Lisa Abraham

Welcome autumn, bring your cheer.

Bring on your colors, your crispness, and your leaves crunching beneath our feet.

Bring on your football games and tailgate parties and Halloween costumes.

Shower us with your acorns and gourds and pumpkins of all shapes and colors.

Bring on your sunshine and rain, your getting dark early, and your cold weather.

We are ready for you.

And we will match you,

With sweaters and jackets and giant umbrellas,

With pots of chili and steamy bowls of stew,

With apples and cider and doughnuts with sugar,

With cookies shaped like bats and witches’ brooms.

We will sharpen our swords and turn your army of squash into pie and bread and butternut soup.

We will make treats for the club, the office and school,

Of caramels and cinnamon and popping corn.

We’ll flavor our days with nutmeg and cumin,

While we dance to the tune of a marching band, and howl at the harvest moon.

And when your season begins to wane, we will finish you off with one giant feast,

With cranberries and yams and a turkey with dressing.

Then we’ll eat and be thankful for your season’s blessings.

Welcome, autumn, bring your cheer.

We are ready for you.

PUMPKIN-ACORN SQUASH SOUP

1 medium pie pumpkin, about 3½ lbs.

1 medium acorn squash, about 2 lbs.

4 tbsp. butter, divided

2 tbsp. honey, divided

½ tsp. salt, divided

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

4½ cups chicken broth

¼ cup half-and-half

1 tsp. cider vinegar

? tsp. ground ginger

? tsp. ground nutmeg

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Fresh thyme sprigs and roasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut pumpkin and squash in half lengthwise, cutting through stem and bottom end. Reserve seeds for another use. Place pumpkin and squash halves, cut sides up, in an aluminum foil-lined shallow pan.

Microwave 2 tablespoons butter in a microwave-safe bowl on high for 25 seconds or until melted; stir in 1 tablespoon honey and ¼ teaspoon salt. Brush cut sides of pumpkin and squash with butter mixture.

Bake pumpkin and acorn squash at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool completely (about 15 minutes). Scoop out pulp, discarding shells.

(See note: For quick version of soup, start here.)

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add thyme, sauté 1 minute.

Stir in broth and pumpkin and squash pulp. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool 10 minutes.

Process soup, in batches, in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return soup to Dutch oven. Stir in half-and-half, next four ingredients, and remaining 1 tablespoon honey and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, over low heat, stirring often, 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: For a quicker version, decrease butter to 2 tablespoons. Omit the first three steps, and substitute 1 can (15 oz.) of pumpkin and 2 (12 oz.) packages of frozen, cooked pureed squash. Proceed with last three steps, simmering 6 minutes in step five, and stirring in 2 tablespoons honey and ½ teaspoon salt with half-and-half in final step.

— Southern Living Home Cooking Basics

BEEF AND BEAN CHILI

2 cans (15 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed

2 cans (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1½ lbs. 85 percent lean ground beef

1 onion, chipped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 tbsp. chili powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. sugar

Salt and pepper

1 cup beef broth

¼ cup minced fresh cilantro

Process 1½ cups beans and half of tomatoes in food processor to coarse paste, about 10 seconds, and set aside.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add beef and onion and cook, breaking up any large pieces of meat with a wooden spoon, until meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chili powder, cumin, sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in broth, processed bean mixture, remaining beans and remaining tomatoes and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Note: For spicier chili, add ¼ teaspoon to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper with the spices in step 2. Serve with lime wedges, diced avocado, shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese and/or sour cream.

— Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook

BAKED APPLE DUMPLINGS?WITH CIDER SAUCE

For the dough:

2½ cups all-purpose flour

3 tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

¾ tsp. salt

10 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled

5 tbsp. vegetable shortening, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled

¾ cup cold buttermilk

For the apple dumplings:

6 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

3 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

3 tbsp. golden raisins, chopped

4 Golden Delicious apples

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

For the dough: Process flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in food processor until combined, about 15 seconds. Scatter butter and shortening over flour mixture and pulse until mixture resembles wet sand, about 10 pulses; transfer to bowl. Stir in buttermilk until dough forms. Turn out onto lightly floured work surface and knead briefly until dough is cohesive. Press dough into an 8-by-4-inch rectangle. Cut in half, wrap each half tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

For the apple dumplings: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. In second bowl, combine butter, raisins, and 3 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Peel apples and halve through equator. Remove core and pack butter mixture into each apple half.

On lightly floured counter, roll each dough half into a 12-inch square. Cut each 12-inch square into four 6-inch squares. Working with one at a time, lightly brush edges of dough square with egg white and place apple, cut side up, in center of each square. Gather dough 1 corner at a time on top of apple, crimping edges to seal. Use a paring knife to cut a vent hole in the top of each dumpling.

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange dumplings on prepared baking sheet, brush tops with egg white and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake until dough is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes. Serve with cider sauce (recipe follows).

Makes 8 servings.

CIDER SAUCE

1 cup apple cider

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Bring cider, water, sugar, and cinnamon to a simmer in small saucepan and cook over medium high heat until thickened and reduced to 1½ cups, about 15 minutes. Off heat, whisk in butter and lemon juice. Drizzle over dumplings to serve.

— Adapted from The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook

Lisa Abraham can be reached at 330-996-3737 or at labraham@thebeaconjournal.com. Find me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @akronfoodie or visit my blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/lisa.