While it might be hard to say goodbye to the fresh juicy watermelon and sweet corn of the summer, the brisk fall air brings with it a new bounty of intense flavors and substantial textures. I get excited to find new seasonal ingredients that are essentially the building blocks of my favorite holiday dishes, desserts and traditional comfort foods!

I’ve talked before about the importance of eating seasonal foods before as produce that is harvested at its peak of freshness retains maximum nutrient content. Also, when your food doesn’t have to travel as far, it not only benefits local workers, but it benefits you and the community.

So, knowing how to cook with seasonal ingredients brings loads of added benefits. It guarantees freshness and brings out the best in our foods. For all of my foodie friends, I want to share how I enjoy seasonal produce and the recipes I’ll be making this fall using my favorite hearty RiceSelect® grains and pasta.

Fall Seasonal Produce Options

Before we dive into cooking methods, I’d like to first tell you about my favorite produce options that are at their peak in autumn.

Fruits: Apples, cranberries, pomegranates, figs, quince, pears.

Vegetables: Mushrooms, sweet potatoes, cabbage, beets, cauliflower, shallots, spinach, kale.

Find these fall fruits and vegetables (or many others) at your local farmer's market or at their prime in your go-to grocery store. When in doubt, do a bit of research and maybe try something new! Instead of being afraid to experiment with new combinations of seasonal ingredients, we should embrace the changes in our surroundings and our cooking should reflect those changes.

Side Note: Pumpkin and other squash are commonly mistaken for vegetables, when in reality they are fruit, on account of their seeds. And, this fruit is so widely celebrated in the US that it has its own holiday on October 26th!

Recipes to Savor the Season

There are plenty of ways you can take advantage of autumn’s finest flavors. Capture the essence of the season with these ideas for cooking up your favorite vegetables including some of my top recipe ideas!

Soups For the Soul

One of the ultimate seasons to enjoy comfort food, fall is a wonderful time to reconnect with your favorite soups and stews after the heat of summer has passed!

Loaded with hearty vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash or wild mushrooms, nothing beats a soup or stew when I need something to soothe the soul. When I’m feeling adventurous, I turn to Thai curries like this Green Vegetable Curry with pumpkin, carrot, celery, onion and lemongrass simmered with coconut milk and broth. My secret is stirring in my favorite RiceSelect® Premium Black Rice for a touch of whole grains and a pop of color.

For a more classic touch this Creamy Mushroom Garlic and Rice Soup hits the spot. With just the right blend of creamy and smooth, the earthy cremini mushrooms and whole grain Texmati® Brown Rice are a winning combination and exactly what I need to curl up on the couch or even entertain guests at home.

Oven Roasted Vegetables

September is becoming the new January, meaning the beginning of fall marks a time to turn a new leaf - as one might say. If you’re missing time in the kitchen and not enjoying the meals you’d like to, take a look at my guide to efficient meal prep for home chefs! I’ll share some of my tips for elevating traditional meal planning and prep and favorite cooking techniques like making a one-pan roasted dinner.

This Roasted Seven Vegetable Couscous plate is loaded with rutabaga, butternut squash, carrot, cauliflower, zucchini, eggplant and red pepper all drizzled in a Tahini Za'atar Dressing served over a bed of fluffy couscous. Talk about indulgence!

While you can roast a few at the same time, if you really want to draw out the flavor in something like pumpkin or sweet potato, I’d suggest a touch of seasonings or brown sugar! Take this recipe for Pumpkin Sage Risotto, for example. The pumpkin is roasted first in a combination of oil, garlic, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne. Then the tender inside is combined with an extra creamy Arborio Rice risotto cooked in a sage broth and savory pancetta.

Holiday Salads

With the right balance of flavor and quality fall produce, your holiday side salad just might steal the show at the Thanksgiving table or other holiday meal!

This fresh Holiday Couscous Salad includes shredded Brussels sprouts, Couscous, nuts and savory bacon all tossed with a homemade vinaigrette to add vibrant color to your meal.

Tip: I’d say, dress the salad about 15 minutes before you plan to serve it so the ingredients don’t get too soggy. Also, for a meat free version, simply omit the bacon or use a vegetarian alternative for a bit of that smoky flavor.

If you enjoy something a bit more on the warmer side try this Cranberry Pearl Couscous Salad using our specialty Pearl Couscous that has been toasted with sautéed onion in oil and simmered in broth of your choice.

Stuffed Vegetable Options

When in doubt, make your vegetables work for you by using them as a delicious vessel that’s definitely easy-on-the-eyes appealing. One thing I love about stuffed vegetables is that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the filling. I use this as an opportunity to experiment with grains, pasta like couscous or an orzo!

Get creative or use a few of my favorites as inspiration.

  • Stuffed Mushrooms: Baby portobello caps are stuffed with RiceSelect Royal Blend®, Italian sausage, herbs, garlic and of course both Parmesan and Cheddar cheese.

  • Stuffed Acorn Squash: Squash ( acorn or other variety) is filled with a savory combination of RiceSelect Whole Grain Royal Blend, tender sweet potatoes, sweet apples and celery.

  • Swiss Chard Rolls: A cross between cabbage rolls and cannelloni, swiss chard is wrapped around a filling of garlic sautéed mushrooms, RiceSelect White Quinoa, ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesan, basil and more.

Desserts and Treats

When the chillier fall weather rolls in, I don’t mind turning on my oven or stove to fill my kitchen with the aroma of some apple cider donuts or Apple Cinnamon Pancakes using my own homemade applesauce.

Natural Ingredient Hack: While it might be simple to pick up applesauce or pumpkin in a can for your Thanksgiving pie, I always make my own unprocessed version at home! By simply peeling and boiling picked apples or roasting pumpkin in the oven, I can add even more natural flavor to my treats like a Pumpkin Spice Latte Rice Pudding. If you haven’t done it before, I encourage you to try!

Although summer blueberries have gone, other fruits like cranberries are at their peak. Because of their tart taste, I love to enjoy their benefits but with other ingredients or baked into some honey and Cranberry Quinoa Muffins for a snack or breakfast. If you’re not used to using them, this is your chance to start! The best ones are shiny and scarlet, so throw out any that seem a bit discolored or shriveled.

With all of these ideas, start by making something delicious with pumpkin or another seasonal fruit or vegetable to celebrate the season! Or alternatively a seafood dish like this easy shrimp salad recipe. Share your ideas with me by tagging Riceselect®.