EATING LOCAL - Savor fall with seasonal snacks and treats kids can help make

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Now that summer is officially over, it's time to celebrate fall and all of its wonderful seasonal foods. Days are cooling down and nights require an extra blanket on the bed. Time for hearty winter squash, fresh orchard fruits like warm apple treats and crisp delicious pears.

Today I stocked up on a variety of winter squash, from the deep orange -red kuri to the smooth, creamy butternut, from the yellow and green striped delicata to the required sugar pie pumpkin. Each has a different use in our house and is perfect for its own individual recipe.

The red kuri is wonderful cut in half, baked until tender and scooped out for use in pancakes, cookies or other sweet, savory treats. The butternut is easy to peel and chop for use in soup, risotto, pan fried, or just roasted in the oven with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

The delicata has a thin skin and does not require peeling, making it a wonderful dish cut in half moons, tossed with oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and baked until tender.

Sugar pie is a standard in most American households, as it makes a perfect pumpkin pie. But lesser known are its uses in pumpkin flan, cut in half, filled and baked with a savory custard, or cut into wedges and roasted with herbs.

Another fall favorite in our house are Northwest apples and pears. We love them fresh, eaten straight-away in lunches or cut up as an afternoon snack. Or if we have a little extra time on our hands, we love to cut up apples, add a little water, boil, and blend to make our own homemade applesauce.

Today we made a batch with the kids at the Walla Walla YMCA after-school program and they couldn't seem to get enough! So easy, so healthy, so delicious. And nothing more than fresh apples and a little water.

For a special treat, we like to slice apples, saute them with a little butter, honey and cinnamon, pour into a pie pan and cover with either pie crust or a streusel, and bake. Your house will smell amazing and no one can resist homemade apple pie.

If you want to go for something a little different, try baked apples or pears. Start with an under-ripe fruit, hollow the center, and fill with a combination of cinnamon, sugar, butter, your favorite nut and raisins, if you like. Add about a half cup of water or apple juice for every apple/pear and bake until tender. Mmmm!

If you have kids at home, don't forget to include them in cooking. They love to help in the kitchen with any task you feel comfortable offering them. With the little ones, age 2-4, pull up a chair and let them stand high and stir the bowl or wash the produce. Ages 5-6 can help with rolling dough, peeling fruit or measuring out ingredients. For kids 7 and older, they can work along with a parent or caregiver and help out with much of the tasks in the kitchen.

Involve kids of any age with deciding on recipes by browsing cookbooks or searching the Internet. With any search, it helps to have an idea of what you are looking for and main ingredient in mind, so not to overwhelm you or the child.

Fall is a beautiful time of year, with the vivid colored leaves changing and falling to the ground. I look forward to pulling out the sweaters and long pants and bundling up for the cooler weather. The foods of the season match the mood with their warming hearty nature. The highlight of my day is sitting down to dinner with my family over a warm, nourishing soup or stew, crusty bread, and maybe even a sweet orchard fruit treat.

Melissa Davis, a local chef with a bachelor's degree in nutrition, specializes in natural foods. She can be reached at jadenluna@gmail.com. More of her writing is at www.melissadavisfood.wordpress.com.

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