Roast chicken and fall vegetables warm tummies and hearts during the chilly fall. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

For many, autumn is a nostalgic time when memories of what our moms and grandmas cooked up in the kitchens of our childhoods come over us full force. We are compelled to recreate those hearty, warming meals that bring us a sense of comfort and well-being.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

How I remember those wind-blown days of the 60s when the school bus dropped us off at the corner in front of the post office. Usually, my sister and I scuffed through the fallen leaves on the side of the road, taking our time, but when we glimpsed our grandparents’ aqua Pontiac in the driveway, our steps quickened. On those evenings, we knew there would be something extra special for supper and that there would definitely be dessert.

This chicken dinner is reminiscent of those gentle times when we could count on Grandma’s kisses, our Grandpa’s unbridled teasing and our dad’s arrival from work at exactly 4:50 p.m. We could also count on our mom reigning supreme in the kitchen, turning out meal after glorious meal because she loved us and took her job as a homemaker very seriously.

This meal is an ode to those days. The roast chicken is so easy to put together and so delicious served with warm, crusty bread spread with the roasted garlic then dipped into the fortifying broth.

While you’re inhaling all the wonderful smells, whet your appetite with a glass of wine and a dollop of dip served with crudité.

And for dessert, there is chocolate pudding cake. These days I mix one up for my own grandchildren. I can’t be trusted to be left alone in the same kitchen with this decadent dessert so I only make it when I know it will be shared.

I like to serve this puddly chocolate concoction with coffee ice cream or with whipped cream sprinkled with espresso powder. (The grandchildren like it with mint chocolate chip ice cream.) No matter what the season, my hope is that one day they’ll have many fond memories of sharing a meal with me in my kitchen.

Spinach Yogurt Dip

1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach
1 tablespoon onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups full-fat yogurt
2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Thaw spinach and squeeze in paper towels until it’s as dry as possible. In a food processor, mince together onion and garlic. Add the spinach and other ingredients and process until smooth. Refrigerate at least one hour and serve with crudité and crisp crackers. Yield: 2 cups

Chicken with Root Vegetables

1 large roasting chicken, cut into serving-size pieces
1 pound new potatoes
5 medium-size carrots, cut into chunks
3 medium parsnips, cut into chunks
3 medium-size golden beets, cut into chunks
2 large onions, cut into chunks
1 large head garlic, separated into cloves and unpeeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon each rosemary, marjoram, thyme and parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2-1 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place vegetables in a large Dutch oven or roasting pan with a lid. Add olive oil and seasonings and stir. Season chicken and place on top of vegetables. Add 1/2 cup water. Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Remove lid from pan. Carefully add more water if needed. Roast until chicken is golden and cooked through. Yield: 6 servings

Chocolate Pudding Cake

1/2 pound butter
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons strong coffee or Kahlua (optional)
Ice cream or whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.

Melt butter and set aside to cool. Sift cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar on medium-high speed in a bowl for 5-10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Set speed to low and add vanilla, coffee or Kahlua and cocoa/flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With the mixer still on low, slowly pour in cooled butter and mix just until combined.

Pour the mixture into buttered dish and place in a larger baking pan. Add very hot water to the outer pan to come halfway up the side of the baking dish. Bake 1 hour until the edges are down but the center still appears to be under-baked. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. Yield: 6 servings

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