These recipes originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of HomeLife Magazine.
Find a nice spot and enjoy the season.
If you weren’t born a Floridian, you might be inclined to take for granted living in a colder climate. With fall in full swing, allow me to introduce you to the vibrancy and excitement October brings me as a native of the Sunshine State. Even after 25 years of living in Tennessee, there isn’t anywhere I’d rather be at the first drop in mercury than the Blue Ridge Parkway of Virginia.
One October, a couple of years into our new marriage, my parents returned home to St. Petersburg, Florida, from their annual trip to explore the foliage. They casually mentioned they had their eyes on some land to purchase just off the parkway, and asked us if we would mind taking a trip to check out the area for them before they made their decision. You mean leave behind the incessant Florida heat and humidity, buy sweaters, wake up to a light frost and bronze leaves floating down a cold mountain stream? Why yes, I think we could manage that for you!
A nanosecond later, I had secured a place to stay in Virginia while my husband gathered a few essentials, including a roadmap, and driving music. We then hit the open road. Somewhere around Charlotte, North Carolina, I scribbled a grocery list of picnic edibles we’d want for the parkway. A quick stop at a local market offered everything: Anjou pears, Havarti cheese, figs, summer sausage, and triangular chunks of Toblerone chocolate.
Two hours later, we entered the Blue Ridge and found ourselves winding through dark tunnels hewn from solid rock that opened to brilliant orange, scarlet red, and deep gold foliage. It was glorious! We soon realized that commercialization had fallen away to hillsides of cabbage in neat little rows, rhododendron hiding in the shadows of hardwoods, and quaint apple stands perched in front of farmhouses.
Dressed in snuggly sweaters and new boots, we explored the hills and hollers finding a romantic charm in places called Meadows of Dan, Fancy Gap, and Mabry Mill. We stopped near a sun-drenched meadow to throw a blanket and enjoy our picnic feast. Nestled there in the natural beauty — time and responsibility faded.
We weren’t aware of it then, but that spontaneous trip to the mountains was the first of many more to come, and probably the seed for moving our family north years later.
Pulling back into our driveway that warm fall evening, I recall jumping out of our car and running to phone Dad, exclaiming, “It’s amazing, buy it!”
Reacquaint your love for this season with a cozy picnic and get out there and enjoy the waning days of autumn. And, don’t forget the chocolate!
Mini Cheddar Cheese Balls | Makes 6 servings
16 oz. cream cheese (softened) 2 c. sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
2 scallions (chopped fine)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2/3 c. pecans (chopped)
Place cream cheese in a bowl and allow to soften. Add sharp cheddar cheese, scallions, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and seasonings. Mix well and form into several mini balls. Roll balls around on finely chopped pecans, pressing in well. Cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for one hour, allowing to chill. Serve with sliced apples, peppers, or crackers.
Bacon, Fig, & Arugula Baguettes | Makes 4 servings
1 (very fresh) sourdough baguette
4 Tbsp. fig preserves
2 Tbsp. stone ground Dijon mustard
1 lb. cherrywood smoked bacon
2 c. arugula
4 thin slices red onion
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese
In a medium hot cast iron skillet, fry bacon in strips, flipping as needed. Remove bacon from pan and place on paper towels to drain the grease. Slice bread in half horizontally. Spread top half of bread with fig preserves and bottom half with mustard. Place crispy bacon on bottom and layer up with arugula leaves, onion, and goat cheese. Place top of bread onto sandwich and with bread knife slice on the diagonal into four equal parts. Wrap each sandwich with butcher paper and secure with string.
Butternut Squash & McIntosh Apple Soup | Makes 6 servings
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 onions (chopped)
2 Tbsp. curry powder
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 c. apple juice
2 c. water
1 c. roasted pumpkin seeds as garnish (optional)
2 butternut squash
4 McIntosh apples
In a cast iron Dutch oven, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add onions and curry and cook uncovered until translucent. Peel and dice squash and apples. Add squash and apples to pot with seasonings and two cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 30 minutes, or until squash and apples are tender. In a blender, puree soup mixture until smooth and creamy. Pour the mixture back into the pot and add apple juice, then heat through. Place in travel container and serve in soup mugs when ready. Garnish with pumpkin seeds if desired.