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Ask A Sacramento Expert: Best Fall Family Dishes

When the seasons change, evening meals change with them. From the wonderful fruit salads and corn on the cob of summer, autumn brings a different cornucopia of ingredients and dishes. Seasonal vegetables begin to show up in soups, roasted and stir fry dishes and a delicious spread of fall salads, breads and desserts. Check out the autumn offerings for your dinner table, and enjoy these seasonal palate pleasers.
John Sanders
Old Town Grill
444 Main St.
Placerville, CA 95667
(530) 622-2631

John Sanders has been creating mouth watering wonderment in the kitichen for over 40 years. Chef Sanders, before he and his wife opened their own place, was the Executive Chef for the Sacramento Kings. His path involved learning and experimenting in several kitchens. His cuisine from the grill is magnificent. Take a seat in his Old Town Grill and you'll be enveloped in one of the best and most friendly eating experiences of your life. Sanders is truly a man for all seasons.

Candied Pecan Crusted Lamb
Serves 4

Candied Pecans

  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1 cup medium brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Local honey to taste


  1. Lay pecans evenly on a small cookie sheet.
  2. Drizzle on all the dry ingredients first
  3. Drizzle honey on the pecans to taste
  4. Roast pecans @ 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes until golden brown
  5. Let cool, then chop finely
Almond Infused Lamb
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Pinch chopped tarragon
  • Pinch chopped Italian parsley
  • Pinch chopped rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 rack of lamb lollipops

Directions for lamb

  1. Mix ingredients
  2. Marinate lamb lollipops at least 24 hours, flip once
  3. Crust lollipops with candied pecans
  4. Roast @ 375 degrees bone side down first for 15 minutes
  5. Flip
  6. Check lamb for desired meat temperature- medium for lamb
  7. When done, remove from oven
  8. Plate, eat, smile
Butternut Squash Caramelized Onion Risotto


  • 1 lb butternut squash, peeled, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 large yellow oinion, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon local honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • About 6 to 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil
  3. Place squash on baking sheet, toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and fresh ground black pepper
  4. Roast for 10 minutes, turn
  5. Roast for 10 more minutes or until squash is tender
  6. In a large pan, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat
  7. Add chopped oinions and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  8. Cook for a few minutes, reduce temperature to low
  9. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or intil caramel in color
  10. Stir in honey
  11. Heat the stock in a sauce pan over low heat
  12. Add roasted butternut squash to onions
  13. Mix in paprika and Aborio rice
  14. Add cayene for a little kick to the dish
  15. Turn heat to medium low
  16. Add about a cup of stock, stir constantly until stock is absorbed
  17. Continue to add stock, 1 cup at at time, stirring constantly and letting rice absord the stock before adding more
  18. For more creamy risotto, add more stock, add salt to taste
  19. Serve, enjoy
Pecan Pie
Yields 2 10 inch pies

Simple Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup ice water


  1. Cut shortening into flour
  2. Add salt and ice water
  3. Shape into bottom of 10 inch pan leaving edge
  4. Flute edge
  5. Chef's tip: freeze shell before fluting for a flakier crust

Pecan Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 cups Karo dark syrup
  • 1/3 cup Meyers Dark Rum
  • 3 cups pecans
  • 10 pecan halves


  1. Mix together first five indgredients, mix well
  2. Beat in 8 eggs, 1 at a time
  3. Add remaining 3 ingredients
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes
  5. Top with pecan halves
  6. Serve after your autumn meal of Candied Pecan Crusted Lamb and Butternut Squash Caramelized Onion Risotto
  7. Smile, relax, enjoy the autumn evening

Related: Best Family Outings In The Fall

Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 41 years. In 2010 he retired from teaching after 36 years . He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at
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