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

Solo Dinner: Greens, Eggs, and Ham (Optional) Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

The sky was absolutely breathtaking the other night on my walk.

The sky was absolutely breathtaking the other evening.

I’m a solo gal this month while the Eater of the House is out of town, which means ME meals, dinners that include some of my favorite foods (eggplant!) and that I can eat when I finally get around to making dinner (8:45 anyone?).

So in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and that spring has finally sprung, I thought I’d bring back one of my favorite dinners which requires no recipe and can be prepped in advance so everything is ready to go when you get home! Also a plus, a salad supper is forgiving to the waistline; summer is coming and you want to be sure you fit into your wardrobe!

I love tender lettuces for this salad, such as butter lettuce or a mesclun mix. When you are home and are doing other things, fill a saucepan with water and boil up some eggs. They require no watching and can cook for as long as you want and they’re also a great snack. The ham in this recipe is the beloved bacon. When I buy a package, I’ll divide it into two strip portions and wrap each individually for recipes such as this. Topped with a tangy mustard vinaigrette, this salad is great served with a nice piece of bread and a crisp white wine and will feed the dream that summer is on its way!

salad
Greens, Eggs, and Ham (Optional)
Vegetarians, leave off the bacon and add crunchy bits (croutons, radishes, carrots) or some nice beans (garbonzos would be tasty). 

One salad bowl of greens (lettuce, spring or mesclun mix)
One hard-boiled egg
3 Tablespoons bacon, cooked and diced

Mustard Vinaigrette
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons vinegar (your favorite)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
A little bit of minced shallot, optional

Whisk together with a little bit of salt and pepper.

BLOGFODMAPPICMVK’s *Like* of the Week: FOD What?
Despite loving to cook (and eat!), I have lived a life with an occasional distressed GI system. Upon a recent visit to my doctor, she has me now following the FODMAP eating plan for the next couple of months. I thought I knew every diet out there, but this was completely new to me. FODMAPS are carbs found in foods that have been found to be difficult to digest or absorb well. So the thought is by eliminating these foods from your diet, you are giving your intestinal track a well deserved break, where upon foods can be introduced (or not) after a period of rest.

No gluten, very little dairy, and a do and don’t eat list of fruits and vegetables. I’ve gone back to reading labels (just because it’s GF doesn’t mean I can eat it) and with a returned focus of eating real food. I was happy to see I can still have my tea, wine, and vodka (yay!), almost every kind of meat and fish (yippee!), but that I can’t have onions or garlic (boo!). That is the hardest, so I’ve been trying to find ways to flavor food without my two favorite alliums. (One tip was to saute them in oil and then remove so you have the flavor. I haven’t tried that yet, but I will!)

This is still a relatively new plan, so doctors are always learning new things and the lists are always changing. You can read about the FODMAP eating plan by clicking here, and I find Boston-based nutritionist Kate Scarlata has a lot of helpful tips, too. And of course, don’t start any diet without talking to your doctor first!

Sweet Onion Risotto With Sautéed Kale Plus MVK’s Like of the Week!

Sunrise, Sunset.

Sunrise, Sunset.

Last week I brought you several comforting recipes to get you through January. Well, add one more to the list! Even though we’ve had more rain than snow this winter and it’s been in the 30s and 40s (a virtual heat wave by Vermont standards), it’s still that time of year you want something warm and healthy to eat at supper time!

With fewer calories and fat than macaroni and cheese or pasta, I think there’s something special about a warm, creamy bowl of risotto. To me it’s like a savory rice pudding for dinner! And this recipe includes the added benefits of some sautéed kale with nuts and raisins (which would be a delicious side dish anytime, or on its own), so you have a complete meal all in one bowl!

While the ingredient list may seem daunting, it’s the constant stirring that takes the time. I made this on a weekend, but you could certainly do this on a weeknight. And I’ll be honest, when I make risotto, I sometimes cheat. I’ll make sure the burner isn’t set too high, so when add the stock, stir, I will sometimes step away for a couple of minutes. And then rapidly stir when I get back to make up for my absence! Vegetarians can substitute either water or vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.

The added bonus of this recipe is it actually makes three recipes! Set aside some of the risotto for Cauliflower Risotto Cakes and Italian Wedding Risotto Soup. (Recipes below.) I put my batch in the freezer to make these dishes later on!

