ALMOST HARVEST TIME with a hint of summer still in the air

Summer still seems to be hanging on, so I know I am not ready yet to turn on that oven. This is the time for lighter meals such as soups, salads and fresh fruits. We can continue to grill, or for make one-pot top of the stove meals such as a great Chicken Cacciatore, paired with those luscious September tomatoes and a ripe pear and cheese dessert.

We still seem to be getting into a schedule and I know I am trying to do simple meals. I have delicious recipes for you this month to make your transition a little easier. Table Decorating Ideas As I reluctantly put away my summer candles and beach chairs, I give into mums and pumpkins.

Time to change the light-colored tablecloths and place mats for more autumn tones. For a table top idea, I always like to use mini-pumpkins and large silk leaves that you can buy at craft stores. Mums in small pots can be wrapped with burlap and tied with raffia and mixed in with the pumpkins and leaves.

Sunflowers in any size add such a brilliant color to any table. Autumn doesn't have to be all browns and dark reds. Add red ripe pomegranates, green pears and purple plums. Tuck in collard greens or cabbage leaves for inexpensive fillers. I always have lots of edibles on my centerpieces to add textures and colors.

It is also a less expensive way to decorate than just using all flowers. And you can eat them afterwards, too. September Recipes: Even if you have not tried Moroccan?style food before, or may think you won't like it, live a little- try something new.

Although this recipe may have a few spices you are not familiar with, it is not spicy - just wonderfully rich in flavors. This is a very mild version- you can increase the amount of flavorings to suit your tastes. This soup is incredibly flavorful. Lentils are wonderfully good-for-you foods since they are high in complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber and they are extremely low in fat. They readily absorb all of the flavor of spices and herbs.

Lentils and other legumes have all the nutrients recognized as important in preventing heart disease, cancer and obesity. People have been eating legumes for thousands of years and these foods are the main source of protein for people in many cultures all over the world. So experiment and enjoy this healthy dish. _________________________________________________________ Moroccan Tomato and Lentil Soup Makes 8+ servings. 1 (35-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained 1/2 medium onion, chopped 1 large celery rib (including leaves), chopped 2 tablespoons butter 1/2 teaspoon turmeric 1 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley 1 can (15.5-ounce) chickpeas with its liquid 1 cup lentils, rinsed and soaked in hot water for 15 minutes or until soft 4-5 cups vegetable or chicken broth 1 cup raisins 2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil 1 teaspoon dried oregano 2 cups fresh baby spinach, washed 1 teaspoon kosher salt Freshly ground pepper Garnish: Fresh lemon wedges Coarsely purée tomatoes in a food processor and set aside.

In a heavy 4-quart pot, cook onion and celery in butter over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until softened. Do not brown. Add turmeric, black pepper, and cinnamon and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, lentils, broth, raisins, oregano, salt and pepper, and half of the basil and parsley.

Cook on a medium-low simmer, partially covered- pot, for 1 hour until lentils and chickpeas are soft. Stir occasionally. Add more broth if too thick. Add fresh spinach, remaining parsley and basil just before serving, and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir and ladle into your soup tureen or individual bowls.

Serve with a simple green salad and crusty whole wheat bread, with extra virgin olive oil for dipping. YUM! ________________________________________________ It's Time for Pears: Fresh Pears with Saga Blue Cheese Here is one of my most favorite, and quickest, desserts or snacks. I have served this many times, and it is especially good when pears are at their peak. It can't get any easier than this: 3 ripe pears ? Bartlett or D'Anjou (make sure they are ripe but not too soft) 2 cups of cold water mixed with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice 4 ounces of Saga Blue Cheese, at room temperature 24 Walnut halves Wash and slice pears into eight pieces, cores removed. Dip slices into water and lemon juice for a minute or so. This will prevent them from turning brown.

Remove and pat dry. (This step can be eliminated if you are serving them right away.) Spread softened cheese on one half of each slice. Top with a walnut and serve.

This is delicious with port wine or cider. You can also use any other kind of soft cheese as you prefer. I hope you enjoyed this preview of fall.

Enjoy the best of the season. Visit Marybeth at and contact her with any thoughts or questions at: .

By: Marybeth Gregg

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