My favorite recipes for fall: pizza, candy and pumpkin spice

Photo by Charlie Kaijo, Tampa Bay Times

Photo by Charlie Kaijo, Tampa Bay Times

Food has many functions: nourishment, comfort, tricking us Floridians into thinking it's fall even though the temperature gauges on our cars' dashboards read 99 degrees. Here are some of my favorite recipes to make this time of year, full of seasonal gems like apples, pumpkin and Halloween candy.

Ham, Cheddar and Apple Pizza

Shape 1 pound pizza dough into 4 rounds and place on 2 cornmeal-dusted baking sheets. Dividing evenly, top the rounds with ¼ cup honey mustard, 2 cups grated white cheddar, ¼ pound thinly sliced ham and 1 thinly sliced Granny Smith apple. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake in a 475-degree oven for about 20 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Recipe adapted from Real Simple. Click here for more pizza recipes.

Kale Salad With Sweet Potatoes and Apple

Roasted sweet potatoes pair with crisp kale and apples in this seasonal salad. Start with 2 sweet potatoes, about 2 pounds' worth, cut into ¾-inch pieces. Heat an oven to 400 degrees and toss the sweet potatoes with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place them on a baking sheet, though you may need to use more than one. Roast for about 20 minutes until tender and easy to pierce with a fork. Let cool, then make the dressing for your salad. In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 4 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the thick stems from 2 bunches Tuscan or lacinato kale and chop or tear into bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl, then add 1 thinly sliced Pink Lady or Honeycrisp apple, ¼ cup chopped roasted almonds and 4 ounces shaved pecorino or Parmesan cheese. Add sweet potatoes. Pour dressing on top, toss and serve immediately. Recipe from Real Simple. Click here for more sweet potato recipes.

Photo by Monica Herndon, Tampa Bay Times

Photo by Monica Herndon, Tampa Bay Times

Pumpkin Snickers Bars

If you're drowning in leftover Halloween candy at the end of the month, it's always a good idea to add more sugar and butter and create even more fattening treats for you and your loved ones. This recipe for soft, cookielike bars calls for Snickers, but you can use any chocolate candy. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Then, in a bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside. In another bowl or the base of a stand mixer, add 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter and 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar and beat until smooth. Add 1 large egg and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and beat until combined. Mix in 1 cup canned pumpkin puree, mix again, then fold in about 2 cups chopped Snickers. Add mixture to dry ingredients, and mix well. Spread batter in prepared baking pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let bars cool in pan, then cut into squares and serve. Recipe adapted from

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

This is an easy way to mix it up in the morning. Brew some plain coffee of your choice. Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon water and 1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg, allspice, cloves and ginger (or some combination of those four) to a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until sugar melts, and stir to combine well into a syrup. Add ½ cup milk and, stirring constantly, cook until milk is warm. Pour about ½ cup coffee into a mug, then add as much milk mixture as you'd like. Click here for more ways to enjoy the pumpkin spice flavor.

Butternut Squash Soup

To make, heat a large pot over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 chopped onion, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook for about 6 minutes until tender, then add 2 pounds peeled and diced butternut squash, 3 chopped apples (such as Granny Smith or Pink Lady), 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth and a pinch of nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or carefully transfer 1 cup at a time to a blender and blend. Once the soup is blended and back in the pot, cook for another minute. Serve into 4 bowls and top with 1 cup blue cheese and ⅓ cup walnuts divided evenly among the bowls. Sliced apples also make a nice garnish. Recipe adapted from Real Simple.