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Autumn dinner party menu: Welcome fall with these four recipes

Autumn is here! While the end of summer may be easy to mourn, the start of a new season can be exciting and a great time to bring your entertaining indoors. Try this menu full of fresh fall-inspired recipes

If your summer was anything like mine, it was filled with backyard barbecues and cold beverages on patios. While weather that allows that sort of entertaining doesn’t last long in Canada, it’s certainly enough time to indulge in, love, and eventually become sick of hamburgers. (But not barbecued vegetables—I would eat those year-round if I wasn’t too chicken to man the BBQ in the middle of February.)

But the September equinox is here, and with that, fall. Put your patio-sippers and burger buns on the back-burner until next year, because now, entertaining inevitably moves indoors. If you’re turning on your oven for the first time since May, don’t worry: we’ve built a quick and easy fall-inspired menu to get you off on the right foot when the sweaters are donned and the days get shorter.

To start: Crunchy marinated fall salad
This is, hands down, our favourite make-ahead salad. Crisp and zingy, it stays fresh for up to three days and is perfect for parties and end-of-summer potlucks.

Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 2 minutes
Refrigeration Time Overnight
Makes 11 Cups (2.75 L)

Ingredients:
• 1 cauliflower
• 1 lb (500 g) green or yellow beans, preferably a mix
• 1 sweet pepper
• 1/2 small red onion
• 1/2 cup (125 mL) kalamata olives, pitted
• 1 cup (250 mL) water
• 1 cup (250 mL) white or cider vinegar
• 1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar
• 3 tbsp (45 mL) olive oil
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 tbsp (15 mL) dried Italian seasoning
• 2 tsp (10 mL) salt
• 1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Fill a large pasta pot with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, chop cauliflower into bite-sized florets, trim beans, cut peppers into chunky pieces and thinly slice red onion.
2. Add cauliflower and beans to boiling water. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender-crisp, from 2 to 3 min. Immediately drain, then place in a large bowl. Stir in olives, peppers and red onion.
3. In a bowl, whisk water with vinegar, sugar, oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Pour over vegetables and stir to mix. Refrigerate overnight, stirring now and then. Salad will keep well, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days. Drain before serving.

Nutrients per cup (250 mL): 3 g protein, 4 g fat, 12 g carbohydrates, 4 g fibre, 38 mg calcium, 90 calories

Gruyere cheese puffs 
These fluffy cheese puffs are great to nibble on, but are still light enough not to fill you up before the main course.

Preparation time 15 minutes
Baking Time 20 minutes
Makes 2 Dozen

Ingredients:

• 1/4 cup unsalted butter
• 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 eggs
• 3/4 cup finely grated gruyére cheese, about 100g
• 1 tbsp snipped chives
• pinch cayenne

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Pour 1/2 cup water into a saucepan and set over high. Add butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, 1 to 2 min. Then remove from heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in fl our all at once, beating briskly until the mixture comes away from the sides of pan.
2. Scrape dough into a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Let dough cool about 2 min. Then beat on low speed, adding 1 egg at a time, letting it be combined into the dough before adding the next one. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese, chives and cayenne. Divide dough into 24 mounds, 1 in. apart on sheets. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.
3. Bake for 10 min. Rotate and switch sheets, then reduce heat to 350F. Continue baking until tops are golden, 7 to 10 more min. Remove puff s to a cooling rack. Puff s will keep well, frozen in an airtight container, for up to 1 month. Reheat in centre of 400F preheated oven until warm, 5 to 7 min.

Prep Tip: Finely grating the cheese gives the best results.

Nutrients per Puff: 50 calories, 2 g protein, 2 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 43 mg sodium


The main event: Beef bourguignon

A great party dish, you can stick this one in the slow-cooker first thing in the morning and leave it until it’s time to serve.

Preparation time 15 minutes
Cooking time 8 hours
Makes 6 Servings

Ingredients:
• 1 kg cubed stewing beef
• 227 g pkg sliced button mushrooms
• 3 carrots, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 large onion, diced
• 14 g pkg dried mixed mushrooms, crumbled
• 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 cup beef broth
• 1/2 cup red wine, preferably cabernet sauvignon
• 250 g thick cut bacon, sliced

Directions:
1. Pat beef with paper towel to remove excess moisture. Combine with mushrooms, carrots, garlic, onion and dried mushrooms in slow-cooker insert. Sprinkle flour and thyme overtop and stir vegetables until coated. Add bay leaves. Pour in broth and wine. Cover and cook on low until very tender, about 8 hours.
2. Heat a frying pan over medium-high. Add bacon. Stir often until crisp around the edges, reducing heat if needed, for 5 to 8 min. Scoop into a small bowl. Remove excess fat with paper towel. Stir bacon into beef mixture during last 15 min of cooking. Remove and discard bay leaves. Serve with mashed potatoes or crusty bread. Stew will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for at least 2 days, and can be frozen in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag up to 1 month.

Nutrients per serving: 418 calories, 39 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 23 g fat, 2 g fibre, 627 mg sodium


For dessert: Gluten-free gingerbread brownies

If you have any room left, these brownies make a perfect companion for an after-dinner coffee or tea.

Preparation time 20 minutes
Makes 24 Brownies

Ingredients:
• 1/3 cup ground almonds
• 1/3 cup brown-rice flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 3/4 tsp ground ginger
• 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 1/4 tsp ground cloves
• 1/4 tsp nutmeg
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 112 g gluten-free bittersweet chocolate (about 4 squares), chopped
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
• 2 eggs • 1 egg yolk
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1/4 cup gluten-free semi-sweet chocolate chips

For glaze:
• 1 tbsp fancy molasses
 • 3 tbsp icing sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line an 8 × 8-in. baking dish with overhanging parchment (about 1 in. on each side). Whisk almonds with flour, baking powder, spices and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Combine bittersweet chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium, stirring halfway through, until almost melted, 2 to 3 min. Stir until smooth. Or melt in a saucepan set over medium.
3. Whisk eggs and yolk with brown sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in chocolate mixture until smooth. Whisk in flour mixture. Scrape into prepared dish. Smooth top. Scatter chocolate chips overtop.
4. Bake in centre of oven until a cake tester inserted into centre of brownie comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it, 40 to 42 min. Transfer pan to a rack to cool completely.
5. Whisk molasses with icing sugar and 2 tsp hot water in a small bowl. Drizzle over brownie. Refrigerate until brownie is firm, about 1 hour. Cut into 24 squares. Keep brownies wrapped in foil and refrigerated up to 1 week.

Nutrients per Serving: 135 calories, 2 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 1 g fibre, 71 mg sodium