Good Eats

Apples, Stew & Pumpkin Spice

Cool weather recipe season is so close we can taste it. As the temps begin to drop, grab what’s in season at the farmers market to make these delicious fall recipes.

By Zara Abbasi Photography by Katie Childs

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The only thing that makes me miss summer less is knowing that fall is right around the corner. Although, here in Arkansas that might be a very long and deceiving corner filled with a few 90-degree days that seem to linger longer than necessary. Nevertheless, fall time will get here at some point. And, when it does, it just has a way of grabbing you. Fall reminds me of those old cartoons where a delicious smell takes the shape of a hand, grabs the cartoon character out of his seat and plops him down right in front of an apple pie. We know I’m right. And now we both want apple pie.

When I was growing up in Boston (Lowell, Mass,. to be exact), fall wasn’t really my favorite. The looming season reminded me of school and responsibilities and all the bleh stuff that goes along with it. I mean sure, I loved seeing the leaves change color, and I was in the perfect part of the country to witness exactly that. And I liked the cool breeze after a wicked summer, but all in all it wasn’t my favorite. As I got older, fall still stayed far in the background for me where summer still took precedence. It was fun, carefree and a respite from chaos. However, it was only when I had kids that I understood the beauty that is fall.

Fall is a time for rest and comfort. It’s breathing a sigh of relief not only from the brutal Southern heat, but also from the nonstop activities of the summer. It’s looking forward to actually throwing on a favorite cardigan or the boots you’ve passed by in your closet longingly. It’s football games, hearty stews and chilis, favorite recipes, family gatherings and a closeness you sometimes can’t find in the summer when everyone is off doing their own thing. Only when you see the true beauty of fall can you embrace it as the best (OK, second best) season.

Any favorite I have in life usually has something to do with food. You’d be hard-pressed to find an activity or season that I do not associate with food. I love the actual preparation, I love when people are brought together, and more importantly, I LOVE TO EAT FOOD! So I’m sharing some fall foods with you to get you in the fall spirit. Consider this a primer for the most important food holiday ever: Thanksgiving. This is the time I test out new foods for Thanksgiving, and when I make so much food, I end up filling my freezer for days. I hope you enjoy these recipes and give them a try in your homes this fall season.


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Pumpkin White Hot  Chocolate

What’s the best way to top off a hearty stew? Probably a cup of hot chocolate as you sit by the fire and your family cleans up the mess you made in the kitchen trying to make that stew. I mean it’s the least they could do, right? Ha! But seriously, this hot chocolate is different than your ordinary one because it mixes pumpkin spice latte drinks with a hot chocolate. You will definitely have to adjust this to suit your needs because not everyone likes the same sweetness or textures. Here is the basic recipe. Add more milk to adjust thickness and add in more white chocolate (or even condensed milk) to adjust sweetness.

4 cups milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream

1. Add milk in a sauce pan and heat on medium-low. Add in the pumpkin puree and spice, and whisk until completely mixed through. 

2. Add in the chocolate chips and allow to melt slowly. Add in the heavy cream and mix through.

3. Taste for sweetness and texture. If it’s not sweet enough or spiced enough for your liking, add in more chocolate chips and/or pumpkin pie spice. If it is too thick for you, add in more milk. If it is too thin for you, add in a little more pumpkin puree.

4. Pour into your favorite mug and top with whipped cream and sail away into a fall bliss and away from all the clatter of the dishes still happening in your kitchen. Don’t you dare even think about how they’re going to load your dishwasher and probably put everything in the wrong place. Don’t you dare. Go enjoy this moment!


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Instant Pot Beef Stew

Have you jumped on the IP train yet? Most people I know have and haven’t looked back since. If you’re not familiar with the Instant Pot, then the best way to describe it is that it’s a computerized pressure cooker. Gone are the days of fearing for your face and home while cooking something in the pressure cooker. These nifty devices do all the heavy lifting an old-fashioned one would do, but it’s very user-friendly. I have been using an old-fashioned pressure cooker for over a decade now and swear by the cooking process. When these new contraptions came out, I was wary. After much research, I settled on the Ninja Foodi instead of the Instant Pot, only because it has a built-in air fryer, too. Both machines are very similar and the recipes for the most part are adaptable.

This stew is one of those recipes. It’s extremely flavorful, tender and will whisk you away to a fall wonderland. It comes together pretty easily, too; however, I’d still save this for a night where you have a little extra time on your hands for the preparation because it’s not a “toss and go” crockpot recipe, but the work is worth the flavor.

2 pounds boneless chuck roast, cut into 1-1.5 inch cubes
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, smashed
5-6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thick pieces
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into thick pieces
1 14.5-ounce can low-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 8-ounce can low-sodium tomato sauce
2-3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 package sliced button or crimini mushrooms
Parsley for garnish

1. Turn IP to sautée mode, add in half the oil and sautée beef until nicely browned. Sprinkle in a little flour, a tablespoon or so per batch, and stir well. Work in batches and add more oil if necessary. Set aside when all the beef has been browned.

2. Add remaining oil to pot and add in diced onion. Allow to cook for a few minutes until light golden brown, then add in the carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and garlic cloves, bay leaf and thyme. Keep cooking another 5-6 minutes.

3. Deglaze pot by adding in the beef broth and scrape all the brown bits from the bottom. Add in the beef again and the Worcestershire sauce and stir. Add in the tomato sauce without stirring.

4. Close and seal the IP and cook on high pressure for 35-40 minutes, naturally release pressure and remove bay leaf and discard.

5. Mix cornstarch and water together to make a slurry and mix into the stew and allow it to thicken slightly. Add in the peas and freshly chopped parsley and serve hot.

6. For traditional method: Follow all the above directions but cook in a large Dutch oven, and instead of cooking in IP, cook covered in oven at 325 degrees for 3-4 hours. May need to add additional 2-3 cups cooking liquid (beef broth) because it will evaporate in the oven. Lift the lid and stir every hour or so. Add the slurry and peas in the last 15-20 minutes or so and garnish with parsley when ready to serve.


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Stewed Apples

Everyone needs to know how to make stewed apples. They are the base of so many things that I think it should be incumbent upon us to teach this to others. Not only can you have these by themselves, but you can also turn them into mini apple pies, applesauce, apple crumbles or use them in oatmeal, on top of pancakes or even in muffins. They are extremely versatile and the recipe is simple. 

Approximately 5-7 apples
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2-3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup boiling water or apple juice

1. Peel, core and cut apples into whatever shape you’ll need (quartered, diced or sliced).

2. Add all ingredients (except water/juice) in a rimmed saucepan. Heat to medium-high and mix to coat all ingredients.

3. Pour in the boiling water or juice, cover the apples and simmer for approximately 20 minutes until apples are brown but retain their shape.

4. Examples of use: apple pie spring rolls. These are super easy to make. Take spring roll wrappers and add in about a tablespoon's worth of apples, ensuring not to over fill, roll wrappers and fold in ends with a little flour/water paste. Fry in hot oil until browned or bake at 350 degrees until crispy. Serve with caramel and ice cream. Enjoy!