MVK’s Recipes for Autumn

sabattical
After much thought in the past few months about where my food writing is going and what I would like to do with it in the future, I’ve decided to take a pause from writing for a few months. At first I thought I only had an either/or, just two decisions, either keep writing or stop completely. But on a long walk last week I realized I can make my own rules and stop writing temporarily. Five years are a very long time to keep my creative juices flowing week after week and I’ve started to feel like I’ve been uncreative in both my cooking and writing. I know whenever I start to feel this way about anything, I know I need to take a step back and reassess.  

That said, I’ll miss writing about my favorite season and holiday, but I have collected some of my favorite autumn recipes to get you through the next few months, plus tips for Thanksgiving Day! And on Sunday, I will be toasting my favorite city in the world with a Perfect Manhattan.

May your autumn be happy, peaceful, and full of the bounty of this glorious season!

Love,
Chris

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Soups and Stews
Check out the farmer’s market and pick up some vegetables for my Late Summer Vegetable Soup.
Whenever I need some comfort, I make a pot of my Hungarian Mushroom Soup.
A delicious vegan meal, Autumn Red Curry Stew.

Main Dishes
This is one of my favorite chicken recipes, Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits.
And another favorite chicken recipe, Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives.
This recipe for macaroni and cheese is healthy and one pan!

Side Dishes
Although I love summer cooking, I admit I’m excited about root vegetables. Here are some of my favorite roasted roots recipes.
Fall means apples. Make some homemade applesauce!
I make this recipe for Roasted Delicata Squash all winter long!
Instead of the usual lettuce for salads, try my recipe for Autumn Kale Salad instead.

Sweets
My mom’s recipe for pumpkin bread.
Make these popular miniature Halloween cookies!
My go-to gingerbread recipe, courtesy of Lynne Rossetto Kasper of NPR’s “The Splendid Table.”

Since I’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner for years, I’ve collected several tips each year to make the day a bit easier. And here are two recipes for the best rolls in the world that I’ve made for the holiday!
Astor House Rolls
Flaky Dinner Rolls

Just in Time for the Holiday Weekend: Spiedies!

field

You know it’s late August when goldenrod blankets the front meadow!

 

What pray tell are spiedies you ask? (Pronounced “speedies.”) They are the best marinated meat you are ever going to make!

I have lived my entire life eating spiedies at least one each summer and usually more. Originating with Italian immigrants, it is a flavorful marinade made for chicken, pork, and (the traditional) lamb kabobs that you place on skewers, grill, and then wrap squishy Italian bread around them. They are a popular sandwich in Binghamton, New York, and its surrounding areas, where my family is from, and originated with the Italian immigrants in the areas. A trip always means someone is going to go out and get some spiedies to eat—and sometimes more than once!

You can buy spiedie sauce on the market (Salamida’s is the best) which works in a pinch, but there is something when there is fresh garlic and mint from the garden that makes me want to whip up a batch. I based my recipe on one that I found years ago by Patrick Kennedy, the winner of the Spiedie Fest cook off in Endicott, New York (my birthplace) one year. After many attempts, I tweaked it so it is the way I like it. Marinade the meat for up to three days, so if you’re going away this weekend, make a batch before you go so you can have your own spiedie fest on Labor Day!

spiedies

I couldn’t decide, so I recently made chicken and pork spiedies!

Spiedie Sauce
While it’s sacrilegious, I love to serve it on top of greens for a flavorful salad!

¾ cup oil (safflower, canola, or another neutral flavored oil)
1 ¼ cups cider vinegar
½ Tablespoon dried thyme
½ Tablespoon dried oregano
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons (or more) fresh, chopped mint
The juice from one whole lemon
¼ cup finely chopped fresh garlic

Mix all the ingredients in bowl and add to a heavy plastic bag. Add your chopped meat and marinade for up to three days (I find two days is perfect.). Grill until done and wrap a piece of Italian bread around it and enjoy!

proteinMVK’s Like of the Week: Meatless High Protein Foods
While I love meat (as evidenced above), I do eat vegetarian most of the week. And with that, I’m always looking to vegetarian sources to get my protein. While the list is not vegan, it does give you ten great non-meat ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! You can check out the list here.

