THE BLOG
09/23/2014 10:58 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Now That You're Officially Allowed to Eat Fall Foods, Go Master These 5 Staples

Getty Images/Vetta

Fall is here.

I'm never more excited for a season. It means I can finally wear black without being ridiculed, bring out my turtlenecks in typical German 1980s fashion, and relish those smells from the vendors who manage Nuts 4 Nuts on Manhattan street corners. It's the perfect time for exploring restaurants that serve up hot dishes like curries, soups and warm homemade pasta, or curling up with a book and a nice chai latte in a local cafe.

But there's also no better season to explore the ultimate cooking destination of your own kitchen. It's time to dust off those baking pans that have hibernated during summer. It's time to search for your yiayia's avgolemono recipe, or call up your bubbe for instructions on how to make her family-famous matzo ball soup. Here's to fantasizing about savory meats, spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, crisp fruits, and hot drinks that are not just for your caffeine fix -- they're an absolute necessity as you traipse the streets while arctic air blasts your face.

Not a cook? Fine. But you might want to learn how to make a proper mac and cheese or try your hand at baking -- before it's too late and you have to speed to Boston Market to buy a dilapidated apple pie and sub-par side.

macaroni and cheese

1. The ultimate comfort food: macaroni and cheese

From chicken pot pies to Ma's meatloaf (yes, even Will Ferrell in Wedding Crashers was addicted to this motherly meal), fall is the perfect time to start perfecting comfort food. Mac and cheese is definitely a must-know recipe for the season, and with these super easy instructions, you can't go wrong. How could you possibly not want to learn how to create the ultimate cheesy dish? Odds are you probably have most of this stuff congregating in your cupboards or pantry anyway, so go to town and savor this golden goodness. It is the ultimate fall entrée or side dish.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr/psharpley

2. In a fight for the season's sweetest taste, the winner is pumpkin.

Pumpkin is the omnipresent sight, smell and taste of fall. There is no better time to experiment with savory or sweet dishes that revolve around the flavor. Obviously, pumpkin pie is a timeless staple and perfect for beginners, but what about throwing pumpkin in a stir-fry?

Or making it the highlight of your weekly pasta night?

At the very least, dump that Starbucks pumpkin spice latte -- the only pumpkin-like thing about it is the shape you'll slowly morph into if you consume several per week. Or... just make your own.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr/36940459@N06

3. Slow-cooked seasoned meat will warm your soul.

Yes, come fall, meat is usually what's for dinner. From pot roasts to pork tenderloin, folks around the country are turning up their ovens and firing up the grills. Heartwarming sustenance is here to stay for the next several months. While I don't eat meat on the regular, I embrace the wonderful scents and tastes of slow-cooked brisket or lamb infused with garlic. Try to buy grass-fed, organic and/or local meat, and serve up your table with these hearty staples.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr/blueant

4. Roasted root veggies are perfect as a side or on their own.

Of course, what better accompaniment for a meat dish than vegetables? Fall is the time for root vegetables -- they're hearty as well, packed with nutrients and take on bold flavors. Load up carrots, quartered onions, and celery alongside a baking meatloaf, or make plenty of side dishes with sweet potatoes, squash, parsnips, and even Brussels sprouts. Also, check out this chart to find the perfect produce for your next seasonal adventure.

hot cider

5. Warm booze... because.

Time to pull out those spices and your saucepan. Who doesn't enjoy a warm alcoholic beverage while sitting in front of the first fire of the season (or in my case, lighting a candle that smells of cinnamon and pretending I can feel the lone flame)? Spiked hot cider, mulled wine, and my personal favorite -- a hot toddy -- are fall and winter highlights that will keep you warm and buzzed as you watch that marathon of your favorite Netflix show.

Now, stop eating that box of Kraft mac and cheese and drinking boxed wine. It's time to shake your way to the kitchen and start baking. After all, 'tis the season!