Favorite Fall Foods

We had a cold front come in over the last couple of days.  For us, this time of year, cold front means down to the 50s at night and highs in the 80s.  Brrr!  All this gets me into the fall spirit though.  I feel a bit weird making fall food when it’s 100 degrees outside.  But now that one can actually wear jeans in Austin without melting into a puddle, it’s time to break out the crock-pot and pumpkin!  Today I’m listing some of my favorite fall type foods, foods I feel I just can’t get enough of when the temp starts to drop and you want something with some warmth to it.  Comfort, comfort comfort!

  1. Anything with pumpkin.  I mean it.  Not only does it provide some awesome flavor, but pumpkin is chock-full of nutrition and fiber.  I understand pumpkin is actually more rich in antioxidants than sweet potatoes.  Since I’m on a canned good boycott (cans are made with bpa linings, with the exception of Eden Foods), I’m heading off soon to the markets to search for small pumpkins to roast, puree and stick in the freezer for use.  Pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and since this week I ordered a new waffle iron – pumpkin waffles!  Need I even mention pumpkin pie?  I don’t even need the crust, just some pie innards.  Recently discovered a recipe for pumpkin cinnamon rolls that are looking pretty tasty.
  2. Sweet potatoes.  See #1.  They’re pretty much interchangeable.  I make a great yamberry muffin/bread that freezes beautifully and I can take out and serve on the fly.  Also, recently made a whole-grain pasta with ricotta and rosemary roasted sweet potatoes.  It was awesome, and ridiculously healthy.  Also, just roast that sucker, add a dab of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon and you’ve got a tasty side for just about any comforting main course.
  3. Lentil stew.  Yum.  It’s pretty versatile because you can use a number of proteins to add flavor to this one.  I’ve made this stew in the crock-pot a zillion times with ham hocks, ham steak, smoked sausage, you name it.  High in protein, fiber, and tons of vitamins.  Recipe at the bottom, which is geared for the stove, but you can easily just dump everything in a crock-pot and cook on high for a few hours.
  4. White beans n rice:  An homage to my Cajun heritage.  I prefer white beans to red, but this meal can be made with either.  Traditionally, this is made on the stove, but again, feel free to use the crock-pot, which is what I do.  Makes great beans.  Serve over brown rice and accompany with a green salad for a complete meal.  A slice of french bread for mopping never hurt a soul, either.
  5. Potato soup:  Is there ever a bad recipe for this stuff?  To make you feel better, I read an article recently that mentioned the oft maligned potato isn’t just a worthless, carb heavy brick.  It’s actually got quite a bit of Vitamin C, and if you make sure some kind of fat (roast cubed potatoes in a bit of olive oil before adding to the pot – flavor and some good fat are the benefits) is included with the potato, it takes longer to process and therefore is now a low-glycemic food, and not a high-glycemic one.  Rejoice!!
  6. Guilty pleasure – candy corn mixed with salted peanuts.  My mother-in-law turned me onto this one.  I don’t keep it around the house (lest I actually eat it….all of it), but when I hit up her house in the fall, she always has a jar around and I’ll snag a handful.  The combo tastes JUST LIKE a PayDay bar.  Yum.
  7. Oatmeal.  Yeah, boring old oatmeal.  Not really – oatmeal is awesome!  Seems crazy sometimes to eat it in the middle of the summer, but it’s perfect for fall!  My everyday oatmeal is Kashi Go-Lean creamy vanilla.  High protein, multigrain, and yummy.  Pop in the microwave, add a sprinkle of cinnamon and a handful of frozen blueberries.  The blueberries thaw out and then consequently cool off the oatmeal so you don’t ignite the roof of your mouth when consuming.  It’s awesome.  I also love steel cut oats, although they take a bit longer to prepare.  Those are perfect for the crock-pot!  You can dump them in with some dried fruit right before bed and by morning you have a nutritious bowl of comfort just begging for a wee drizzle of maple syrup.  The interwebs has tons of recipes for this application.  Pick the best looking one for you and go for it!
  8. Cobbler, of any kind or variety.  Topping with a scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt earns extra bonus points with me.  If I love you, I’ll make you my stupid-good whiskey peach cobbler.  But only after acknowledging I’m the queen of cobbler.  I only reward good behavior. 
  9. At the behest of my mutti, I am adding another comfort food item, best enjoyed during the fall/winter:  chicken and dumplings!  I love my mom’s version, full of shredded chicken, thick broth, poultry seasoning, and tortilla-based dumplings.  May seem weird, but I’ve always consumed mine with drops of hot sauce sprinkled on top.  Warms ya right up!

What are your favorite fall foods?

Lentil Soup

1 bag green or red lentils

1 onion, small dice

2-3 carrots, small dice

2 stalks of celery, small dice

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

1 – 1 ½ quarts chicken broth/stock

3 ham hocks, 1 ham steak (small dice), or 2 links smoked sausage (small dice)

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium.  Add onion, carrots, and celery and gently sauté appx. 10 minutes, or until softened.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly.  Add bay leaves and salt/pepper to taste.  Rinse lentils and sort for any small stones/dirt/funky beans.   Add to pot along with broth and ham hocks/ham/sausage, and a bit more salt.  Raise heat and bring up to a nice simmer.  Cook 40-45 minutes, or until lentils are cooked through and soft.  If using ham hocks, remove, let cool, chop meat and add back to pot.  Stir, check seasonings and serve!

Happy Anniversary

I’m not sure what to call the upcoming week.  I guess the most appropriate term would be “Hell Week.”  One year ago this week a giant bulldozer came and knocked over my whole world.  I felt pain on the 13th, went to the doctor the very next day, and by that night I received the dreaded phone call.  Everything happened so fast – I believe that while it was a ton of information to absorb in such a short period of time, so many times it takes much longer for people to be diagnosed, and truth be told – I really didn’t have that kind of time.  If things hadn’t moved so quickly, I probably wouldn’t be here today – my cancer grows fast

While I’ve never ever asked the requisite question:  “How long do I have,” my doctor told me a while back that he had a patient only a few years older than me present with my cancer at approximately the same stage – he was dead in a month.  One year later, I’m still here.  I’m thankful for every day, every moment.  While I have no idea what my life would be like today if I didn’t have this disease, I do know that way back then, I didn’t appreciate life the way I do now. 

What really stinks is that on September 16th, I had my biopsy.  It was also my mom’s birthday.  Sorry mom – I hate thinking the two events will be forever tied.  Truth be told, I really don’t know how I feel about this upcoming anniversary.  Celebrating the fact that I’m still here and focusing on this milestone sometimes makes me remember just how scary cancer can be, and I hate the feeling of being scared by cancer.  I don’t want my mindset to be “this is the disease that will one day kill me.”  I want my mindset to be, “I have a disease that is managed, and I just go on living my life.”  There are so many lifelong diseases that can and do kill people:  diabetes, MS, parkinsons, etc.  Why does mine have to be any different?  My sister has lived with type 1 diabetes since she was a young teen.  She’ll never get rid of it.  She lives around it. 

There are so many promising developments on the horizon in cancer research.  Maybe one will benefit me at some point.  I plan to be around to find out.  So, let’s not focus on what this week means so much.  Yeah, I’m here – why wouldn’t I be?

Instead – HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!  That’s what we should be celebrating!!!