They say the best things in life are free. And although you’d be hard-pressed to find things to do that are actually free nowadays, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, instead, that some of the best things in life are cheap.
Take for example my weekend. Due to a last-minute change in date of my planned half marathon this Saturday (more about that in another post) I was able to get caught up on my Autumn To Do List. You know, that list that includes all of the things that you feel are necessary to embrace the change of the season: pumpkin picking, leaf spotting, cider sipping, etc. Stereotypical? obviously. Surprisingly nostalgic and fun? Absolutely.
On Saturday, J and I took advantage of the warm temperatures and took the dogs on a hike. Since we can’t go to the mountains with them, we stuffed them in the car and headed to Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge – a random place just outside Knoxville that we rode past on my bike adventure from hell. Although the leaves are not changing much quite yet, we managed to wear the dogs out and take explore a place we had never been.
After we left the refuge, we headed down the road a few miles to Cruze Farm where they have a 5 year old’s dream sprawling across the farmland. We’re talking a pumpkin patch, petting zoo, hay rides, corn maze, corn box (kind of like sand box, but with corn), paint-your-pumpkin station, and this:
The real reason I made J pull over. Their salty caramel ice cream. J tried to “split it” with me. I told him he was out of his mind, so we got two. And a Cruz burger, smothered with caramelized onions, tomatoes and the ooey-gooeyest cheese ever. We enjoyed our treats looking out of the pumpkin spotted landscape and I was obviously in heaven. Then I decided to take my sweet tractor for a drive:
After we left the farm, we headed up the plateau to go harass my parents in Crossville. Apparently, my mom was in the fall spirit as well, because she was in the middle of making these when we arrived: Seriously? Best mom ever..
The following day, while J and my dad golfed, my mom and I had hot cider and donuts for lunch (again, best mom ever) while we perused cookbooks and came across this recipe in a Paula Dean magazine.
Firstly, I’d like to point out that this is actually a Paula Dean recipe that does not require a pound of butter. I guess she’s taking this diabetes thing seriously. Secondly, it really is the perfect autumn side dish – all chock full of seasonal root vegetables roasted to perfection. I changed a couple of things but it’s basically the same idea. So, so easy and delicious and…healthy! Wahoo!
(please excuse the poor quality of these pictures. Although my parents love me dearly, they have little patience for their daughter to “set up a shot” while their food gets cold.)
Roasted Autumn Vegetables
Yields: 4 Servings
Difficulty: Easy Peasy
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
- 1 lb of parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
- 1 lb of carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
- 3 beets, trimmed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, more for beet drizzling
- salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425°
- Drizzle the beets with olive oil and wrap, individually, in tin foil. Place the beets on a baking sheet, and put the oven (see here for step-by-step beet roasting instructions)
- Meanwhile, place all the vegetables in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and stir until all the vegetables are coated
- Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the oven.
- Bake the vegetables for 30 minutes and the beets for a bit more or until fork tender.
- Remove the beets from the oven, peel, and cut into wedges. Arrange with the other vegetables on a platter.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper and enjoy!