Ontario fall vegetables at the market: squash, pumpkins

Fall Cooking in Ontario: Simple Dishes That Embrace the Season

October is here and that means our food markets are all about the fall vegetables like squash, pumpkins and apples. It’s a different time and it means a different style of cooking. Autumn has come.

The end of summer in Ontario is always a little bit sad. Even through September with the weather so hot, everybody is taking vacation, getting out to cottages and finding every excuse to talk a walk through the neighbourhood. For us food lovers that means embracing the season with grilling everything on the barbecue and going all in with summer vegetables.

Fall vegetables like squash, pumpkins and apples

The Feeling of Fall

October is when the weather starts to get cold. It’s when we bring back the sweaters in our closet and head to the front closet to grab our jacket before heading out the door. We start to look for warmth, not just from our clothes but from our food.

Cooking for the fall season is all about comfort. We start to bring warm soups back into our lives, we like heartier items like pasta for dinner and a piece of apple pie for dessert. We start to see pumpkins at the grocery store and the colours of orange, brown and yellow everywhere.

October means Thanksgiving which means turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy. We start to see more Brussel sprouts and carrots in our lives. Fall is the end of the harvest, where we embrace the last of our fresh vegetables for the season.

The feeling of fall is all about warmth, and living in Ontario, embracing that feeling is the best way to cook.

Slice squash with rosemary

The Ingredients of Fall in Ontario

The autumn season brings heartier root vegetables to our lives. It also brings the apples, pumpkins and squash which you see everywhere. The most popular seasonal ingredients in Ontario through October and November are things like:

  • Squash
  • Cauliflower
  • Pumpkin
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Beets
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Corn
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Parsnips
  • Cranberries

The spices we use embrace these ingredients and the warmth of the season, so we cook with spices and herbs like:

  • Cinnamon
  • Rosemary
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg
  • Cardamom
  • Sage
  • Vanilla
Fall spices like cardamom and cinnamon

    The Best Simple and Easy Fall Dishes to Cook

    1. Squash Mac and Cheese
    Nothing says comfort like Mac and Cheese. Why not embrace the season and get some vegetables by adding squash?

    Mac and cheese

    2. Roasted Squash and Apple
    A simple side dish that can go with any meal this time of year is squash and apple. Its as simple as slicing some squash and apple, then mixing with butter, cinnamon, allspice and some maple syrup, then baking that in a 400 degree oven until tender.

    3. Slow Cooker Chili with Sweet Potato
    Chili is another easy dish you can make in the slow cooker that fits the warmth of the season.

    4. Baked Pasta
    Do a simple search for Fall Pasta Bake and you get a ton of cool looking things. You’ll find things like Brussels sprouts, corn, pumpkin and squash baked together to end up with pasta goodness.

    Fall vegetable bake with squash and Brussels sprouts

    5. Roasted Carrots
    Roasted carrots are a dish simple enough you don’t need a recipe. Put them in the oven at 450 degrees for 35-40 minutes with some oil and butter and any seasoning you want.

    Fall Salads: Embracing Fall in Your Salads

    The beauty of salads is they are so customizable. Swap an ingredient or two, change the dressing and you’ve got something completely different.

    Your salad base can be whatever you want. Greens, quinoa, pasta – you name it. The fun part is using the fall season to inspire your toppings and dressing. Here are some ideas:

    Fall Salad Toppings

    1. Roasted squash: cut squash into 1 inch cubes, add olive oil and 1 clove of minced garlic and bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes

    2. Beets: cover each beet in aluminum foil, then bake in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour (or longer, depending on the size – you can pierce with a fork to check)

    3. Roasted carrots: roast in the oven with some butter or olive oil

    4. Dried cranberries: buy these from your local grocery store and use to top your salads

    5. Pears and cheese: consider dicing up some pears to add to your salad which will “pair” nicely with your favourite cheese (go Blue or Stilton if you can handle it)

    Fall Salad Dressings

    The best strategy is to look to the fall spices for inspiration when it comes to dressings. You can start with mixing three parts your choice of oil with one part your choice vinegar.  Add salt and pepper and whatever herbs or spices you’d like. Try adding mustard if you like that, or sugar, honey or maple syrup for sweetness. Here are a couple recipes to try too:

    Fall Soups: The Best Easy Soups for Fall

    1. Squash and Black Bean Soup
    If you feel like squash you can go with a more classic squash soup with cream or coconut milk or opt for some black beans to complement the squash.

    2. Corn and Sausage Soup
    Pairing a corn chowder with sausage is a beautiful thing and it makes life easy.

    3. Pumpkin Soup
    Fall typically means pumpkins, but pumpkin isn’t always the easiest thing to cook with, outside of the obvious pies. Pumpkin soup is a great alternative.

    Squash and pumpkin soup

    4. Carrot and Cardamom Soup
    We mentioned cardamom above, but how do you use it in your cooking? How about with carrot and cardamom soup.

    5. Leek and Potato Soup
    Another way to go is to cook with the potato and pair with leeks.

    Cooking Meat for the Fall Season

    1. Easy 1 Dish Chicken Casserole
    Cooking with chicken is always something you want to keep easy. Roasting chicken with fall vegetables is a great way to go and it makes it simple. You can go the casserole route or just throw everything onto a pan and roast!

    2. Pork Tenderloin
    Take a break from chicken and go with pork tenderloin. You can pair it with apples and the combo is awesome.

    Pork tenderloin with apple

    3. Slow Cooker Brisket
    Every season can use some brisket. It’s a comfort dish you may need and if you want to make life simple, cooking it in the slow cooker is a great idea.

    4. Rosemary Roast Chicken Thighs
    Chicken thighs are the easiest and most delicious way to cook your own protein for a weekday dinner or a big batch for the week. Add a taste of fall with rosemary.

    Chicken thighs with rosemary

    5. Braised Lamb
    Braised lamb is certainly less lean and typically more work than the other options, but if you want to go big and delicious then why not cook some lamb. Make sure to pair it with vegetables from the season.

    We hope this helped to inspire you cook for the fall season. Like we said, October does mean the start of the colder weather in Ontario, but it can be an incredibly exciting time to cook. We’ll admit, winter gets a bit boring as we have to rely on imported vegetables, but fall is the last chance to truly embrace Ontario produce.

    Best of luck with your fall cooking. We’ll continue to post more ideas throughout the season. We never mentioned fall desserts, but that is a huge part of the season and deserves its own post, so stay tuned.