I’ve heard people spreading a nasty rumor that California doesn’t have seasons. Nothing could be further from the truth! I understand that they say it because California doesn’t have the glorious show of colors that people in other parts of the United States or other parts of the world experience. It’s true; we don’t. But we do have seasons! For instance, today was fall!
I awoke to discover water had come from the sky! If you lived in California, you’d appreciate how much we need water from the sky and how long it’s been since we’ve had any. The sky loomed dark and cloudy, foggy and gray overhead. Visibility was poor. It was so chilly that I probably should’ve grabbed a sweatshirt before heading out this morning.
Fall will last like this for a little while, maybe a week or two, creating a color explosion that is the reverse of that experienced in other parts of the country. Instead of having leaves go from green to brown, our parched brown hills will go wild over the moisture and celebrate by becoming a sumptuous emerald. After months of driving through hills of dead grass, we will now be enveloped in verdant pastures. Occasionally, we’ll even be able to glimpse nature’s brilliant palate through the tule fog.
Fall celebration time! When I realized it was fall today, I knew I had to move quickly. It’s like a wise man once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I gathered the ingredients for a perfect fall dinner and went to work.
I started with the bread to make sure I allowed for enough baking time. I made Caramelized Onion Bread from Betty Crocker’s Best Bread Machine Cookbook. http://www.amazon.com/Betty-Crockers-Bread-Machine-Cookbook/dp/0028630238/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350097881&sr=8-1&keywords=0028630238
You can also find the recipe here: http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/bread-machine-caramelized-onion-bread/fd7f33b6-329a-49de-b85d-180d86a450f7
I enjoy using my bread machine but know that some people find them unpredictable. Keep in mind that there are often adjustments necessary for bread machine recipes depending on altitude, humidity, and other environmental variables. Watch the dough ball as it forms. If it is too dry, add water a tablespoon at a time. If it looks too sticky, sprinkle flour on the bottom of the bread pan and on the dough ball to offset the excess moisture. Water temperature makes a difference as well. Make sure that your water is about 80 degrees Farenheit when you add it to the bread pan.
With this bread, when you add the onions, you also add moisture. As the machine starts mixing in the onions, sprinkle more flour into the pan as needed to make sure the loaf isn’t disappointingly soggy when done. Also, I gently encourage the onions to find their way into the dough by pushing them at the dough ball with a rubber spatula. Take care not to impede the bread blade’s movement if you do this.
The bread takes about three hours, so begin it early. Ideally, time it so the soup and bread are done together. If that’s not possible, start it early in the day to be certain it’ll be ready for gobbling when you’re ready to gobble.
Fall Day Celebration Lentil Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small bunch of organic carrots, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1-¼ cup lentils
- 4 cups water
- 2 vegan vegetable bouillon cubes
- 1/8 tsp ground coriander
- 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp thyme leaves
- 1/8 tsp ground oregano
- ¼ tsp ground sage
- ¼ tsp basil leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a pot and add the carrots, celery, red pepper, onion, and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Next add the coriander, cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano, sage, and basil leaves. Stir until well blended. Lastly, add the lentils, water, 2 vegan vegetable bouillon cubes, and the bay leaf. Stir once again until blended.
Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the temperature to medium and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the bay leaf before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Since I had to wait on the bread, I leisurely chopped my veggies and let the soup simmer until the bread was done. If the soup had thickened too much, I simply would’ve added a little extra water. I wanted more of a stew than a soup, and that’s exactly what we had when the bread machine beeped.
It’d looked like evening all day, as fall days here are wont to do, and cozying up with a big bowl of lentil soup and a thick piece of fresh bread was a luxurious way to spend the evening. I felt like we could’ve been a scene in a children’s picture book, all of us gathered together, feasting on steaming soup and warm bread in fall’s peaceful half-light on a this serene fall California evening.
I hope fall lingers a little longer. Take a moment yourselves and enjoy whatever fall is wherever you live. Nestled between the heat and action of summer and the bustle of the winter holidays, it’s too easy to let it slide by you. Look around. Ferris Bueller is right; life does move pretty fast. Take the time to slow down, make some fresh bread and a simmering soup that will fill your home with warmth and fragrance, and don’t miss a single moment.