Autumn Harvest Recipes

Autumn brings an abundant supply of harvested fruits and vegetables. It a season of pleasant aromas from fruits, vegetables and nuts, and a time of parading spectrums of bright leaf colors of yellow, orange, red and purple. The senses are piqued this time of the year and the flavors of fresh harvested foods and a mixture of delicious spices offer an array of satisfying dishes for months to come.

The season abounds with apples, pears, grapes, avocados, squash, pumpkins, cranberries, dark green vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli, string beans, egg plant, cabbage, mushrooms, potatoes, especially sweet potatoes, and Brussel sprouts, along with so many others. Enjoy the season’s bounty from root vegetables to dark colored and bright colored vegetables, nuts, fruits and cranberries. So many of these items have an abundance of health benefits.

To make any of the recipes below with less calories, use non-fat dairy products, including canned milk products and sugar substitutes. Using non-fat dairy products make the recipe less creamy but the taste remains the same. Also, using honey will add calories to the recipe.

Pumpkins and other squashes are very healthy and are filled with Vitamin A and antioxidants. There are so many pumpkin items today at the stores: pumpkin coffee, teas (I enjoy Bigelow’s Pumpkin Spice tea.), breads, muffins, cakes, cheese cakes, cookies, pies, smoothies, custards, side dishes, pancakes, waffles and many more. 

A can of pumpkin is a smart thing to have on your pantry shelf. Mixed with a little cinnamon and butter it makes a perfect side dish for dinner. One of my favorites is a pumpkin smoothie: Blend together 1 cup skim milk, ½ cup Greek yogurt, pinch of cinnamon, a little sugar or honey to taste, and some ice cubes, and just blend until smooth.


Red Beet Salad with Balsamic Vinegar

6 small beets, about 2 pounds, scrubbed

2 tablespoons EVOO olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Garden lettuce leaves

In a saucepan place beets and cover by 1-inch with water, cover pot and cook on medium heat for 50 to 60 minutes until beets are tender. Rinse off under cold water, let cool for a few minutes, then peel off skins by pushing against the surface, they should slip off quite easily. In a bowl slice beets in ¼-inch slices, or cut into ½-inch wedges. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and toss to coat, add feta cheese crumbles and toss to mix thoroughly. Serve over lettuce leaves.


Apple Pie with Raisins

2 prepared piecrusts

6 cups thinly sliced peeled cooking apples, like Granny Smith

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose four

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup raisins or chopped walnuts

Line a 9-inch pie dish with half of the pastry.

In a bowl toss apple slices with lemon juice. In a large bowl whisk together sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add apple slices and toss to coat. Add raisin and/or walnuts if desired. Gently toss until coated.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Transfer apple mixture to pastry lined pie plate. Trim pastry to fit over edge of dish. Cut slits in top of pastry; place on top of filling and seal, crimp edge as desire. Place pie dish on a baking sheet to prevent drips. Brush top of pastry with 1-tablespoon of milk and sprinkle with a tablespoon of granulated sugar.

To prevent over-browning, cover edge of piecrust with strips of foil, or take a large sheet of foil the size of the plate and cut out the center and place over pastry. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 25 minutes, remove foil and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes until top is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.


Chocolate-Hazel Nut Crust Pumpkin Pie with Bourbon

Pie Crust:

30 chocolate wafers

4 tablespoons finely chopped hazelnuts

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon canola oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With cooking spray coat a 9-inch deep pie dish.

Prepare the crust: in a blender or food processor chop chocolate wafers until finely chopped. Pour chocolate crumbs into a bowl. Add hazel nuts to blender and chop finely, add to the chopped wafers. Add water and oil, and stir until moistened. Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pie dish.

Bake in 325 oven until crisp about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Pie Filling:

2 large eggs

1 15-ounce can plain pumpkin puree

1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

¼ cup dark molasses

3 tablespoons bourbon or rum

½ cup brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon corn starch or all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl whisk eggs together; add pumpkin, evaporated milk, molasses and bourbon. In another bowl mix together brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. Stir into pumpkin mixture, whisking to distribute. Pour filling into prepared crust. Bake pie on a baking sheet on the middle rack in the oven, until the filling has set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 to 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.