Summertime Holiday Dishes Plus MVK’s Food News of the Week

Note, apologies for the advance unedited piece you may have received on Monday; I’ve been having some troubles with my host and it sent instead of saved!  

I wish every morning this could be my view at breakfast.

I wish this could be my view at breakfast every morning! My view from the top of Mount Abraham.

“In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky.”

“In the Summertime,” by Jerry Mungo

The first two lines of this old chestnut have been an earworm for the past two weeks or so. Long sunny days with the light going well past nine, and starting around 4:30 a.m., have me out and about well before my usual early rising time and sometimes well past my bedtime. No matter, this time is fleeting and I know in just a few short weeks I’ll start to notice the time change and that it’s no longer a bright light that wakens me.

That said, it’s almost Fourth of July weekend, which for some marks the start of summer. This is one of those golden years where the holiday is bumped with a weekend, so we don’t have the odd middle-of-the-week day off. I always find this time of year as one with family and friend gatherings, summer guests, picnics, and lots of opportunity to feed a crowd. So this week I’m recycling a favorite idea and bringing you some past suggestions for summer eating and hosting!

index

Miscellaneous and Appetizers

Jordan Marsh’s Blueberry Muffins
If you have some fresh blueberries, these are delicious and easy.

Meditteranean Kebobs
My go-to dish for potlucks.

Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco
I took this once to a dinner party and I ended up eating most of it! It’s SO good!

Kale Chips
Healthier than potato chips!

Soups and Main Dishes

Julia Child’s Vichyssoise
I’m not one for summer soups, but I do love this one.

Summer Minestrone Soup
A great soup with summertime vegetables.

Zucchini and Red Pepper Frittata
Eggs are a real lifesaver for dinner on summer evenings.

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
These are great hot off the grill or cold.

Marinated London Broil
Mmm…

Salads

Israeli Couscous “Tabbouleh”
A fun spin on an old favorite.

MVK’s Nicoise Salad
My take on this classic French summer meal.

Szechuan Cucumbers
No guilt if you eat the whole bowl!

Red White and Blue Salad
A fun salad for the holiday!

Asian Green Bean Salad 
A great vegetarian dish with an Asian twist.

Cavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives
A delicious heart-healthy pasta salad.

Desserts

Strawberry Shortcake
It’s not summer without having this for dinner one night.

Old Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie
A Vermont spin on an old fashioned favorite.

pepsiMVK’s Food News of the Week: This is How Much Celebrities are Paid to Endorse Unhealthy Foods
I recently read this article about how much celebrities are paid to endorse certain foods, mainly soda and fast food. I was surprised and also saddened. If you can believe it (I can’t), Beyoncé was paid $50 million (yes, you read correctly) to promote Pepsi products! You can read the article by clicking here.

BBQ Pork Tenderloin with Bell Pepper Relish Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

 

I've been hiking this same path for the past few months and love looking at the changes in the scenery. Each time it's different and it's getting greener and greener!

I’ve been hiking this same path for the past few months and love seeing the changes in the scenery. Each time it’s different and it’s getting greener and greener!

And just like that, it was summer.

After a warmer than normal winter and what I thought to be a colder and wetter than normal spring, it seems like overnight we are in summer and the thick of heat and humidity. Which means I close my kitchen and meals are salads, grilled, anything that doesn’t require turning on the oven and stove. And this recipe is perfect for that!

I made this recipe piecemeal. When it was cool in the morning, I made the barbecue sauce. As I was moving about in the house in the afternoon, I made the bell pepper relish, so everything was ready when it came time to grill. I decided to go with the less expensive center-cut pork chops, mostly because I wanted leftovers for my lunch. And I didn’t use the pre-chopped veggies, as I had the peppers and onion in the fridge.

This recipe was exactly what I wanted in a summer dinner. The spiciness of the sauce and the crisp, fresh flavor of the bell peppers was delicious and complemented each other with the pork. The bell pepper relish was SO good, I’m going to make it again to serve over other cuts of meat.

