Fall-inspired menus help give thanks for nature’s bounty

We are in the midst of autumn, so it’s time to enjoy the colours and experiences that nature offers this time of year.

We can bask in the glow of the beautiful northern lights shooting blue and green into the dark starlit sky, marvel at the gold and crimson leaves falling to the ground, watch as the first snowflakes fall or create fabulous menus filled with vibrant hues of fruits and vegetables harvested from our gardens. In autumn, it is time to give thanks for all that brings us pleasure.

Menus should include ingredients that are readily available or in-season, easy to prepare and delicious.

I often compile this column by what is on my countertop or in my cold room: a bowl of cherry tomatoes, a bundle of ruby red beets, a carton of purple plums, a few zucchinis and, of course, at this time of year, there is always pumpkin.

The abundant garden vegetables and the many fruits from the harvest make meal preparation fun, interesting and pleasing to our palettes.

The best part is the aroma of this produce roasting into a work of art just for you and yours. Enjoy some of these recipe offerings.

Balsamic Beet Salad

This is an excellent way to get your greens. Arugula has such a unique flavour. I was introduced to it at a birthday celebration served with beef brisket. You can pair it with any roasted or grilled meat of your choice. It was truly a crowd pleaser.

  • 6 medium beets
  • 6 c. baby arugula, rinsed and spun dry 1.5 L
  • 1/2 c. feta cheese diced or crumbled 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. pecans toasted 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved 125 mL

Balsamic vinaigrette ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. olive oil 125 mL
  • 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar 45 mL
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard 15 mL
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 1 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper .5 mL

Prepare the beets by cutting off the root to the bottom of the beet and also the tops. Now it is time to cook the beets, which is much easier than you think. I will give two methods.

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Line the bottom of a baking sheet with foil. Wrap each beet tightly in a sheet of foil and arrange on lined baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for one hour or until largest beet is easily pierced. Unwrap beets and cool, then peel the skins and slice.

Once cool, use a glove, a piece of foil or a paper towel to help slide the skins off the cooked beet because the beet will stain your hands.

2. Place whole beets in a saucepan and cover with salted water by two inches.

Bring to a boil and then simmer with a lid on for 30 to 45 minutes or until the beet is tender. Remove skins as above.

Now start the salad by toasting 1/2 c.(125 mL) pecans on a dry skillet, tossing frequently until golden and fragrant. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large salad bowl, add the arugula to a large mixing bowl then add remaining salad ingredients: sliced beets, feta cheese, toasted pecans and cherry tomatoes.

How to make balsamic vinaigrette:

In a small mason jar, combine all dressing ingredients and shake well to combine. Drizzle over salad to taste. If not serving salad right away, shake the dressing again just before drizzling over salad. Serves four large or six small salads.

Note: you can use dried cranberries instead of cherry tomatoes if desired. Source: natashaskitchen.com

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

I love the tart cranberry with the pumpkin.

  • 2 1/4 c. flour 560 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 c. sugar 500 mL
  • 1 c. canned pumpkin 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. oil 125 mL
  • 1 c. fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped 250 mL

Preheat oven to 400 F(200 C).

In a mixing bowl, combine the first four ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs and sugar; add the pumpkin and oil and mix well. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in the cranberries.

2. Fill foil- or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for five minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Makes 24 muffins. Source: tasteofhome.com

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

So delicious with cool milk or warm steamy tea.

  • 1 c. butter or margarine 250 mL
  • 2 c. white sugar 500 mL
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla 10 mL
  • 1 3/4 c. pumpkin puree 425 g
  • 4 c. flour 1 L
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda 7 mL
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder 7 mL
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 5 mL
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1 c. dark chocolate chips 250 mL
  • 1 c. walnuts or pecans, diced (optional) 250 mL

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Grease baking pans.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the vanilla and pumpkin until well-blended.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg then stir into the pumpkin mixture.

Mix in the chocolate chips. Stir in the walnuts if desired. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared baking trays.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven until edges begin to brown.

Cool. Makes approximately 80 cookies. Source: allrecipes.com

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 c. oil 250 mL
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla 15 mL
  • 2 1/4 c. sugar 560 mL
  • 2 c. shredded zucchini with excess liquid removed 500 mL
  • 3 c. flour 750 mL
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking powder 5 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda 1 mL
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon 15 mL
  • 2 c. fresh blueberries, tossed in a bit of flour 500 mL

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Lightly grease two loaf pans.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Fold in the zucchini. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer to the prepared pans.

Bake one hour and 10 minutes in the oven, or until a knife inserted in the centre of a loaf comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Plum Crisp

My daughter and I tried this recipe after buying a case of purple plums. It is the simplest one I have ever used.

  • 12 plums, pitted and chopped
  • 1 c. white sugar, divided 250 mL
  • 1 c. flour 250 mL
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder 7 mL
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 5 mL
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 c. melted butter 125 mL

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking dish.

Spread the plums out into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar.

In a bowl, mix together 3/4 cup white sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Combine with beaten egg and spoon the mixture over the plums. Drizzle batter with melted butter.

Bake in the preheated oven until the topping is brown, about 40 minutes. Serves six.

Note: you can substitute apples for plums.

Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.

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