Tag Archives: fall

Pumpkin-Gingersnap Trifles combine the classic flavors of pumpkin pie in a glass

Pumpkin-Gingersnap Trifles combine the classic flavors of pumpkin pie in a glass

Pumpkin Parfait text

Aside from shopping for gifts, food — both making and consuming — seems to be most folks’ main concern when planning for said holidays.

The thought of preparing a large feast or nibbles for a large fête can be quite daunting, and for most people, the dessert course often seems to be where home cooks are either spending hours preparing or they’re skipping the hassle by just purchasing something from the grocery store. Not to sound like Rachael Ray or Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) from The Matrix, but what if I told you that you could whip up a mouthwatering dessert in thirty minutes or less and be able to brag that you made it all from scratch?

My inspiration for the following recipe came when I needed to whip up a quick dessert, but didn’t have enough time (or motivation) to bake a whole pumpkin pie. These Pumpkin-Gingersnap Trifles incorporate the flavors of classic pumpkin pie — spiced pumpkin filling, whipped cream, gingersnap cookie “crust” — but take only about a third of the time to make from start to finish. The best part about the dish is that you can make them as individual servings or in one big dish to share.

So if you’re strapped for time this holiday season and/or baking challenged, try out this quick and easy pumpkin treat which is sure to impress all of your guests.
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Pumpkin and sage give macaroni and cheese an injection of autumn flavors

Pumpkin and sage give macaroni and cheese an injection of autumn flavors

Pumpkin Mac text

Since I’m still on my comfort food kick and totally inspired by the season, I decided to whip up another classic dish and given it an injection of autumn: baked macaroni and cheese with pumpkin and sage. Sure, mac and cheese is great as it is, but you’d be surprised how much better it can be with the addition of pumpkin, giving it the slightest hint of sweetness. Sage is my absolute favorite herb to cook with during the fall and it pairs perfectly with pumpkin, so I figured, why not throw it in this dish, too?

I also wanted to write up this particular recipe to teach you readers a thing or two about classic cooking techniques. I recently featured a recipe here that used the classic “mother sauce” Béchamel — milk thickened with a roux (equal parts fat and flour) to make a white sauce. This one uses the basics for Béchamel but adds cheese to it, thus making it a Mornay sauce (read: fancy name for cheese sauce). See? You can make easy, tasty food and learn some fancy cooking skills along the way.

While you can use just about any cheese you’d like for this recipe, I suggest using a white, mild-flavored cheese, like white cheddar, Gouda, or Gruyere, as it won’t overpower the pumpkin flavor or hide the bright yellow-orange hue imparted by the pumpkin puree. And while this mac and cheese doesn’t need to be baked after the creamy sauce is cooked, popping it in the oven gives it a firmer texture and and crispy exterior.
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Creamed Kale and Sweet Onions: Try this (slightly) healthier twist on classic creamed spinach

Creamed Kale and Sweet Onions: Try this (slightly) healthier twist on classic creamed spinach

Creamed Kale text

For my next autumn fare installment, I decided to take a classic comfort dish, creamed spinach, and give it a more modern makeover by using the very popular cruciferous vegetable kale in place of the spinach. Kale has such a great reputation for being so healthy and nutritious, so I figured it could handle being slathered with a butter-laden cream sauce. The vitamins and minerals in kale negate some of the calories in the sauce, right?

I’ve seen creamed spinach done every which way — simmered with cream, mixed with cream cheese, etc. — but I’m a fan of using the old school, classic Bechamel sauce for this application. It’s quick, easy, and it’s a good basic sauce-making skill to have in your culinary repertoire (if you don’t already). Bechamel is one of the five basic “Mother Sauces” in classic French cuisine made up of a roux and milk. A roux is a thickening agent for liquids that is equal parts fat (butter, oil, animal fat, etc.) and flour cooked together before adding the liquid.

Try this out on your table this season for a (somewhat) healthier take on the standard creamed spinach. It’s a side that’s sure to please even the pickiest eater or green veggie hater.
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One-Pan Roast Chicken with Sausage, Apple, Citrus and Rosemary

One-Pan Roast Chicken with Sausage, Apple, Citrus and Rosemary
Get a taste of fall with this one-pan roast chicken and sausage recipe

Get a taste of fall with this one-pan roast chicken and sausage recipe

It’s funny how the autumnal equinox can make an almost immediate change in the weather — with the overnight switch from summer to fall you can start to smell the faint hint of autumn in the air almost overnight. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I swear the slightest breeze feels just a tad cooler the day after the calendar date of this change of seasons. And with this real or imagined cooler weather comes the itch to crank up my oven and start using the warm and comforting flavors of this time of year. Hearty herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme are hallmarks of fall tastes; citrus, apples and pears are in season, and baking and roasting are the cooking methods that prevail.

For my first recipe of the season, I’m giving plain old chicken an injection of fall flavors with the addition of rosemary, orange and smoked sausage in a one-pan roast. Pan-seared chicken legs and thighs are nestled in a bed of onion, apple, smoked sausage, seasoned with orange zest and fresh rosemary, and then roasted to golden-brown perfection in the oven.

On its own or paired with a few sides, this dish is a savory and flavorsome addition to your autumn recipe repertoire. It’s also very versatile: use lemon in place of the orange, sage or thyme to replace the rosemary, and you can even switch up the smoked sausage and use cured Spanish chorizo in its place.
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Casablanca in a bowl: Moroccan spiced carrot soup

Casablanca in a bowl: Moroccan spiced carrot soup

Here’s looking at you, carrots.

