As the days turn colder and darkness creeps in earlier, I’m finding comfort in cooking comfort foods. I’m really starting to enjoy the soothing ritual of taking a pile of fresh ingredients and turning them into dinner (and two or three lunches, and another dinner). Plus, in the hectic whirl of work, classes, neighborhood commitments and more, it’s nice to be able to eat real food, and not live on canned soup, cereal and frozen food.
Here are some of my recent favorites:
Turkey Pumpkin Chili – Is there any better fall food than a simmering pot of chili? I love chili and adore pumpkin, so when I stumbled onto this Whole Foods recipe on Twitter a few weeks ago, I had to try it. And it was divine. The pumpkin added a hint of sweetness and a creamy texture. I cut back on the jalapenos and chili powder, since I don’t like heat, and added more tomatoes instead of the beans. I devoured the results over the following days, and I’m very glad I stashed a couple servings in the freezer.
Pumpkin Cranberry Bread – After I made the chili, I had half a can of pumpkin left, so bread made sense. I’ve been eating more whole grains, so I searched until I found a recipe that didn’t involve the more exotic flours. Instead of chocolate chips, I spiked my loaf with Craisins. Yum. Although I did learn that I really shouldn’t make bread like this if I’m planning to work from home.
Roasted Chicken, Fennel and Parsnips – I bought parsnips and fennel because they seem like fall vegetables, and I’m trying to branch out. Monday night, my stomach was growling and I had no dinner ideas, nor a lot of time as I had a paper to finish. I opened the fridge and saw the fennel, parsnips and a random package of chicken thighs. I flipped through my Bittman bible and found a simple recipe that combined the three. Essentially, you thinly slice the fennel and parsnips (I added carrots for some color) and roast them in olive oil at 450 for 10 minutes. Next layer the chicken (with sea salt and ground pepper) over the veggies. Roast everything together for about 30 minutes, periodically spooning the pan juices over the chicken, until the chicken is cooked through. The house smelled fantastic, and this really tasted like fall, with warm, rich flavors. I garnished with fresh parsley and the fronds from the fennel bulbs. I think this would be great with eggplant, too.
Butternut Squash Tacos – This recipe on Jenn’s fantastic blog intrigued me – squash as a basis for tacos? – but I’m so glad I took the plunge. The squash and caramelized onions are just a bit sweet, and the chipotle puree adds definite kick. (Again, I reduced the amount of heat.) And Butera carries several varieties of cotija cheese, which I’m now adding to everything from eggs to chili.
Granola Bars – One of the oddest transitions to school has been figuring out when (and what) to eat so I’m alert during class but not ravenously hungry late at night. In the old days, on a “typical” weekday, I would eat lunch at noon and dinner about 8, with a substantial snack around 3:30 or 4 that fueled my evening workout. But when I have class, I have to eat dinner at 5 – or after class at 9, or not until I get home at 11. Ugh. Enter granola bars. I had always heard they’re not hard to make, so I tried Jenn’s recipe (seriously, her blog will teach you how to cook!). I will never again buy a commercially made version! I used dried cherries, walnuts and almonds in my first iteration, but I will surely try other combinations. These provide just enough fuel so I’m not gnawing my arm off by the time I get home.
I have a whole pile of other things to try. What have you been cooking lately? What tastes most like fall to you?