Fall Upstate And A Craving For…Baking

Fall has definitely arrived at the Red House. The leaves are turning shades of crimson, yellow and orange. I think the sumac trees on the property are my favorite only because their colors are so intense and often the deep dark red stays that way sometimes through much of the winter.

IMG_8175I wish I could report that we’ve made progress in renovating the Red House but unfortunately at this stage in the game (meaning the complicated stuff), we’re very dependent on our contractor to finish our upstairs bathroom. This means while most of the plumbing has been installed, the insulation needs to be put in the walls before the sheetrock and then tile are applied. As you can see not much has changed in this room since the last time I photographed it!

IMG_8221Apparently since our contractor has a lot of outdoor jobs that he’s scrambling to get finished before the weather takes a turn for the worse, I do have to give him some slack. He has assured me that I’m #1 on the top of his list when he finishes with everyone else. Being me (frighteningly straightforward and to the point), I also reminded him that last winter he complained that he couldn’t get into the house without shoveling a path to the door because of all the snow. (I don’t have anyone who plows for us and don’t intend to incur that expense either!)  I also suggested since he obviously didn’t want to spend half of his day shoveling when he could be inside working on a room, he may need to speed things up a bit.

I would also love to start working on the dining room. But since all the materials he needs to complete the bathroom are sitting in the dining room, this room, too, has to wait.

IMG_8216While the leaves are turning, the marigolds seems to be thriving in the garden, the weeds even more so and with all the asparagus ferns cropping up, I’m thinking I’ll have a very nice asparagus harvest in the spring indeed. I’ve decided however, after planting two seasons of garlic in the fall, I’m going to wait until the spring to do it this year and see how that turns out. Reason being: Lynn is busy trying to finish our master bedroom (that means even though he took off all the moulding around the room and put everything back up, there is still a lot of patching that needs to be done as well as taping, spackling and finally painting.

IMG_8219To pull him away from this to get out the tiller (I’m afraid of the tiller it kind of drags me across the field) to plant some garlic seemed dumb. So the garlic will wait until the spring to be planted along with whatever else we can manage to grow in hopes that the deer, rabbits, squirrels and even a local cat or two won’t devour everything we’ve planted.

What is particularly nice about living up here especially in the fall are all the farmer’s markets as well as field after field filled with pumpkins in lovely shades of orange.

IMG_8234Last year I was lucky enough to grow a couple of pumpkins. This year I had to buy one.

IMG_8269Since the weather is turning colder (it was barely 55 degrees when we arrived this Columbus Day weekend), I’m also thinking of food that will warm us. That would be soups (pea and lentil), stews (goulash and chicken paprikash in particular) and lots of carbs like mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese! And while I do try to stay away from sweets as much as possible – I have been thinking of making cinnamon rolls (no, not the kind you bang out from those icky cardboard containers in the refrigerated section of the supermarket) but cinnamon rolls made from scratch.

For those readers who have children or other instances where your household size shrinks from 4 to 1 or 2, I can say that I’ve finally mastered cooking for just the two of us without a huge amount of leftovers. And if we do have have leftovers, it’s because I’m usually trying to make sure at least one of us has something to take to work for lunch the next day.  The problem with this cooking for 2 instead of 4 (or more) thing though is that there are simply dishes (particularly desserts) that just don’t get made anymore. Why bake a batch of brownies or oatmeal raisin cookies if there aren’t any teenagers around to eat them all in a single sitting? Did I mention I’ve been craving cinnamon rolls?

In the meantime, I picked the last of the tomatoes (still green) from the Red House garden.

IMG_8186And admired not only the meadow but how pretty the marigolds still looked in the garden.

IMG_8146IMG_8144And since it was rather chilly, I also decided to make some Braciole stuffing the meat with slices of mozzarella and some smokey ham.

IMG_8213I managed to find a few (albeit slightly bruised) leaves of basil still growing in the garden and found a bag of potato gnocchi we buy at a little Italian deli near the Red House for under $3 a bag that was still in the freezer from the summer.

IMG_8199Did I mention even as I was cooking the gnocchi and Braciole I was craving cinnamon rolls?

On a completely different note. We have a neighborhood cat who shows up like clockwork between 5 and 5:30 on the weekends we are here. He or she slowly meanders to the back of the property seemingly looking around for maybe a tasty little mouse or some other morsel to eat. Now, this cat is really the slowest cat I’ve ever seen so it was particularly funny when I tried to take a picture of the cat and suddenly the cat took off at an amazingly fast pace.

IMG_8251I followed the cat as it walked the length of the property and found myself staring at the stainless steel rolling cart we’ve been using in the kitchen as a table/work counter since we still don’t have countertops for the kitchen cabinets. Wouldn’t that surface be just fine for rolling out dough?

Since I also don’t have any cookbooks up at the Red House (I know that’s old school but I still use them!), I dragged out my laptop and followed a recipe from the Pioneer Woman for Cinnamon Rolls 101 online.

IMG_8247And yes, I already did have all the ingredients on hand so this was a really easy recipe.  I mixed everything together and tried to follow the instructions but the dough just seemed a little bit too wet so I added more flour than called for. The dough rose, I rolled it out, layered it with melted butter, sprinkled on some sugar and lots of cinnamon just like the picture online.

Except I wanted to add some apples to my cinnamon rolls so I did just that.

IMG_8265Really, doesn’t this just look yummy?

I rolled the dough into a log shape, cut the log into slices, and arranged them in a pie pan. The dough seemed a bit wetter than it probably should have been but I figured it would “correct” itself when baking.

I’ve always had a problem with every oven I’ve ever owned and this one is no different. I read a recipe and it suggests a cooking time of say 15-18 minutes and when I peek at what I’m baking, 9 times out of 10 I need double the amount of baking time indicated. Since I was convinced that the thermostat in this new oven wasn’t working properly, I actually went out and bought an oven thermometer. I’d like to say the oven was off, but actually the temperature was exactly what it was supposed to be.

IMG_8285So back to the cinnamon rolls. The recipe called for adding “maple flavoring” to make the frosting. Ha Ha Ha. Living in Upstate New York, I don’t need “maple flavoring,” I can use the real stuff. So I did, mixing maple syrup together with some powdered sugar and milk.

IMG_8281The rolls came out of the oven, I frosted them, and here’s what they looked like.

IMG_8279Yes, they looked delicious but when we ate them in the morning for breakfast (after sticking them back in the oven to warm up a bit), they were a tad too gooey inside! So even after following the recipe and adjusting the baking time and having for the first time ever a second thermometer inside my oven to make sure the temperature was correct – these rolls needed to be baked a bit longer. (We ate most of them anyway, no worries!) So like the cat that prowls our property looking for tasty tidbits, I got mine too this weekend.

Finally, knowing that winter is literally around the corner up here, it’s awesome to drive a mere 5 minutes from the Red House and see the leaves changing, some late summer flowers still blooming and the water in the creek flowing so beautifully. What we’ve learned up here the last 4.5 years is to enjoy every minute of it.

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