Recipes: Fall for the flavors (and memories) of the season

Tasty ideas for your fall meals include (clockwise from left) Farmhouse Apple Dumplings, Nana's Creamed Mushrooms, Cinnamon-Roasted Pumpkin with Stewed Beans, and Mitchell’s Ministry Salad with Hot Orange-Bacon Dressing. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

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Tasty ideas for your fall meals include (clockwise from left) Farmhouse Apple Dumplings, Nana's Creamed Mushrooms, Cinnamon-Roasted Pumpkin with Stewed Beans, and Mitchell’s Ministry Salad with Hot Orange-Bacon Dressing. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

The transition from summer foods to those of fall can be filled with great expectation and considerable warmth — a combination that feeds our hearts and souls as much as our bellies.

The abundance of autumn produce — bushels of apple varieties, a plethora of root vegetables, a constant stock of cruciferous vegetables, a wealth of mushrooms, and pumpkins in an exceptional breadth of sizes, shapes and colors — changes how we cook and how we connect at the table. We slow down, warm ourselves up, and settle into our homes.

For my farming family, fall meant a return to the stove and lingering more in the kitchen. Smells of pot roast and its rich gravy with caramelized carrots, onions and potatoes would waft through the staircase, waking us up on Sunday mornings before church. The sweetness of molasses-tinged stew beans bubbling in the slow cooker would beckon us down the stairs to the breakfast table. The memories bring me as much comfort now as when I experienced these moments as a kid.

Every October, my family would wait expectantly for a phone call from my great-grandmother, Mommom Cooper. The new chill in the air and the earlier dark sky made us long for her freshly made apple dumplings. As soon as she called, we would button up our jackets and pile into the car to head to the farmhouse for supper. Her dumplings were quite rustic, though special. The apples were enwrapped in a tender, cakey pastry made crisp by a loose cinnamon sugar sauce. Mommom made multiple pans of them because they went fast with our big family. She would spoon the extra-large dumplings into soup bowls and then pour cold whole milk over the top before we dug in.

Greens were plentiful, too. My great-grandfather Mitchell was especially well known for his garden, almost as much as his preaching and praying for people. He grew an exceptional amount of vegetables as part of his ministry to our town, including leaf lettuce. He was a tenant farmer who hailed from the hills of western Virginia, so “wilted lettuce,” a tender lettuce salad spooned with hot bacon grease mixed with sharp vinegar and a pinch of sugar, was a common dish on the table.

Not too far from my grandparents’ farms were a slew of mushroom houses growing the nation’s supply of white button mushrooms. It was not uncommon for neighbors to stop by with pounds of the earthy fungi as gifts. Creamed mushrooms was one of the easiest ways to cook a large quantity of them before they spoiled.

While all of these dishes are longtime family favorites, pumpkin remains my preferred fall ingredient. My friend Sarah Frey, referred to as “America’s Pumpkin Queen,” owns and runs the largest pumpkin farm in the country in Poseyville, Indiana. Over the past several years, she has introduced me to the notion that we should enjoy eating the wide variety of pumpkins found at the grocery store as much as we enjoy carving and decorating them. I have explored cooking with Blue Lakotas, Jarrahdales, Kabochas, and many more, and find them all equally delicious.

Whether cooked on their own or paired together with other dishes made with the bounty of the moment, it’s produce like this that provides us the unique warmth and soul of the fall season.

Chadwick Boyd is a food and lifestyle expert, food contributor to Hallmark, and cookbook author. Find his work at chadwickboydlifestyle.com.

RECIPES

The simple baked supper dumplings, easy salad and skillet side, and Dutch-oven entree all use fall ingredients and flavor combinations that have wide appeal and require very little fuss: apples and cinnamon, bacon and cranberries, mushrooms and cream, and pumpkin with beans.

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Farmhouse Apple Dumplings. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Farmhouse Apple Dumplings. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Combined ShapeCaption
Farmhouse Apple Dumplings. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Farmhouse Apple Dumplings

Every October, I continue my great-grandmother’s apple dumpling tradition, though I have updated her recipe a bit. Mommom was a woman of the 1930s and 1940s, so margarine and Bisquick were among the ingredients. Salted butter makes these supper dumplings more tender, and the scratch dough comes together in minutes. Sometimes I don’t peel the apples, which adds a nice peek of color.

Farmhouse Apple Dumplings
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter at room temperature, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 sticks very cold salted butter
  • 2/3 cup chilled whole milk, plus more for serving
  • 6 (7-8 ounce) Cosmic Crisp or Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
  • Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon room-temperature butter. Mix together 1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl. Set both aside.
  • In a medium saucepan over high heat, add 2 cups sugar, the water and remaining 2 tablespoons room-temperature butter and bring to a slow boil, about 7-8 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and remove from the heat. Let cool.
  • Whisk together 3 cups flour, the salt, baking powder and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a large mixing bowl. Drop the sticks of butter in the bowl, roll to coat, then grate on a box grater. With your fingers, loosely mix the butter and dry ingredients to bring together. Pour in 2/3 cup milk. Using a sturdy rubber scraper, bring the dough together. Place the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 1 1/2-inch disc. Wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack placed in the center position.
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut into 6 equal parts. Roll in your hands to form balls. Lightly flour a clean surface and a rolling pin and roll out each ball to almost 1/8-inch-thick circle, about 8 inches in diameter. Dust with more flour as needed while rolling.
  • Place an apple in the center of each piece of dough. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon sugar in the core and around the apple. Carefully bring the dough to the top of the apple and fold around to enclose. Wrap your hands around the dough to keep it together. Press the dough at the top to seal. Use a bit of cold water, if needed, to fully seal.
  • Place the dumplings in the baking dish. Make sure they don’t touch each other or the sides of the dish.
  • Ladle some of the syrup over the dumplings. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar evenly over the dumplings. Place in the oven and bake 40-45 minutes or until the dumplings are golden brown and the apples are cooked through when tested with a knife. While the dumplings are in the oven, baste with more syrup every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 5-10 minutes.
  • Serve the dumplings in bowls, spooning the remaining syrup on top. Pour about 1/2 cup cold milk over each serving. Makes 6 dumplings.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 964 calories (percent of calories from fat, 28), 9 grams protein, 167 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fiber, 31 grams total fat (19 grams saturated), 79 milligrams cholesterol, 745 milligrams sodium.
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Mitchell’s Ministry Salad with Hot Orange-Bacon Dressing. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Mitchell’s Ministry Salad with Hot Orange-Bacon Dressing. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