I made this on a weekend night, but time-wise it definitely could be made during the work week. And using the pork chops, I was able to have leftovers for a couple of lunches, too! Served with coleslaw, this was a delicious way to welcome in the new season!

pork and relishBBQ Pork Tenderloin with Bell Pepper Relish

This recipe first appeared in the June 2016 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1/2 cup prechopped onion
1 (8-ounce) package prechopped red, yellow, and green bell pepper ( I diced up one yellow and one red pepper)
3/4 cup cider vinegar, divided
3/4 cup water, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup unsalted ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
Cooking spray
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

2. Combine onion and bell pepper in a bowl. Bring 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup water, sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour vinegar mixture over bell pepper mixture; let stand 15 minutes. Drain.

3. Bring remaining 1/4 cup vinegar, remaining 1/4 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, ketchup, and next 6 ingredients (through red pepper) to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook 4 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Place 1/2 cup sauce in a small bowl; reserve.

4. Coat grill rack with cooking spray. Sprinkle pork with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add pork to grill; grill 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Brush pork with remaining sauce; grill 5 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center registers 140°. Place pork on a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 12 slices. Serve with bell pepper mixture and reserved 1/2 cup barbecue sauce.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Speaking of Grilling…

I’ll admit, I’m not the best griller in the world. But these tips, sent to me by a local business, are really helpful! I’m going to use these to make myself a better griller for the summer of 2016!

grilling

 

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

If you look carefully at the tippy top of the tree, you'll see all the red-winged blackbirds!

If you look carefully at the tippy top of the branches, you’ll see all the red-winged blackbirds!

It’s early March, there is mud not snow on the ground and the days are getting longer, so there is still enough light to catch a quick walk after work. The other evening, I had to stop my podcast to see if I was hearing correctly; the cheep of the red-winged blackbirds, a definitive sign of spring! Both blackbirds and robins are back in Vermont and I can’t remember a year they were back so early. I am cautiously optimistic that spring has finally sprung here, but that doesn’t mean I have put away my slow cooker just yet!

The one thing I wanted for myself under the Christmas tree last year was a slow cooker, or what we called a crockpot when I was growing up. While I had a smaller one, all the recipes I found called for the larger pot; I had visions of a winter of already-prepared dinners that I just had to warm and serve with some vegetables. I can definitely confirm its convenience; it is so nice to have a healthy meal I can pull out of the freezer in the morning and just heat after work. There’s nothing like it—aside from going out to eat! The only downfall I’ve found so far is the timing is off on a lot of recipes, so I tend to cut the time and watch it carefully. Maybe because it’s new it is also extra hot, and while I know you’re not supposed to open it to stir, I do to make sure nothing is getting scorched.

The Eater of the House and myself love Indian food, and Chicken Tikka Masala is a favorite, so I selected this recipe to make at home to see how it compared. Braised chicken with warm spices and a hint of coconut served over rice, it was a divine dinner. I was sorry I hadn’t thought ahead to make coconut rice, that would have been a perfect complement to the meal. (Brown rice cooked in a little bit of coconut milk, with shredded unsweetened coconut and minced ginger added.) The color wasn’t the vibrant red that you’d order in a restaurant, I’m honestly not sure what gives it that tinge, but it was still delicious.

Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list, mostly it’s just measuring and adding. The recipe says it serves four, but I found it would served more even though it was just the two of us. The chicken was so tender it came off the bones, so I just stirred it in the sauce. I also didn’t add the extra Greek yogurt; I didn’t have any in the house and found it delicious just the same. And like my hope, I still have some in the freezer for a night I don’t want to cook!

tikka
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

This recipe first appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 4
(serving size: 1/2 cup rice, 1 chicken thigh, 1 1/4 cups sauce mixture, and 1 tablespoon yogurt)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 (14.5-ounce) cans unsalted diced tomatoes
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 (6-ounce) skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
Cooking spray
1 cup light coconut milk
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups cooked brown basmati rice
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, ginger, and garlic to pan; cook 6 to 7 minutes or until starting to brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste and tomatoes; bring to a simmer, and cook 3 minutes. Combine 1/3 cup water and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture, garam masala, paprika, curry powder, salt, and pepper to pan; stir well. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute.

