Tag Archives: Food

Tastes Like Fall

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?

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In the Kitchen

I’ve been cooking up a storm lately. In the past, my cooking has consisted of  whatever pre-packaged items I could whip together and call “homemade.” When I’ve lived alone in the past, I lived on soup, salads, grilled cheese and the occasional stir fry.

On the other hand, I’ve always been quite adept at baking from scratch. The precise measurements and chemistry behind it are perfect for my temperament. And really, anything that results in cookie dough or brownie batter is worth the effort.

But in the past few months, as I’ve begun eating clean and cutting out processed foods, I’ve realized that cooking isn’t actually so bad. In fact, it’s kind of fun. And when you get the hang of it and feel comfortable enough to experiment, it’s even better. Not needing to be precise with measurements or ratios of baking powder to baking soda is liberating.

I’ve started subscribing to Clean Eating Magazine and love, love, love their recipes. Beyond those, here are some of my recent favorites:

Scrambled Eggs – I’ve figured out that I can indeed actually MAKE breakfast in the morning, provided I don’t hit the snooze button. I typically scramble two eggs with some spinach, onion, mushroom and feta, then throw it all into a corn tortilla. I’m getting better at planning ahead and chopping extra onions or mushrooms with my dinner so the mornings are super quick. This breakfast fills me up so much better and starts the day off right.

Countertop Salad – I’ve started making big salads using the farmers market veggies that pile up on my kitchen counter. While I’ve always done this, I’ve stopped bothering with lettuce and instead give these a Greek twist, using cucumbers and green onions as the base, with plenty of tomatoes and whatever bell peppers I have on hand. Then I dress with lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt, pepper and – most importantly – feta. I top it with quinoa and sunflower seeds to add some extra protein and heft. Simple and refreshing on a hot day, with nearly infinite variations depending on what’s on the counter.

Eggplant Caponetta – From the Primal Blueprint Cookbook. Anything that involves grilling eggplant (yum), frying bacon (double yum) and using garden fresh tomatoes is a win. I served it over grilled Italian chicken sausages for even more yum.

Garlicky Lime Fish Tacos – I adapted this from my How to Cook Everything bible that I’ve loved over the years as a reference. Now I’m actually trying more of the recipes. Basically, you simmer thin fish filets (I’ve been using tilapia because it’s so cheap) in lime juice and lightly browned garlic, sprinkle on cayenne and sea salt, then top the whole thing with fresh avocado and cilantro. It’s such a summery beach meal and reminds me of the fish tacos I had in San Diego last winter.

Popsicles! – When I was little, we used to make Kool-Aid or lemonade popsicles. I’d forgotten how easy it was, and how refreshing a popsicle can be. Inspired by a recent blog post by Jenn of The Whole Kitchen, I made her chocolate banana peanut butter pops. Though I burned my finger and set off the smoke detector while melting the chocolate (oh, the irony of doing so while making popsicles), they turned out wonderfully. Since then, I’ve made cantaloupe-lime popsicles and have plans to try plenty of other combinations.

And of course, I’ve been baking – zucchini bread, peach oatmeal muffins and more zucchini bread.

What have you been cooking lately?

Mundane Weekend Projects – and Homemade Soft-Serve

After spending Saturday with family, I set off to tackle several small projects on Sunday:

Installing tomato cages – Perhaps this is a bit late, as my tomato plants are now a good 3-4 feet tall and drooping over. It was tough maneuvering them into cages, and in a couple case, I just put the cage between two plants and let them lean. As of this morning, they were all still upright, so hooray.

Fixing the running toilet – My upstairs toilet (perhaps knowing its days are numbered) started running last week, and when the usual jiggling didn’t fix things, I pulled out the book and some tools and tried to fix it. I drained the water, discovered there’s no floating ball thing (is that normal?), and removed nearly a litter box worth of sand. I cleaned everything thoroughly, hoping the sediment was causing the problem. When I turned the water back on… it’s still running. Sigh. I tried troubleshooting everything else to no avail, so I wonder if there’s a split in one of the hoses or something.

Shooing away the groundhog (and raccoons) – I’ve had several problems over time with large furry pests, namely raccoons who leave piles in the yard, skunks who camp out in the driveway, and now, the return of a groundhog.  I haven’t seen (or smelled) the skunks in a while, and I hadn’t seen a groundhog in a couple years until last week. My dad gave me some “Get Away” spray that’s supposed to keep them, well, away. I was spraying it around the perimeter when the wind caught the spray and blew it back into my eye. Instant searing burning. After 20 minutes of giving myself an eye wash in the kitchen sink (and effectively washing the floor while I was at it), I called Poison Control and talked to a very nice lady named Babs (really?) who was reassuring and calming. She told me I had done everything right, and to call her back in an hour with an update. After an hour, it was just a bit pink and irritated, but the pain was mostly gone, and by this morning, I feel back to normal.  Per Babs’ advice, I’m avoiding my contacts for a couple days.

Homemade, single ingredient “soft serve” – I saw a recipe last week for super-easy frozen goodness, so I tried it yesterday, while trying to take my mind off the searing pain in my eye. It was indeed exceptionally easy, quick, and nice and creamy – almost soft-serve like. Next time I’ll add shredded coconut, or maybe a bit of peanut butter. Yum.

Overall, a very good weekend. Next weekend, I plan to start the terrible task of scraping and painting the 13 remaining old windows. If I do 3 or 4 a weekend, I can be done in a month. Sigh.