My mom loved fall. As a kid I could never appreciate the season, it was too wrapped up with the anxieties and dread of school starting and winter encroaching. The turning leaves were pretty, sure, but ultimately it meant they were dying. I even wrote a (terrible) poem about it, comparing rotting leaves to corpses. Yeah, I was that kind of teenager, moody and full of cringe worthy metaphors. Hopefully my writing has improved since then.
But my mom was a full on autumnal fan. She loved country drives to view fall foliage (boring, my brother and I would groan from the backseat), she loved apple and pumpkin picking (my one fall favorite).
She collected Indian corn, gourds, pumpkins and colorful bunches of mums, decorating our home inside and out. Her birthday was in the fall, a date she never relished, but she loved Halloween. I think it might have been her favorite holiday. Spooky music played on a cassette player hidden behind a potted plant and a huge basket of candy was ready for any trick or treaters who dared climb up our extraordinarily steep driveway. Sadly, for my mom there were always a lot of leftovers. This disappointed her every year.
I know she got a kick out of decorating. Our foyer bore the brunt of it. She strung pumpkin lights on the plant beside the front door and stuck witch decals on the windows. She and my brother enjoyed adding scary or gross additions to the collection, including a disembodied hand whose fingers wigged and a mechanical rat that writhed on the floor. Yes, she did have a twisted sense of humor at times. It balanced out her enormously generous and loving heart. And kept us laughing.
Thanksgiving was the climax of fall for our family, a holiday almost always spent at our house. Then, before we knew it, winter was upon us.
It took me well into my 20s to shake off my fall funk and embrace the season as much as my mom. Now I can’t get enough of pumpkin recipes and fall activities that I get to enjoy with my own family. The same shape as my childhood one – big sister, little brother – only now I’m the mom and my own mom has been dead for five years.
So I dedicate this post to her, for the 64th birthday she would have celebrated days ago, for her love of fall, and her love for her family.
What better person than her niece, my cousin Peeps, to offer a fall inspired recipe, the aptly named Harvest muffins, a warm, spicy healthy treat. My mom would have loved them.
Harvest Muffins (Inspired by “Carrot Apple Muffins” from Whole Food App)
3/4 c gluten free flour mix (with xanthan gum)*
1/4 c almond meal
1/4 c coconut flour
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c coconut flakes (large)
2-3 TBSP flax seed (ground)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 c carrots, shredded
1 c apple sauce (sweetened and chunky preferred. If unsweetened, add more sugar)
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp rum (or double extract)
3/4 c fresh cranberries
3/4 c walnuts
* add 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum if your mix does not include it
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line a muffin tin.
2. Mix wet and dry ingredients separately, and then mix together until just combined. Stir in cranberries and walnuts.
3. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 15-25 minutes depending on size. Makes approximately 12 muffins.