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: Stone Soup

Remember the story of “Stone Soup“?

I’ve always been a little conflicted about that story. Sure, the villagers were miserly with their food stores. So you can read it as the story of how a traveler convinced them to open up and be a community.

But can’t you also read it as the story of someone who entered a town, tricked everyone into eating the last of their food, and then left a starving village behind?

Fortunately, one of the main points of the story doesn’t involve trickery at all. It simply involves using what you have available.

The other night, I wanted to make soup. In the freezer, I found chicken stock and a variety of frozen vegetables–peas, corn, and spinach, in this case. And in a jar on the counter, I found what I think was linguini (I’m not sure why we had it, since we tend to buy capellini, and since I am not terribly well-versed in pasta varieties, it might have been something other than linguini).

Now, if I’m shopping to make vegetable soup, I might include carrots and bell peppers. But I didn’t have time to go to the store, so I used what I had on hand.

I put the stock in a pot and added some water (I hadn’t thawed enough stock, I realized after the fact). When it came to a boil, I added the vegetables and broke the linguini into smaller pieces. Once everything was hot and the pasta had softened, I added some salt and pepper–you could, of course, add any other spices you want, but I kept it simple this time.

Stone Soup

What have you got on hand? And what can you do with it?

Meal Planning

I want to do it. I just have a lot of trouble finding the time to sit down and think about it.

Fortunately, last night we had friends over for dinner (afterward I realized that this was the first playdate we’ve hosted, and it went pretty well overall); we made pulled pork sandwiches with cole slaw, Ranch Style Beans, mashed potatoes, and roasted asparagus.

And when I say “made,” I mean that the only things we actually made ourselves were the potatoes and asparagus. Everything else came straight from the store or was assembled.

But we have lots of leftovers (except for asparagus), so there are a few meals there.

And I’ve got a Crock Pot full of steel-cut oats, so there are some breakfasts.

Really, I think we’ll be pretty set as long as I make one more dish today. So should I clear out some space in the freezer by making meatball and tortellini soup? Or should I have something hearty but light and make more curried lentils and brown rice?

Decisions, decisions.

Last-Minute Frenzy

Not shopping, thank goodness–but we have two days off while Baguette’s day care is still open, and that means that we’re trying to fit both relaxation and accomplishment into that time period. Mr. Sandwich is building a wheel so that he can go for a bike ride, and I’m getting ready to drop off clothes at the dry cleaner and make one last trip to Trader Joe’s before cooking a ham according to my family’s recipe. (The ham is not for Christmas dinner–I just want ham). There’s chicken thawing in the refrigerator so that I can make broth and soup and whatever over the weekend. There are a few more packages to wrap, holiday cards to mail, and a DVR full of toddler-inappropriate TV to watch (calm down, it’s just Boardwalk Empire, Castle, and Tosh.0). Oh, and of course continuing to clean the home office.

Sure. It’ll all get done.

The master plan to do list

Photo by the green gal, via Flickr.

Christmas Redux

Not the way you think. Baguette had a stomach bug that she passed on to Mr. Sandwich, and I developed some sort of nasal congestion/drippy horror that threw me for a loop. We had this exact combo at Christmas, when we traveled half the length of the state to visit Sandwich Pere and Sandwich Belle-mere. At least this time we were local.

Baguette recovered first, and then just as Mr. Sandwich started to get over his version of her bug, he got mine. So now both of us have what has turned out to be a horrible cold, just in time for Baguette’s birthday party this weekend. And because we were sick, we took sick days from work–making this week even shorter than we had planned it to be.

But at least there’s soup. I made another batch of potato-cheese soup, because the last one froze and thawed and kept an edible consistency. And then I made a batch of beef stew, which is what we’ve been eating the last couple of evenings.

Soup, by the way , is easy. You just cut things up and then let them simmer. But let me tell you–when you have a cold, that process is exhausting. And you’re already exhausted. But you just want soup. So you have to choose between rest and soup. (I know there are canned soups. I don’t like them.)

I chose soup. And it is tasty. But, wow, do I wish I had more rest.

Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve was very low-key at our house, with one friend joining us for what turned out to be an evening of conversation and South Park. The menu:

chili (ground beef, no beans)
cornbread casserole (good, but needed to bake longer in the center)
make-your-own brownie sundae based on Ghiradelli brownie mix, Dreyer’s ice cream, and homemade hot fudge sauce

Now there’s chicken soup cooking slowly in the slow cooker, so we’ll be eating left over comfort food for the rest of the week.