Happy Cooking!

risotto
Sweet Onion Risotto with Sautéed Kale

This recipe first appeared in the December 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine

3 cups water
2 1/4 cups uncooked short-grain brown rice
3 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
3 cups chopped sweet onion
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 cup dry white wine
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
5/8 teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 1/2 cup)
3 1/2 cups chopped Lacinato kale
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 teaspoon white vinegar

1. Combine 3 cups water and rice in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Drain rice in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 1/3 cups cooking liquid. Combine 1 1/3 cups cooking liquid and stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; keep warm.

2. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 3 1/2 tablespoons oil; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 8 minutes. Add rice to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 1/2 cup stock mixture to pan; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining stock mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring almost constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next (about 30 minutes). Reserve 3 cups risotto for Cauliflower Risotto Cakes and Italian Wedding Risotto Soup. Stir 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and cheese into remaining 3 1/2 cups risotto.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add kale to pan; cook 3 minutes or until kale is slightly wilted. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper, raisins, toasted pecans, and vinegar; sauté for 1 minute. Top risotto with kale mixture.

Cauliflower Risotto Cakes

Italian Wedding Risotto Soup

bfMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Buzz Feed Food
I’ve always thought of the website www.buzzfeed.com as a fun pop culture website, not one where I would get “real” stories. That changed a couple of months ago when I signed up to get their weekly food newsletters. Their stories are fun and full of information! With an emphasis on healthy eating (“18 Healthyish Slow Cooker Stews to Get You Through the Rest of Your Winter”), fun graphics (“17 Charts to Help You Eat Healthy), and sometimes silly (“Grandparents Predict the Food Trends of 2016”), it’s a fun way to get more recipes, learn about health, and have a laugh along the way! You can check it out at Buzz Feed Food!

 

One-Pan Broccoli-Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

We've had warm and sunny weather this month. The crabapple tree is heavy with fruit!

I took this photo on a warm and sunny day. The crabapple tree in the backyard is heavy with fruit!

It’s the dark and gray month of November here in Vermont. So what is better than tucking in when you get home with a nice warm plate of macaroni and cheese? This one-pan dish is easy to make, plus it’s filled with broccoli and winter squash with less cheese, so you can feel good about eating this healthy twist on an all-time favorite!

I made this dish one lazy Saturday night; it had been a long day and I wanted something tasty and satisfying for dinner and yet I didn’t want to be in the kitchen cooking all night. I love one-pot meals, along with being simple to cook it makes cleanup easy! And this dish is easy enough you can fix it on a busy weeknight.

Don’t be put off from the color; the squash can give the dish an almost neon orange color. The broccoli gives a nice crunch with the creamy cheesy noodles and the bacon lends just a hint of a smoky flavor. Vegetarians (and other eaters) can easily omit the bacon and substitute vegetable broth or water for a completely veggie meal. I buy bacon a couple of times a year and when I do (unless I plan on frying up the entire package), I’ll wrap two-slice servings individually in cellophane and stick it in the freezer in a plastic bag so I have two slices ready to go for recipes like this. No need to defrost, just chop and fry. Served with a simple salad of greens, this was one dish you’ll definitely want to go back for seconds and put on your winter meal rotation!

macncheese
One-Pan Broccoli-Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese

This recipe first appeared in the September 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 6 (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups)

2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
1 (10-ounce) package frozen butternut squash puree, thawed
10 ounce uncooked large elbow macaroni
3 cups chopped broccoli florets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided (about 1 1/4 cups)

1 Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan.

2. Remove all but 2 teaspoons bacon drippings from pan. Add garlic to ­drippings in pan; sauté 30 seconds.

3. Add stock, milk, and squash to pan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

4. Add pasta; cover, ­reduce heat, and ­simmer 5 minutes, ­stirring occasionally. Stir in broccoli; cover and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is done and sauce is thickened.

5. Stir in salt, pepper, and 4 ounces cheese. Sprinkle bacon and remaining cheese on top. Cover; let stand 1 minute.

rubbermaidMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids
This endorsement is sponsored by Cooking Light and Rubbermaid®.

One morning as I was making my lunch, I was lamenting the condition of my leftover dish drawer. I was in a hurry and trying to find containers plus a lid to go with each one so I could pack up my lunch. I try to keep things organized in the kitchen, but when I’m in a hurry, I can never find things easily and get frustrated with myself for not organizing things better and that I’m running late. That afternoon, I received an email asking if I wanted to test out Rubbermaid’s Easy Find Lids. I answered quickly with a resounding YES!

