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  • Kara Kimbrough

Kara's Sights and Bites: Enjoy fleeting fall days while they last

By Kara Kimbrough


Crockpot Apple Crisp with Oatmeal Crust is the perfect fall dessert.

For the first time in six months, give or take a few pleasant days, it’s finally cool enough to venture outdoors and enjoy the best of Mississippi’s wide open spaces, natural beauty and colorful fall foliage. There’s no way I can narrow down each and every category into a “best of” list. I’ll just say, here are a “few” of the best places and pastimes to enjoy fun fall activities before winter’s chilly weather arrives. Feel free to email me your top pics in each of these areas and I’ll include them in future columns.


1. Enjoy an Outdoor Picnic – From Oxford’s Rowan Oak to scenic state parks in almost every county to beachfront spots on the Gulf Coast, picnic grounds abound. If I had to recommend just one, I’d list Natchez’ Bluff Park. Overlooking the Mighty Mississippi, the park is the best vantage point from which to take in the beauty and splendor of the river. The best time to be on the bluff is at sunset, because, weather permitting, sunsets on the river are, well, a spectacular sight. Spread a blanket in one of the spacious picnic areas or under the gazebo and bask in cool breezes and magnificent vistas near the water’s edge.


2. Go Outdoors for Leaf-Peeping and Photographing Fall Foliage –Many are surprised to learn Mississippi boasts a number of areas filled with varying shades of red, orange, yellow, brown and bronze leaves and foliage. The Natchez Trace Parkway, which begins in Natchez and winds through Ridgeland and through northeast Mississippi enroute to Nashville is, hands-down, the best road on which to travel to view fall's splendor. If you want to stop and stay awhile, Tishomingo State Park, also in the northeast part of the state, offers breathtaking scenery in a myriad of vibrant colors.


3. Hiking Season is Here – Mississippi is packed with hundreds of state parks, national forests and off-the-beaten path wooded areas highlighted by hiking trails for all ages and skill levels. One of the best (notice I said “one of”) destinations is Clark Creek Natural Area in Woodville. Three separate trails, including one leading to the majestic waterfall, are found in this southwest Mississippi oasis.


4. Sit Down to Comforting Fall Soup -I’ve often lamented the lack of good homemade soup in today’s restaurants. Luckily, there are still a few locally and family-owned eateries that serve their own versions of my favorite fall comfort food. One of the best bowls can be enjoyed at Madison’s Strawberry Café. A rotating soup of the day is always a good choice, but the best of the best is cream of crab soup.


5. Al Fresco Coffee with a View – I’m a major coffee lover, but sitting outdoors while sipping on a hot cup of java isn’t recommended for most of the year. Take advantage of cool fall days and grab a cup of coffee at Cat Island Coffee House located inside Pass Books in Pass Christian. Outdoor seating offers a breathtaking view of the Pass’s harbor and shimmering gulf waters. In addition to several coffee drinks, Cat Island serves breakfast and lunch items.


Last, readers have asked for help in planning an affordable, yet enjoyable fall trip to New York City. I’ve visited the city at Christmas and in the fall and while both seasons are amazing, I preferred the latter’s milder temperatures and vibrant colors. New York City Tourism + Conventions, the official destination marketing organization and convention and visitors bureau for NYC’s five boroughs, shared a selection of free and affordable ($10-and-under) experiences for visitors this autumn. Here’s a small sample; email me if you'd like the complete list:

  • Go leaf-peeping: NYC is home to more than 29,000 acres of parks and open spaces across all five boroughs where visitors can view breathtaking fall foliage. Central Park is one of the world’s most iconic parks. Spanning 843 acres, the park features open fields, woodlands, a zoo, ice-skating, ponds and more. It's one of my favorite places to visit in NYC.

  • Walk the High Line: Built on a former elevated rail line, the High Line offers unparalleled views of Manhattan’s far west side. The park has several different gardens and green spaces along with free wellness programs and artwork.

  • Arts & Culture: There are literally hundreds of museums in New York City, many offering year-round free (or sometimes free) admission. Two with no admission fee include the American Folk Art Museum and The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

For a complete list of all there is to do and see in New York City, including hundreds of upcoming holiday events, visit nyctourism.com.


Whichever fall activity you choose, you’ll likely have less time to cook elaborate desserts. Here’s a solution: use your Crockpot to make dinner – and dessert -while you experience fall’s fleeting days. This recipe is easy to prepare, cooks quickly and due to the addition of oatmeal, is healthier than most traditional desserts, affording the opportunity to add a scoop of ice cream, guilt-free!



Crockpot Apple Dessert with Oatmeal Crust

6 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced

2/3 cup old-fashioned oatmeal (not quick oats)

2/3 cup flour

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Few grates of fresh nutmeg

1 stick of butter


Add and arrange the sliced apples in the bottom of the Crockpot. Mix together the oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in the butter to make crumbs using a pastry blender or your fingers. Crumble the oatmeal mixture over the apples.


Place a double layer of paper towels over the top of the Crockpot to absorb any condensation, then top with the lid. Cook on low for 4 hours. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream if desired.


Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer and travel agent from Mississippi. Email her at kkprco@yahoo.com.

 






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