Crisp autumn days stirs desire for warm tasty treats

  • The recipe for Ree Drummond's Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls is favorite with readers.

    The recipe for Ree Drummond's Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls is favorite with readers. Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

Updated 9/20/2017 6:16 AM

Fall to me means wanting to be outdoors all the time, enjoying the crisp air while apple or pear picking, or just raking leaves.

Moreover, I also find my enjoyment of cooking returns in the autumn. I love a pot of something contentedly bubbling on the stove. I want to turn my oven on to bake anything, and to inhale the scent of herbs and spices trapped in my kitchen, like a dish full of cinnamon and pecans or the savory aroma of roasting root vegetables.


This year, to help jump-start my return to cooking, I turned to the Daily Herald's food columnists for inspiration. With a visit to the Daily Herald archives, I found recipes from our Culinary Adventures writer Penny Kazmier including Ree Drummond's Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, and a Caramel Apple Martini. From Lean and Lovin' It's Don Mauer, I rediscovered a recipe for Pumpkin Chili, a twist on a traditional chili with nutritional pumpkin thrown in. Soupalooza writer M. Eileen Brown found a vegetarian take on chili from Stacy McCann on for Buffalo-Style Quinoa Chili. From Crystal Maleski, who writes the Make Dinner Easy column, I found the recipe for one of her family's favorite breakfast dishes, Apple French Toast Casserole Recipe, as well as the recipe for Apple Cider Syrup to go with it. Baking secrets writer Annie Overboe's recipe for Salted Caramel Dip for Apples is truly a reader favorite as are her Peanut Butter Granola Cookies.

I hope these recipes rev up your enthusiasm for fall's comfort foods. Enjoy.

Contact Food Editor Susan Stark at or (847) 427-4586. Be her friend on or follow her on Twitter.

Ree Drummond's Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

For the dough:

1 cups whole milk

cup vegetable oil

cup granulated sugar

1 package (2 teaspoons) active dry yeast

1 cup pumpkin puree

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring, sprinkling and rolling

teaspoon ground cinnamon

teaspoon ground ginger

teaspoon ground nutmeg

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teaspoon (heaping) baking powder

teaspoon baking soda

teaspoon salt

Melted butter, for buttering pans

For the filling:

1 stick ( cup) butter, melted

cup brown sugar

cup granulated sugar

teaspoon cinnamon

teaspoon ground ginger

teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup finely chopped pecans -- optional

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cups to 2 cups powdered sugar

cup whole milk, plus more if needed

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Dash of salt

In a large saucepan, combine the milk, vegetable oil and granulated sugar. Heat until hot but not boiling, remove pan from stove and allow mixture to cool until warm to the touch. Sprinkle yeast over surface of the liquid and allow to sit 5 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin puree until combined. Combine 4 cups of the flour with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Sprinkle dry ingredients into saucepan and stir until just combined. Cover saucepan with a dish towel and set in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour. After 1 hour, the mixture should be very puffy and at least doubled in size. Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, salt and remaining cup flour until totally combined. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 3 pie pans, or large baking dish, with melted butter, spreading to cover bottom and sides of pan(s). Turn dough out onto floured surface and press into a rectangular shape, adding additional flour as necessary to make dough easier to handle. Using a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a large rectangle approximately 18 inches by 24 inches. Be sure to have the long side facing you.

For the filling: Drizzle the melted butter evenly over rolled dough to within 1 inch of the edges. Combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Sprinkle mixture over dough, covering all the melted butter. Top with cup to cup chopped pecans. Starting at the top, roll the dough toward you into a tight large log, moving back and forth down the line of dough (in a "typewriter" motion) and always rolling toward you, pinching seams closed. With seam side down, slice with serrated knife or dental floss, into - to -inch slices and carefully place slices in buttered pan(s). Cover with plastic wrap, place in a draft free place, and allow dough to rise 20 minutes. Remove plastic wrap and bake until the rolls are golden brown around the edges, 15 to 18 minutes.


