Hint: pumpkin. 

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It happens every August: Our thoughts turn to fall dishes. It isn't that we want summer to end, but it feels exciting to think about cozy, comforting foods and a chill in the air. I say, lean into that mood and join me in adding these 5 recipes that I love to make as I think about sweaters, boots, and nights by the fire. 

Easy Chili

mr-easy-chili-2019
Credit: Photography: Greg DuPreeFood Styling: Rishon HannersProp Styling: Thom Driver

Why I love it: Chili is the first thing that hits my slow cooker when the weather gets chilly. I love the way it perfumes my house with rich, spicy meaty scents all day long, and that it keeps getting better as it sits. I also love how well it freezes, so I can make a huge batch early in the season and pull out containers whenever I want that long-simmered flavor without the work.

Get the recipe: Easy Chili

Pumpkin Soup

mr-Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Candied Pepitas
Credit: Caitlin Bensel Food Styling: Tina Stamos and Gordon Sawyer Prop Styling: Kay Clark

Why I love it: Hard squashes are one of those things I cannot wait to find back at the markets. But they are notorious for being a bit finicky and slow cooking. When I want all that sweet flavor in a fraction of the time, I rely on my Instant Pot for an autumn meal that is ready before winter sets in. This pumpkin soup is rich and delicious, and I often make extras of the candied pepitas for snacking.

Pasta with Cauliflower, Walnuts, and White Beans 

mr-Orecchiette with Cauliflower, Walnuts, and White Beans image
Credit: Stacey Ballis

Why I love it: Hearty one-bowl suppers are particularly comforting in the fall, and while the usual impulse is to make a soup or stew, I love a great pasta filled with earthy flavors. This version has it all: white beans for protein, cauliflower for vegetables, and walnuts for crunch. It is also a great vegetarian entrée to have in your back pocket for entertaining, and easily converted to vegan. Try it with whole wheat orecchiette for an even nuttier flavor.

Potato Pancakes

Classic Potato Latkes
Credit: John Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr

Why I love them: Potato pancakes are not just for Hanukah. These potato pancakes (or latkes) are so fast and easy you can make them last minute, and they work particularly well with early season potatoes which retain a bit of sweetness and are crisp. You can have them instead of hashed browns for breakfast, or as a side dish for any dinner.

Poached Pears

Pomegranate-Poached Pears
Credit: Caitlin Bensel

Fall desserts can sometimes lean a bit heavy, which is complicated when the meals are also substantial. I like to take advantage of fall fruits and keep things a bit lighter when I can. These pomegranate-poached pears are elegant, and the bright flavors are perfect after a meal that is richly spiced or on the fattier side.