Autumn jaunts and jottings

I’ve been playing catch-up all week, having returned from some vacation days to an inbox chock full of emails (many of them junk, but still needing to be gone through) and a long to-do list at work.

In those days I was away from my desk, I did a bit of cooking and baking, procrastinated on the housework, completed a few errands, and then took off with Hubby Bryan on his annual birthday sojourn.

As we often do in early to mid-October, we headed into neighboring Wisconsin, where the fall foliage was at its peak. We lucked out and happened upon some truly gorgeous autumn landscapes, stopped at a few of our favorite haunts, explored a few new places and just generally had a fine time being away and together.

What more can you ask from a long weekend trip?

Well, I guess the weather could have been a bit warmer, but considering there was snow farther to the north, we weren’t complaining!

We returned home to find most of my flower pots and plots decimated by cold and frost. I knew it was coming, of course, but it still makes me sad to see the plants bereft of flowers and withering away. But a few of the hardy plants are still thriving, particularly the pansies, mums and parsley, so there’s a bit of color left to enjoy.

Despite the frost, I’m hoping that a few area gardeners still have some zucchini waiting to be used up. An Ellsworth reader, who wished to remain anonymous, shared the following recipe a while ago, and it’s been on that to-do list to share it.

Zucchini Pizza Casserole

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove large seeds and shred enough zucchini to yield four slightly packed cups. Place zucchini in a strainer with ½ teaspoon salt. Let set for 10 minutes; gently squeeze out moisture but do not rinse.

Combine zucchini with 2 beaten eggs, ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Press mixture into a greased 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, brown 1 pound ground beef with ½ cup chopped onion; drain fat. Add one 15-ounce can Italian-spiced tomato sauce or pizza sauce; 20-30 slices of pepperoni, cut in half; ½ cup chopped celery and optional chopped green pepper, mushrooms or black olives as desired. Spread mixture over baked zucchini crust. Sprinkle with another 1 cup mozzarella cheese.

Bake for another 20 minutes or until heated through. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Throughout our travels in Wisconsin, Bryan and I spied enterprises devoted to selling seasonal produce  —apples and pumpkins in particularly. I somehow fought the urge to pull over and purchase a pumpkin or two, and I knew there were apples from the local orchard at home in the refrigerator.

Anyone who has an abundance of apples might want to take a cue from another anonymous reader who emailed me recently about making apple juice —which seems like quite an ambitious undertaking to me!

“I had just made some apple juice and was cleaning out some old boxes of recipes I have saved over the years and ran across the very same recipe in your mother’s column,” she writes. “Mine came from ‘On the Farm.’  It has a golden color and tastes like the boughten kind.  It is so easy and very good. I thought I would send it to you to use if you want to.  Some of those apple trees did miss the freeze last spring. …  You would want to multiply this a few times.”

Easy Apple Juice

 Stir 3 level teaspoons cream of tartar into 3 quarts boiling water.  Pour over 3 quarts cut-up apples (chunks), any kind.  Let stand 24 hours.  Pour off juice and strain.

For every 20 cups juice, add 3 cups of sugar.  Bring to a boil, pour in hot jars and seal.

Please share your cooking successes and favorite recipes by emailing me at brickers@dglobe.com; or via regular mail, Daily Globe, Box 639, Worthington 56187.

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