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Mitchell’s Ministry Salad with Hot Orange-Bacon Dressing. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Mitchell’s Ministry Salad with Hot Orange-Bacon Dressing

To make this stack salad more substantial and colorful, four different tender leaf greens are torn in large pieces and piled high on a dinner plate. The hot bacon dressing enhanced by orange and cranberry on this salad brings warmth and heartiness to supper.

Mitchell’s Ministry Salad with Hot Orange-Bacon Dressing
  • 2 cups torn butter or bibb lettuce, washed and dried
  • 2 cups torn green leaf lettuce, washed and dried
  • 2 cups torn red leaf lettuce, washed and dried
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup very thinly sliced English cucumber or apple
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (green parts only)
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Place the greens, cucumber or apple, scallions and orange zest in a large bowl. Toss to combine.
  • Place 2 layers of paper towel over a plate. Set aside. Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Cook until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon bits to the plate to drain. Do not discard the bacon fat.
  • Quickly, whisk the vinegar, orange juice, and cranberries into the pan with the hot bacon fat. Pour immediately over the salad. Add the bacon bits. Season with salt and pepper. Using tongs, toss to fully coat. Transfer to a dinner plate. Pile the salad high. Serve. Serves 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 216 calories (percent of calories from fat, 59), 9 grams protein, 14 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 15 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 25 milligrams cholesterol, 362 milligrams sodium.
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Nana’s Creamed Mushrooms with Sherry & Rosemary. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Nana’s Creamed Mushrooms with Sherry & Rosemary. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

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Nana’s Creamed Mushrooms with Sherry & Rosemary. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Nana’s Creamed Mushrooms with Sherry & Rosemary

This stick-to-the-ribs dish can be on the dinner table in minutes. Many mushroom varieties, including cremini, shiitake, white button and trumpet, can be easily found at the supermarket these days. Dry sherry adds some depth and bite while fresh, piney rosemary balances the creamy richness.

Nana’s Creamed Mushrooms with Sherry & Rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds assorted mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary plus a few sprigs for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil. Once the butter melts, add the mushrooms and cook until tender and soft, about 7-10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a glass jar with sealable lid, combine the evaporated milk and flour. Shake well.
  • Reduce the heat for the skillet to medium. While stirring the mushrooms with a wooden spoon, slowly pour in the thickened milk. Cook until thick and bubbling, about 5-8 minutes. Add 1-2 tablespoons milk if too thick. Take off the heat.
  • Stir in the fresh rosemary and sherry. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 195 calories (percent of calories from fat, 58), 9 grams protein, 13 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 13 grams total fat (6 grams saturated), 27 milligrams cholesterol, 70 milligrams sodium.
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Cinnamon-Roasted Pumpkin with Stewed Beans. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Cinnamon-Roasted Pumpkin with Stewed Beans. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

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Cinnamon-Roasted Pumpkin with Stewed Beans. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Cinnamon-Roasted Pumpkin with Stewed Beans

This dish melds roasted sugar pumpkin spiced with sweet cinnamon and smoky paprika with pinto, kidney and butter beans. It’s a creamy, filling and flavorful vegetarian stew ideal for a fall Sunday supper main or side. It uses half of the roasted pumpkin. Mash the remaining cooked pieces and refrigerate for another night, or freeze and blend into smoothies.

Cinnamon-Roasted Pumpkin with Stewed Beans
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery, plus 1/4 cup roughly chopped celery leaves, separated
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can butter beans, drained
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (2-3 pound) sugar pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (optional) (recipe follows)
  • Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery (reserve the celery leaves for finishing the dish) and garlic and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the beans, vegetable broth, maple syrup, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Stir well. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Slice the stem off the pumpkin, cut it in half and scoop the seeds and stringy insides. Save the seeds for toasting, if desired (see recipe below). Peel and discard the skin. Rinse the pumpkin flesh and place on a clean cloth to dry. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the pumpkin into 1/2-inch pieces and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Drizzle the pumpkin with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. Evenly sprinkle with the cinnamon, paprika and salt. Using a wooden spoon, toss on the baking sheet to coat. Place in the oven and roast until tender with a knife, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  • Fold half of the pumpkin into the beans along with the celery leaves. Reserve the remaining cooked pumpkin for another use. Serve from the pot or transfer to a platter. Top with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, if desired (see below). Serves 8-10.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 8, without pumpkin seeds: 400 calories (percent of calories from fat, 22), 14 grams protein, 67 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams fiber, 10 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 608 milligrams sodium.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds or pepitas
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Add the pumpkin seeds to a small skillet over medium heat. Toast, shaking the pan occasionally, 5-10 minutes, until the seeds are golden brown. Remove from the heat.
  • Add the olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and salt, and mix to fully coat. Allow to cool completely before using. Makes 1/2 cup.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 57 calories (percent of calories from fat, 75), 2 grams protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 5 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 242 milligrams sodium.