The Food Column: Embracing the flavors of fall

Fall cooking has a flavor all its own. Cooks start musing about pumpkin pie, butternut squash, Thanksgiving food and all sorts of dishes flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves.

But perhaps the quintessential fall food is apples -- and perhaps the quintessential apple food is good old apple pie.

If you go

"Fall for Apples!" cooking class taught by Tina Repak-Mirilovich

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 11.

Where: Pennsylvania Highlands Community College's Richland Campus, 101 Community College Way, Johnstown.

Cost: $39.

Information: or 1-814-262-3815

Tina Repak-Mirilovich of Johnstown will teach a "Fall for Apples!" course at 6 p.m. next Thursday, Oct. 11, at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College's Richland campus as part of its continuing education curriculum, and she'll focus on that most basic of foods.

In addition to teaching her students how to bake a homemade apple pie, she'll teach apple strudel, which she said is a little more complicated.

A field editor for Taste of Home magazine, Ms. Repak-Mirilovich is a development officer for Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, but her passion is cooking and food.

It all started when she was just a little sprite.

"My mother told me I would pull up our garbage can -- I guess it had a lid on it -- and stand on top of it to help her cook. I would even leave my favorite TV show, 'Sesame Street,' so I could help."

She grows heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, herbs and other produce in her garden to create variety in her kitchen, where she enjoys cooking for herself and husband, Anthony, as well as for gatherings with family and friends. Each summer she holds a clambake, adding to the menu crabs, hush puppies, peach cobbler and other delicacies. She also enjoys grilling, including such nontraditional grill foods as pizza and sliced cheese. (For the cheese, she advises using a hard cheese sliced about three-quarters of an inch thick, adding olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and grilling for just 30 seconds or so on a very hot grill.)

Last year she had a full-length feature story on grilling in "Taste of Home." Four of her recipes -- including one from the grilling feature, Smoky Garlic and Spice Chicken -- are included in a new cookbook, "Taste of Home Best Loved Recipes," released last month.

She has taught a variety of cooking classes at Pitt-Johnstown and other venues, competed in the Pillsbury Bake-Off, chairs a food booth for a church festival and assists when the Taste of Home Cooking School comes to town.

Ms. Repak-Mirilovich fell into teaching cooking classes somewhat by accident. She attended a local cooking class as a student and ended up thinking, "I could do this." And although it's labor-intensive, involving schlepping lots of equipment and ingredients from home, she loves it.

If you're interested in similar classes but don't live close enough to Johnstown, search online for programs at your local university or community college.

More fall food

Apple pie isn't the only fall flavor on our minds. Try beer, maple and more apples ...

Tapped: Braddock: Beer, music, food and lawn games in a pop-up beer garden that showcases local innovators, food trucks, community groups and breweries. 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday on John Street in Braddock. $5 per beer, plus beer tasting from The Brew Gentlemen in Braddock and pig roast by Chef Kevin Sousa of Union Pig and Chicken in East Liberty. Information: (click "events").

Maple syrup sundaes: Volunteers from the Edinboro Area Historical Society will serve fresh maple sundaes on Sundays (get it?) in October. From 2 to 5 p.m., visit the Hurry Hill Farm Maple Museum in Edinboro for a $3 sundae to benefit the historical society. Museum admission is free; visitors can learn about the maple sugaring experience.

Apple writing contest: Does the taste of an apple make you wax poetic? If so, describe the sensation of biting into a SweeTango apple in 50 words or fewer and submit your entry to Celebrity chef Art Smith will select the $5,000 winner.

Other classes/demos

And after Tina Repak-Mirilovich's apple dessert class, you'll need this class:

Health Smart: Giant Eagle presents a nutrition education series from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. one Saturday per month at Carnegie Science Center, North Shore. Topics are Health-Smart Snacking on Oct. 13, Celebrating Diabetes Smart Choices on Nov. 3 and Cold Weather Survival on Dec. 8. Free with Science Center admission.

Fair and fun

Autumn Food Fair: Moussaka, tiropita, spanakopita, pastitso, rice pudding, soups, Greek pastries, breads and more, plus "Yiayia's Attic" flea market. 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 10-12 at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Community Center, Mt. Lebanon. Proceeds benefit the Ladies Philoptochos Society charitable projects.

Tea party: Tea sandwiches, cookies, beverages, live music and basket raffles. 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 13 at All Saints Church, Etna. $10; reservation deadline is Friday. 412-781-4788.

Greek fest o' the week

A Taste of Greece at Northway: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 495 Browns Lane in Ross, holds its fall festival from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday. All the Greek goodies, live music and dancing each evening, plus free parking and shuttle service from McIntyre Square.

Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cupcakes
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3-ounce box vanilla instant pudding
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded apples
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts, optional
For the frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.

In medium bowl combine flour, pudding mix, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In large bowl whisk eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla together until well blended; then whisk vigorously for 1 minute. Stir in apples and mix well. Add flour mixture and nuts (if using) and mix just to combine.

Spoon batter into prepared cups, filling 2/3 full. Bake cupcakes at 350 degrees for 23 to 28 minutes, or until tester inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove cupcakes to wire rack and cool completely.

Prepare frosting by whisking cream cheese, butter, vanilla and cinnamon together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar and blend well. Spread frosting on cooled cupcakes.

Store cupcakes in covered container in refrigerator. These are even better the next day.

-- Tina Repak-Mirilovich

Rebecca Sodergren: First Published October 4, 2012 4:00 AM


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