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What's for dinner? Delicious fall recipes you can prep in 20 minutes or less
Photography by Charity Burggraaf

While the fall weather tempts you to curl up on the couch or in front of a fireplace, the reality is that this season is busier than ever. Between after-school activities and gearing up for the holidays, families don't have a ton of time to create delicious meals—but that doesn't mean your weekly menus have to skimp.

We rounded up some of the tastiest recipes that are ideal for chillier nights. The best part? You can prep them in 20 minutes or less so you have more time to spend on what really matters.

1. Carolina barbecue chicken

When it's too chilly to cook on the grill outside, opt for this meal indoors.

Ingredients (for 2, double for family):

  • 12 oz chicken breasts
  • 1 Thai chili
  • 6 oz green beans
  • 1 oz cream cheese
  • 5 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 oz chives
  • 4 oz gemelli pasta
  • 1/2 cheddar cheese
  • 2 oz barbecue sauce
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter

Instructions:

  1. Wash and dry all produce. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place chicken on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Pound with a mallet, rolling pin, or heavy-bottomed pan until ½ inch thick.
  2. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Season chicken all over with salt and pepper. Add to pan and cook until no longer pink in center, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove pan from heat. Meanwhile, finely mince chives until you have 1 TBSP. Mince chili, removing ribs and seeds first for less heat.
  3. Once water is boiling, add 4 oz gemelli (about ⅔ of the package) to pot and cook, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes, add green beans to same pot and continue cooking until tender, about 4 minutes more.
  4. Once green beans are tender, remove from pot with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper-towel-lined plate to dry. Season with salt and pepper. Drain gemelli, then return to empty pot off heat.
  5. Add cheddar, cream cheese, minced chives, 1 TBSP water, 1 TBSP butter, and a pinch of chili (to taste) to pot with gemelli. Stir until a thick and creamy sauce forms. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Add barbecue sauce, vinegar, and as much remaining chili as you like to pan with chicken. Return to stove over low heat and toss until chicken is coated in a sticky sauce. Divide between plates and serve with mac 'n' cheese and green beans on the side.

    Recipe from HelloFresh.

    2. Whole-wheat pasta with caramelized lemon, mushrooms and thyme

    Sweater weather calls for carb-loading. This one will have some yummy leftovers.

    Ingredients (serves 6):

    • 1 lemon
    • 5 tbsp olive oil
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 lb cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
    • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    • 1 lb whole-wheat spaghetti
    • 1/4 tsp crushed red chile flakes
    • Grated parmesan, for serving

    Instructions:

    1. Using a Microplane grater, completely remove the zest from the lemon, leaving no patchy parts, and transfer the zest to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and reserve. Trim and discard the ends from the lemon then chop into rough 1/2-inch pieces, discarding any seeds.
    2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped lemon, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lemon is caramelized in spots and the pith is tender, 6 to 8 . minutes. Transfer the lemon pieces to a bowl. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and return it to the heat.
    3. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in the skillet then add the mushrooms, thyme, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden brown and starting to fry in the oil, about 16 to 20 minutes.
    4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 7 to 10 minutes, according to package instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
    5. Add the cooked pasta and 1/2 cup reserved water, the reserved lemon zest, and the chile flakes to the skillet with the mushrooms, and cook, tossing, until everything is combined and warmed through, adding up to 4 tablespoons more pasta water to keep everything well-moistened. Season the pasta with salt and pepper and serve while hot, sprinkled with parmesan on top, if you like.

    Recipe from Tasty Ultimate: How to Cook Basically Anything.

    3. Chicken quesadillas with apple salsa 

    The apple salsa adds the perfect finishing touch.

