Food for Thought: Feel-Good Foods for Fall

foodCrisp mornings, cozy sweaters and a craving for comfort foods are all sure signs that autumn is in the air. No fall menu is complete without hearty, homestyle dishes that evoke feelings of well-being and warmth, and there’s no better way to capture the flavors of fall than with the season’s signature ingredient—apples.

Whether you picked them up from the Baltimore Farmer’s Market and Bazaar or picked them yourself at one of the many local orchards, this is the apple’s time to shine. You already know about the basics like apple pie, applesauce and apple crisp. But here are two delicious recipes—one meal and one dessert—that use one of apple’s most underrated products: apple butter.

Made from apples slow-simmered in kettles of sugar, apple cider and spices, apple butter is more than just a spread. It’s also a versatile ingredient that can enhance your favorite sweet and savory recipes.

While this one-pot dinner saves time on busy fall evenings, it also boasts a rich, tangy sauce that gets a special twist from the spice of apple butter. Fall is also the perfect time for creating beloved desserts, and whoopie pie is always a winning choice. This spiced up version of the traditional favorite draws its flavor from apple butter, with an old-fashioned taste that is the essence of comfort food.

Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Vegetables

2 pounds pork loin
salt
pepper
1 large red onion
1 1/2 pounds baby potatoes
1 pound baby carrots
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup apple butter
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 cup beef broth

Place large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. (If using regular skillet, add 1 tablespoon oil.) Season pork loin with salt and pepper, and place in skillet.

Sear pork loin on all sides to seal in juices, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Peel onion and cut into large chunks. Cover bottom of large, 6-quart slow cooker with half the chopped onion, potatoes and carrots.

Lay seared pork loin over top and surround with remaining vegetables.

In small bowl, whisk together minced garlic, apple butter, mustard, soy sauce and broth. Pour mixture over pork and vegetables.

Cover slow cooker and cook on low 8 to 10 hours or high 4 to 6 hours.

Once potatoes are tender, cut tenderloin into thin slices and place on platter, surrounded by vegetables.

Taste gravy, and season with salt and pepper, as needed, then pour gravy over pork and serve.

Spice Cake Whoopie Pies

1 box spice cake mix, dry
1 1/2 cups apple butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat liner.

In large bowl, mix together dry cake mix, apple butter, oil and eggs until smooth. Let stand 3 to 4 minutes.

Spoon batter onto prepared baking sheet, one heaping, rounded tablespoon at a time. Space about two inches apart.

Bake about 14 minutes and let cool completely.

To make cream cheese frosting, beat together cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar until fluffy.

Add milk and vanilla, and beat another 1 to 2 minutes.

Frost flat side of each “pie” half with frosting and place halves together. Store in sealed container in refrigerator.

Bonus tip: Marshmallow fluff can be substituted for cream cheese frosting.

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