5 ways to welcome fall that are not pumpkin spice

I love living in a place where we have four distinct seasons, but I absolutely adore fall. (At this point you’re probably saying, yes, Ally, every woman on the planet loves fall). I think part of my love of fall stems from the back-to-school season (and being one of those kids that loved school) as well as strong sensory associations of rich colors (fall harvest, changing leaves), distinct smells (bonfires, mulled apple cider) and sounds (birds migrating south, crunchy leaves underfoot). I miss fall in New York as it felt like a longer stretch of time between scorching summer and snowy winters. But I am making the most of the shorter fall in Wisconsin!

It has been pumpkin spice overload (and now maple, I think?) the last few years, and while I do love pumpkin spice drinks, it’s almost become a punchline at this point. Here are some non-pumpkin flavored ways to enjoy fall, wherever you live!

1. Take in the changing colors in a park or natural area near where you live. In New York we called them “leaf peepers” – the people who got into their cars or on the train on the weekends to take a scenic jaunt to the suburbs to experience fall color. In Wisconsin (and I’ve seen this in other states), the Department of Tourism releases a fall color report. This report is interactive and shows when the estimated peak of fall color will happen in different parts of the state. We took a scenic drive to a state park we’d never visited and had a beautiful hike during peak fall color in the Wausau area. This year I’d like to take in a fall hike at Newport State Park and Dells of the Eau Claire State Park.

2. Try a new recipe using in-season produce from your local farmers market. Late summer to early fall is such a bountiful time of year for rich and flavorful produce! Items in season include the obvious (pumpkin and apples), and the less obvious (pears, cranberries, pomegranates, sweet potatoes, butternut, acorn and hubbard squash). Depending on where you live, you might be able to get late season sweet corn into late September and early October. I’d really like to experiment with more recipes using cranberries, pomegranate and squash this fall.

3. Start a new health or wellness habit as we approach the holiday season. I began my health and weight loss journey in earnest last fall (and I’m glad I did BEFORE the holiday season) as it gave me the motivation to stay healthy through a fairly unhealthy time of year. This year I want to get back into a weight training regimen and restart a daily meditation habit. I love the way I feel when I begin each day with a cup of tea and some quiet headspace, but I easily fall out of that habit. My weight has stayed off over the last year, but I’ve noticed that my muscle density is declining as I’ve increased non-weight training exercises in my fitness regimen this summer. I always look forward to returning to hot yoga in the fall, too! Heated yoga practice in the summer makes me nauseous, but as soon as it is cooler outside than in the studio, I eagerly look forward to the classes.

4. Buy a whole chicken and make homemade soup and stock. Nothing, I repeat NOTHING, makes me feel more like a Martha Stewart mini-me than utilizing whole chickens in the kitchen. I eat a primarily plant-based diet, but my husband still eats meat and I like to reduce sodium by using whole ingredients rather than packaged ones. You can take a shortcut for this by picking up a rotisserie chicken at the deli, shred the chicken for soup, and save the bones and carcass in your crockpot or Instant pot to make delicious homemade stock to freeze and use for fall and winter soups.

The art of preparing a whole chicken is so satisfying (it feels very Julia Child / Martha Stewart) and reminds you truly, of what you are eating and how to use the various parts and be less wasteful. Read more about how to roast a whole chicken if you go with the fryer method. You’ll want to buy a small ‘fryer’ chicken (you don’t have to fry them, but that’s what they’re called) in a local butcher shop.

I love to use roasted chicken in soups and chilis, such as a white chicken chili or a chicken and rice soup. Making broth in your crockpot or on the stove is the easiest thing ever (albeit, not the cleanest). Here’s a simple recipe for chicken broth, but if you don’t eat meat, I definitely recommend you try this mushroom broth recipe.

5. Make your own mulled apple cider in your crockpot. I love making this for two reasons: it’s a delicious crowd pleaser and it makes our apartment smell AMAZING! My mom used to make what she called ‘simmer pots’ when I was younger and would put sliced oranges, apples and cinnamon sticks in a stovepot with a small amount of water and let it simmer for hours. It made the house smell amazing and probably contributed to my sensory love of fall. Here’s a simple recipe I found on Pinterest, but you can certainly find more where that came from if you’d like to find one lower in sugar or with differing ingredients.

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