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Fall is not just the season for Pumpkin Spice Lattes and cozy sweaters, but I admittedly enjoy both. It’s also the time of year I tend to fill days with opportunities to enjoy the fresh, crisp outside air and the beautiful ever-changing leaves. I can always find an excuse to be outside. Growing up in the midwest has helped me appreciate the changes that each season brings and what better way to spend time with family and friends than to enjoy a tasty bite to eat together while soaking up the beauty of fall.

No matter the occasion, I find that fruits and veggies can be a fun, unique way to switch up your typical menu and make something new and exciting. Not to mention you won’t be having food regret from overindulging on a bag of salty snacks or finishing the bottomless bag of cookies.

To keep it fun and relevant this time of year, I pull inspiration from seasonal produce like fresh pears, squash, pumpkin or apples. Using seasonal produce has its obvious reasons, such as freshness and peak flavor. But what I like most is that it’s a unique invitation for your guests. It’s an invitation to enjoy the flavors and bounty of the season, to explore something new and tasty, to try something they might overlook at the grocery store and to appreciate the moment. We have a lot to be thankful for and food can help connect us to all these good things. Use some of my favorite tips below to experience all fall has to offer.

For quick snacks and appetizers

  • Slice apples and pears to serve with your favorite slices of cheese such as Manchego, Brie and Cheddar. Include some toasted almonds or pecans to round out the board.
  • Mix a can of pumpkin with vanilla Greek yogurt as a delicious dip for fruits and graham crackers.
  • Create a light spinach dip or hummus for fresh vegetables like carrots, broccoli and celery.
  • Stuff mushroom caps with sauteed Swiss chard and cream cheese.

 

For grilling and small outdoor gatherings

  • Create a mixed kabob with bell peppers, red onion, pineapple and mushrooms.
  • Slice acorn squash and drizzle with olive oil and maple syrup for a sweet and smokey treat.
  • Create a fruit salsa with chopped apples that can be paired with cinnamon pita chips.
  • Sneak sweet potato or pumpkin filling into homemade hand pies for early morning games.
  • Add matchstick pears or apples to coleslaw for a tasty fall twist.

 

For a side or salad

  • Toss shredded Brussel sprouts, apples, walnuts and Parmesan cheese in a honey mustard for a sweet and crunchy twist.
  • Cube and roast butternut squash and add to a pasta salad with dried cranberries and fresh herbs.
  • Toss cauliflower with hot sauce and roast in oven for spicy buffalo bites. Serve with light ranch or blue cheese dressing.

 

For a sweet treat

  • Caramelize pears and serve in yogurt parfaits with fresh granola.
  • Roast sliced sweet potato coins and top with broiled marshmallows and pecans.
  • Make your favorite tea bread with pureed pumpkin, squash or sweet potato; add nuts or dried fruit for added flavor.

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