By Deborah Eisenhut

Autumn is a busy season with back to school and football,  plans for putting the yard to “bed” and many other “cooler weather” projects.  We know winter is coming and the really busy months of holidays ahead but we are anxious to cool down and enjoy the leaf color change and the nights with less bugs.  This time of year is especially pleasant with the apples coming in, cold or hot cider, the last of garden bounty & pumpkin time coming up.

I call this “comfort food” season where a pot of chili, spaghetti and meatballs, four cheese & mac,  baked apples and potato au gratin can be prepared, served up and enjoyed like a long lost friend.  This is also soup time.  Lots of fall veggies are handy and hearty for some wonderful soups and stews.  They are delicious and nutritious and easy fixing for evening meals.

Try these recipes to warm heart and soul, comforting us as we roll into the winter ahead

Apple Strudel

Preheat oven to 350

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

2 large fresh apples, peeled/thinly sliced. Try a medley of Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Winesap, or Mutsu.

2 Tbls. raisins or craisins in bowl

Add 1 Tbls. sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon or apple pie spice

1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water

On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry out to a 12×15 rectangle.

Place on ungreased baking sheet; arrange apples down center.  Sprinkle with raisin sugar mix. Brush edges of pastry with egg wash.  Roll up pastry jelly roll style with seam down & turn ends under. Brush with egg wash.  Make diagonal slits across top at 2 inch intervals.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.  serve with ice cream.  Serves 6

Tomato Herb Soup

3 medium sweet onions

4 large ripe tomatoes chopped

1/4. cup evoo

3 cloves garlic minced

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried marjoram

1/2 tap black pepper

8 cups water

8 slices French bread, sliced and toasted in oven

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat evoo in soup pot and saute onions over medium heat until slightly browned; add tomatoes & cook 5 minutes.  Raise heat to high, add garlic, spices and water, bring to boil, reduce to medium heat for 15 minutes.  Use a blender or immersion blender to puree soup then bring soup to a boil, then ladle into 4 soup bowls with 2 slices of bread in each, and top with cheese.

Best Four Cheese Macaroni

Preheat oven to 350

1 Tbls vegetable oil

16 oz pkg elbow macaroni cook as directed on box

9 Tbls butter melted

1/2 cup EACH shredded cheese: muenster, white cheddar, sharp cheddar, & Monterey jack

1 1/2 cups half & half

8 oz Velveeta cubed

2 eggs beaten

1/2 tsp EACH salt & pepper

Boil pasta al dente, drain well and return to pot.  Add 8 Tbls of butter & stir gently into macaroni.  Combine all cheeses well.  Add the rest of the ingredients saving out 1/2 cup of the cheeses and remaining melted butter.  Transfer macaroni mixture to a lightly greased deep 2 quart baking dish.  Sprinkle top with remaining cheese and butter.  Bake in oven 35 minutes or until brown and bubbly around edges.  Optional topping of crushed cracker crumbs or Panko crumbs broiled a moment before serving is fine.