Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sticks and Leaves

At this time of year, I always miss the mountains of East Tennessee where I grew up.  There is simply nothing like the crisp fall air, the perfect blue canvas of sky dotted with puffs of cotton-ball clouds, the scent and site of magestic trees cloaked in all their autumnal glory.  Okay, maybe I'm rushing things a bit...but not much.  By October the Smokies are coming into their full glory!

Don't get me wrong, I adore Florida and at my advanced age and state of deterioration...I'd probably have to LIVE wrapped up in a Leopard Print Snuggy with some of those thermal socks that you heat in the microwave were I to move any further north than Savannah Georgia.  However, I have fond memories of raking the leaves in my grandmother's yard into an enourmous mound and then diving into them over and over. 

I was the only granddaughter in a family full of stinky old boys and I lived in a fantasy world where I was the princess with fall leaves stuck in her flyaway hair and the aroma of burning leaves clinging to her clothes as she comes in for a slice of apple pie or a couple of granny's oatmeal cookies.
There is a song by Nora Jones that always makes me think of myself as a little girl.  "Spinning, laughing, dancing to her favorite song, a little girl with nothing wrong is all alone.  Eyes wide open, always hoping for the sun and she'll sing her song to anyone who comes along.  Fragile as a leaf in autumn just falling to the ground, without a sound.  Crooked little smile on her face tells a tale of grace thats all her own.  Fragile as a leaf in autumn just falling to the ground without a sound.  Spinning, laughing, dancing to her favorite song, she's a little girl with nothing wrong and she's all alone." 

The first time I ever heard that song, I could see myself doing a clumsy piroutte on my grandmother's front walk beneath the the huge oak with it's burnished golden leaves and in my mind...I was Dancerina favorite doll come to life.  My grandmother was taking my picture with one of those old box cameras.  Her pictures were always headless!

So the other day, I had this brilliant idea to make my own fall tree!  I dragged out the smallest of my four Christmas trees and put it up in the front hallway.  My mother and I covered it with orange pumpkin string lights, silk fall leaf garlands, asters, sunflowers, chrysanthamums, fall fruit and vegetable picks and mini scarecrows.  It's adorable!  I set my scarecrow beaneath the tree and then put a lighted pumpkin beside him. may be 98 degrees in the shade outside...but inside my house, it's autumn!  I changed all my candles to spiced pumpkin, caramel apple and vanilla too.

Of course, you know I love to bake.  I try very hard to make my baked goods as healthy as possible.  Anytime the word "bran" gets bantered around though...I am accused of trying to feed my dear husband "sticks and leaves."  He really is ridiculous since I happen to KNOW he's going to eat ANYTHING that doesn't eat him first (except broccoli rabe or brussel sprouts).  Oddly enough, hes not the only bran-a-phobe out there though.  There are still quite a few people who think bran is the sustenance of the over 80 set and Yule Gibbons.  I'm here to tell you it isn't!

Necessity can be the mother of invention or the mother of all when you start making a recipe, its usually advisable to make sure you have all the ingredients.  I didn't...of course!  Basically, I had a box of Fiber One Bran know the one I looks like twigs and tastes pretty much like it looks.  Don't get me wrong...I'm not knocking Fiber One...I love it, just NOT this particular cereal.  But I'd already spent the money and there was a recipe on the back of the box for some breakfast cookies so I figured's not a total loss!

I asked my mother to look over the recipe and she says, "oh yeah, we have everything we need to make these."  Great...let's just whip up a batch.  By the time I actually take a gander at the box myself, I've already got a whole food processer full of ground up fiber twigs and that's about all.  I guess mom wasn't wearing her reading glasses?? 

I ended up making Spiced Orange Cranberry Breakfast Branola Cookies and they came out wonderful.  Pretty good stuff with a cup of my favorite Earl Grey....

