Fall baking: the prospect of it makes me cheerful. It’s one of the pleasures of the season, for me; it reminds me of my growing-up years, and the comfort there was sitting on the big oval braided rug in the living room in our home in N.C., watching Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, while mom baked an apple pie or some fluffy buttermilk biscuits to smear with apple butter when they came out of the oven. What a pleasure.
I remember taking walks in the autumn-splashed woods behind our house on Ivanhoe Place in Charlotte, woods which I’m sure aren’t there anymore, what with the growth of that city. The neighborhood kids and I (Angie and Andy, John-John and Paul, Cissy and Johnny) would bundle up and walk through the paths that had been trampled down years before by the folks who lived behind us then. There were farmers in old shacks back there, on the other side of the woods, and I would marvel at their little wooden houses with trails of smoke ribboning out of the chimneys.
Annie was the most interesting to me; she was a large African-American woman, almost always in an apron and a dress, and she and her husband Henry had a mule. I for the life of me can’t remember that mule’s name anymore, but he was there on their little plot of land, and Annie would holler for her husband to come out and hitch the mule to the buggy, and he would, and they’d go clomping down the street to market or church or wherever Annie wanted to go that day.
I always wanted to go to Annie’s house. She seemed so nice and I liked her safe-looking little home. Looking at her life through the woods was, to me, like looking into another world. My world was about suburban school and little brick houses, Big Wheels and Barbies, station wagons and steaks on the grill. Annie’s was about working with her hands, hanging her clothes on the line, growing her own food, and riding behind a big, ornery mule in a buggy. Less than a quarter of a mile separated us, but we were worlds apart. The falling of the leaves was like the opening of a window between our worlds, and I loved the escapism of looking through it.
I loved that time in my childhood. Even when the weather was cold, we were outside for most of the day unless we were in school. We explored those woods and played make-believe and made up stories and had fun. Our parents bundled us up against the chilly autumn wind (I can still remember my little red knitted mittens with a blue pattern stitched into the backside of them) and sent us out for awhile, and then called us in for a hot supper of spaghetti or soup or tuna casserole. Those were the evenings when I was happy to get inside the warmth of the house, watch some fun shows on PBS, and smell whatever yummy thing mom had baking in the oven. That is my first memory of fall baking.
I still love autumn; the change of seasons is just as exciting to me as an adult. However, I live in Texas now, (and no interesting people with mules and buggies live behind me) and this week we are still in the 90s and toasty warm. That kind of heat doesn’t exactly lend itself to heating up the oven and, with it, your whole house. That’s why I’m proposing that today we try a recipe that doesn’t need the oven at all. One burner on your stovetop and about five minutes of your time is all you’ll need, and you’ll end up with a tasty fall treat to share with your family, friends, or neighbors.
I found this recipe at SouthernPlate.com and the main change I made was the addition of a cup of white chocolate chips. I hope you’ll try it, too, and enjoy a little bit of fall flavor, no matter the temperature at your house.
No-Bake Peanut Butter-White Chocolate Chip Bars
- 3 Cups Oats (I might cut this down to 2 1/2 cups next time)
- 2 Cups Sugar
- 1 Cup Peanut Butter
- 1/2 Cup Milk
- 1/4 Cup butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Place butter, sugar, and milk in heavy sauce pot. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
- Once it reaches a full rolling boil continue to stir and boil for one to one and a half minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla until peanut butter is melted. Stir in oats, then chips.
- Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper or pour all at once into greased 8×8 pan (ed. note: I used a 9×9 and they were still quite thick). Allow to cool completely before serving.