Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cozy Cooking for Fall Days!

Aaahhhhhh. I'm still basking in the warm Autumn glow. Isn't fall just the best? Everything about it!  :)

One of the my favorite things is all of the cozy autumnal cooking to be done. Like dishes full of pumpkin and squash, and homemade applesauce. After a summer of salads and breezier fare, Fall brings some great produce,  and an even greater excuse to do some happy at home cooking! Don't you agree?

Speaking of Autumn. Have you seen this? It's so me. *blush*. Sorry, I can't help myself! Omg.

We're obsessed with the online series "Cooking With Dog". You have to check it out. We've been watching Francis, the cooking dog, along with his owner "Chef", make many wonderful Japanese dishes for the past several years. It's awesome!

Here I am in my kitchen last week, listening to the vice-presidential debate streaming live. I call this "Kind of Cooking With Cat". Although, there was really no cooking going on. Just a kitchen and my cat.

Where was I? Sorry. Fall cooking. We've always had family dinners at home, but for the past month, I've started cooking every night that I can, in hopes of saving a bit of money. Going out to eat and ordering in can really add up! I've also been very regimented recently, about making meal plans and grocery lists. Are you like me? How many times have you gone to the store, done a full shopping trip, only to come back home with a bunch of food, but nothing that really goes together to make a proper dinner?

I've been saving online recipes for several years now, and a bunch on my Pinterest page. It's not easy to find meals that are GLUTEN- FREE & VEGETARIAN.  I've been a vegetarian for many many years now, so that part isn't too difficult.  I've now been gluten-free for almost five months, and I feel better! It's an allergy thing for me,  not a trendy-diet adventure. The gluten-free cooking side of the meals isn't hard, but I do miss a lot of the things I used to eat. I never cheat, so it's been "bye-bye" to the usual breads and other baked treats. This has been good for me for sure.

At any rate, Jon and Noah are not gluten-free vegetarians, and they eat whatever they would like. I sometimes prepare meat for them, to accompany the veggie dinners that I make, but for the most part, since they usually eat some kind of meat at lunch, they don't mind skipping it at dinner. I'm happy to accommodate them in anyway, but they've been great. Thanks guys!

So, I'll just cut to the chase, I wanted to share with you a few wonderful recipes that I've come across and made in the past month. These are hearty fall dishes, that you and your family might enjoy also!

The first recipe is a Baked Polenta with Mushrooms from Food & Wine Magazine online.
Baked Polenta with Mushrooms

Ok, this thing, it was DELICIOUS. Delicious. Seriously delicious. Oh, did I mention it was delicious!?
Easy to make, with not too many ingredients, this bake is the perfect smokey, mushroom-y fall meal to make.  You layer Parmesan polenta with sautéed mushrooms and fontina cheese. It's not the most health-conscious dish, but because this bake is so rich and heavy, a small serving really fills you up. I would guess it could feed a family of four through two meals! Serve with a simple side salad and some fruit, and you're done!

Alright, while we're talking mushrooms, here is one more dish that was absolutely amazing. It's Homemade Mushroom Soup by Seasoned with Spice.

Homemade mushroom soup by Season with Spice, served with vollkornbrot bread

It was buttery and smooth and hearty. The perfect soup to warm you up on a cold, blustery day. I loved everything about it. Noah did too!  I gave the guys some crusty bread to dip, and we shared a bit of fruit.  A quick, fall meal!

The last recipe to share tonight is another soup. I decided to share it because I made this soup last week for our class potluck, and it turned out great. (Well, at least I think it did. It was almost all gone!) This potato soup was tasty AND the easiest thing to make ever. If you're looking for something quick, easy, affordable and delicious, you've come to the right place! As an added bonus, it makes a huge crock pot full. Oh! I forgot to mention, it's made in a crock pot. How much easier can you get!? Perfect for any potluck or party.

It's called "Jane Potato Soup" , and I found it on a blog named "Twirl". Twirl is written by blogger Laura Browe, who mentioned that this recipe was taken from an old Paula Dean magazine.

Before we go any further, I want to mention something. We all know that Paula Dean recipes, at least the old ones, are not known for being uber-healthy. In fact, aren't they known for being uber-buttery!?
I've noticed a bit of a creamy trend with these three recipes that I've posted..........

One thing that I've learned from all of this cooking, is that when you use whole foods, and cook from scratch as much as you can, it's ok if everything isn't always as low-fat and low-cal as possible.
YES, you definitely should strive to have some balance, not having every meal buttery and heavy, but I feel like in the end, if you are mindful,  you're still doing better, eating homemade soups vs. eating out all of the time.

Going gluten-free has forced me to change my eating habits in a healthy way, and I'm excited to say that I've still been able to enjoy some wonderful meals and also lose a bit of weight and become healthier at the same time. I'm learning it's about balance, not about fretting each bite and going hungry. Sooooo.....I'm sorry that these three recipes don't win the highest cooking light award, just enjoy, and make sure to get your veggies in too. :)

Back to the soup. I laughed at how easy this was. Basically, you throw in a bag of frozen hash brown potatoes, the cubed kind. Or, you can chop your own fresh potatoes if you would prefer. Then chicken broth, and cream of chicken soup. Oh! Here was the place that I had an epiphany.....well, while I do consider myself a vegetarian and have for many years, I've always been ok eating chicken soup broth, (minus the meat). I can see how this might seem hypocritical though. I think I started being ok with broth because I didn't want to be annoying when going to people's homes for dinner. I think, if it bothers you, you could substitute veggie broth and cream of mushroom soup. Pacific Natural Foods makes great organic, gluten-free, condescend cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups.
Next just chop an onion, and simmer all day. Add some cream cheese, maybe chop a bit of green onion, and you're done! It was fantastic, and again, a dish that will feed a family through dinner and the next day's lunch.

I'd love to write more sometime, about other recipes we've found and loved.  Like my all-time favorite, spaghetti squash with feta, black olives and basil. Yum!
I have to go for now. Until next time - Bon Appetit!

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