Frosting: While the rolls are baking, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk, butter and salt in bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until fluffy, adding more milk as needed to yield desired consistency frosting. Be careful not to make frosting too thin, as it will melt as placed on top of hot rolls. Frost the rolls the second they come out of the oven. Sprinkle extra pecans over the frosting, and allow rolls to cool 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 24

Penny Kazmier

Caramel Apple Martini

For one generous martini:

3 ounces sour apple schnapps

2 ounces butterscotch schnapps

3 ounces vodka (or gin)

1 tablespoons prepared caramel sauce

apple slices

Martini glass

Drizzle caramel in "corkscrew" pattern inside glass.

In a martini shaker or Mason jar combine ingredients with ice, shake and strain into a prepared glass.

Penny Kazmier

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Vegetable mixture:

1 large onion, roughly chopped

3 ribs celery, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

2 yellow delicious apples, peeled and chopped

1 large butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch chunks

3 tablespoons each fresh rosemary and sage, minced

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 to 6 cups chicken stock

4 to 5 springs fresh thyme

cup half-and-half, optional

Croutons, package or make your own

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine vegetable mixture in large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, tossing to coat. Place in single layer on greased baking sheet and bake approximately 20-30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Remove from oven and place in large pot. Add 4 cups chicken stock and thyme, and bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes. Remove stems from thyme and place soup in blender in batches being careful to not overload the blender. Be sure to place a towel on top of blender and apply pressure when blending. Add additional chicken stock if needed. Puree until smooth and return to pan. (Soup can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated.)

Heat soup gently, adding half-and-half if desired. Adjust seasonings.

Serve with croutons.

Serves 4

Penny Kazmier

Pumpkin Chili

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound extra lean ground beef

1 medium onion, trimmed, peeled and diced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced

5 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1 medium zucchini, ends trimmed and diced

1 cup peeled and diced butternut squash

1 (15-ounce) can plain, unseasoned pumpkin puree (or 2 cups home processed pumpkin)

2 cups canned diced tomatoes and juice (organic preferred)

2 cups lower-sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (see note)

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon (or to taste) chili powder

teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon (or to taste) fresh-ground black pepper

1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add ground beef and cook the beef, breaking it up with the edge of a hard plastic spatula, until browned and cooked through. Remove the beef to a bowl. Set aside.

Return the saute pan to medium-high heat and in the oil remaining in the pan cook the onion, green pepper and garlic for 5 to 6 minutes or until tender and just slightly brown.

Return the meat to the saute pan along with the zucchini, squash, pumpkin puree, tomatoes, broth, pumpkin pie spice, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to very low and gently simmer for about 30 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender. Add and stir in kidney beans, heat through, about 4 to 5 minutes and serve immediately.

Note: Don't have any pumpkin pie spice? Make your own: teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.

Serves 6

Nutrition values per serving: 296 calories (35 percent from fat), 11.5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 27.6 g carbohydrates, 8.6 g sugars, 4.5 g fiber, 22.1 g protein, 47 mg cholesterol, 766 mg sodium.

Don Mauer

Annie Overboe's popular Salted Caramel Dip for Apples. Really, it's good with any fruit.
  Annie Overboe's popular Salted Caramel Dip for Apples. Really, it's good with any fruit. - Mark Black | Staff Photographer

Salted Caramel Dip for Apples

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon salt (sea salt or regular)

cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

cup light corn syrup

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

cup orange juice (juice from 1 orange)

1 cinnamon stick

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

cup sour cream

In a 2-cup measuring cup, stir heavy cream and salt until combined. Set aside.

In large diameter heavy-duty pan, combine butter pieces, corn syrup and sugars. Add salted heavy cream. Cook over low heat, stirring slowly and constantly, until mixture is melted and completely smooth. Add the cinnamon stick and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until mixture begins to boil, lightly brushing orange juice down sides of pan while cooking.

Reduce heat to simmer and cook 7 minutes, occasionally brushing sides of pan with orange juice. Add vanilla extract and cook 1 minute, gently stirring with wooden spoon. Mixture will slightly bubble. Carefully remove cinnamon stick.

Take off heat and carefully pour hot caramel sauce into large heatproof glass bowl or 4 cup Pyrex measure. Gently stir or whisk in sour cream until combined. Set aside for 1 hour to cool at room temperature, undisturbed. Gently stir after cooled. Allow caramel sauce to set at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.

Store at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator, tightly covered with plastic wrap. Gently warm in microwave before serving with sliced apples.

