As chilly weather rides the refreshing autumn breezes into Harrisonburg, some may be craving warm and comforting fall foods. Harvest vegetables like pumpkin, squash and sweet potatoes can be a welcome addition to one’s meals.

A seasonal, vegetable-based menu can easily be turned healthy by making simple changes such as omitting unnecessary oil and finding dairy-free alternatives to some ingredients.

Here are five vegan fall recipes to usher in the first taste of fall.

One pot chili mac

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This one pot chili mac is a bowl full of comfort on a crisp fall day.

This chili mac, packed with beans and vegetables, is a hearty and decadent meal that’s sure to be filling and satisfying. It’s also a quick recipe and can be made by any busy college student in one pot in under 30 minutes. Spices like cumin, chili powder and oregano are incorporated, giving this chili mac a bit of heat.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 8 ounces (about 1 package) white mushrooms, chopped

  • 1 medium white onion, diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1 tablespoon cumin

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 10 ounces uncooked elbow pasta

  • 2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

  • 4 ounces (½ cup) tomato sauce

  • 4 cups vegetable broth

  • 1 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese

  • Chopped scallions for topping

Instructions

Saute the mushrooms and onions in a large pot with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Add the garlic and spices, then stir for 30 seconds to cook without burning. Pour in the remaining ingredients except the cheese and scallions, then simmer for 12 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Stir in the shredded cheese, top with chopped scallions and enjoy.

Chef’s note: One can saute the vegetables in water to eliminate oil.

Creamy butternut squash soup

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This bowl of butternut squash soup is tasty and beautiful. 

This rich and creamy dish is a simple and healthy option for the struggling college student. This butternut squash soup is a quick and easy meal that uses minimal ingredients to create a simple yet savory taste. Roasted butternut squash fosters a decadent fall flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 (about 4 cups chopped) large butternut squash

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, diced

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons sage or poultry seasoning

  • 4 cups vegetable broth

  • 1 ½ cups plain non-dairy milk

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Sour cream for topping

Instructions

To soften the butternut squash, stab the squash with a butter knife a few times, then place the whole squash in an oven preheated to 300 degrees and cook for 30 minutes. After cooling, peel and chop the squash into 1-inch cubes. Then, saute the onion over medium heat with olive oil for a few minutes. Add the salt and sage or poultry seasoning, then continue to cook until the onion softens and looks translucent. 

Add the vegetable broth and cubed squash, then simmer for 15 minutes or until squash is soft. If a fork can cut through the squash like butter, it’s ready. Add the non-dairy milk and blend the soup until smooth. Finally, top with sour cream, salt and pepper. Enjoy.

Chef’s note: One can substitute vegan sour cream or eliminate if desired. Oil can also be eliminated by sauteing the onion in water. This chef also topped the dish with fresh rosemary to add extra flavor.

Sweet potato noodle salad with chickpeas and arugula

This unusual salad tastes like fall while offering a yummy, refreshing twist. With spicy sweet potato noodles and a tangy chickpea paste, this salad capitalizes on spicy, warm fall flavors while incorporating the fresher taste of arugula and lemon juice.

Ingredients

  • For the sweet potato noodles:

    • 1 medium sweet potato

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil

    • ½ teaspoon coriander

    • ¼ teaspoon cumin

    • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

    • ¼ teaspoon paprika

  • For the chickpea paste:

    • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

    • 1 tablespoon tahini

    • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil

    • Salt and pepper to taste

  • For the salad:

    • Arugula for the base

    • 1 handful pomegranate seeds

    • 1 avocado

    • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Peel the sweet potato and turn into noodles by using a spiralizer or cutting into thin slices using the peeler. Cover the noodles with olive oil and spices, then crisp in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Flip them halfway through to ensure even cooking. Mash chickpeas with tahini, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. To make the salad, place the sweet potato noodles on top of a bed of arugula. Place a dollop of chickpea paste on top along with sliced avocado, pomegranate seeds and sunflower seeds. Squeeze lemon juice over the salad and enjoy.

Chef’s note: This chef used an air fryer to cook the sweet potato noodles, which could produce an even crispier outcome. This chef also omitted the pomegranate seeds and olive oil from the recipe.

Vegan crustless pumpkin pie custard

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Even vegans can enjoy one of autumn’s fall staples, pumpkin pie, with this recipe.

This delicious pumpkin pie custard is a simple delight in any home. Adapted from the Minimalist Baker’s vegan and gluten-free pumpkin pie, one can eliminate the pie crust and cook the pumpkin pie filling in a ramekin for an easy, tasty custard.

Ingredients

  • 2 ¾ cups pumpkin puree

  • ¼ cup maple syrup

  • ¼ brown sugar

  • ⅓ cup plain non-dairy milk

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder

  • 1 ¾ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Blend all ingredients in a blender, then pour equal amounts into four or five 3.5-inch oven-safe ramekins. Place the ramekins in a 9-by-13-inch glass dish or roasting pan. Pour hot water in the glass pan, around but not in the ramekins, until the hot water is about halfway up the side of the ramekins. Bake for 55 minutes to an hour. Let cool and enjoy.

Baker’s note: This baker topped the pumpkin pie custard with vegan coconut whipped cream, chopped pecans and a sprinkle of cinnamon to complete the fall flavor.

Vegan fall sugar cookies

These vegan sugar cookies, while not the healthiest, are a wonderful fall treat to share with friends and family. The sugar cookie recipe can be used at any time of year. To make it a fall recipe, one can use themed cookie cutters in the shape of pumpkins, leaves, ghosts and the like. One can also make vegan icing and use food coloring to make the cookies red, orange, yellow or the desired color.

Ingredients

  • ½ vegan butter, room temperature

  • ½ cup granulated sugar

  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • ½ teaspoon almond extract

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 tablespoon hot water

  • 1 ¾ cups gluten free (or regular) flour

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons plain non-dairy milk, divided

Optional vegan frosting (from Tanya Matherly)

  • ½ cup confectioners sugar

  • 2 teaspoons vegan butter, room temperature

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 tablespoon plain non-dairy milk

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix the butter, sugar and brown sugar in a large bowl until smooth. While a standing or electric mixer is easier and more effective, a whisk will work as well. Combine baking soda with hot water in a small bowl or glass, and stir until the baking soda is dissolved. Then, add to the butter mixture along with the vanilla extract and almond extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cornstarch or arrowroot and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring well between each portion of flour added. Add in the 2 tablespoons of non-dairy milk one at a time until the dough becomes silky and smooth and forms a large ball. 

Place the ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll the dough to about ¼-inch thickness. Cut dough into desired shapes and place cookies on the baking sheets. Repeat until all the dough is used. Bake cookies for 5-10 minutes or until slightly golden on the edges. For the icing, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together with a fork. For a thicker icing, place in the fridge for 15 minutes before coloring and decorating the cookies.

Baker’s note: The original recipe doesn’t include an icing recipe. However, this easy and quick vegan icing, a family recipe from Tanya Matherly, is a lovely and sweet addition to the sugar cookies.

Cooking can be one of the many fun traditions that bring autumn to one’s household. These gluten-free and vegan recipes can be a healthy addition to one’s traditional fall menu. Decorating one’s home with pumpkins and lights on a gray, chilly day can be made all the better by the warm smell of roasting vegetables or the sweet scent of cookies in the oven.

Contact Charlotte Matherly at mathercg@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram at @Breeze_Culture.