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

Enjoy.

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

Food and Health and Stuff, with Lentils

My diet is a mixture of excellence and trash.* I know this, and most of the time it works well enough for me. But this week it became evident that it’s skewed much too far toward trash.

Thursday and Friday I felt horrible, and every time I ate something, I could tell almost immediately whether that particular choice had been a mistake. Most of the time, it was a mistake.

So–at least for now–no more bacon. I love bacon, but bacon is not loving me. And that goes true for salt in general. I was able to cut way back on salt when I was pregnant with Baguette, so I know I can do it now. And I’m cutting way back on meals out and prepared foods, because those are part of the salt-and-other-chemicals problem I’m having.

I’ve stocked up on fruit and Greek yogurt (oh, wait, I think I need more by now), and am trying to have a Yakult a day for more probiotics. I’ve pulled a loaf of pumpkin bread out of the freezer, and later today I’ll fix a bunch of hard-cooked eggs.

Also, last night I made curried lentils and brown rice–my first time cooking lentils. And I loved it! Lots of leftovers mean I’ll have several lunches during the week, too.

Curried Lentils and Brown Rice (adapted from Supermarket Vegan)

3/4 cup brown rice (I only had 1/2 cup and supplemented white rice for the remainder–it still turned out okay)
3/4 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 can vegetable broth
1 can plus 1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried minced onion
1 tsp. garlic powder
black pepper
coarse-ground white pepper

Put everything in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Lower heat until it is just simmering and cover. Stirring occasionally, cook for 45-50 minutes, or until lentils and rice are tender and water is mostly absorbed.

Further confirmation that it was time to overhaul my diet? I already feel much better. Not 100%, but much, much better.

*Not actual trash. I’m not Oscar. Even if I do have my Grouchy moments.

hackney council's newest recycling collector

Photo by clurr, via Flickr. Creative Commons.

Spinach and Tomato Tortellini Soup

In my efforts to eat what we already own, I discovered an enormous package of cheese tortellini in the chest freezer we have in the garage. This recipe only uses about a third of that, but it’s a start, right?

Spinach and Tomato Tortellini Soup

3-1/2 cups chicken stock
1 10 oz. package frozen spinach
1 can diced tomatoes
8 oz. tortellini
garlic powder
basil
salt
coarse-ground white pepper

Bring the stock and spinach to a boil. Add tomatoes and reduce to simmer. Add tortellini and spices and cook for 10 more minutes, or until tortellini is tender.

Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Spinach and Tomato Tortellini Soup

More on Food Trucks: Grill ‘Em All

GRILL 'EM ALL

We finally made it! After a year and a half of following them on Twitter, we were able to match up our schedules, location, and cash with the Grill ‘Em All Truck.

They were just in Northridge last week, so I hadn’t expected them to be nearby soon–but a tweet caught my attention, and I found out that they were planning a trip to Reseda. We bundled Baguette into the car and sped off to the intersection of Sherman and Lindley.

Imagine my amazement to find four food trucks (Grill ‘Em All, Coolhaus, Mandoline Grill, and Meet ‘n’Potatoes)–and not one of them had a line more than two or three people deep.

We focused entirely on Grill ‘Em All, and I have to say: it’s no surprise they won the first Great Food Truck Race. I ordered a Waste ‘Em All (green chiles, pepper jack, beer-soaked onion), and Mr. Sandwich ordered the Molly Hatchet (seared fennel sausage gravy, bacon, maple)–with a side of fries for Baguette, naturally.

First, the burgers. They were amazing. The Waste ‘Em All is the best burger I’ve had in a long time. Don’t get me wrong–there are plenty of burgers I like. But this one was noteworthy. And the Molly Hatchet was also excellent, with maple that we could still sense after we got home. These are two very different burgers, both executed magnificently.

Next, the fries. I don’t remember the last time I had fries this good. Crispy, flavorful, salty. I’ve previously mentioned my love of salt–well, these fries were wonderfully salty, which is a characteristic that too many people seem to be trying to ignore in the interest of health, or some such nonsense.

Seriously, the fries were so good I had to go up and ask about them. It turns out that they’re double-fried in vegetable oil–once at high heat, and then again on-site to ensure crispiness. And you also get your choice of dipping sauce. It turns out that Baguette is a fan of garlic aioli, which I can only see as a good sign for her eating future.

If you like burgers, you want to find Grill ‘Em All. You will not be sorry.

Photo by davecobb, via Flickr.

Yes, I Actually Cooked Dinner

And mostly from scratch! I made roasted chicken drumsticks, cheesy green beans, saffron rice (from a mix), and beans (from a can, for J).

It was pretty easy, on the whole, and that makes me wonder why I don’t do this more often. However, as I look into the kitchen, I’m reminded of why. No counter space, no dishwasher. Which means that the sink and the drainer are full, and neither will stand empty for quite some time.

But the fun doesn’t stop with dinner; there are leftovers of chicken and saffron rice, so I have lunch for tomorrow. I really liked the saffron rice–it was delicious and salty. And if you’ve noticed a recurrence of praise for salty food in this blog, it’s because I love salt. I mean, I really love salt. I’ll eat it straight. I could be the incredible salt vampire from the original Star Trek series (“The Man Trap”–first regular episode aired, sixth filmed. Have I mentioned that I am a total nerd? A salt-loving nerd.)