Fall is really beginning to show its colors after the frosty mornings of last week.  Summer green is evolving into the reds, golds, and oranges of autumn. 

Speaking of last week, several days of mine were filled with caring for two of my grandsons, Liam (8) and Colton (3).  Their parents took a delayed trip to celebrate their fifteenth anniversary, which was in August.  Liam started school the day of their actual anniversary, so Adam and Candice waited until fall break to take their getaway.  I offered to care for the boys while they were gone, so they dropped them at my house on their way to Tennessee last Monday morning.

Liam, Colton, and I had several adventures during their four-day stay with me.  We played games, went to the apple orchard, and of course, we spent time in the kitchen cooking.  Liam was fascinated with my keyboard; I showed him how to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”  He worked hard on memorizing them while he was here.

On Tuesday morning, Liam was excited that we were having homemade waffles for breakfast.  I made the batter before the boys woke up, and plugged in the waffle iron so it was hot and ready.  When the waffles were baked, we sat down to eat our breakfast.  Following our prayer, I kept getting up for various items that we needed, plus I had to clean up the grape juice that Colton spilled on the table. 

Liam remarked that I wasn’t able to sit down and eat, to which I replied that I finally could after the juice was cleaned up.  Or so I thought.  When I cut into my waffle, a cold stream of grape juice gushed out from under my plate, hit my leg, and puddled on the floor.  I hadn’t realized it had gone that far across the table.  I knew it meant the kitchen floor needed to be mopped after our meal was finished.

Scrubbing the floor meant removing the chairs that were sitting around my table.  Thinking of a fun thing for Colton to do, I lined them up in the living room, all facing the kitchen.  They made a splendid train, and we filled the “cars” with stuffed animals.  The front seat was reserved for engineer Colton.  He had so much fun playing with his “choo choo” that Liam left his keyboard “practice” and joined Colton on the train.

Liam is not that fond of cooking with Grammie; however, he does like to eat what I prepare.  Colton is not that way – he enjoys being in the kitchen with me.  Colton loved helping make the cherry filling for the pie Liam requested.  I asked Liam if the pie tasted as good as he hoped it would.  His reply: “It’s even better!” 

Another request from Liam was more of the duck cookies we had made a few weeks ago.  Just as with the pie, it was Colton that helped prepare the dough.  Liam asked him if he was coming back into the living room to play.  “No!” he stated emphatically, “I am helping Grammie cook!”

This Grammie does love to have her grandchildren help her in the kitchen.  My grandson Elijah helped me make Caramel Corn Candy the last time he was here.  I was trying the recipe for the fall snack column I usually write.  We were delighted with the results of our efforts. 

I tried another new recipe – Spiced Honey Pretzels.  The other two are good ones from past years.  Each of them would be good to serve at an autumn gathering.

Caramel Corn Candy

8 quarts popped corn

2 cups salted peanuts

1 cup butter

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon maple flavoring

Combine popcorn and peanuts in large mixing bowl; set aside.

Combine butter, corn syrup, sugars, and salt in a heavy saucepan; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat; quickly stir in soda and flavorings.  Pour over popcorn mixture; mix well.

Spoon mixture into three 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pans.  Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Remove from oven; stir occasionally while mixture cools.  Store ina an airtight container.  Yield: 8-1/2 quarts.

Spiced Honey Pretzels

4 cups thin pretzel sticks

3 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

Line a 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan with foil; coat the foil with cooking spray.  Place the pretzel sticks in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.  Pour over pretzels; toss to coat evenly.  Spread into prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.  Stir; cook for 5 more minutes.  Cool on a wire rack, stirring gently several times to separate.  Yield: 8 servings.

Caramel Crisp Bites

20 large marshmallows

20 caramels (unwrapped)

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons butter (not spread)

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies)

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Melt marshmallows, caramels, water, and butter together in a medium-size pan.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth.  Remove from heat.

Stir in vanilla, cereal, and nuts.  Press into greased 9-inch square pan.  Cool.  Cut with knife dipped in hot water.

Fall Harvest Popcorn

2 quarts popped popcorn; unsalted

1 (7-ounce) shoestring potatoes

1 can mixed nuts; salted

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

1 teaspoon dill weed

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine popcorn, shoestring potatoes and nuts in large roasting pan. Set aside.

Combine butter, dill, Worcestershire sauce, lemon pepper seasoning, garlic powder and onion powder in small bowl; pour over popcorn mixture, stirring until evenly coated.

Bake eight to ten minutes, stirring once. Cool completely; store in airtight containers.

Recipe yields 1 large batch of popcorn.