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

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!

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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.

Easter Sides Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

easterAm I the only one who feels like Easter snuck up on us this year? It seems like I just barely made my Valentine’s Day dinner and now it’s time for another holiday! But since it’s here, planning is in order!

I usually make the first potato salad of the year to serve alongside the traditional ham, but it feels too early to make one in March, so I needed to find another potato side dish. Cooking Light has lots of menu ideas and some delicious sounding potato recipes. For me, springtime is lemon and chives. I thought this roasted vegetable dish sounded divine and decided to make it for my dinner one night. Served with pork chops, it was SO good! But not before a few changes.

I was making this for a solo dinner (not 12!), so my measurements went way down. As I mentioned last week, I can’t eat onions and garlic for a while (although I can eat chives and the greens of scallions), so I didn’t include the Vidalias, but I know they would make this dish even better! I’m not a fan of baby carrots, so I peeled and cut into chunks five small carrots. And I couldn’t find fingerling potatoes, so I used only small baby reds, which I cut into quarters. The vinaigrette is terrific and since this was a smaller portion, I have some leftover for another meal. I served them with pork chops, but this would be excellent served alongside ham, a pork roast, chicken, even fish.

I gave you two additional potato side dishes below. Rosemary is a great complement to potatoes and an herb vinaigrette with roasted potatoes has to be good, right? Whatever you cook and serve for your holiday meal, I hope you are surrounded by family and friends and it is delicious. Happy Easter!

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Lemon-Chive Roasted Vegetables

Serves 12

This recipe first appeared in the March 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, halved
1 1/2 pounds small fingerling potatoes, halved
1 pound baby carrots
2 medium Vidalia or other sweet onions, each cut into 8 wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on 2 jelly-roll pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.

3. Combine vegetables, chives, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently to coat.

And here are two more ideas for you!

Rosemary Potatoes-From the March 2001 Cooking Light

Roasted Potatoes with Herb Vinaigrette-From April 2007 Cooking Light


Processed-Foods-PhotoMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Nutrition Diva!

I have been listening to the “Nutrition Diva’s Quick and Dirty Tips” podcast for years now. Once a week, nutritionist Monica Reinagel gives a short podcast on a nutritional topic. Each one is well thought out, clearly explained, and less than ten minutes. They’re great!

I also follow her on Facebook and recently she posted this article on a new study about the American diet. While there is a movement for “clean eating,” the study showed more than half of the American diet is comprised of ultra-processed foods and lots and lots of sugar.

Although I found this interesting, I always look at studies with a wary eye. This one was from 2009-2010, so perhaps things have gotten better? Regardless, it does make interesting reading. You can read the article here.

 

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Pudding Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

When I was growing up, my parents never went out to celebrate Valentine’s Day on their own, we always celebrated together as a family. And one of our special desserts was homemade chocolate pudding. I grew up never knowing what it was like to eat pudding from a box, so I didn’t know how spoiled I was by eating this dark, rich dessert topped with just a little bit of cream until I became an adult and had to make my own–from a box!

When I began thinking of this year’s Valentine’s Day, I decided I should bring back that tradition and make chocolate pudding for my Valentine. I found this recipe from Cooking Light, but knew my first switch was going to use whole milk instead of skim. Skim milk contains lots of natural sugar, so I didn’t want this dessert any sweeter than it needed to be. I bought a 4 ounce bar of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate, but then noticed I needed one additional ounce; luckily I had a square of Baker’s in the cupboard. I topped it with a few frozen raspberries, since I love that combination. You could take the remaining egg whites and whip them into meringue or top with whipped cream. The end result will be an incredibly rich, smooth, dark chocolate pudding.

While adding milk to a mix is simple, taking a little bit of effort to make something homemade is so much better! Plus, you know what the ingredients are and that they’re healthy and good for you. I’m a sucker for any kind of pudding, but this is extra special, especially if you’re sharing it with the one you love!

Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Cooking!

pudding3Chocolate Pudding

This recipe first appeared in the August 2006 issue of Cooking Light magazine

2 ½ cups fat-free (or whole) milk, divided
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Place 2 cups milk in a medium, heavy saucepan; bring to a boil. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine remaining ½ cup milk and egg yolks, stirring well with a whisk. Add egg yolk mixture to sugar mixture, stirring well. Gradually add half of hot milk to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter, vanilla, and chocolate, stirring until melted.

