Adapting to Island Life with Flavors of Fall

Where I grew up (Washington State), September marks the beginning of the rainy season.  Sure, you might have a few breaks here and there, but they will be fleeting and you still know it’s going to be gray, chilly, and mostly wet for the next 9 months. 

Last September, I was living in Southern California, where it rarely rains.  We were spoiled with mostly dry, mild, warm weather. 

Now, here we are in “paradise” – Key West, Florida.  Since arriving here in July, I don’t think we’ve had a single day where the temperature has dipped lower than 80 degrees.  The air is sticky humid.  Even in the shade, although a haven, it’s sweltering.  And I love it.  We’re in a place where almost everywhere you look, the sky meets the water in a kaleidoscope of blue.  I assumed that the constant heat would mean consistently sunny days.  I thought I’d never miss the rain, and then I realized I won’t have the chance.  It actually rains here.  It pours.  The other day on my way home from walking Keegan to school, which takes about 5 minutes, the cup holders in the stroller literally filled with about 1/2 inch of water.  My shoes and socks were soaked through, and Nyah was so wet, I had to towel dry her hair and change her clothes when we got home (the stroller cover plus an umbrella hadn’t kept her dry!).

I never really enjoyed the rain when I was in Washington, probably in part because of its constance, but now I’m realizing the things I love about the rain, and even things I miss about cold rain.  I miss warming up in a steamy bath or shower after an invigorating walk in the frigid drizzle.  Of course, it’s not like that here, but I love that even though it’s still 80 degrees outside, when I’m inside listening to the pouring rain and the thunder and I look out and see the gray clouds and the lightning flashes, it seems similar to the chilly autumns I remember.  For me, autumn is all about cozying up our home with the aroma of fresh baked goodies and snuggling up with my kiddos.  When we got here, I thought it would feel like summer year-round and we wouldn’t have seasons at all.  But it turns out I was wrong.  The seasons are what you make them, and we are just lucky enough to have a little reminder like this to make our new paradise feel like the best parts of “home.”   

 Inspired by the season, I finally had a chance today to bake these cookies and muffins that showcase the essence of fall with the rich flavors and bright colors of autumn squashes.

What is your favorite thing about autumn, and what do you do to celebrate the season?  Please share in the ‘Comments’ section below!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies 

Yield|  48 cookies Prep|  10-15 minutes Bake|  11-14 minutes p/sheet
STORAGE|  Room temperature in a sealed container 4-5 days; frozen in freezer bag up to 1 month

3 c. Whole Grain Baking Mix
3 c. old-fashioned oats
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. honey*
1/2 c. unsweetened/fruit-sweetened applesauce
1 c. pumpkin puree, homemade or canned (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 large egg
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. raisins

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2.  In a small mixing bowl, combine Baking Mix, oats, and spices.  Mix well and set aside.
3.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and honey until smooth.  Stir in applesauce, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla.  Mix thoroughly (mixture will be slightly lumpy).
4.  Add oat mixture; stir until thoroughly incorporated.  Fold in raisins.
5.  Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets, one dozen per sheet.  Use back of spoon to shape each cookie into a round, 1/4” thick disc.
6.  Bake 11-14 minutes or until cookies are slightly firm to touch on top and lightly browned on the bottom.  Cool on cookie sheets 2-3 minutes, then transfer to wire cooling racks.  Cool completely before transferring to air-tight container or plastic bag for storage as above.  

*Never serve honey to babies younger than 12 months old.

10-11 MONTHS:  Replace honey with apple juice concentrate or pure maple syrup.  Dice raisins to avoid choking.  Do not serve cookies to babies younger than 10 months old if there is concern for wheat allergy, and always rule out allergies to foods individually before combining for baby.
Like this recipe? Get the cookbook for more delicious baked treats like this! 
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Golden Sunrise Apricot Muffins
These moist muffins have a delicate spiced apricot flavor and are loaded with vitamin A and a substantial amount of fiber.

Yield|  12 regular muffins Prep| 12-16 minutes Bake|  20-25 minutes
STORAGE|  In sealed container up to 4 days on countertop or 1 month in freezer.

2-1/2 c. Whole Grain Baking Mix
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 c. diced dried apricots (about 2 handfuls whole dried apricots)
1/2 c. raisins (diced if you are making these for small children – younger than age 2)
3/4 c. orange juice*
1/2 tsp. orange zest*
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c. honey*
1 large egg, beaten
1 c. butternut squash puree (or 8 puree cubes, thawed)

*One large orange yields approximately 3/4 c. juice and 2 tsp zest.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 12-cup muffin pan with canola oil spray.
2.  Combine Baking Mix and spices in a medium bowl.  Mix well and set aside.
3.  Place diced apricots, raisins, orange juice, and orange zest into a small bowl, mix well, and set aside.
4.  Use a rubber spatula to mix butter and honey* (consistency will be thinner if substituting apple juice concentrate or apricot nectar) in a large bowl until smooth and creamy.  Add egg and squash puree; mix well.  Add apricot mixture to butter/honey/egg mixture and stir until combined.
5.  Add flour mixture to apricot/egg mixture and stir just until thoroughly moistened.
6.  Divide batter evenly between muffin cups. Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out with just a few loose crumbs.

10-11 MONTHS:  *Do not serve honey to babies younger than 12 months old.  Do not serve if your baby has known egg allergy.
Replace honey with apple juice concentrate or apricot nectar.
Dice apricots and raisins very small to avoid choking.
Citrus may cause stomach upset in babies this young.
Replace orange juice with apricot nectar or apple juice if there is concern.12 MONTHS TO 2 YEARS:  Prepare as above, dicing apricots and raisins very small to avoid choking.


I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as my family & I do!

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