2. Place chicken thighs in a 6-quart slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Add tomato mixture to slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 7 hours or until chicken is very tender and sauce has thickened. Turn slow cooker to HIGH; uncover and add coconut milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook, uncovered, 15 minutes. Turn cooker off; stir in cilantro. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve over rice. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon yogurt.

evooMVK’s *Like* of the Week: High in the Italian Hills…
I consider myself more than lucky that my friend and journalist, Kieran Mulvaney, brought back a can of freshly milled olive oil for me from the hills of Italy a few weeks ago. I use olive oil daily, but have never had oil that was just pressed, so this was all in the name of cooking experimentation! It is peppery, strong, incredibly flavorful, and delicious. It tastes nothing like any olive oil I’ve ever had, even the most expensive kinds. And because it’s so fresh I know I have to eat it fairly quickly, I don’t want to! I want to savor the delicious flavor for months to come.

Kieran wrote about this special farm in Paciano where the olive oil came from in the Washington Post in 2014. You can read his article by clicking here.

 

 

Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Yup. That's snow. In October!

Yup. That’s snow. In October!

After what may have been one of the warmest Septembers on record, it’s finally getting cold here in Vermont! (And as I write this, it’s snowing rather hard outside!) Which means all I can think about is making soups, stews, bread, anything that will warm the kitchen and my soul.

With this in mind, I started creating a recipe for dinner in my head during the week: a braised chicken dish with tomatoes, white beans, lots of garlic, a touch of cinnamon, and tangy Kalamata olives; also something that could be slow cooked so I wasn’t hovering over the stove for the entire evening, too. I set to work one night as we were watching the movie “Love and Mercy,” which is fantastic movie if you haven’t seen it!

When The Eater of the House asked what was for dinner earlier in the day, I didn’t have the recipe completely sorted out so I described this dish as “sort of a chicken cacciatore.” “With pasta?!” he asked excitedly. “Um, no.” He frowned. I think serving pasta when you already have beans in a dish is odd because that gives you two carbohydrates. But of course, you can serve this with pasta, rice, or just on its own like I did.

I think Chicken thighs are the most forgiving piece of meat out there; you can cook as long as you like and it almost never dries out. Braised with the tomatoes and beans, I was able to go back and watch the movie while dinner simmered on the stove.

This dish turned out just like I had hoped it would; warm and spicy beans with lots of garlic, tender chicken, and briny olives. Plus it’s all cooked in one pan! If you find you have leftover beans but no chicken, just add a little cheese and warm for lunch the next day. It will be delicious!

chicen and white beans
Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives

4 skinless chicken thighs
5 large cloves of garlic, minced
¾ cup red onion, diced (or half of a large onion)
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ cup small white beans (I used navy)
¼ cup Kalamata olives, halved
Chopped parsley (optional)

1. In a large skillet, warm the olive oil, When it gets shimmery, add the chicken and cook until is golden brown, about 3-4 minutes each side. (Note: The chicken won’t be fully cooked.) Place on a plate to rest.

2. There should be some olive oil and fat left over from the chicken in the skillet, but if there isn’t, add a little bit more oil. Add the onions and garlic, cook at medium heat until they are translucent. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, and cinnamon. Add the rested chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add the olives, and let everything simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is done. Top with chopped parsley, if you have some on hand.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Oprah Now Part Owner of Weight Watchers!
Imagine my surprise the other morning as I’m on www.weightwatchers.com and see a photo of Oprah. I just happened to go to the website when the company made their biggest announcement in years: Oprah has joined forces with the company, purchasing a 10 percent stake and serving as a Board member! The company has been faltering financially in the last year and they’ve decided to bring in the big guns.

As a WW graduate, I think this is phenomenal news; just like she did for books, my hope is having the Oprah name will encourage people to join and get healthy. The company said while it will continue to focus on weight loss, its mission also will focus on an all-around healthy and happy life.

You can read more about the deal here.

Breaded Pork Cutlets with Root Veg Smash and Sage Gravy with Sauteed Lemony Brussels Sprouts Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I gave myself a cooking challenge one evening. After coming inside from mowing the lawn, it already was 7 p.m. I was tired and really wanted to take a shower plus get dinner on the table by 8 p.m. This dish is what I had planned on making, but could I do it? A long list of ingredients, plus three pots going at once, it wasn’t until I really read the recipe that I wondered whether making this in what Cooking Light says is 40(!) minutes was even possible. But I decided I was up for the challenge, because it looked so good and I was hungry! And not only was I successful, this will taste like you spent hours in the kitchen as opposed to 45 minutes!

