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Just a week or so into the fall season and everywhere I turn, people are obsessing over autumn, ready to pull out their sweaters, light fires in the fireplace, and warm the house with seasonal recipes.  I’m a little jealous.  The term “fall” doesn’t mean much when you live in South Florida, though our local weatherman stirred up a little excitement this week when he announced a cold front would be coming through this weekend.  That is until he explained the area would cool down to a high of 85 degrees – wow, some cold front.  So, why all of you outside of Florida spent your weekend dusting off your boots and shaking out your plaid shirts, we continued to wear our flip-flops and shorts, heading outside to enjoy the relatively dry skies that we were blessed with this weekend.

To us, Autumn just means we are a few weeks closer to the end of the official hurricane season, which means no more insane afternoon thunderstorms, no more 100 degree days at the beach, and the onset of tourist season.  Soon, Europeans, Canadians, and Northerners will storm the beaches, lining up their sand chairs towards the sun, chain smoking, and chatting endlessly in some unidentifiable accent while burning their pasty bodies to a shiny red without even realizing they have done so.  It really is an amazingly beautiful time of year here.  Warm days, cool nights, and calm surf all the way through the end of winter – maybe I’m not that jealous after all.

While South Florida takes a little while to catch up to the rest of the states in terms of cooler weather, we still get to enjoy the seasonal fruits and vegetables that make this time of year so memorable.  In fact, fall is the start of our official growing season and my garden just happens to be in full swing.  I am expecting a bounty of vegetables that the rest of the country would have to import to enjoy in the winter, all readily available in my backyard, plus a bounty of autumn delights ordered from a buying club each week.  Is it so wrong of me to want the best of both worlds?

The following recipe is a taste of fall, but can be made with any type of fruit that you have on hand, no matter the season.  You will notice that my recipe is vegan and can be made completely wheat and soy free.  I cook for my family, each of us with our own little dietary issues and allergies of which I need to be aware.  One of us is off wheat, dairy, and soy for health reasons so cooking has been a huge challenge lately.  What do you feed a vegetarian without those things?  This led me to explore other ideas and to experiment with alternative flours like oat and almond.  Why I never thought to use almond flour before, I don’t know but it has a great texture for baking, is low in carbohydrates, and high in protein.  It works especially well as the crisp topping because of its crunchy texture.  For this particular recipe, I simply processed raw almonds in the food processor.  I do the same with oatmeal to obtain oat flour, though I think for next time, I will purchase a finer ground, premade flour. Obviously, if you aren’t concerned with carbohydrates or wheat, then by all means, use all-purpose or whole wheat flour to replace the almond flour and if you aren’t vegan, then butter or margarine will do (though you should think about the source of that dairy – ever watched Paul McCartney’s video If Slaughterhouses had Glass Walls? No? You should).  But even if you are not necessarily concerned with these items, the almond flour was a nice change of pace and I felt a little healthier with its addition.

Vegan Autumn Fruit Crisp

4 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

3 barely ripe pears, peeled, cored, and chopped

6 oz. raspberries

1 tablespoon of whole wheat or oat flour

2 tablespoons Agave Syrup

For the crumb topping:

1 cup almond flour

1 cup oats

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup flaxseed meal

½ cup or one stick of Earth Balance vegan soy-free spread

1 teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

Prepare fruit and toss lightly with flour and agave syrup.  Place in a small casserole dish.  For the crumb topping, mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Divide Earth Balance into small cubes and cut into dry ingredients using a fork (or just use clean hands and smoosh it in like I do) until spread is thoroughly incorporated into flour mixture.  Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly on top of prepared fruit.  Bake at 350 degrees in a preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes, until fruit is soft and topping is golden brown.

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