By the time mid-October arrives, ideas of recipes to prepare and enjoy at any given moment have already teased my taste buds. Suddenly shopping lists change from summer ingredients to the jewels of autumn with apples, pumpkins, and whatever else can be salvaged from backyard gardens. It’s a race we’ve all experienced in our own ways…wondering when an evening frost might erase those good intentions. And, at the moment, I continue to wonder with all the rain we’ve had in the recent past, why my tomato stems and leaves are a crusty brown sporting only a few orange tomatoes trying to turn red.

Another concern has everything to do with searching for favorite low-fat/low-sodium soup recipes that continues at a slow pace with only two arriving since June. And, if patience truly is a virtue, I sense an explosion about to happen worthy of celebrating at any given moment. And that’s what life is all about at times.

The first recipe featured today has everything to do with receiving a recipe no one has requested, but that is perfect for this time of the year. Longtime reader and retired teacher, Isabel Hubbard, thought it was beef stew time and she’s right. The recipe belonged to her Aunt Mildred Delzer, Waukesha, who passed it on to Hubbard’s mother who passed it on to her who, in turn, calls it a “very tasty, easy recipe for cold weather.” Thanks Isabel. I’ll be adding 2 pounds of beef stew to my next grocery list.

No peek beef stew

2 pounds beef stew meat, cut to bite size

1 pound carrots, cut in coin size

2 small onions, chopped or sliced

6-8 celery stalks, chopped

6-8 small potatoes, peeled and chopped in slices

8-ounce can of tomato juice or V-8 juice, or 3 tomatoes, sliced

2 tablespoons A-1 Sauce

1 tablespoon tapioca

Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. In a Dutch oven, first place beef chunks on the bottom, then a layer of each vegetable. Add seasonings and tapioca, then juice. Cover and bake at 225 degrees for 4 to 5 hours.

Note: The recipe can easily be reduced in size. No salt is added as the juice has enough.

A request was recently made by my friend Jackie Clementi for the stuffed squash served years ago at the Bittersweet Restaurant located on State Street. Barbara Brasser, Madison, responded immediately with the recipe she’s had in her collection for at least 35 years though she has no recollection of how she obtained it. And that’s what this column is all about.

Bittersweet Restaurant stuffed squash

Stuffing mix:

1 medium onion

2 large fresh garlic cloves, minced

2 ounces butter

¼ cup olive oil

1 pound mushrooms, sliced

1 pound broccoli, chopped medium

1.5 pound cream cheese

½ pound unsalted sunflower seeds

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

1 ounce Worcestershire sauce

To make stuffing mix, saute onions and garlic in butter and olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add mushrooms and broccoli and continue cooking until broccoli is tender. Reduce heat to very low and add remaining ingredients. Stir occasionally until cream cheese is melted and mixture is smooth.

Squash:

3 medium/large acorn squash

¼ pound of butter

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon white pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Halve squash through the middle, trimming the tip and the stem so halves will sit flat. Scoop out seeds. Set aside. Melt butter over low heat, adding remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour approximately 2 ounces melted butter mixture into each squash half. Wrap with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes or until just about soft. Remove from oven; remove foil. Fill squash with stuffing and return to the oven for 10 to 20 minutes until squash is thoroughly soft and stuffing is lightly browned.

Serves 6

Squash brings up thoughts of pumpkin, Halloween and Thanksgiving. This recipe was found in Martha Stewart’s 2005 “Everyday Food” compilation with a note that it could be baked in a 9-inch square pan, or a 9×5-inch loaf pan with instructions below. Be sure to use canned pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling or fresh pumpkin puree.

Pumpkin spice cake with honey frosting

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice (or 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon, ¾ teaspoon ginger, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon each allspice and cloves)

2 large eggs

1 ½ cups sugar

15-ounce can solid-pack pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square pan. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin-pie spice. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, butter and pumpkin puree until combined. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, and mix gently until smooth. Turn batter into prepared pan, and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake 10 minutes in pan, then turn out of pan and cool completely, right side up, on a rack.

Spread top of cooled cake with Honey Frosting. Cut cake into squares to serve.

Frosting

½ cup (1 stick) very soft unsalted butter

8-ounce bar of very soft regular (or reduced-fat) cream cheese

¼ cup honey

In a medium bowl, whisk butter, cream cheese, and honey until smooth

Note: Loaf Pan Alternative. If you use a 9×5-inch loaf pan, increase baking time by 25 to 30 minutes (tent loaf with foil if it browns too quickly).

While waiting for low-fat/low-sodium soup recipes to arrive, this was found in Hilaire Walden’s 1996 “Quick After-Work Italian Cookbook,” a bargain of a book found last year at the Goodwill Store on Panama City Beach that helpfully includes the nutrition analysis under each recipe. Notice that it calls for freshly grated nutmeg to taste. I used a very small amount of ground nutmeg, which my husband didn’t like. So, perhaps you’d like to experiment by using something else. The recipe also suggests “serving croutons with the soup to add an appetizing, contrasting crunch.”

Cauliflower-Parmesan soup

2 ½ cups vegetable or chicken stock (see note)

1 medium cauliflower

½ cup milk or cream

Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

2-3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheeses

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring stock to a boil. Divide cauliflower into florets, discarding tough parts of stalk. Chop remaining stalks. Add all cauliflower pieces to stock, cover and simmer until very tender. Pour soup into food processor or blender, add milk or cream and process until it is the desired texture. Return soup to pan and stir in nutmeg, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Reheat gently; do not allow to boil.

Serves 4

Note: Consider using canned fat- free/low sodium vegetable or chicken broth.

If made according to the recipe, each serving contains: 66 calories 3 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, and 191 mg sodium.

Source: The Associated Press