2 cups Fiber One Bran Cereal
3 cups organic bran flakes
2 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup Xylitol natural sweetener
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted organic butter, melted
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 whole organic cage free eggs plus two egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of one large navel orange
2 cups dried cranberries
  1. Place the cereal in a zipper bag and crush with the bottom of a skillet.  You can do this in the food processor but they tend to whirl around and not really get crushed evenly because they are so light weight.  Pour the cereal crumbs into a bowl and add bran flakes, wheat flour, xylitol, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Mix well.
2.  In a smaller bowl, beat eggs and egg whites slightly and combine with melted butter.  Stir in pumpkin puree, vanilla extract and orange zest.  Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients all at once.  Stir with a wooden spoon until no dry spots remain.  Dough will be very thick.  If it seems too dry, you may another egg or more pumpkin puree.  Lastly, stir in cranberries.

3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease cookie sheets.  I used a 1 ounce scoop to make balls and then flattened with wet fingers.  Sprinkle tops with sugar before baking.  These cookies don't spread so they may be placed close together on the cookie sheets.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Careful not to overbake or they will get too hard. 

This recipe makes about 65 one ounce cookies. 

Note:  Store cooled cookies in an airtight container with a couple slices of bread.  Bran is DRY and it will suck the moisture out of just about anything it comes in contact with.  The bread will keep your cookies moist.  This works with any type of cookies by the way.  Got some chocolate chip cookies that are too crisp?  Store with a slice of bread and they will soften up.


  1. When I read that the recipe made 65 cookies, I thought that was huge...until my brain said wait! that's only 5 1/2 dozen...Weird how amounts can be the same but sound smaller using different words. Anyway, enough rambling. You saved the day and these cookies sounds fabulous.

  2. U've a gorgeous home, JillyAnn & u make me feel as tho' X'mas is near! Lovely creation :)

  3. Oh Jilly, I feel that way about Atlanta's crisp air too. Plus, places like Georgia & Tennessee are so lush and full of a different type of life and greenery. I think people there are smarter and more cultured too, but that could be a prejudice (smile). I actually think that about any place outside of Florida;) Yikes! Have I said too much?
    Anyway, your tree is adorable and I would eat 4 of those cookies with my tea!

  4. Great piece!!!! Have you read what Jenny Adams Cleveland is doing..... Meals delivered!!!! I'll bet you'd be good at that too. How's the progress with your cookbook? I keep expecting to see you on the food channel.

  5. You are too sweet! What a neat idea! That is such a wonderful way to celebrate you - and the cool touch of fall -

  6. Cute tree :)
    Jill hope you can participate in the event by sending in a rice dish

  7. Great...I have just the rice dish to send too! One that was taught to me years ago by my ex (late) German/Serbian mother-in-law! I will make it and take the picture!

  8. As someone who is trying to adjust to Texas, it was such a delight to see the ways in which you brought Fall into your home! I loved all the autumn foliage, and now I'm tempted to do the same here! And thank you for sharing that healthy, fall-flavored treat with are always make such delicious and nutritious fare!

  9. I love the idea of a fall tree! And the cookies sound so scrumptious!

  10. Living in Miami we have only one season...HOT! People wax poetic about the change of seasons but I have never see it.

    Very interesting read. Love the creative cookie recipe.

    By the way, Do you listen to As I Lay Dying or is that an ad? If you do, bravo! That's one of my favorite bands.

  11. You just made me love Autumn even more. It is great having seasons. The warm weather is great too but either is just a plan flight away.

  12. Thanks everyone!'s over 90 right now and I don't see that changing anytime soon..maybe around Christmas we might hit the 60's That must be an add but that's ok with me anyway because I like that band as well!

    Thanks Rick...I need a glass of your pumpkin juice to go with these cookies.

  13. Very nice post to start of the Fall...Southern California get some chilly weather, but not enough of those gorgeous leaves. Love this cookie reciepe, they look fantastic :)

  14. Oh my god that is the cutest idea, I love your decorations. I can see how any Floridian would really get in the Autumn mood seeing your house, it looks so pretty. Your cookies are the perfect ending touch to it all, they sound so good with Earl Grey my favorite.


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Fort Myers, Florida, United States