    Ingredients (makes 2 servings):

    • 1 medium apple, cored and chopped
    • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
    • Kosher salt
    • Unsalted butter, for the pan
    • 2 medium flour tortillas
    • 1⁄2 cup cooked and shredded chicken or turkey
    • 2 ounces (1⁄2 cup) shredded cheddar cheese
    • Handful of baby spinach

    Instructions:

    1. In a small bowl, combine the apple, lemon juice, honey, onion, and salt. Set aside.
    2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt a little butter.
    3. Put 1 tortilla in the hot pan and sprinkle it evenly with chicken, cheese, and spinach.
    4. Put the remaining tortilla on top.
    5. Cook until the cheese just begins to melt and the bottom of the tortilla is golden, 2 to 3 minutes.
    6. Using a broad metal or plastic spatula, carefully flip the quesadilla over and cook until the cheese is completely melted and the tortilla is golden, another 2 to 3 minutes.
    7. Remove the quesadilla from the pan and allow to cool for 2 minutes.
    8. Cut into wedges and serve with the apple salsa.

    Recipe from Cooking From Scratch. *(c)2018 By PCC Community Markets. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Cooking from Scratch by permission of Sasquatch Books.

    4. Bacon-studded brussels sprouts with pecans

    These make a delicious salad on their own, or as a side to an entree.

    Ingredients (for 2, double for family):

    • 9 oz brussels sprouts
    • 3/4 cup chopped bacon
    • 2 1/2 tbsp pecans
    • 6 tbsp shallot

    Instructions:

    1. Cook bacon and pecans. Medium dice bacon into about 1/2 inch pieces. Place bacon in a dry medium sauté pan over medium heat. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pecan, cook 8-10 minutes, or until pecans are toasted and bacon is crispy, stirring occasionally. Transfer bacon and pecans to a paper towel (keep bacon fat in pan).
    2. Prep brussels sprouts and shallot. Cut ends off brussels sprouts. Lay flat and cut into about 1/4-inch thick slices. Cut ends off shallot and remove peel. Halve lengthwise. Lay flat and cut lengthwise into about 1/4-inch thick strips
    3. Start brussels sprouts. Return pan with bacon fat to stovetop over medium heat. Add brussels sprouts and shallot to hot pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 7-10 minutes, or until veggies are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.
    4. Finish brussels sprouts. Add about 1/2 cup water to pan with brussels sprouts. Stir. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until water or until water cooks off and veggies are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heart. Return bacon and pecans to pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Stire to combine.

    Recipe from Green Chef.

    5. Slow cooker butternut squash soup

    The prep for this only takes 20 minutes, and then you can let the slow cooker do the rest of the work!

    Ingredients:

    • 2 1/4 lb butternut squash, copped into small chunks
    • 1 large yellow onion, diced
    • 2 granny smith apples, diced
    • 2 carrots, cut into chunks
    • 1 tbsp salt
    • 1 tsp pepper
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 tbsp curry powder
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp ginger
    • 1 tbsp minced garlic
    • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • Parsley (for garnish)

    Instructions:

    1. Spray a 7- or 8-quart slow cooker with a nonstick cooking spray.
    2. Add all ingredients except heavy cream into slow cooker.
    3. Cook on low heat setting 7-8 hours or high heat setting 4-5 hours.
    4. Add to a blender and blend until smooth.
    5. Stir in heavy cream and adjust seasoning to taste.
    6. Garnish with extra heavy cream and herbs.

    Recipe from HelloFresh.

    6. Tiger mountain turkey chili

    Photography by Charity Burggraaf

    Chili in the fall? Groundbreaking... but it's just too good to pass up.

    Ingredients (about 8 servings):

    • 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
    • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
    • 1/2 medium green bell pepper, diced
    • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 tsp ground chipotle
    • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
    • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
    • 1 tsp kosher salt
    • 1 (15-oz) can crushed tomatoes, drained
    • 1 1/2 cups water
    • 1 (15-oz) can tomato sauced
    • 1 (15-oz) can kidney beans, drained
    • 1 tbsp packed light brown sugar

    Instructions:

    1. Spray a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot with cooking spray and put over medium heat.
    2. Add the turkey and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and to break up the meat into smaller pieces, about 5 minutes. Once the turkey is no longer pink, drain off and discard all the liquids.
    3. Stir in the onion, bell peppers, garlic, chili powder, black pepper, chipotle, cumin, thyme, and salt.
    4. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the spices are deeply colored and fragrant.
    5. Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce, then stir in the water.
    6. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables have slightly softened and flavors have melded.
    7. Stir in the beans and sugar, heat through, and serve.

