Fall is pretty magical, isn’t it? Drifting out of summer can be painful, but any person can be allured by the slowly changing colors and the slightly cooler temperatures. Our warm socks and fuzzy blankets beckon us to pick them up once again, the nights getting shorter as the days go by.
Since March I’ve really taken to spending time in the kitchen, and so this fall was eagerly anticipated. Fall brings so many wonderful food memories to mind for me, usually of the cozy and warm variety: apple cider, pumpkin donuts, chocolates at Halloween. It’s crazy to me how many different foods we associate with the seasons, another reminder that things are changing. Eating seasonal food with each other allows for us to be present and enjoy the time we’re in.
Being a newlywed, combined with my recent love for cooking and baking, I wanted to try out a bunch of new-to-me recipes this fall to see what I really liked taste-wise, what I enjoyed making, and what I might want to make again next year. It’s a special thing to think that a recipe I’m trying for the first time could end up being a family favorite for years to come.
Here’s the ones I tried, along with my honest and true thoughts on each recipe:
Becki’s Mac & Cheese – Magnolia Table Cookbook, vol. 1
First up is a cookbook recipe! I’ve had my eyes on this one from the first Magnolia Table cookbook since I got my hands on it. You gotta admit, the book picture looks absolutely alluring, with the garlicky buttery panko breadcrumbs and the adorable individual cast-iron serving pots. Even though I got this cookbook back in the springtime, I waited specifically until the fall to make this recipe, knowing the warm cheesy carb-filled goodness might be more fitting for cooler weather. And boy was I right – it snowed the day I whipped this one up!
The recipe itself wasn’t too hard; boil the noodles, mix the cheese, combine the noodles and cheese mixture and then bake. Of course, there’s lots of cheese shredding involved (freshly shredded cheese > store-bought shredded cheese). The cheeses used were white cheddar, Velveeta, and gruyere.
Final verdict on this mac and cheese: it was pretty dang tasty! Very creamy and nothing wrong about it. I loved using the elbow macaroni and forgot how fun that pasta shape is to use. One thing I didn’t end up loving was the gruyere cheese in there, as it added a very particular flavor. I’m wondering if I had a mature gruyere, as now I’m googling it and the mature gruyere is often more “complex”. I also wasn’t a massive fan of the Velveeta, although I totally understand the purpose in something like this!
I would totally love to make this mac and cheese recipe again and tweak it a bit by using lots of white cheddar and sharp cheddar in the place of velveeta and gruyere. I gotta say, I missed the classic mac & cheese flavors.
Cheddar Apple Butternut Squash Soup with Cinnamon Pecan Crumble – Half Baked Harvest
Y’ALL. If I had to pick an underdog for this list of fall recipes, it would be this one. Holy COW it was good. I very well might have to make it again sometime this winter.
I used frozen butternut squash for this one, which helped the process immensely when it came time to use the squash. The ingredients for the soup itself are not mind blowing and were mostly things I had in my kitchen. The biggest “hassle” might be that you have to blend the soup at one point, but to get a creamy soup like this, it’s an understandable requirement.
Admittedly I am a massive Half Baked Harvest fan, but anyone else who knows her recipes knows that she always goes above and beyond with garnishes, sauces, and other recipe extras. Sometimes we don’t got time for all that! I threw together the cinnamon pecan crumble (which I honestly was really proud of myself for on top of making the soup from scratch), but I did not make the honey butter apples she mentions in her recipe. Although I’m sure those would be an amazing addition.
But you guys, the flavor in this one… it’s no joke delicious. Think creamy, cheesy, slightly sweet from the apple, depth from the onion, and warming from the slight hint of cayenne. And the crumble really was a great addition as it added some good texture to go along with the smooth and velvety soup.
Crockpot French Onion Soup – Half Baked Harvest Super Simple Cookbook
What made me happy about this recipe was that it ended up tasting exactly how I hoped it would. Sometimes you attempt a really classic recipe and you know what it SHOULD taste like, so when you’re putting it all together, you’re worried it won’t live up to it’s name. French Onion Soup is an incredibly popular and widely recognized dish. Yes it would only be apparent to me and my husband, but getting it wrong would have felt like a disaster.
All that to say, this lived up to the hype.
Yes, you do have to cut a whole lotta onions, so be prepared for that. I cook with onions often and usually don’t cry, but when making this soup… oh my goodness, the tears were streaming folks.
I only skipped three ingredients: shallots, gruyere, and sage. I really gotta get myself some sage because Tieghan from Half Baked Harvest uses it in so many of her recipes… and I have yet to buy it 😬 But I can see right now that Meijer sells it so I will probably just go and scan the spice aisle until I can find it. Also, my argument with shallots is that there’s already how much onion in there?! Aren’t shallots similar? But I’m sure those do add some depth so I won’t totally downplay it.
One thing to never skip is the bread and cheese on top y’all. We went with our household favorite Aldi baguette, sliced it up thin, set it on top of our oven-safe soup bowls, then sprinkled some leftover mozzarella over it all before putting under the broiler.
Even with those few ingredients skipped, it was delicious! We had it as our dinner which was honestly a bit weird. Is French Onion Soup ever the main course? It probably shouldn’t be, but I really put some time into making it, so it was our main course that night! LOL. We ended up freezing the leftovers as a nice pick-me-up for sometime this winter.