Creamy Butternut Squash Cheese Soup

I like the taste of the parsnip and the white wine in this soup. Cream cheese gives this soup a creamy flavor and the cheddar cheese gives some zip to the taste. You may leave out one of the cheeses if you desire.

Serves 4 to 6

1 large sweet onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced and mashed

2 tablespoons EVOO, olive oil

1 medium butternut squash or acorn squash,, peeled, cleaned and cut into ½-inch pieces, about 6 cups

1 parsnip, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces (optional)

2 carrots, shredded or finely chopped

6 cups chicken broth

1 cup half and half, light cream, or milk

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Pinch of cinnamon, if desired (optional)

½ cup dry white wine, if desired (optional), or beer, if desired

½ cup or 4-ounces Cheddar cheese

4 ounces low-fat cream cheese

In a large heavy saucepan or pot sauté onion in olive oil and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender about 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Add squash, parsnip, and carrots and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add chicken broth and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Puree the soup in batches and return to pot. Heat soup and add salt and pepper, then stir in cream, pinch of cinnamon, white wine (optional), cream cheese, and cheddar cheese. Simmer until cheese melts.   


Microwaved Spaghetti Squash

1 medium spaghetti squash

butter, melted

1 cup tomato sauce, heated

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

Rinse off spaghetti squash, pat dry and cut in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and membranes. Place squash halves in a glass baking dish cut sides down with ½-cup water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 8-10 minutes until tender.

Remove the spaghetti-like strands with a fork. Drizzle with butter and toss, then add salt and pepper, if desired, then sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Add tomato sauce as desired. Serve warm.


Eggplant Parmesan

2 medium eggplants, cut into ¼-inch rounds

Kosher slat

1 jar prepared tomato sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced and mashed

1 ½ cups Italian flavored bread crumbs

½ cup or 2-ounces grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, divided

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1-tablespoon water

1 cup olive oil

1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced, or shredded cheese, if desired

Place eggplant rounds in a colander and toss together with 2 teaspoons Kosher salt. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes. Then on a 20-inch long paper towel arrange slices in a single layer and top with another piece of  paper towel. Roll up papered slices to extract excess water. Remove and put on a plate.

In a saucepan sauté garlic in 1-tablespoon garlic, until tender, about 3 minutes, add  tomato sauce, simmer.

In a shallow dish, whisk together breadcrumbs and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Put flour and eggs in two more shallow dishes. Coat eggplant slice in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg, letting excess drip off. Coat with breadcrumbs.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet add remaining olive oil and heat over medium high heat until it sizzles. In batches fry eggplant until golden brown and tender about 2 to 3 minutes for each side. Drain on a paper towel lined baking pan.

In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish spread 1-cup tomato sauce. Top with a layer of one half the eggplant rings overlapping slices slightly, spread with 1 to 2 cups tomato sauce and half the mozzarella slices. Repeat with remaining rounds of eggplant, tomato sauce and mozzarella, and then sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Bake in 350-degree oven until sauce is bubbling and cheese is a golden brown about 30 to 35 minutes. Let set for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving.


Mulled Cranberry-Apple Cider

Makes almost 3 quarts. Recipe maybe divided in half.

2 cups cranberry juice

1 quart apple cider or apple juice

1 quart water

½ cup granulated sugar

1 cup orange juice

2 cinnamon sticks

6-8 whole cloves

Orange rind strips, for garnish, if desired

In a large saucepan place cranberry juice, apple cider, water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and whole cloves. Bing to a boil and cook over medium high heat for about a minute to dissolve sugar, then lower heat to a simmer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cinnamon sticks and stir in orange juice, cook for 2-minutes. Serve warm or cold with orange rind strips, if desired. Refrigerate when finished serving.


Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival, winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012, and placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing; and has won various other contest awards for her blueberry cheesecake, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.