    Recipe from Cooking From Scratch. *(c)2018 By PCC Community Markets. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Cooking from Scratch by permission of Sasquatch Books.

    7. Maple + rosemary-glazed pork cutlets

    Apple and maple syrup... what more could we want in the fall?

    Ingredients (for 2, double for family):

    • 2 scallions
    • 1 gala apple
    • 12 oz pork cutlets
    • 1 oz maple syrup
    • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
    • 1/4 oz rosemary
    • 1/2 cup couscous
    • 5 tsp white wine vinegar
    • 1 unit chicken stock concentrate
    • 2 oz spring mix lettuce
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • Salt and pepper

    Instructions:

    1. Wash and dry all produce. Trim, then thinly slice scallions, keeping greens and whites separate. Pick and finely chop enough rosemary leaves from stems to give you 1 tsp. Halve, core, and dice apple.
    2. Heat 1 TBSP olive oil in a small pot over medium-high heat. Add scallion whites and ½ tsp chopped rosemary. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in ¾ cup water. Bring to a boil, then immediately stir in couscous and a large pinch of salt and pepper. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand until tender, about 10 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, pat pork dry with a paper towel. Season generously all over with salt and pepper. Melt 1 TBSP butter in a large pan over high heat. Add pork and cook until browned and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside on a plate.
    4. Reduce heat under pan to medium. Stir in remaining chopped rosemary, 1 TBSP vinegar (we'll use more later), maple syrup, stock concentrate, and ¼ cup water. Let simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Stir in 1 TBSP butter, then season with salt and pepper. Return pork to pan, tossing to coat in sauce, then remove pan from heat.
    5. Whisk together mayonnaise and remaining vinegar in a medium bowl. Add lettuce and apple. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
    6. Fluff couscous with a fork, then divide between plates. Arrange pork on top of couscous and drizzle with any sauce in pan. Garnish with scallion greens. Serve with salad on the side.

    Recipe from HelloFresh.

    8. Pronto chicken white pizzas with baby broccoli, fresh mozzarella + tuscan herbs

    When you want to cozy up with pizza, make this flatbread.

    Ingredients (for 2, double for family):

    • 10 oz chicken cutlets
    • 8 oz broccoli florets
    • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
    • 1 tbsp Tuscan heat spice
    • 1 unit roma tomato
    • 2 unit flatbreads
    • Salt and pepper
    • 7 tsp olive olive

    Instructions:

    1. Adjust broiler rack so that it is in position closest to flame and place a baking sheet on rack. Preheat broiler to high. Rinse chicken, then pat dry with a paper towel. Season all over with salt and Tuscan heat spice.
    2. Heat a large drizzle of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat (use a nonstick pan if you have one). Add chicken and cook until browned and no longer pink in center, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and let cool slightly, then cut into bite-size pieces.
    3. Wash and dry all produce. Cut any large broccoli florets into bite-size pieces. Core, seed, and dice tomato. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in same pan over medium-high heat. Add broccoli and tomato. Cook, stirring, until just tender and wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
    4. Scatter mozzarella in an even layer over flatbreads, followed by chicken, broccoli, and tomato. Carefully remove baking sheet from broiler and sprinkle with a drizzle of olive oil. Place flatbreads on sheet and sprinkle each with a drizzle of olive oil.
    5. Carefully return sheet to broiler and broil flatbreads until cheese melts and crust starts to brown, 3-4 minutes. TIP: Check flatbreads occasionally for any burning.
    6. Remove flatbreads from broiler. Sprinkle with another drizzle of olive oil and season with salt, if desired. Let flatbreads rest for 1 minute, then cut into slices and serve.