Spoon pudding into a bowl. Place bowl in a large ice-filled bowl for 15 minutes or until pudding is cool, stirring occasionally. Cover surface of pudding with plastic wrap; chill.

vday2MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Valentine’s Day Menus

With Valentine’s Day on a Sunday this year, that gives you a little extra time if you were planning on making a meal at home as opposed to eating out. Two years ago I combed the MVK archives to find some special recipes for the day. You can see that post here.

Looking for more chocolate inspiration instead? Check out these double chocolate cookies from last year!

Tis the Season: Mexican Chocolate Cookies Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Look at this sunset!

Look at this sunset!

Since we are in the thick of the holiday season, I’ve been craving a really good homemade cookie. But just one! If I’m going to make anything this time of year, it will be my family’s butterball cookies, but I certainly don’t want them in the house because they are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. The Eater of the House doesn’t really eat sweets, so I know I’ll start looking like a butterball myself eating the entire batch! But I recently had the opportunity to try something new and these cookies were it! The melding of chocolate, cinnamon, and pepper is a classic Mexican mixture and it all came together in this cookie. A soft cookie with a deep chocolate peppery flavor, this made the perfect sized batch to accompany the casserole I took to a recent dinner party. And it made just 24 cookies for me, so it was a sized offering of cookies.

If you don’t have a microwave like me, you can easily melt the chocolate in a water bath. Just take a saucepan filled with water and set a glass bowl over. Bring the water to a boil and stir occasionally, the chocolate will start to melt gently.

I realized as I started this that I was out of cayenne pepper. To be honest, when I see “red pepper” in recipes I don’t exactly know what that means; I always take it to be a spicy red pepper. So without cayenne, I added a dash of spicy Hungarian paprika since that’s what I had on hand. Success!

Happy Cooking!

cookies
Mexican Chocolate Cookies

This recipe first appeared in the December 2007 issue of Cooking Light.

5 ounces bittersweet (60 to 70 percent) chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 1/3 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of black pepper
Dash of ground red pepper
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Place chocolate in a small glass bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until almost melted, stirring until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

3. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); stir with a whisk.

4. Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add egg; beat well. Add cooled chocolate and vanilla; beat just until blended. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended. Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until almost set. Remove from oven. Cool on pans 2 minutes or until set. Remove from pans; cool completely on a wire rack.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Ben’s Kosher Deli and Restaurant
matzoIn the last *like* of my trip to New York City (see Like 1 and Like 2 here!), lunch on Monday was at Ben’s Kosher Deli and Restaurant. This restaurant right off Broadway didn’t seem to cater to tourists, or at least it didn’t seem so when I was there; at the height of lunchtime, it seemed to be more business and family lunches. Our meal began with a platter full of pickles and some coleslaw, which were both delicious. I ordered a bowl of matzo ball soup and half of a corned beef sandwich for my lunch. The matzo ball were the size of a tennis ball, yet light and fluffy, nothing like the ones I make at home. It was a good thing I ordered half a sandwich, it was layer upon layer of corned beef on a really nice rye bread. These were both delicious and gave me sustenance for an afternoon of walking around the city. This restaurant is definitely worth seeking out!

Ben’s Kosher Deli and Restaurant
209 West 38th Street
New York, New York
www.bensdeli.net

Flaky Dinner Rolls Plus MVK’s Tips for T Day!

Free-Vintage-Thanksgiving-Clip-Art-GraphicsFairy-669x1024I thought I would pop in a day early this week with one last recipe and tips for those readers who are cooking for Thursday’s holiday! I can’t believe I’m looking at yet another turkey and talking about the biggest cooking day (for some) of the year! I finally settled on my menu over the weekend and now it’s full steam ahead until Thursday afternoon!

Thanksgiving is always my cooking and hosting holiday and I love it. There is no pressure of getting the Christmas tree up, making sure all the presents are bought, it’s just me, some paper, and an infinite amount of recipes that can be made. I tend to go the traditional route, but with a couple of tweaks here and there every year. For the past few years I’ve made Astor House rolls for the meal, which are wonderful, but this year I decided to pull out this ten-year-old recipe that is foolproof plus delicious. If you have any left over, they’re great to stick in the freezer and pull one out for your lunchtime soup. Or, what I envision to be my case, make another batch next weekend!

I’ll admit, these are a bit on the fussy side; rolling out, putting in the freezer a couple of times, and one last final rise. But if you’re in the kitchen, you’re already working, so it’s just a matter of setting the timer. And these are more than worth the effort. I didn’t bother using the cookie sheet, but I did pull out the measuring tape to make sure I was near the right size. These are sort of like a croissant, where you work butter into the dough layers. And they may be the best thing in the world right out of the oven. I had to test one to make sure they were suitable for guests (wink), but I really wanted to eat the whole pan, they’re that good!