Of course, looking ahead, you can do some advance prep that can cut down your cooking time: chopping the turnip and potato, as well as trimming and halving the Brussels sprouts. But I did nothing and was still able to do everything in under an hour. I had a local honeycrisp apple in the fridge, so I used that instead of buying a Fuji, as well as red potatoes instead of Yukon Gold. I cooked each pork chop until it was golden but not completely cooked, and then put them in the oven set at 325 degrees until everything was ready to eat. I only cooked three pork chops and The Eater of the House ate the extra one, so I had leftover veg and sprouts that were even better the next day for lunch!

This meal is a perfect weeknight dinner if you have guests you want to impress or you just want a special dinner for the family. A nice glass of a crisp white or a Pinot Noir will go great with this flavorful meal and is a perfect way to end the day!

Happy Cooking!

pork cutletsBreaded Pork Cutlets with Root Veg Mash and Sage Gravy

These recipes first appeared in the October 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1 pork cutlet, about 1/2 cup vegetable mash, and 3 tablespoons gravy)

1 1/2 cups chopped turnips
1 cup chopped Yukon gold potato
3/4 cup chopped peeled Fuji apple
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 (4-ounce) center-cut boneless pork cutlets
1/2 cup quick-mixing flour (such as Wondra), divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1 teaspoon chopped sage

1. Place turnips, potato, apple, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes or until tender. Drain. Discard bay leaf. Return vegetable mixture to pan. Add sour cream, 1 teaspoon butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; mash to desired consistency.

2. Sprinkle pork evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place 6 tablespoons flour in a dish. Place egg in a dish. Dredge pork in flour; dip into egg. Dredge in flour.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl. Add 2 pork cutlets; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned and done. Remove pork from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 2 pork cutlets. Add stock, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Combine remaining 5 teaspoons butter and remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a small bowl. Gradually add butter mixture to pan, stirring with a whisk. Cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and sage. Serve with pork and mashed vegetables.

Sauteed Lemony Brussels Sprouts
Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: about 3/4 cup)

4 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add shallots and Brussels sprouts; sauté 8 minutes. Add stock to pan; cook 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Stir in rind, salt, and pepper.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Book review: Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser
mr latte
This book has been on my radar since it was published in 2003 but it wasn’t until this fall that I sought it out to read. And while I totally devoured it in less than a week, it seems by reader reviews I read that I’m one of only a few people who found Hesser’s memoir palatable.

A young food writer for The New York Times, Hesser meets her future husband, Tad Friend, staff writer for The New Yorker, on a blind date. After much discussion about where they are going to meet, she quips the selected restaurant is “the Manhattan equivalent of an Outback Steakhouse.” He orders a Budweiser and puts sugar “sweetener” in his lattés. Some readers see Hesser as a snob, but I guess she and I are cut from the same cloth, as I, too, would raise a brow if this was my first introduction to a possible mate.

The book soon takes the reader through the courtship and ultimate marriage of these two people, with a lot of insight along the way. Anyone who cooks knows the protectiveness ones has over his/her kitchen, and I had to nod my head when she recounted Tad washing her dishes for the first time. And she also gives insight as a cook:

“I prefer the solitude of a kitchen; I like to hear the faint crackle as my knife slices into a fresh onion, to watch better and sugar meld into milky fluff as I wish. Sometimes I like to think; dream up travel plans, retrace my day or imagine an argument with my mother in which I win. I like to chop garlic, dice tomatoes, and carve chicken from its bones to relieve tension, just as someone else might go run a few miles.”

Hesser’s food writing is exquisite, as can be seen in the above quote, or whether it’s talking about her single cuisine, cooking dinner for her wedding party, or cooking with her grandmother. Besides Mr. Latte, we are introduced to her close group of friends, family, and now her extended family. Each chapter is peppered with recipes, all clearly written for the new and more seasoned cooks.

This was a wonderful look at a romance melded with food and I would take a second helping of anything Hesser writes.