this little isle for a bit to truly experience it. I want to wear scarves and sweaters again.
I love the line from the film You’ve Got Mail — a forever-favorite of mine — “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” I’ve never even experienced New York in the fall, but I’ve always loved that image and imagined scent of a pencil bouquet!
I think because for so much of our lives, we abide by the academic calendar, I’ve come to believe that fall–not New Year’s–is a time to begin fresh again. To buy new shoes and folders and learn new things. I’ve already gotten in the spirit of learning what with all of the learning how to do my new job and personal endeavors, like attempting to roast a chicken for dinner for the first time and watching educational documentaries like Waiting for “Superman” (depressing) and Helvetica (I am a font nerd!).
But I also like to get into the flavors of fall a little prematurely, too. I kicked off the season by baking some spiced applesauce cookies — well, a cookie (a 9×13 cookie) because our lovely baking sheets don’t fit in our oven. And then I just kind of kept going from there. So here are two simple recipes to get you in the spirit. You’re on your own assembling that bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.
Peanut Butter Apple Dip (a.k.a. “Let’s take something healthy and make it unhealthy–but tastier! Nutella does it all the time.”)
I first tried some version of this my freshman year of college at a Super Bowl party. While all the guys chowed down on chips and queso, all us girls munched through a giant bowl of apple slices and a vat of this stuff, pretending like we were being SO much healthier. It’s much more dippable than plain peanut butter and I think the brown sugar gives it a somewhat caramel-ish flavor. I think it’s best with tart Granny Smith apples, but I had it with some Gala apple slices, and that was yummy too!
Note: This recipe makes a ton of dip. So if you aren’t going to a Super Bowl party or serving this to your 2.3 children, go easy on it. I made a third of a batch, and it’s enough for 4 or 5 apples, at least.
- 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, preferably reduced fat, softened
- 1 cup peanut butter — either crunchy or creamy, pick your favorite!
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup milk
- apples, cut into wedges
Basically, mix the first four ingredients together until well-blended. Dip your apples in as many times as you like. Be sure to refrigerate in an air-tight container between snackings!
Lunchbox Granola Bars
I am a lifelong lunchbox-er. Not a brown bag-er, but a lunchbox-er (or lunchbag-er, technically). It might be dorky, but it saves the environment and insulates your food to a safe temperature. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, these filling and budget-friendly granola bars are the perfect addition to a packed lunch. They are fairly soft and a lot more dense than the Quaker and Kashi storebought granola bars I’ve had, but my husband says they taste like Clif Bars. I’ve never had a Clif Bar before, but I still took that as a compliment!
- 2 cups rolled oats (I used the “old-fashioned” kind)
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup toasted, deshelled pumpkin seeds
- 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup dried cherries (or raisins or craisins or whatever)
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
Makes 24 granola bars.
- Preheat the oven to 350F, and generously grease a 9×13 baking pan/dish.
- In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, flour, dried fruit, and salt.
- Make a well in the center (yay, it’s like making sandcastles!), and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using a spoon — or your hands.
- Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan/dish.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Let the bars cool for 5 minutes but not too much harder (or the bars will get too hard), and cut into 24 bars.
Lastly, because I never escape an opportunity to share photos of our Ali Cat, check out our kitty’s gorgeous fall coat: