3 fall recipes

Fall is here. And these are by far my Top 3 favorite fall recipes. I think because they remind me of Halloween and changing leaves. Sigh.

Ok, all are easy to prepare, but here's my two cents:

- For the baked apples, use green ones. Their tartness is offset by the sweet brown sugar mixture and there's no way "red delicious" could live up to their name.

- I say make your chili meatless for two reasons: we're in an economic crisis and you'll probably put on a few pounds this winter anyway. Also try adding some tortilla chips (not super fatty Fritos) to your bowl. Yum.

- These cookies are really good, but are enhanced by the icing, so don't skip it (never mind that fat comment above). I used reduced fat cream cheese, which worked fine. Also, you may need to add a little more milk, just do so sparingly - you want the frosting to drizzle, but not run.

Baked apples
5 apples
1/2 C. brown sugar
4 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Scoop out the core from top of the apple, leaving a well but not cutting all the way through. Mix ingredients and stuff equal amounts into apples. Place in a shallow baking dish and sprinkle with a little more cinnamon and nutmeg. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until sugar caramelizes and apples are tender.

Chili (vegetarian or non)
1 Tbsp. oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 dried bay leaves
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 (4 ounce) cans chopped green chili peppers, drained
3 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
1/4 cup chili powder
3 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, and season with bay leaves, cumin and oregano. Cook and stir until onion is tender, then add bell peppers, jalapenos, garlic and green chili peppers. When vegetables are tender, reduce heat and add tomatoes, chili powder and all beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer at least one hour before serving.

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies with cream cheese drizzle
4 C. flour
2 C. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 (16 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
1 C. oil
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 C. semisweet chocolate chips
Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add pumpkin, oil, eggs, milk and vanilla; beat on medium speed until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop dough onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes or so. Cool completely before drizzling icing on top.

Cream cheese icing
1/2 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
2 Tbsp. milk
1 C. powdered sugar
Blend cream cheese and milk until fluffy, adding powdered sugar until mixed well.

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Zucchini slaw

Here's a quickie side dish that, I have to say, conjured some mixed feelings for me at first.

The "zucchini" sounded great. It's in abundance now, tastes great and I love cooking with fresh veggies. The "slaw" sounded, well, a lot like "coleslaw." Ewe. Is that not the most thrown out plate filler at restaurants?

Well, fear not and keep reading. These ingredients, as well as their taste, are not in the same family as coleslaw. Best I can tell, it's the julienne strips that make this a slaw.

I served this with black bean veggie burgers, but it would be great paired with anything off the grill.

Zucchini slaw
2 medium zucchini
6 cherry tomatoes, seeded and halved
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 large basil leaves thinly sliced
1/2 C. toasted pine nuts
parmesan cheese, garnish as desired

Directions: Cut the ends off the zucchini, cut each into thirds and slice off the core and discard it. Then cut zucchini into julienne strips and place in a large bowl. Gently stir in the remaining ingredients. If you are making this in advance, add the pine nuts and parmesan just prior to serving.

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Grilled salmon with basil cucumber cream

To me, salmon is becoming a lot like chicken. It is what it is, but really, there are an infinite number of ways to prepare it and keep things interesting.

So here's another twist on my favorite fish.

A bonus: This recipe includes my favorite herb, basil.

Grilled salmon with basil cucumber cream
1/3 C. orange juice
1/3 C. soy sauce
1/3 C. water
1 lb. salmon, filleted
5 large basil leaves
1 C. loosely packed baby spinach, stems removed
1/3 C. sour cream
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 C. finely diced cucumber, seeded

Combine orange juice, soy sauce, and water and marinade for at least 30 minutes. Grill until cooked through, probably about 5 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, blend in a food processor the spinach and basil. Add sour cream and mustard, pulsing until just blended. Stir in cucumber. Add salt and pepper, if desired.

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Broccoli spinach walnut pasta

Ok, if I haven't lost you already on the name of this entrée (I'll admit, it's a doozy), bear with me another minute and I'll give you my best sales job.

This dish consists of every major food group! In the sauce, we've got veggies (broccoli and spinach), dairy (cottage cheese) and protein (walnuts). The pasta is of course our grain group. As if this wasn't exciting enough, the recipe is quick to prepare, yields leftovers and, most importantly, tastes delicious.

I dug it out of my archives and plan to add it in my regular rotation.

Broccoli spinach walnut pasta
1 large carton fat-free or reduced-fat cottage cheese
1 bag baby spinach
1 large head/cluster of broccoli
1 ½ C. walnuts
12-ounce package whole wheat penne noodles
Parmesan cheese, garnish as desired

Directions: Toast walnuts until dark brown. Steam broccoli and spinach until softened. Mix nuts and veggies in a food processor with cottage cheese. Top cooked pasta.

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Back-to-school cookies: Snickerdoodles

It's back-to-school time, if you can believe it. I am prepared because I have no one to send back to school yet and I have seen backpacks and other supplies in the stores since 4th of July. These two things have made me mentally ready for this.

But if you aren't, a quick way to fake it is to have a nice after-school treat to mark the start of another year in the classroom. Fill the cookie jar with snickerdoodles!

I realized I have never made these before (so I wanted to) and on my cookie scale (which I keep in my head and refer to often), these seem somewhat of a healthier choice, well below chocolate chip, though slightly above oatmeal raisin. Plus a little sugar burst helps during homework time.

1 C. butter
1 ½ C. white sugar
2 eggs
2 ¾ C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar
¼ tsp. salt
Equal parts (couple teaspoons of each) white sugar and cinnamon, mixed

Cream butter and sugar, adding eggs one at a time, until smooth. Sift together flour, soda, cream of tartar and salt. Stir dry mixture into creamed mixture; blend well. Roll dough into ping pong-sized balls; roll each ball into the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8 or 9 minutes (soft in the middle, a little brown on the edges) at 375 degrees.

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