Fall has finally fallen in all its glory! There is a chill in the air and the ground is littered with leaves. Although the afternoons have been warming up nicely, the mornings and evenings are brisk. And night is descending so suddenly! Sob, sob.
While I definitely mourn the passing of summer’s long days, the onset of autumn has left me craving warm sweaters, delicious fall flavors and hearty crock-pot meals. Our last CSA delivery contained both acorn and butternut squash, red potatoes, and sweet potatoes. And at the grocery store I was enticed by the apple cider. I decided to pick up a pork roast and create a fabulous new recipe for family to enjoy.
For this recipe I reached for the butternut squash and sweet potatoes, both of which I cut into large chunks. I added an onion to the veggies and then placed the pork loin roast on top. Then, in a large measuring cup I combined some chicken broth, apple cider, dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and chili powder for a combination of both sweet and savory flavors. I poured the marinade over the mixture and let everything cook away in the crock pot for 7 hours or so.
I love that the crock pot does all the work, while I get to enjoy fun fall activities, like pumpkin picking, leaf collecting and football. Although while this recipe cooked away we were watching my oldest son’s fall baseball team take another beating in an 18-2 loss (I’m just guessing on the number of runs the other team had, it was hard to keep track).
When we arrived at the field (my husband had dropped my son off early and then come back to collect the rest of the family), I found my son standing on the hill. Wow! I thought. He’s pitching. He’s never, I mean not once ever, pitched from this mound before. This should be interesting. As a rising thirteen year old he just graduated from little league to senior league. That means he’s playing on a regulation, like major league baseball, size field. The mound is fifteen feet further away from home plate and the bases are each an additional thirty feet apart. It’s a BIG field for what still appear to be little boys. Normally, I do not think of my 5’6″ son as “little” anymore, but on that field he definitely looks small.
He fared about as well as any of us could have expected. But, other than growing tired by the end of his outing, he didn’t care one bit. He wants to pitch, and knows the only way to learn is to get out there and do it. I am awed by his courage and matter of factness. And his love of the game is so great that he honestly doesn’t care about the outcome. He just wants to play ball. It certainly helps that this fall league is instructional, the parents and coaches are super supportive, and, for the most part, no-one even knows the exact score. We have a very young team. Ten of our fifteen players are playing in this league for the first time and they all have a lot to learn. But, boy do these boys have heart. Each week they arrive with smiles on their faces ready to face a new challenge and each week they get just little bit better.
Wow – I really got off on a tangent there… Sorry. I bet you all thought that at least one good thing about the fall would be reprieve from the constant baseball chatter on this site. Wrong! But the good news is there are only two weeks left in the season – and then it’s on to basketball – lol. In order to prevent your eyeballs from glazing over, I’ll wrap up me recap, but let me just say this. I have honestly learned a lot from watching my son play baseball. As much as he loves the game, he also seems to innately understand it’s limited meaning in life. He’s never afraid to bat in a clutch situation or pitch a big game (even if I think he’s not ready). Whether he personally goes 4-for-4 at the plate with 6 RBI’s and scores a couple of runs or strikes out at every at bat, whether he makes outstanding plays in the field or multiple errors, whether the team wins or loses, he always comes off the field happy that he just got to play the game he loves. And he’s always excited and enthusiastic about the next practice, the next game, the next chance to get better. Watching him play baseball has taught me about perspective, about courage, about confidence, about character and about pure, unadulterated joy. It’s no wonder I also love this game.
Now, back to that recipe…. When we got home from the game, I shredded the pork with a fork – hey that rhymes! It literally fell apart when I touched it and I didn’t even have to take it out of the crock pot to shred. I added 1/4 cup of heavy cream to the pot, gave it a quick stir and replaced the lid to let it cook for one more hour.
About thirty minutes before dinner I prepared some rice and served the cider-marinated pork and squash over it. The rice was the perfect choice to soak up all the delicious flavors of the marinade. My children declared this “the best pork ever!” And pork is a family favorite in our house.
Oh – and if you happen to have any leftovers – definitely pop them in fridge for another day. This is one of those meals that is even BETTER the next day. Once the flavors have had an extra night or two to meld together in the refrigerator it is absolutely divine!