Warm Autumn Farro Salad with Chicken Sausage, Spinach, & Apples

Ok, so maybe I’m late to the game here, but we just discovered farro – an ancient grain that is hearty and nutty and absolutely delicious!

I had to know more and here is what I found out; the bad news; traditional farro is a bit finicky and requires overnight soaking before a long cooking process. The good news; pearled farro –sometimes seen as “farro pearlato” -  is a ready-to-use grain that only needs 10-12 minutes in boiling water and then is drained like pasta (no possibly burning pots, like some other grains). The great news; Trader Joe’s sells pouches of pearled farro (their label says 10-minute farro), and it’s reasonably priced and nearly always available in their store!

Well I am hooked! I have used farro a few times as a side dish, but I really wanted to make it the star of the meal. That is where this recipe comes in. Jeweled with tart pomegranate seeds, this dish is just the epitome of fall in my opinion. 

Easy Pumpkin Kiss Cookies (as seen on Pinterest!)

 This this time of year, it seems like everything is pumpkin flavored! Now, for my sister, this is heaven on earth. I'm not as crazy about pumpkin, but when I saw Hershey's Pumpkin Kisses last year, I just knew I had to bake something with them.

I invented this recipe mad-scientist style last fall and brought the resulting cookies in to work (as I often do). Let me tell you, I have NEVER had such a positive reaction to anything I've made! The cafeteria manager even asked for the recipe so that they could sell them!

My secret? They are semi-homemade! They couldn't be simpler - or tastier for that matter - and here's how it's done:

Royal Icing

Confession time - I am not a great baker. I'm not even a particularly good baker. I have learned the hard way that the skills which make a good cook are not the same as those that make a good baker. I'm simply too impatient to follow recipes to a "T" and I have a tendency to improvise and let me tell you; improvised baking is really never a good idea...

Both of my sisters are exceptional bakers, and my youngest sister recently came to stay overnight to bake gingerbread cookies! I  persuaded her to use a mix (Better Crocker's Gingerbread Cookie Mix - available seasonally) rather than bake them from scratch - because I'll take any excuse to cut corners when I bake. The cookies turned out to be surprisingly tasty - even without being homemade. She shared her favorite royal icing recipe with me (below) and we spent the most of the night decorating! That, after all, is the fun part!

Butternut Squash & Pear Soup

I can't get enough butternut squash, and soup is one of my favorite ways to enjoy it. This silky, decadent soup really hits the spot on a cold night (or lunch at work, or anytime really!). 

I made this recipe as a starter for our Thanksgiving meal this year, but it is filling enough to eat as the main dish! If you're making it for guests, you can easily make it the day before and reheat it before serving. It also freezes really well if you end up having leftovers.

Easy Pumpkin Mousse

My mother makes a spectacular (and relatively labor-intensive) Pumpkin Chiffon Pie every year for the holidays. It is the jewel of the dessert offerings and basically manna from heaven. This year, to celebrate Thanksgiving with my in-laws, we decided to have a low-key appetizers and desserts gathering, so I decided to try to make a quick and easy interpretation of the chiffon pie. Here's what I came up with:

Easy Pumpkin Mousse (adapted from this Alton Brown recipe) 
Serves 10

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 (3.4-ounce) box pumpkin spice flavored instant pudding mix
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 (8-ounce) container of cool whip
6-8 Biscoff Cookies
Whipped Cream

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin puree and milk, whisk to combine.
  2. Add the packet of pudding mix, and the vanilla extract, whisk until smooth.
  3. Add the cool whip, no need to be gentle, just whisk it right in.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and let it set up in the fridge during the next steps.
  5. Crush the cookies into crumbs using a food processor, or just place them in a plastic bag and mash with a mug. 
  6. Place 1 Tbsp of cookie crumbs in the bottom of a small dessert dish*. Use the back of a spoon to tamp the crumbs down to a packed, evenly distributed layer on the bottom of the dish.
  7. Take the filling out of the fridge and, using a spatula, load it into a large pastry bag or plastic bag (just snip off the corner).
  8. Pipe the filling into the dishes, about 3/4 of the way to the top of the dish.
  9. Top with whipped cream - I use canned, but you could certainly make your own if you prefer!
*You could use this same method to make larger trifles, but I use Libbey - Just Desserts Mini Bowls, 5.3-ounce glass dishes.