“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.
“OMG, the sky is actually, finally blue again and I didn’t have to run the air conditioning this morning!” – Me
What a happy coincidence my return to blogging coincides with Vegan MOFO 17! (Vegan MOFO, in case you don’t know, is a month when bloggers from all around the world join together to write as much as they can about vegan food. 20 posts is the minimum goal; every day would be the ideal!)
For those of you who are wondering where the heck I’ve been…
2017 has been a difficult and busy year for me.
I’m fortunate to have a job I love, but this year it required extensive overtime.
I also attempted raw veganism. It wasn’t a complete and utter disaster – I did learn the importance of thoroughly chewing my food. But it did destroy all my interest in eating for awhile. I still remember chomping morosely on those endless bowls of salad. Gaaaah, so much salad! One leaf after another leaf after another leaf after another leaf. There were days I would have killed for some steamed broccoli and a baked sweet potato!
In May, my best friend, biggest fan, fellow foodie, and roller coaster and movie buddy, Jim Brown – a.k.a. “Daddy” – died.
There were other issues and new responsibilities, too – for example, I began writing vegan-related articles for a wonderful newspaper, Charlotte Creative Loafing.
So, in between work, and dead fathers, and grief, and … salad … and everything else, my blog was neglected. A bad thing, because I am happiest when writing. I also eat better, and plan my meals more carefully, when I am testing recipes and writing about food.
But time, and Autumn, heals. And I’m back for Vegan MOFO 17 sharing a full month of recipes celebrating Autumn!
To get into that October spirit, let’s start with tidying up our fridges and pantry a bit, then taking a short shopping trip for:
Apples – I know, pumpkin spice and winter squash get all the focus, but to me apples scream autumn. Did you know growing up I thought there were only three kinds of apples – Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith? Imagine my surprise when I became an adult and discovered Galas, Fujis, Pink Ladies, Honeycrisps, MacIntoshes, Rambos! If you, too, are stuck in apple rut, try a new kind of apple. Or several different kinds. Slice them up and have an apple tasting party with your family or friends (or even just yourself). You’ll be amazed at the variety of flavors.
Apple Cider – This is another Autumn must-have for me. Preferably from a local farmer at a farmer’s market – or bought at a sketchy fruitstand on some deserted highway – but supermarkets can also have very good ciders. Don’t forget to try it warm as well as cold. (And don’t forget there are “hard” apple ciders, too, which can provide an interesting twist to things.)
Pumpkin Pie Spice – You’re either a pumpkin spice person or you’re not. And if you are – go ahead and buy a jar of pumpkin pie spice. You know you want to. Add it to your oatmeal, your coffee, your sweet potatoes, your winter squash. This can save you soooo much money.
Sweet Potatoes – It’s sweet potato season! And one of the great things about sweet potatoes – besides being incredibly nutritious and delicious) is that they are on the “Clean 15” list. This means that, unlike white potatoes, it’s ok to buy conventional instead of organic if you are on a budget. Not sure how to bake a sweet potato? Don’t worry – I will teach you this month.
Winter Squashes – Don’t you get a buzz the first time you see winter squashes in the grocery store? Butternut, spaghetti, acorn, delicata. Acorns are so fun to stuff. Spaghetti squash goes so well with any kind of pasta sauce – from tomato to vegan alfredo to garlic and oil. Butternut squash is now being sold pre-peeled and diced. Choose that if you need raw squash for a recipe (like for soup); choose a whole butternut if you are stuffing or roasting. And delicata? It’s an amazingly pretty little winter squash and the only one where you can eat the skin. So, this is the only one where buying organic might be a concern. Or, you can just peel the squash.