This 20-piece set includes different size nesting containers with the same cover fitting each one! Plus the covers snap together, so they are no longer roaming around all over the drawer! The different sizes are great for all sorts of things; they are handy for packing leftovers for lunch, prepping ingredients for dinner, and keeping my dried beans and grains in the cupboard. Best of all, when I’m getting ready for lunch, I’m not spending forever trying to find a lid, they are all right there. I’m thinking about buying another set!

Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

A few weeks back The Eater of the House and myself were invited to a dinner party and the request was to bring either an appetizer or dessert. Since I had the time and the urge to cook a little bit, I made some chocolate chip cookies with coconut, but wasn’t really sure what to make for an appetizer. Be forewarned, if I am cooking for a group of people either at my home or for a potluck, I almost always try something new. Certainly not the wisest of decisions (the rational voice in my head is always questioning why?!), but I love trying something new to me and introducing it to guests. And I truly hit the jackpot with this dip.

This incredibly flavorful black bean dip has a little bit of heat, a hint of garlic and crunchy onion, and a combination of lime juice and red wine vinegar that is so good that after one bite I moved the plate closer to me with the hope the other guests wouldn’t notice. It was so delicious, I made it the next day just for myself!

I searched high and low in the grocery store and couldn’t find queso fresco cheese, so I used feta in place and it was just as good. This appetizer will make vegans and those who don’t eat dairy happy if you leave off the cheese as well as those who are looking for a healthy, flavorful dip that isn’t terribly heavy or rich. I thought it would be terrific as a vegetarian burrito filling or as an accompaniment for eggs!

black bean dip
Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco

This recipe first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Can’t find queso fresco? Crumbled feta cheese can certainly be substituted, or if looking for a dairy-free version, just add extra onion and cilantro. I also added a couple tablespoons of water to make it more dip-like as I found it a little dry without it.

1 tablespoon tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons queso fresco
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine tahini, lime juice, olive oil, beans, salt, water, and garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor. Add vinegar, cumin, and crushed red pepper to food processor with black bean mixture; process until smooth. Top with queso fresco, onion, and cilantro.

onionsMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Pickled Onions
This is more like my love of the week. Or month. Or year. I decided at the beginning of the summer to make some pickled onions to go with the burritos I was making. O. M. G. They are the best (and easiest) thing you can make to add flavor to your food! I take 3/4 cup of apple cider or red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of water, and add some diced red onion. They last forever and are so good! I’m a big onion fan, so this just adds enhanced flavor with a little bit of a zing. I especially like putting them on a warmed corn tortilla with melted cheese, a scrambled egg, and some avocado for a really tasty breakfast!

I found this article, which gives great instruction on how to make quick pickled onions or you can do what I do. Either way, I hope you find a new delicious food accompaniment!

The Lazy, Shorter Days of Summer: Late Season Pesto Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Summertime and the living is easy!

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy!

Vermont in August is one of my favorite times of the year. While the light has quickly diminished in both the morning and evening, the fields are now a bright yellow with goldenrod, a little bit quieter, and the gardens have reached their peaks. While the days can still be quite warm, nighttime is usually perfectly cool sleeping weather. Weekends are spent at the lake, soaking in the sun and making memories that (hopefully) will keep us warm in the winter.

Speaking of gardens, you’ll never see me turn down an offer of free vegetables or fruit from someone’s garden. Which was the reason I was cutting up cups and cups of late season rhubarb for pies a couple of weeks ago, and why I found myself in a friend’s garden one recent evening, pulling all of the basil that she didn’t want. While it was almost past its time, it was still salvageable and all I could see was green, and knew I could make mounds and mounds of pesto.

I can grow tired very quickly if I eat the same thing all the time–leftovers are a two-meal minimum for me–but I think I could eat pesto every day and be completely happy! There is something about the mixture of basil, garlic, nuts, cheese, and olive oil that is heaven on a plate. During the summer I make it just about every Monday night for dinner. Even during my detox I talked about a few weeks ago, I created a dairy-free pesto that was almost as good as the real thing, served over quinoa pasta! For my friend who graciously gave me the basil, I made a nut-free and dairy free version for her.

The word pesto comes from the Italian, pestare, which means “to pound or crush,” and I have certainly made it many times the authentic way with a mortar and pestle, but my blender is a lot quicker when making lots. For nuts, I’ve used almonds, walnuts, or the traditional pine nuts. Or I’ve left them out if I don’t have any on hand. Making batches ahead of time will be a way to bring some summer into the darkness of the cold, winter months!

It's a pesto explosion in my kitchen!

