Three Fall Dinners

I love roasted vegetables. Love, love, love them. It’s not quite cool enough for that yet (although we did have a delightfully fall-like First Day of Fall). With temperatures in the 90s this week, I think I’d rather hold off.

But I do have a few fall dinner dishes that are easy to cook and don’t make me feel like I’ve heated up the entire house. Some of them are soups. There’s very little measuring in these recipes.

One of my standbys is black bean soup. I once had a co-worker who ate black bean soup every day. I’m not at that point, but I do like to have the ingredients for this one around: diced onion, diced carrots, a can of black beans, vegetable broth, and a variety of spices. I saute the onions and the carrots in olive oil, rinse and drain the black beans, saute them with the onion-carrot mixture, add the broth and some water, season, and simmer for at least an hour. Then I blend it with the immersion blender.

It’s not very photogenic, so there’s no photo. It is delicious, though.

A new introduction is corn chowder. This may sound like it should be a standby, but I haven’t made it regularly in the past. This month, though, I came up with a recipe that I love and can easily make after I get home from work. Saute onions and then carrots in olive oil, dice a couple of small potatoes and mix them in, add vegetable broth and water, simmer until the potatoes are done, lower the heat a bit and add frozen corn and some half-and-half, and continue cooking until those ingredients are heated through. Somehow this winds up tasting buttery. I don’t know exactly why, but it does, and I’m happy about it.

Blue bowl with corn chowder

This next one I cook year-round. It makes me think of fall in the fall, but it is also a great summer recipe, so whatever. There is no sauce easier than Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce. If you haven’t made it, you may be skeptical about it: A can of whole, peeled tomatoes; half a stick of butter; an onion sliced in half; a bit of salt. Remove the onion and blend the remainder. That’s it. You think it needs basil and oregano and pepper and more. It doesn’t. You just put this on top of pasta and eat. I’m not saying you’re going to replace your regular recipe with this one–but, actually, I did.
Oh, and one more thing. Read labels and buy the low-sodium version of everything. You can add your own salt.

Bowl of rotini with Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce and parmesan

Beyond these? I’ve got a whole Pinterest board of recipes I hope to actually try, whether or not it’s fall. Maybe someday.

Mom-Friendly Meals: Grilled Sausage and Potatoes, with Broccoli

We seem to be having an Endless Summer in California right now, even if you’re not a surfer. But that doesn’t even matter, because in California, grilled food is a year-round option.

What’s easier than grilling? Grilling using foil packs.

Two layers of foil. Potatoes sliced into 1/4-inch rounds (no need to peel them–just scrub well). Minced garlic and a mixture of butter and olive oil. Oh, and fresh rosemary, because our house came with a rosemary bush so enormous that there’s no using it up. But the dried stuff will work, too.

Wrap up that foil tightly and put the pack (or packs) on the grill for 25 minutes over a medium-high heat. Toward the end, put some sausages on the grill and cook for 5 minutes (these were pre-cooked sausages), turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, put broccoli florets and some salt and pepper into a steamer, and steam for six minutes.

Sausage and potatoes with broccoli


Oh, and set some aside for leftovers. Instant lunch.

Mom-Friendly Meals: Shrimp and Potatoes in Garlic Butter

I love shrimp. Love, love, love it. Yet for some reason, I almost never cook with it. I’m trying to change that, though, because I have come to the conclusion–quite vocally, if you check with Mr. Sandwich–that I don’t like chicken.*

So a couple of weeks ago, we bought a bag of frozen shrimp at Costco. Surprisingly, it was not enough shrimp to feed all of Los Angeles–but we will get several meals out of it. We started last night (well, the night before, because the shrimp had to thaw) with this dish.

First, I cut up some Yukon Gold potatoes into chunks and boiled them until they were cooked, at which point I drained them.

Then I deveined the shrimp (it didn’t take as long as I always imagine it will; this stage was done before the potatoes finished cooking). In a skillet, I melted about half a stick of butter and sauteed some minced garlic. You know how people say not to use the pre-minced garlic that you can buy in jars? Well, we use it anyhow. It’s easier.

Once the garlic started to brown, I added the shrimp and flipped them once after about 2 minutes. You want to be careful not to overcook them, because they can get tough. Meanwhile, I returned the potatoes to the pan and dry steamed them to remove any additional moisture. After I turned over the shrimp, I added the potatoes to the skillet and tossed everything to coat with the butter and garlic.

Shrimp and Potatoes

Then we ate it.

You might want to have some vegetables, too. That’s always a good idea.

*Except fried chicken. I still like that. Because it is fried.

Easy Weekend Breakfast: Monkey Bread

I remember monkey bread from my childhood. It wasn’t one of my mom’s regular weekend breakfast dishes–in fact, I’m not sure she made it more than once–but clearly it made an impression. With only three of us in the house, and one of us quite small, I don’t make a lot of big breakfasts. Most weekends, we eat pretty much the same things we eat during the week–eggs, some sort of breakfast bar or pastry, and fruit.

But I want to have some “company” meals on tap, for the years we host family at the holidays, or for when we have other out-of-town visitors. First up? Monkey Bread.

I read a variety of recipes, and yes–I am sure that making the dough from scratch is better. But who has time? People who aren’t me. And while I have a Bundt pan, I wanted to see if I could make it in a regular pan. Spoiler alert: I totally can.

Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread

1 can jumbo biscuits
3 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. honey
2 Tbsp. brown sugar, divided
cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste

Heat oven to 375. Spray a 9×9 pan with cooking spray. Melt the butter and honey and use half to cover the bottom of the pan. Distribute half of brown sugar in bottom of pan.

Cut each biscuit into quarters and cram all the pieces into the pan in a single layer. Top with remaining brown sugar and drizzle remaining butter and honey over everything.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top is beginning to turn golden brown. Cool pan on rack for 3 minutes and turn onto serving plate.

This was just what I was looking for–easy and quick, and sweet-but-not-TOO-sweet. It’s definitely a keeper.

Getting Ready for Work

My clothes are laid out, and my bag is organized. Now I just need to figure out my approach to breakfast. I’ve already got a piece of sour cream coffee cake wrapped up, and a container of cut up cheese in the refrigerator. So what do I eat before leaving? Pumpernickel and butter? Banana? Half a grapefruit? Or should I take some of those with me? (Okay, probably not the half grapefruit.)

Maybe I shouldn’t have used all of my energy making beef stew. Because, of course, it would have made so much sense not to have dinner. My logic is astonishing.