In keeping with my culinary exploration of flavors from around the globe, I decided that my next sojourn would be to the fabled land of Morocco. But being that I can’t afford the airfare, this trip would have to take place in my kitchen.

Moroccan food has always appealed to me because of its use of vibrantly colored and flavorful spices. The cuisine reflects Moorish, Mediterranean, Arab and Berber influences, its dishes even more heavily spiced than those of the aforementioned locales.

Cinnamon, coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, ginger and saffron are just a few of the many spices often used in Morocco’s signature tagines, couscous dishes, pastillas, soups and sides.

Besides the meat- and lamb- heavy main dishes, Moroccans use a wide range of fruit and vegetables in their cookery. That’s why I’ve chosen this flavorful carrot soup as the vehicle for my “spicy” fix.

Great for any time of the year, this brightly colored, puréed Moroccan-spiced carrot soup is creamy, bursting with flavor, easy to prepare and also quite healthy. The featured ingredient is chock full of dietary fiber, antioxidants and vitamins — namely, beta carotene and vitamin A, which is great for eye health.

(Though unfortunately the urban legend that eating lots of carrots will allow one to see in the dark isn’t true.)

Feel free to play around with the spices in this soup, adding more or less of whatever pleases your palate, or throw in a different combination of flavors typical of Moroccan cooking. And instead of orange carrots, why not grab some purple, red or yellow carrots to give it a colorful makeover?

My last piece of advice on this recipe: If you have a food processor, use it. It will surely save your hands from all of the chopping required and will cut your prep time in half.

Bil hana wish shifa’!
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Freakin’ adorable: Apple-pecan-bourbon hand pies

Freakin’ adorable: Apple-pecan-bourbon hand pies

Autumn and winter are the only times of the year when you’ll catch me baking. I’ve been known to over-bake, over-whisk and over-mix many a dessert, and I have little to no patience for exactly measuring out ingredients. But the chillier months surrounding the holidays always get me in the mood to bake cookies and pies utilizing the bounty of fruits and spices available at this time of year.

A self-proclaimed “anti-pastry chef,” when I do take on the oven and create sweets I opt for simple baking recipes. I weaned myself off boxed mixes (it’s just plain cheating), but I’m still a fan of pre-made pie crusts and dough found in the freezer aisle at the grocery store. They’re very versatile, and defrosting them makes a smaller mess than making it from scratch — though more power to you if you’re into that.

My newest baked concoction (created with the help of a friend) is a play on the traditional apple pie that many folks enjoy during the holidays. These mini apple-pecan hand pies are a cinch to throw together and a great (and easier) alternative to making one huge pie.

The hand pie recipe uses puff pastry dough — often used in turnover pastries, strudel and for covering Beef Wellington — which can be found in your grocer’s freezer and creates a light, flaky crust when baked. The apple filling is sautéed in a pan first for a softer filling, but feel free to leave your apples raw if you want a crunchier texture. Just remember: If you don’t cook your apple filling first, you can’t pour bourbon in it and set it on fire (aka: flambéing) — which is the best part about making these.

As for apples, take your pick and go with your taste preference. I love the sweet taste of Galas and Comice apples, so that’s what I used in this recipe. For a tangier filling, opt for Granny Smiths.

Feel free to get creative with this recipe, and play with different spices, use an alternate filling — pears, chocolate, berries — or add mix-ins to your crust, like grated sharp cheddar, ground spices and nuts.
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Purée genius: Kabocha squash and apple soup

Purée genius: Kabocha squash and apple soup

The onset of fall brings an array of gorgeous items to our local farmers’ markets and produce aisles, and that bounty includes squash. The orange, yellow and green-hued vegetable makes for great eats during the autumn and winter months and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Baked, braised, sauteed, steamed — you name the cooking technique and it can be applied to these members of the genus Cucurbita.

Squash is also a great addition to a healthy diet, as it’s a good source of fiber, vitamins A, B and C, iron and beta carotene, and is low in calories. It also makes an excellent lower-carb replacement for starches on your dinner plate.

The most common squashes used in cooking during this time of year are butternut and pumpkin. But c’mon folks, get a little more creative here — there are so many other types of squash to try!

That’s why I went with the kabocha (aka “Japanese pumpkin”) for the following soup recipe. The kabocha squash looks like a small green version of the common pumpkin. It’s a pain in the ass to peel, but definitely worth the effort as its meat is a bit sweeter than that of a pumpkin or butternut squash.

The kabocha squash pairs well with the flavor of apples (another fab fall fruit) so I decided to add some Gala apples, hard apple cider and Calvados (apple brandy) to the mix — because everything tastes better with booze.

Typically, you’ll see cinnamon used in this type of soup, but the often overlooked coriander and nutmeg make excellent flavor enhancers, balancing out the sweet notes with touches of savory ones.

As for garnish, I quickly caramelized some chopped Gala apples with brown sugar and cinnamon in a pan and sprinkled them on top. And forget drizzling cream or creme fraiche to finish it off (which is so overdone); sprinkle some crumbled blue cheese, like Maytag, on top. It pairs well with all of the warm flavors in this soup and lends it a tangy kick.

Get creative and experiment with different squashes in your cooking this season. From buttercup to delicata, from “Cinderella” to “Lunch Lady” varieties, there’s a world of flavors waiting for you in your produce aisle.
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