Tuesday, October 25, 2016
In my autumn kitchen
We haven't been experiencing the cool, crisp days I dream about all year, not yet. Fall has made a few brief visits here and there, while most days have been much warmer than average for this time of year. I'm not really complaining; I love cool weather and I do hope it arrives soon, but a prolonged period of warmth isn't such a bad thing. We're saving on heating, for one thing. The small Bears are still mostly wearing shorts and t-shirts, which makes them happy. I can leave the doors open all day for fresh air and never have to worry about heat escaping, or heat coming in, for that matter. So I'm making the best of it. They say the weather is likely to turn in the first week of November and I'm looking forward to that. In the meantime, I've certainly started living like we're in the middle of autumn, even if it doesn't always feel like it. My cooking is probably the place it shows up most so far, as I've been busy making all the autumnal things we enjoy.
We've enjoyed an apple pie and a pumpkin pie so far, in addition to an apple crisp, to which I added a handful of dried cranberries. It's just a basic recipe from my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook, but it's an old favorite. We've had a huge number of apples given to us by a neighbor (ours were spent by the end of September), so I've been looking for ways to use them. Baked apples, apple pancakes and apple muffins, along with applesauce, have all been on the menu chez Thistlebear this fall.
I started roasting chickens again a few weeks ago. It's one of our favorite meals. Easy and plentiful too; there are always leftovers for soup or casseroles later in the week. It's my go-to Sunday dinner in the cold months, probably twice a month.
Lately, we've enjoyed an occasional change of pace with our chickens: the Bear smokes a whole chicken, cut into serving pieces, in our backyard smoker. He did this one on Sunday. He used applewood chips and the chicken was perfect - juicy and just smoky enough. He loosely follows a recipe from Steven Raichlen's Project Smoke.
Has there been some kind of asparagus renaissance over the past couple of years? I swear, asparagus is nicer, and cheaper, than it ever used to be. It's available all year now too; I always used to think of it as a spring-only vegetable. I've been buying it almost every week lately. We all like it but I think I could easily eat a whole one-pound bunch, just steamed or boiled lightly. Yum.
As always, when fall comes I want to make all the soups. I use the crockpot a lot, like when I make this chicken tortilla soup, from my own recipe (here, if you want to have a look). This is one of my favorite things to make with leftover roast chicken.
I discovered a wonderful tomato soup recipe recently, from the New York Times. It's really simple and easy to make and the soup is hearty and delicious. I've made it twice in the past two weeks!
I've been making one of my old standbys again, veggie lasagna. This one had spinach and carrot. I like to throw in whatever I have in the produce drawer and it's always a little different, but some of my favorite veggies to use are zucchini, carrots, spinach and mushrooms. I'm beginning to think I need to make two of them at a time - what used to feed all four us with a few leftover lunches isn't quite doing it anymore!
There's lots of other fall-ish dishes I love, of course, including other soups. Soup is just my thing. I make soup at least once a week, sometimes two or three times! I haven't been doing as much baking lately as I usually do when the weather turns cooler. I need some new ideas, actually; I'm starting to look ahead to Christmas cookies already and wouldn't mind trying something new. If you know one I might enjoy, please pass it on.
What have you been cooking lately? How does your cooking change with the seasons?