We’ve reached that point in the year when it’s unavoidable to leave the grocery store, farmers market or any number of fall festivals without a bounty of crisp apples, oversized pumpkins, plump squash or a few dozen ears of sweet corn in tow. Something about the harvest is addictive. The rich colors, robust flavors and the warm feeling of supporting our community’s farms and preparing the best of the season’s local produce in our own kitchens can lead to an overflowing pantry. Although, the abundance often pairs well with a big question mark of how to consume it all.
Kristin Root Reese, mom, foodie, farmer and staffer at Patterson Fruit Farm in Chesterland, encourages getting the kids involved as much as possible to pare down your inventory.
“One of the best ways to get kids excited about produce is having them be part of it,” Root Reese says. “Whether it be selecting it from the farm or going to the grocery store to pick out fruits and veggies — like a pumpkin that will become a soup — it’s super fun to involve them in the whole process from start to finish.”
Wholesome and hearty, fall produce can be used in a variety of tasty recipes with plenty of opportunities for the kids to pick, peel, chop, mix, mash and devour. For messy hands and full bellies, bring on the harvest.
Spaghetti, butternut and acorn squash flood the produce section each fall, begging to be part of a potluck dish. Better yet, if you have the real estate, consider investing some time and space for your own garden to see the colorful fruits emerge in your own backyard.
“We have a vegetable garden that the kids are involved in prepping, planting, watering and, of course, harvesting,” says mom and foodie Sarah McMahon of Macedonia. “It’s always really cool to see their eyes light up when we pick something and ‘magically’ turn it into a delicious dish. I think it gives them a sense of pride knowing their hard work of waiting for the harvest pays off.”
Roasting butternut squash for a rich soup or pureeing it for baby food is a versatile option suited for children of all ages. Portions of puree also can compliment hummus for veggie dipping, diced chunks are perfect for second helpings of homemade mac and cheese, or try the following dairy-free recipe, perfect to serve over macaroni or pasta. Add chopped cooked chicken and steamed broccoli for a heartier dish.
Butternut Squash “Cheese” Sauce
Recipe: Sarah McMahon
3 cups butternut squash, peeled diced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 cup chopped onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (more to taste)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
3/4 of a 14-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add squash and sweet potatoes and cook until soft. Drain and set aside. Add extra-virgin olive oil to the pot and saute onion and garlic until onions are soft. Combine the cooked squash and sweet potato with the onion and garlic in the pot. Add ground mustard, smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, vegetable broth and coconut milk to the pot. Using an immersion blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, add ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Add salt, pepper and more nutritional yeast to taste. If sauce is thicker than desired, add more vegetable broth to reach desired consistency.
Orchards dot our Northeast Ohio landscape with more apple varieties than you can possibly taste in one season — although you can certainly try. With so many local options within our grasp, experiment with new flavors and have an at-home apple taste test with the family. Add apples to the dinner menu in a sausage, apple and carrot hash. Set the air fryer to dehydrate to make crunchy apple chips or repurpose Taco Tuesday fixin’s for the sweet apple pie tortilla cup recipe here.
Apple Pie Tortilla Cups
Recipe: Dianna Bauman, Bauman Orchards
3 flour tortillas
1 tablespoon melted butter
3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
3 large Granny Smith Apples,chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Whipped cream and caramel sauce for serving (optional)
Brush tortilla shells with melted butter and dust with cinnamon sugar. Stack the shells and cut them into quarters. Place two pieces in each muffin cup and bake for 8 minutes at 400 degrees until golden and crisp. While they bake, mix chopped apples with lemon juice and cinnamon sugar. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Melt butter and saute the apple mixture in the pan for three to five minutes until apples are soft. Remove cups from the oven and cool slightly before adding sauteed apples. Top with whipped cream and caramel sauce.
Corn is a Midwest staple, so most families have their go-to methods of cooking their cobs, whether it’s boiling, grilling, frying or roasting. Even simpler, some use raw corn for a fresh, refreshing crunch. Delegate husking and pulling off silks to the kids and encourage snacking right from the cob. Or, choose your cooking method and add the kernels to the sweet corn salad recipe shared here.
Fresh Sweet Corn Salad
Recipe & photo by Paula Szalay, Szalay’s Farm & Market
6 ears of cooked sweet corn
1 cup fresh chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped cucumber
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
Salt & pepper to taste
In a large bowl, cut the corn off the cob and be sure to scrape the cobs. Add all other veggies to the bowl. In another bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour the dressing over the fresh salad and toss to combine.
After meandering through the local pumpkin patch to carefully select your family of jack-o-lanterns, be sure to also grab a collection of sugar pumpkins, the smaller variety best for baking and preparing homemade pumpkin puree. Add generous dollops of puree to oatmeal, pancakes, smoothies, chili or homemade salsa, or try a twist on crowd-pleasing sweet potato fries with the equally tasty pumpkin version. Szalay recommends keeping a child-safe pumpkin carving knife handy, a helpful tool for kids to practice their cutting and chopping skills.
Recipe: Sarah McMahon
6 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups pumpkin, cut into chunks
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Place all ingredients into a slow cooker. Cook on low for six hours, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a food processor and process until smooth.