fall food essentials

With the onset of crisp fall days, most home chefs put away their grill tongs and summer cookbooks.  Autumn brings warmth back into kitchens with the fragrant smell of apple pies and roast chickens. It’s also a great time to restock your pantry with items that compliment all the best flavors that autumn brings; warm spices, nuts & oils, beans & broths.  As seasons change, most people know to swap out their wardrobe but forget that the foods we eat should rotate as well. We’ve compiled a list of the season’s essential pantry items that every cook should have:

Soups & Stews –  Don’t forget to stock up on vegetable, chicken and beef broths, all of which work well as the base for countless soup recipes.  Canned tomatoes and tomato paste also work great for stews while pinto and black beans are essential for a great chili. As you load up on fresh dried spices, make sure to write the date of opening on the lid to insure freshness.  Cumin, smoked paprika, Thyme, garlic & onion powders should always be in stock.

Pies – Nothing smells more like fall than a freshly baked apple pie.  If you’re planning to bake your crust from scratch, prepare in advance by keeping plenty of dry ingredients like flour, sugars and leaveners in your pantry.  While the crust is delicious, it’s the filling that makes the pie. So grab some canned pumpkin or bags of cranberries. Frozen Maine blueberries are known as the perfect pie filling, and local orchards are bursting plenty of Red Delicious, McIntosh or Granny Smiths to fill your crusts.  Finally, don’t forget the cinnamon and nutmeg!

Roasted Meats – The secret ingredient to any roasted dish is a great olive oil.  Once that stove is fully operational for the season, you’ll likely be using this essential oil every day.  If you’re going to keep it right next to your cooktop, consider storing your olive oil in a ceramic cruet. The container’s thick, dark walls prevent light and air from degrading the product’s quality.  Keep your specialty oils tightly stored in a dark cabinet. Roasted foods need flavor so make sure you use a generous amount of kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper each time you cook. Kick up the flavor even more with your favorite mix of herbs; thyme, rosemary, oregano and garlic are classic choices.

Fall Grains & Nuts –  Did you know that wild rice isn’t actually rice at all?  It’s an aquatic grass that looks and cooks like rice, but a better option for grain or gluten-free diets.  Rice and other fall grains like quinoa and farro make great side accompaniments to your best roasted meats and vegetables.  Walnuts are considered autumn’s favorite nut, probably because they pair so nicely with apples! This versatile nut tastes delicious mixed into salads, candied, added to pesto or even a fall vinaigrette.

Sweet Treats –  No autumn pantry is complete without a fabulous maple syrup to drizzle over pancakes, waffles or french toast.  Quality maple syrup can also be used to drizzle over roasted squash, mixed into vinaigrettes or even poured over vanilla ice cream.  And to drink? Hot cocoa, of course. There are so many varieties now, from the classic Swiss Miss to gourmet spiced and flavored chocolates.  You may want to check your stash of mini-marshmallows to accompany this classic winter beverage.

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