Teabags – for HOT Tea – Right now it’s still hard to imagine one would ever want to drink anything but ice cold iced tea. Last week daytime temps were still in the upper 80’s, but the temperature is definitely – FINALLY – starting to drop. (Did I mention I didn’t have to run my air conditioning this morning?!) And there is something just so cozy about sipping a hot cuppa wrapped in a throw while reading a book or watching Netflix – or while sitting outside gazing at the October stars, trying to locate Aquarius and Pegasus. There are seasonal flavors of tea, from apple-cinnamon to (of course) pumpkin spice, but it’s more important to just find a tea you enjoy drinking.
Vegetable Broth – because you KNOW you’re going to be in soup-making mode soon. And while you’re at it, a few cans or bags of Beans – because you KNOW you’re going to be making chili. What is the point of Autumn without soup and chili?
Canned/Boxed Soup – Recently, some of the winds and rain from the outskirts of Hurricane Maria were predicted to reach Charlotte. Keep in mind Charlotte is pretty far inland, so the worst-case scenario predicted was possible power outages for a day or two. Well, you would have thought the forecast called for snow. People stampeded the supermarkets, wiping them clean of water and canned goods. (It’s not for nothing the natives refer to “Charlotte – The Queen City” as “Charlotte – The Drama Queen City.”) I was amazed how few people had enough food at their house to cover one or two days without power. Hopefully there will be no more hurricanes or natural disasters this year; but DO think ahead and have a few things on hand in case you get a bad cold, or a flu, or a hangover, or a really bad hair day. Amy’s and Imagine and Trader Joe’s all make good vegan soups.
Skittles – Because who DOESN’T want to taste a vegan rainbow? Or whatever other vegan candy you see in the Halloween displays. If you live in Charlotte, check out The Greener Apple (inside Book Buyers on The Plaza) for a wide variety of vegan candies.
Scuppernongs and Muscadines – This one’s for readers along the NC (and SC) coastline. Did you know that when North Carolina was “discovered” by Sir Walter Raleigh, his captains wrote that the North Carolina shores were “so full of grapes as the very beating and surge of the sea overflowed them…in all the world, the like abundance is not to be found.”
Sir Walter Raleigh was talking about muscadines and scuppernongs, a type of huge, wild-growing grape that is native only to the Southern United States, and most prolific in the North Carolina Tidewater region. (Muscadines are black or purple; scuppernongs are green.)
I can’t imagine an Autumn going by without eating a few muscadines or scuppernongs, or drinking at least a sip of scuppernong wine.
Warning #1: Don’t eat the skin or seeds – a rookie mistake! Also, the wine is very sweet – a dessert wine. Serve in small glasses after dinner. Don’t try to pair it with a before dinner vegan spinach artichoke dip or spicy hummus.
Warning #2: Don’t get this confused with Muscato, which is made from Muscat grapes, which have absolutely no relationship to Muscadines. Bleah!
Autumn Craft Beers – We just talked about wine; now let’s talk about beer. New varieties seem to burst out with a vengeance in October, due to change of seasons and Octoberfest. Go ahead and put a new variety of harvest beer in your cart. You know you want to.
Specialty Items – Of course, there’s PUMPKIN SPICE EVERYTHING. (And I do mean everything; every year I’m amazed that they’ve found yet something else to put pumpkin spice in!) I’ve recommended buying your own pumpkin pie spice to add to oatmeal, vegan cream cheese, and almost anything else; however, even I cannot totally resist its siren’s call. Califia’s Pumpkin Spice Latte Cold Brew is amaaazing. Then I also had to buy Trader Joe’s Halloween Joe Joe’s (their Halloween version of Oreo’s); TJ’s Ghosts and Bats Baked Potato Crisps (for photo props with hummus); and pumpkin-shaped pasta (which I am planning to pair with a pumpkin mac and cheeze sauce).
Can you tell how excited I am? Can you tell I have always been an Autumn person, not a Summer person? I’ve never understood Summer people, those who keep space heaters at their desks … and who tan without burning … and whose hair is impervious to humidity. Freaks. (jk! – actually I am envious of you!)
Are you as excited about Autumn as I am?
Is there something on your initial Autumn shopping list that I’ve missed?