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Melissa's Fine Fall Food

Is there any other season that makes you feel more like cooking than Autumn? The change in temperature, light, and color all seem to beckon us into the kitchen with thoughts of turning on the oven and preparing warm comfort foods. Foods that offer a real taste of down-home goodness like meat or nut loaf, hearty vegetable soup, roasted roots, baked winter squash, homemade bread, and of course, the always popular pot pie.

Here is a healthful vegetarian version of one of my favorite comfort foods, adapted from The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook, by Robin Robertson (Harvard Common Press, 2002).

This pot pie is enriched with tofu, bursting with Melissa’s tender organic vegetables and creamy sauce, and topped with a flaky golden crust.

Flaky Vegetable Pot Pie
Serves 6

Image of organic Russet potatoes
1 organic all-purpose round white potato, diced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup Melissa’s Organic Yellow Onions, chopped
1/2 cup Melissa’s Organic Carrots, chopped
2 cups extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup Melissa’s Organic Fresh Peas (if available), if not
substitute Melissa’s Organic Green Beans, chopped in ½ inch pieces
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, minced
1-1/2 cups Good Gravy (see below)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup corn oil, chilled
1 to 2 tablespoons ice water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. Cook the potato in boiling salted water until tender. Drain, rinse, and set aside. Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. Transfer the onions and carrots to the prepared casserole dish, add the tofu, peas, parsley, and potato, and stir to mix. Add the gravy, stirring to combine, and set aside.

Make the crust:
In a food processor, combine the flour and salt, pulsing to blend. Add the oil and process until the mixture is crumbly. With the machine running, slowly add the water and process until the mixture forms a ball. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 1 ¼ inch thick round, a couple of inches larger than the casserole dish. Place the crust over the filled casserole and crimp the edges to seal. Bake until heated through and the crust is browned, 40 to 45 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Good Gravy:
2 cups vegetable stock or water
2-1/2 tablespoons tamari or other soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup regular or soy milk

In a small saucepan, combine the stock, tamari, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, whisk in the cornstarch mixture, and boil, whisking, until the sauce thickens, for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the (soy) milk; do not allow to boil. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

As this recipe calls for fresh peas, you may still be able to find some fresh ones lingering in the produce department early in the fall. If not, substitute Melissa’s Organic Green Beans chopped in ½ inch pieces, or Melissa’s Organic Broccoli would be a great substitute, either could be added when you add the onions and carrots. Another nice thing about broccoli – it is available year round.

Another fall favorite of mine is fried apples. And why not use Melissa’s Organic Apples? Apples are in full swing at this time of year, crisp and full of flavor. And who can resist the smell of apples frying in butter as you stumble out of bed on a Saturday morning? I love them on pancakes with a little non-fat maple or vanilla yogurt. If you haven’t tried them before, use this recipe from

Fried Apples

8 medium Melissa’s Organic Granny Smith Apples, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sauté 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are tender. Serve as a side dish for pork or with breakfast. Serves 6.

Apple Fact:
Did you know that studies show that flavonoids, abundant in apples, help prevent the growth of prostate cancer cells and may reduce the risk of lung cancer by as much as 50 percent? Phytochemicals in apple skin may inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells by as much as 43 percent.
With all of this talk of autumn eating, let's not forget that the holidays will soon be upon us. If you want to make something a little different this year that uses seasonal vegetables and is darn delicious, then consider making a vegetable tart. I read an article this summer called The Art of the Tart by Georgeanne Brennan in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, July 16, 2008 and tried this tart. I’m sure you’ll love it.

Chard & Spinach Tart with Bacon
Serves 6-8

8 leaves Swiss chard
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 bunch spinach
2 slices bacon
2 tablespoons minced onion
3 ounces soft goat cheese
1-1/4 cups whole milk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the pie crust in a 9- or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Line the crust with a sheet of aluminum foil and add pie weights, rice or dried beans. Place in the oven and bake until the edges are firm, but not golden, about 10 minutes. Remove the foil and the weights and bake until the bottom is opaque, about 2 or 3 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Reduce oven to 375 degrees F.

Trim just the tips of the chard and spinach leaves. Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the chard leaves and 1 teaspoon of the salt, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook until the chard stalks are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the spinach and cook another 5 minutes until the spinach is thoroughly wilted, but still bright green. Remove to a colander and place under running cold water until cool enough to handle. Squeeze the chard and spinach dry with your hands, and then finely chop. Set aside.

In a frying pan over medium heat, fry the bacon until crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and return the frying pan to the stove. Add the onions and the chopped chard and spinach and cook, stirring until there is no liquid, about 3 minutes. Add the goat cheese, stirring until it melts and blends with the greens, about 2 minutes. Remove and set aside. In a bowl, combine the milk, egg, remaining salt and pepper and mix well with a whisk. Add the spinach mixture. Crumble the bacon and add it as well. Pour the mixture into the pre-baked tart shell and place in the oven. Dot with butter and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake until the top is deep golden and slightly puffed, about 30-35 minutes. Remove to a rack and let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

To serve, cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. A warm tart, a slice of whole grain bread and a salad made from Melissa’s organic lettuce, carrots, and steamed beets is one meal to remember. However you decide to participate in this delicious ritual of autumn eating, you can count on Melissa’s for the best organic vegetables and enjoy the feeling that it will be as comforting as that old sweater that always seems to find its way back into your wardrobe this time of year.
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