Whether you are cooking or are the guest, here’s to a wonderful holiday on Thursday! I will raise my glass to my ever faithful and supportive readers for a happy holiday and for a meal (wherever in the world you live!) filled with delicious food!

Happy cooking! And happy eating!

flaky dinner rlls
Flaky Dinner Rolls

This recipe first appeared in the November 2005 issue of Cooking Light magazine.
Makes 12 rolls

3 tablespoons sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm fat-free milk (100° to 110°)
3 cups all-purpose flour (about 13 1/2 ounces), divided
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened
Cooking spray

1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm milk in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 3/4 cups flour and salt to yeast mixture; stir until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth (about 5 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky). Cover dough with plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes.

2. Roll dough into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle on a lightly floured baking sheet. Gently spread butter over dough. Working with a long side, fold up bottom third of dough. Fold top third of dough over the first fold to form a 12 x 3-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap; place in freezer for 10 minutes.

3. Remove dough from freezer; remove plastic wrap. Roll dough, still on baking sheet (sprinkle on a little more flour, if needed), into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Working with a long side, fold up bottom third of dough. Fold top third of dough over the first fold to form a 12 x 3-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap; place in freezer for 10 minutes.

4. Remove dough from freezer; remove plastic wrap. Roll dough, still on baking sheet, into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Beginning with a long side, roll up dough jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends of roll). Cut roll into 12 equal slices. Place slices, cut sides up, in muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat tops of dough slices with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

5. Preheat oven to 375°.

6. Bake dough at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan, and cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Serve rolls warm.

tday2MVK’s Tips for T Day!
As has been my past custom, I’m going to give you some of my tips for making your holiday cooking relatively stress-free and fun. Some of these tips may seem elementary, although to me they make the actual battle of getting everything ready all at once a little easier. Some of these tips are mine and some are other cook’s tips I’ve collected through the years that work for me. Whether you’re cooking Thanksgiving for ten or having a dinner party at another time of the year, I find these tips helpful to have in your back pocket.

  • The most important piece of paper in the kitchen for me is my timeline. I take my menu, figure out what time we are going to eat, and work backwards from there. So I have everything down to the time, “10 a.m., turkey in the oven; at 12:45 see if it’s almost done and start the potatoes” etc. This allows me to move quickly around the kitchen and for everything to (hopefully) be done pretty much at the same time (some day this will happen!). This method also is good for any meal you’re cooking while entertaining, as I have a habit of forgetting things once the door opens and the guests arrive!
  • Since almost all of us have one oven, prime real estate in the kitchen is small. At the suggestion of “America’s Test Kitchen,” I pull out my crock pot for an additional burner! Set to low and you can warm squash or potatoes and free up an extra burner.
  • If possible, prepare some items the day before or even two or three days before. Squash can be made today or Wednesday, make and bake your pies late Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, that way you’re not trying to jockey for space in the oven with your turkey.
  • Make sure your knives are sharp! I made this tip the year after it was discovered my knives were dull when my father was carving the turkey. (He has since given me a hand-held knife sharpener.) If you don’t have one, find a kitchen shop that does sharpening and take them in if you have time. This will make carving the turkey all that much easier–and everything else for months to come!
  • On Wednesday evening, take out all your serving bowls and utensils and assign dishes to each one. This saves a lot on the “what bowl is the stuffing going into?” when you start serving and avoids a Thursday morning surprise when you’re laying out the table. I put the assignments on scraps of paper and place them inside each bowl or plate, which I find helps my memory immensely the next day. Make sure all china, glasses, and linens are cleaned, ironed, and ready to go so all you have to do Thursday morning is set the table.
  • Serve a small relish plate as an appetizer. So many times I’ve made a couple of appetizers, only for my guests to get full before the meal. How about some carrots and celery sticks, a bowl of black olives, and cornichons? Just a little something light to tide everyone over before dinner. Sliced fennel with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper is another tasty treat. Serve with toothpicks
  • Instead of putting all the dishes on the table, finding room among the arms and elbows, I set up the kitchen table as a buffet, so people can fill their plates and return to an uncluttered table. While it doesn’t paint the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving feast, I find this to be a much nicer way to eat so you aren’t surrounded by people plus having to pass dishes!