The other day, I looked out my kitchen window and saw flashes of brilliant red, yellow and orange as the beautiful fall leaves fluttered down from the tall trees that line our driveway. With all of this beautiful fall weather, my 11-month-old daughter, Madeline, squeals with delight each time we put on her coat and head outdoors.

By 10-months-old, she had learned the American sign language sign for birds. She does the sign and says “bird” to let us know that she wants to be outside. She enjoys walking through the crunchy fallen leaves, and I delight in her joy of my favorite season and try to capture each precious moment with the camera.

I am also pleased that Madeline likes the scrumptious tastes of fall. We took our three children on an annual apple picking trip and have been enjoying all kinds of apple dishes. Maddie insists on eating apples like her big brother and big sister. With this in mind, I made sure to pick several tiny apples she can hold with her small hands. I peel it and hand it to her and watch as she slowly crunches into it with her bottom two teeth — her only teeth.

After making our special family apple pie, I opened up one of my favorite cookbooks, “The Six O’Clock Scramble,” by Aviva Goldfarb, to look for some easy recipes that use apples in a healthier way. Her recipes call for just a few healthy ingredients and 30 minutes or less of your time.

Much to my delight, I found a great recipe for roasted sweet potato and apple soup. This recipe was created by Lisa Flaxman, Goldfarb’s friend and co-author of her first cookbook. It won second prize in Parenting magazine’s Recipe 2000 Contest.

In a recent e-mail conversation, Goldfarb informed me that her dear friend passed away from breast cancer this past January. “But I know she would want her recipes circulated far and wide, especially such a healthy and healing recipe like this one,” said Goldfarb.

The aroma from roasting the sweet potatoes, apples, onions and garlic was heavenly. I loved it so much that I decided to double the amount I was roasting and make some extra soup. I shared the finished product with the whole family and packaged up some for a friend in need. I served it with a loaf of fresh bread, and everyone was happy. Even Madeline had a little smile on her face as she tasted the wonderful flavors of fall.

Roasted sweet potato and apple soup
Prep (20 minutes) + cook (30 minutes)
SERVINGS: 6, about 1½ cups each
SUGGESTION: Serve it with whole grain rolls and zucchini fritters (see recipe below).

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium chunks
1 firm apple, such as gala or jonagold, peeled, cored and quartered
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste (optional)
3 to 4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 cup nonfat sour cream for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the sweet potatoes, apples, onions and garlic in a roasting pan. Toss them with the oil and a few shakes of salt and pepper (optional). Roast, tossing every 10 minutes, until they are soft, about 30 minutes.
Puree the vegetable/apple mixture in a blender or food processor (or in the pot using an immersion blender), adding just enough broth to cover it. Add more broth to the blender until the soup reaches the desired consistency, so it is smooth and not too thick. If you are using a blender, you will probably need to puree the soup in two batches.
Warm the soup over low heat in a stockpot until ready to serve, or refrigerate for up to 1 day or freeze it for up to 3 months. Stir in sour cream at the table for a creamier taste, if desired.
Scramble flavor booster: Add ¼ – ½ teaspoon ground ginger or 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger to the roasted vegetables before blending, or ¼ – ½ teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper for a spicy bite.
Side dish suggestion: To make zucchini fritters, thoroughly combine 1 grated zucchini (about 2 cups), 1 lightly beaten egg, 3/4 cup bread crumbs or crushed crackers, ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning and ½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning in a medium bowl. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil over medium to medium-high heat until the butter starts to bubble or the oil starts to smoke. Form the zucchini mixture into about 6 thin pancakes and sauté them in the butter or oil until they are browned, flipping them once, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.  If the outsides are getting too brown, reduce the heat. 

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