Your Guide to Cooking the Fall Harvest

Pear Cake

Pear Cake

Slow Cooked Pear Cake in a Black Dish

©Kana Okada

Kana Okada

The first day of autumn is just days away, and whether you're preparing to host weekend tailgates or you want to throw a fancy fall soiree, get set for the season by filling up your recipe repertoire with go-to dishes that are both impressive for guests and easy to prepare. When you're shopping the farmers market or walking the aisles at the grocery store, check out the fresh, in-season produce, like squash, potatoes, greens and pears, and design your menu based upon whatever looks best that day. Check out the party-ready recipes below to find sweet and savory inspiration for your fall cooking, then head over to The Kitchen headquarters to see how the co-hosts kicked off the season on this morning's all-new episode.

If you think slow cookers are for only meaty chilis and soups, think again, because Food Network Magazine introduced a Pear-Pecan Upside-Down Cake (pictured above) that comes together with the help of the machine. After setting up the pears at the bottom of the slow cooker and topping them with a cinnamon-laced cornmeal batter, your hands-on work is just about finished, and all you have to do is let the cake cook for a few hours. Invert the cake so the pear slices are on top and serve with cool, fluffy whipped cream for a simple-yet-stunning presentation.

Giada De Laurentii's Beef and Butternut Squash Stew for Apres Ski as seen on Food Network's Everyday Italian

Photo by: Alice Gao ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Alice Gao, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

For something a bit more savory, look to Giada De Laurentiis'  Beef and Butternut Squash Stew (pictured above). This hearty combination is made in only one pot and boasts the rich flavors of Marsala wine and sun-dried tomatoes, plus a trio of fragrant fresh herbs.

A fast, fuss-free recipe, Nancy Fuller's good-for-you Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad (pictured above) is large enough to feed a crowd. She opts for a food processor to thinly shred the vegetables and greens, and she creates a cheesy dressing with pine nuts, Dijon and lemon juice to top them. She recommends letting the dressed salad rest for a few minutes before serving, so the kale and sprouts have a chance to absorb the bold flavors of the topping.

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