    Recipe from HelloFresh.

    9. Paleo sweet potato nachos

    Whether you're hosting people over for game day or want a healthier snack, these look incredible.

    Ingredients (for 2, double for family):

    • 1 lb ground beed
    • 2 tsp chorizo-style seasoning or taco spice blend
    • 1 large sweet potato
    • 1/2 cup chopped red and green bell peppers
    • 6 large radishes
    • 2 tbsp shredded carrots
    • 2 tbsp shredded red cabbage
    • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tsp agave (or your favorite sweetener)
    • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/4 cup dairy free sour cream
    • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
    • 1 lime

    Instructions:

    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel sweet potato, if desired. Halve lengthwise; lay flat and slice into thin half moons. Place in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons cooking oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
    2. Chef's Tip: Cut the sweet potato as thin as you like. The thinner the slice the crispier the chip.
    3. Spread sweet potato out in a single layer on a lightly oiled foil-lined baking sheet (see Chef's Tip). Roast 15-20 minutes, or until chips are lightly browned and slightly crisp, flipping halfway through. Heads Up: Two baking sheets may be needed to fit all the chips in a single layer.
    4. Meanwhile, trim ends off radishes and cut in half. Lay flat and slice into about ¼-inch thick half moons.
    5. Combine apple cider vinegar, agave and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Mix until the agave is dissolved into the vinegar.
    6. Bring spiced apple cider vinegar and about 1 tablespoon water to a boil in a small pot. Once boiling, remove from heat. Add radishes and carrots and red cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Stir. Cover. Let pickle at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    7. Meanwhile, cut ends off red onion and remove peel. Small dice into about ¼-inch pieces. Small dice red and green bell peppers into about ¼-inch pieces.
    8. Heat about 1 ½ tablespoons cooking oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell peppers to hot pan. Season with salt and pepper. Stir. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until veggies soften, stirring occasionally.
    9. Add ground beef to pan with veggies. Stir to break up beef. Sprinkle with desired amount of chorizo-style seasoning. Stir to evenly distribute seasoning. Cook 6-8 minutes, or until beef is fully cooked, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Take Note: Ground beef is fully cooked when it's no longer pink.
    10. Add the dairy-free sour cream to a small bowl with cilantro and the juice of the lime. Mix until fully combined.
    11. Plate sweet potato chips. Pile chorizo-seasoned beef and veggies over top. Drizzle with creamy cilantro dressing. Serve curtido next to nachos. Enjoy!

    Recipe from Green Chef.

    10. Lentil and white bean stew

    Photography by Charity Burggraaf

    Cozy up with your favorite drink and this hearty stew.

    Ingredients (makes 6 servings):

    • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
    • 3 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
    • 3 ribs celery, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
    • 1 cup French green lentils, rinsed
    • 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
    • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
    • 3 cups vegetable broth
    • 1 (15-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 bunch Lacinato kale, tough stems removed and leaves shredded
    • Splash of balsamic vinegar, plus more as needed

    Instructions:

    1. In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil.
    2. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
    3. Stir in the thyme, then add the lentils, salt, pepper, and vegetable broth; bring to a boil, stirring several times to prevent the lentils from clumping.
    4. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the lentils are cooked, 25 to 30 minutes The lentils will keep their shape but should be tender all the way through.
    5. Add the beans, kale, and vinegar. Simmer until the beans are heated through and the kale is tender, about 8 minutes.
    6. Remove the thyme and season to taste with more salt, pepper, and perhaps another splash of vinegar.
    7. Serve hot.

    Recipe from Cooking From Scratch. *(c)2018 By PCC Community Markets. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Cooking from Scratch by permission of Sasquatch Books.

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    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

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    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

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    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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