Autumn Comfort Food

Andy Mueller

andy mueller | in the kitchen with chef andy | sept. 2017

As cooler weather approaches, thoughts of warm and comfortable flavors, aromas and colors fill my mind. Magenta, amber and burnt orange hues fill the trees and remind me that soon enough, the magnificent colors give way to the call of the cold and the aptly named "fall" does its best to make our days full of raking and bagging. An afternoon of crisp autumn air filling our lungs, coupled with the blistering task of ridding our landscape of fallen debris seems a little less taxing when the invisible yet almost palpable apple and cinnamon laced ribbons drift our way from the kitchen and lazily fill our senses. Its powerful wafts of comfort cleanse our souls to the bone as the stress slowly falls to the ground like so many leaves from a tree.

Fall is the most comforting culinary time of year. Logs crackling in the fireplace, a warm blanket over chilled bones, a good book and a glass of hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick are what fall is all about. Fill a crock pot with roast beast of your favorite kind, season it with good stock, potatoes, rutabagas and other root vegetables that are available now and let the cold weather try to find a crack in the comfy corners that make your house a home. Even the wind that whistles through the space under the door can't break the spirit of a home filled with the flavors of fall.

Now is the time to try to make that potpie you've been wanting to try but summer's relentless heat does all but eliminate the need to add fuel to the fire by turning on the oven. Now is the time to make those cookies for the unexpected after school treat. A heartfelt "thanks mom" from a child can do a lot more than any blanket on a cold winter's night ever has or ever will, and you're only a few ingredients, a few dollars and a few minutes away from making it happen.

Some time ago it happened. I don't know when, and I certainly don't know why, but the world has gone soft. We got so wrapped up in trying to make everything better by making it easier that we got away from making it right. What happened? We are so far away from a time not so far away that we soon won't know what homemade or scratch cooking really is. The word "homemade" will get tossed into the forgotten time warp of a black hole with VCR's and hand-cranked ice cream makers. What happened? Life, at 100 mph.

Don't forget to remember the past and learn from not only the mistakes, but encourage the tradition in cooking things from scratch. Cooking is not only something that we need to do to live, but it's also cheaper than therapy. There's something therapeutic about seeing five ingredients in different parts of the pantry, mixing them together, baking them in the oven and creating a heartfelt memory for a loved one that can last a lifetime.

Homemade Carrot Cake

This will fill the house with fall aromas. A perfect dessert for a cool day.


8 eggs

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 lb plus 12 ounces sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 pound plus 2 ounces all purpose flour

2 tablespoons cinnamon

2 tablespoons ground ginger

2 pinches nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 pounds peeled, shredded carrots

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two 10-inch cake pans. Whip eggs until light and fluffy. Reduce speed on mixer then slowly add the oil in a thin stream. Combine sugar and salt in a separate bowl. Add to egg mixture in small batches, continuing to mix. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, then fold into egg mixture. Fold in carrots, raisins and walnuts. Divide batter between the two pans. Bake for one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center of cakes. Remove from oven and allow to cool in cake pans. Makes one two-layer cake or two 10-inch cakes. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

In a mixing bowl add:

6 oz. softened cream cheese

4 tablespoons softened butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream

Mix together on medium, gradually add:

3 cups confectioners sugar. Mix until fluffy.

Chef Andy Mueller is a well-seasoned Chef with over 30 years in the restaurant business. He's been on Food Network with Guy Fieri, was Reggie White's personal chef during their Super Bowl run in 1996 and has been Executive Chef at Zimani's in the late '80s, the original Executive Chef at Black & Tan Grille the first four years of operation and owned restaurants in Door County including Glidden Lodge restaurant north of Sturgeon Bay and Hillside Restaurant in Ellison Bay. He currently owns the massively popular supper club "Galley 57" in Allouez at 2222 Riverside Dr.

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