It’s a pesto explosion in my kitchen!

Late Season Pesto

I don’t measure when I make this. Ever. So these are my approximations of measurements. I go by taste, so as you’re mixing, keep tasting to see if it suits your palate. When freezing, I put a little piece of plastic wrap on the top of the pesto to keep it from drying out.

1 large garlic clove
2 large handfuls of basil leaves
A few parsley stalks (preferably flat-leafed parsley), about 2-3 tablespoons
About 3 tablespoons grated parmesan or Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons whole almonds (or substitute walnuts or pine nuts)
Extra virgin olive oil, roughly ¼ cup (you can also use some hot water as a substitute for some of the oil)

With a blender, add the ingredients one at a time, ending with enough olive oil to make a paste. Serve over pasta, veggies, fish, or toasted bread.

movie posterMVK’s *Like of the Week: “That Sugar Film”
Are you like me and think the food you find in a health food store is good for you? Think again. Australian filmmaker, Damon Gameau, has a movie out, based on the movie “Super Size Me,” where he eats only “health foods,” but which are actually filled with added sugar. For two months, he gave up his normal diet of fresh foods for one that contains 40 teaspoons of sugar daily. But he wasn’t eating the obvious sugary foods like ice cream, candy, and soda. He instead focused on those foods perceived as healthy, but which contain added sugars: juices, low-fat yogurt, healthy bars, cereals. The effect of the diet is shocking.

While I think the movie is a bit gimmicky to get his point across, maybe this will be added to the American dialogue we are having about food and how it can help, or in this case hurt, your body. You can read more about the film and watch a trailer by clicking here.

Summer Minestrone Soup Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Small town living at its best.

Small town living at its best.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve brought you a soup recipe! And while one doesn’t normally think of summer as soup season, but since this one has been cooler than normal with fits and starts of heat (I’m not complaining!), it’s the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the garden’s bounty and make a big pot of minestrone soup.

Longtime readers know I’m a sucker for a good soup. They are easy to make on a Sunday morning and tote to work for the week. Add a small salad, a half sandwich, or a slice of bread with some in-season fruit, and you have a healthy and delicious lunch! And this soup is so good and flavorful! Lots of squashes, green beans, with the flavor of basily and garlicky pesto, it make a delectable lunch or dinner. Plus, it can be easily frozen, so you can have some later on in the month.

This is a free-wheeling recipe, so there are lots of substitutions that you can make based on your own palate. Water or vegetable broth for chicken, gluten-free pasta or none for the ditalini, spinach or chard (which I used) in place of kale, omit additional cheese, and you can even omit the pesto if you don’t have any on hand. I’ve done that and it’s just as good.

As I write this, it is a cloudy and rainy and I’m under a blanket next to the open window as it is windy and cool outside. Just a reminder that this glorious season isn’t forever and cooler days will be coming in the future–with more soup!

minestroneSummer Minestrone Soup
This recipe first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

A gentle simmer keeps the vegetables in the soup slightly firm, so they maintain their texture during freezing and reheating.

Yield: Serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced leek, white and light green parts only (about 2 leeks)
1 cup thinly sliced carrot
1 cup thinly sliced celery
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
2 cups chopped yellow squash
2 cups chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup uncooked ditalini pasta
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 ounces Lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup homemade or refrigerated pesto (such as Buitoni)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add leek, carrot, celery, and garlic; cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (do not brown). Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add stock and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes.

2. Place 1 cup cannellini beans in a small bowl; mash with a fork. Add mashed beans, remaining cannellini beans, squashes, bell pepper, green beans, pasta, salt, and black pepper to pan. Increase heat to medium; cook 10 minutes. Stir in kale; cook 2 minutes. Place 2 cups soup in each of 8 bowls, or follow freezing instructions. Top each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons pesto and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese.

How-To

FREEZE: Cool soup completely. Freeze flat in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag for up to 2 months.

THAW: Microwave soup in bag at MEDIUM (50% power) 5 minutes or until pliable.

REHEAT: Pour soup into a large Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat, partially covered, 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve with pesto and Parmesan cheese.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Speaking of Veggies…
veggiesI came across this article, “10 Surprising Ways You Are Making Your Vegetables Less Nutritious” a little while back and thought I wouldn’t find anything new. Well, blow me down, I realized I am actually doing several of these things on this list! I always add garlic and carrots to recipes right after chopping and I sometimes will deleaf the head of lettuce to easily make salads. I thought this had some great tips and information, I hope you find it helpful too!