A Taste of Fall

Maple-Roasted Acorn Squash with Paremesan-Panko Topping, Hummus Meatballs, Autumn Apple Chicken and Apple-Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

I’m drawn to self-help and parenting books just as I am to cookbooks.

The conversation in my head goes a little like this: “This is the book that will make my kids learn to sleep in their beds every night!” Or, “They’re going to love this lasagna recipe so much, they’re sure to clean their plates.”

So when I saw Kelsey Banfield’s book “The Naptime Chef,” I had to have it. A book that promises great recipes that can be prepared during your kids’ naptime? Sold.

With the book on my nightstand, I drifted to sleep thinking about how much I could get done during naptime the following week.

The reality of naptime vs. what I think can be accomplished during naptime are so very different. I forget that by naptime, the kids aren’t the only ones who are tired.

This means I won’t be making Brown Butter Asparagus Risotto on a Tuesday afternoon. But, I love “The Naptime Chef,” just the same because it reenergized me to at least get some cooking done during naptime.

Roasting vegetables, for example, takes time we often don’t have as the clock ticks toward dinnertime. Doing it in advance means all you have to do is warm them before everyone sits down for dinner.

Or, maybe your family likes beef stew in the cool fall months. Braise or sear the beef when you have some time during the day, or before you leave for work in the morning, and then let the soup simmer in a slow cooker until dinner.

Naptime is also a good time for basic prep. Chop the vegetables. Open and drain the cans of beans. Pre-measure the spices. Doing these small jobs in the morning or early afternoon can release some of the stress of the pre-dinner witching hour.

This recipe, from “The Naptime Chef,” is the perfect side for a fall dinner. Kids love it, too.

Maple-Roasted Acorn Squash with Parmesan-Panko Topping

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided
• 1 tablespoon maple syrup
• 1 large acorn squash
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
• 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Melt the butter and allow it to cool slightly. In a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon of the butter to the maple syrup and stir to blend. Set aside.

Carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and stringy insides. Cut each half into 4 evenly sized wedges and place them skin-side down in a baking dish. Use a basting brush to brush each wedge with the maple syrup butter, so that it is evenly coated. Sprinkle the squash with ½ teaspoon kosher salt.

In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan, Panko, the remaining kosher salt, and the remaining melted butter.

Roast the squash in the baking dish for 30 minutes, and then remove the dish from the oven. Place the dish on a stable surface and pack the top of each quarter of squash with the Parmesan-panko mixture. Return the dish to the oven and roast for another 30 minutes, or until it can be pierced easily with a fork. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, and serve warm.

Kids, and even toddlers, love these meatballs from food writer J.M. Hirsch. Make them while the baby is napping, unless you have a light sleeper, as you will need your food processor.

Hummus Meatballs

• 3 slices whole-wheat bread
• 1/2 small red onion
• 1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
• 1/2 cup hummus
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse the bread until it is finely ground. Add the onion and pulse until it is finely chopped and blended with the bread.

Add the parsley, cilantro, cumin, cinnamon, allspice and paprika. Pulse several times, or until thoroughly blended. Add the hummus, egg, salt and pepper, and then pulse until blended.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the beef, and then mix well.

Use your hands to form the mixture into balls by the tablespoonful. Arrange them on the prepared baking sheet. Spritz the meatballs with cooking spray. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through.

Saute your apples and onions before you head for work in the morning, or at naptime, and dinner is nearly done.

Autumn Apple Chicken

• 1 large onion, sliced
• 2 cups sliced and peeled Granny Smith apples
• 6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
• 1 1/2 cups unsweetened apple juice
• 2 tablespoons honey
• Salt and pepper, to taste

In a skillet, sauté onion in oil until tender. Add apples, and sauté 1 minute longer.

Place chicken in a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Top with onion mixture.

Combine apple juice, honey and salt and pepper, pour over chicken. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until chicken is done.

Yum – a cake that tastes like fall.

Apple-Cranberry Upside Down Cake

• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon allspice
• 1/2 cup butter
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1/2 cup sour cream
• 1 1/4 cups flour
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1 Granny Smith apple, sliced
• 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

Grease an 8-inch round or square cake pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk ½ cup sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Sprinkle in pan.

With an electric mixer, combine butter and ½ cup sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, mixing until incorporated.

In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt. Blend into butter mixture. On low speed, beat in milk until batter is smooth.

Place apple slices and cranberries in pan, arranging on top of the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Spoon batter over apple and cranberries. Bake for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then, using pot holders, turn out cake onto a large plate or platter.

Categories: Food