It is two days from Thanksgiving and suddenly, it seems, my favorite season is coming to a close. Sure, winter does not actually start until December 21st, but once Thanksgiving passes so do all things fall. This is making me feel a little melancholy as I pack to go home for a visit that will speed by like this year has. The holidays epitomize the passage of time—the bookend to a year—and the older I get the more they have a touch of sadness to them. So for a last hurrah for fall food, and to share some of the beauty of fall, I wanted to share one of my favorite fall dishes—pumpkin mac and cheese (the recipe is at the end of this post) along with snapshots of my fall retreat.
I co-hosted a wreath-making and flavors of the holidays retreat over the weekend with Caitlin Davis of Tides Inn Market in Colonial Beach. Her farm is only a little over half an hour from where I live in Fredericksburg, but it seems like a world away—quiet, calm, lush will nature, animals and rural charm.
I met Caitlin in August when she attended a workshop and dinner I lead in Fredericksburg. Shortly after the class she invited me out to Winterberry Farm for coffee and to talk about possibly collaborating on an event. After I did a TV spot promoting an apple workshop, we decided to also plan a late fall retreat that would include an afternoon of wreath-making, spiced donuts, and a seasonal supper. Well, these month’s of planning and waiting to finally collaborate culminated on Sunday with what I can only say was a dreamy gathering. The whole afternoon just had a good feel to it. From sipping cider while making wreaths in the barn to chatting over our last cup of coffee after dinner, everything went well and everyone had a nice time. I thoroughly enjoy meeting all the wonderful people who attend my classes and this group—all women—were especially fun. They were also very supportive of what Caitlin and I are trying to do in our small little area of the world—bring people together, give them a chance to work with their hands and create, and ultimately to leave feel refreshed, pampered, and, of course, completely full of delicious food. Here are a few photos from the event. If you would like to attend one of my future workshops or have me create a custom class for you visit the Workshops section of my blog.
- 2 cups dried elbow macaroni (8 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 6 ounces shredded Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese blend (1½ cups)
- 1 15-ounce can pumpkin
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or ½ teaspoon dried leaf sage, crushed
- ½ cup soft bread crumbs
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ⅓ cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Sage leaves (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta in a large pot following package directions. Drain cooked pasta, then return to pot and cover to keep warm.
- Meanwhile, for cheese sauce, in a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Add cream and milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly. Stir in cheese, pumpkin, and sage until cheese is melted. Stir cheese sauce into pasta to coat. Transfer macaroni and cheese to an ungreased 2-quart rectangular baking dish.
- In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, walnuts, and oil; sprinkle over pasta. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh sage leaves.