Baker's hint: For best results, do not use salted butter or margarine in this caramel recipe.

Makes 3 cups

Nutritional values per cup serving: 258 calories; 14 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 1 g protein, 35 carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 43 mg cholesterol, 186 mg sodium.

Annie Overboe

Annie Overboe makes homemade Peanut Butter Granola Cookies.
Annie Overboe makes homemade Peanut Butter Granola Cookies. - Daily Herald file photo

Peanut Butter Granola Cookies

Try this spin on peanut butter cookies. Dark brown sugar infuses molasses for deeper sweetness and the granola stir-in bakes textural interest for the taste buds. Your favorite granola will bake this cookie to a signature dessert status.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup peanut butter (see baker's hint below)

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 cups granola (your favorite variety, I recommend chopping large pieces of nuts)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly spray/grease.

In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and soda. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl beat sugars, butter and peanut butter on low speed until combined. Scrape bowl very well. Add eggs and beat on medium speed about 30 seconds. Scrape bowl well.

Add flour mixture and beat on low speed for 30 seconds until dry ingredients are absorbed. Scrape bowl and beat 15 seconds to thoroughly combine.

Using a 1-inch scoop, portion dough evenly on cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake 12 to 14 minutes at 350 degrees, until light golden brown. Cool cookies on sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. Store cookies covered at room temperature for 5 to 6 days.

Baker's Hint: For best results, do not use peanut butter that requires stirring or flavored varieties. Chunky peanut butter adds a nice crunch.

Makes 60 medium cookies

Nutritional values per cookie (will vary depending upon granola variety used): 122 calories; 7 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 2 g protein, 14 carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 15 mg cholesterol, 65 mg sodium.

Annie Overboe

Apple Cider Syrup

2/3 cup of cider

2 tablespoons of sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

teaspoon cinnamon

Before turning on the burner, add all of the ingredients to a small sauce pan. Whisk well until combined. Then bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Serve this warm over French toast. This recipe can be doubled if you family likes a lot of syrup and leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

Crystal Maleski

Crystal Maleski says the aroma of her French Toast Casserole baking in the oven is enough to get any kid out of bed.
Crystal Maleski says the aroma of her French Toast Casserole baking in the oven is enough to get any kid out of bed. - Courtesy of Crystal Maleski

Apple French Toast Casserole

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon, plus 2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/3 cup butter, melted

3 baking apples, peeled and sliced with core removed

cup dark raisins

1 (1 pound) loaf raisin bread, diced up into 1.5-inch squares (approximately)

6 eggs, beaten

1.5 cups, milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Stir in the melted butter. Add the sliced apples and raisins and stir until they are coated well. Pour this apple mixture into a greased 9- x 12- x 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread the diced raisin bread on top of the apples.

Using the same bowl, combine the eggs, milk, vanilla and the remaining 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Pour this over the apples. Make sure all the bread pieces are fully soaked with the egg mixture. You may need to press some of the bread down into the egg mixture to assure that the bread is moistened. Cover the pan with foil and refrigerate for 8-10 hours.

One hour before you want to serve this, bake the foil covered casserole in an oven that has been preheated to 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving. Cut into squares.

Serves 8-10, and leftovers can be reheated.

Crystal Maleski

Buffalo-Style Chili with Quinoa is a favorite of Soupalooza columnist Eileen Brown.
  Buffalo-Style Chili with Quinoa is a favorite of Soupalooza columnist Eileen Brown. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Buffalo-Style Quinoa Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 white onion, diced

3 ribs celery, diced

1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce

1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes

1 cup vegetable broth

1 cup cooked black beans

1 can (14 ounces) hominy, drained and rinsed

1 cup cooked quinoa

cup Frank's Redhot sauce, or to taste

1 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Blue cheese, for topping

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan and, once hot, add the diced onion and celery to the pan. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.

Add black beans, hominy, quinoa, hot sauce, smoked paprika, cumin, salt and pepper; cook 15 more minutes, until the flavors have melded. To serve: Heat broiler. Ladle chili into broiler-safe bowls. Top with blue cheese and place broiler until cheese melts, 3-5 minutes.

Serves two to four.

Stacy McCann,

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