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Fun and Festive Fall

I think autumn must be my favorite season. There’s something about nature’s vibrant colors, cooler, crisp temperatures, pots of chrysanthemums clustered by the front entry, and the urge to take long walks in the forest one minute; then nestle indoors the next that fills my heart with utter joy. And the aromas! For the past several weeks, I’ve been looking forward to baking the season’s first squash pie, fragrant with cinnamon and freshly-grated nutmeg, and cooking anything that involves just-harvested apples. Spicy gingerbread warm from the oven and topped with a generous dollop of Chantilly cream, or a hearty soup simmering on the stove make me practically salivate at the very thought of autumn cooking and baking.

It’s easy to fall in love with Fall this early in the season when we’re at Swan’s Nest. While our neighbors in Dallas are still coping with temperatures in the low 90’s, Randy and I noticed the first signs of fall at Swan’s Nest in early August. All at once, we had to don a heavy sweater in order to enjoy dinner on the veranda overlooking the mountains, and by mid-August, our rooftop was coated in frost nearly every morning. Two nights ago, we had our first freeze – before Labor Day!

Incapable of resisting another moment, I took advantage of our son Timothy and his girlfriend’s visit last week to Swan’s Nest to fill a rustic wheelbarrow with a bale of straw, a large pumpkin, and a pot of yellow mums, and placed it on the porch next to the entry. A second pot of mums and a decorative copper pumpkin next to the wheelbarrow completed the scene and provided a fun and festive, seasonal welcome.

As temperatures cool and the first signs of Fall appear in your area, my easy, incredibly-flavorful Creamy Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup is perfect for a casual dinner with friends or Sunday night with the family. I hope you’ll make it part of your Fall celebrations this year!

-Christy

Creamy Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups peeled and diced carrots
1 1/2 cups diced celery
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock or chicken broth
3/4 cup uncooked wild rice
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat a large stockpot over medium heat, add olive oil, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Add carrots, celery, and onion and sauté 5 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Gently stir in mushrooms and sauté 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Gradually pour in a small amount of chicken stock, stirring gently to loosen the flour mixture from the bottom of the pot. As the mixture thickens, add additional stock, a little at a time, stirring well. When the mixture is smooth and thick, pour in the remaining stock and stir well.

Raise heat to medium-high, cover, and bring the soup to a low boil. Reduce heat to low, stir in wild rice, cover, and simmer 1 hour or until the rice is tender. Stir in cream and check the soup for seasonings. Cover and simmer 10 minutes more. Stir in parsley and serve.

Yield: 8 servings