For me, the first clue that fall has arrived is my first cup of Pumpkin Spice coffee. I had one yesterday, so for me, autumn is officially here. And that means I start craving foods that blend in perfectly with the trees that are beginning to take on gorgeous shades of golds, oranges, yellows and vibrant reds.
It's time to hit the market and buy my fill of pumpkins -- not to eat, but to use as decorations, interspersed with mums and gourds. I have to admit that if I cook with pumpkin -- and I do -- I use canned.
Also in my basket will be tons of apples, because although I eat them year-round, now is when they are at there best. Squash, pears, sweet potatoes and turnips -- they are all too lovely not to bring home.
One of my favorite fall dinners is spaghetti squash -- my form of pasta 'cause I don't eat wheat. It is so easy to prepare but I do have to admit that the strands have never passed Jack's lips. His loss. I cut the squash in half, rub it lightly with extra-virgin olive oil, bake it at 350 degrees for about an hour, then start scraping each half, forming strands. I add some diced tomatoes (fresh is they are still available), some Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt, and call it dinner.
For dessert, I continue with my "fake" food, this time a mock apple pie. all I do is slice an apple, sprinkle it with cinnamon, and cook it on High in the microwave about 3 minutes, depending on the variety of apple. MacIntosh, loaded with water, take less time; Granny Smith, a harder variety, might take a minute more. OK: Even I admit it's nothing like the real thing, but it's warm and comforting and something a little different to enjoy after a meal. I also love throwing a diced apple into my chicken, spinach and arugula salad for lunch.
Pears are another fruit I love warm -- mock pear pie -- but I sprinkle pears with a bit of nutmeg. Same treatment in the microwave. Anther favorite combo is to spread Laughing Cow wedges on pear slices. It's a great mix of sugar and protein, perfect for that witching hour of 3 p.m. when a box of cookies begins to look really tempting.
PORK LOIN WITH SAUERKRAUT AND APPLES
1 1/2 lbs. lean pork loin, boneless, trimmed of all visible fat
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp canola oil
2 lbs. sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tsp. caraway seeds
4 oz. light beer
• Sprinkle the pork with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook, turning frequently, until browned, about 6 minutes.
• Place the sauerkraut, onion, apple, and caraway seeds in a slow cooker; stir to mix. Place the pork on top of the vegetables, then pour the beer over all. Cover and cook until the pork and vegetables are fork-tender, 4–5 hours on high or 8–10 hours on low.
• Transfer the pork to a platter and cut into 6 slices. Spoon the sauerkraut mixture around the pork. Yields 1 slice pork and 3⁄4 cup sauerkraut mixture per serving. Makes 4 servings. 4 Weight Watchers POINTS per serving.