Chai Spiced Maple Sugar Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting – Half Baked Harvest
These cookies are straight up impressive. The chai spice is delicious but not overpowering: if you have someone in your life that might be turned off by the idea of “chai”, you could easily call this one a fall spice cookie.
Oh, and did I mention that it’s a sandwich cookie?! Between two cookies, you smear a generous swipe of browned butter frosting. Browning butter isn’t hard but adds a nutty, slightly darker flavor than normal butter would. I will admit that when you make the sandwiches, the cookie is a bit of a mouthful! But still super delicious.
The cookie itself isn’t too sweet, which I loved. I did have to buy a handful of spices for this recipe since I’m new to the baking scene, but it was totally worth it to have clove, cardamom, and others added to my spice cabinet. As part of the recipe you also get to make a chai sugar, which is granulated sugar mixed with all of her chai spices. I still have some of this leftover from the recipe, saved in my baking drawer for a sweet treat that just needs a little extra cozy warmth.
I can totally see myself making these cookies again next fall, just maybe as individual chai maple sugar cookies instead of the full cookie sandwiches.
Browned Butter Apple Blondies with Cinnamon Maple Glaze – Half Baked Harvest
Did you grow up eating blondies? I definitely had my fair share of brownies, but blondies weren’t something my family ever really whipped up. So I wanted to give these Brown Butter Apple Blondies from Half Baked Harvest a try.
They taste exactly like the recipe suggests. Again not super sweet, but the fall flavors with the cinnamon and apple come through nicely. It’s almost cake-like in texture; not sure if it’s just the way I prepared mine, but mine came out a touch more dry than I expected. The cinnamon maple glaze was nice on top to help with that.
Overall, I’ll admit that these were probably the least favorite fall recipe I tried this season. I don’t want this to be controversial, but it’s true! I don’t think I’m a blondie person. I am a muffin person though…
Pumpkin Coffee Cake Muffins – Half Baked Harvest
Tell me Half Baked Harvest’s pictures don’t just tempt you to hop in the kitchen right now!!
In all seriousness, these muffins hit the spot for my fall baking desires. These were exactly the recipe to make me embrace the cooling temperatures and the falling leaves. And I didn’t even add the cream cheese filling that she suggests!
The streusel topping is what really got me with these. As you’ll see with the last recipe on this list too, I’m a sucker for a good crumble topping. So making classic pumpkin muffins with a crumbly streusel topping was really a no brainer here.
They’re cozy, cakey and sweet, with pumpkin pie spices to make it feel festive, too. Spread some butter on there and you’re all set (she suggests a cinnamon honey butter, which I’m sure would be delightful). The biggest issue I had with these was making sure to not eat them too quickly!
White Chocolate Pumpkin Scones – Half Baked Harvest
I had never baked scones before, so these were fun!
When I first chose to whip up this recipe, the white chocolate was the only thing that felt weird to me. When I was a kid, I have a very specific memory from Easter time one year, where all I wanted was a white chocolate bunny. I had seen it in some catalog; it was different, it was cool, and I thought it would be the best thing ever! So my sweet parents indulged me with my white chocolate bunny on Easter Sunday. What it ended up being was the most sugary thing ever, not really tasting like chocolate at all. Haven’t been a huge white chocolate fan since.
But I decided to give it a go for this recipe. And I’ll admit, it was fairly tasty! I do think the white chocolate chips were needed because the scones themselves were not very sweet at all. I appreciated the texture difference as well. The pumpkin was a nice touch and the color was pretty because of it. I decided to amp up the pumpkin coloring by making a pumpkin glaze instead of an espresso one, as the Half Baked Harvest recipe suggests.
The scone dough baked about like I expected it to. I think if I had cooked the scones a touch longer they would have been a bit more crispy and flaky in the best way possible, in the way a scone should be.
I don’t think I’d personally make this recipe again, but it makes me want to try baking a different scone recipe sometime soon!
Dutch Apple Pie – Pinterest
Last but most certainly not least… this Dutch Apple Pie.
I am a pie gal through and THROUGH you guys. Growing up my Dad would make homemade apple pie for Thanksgiving every year, with homemade flaky crust to boot. It was an Arnold family tradition and I always looked forward to that amazing pie.
I haven’t really made apple pie before by myself, but this fall Jarod and I went apple picking and our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. Needless to say, we had excess apples and making an apple pie seemed like the best way to use a bunch of them! I opted to try the Dutch Apple Pie because, like I mentioned earlier, I love some streusel topping and that’s what makes this pie so wonderfully unique.
You know why I think I’m really so into the crumbly streusel topping? The butter. It’s pretty much half butter and that’s what makes it so stinkin’ good!
This recipe was divine. The flavor is a pretty straightforward for apple pie: slightly tart but mostly sweet, with bits of cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla reaching out to tie it all together. There’s something so comforting and wonderful about the familiar flavor of apple pie. The apples themselves were just soft enough and the crumble had the perfect amount of crispiness on top.
I’m very, very tempted to make this one again next week for Thanksgiving!
If you’ve made it all the way here, WOW! And thank you! I love writing these recipe reviews, let me know if you like these and if there’s any recipes you’d like to see me try. I’ll definitely be trying some Christmas recipes as well as more general winter recipes come January and February that I’m excited for too.