Real Cooking

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
I’m practicing aromatherapy. At least that’s what I’m telling Keith. There are two big boxes of apples-one box of galas and one box of golden delicious-setting open in the kitchen. Their aroma wafts through the house making the air smell like autumn. It’s glorious.

I love the fall when the temperatures drop and the breeze turns brisk. Pumpkins fill bins to overflowing in front of the grocery stores and the apples come in from orchards up north landing in, of all places, Durham, to be picked up and brought home, where they are transformed into fat pies and tangy sauces.

Or eaten out of hand with a piece of cheese alongside. Simple. Delicious.

Eating apples on the front porch listening to the Dixie Chicks.

“Well there was a little falter at the altar of confession. Down on its knees true love did fall.”

Life is good.

It could be a little better, though. A week or so ago, I was talking to my friend Brenda Reimer, who lives just outside of Marion. At the time she asked me if we were having any trouble with crickets.

“No, I said. “No crickets.”

Well, that was last week. To my way of thinking, I figure the folks over in Marion shooed all the crickets out of their homes and sent them on their way over to Hillsboro because for the last couple of days, we’ve been inundated with the little chirpers.

One has taken up residence under the stove in the kitchen and he’s driving me crazy. I can’t get to him without moving the stove, and he seems impervious to all the yardsticks and brooms I’ve tried to use to swipe under there to persuade him to come out. You know, so we can get better acquainted.

For the past two days, he’s been singing his love song…over and over and over again. I guess I should be grateful he isn’t living in a bedroom. Maybe we should adopt him as a pet-look on him as a good-luck charm as the Chinese do. Give him a name.

For some reason “Steve” pops into my head. Anyway, Steve has been keeping me company in the kitchen as I’ve started turning my beautiful apples into side dishes and salads. Romaine lettuce, blue cheese crumbles, toasted pecans and slices of the red galas. Yum.

Or a pan full of apple slices tossed with a little sugar and a spoonful of cinnamon simmering until tender on the back of the stove and then served with savory sausage and crispy buttermilk waffles. It made a filling supper before heading for the Friday-night football game.

Keith thought I was being exceptionally creative when I saut?ed walnuts and unpeeled apples in a little butter and then added some lightly steamed fresh Brussels sprouts to the pan. I let them simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors and then served the mixture as a side dish for some grilled pork ribs.

The color was so striking with the golden nuts glistening against the bright green sprouts and the red apple chunks. And everyone-even the kids-enjoyed the flavor combination.

Steve chirped happily through the entire meal. Or maybe his continual chirping stems from pure frustration. Lovelorn.

Well, if he would only come out from under the stove, I could redirect him to one of the bathrooms. That’s where all of the other crickets seem to be congregating.

Yep, the bathroom’s the place to be if you’re a “happenin'” kind of cricket. In the tub, under the hamper, hanging out on the towel rack-just waiting for a cutey to come by.

I hate to be a poor host to the little creatures, but when I catch up to one, they’re bound for a one-way cruise on the H.M.S. Toilet Bowl. I can’t stand to hear the crunch when they’re stepped upon, you see, so I’m a flusher.

Keith is a cruncher, though, while Meghan is a catch-and-release sort of person. Alex just calls for someone else to come and “just get this cricket out of here.”

‘Steve, oh Steve…,” I call to my cricket buddy. “Come out from under the stove and I promise that I’ll let Meghan come to your rescue. Just come out and we’ll put you outside with a multitude of six-legged beauties that you can serenade to your heart’s content.”

He’s not buying it. So stubborn. Just like a man.

I tried to escape Steve’s song by going out on the porch to enjoy the afternoon’s last rays of light. I turned on the Dixie Chicks and began to sing along.

“Now they sound tired but they don’t sound haggard.

They got money but they don’t have cash.

They got junior but they don’t have Hank….”

My son came out on the porch.

“What’s the dog howling at?” he asks.

“The dog’s inside,” I answer.

Meghan joins us.

“See, I told you it was Mom singing.”

Yes, that really happened. Maybe Steve can give me some singing lessons.

* * *

This recipe gets rave reviews from those who have tried it. If your apples are large, you may want to quarter them instead of cutting them in half for a better fit.

Easy Apple Dumplings

1 (16-oz.) can refrigerated flaky biscuit dough

4 apples-peeled, cored and halved

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Butter a 7×11 baking pan. Separate biscuit dough into eight pieces. Flatten each piece of dough into a circle. Wrap one biscuit around each apple and place, seam side down, in pan. In small bowl, combine sugar, water, melted butter and vanilla. Pour mixture over dumpling in pan. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden. Serve hot.

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