The air has turned crisp — at least by south Louisiana standards.

Everyone can't wait to spend as much time outdoors as possible. And I vow this year, despite the hectic school schedule, to spend more time in this beautiful weather sharing a great meal or two with good friends and neighbors.

Fruits and vegetables are as bountiful in fall as they are in the spring and summer seasons. So let's fix some delicious dishes with produce that's ripe for the picking in our area.

That means sweet citrus, creamy squashes and rich leafy greens. All you have to do is visit a farmers market or the nearest produce stand and you’ll be inspired to cook an entire meal.

This week, I'm cooking with butternut squash. This pasta recipe is filled with fresh veggies. My other recipe is for Satsuma Shortbread Cookies, made with those small, sweet, easy-to-peel seedless citrus fruits.

True fall weather lasts for only a short time in our area before those dark winter days begin, so get out there and soak up as much of it as you can. Jump in a leaf pile, play some touch football in the yard and go hiking with the kids.

As the sun sets, gather your family or friends, sit out on the back porch and enjoy a warm meal made with locally harvested produce and a lot of love.

Butternut Squash Pasta

Makes 4-6 servings. Recipe is by Teresa B. Day.

2 cups butternut squash, cubed

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt

Pepper

1 pound ground Italian sausage

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small onion, chopped

1 small red bell pepper, chopped

4 cups fresh spinach leaves

1 cup heavy cream

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Where To Go, What To Eat

Each week we'll highlights the best eats and events in metro Baton Rouge. Sign up today.

8 ounces cooked pasta

1. Heat oven to 400 F. Place cubed butternut squash on a baking pan then drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Roast for 20 minutes or until tender.

2. Brown sausage in a deep skillet or Dutch oven. Remove to drain.

3. In the same skillet, heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat then saute garlic, onion and bell pepper until tender. Reduce heat to medium.

4. Add spinach and stir gently until wilted.

5. Stir in cream and Parmesan cheese.

6. Stir in sausage and butternut squash. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

7. Gently fold in cooked pasta. Serve immediately.

Satsuma Shortbread Cookies

Makes 1 dozen cookies. Recipe is by Teresa Day.

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon finely grated satsuma zest

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup chilled butter, cut into cubes

1 tablespoon fresh satsuma juice

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, powdered sugar, satsuma zest and salt.

3. Cut in butter and satsuma juice with a pastry blender, or mix everything in a food processor, until large, moist clumps form.

4. Scoop up tablespoon-sized balls and roll between your palms. Place balls on a large baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

5. Gently press cookies with the back of a measuring cup or the bottom of a glass, lightly dusted with powdered sugar to prevent sticking.

6. Bake about 20 minutes or until edges are brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.


Teresa B. Day is a local food writer and author of the “I Eat BR” blog. Contact her at ieatbrla@gmail.com.