Favorite Fall Recipes

Where does the time go? I have been nannying for two months now and I feel like I’ve become a mom. I am with the two kids about 40 hours a week and by the time I get home, I just want to crash on the couch and order take out. **Shout out to all those moms out there who don’t get to “clock out” at the end of the day!** It’s a horrible habit but I can’t seem to break the cycle. I have, however, managed to make two of my fall favorites the past few weekends: pumpkin gingersnap cookies and curried celery root and roasted sweet potato soup.

These are my favorite fall cookies that are easy but a bit time consuming. So many of my childhood holiday memories are connected to the cookies, pies and other baked goods my mom used to make around this time of year. Now that I am out on my own, I am trying to create some of my own holiday food traditions.

I stumbled upon this recipe last fall when I had some extra canned pumpkin in my pantry. Gingersnaps were always part of my mom’s repertoire so I thought theses Pumpkin Gingersnaps would be the perfect addition to mine.

Pumpkin Gingersnaps 

½ cup of butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies

½ cup of pure pumpkin (I used Trader Joe’s canned pumpkin)

¼ cup of molasses

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

In the bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and smooth using a hand mixer (or a standing mixer if you have one). Add the pumpkin, molasses, egg, and vanilla extract, mix until well combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined.

Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 1 hour. The dough can be chilled for 2-3 days.*

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Place sugar in a small bowl. Roll tablespoon-sized balls of dough in sugar until well coated and place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 10–12 minutes, or until cookies look cracked and set at the edges. The cookies will still be soft.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a 2-3 minutes after removing them from the oven, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*I cannot stress enough how important it is that you let the dough chill for AT LEAST one hour. I usually leave mine overnight. If you attempt to roll the dough in your hands and sugar before it is properly chilled, you will have a frustrating sticky mess on your hands (literally). The longer the dough chills, the easier the rolling will be!

This next recipe is loosely on Mark Bittman’s Creamy Curried Celery Root Soup.

Curried Celery Root and Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon curry powder

Salt and black pepper

1  pound celery root, peeled and cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes

1/2 pound sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch cubes

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put sweet potato in a large bowl and coat with 1 tablespoon of oil and 1/2 tablespoon of curry powder. Toss to coat. Spread out on a lined cookie sheet and roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes (it might take a little longer so just check in 3-5 minute increments).

Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, deep pot over medium-high heat. When it’s melted, add the onion and cook until they begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes

Add 1/2 tablespoon of curry powder and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute

Add the cubed celery root and stir just to coat it in the curry powder, then add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat so that the stock bubbles gently and cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery root is fully tender, 15 to 20 minutes more

Cool the roasted sweet potato and the cooked celery root cool slightly. Add both to a blender or food processor, and purée carefully. You may also add the sweet potato to the celery root, stock and spices and use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pan.

These recipes have become a part of my fall/holiday tradition and I hope you will try them out. They are a little tricky at first but practice makes perfect! Once you get a hang of these, they will be great fall backs when you’re in need for a fall pick-me-up! Enjoy!

If you’re looking for some fall inspiration, check out this list of seasonal fall fruits and vegetables and some other fall recipes, in this  from Buzzfeed!

Creamy WW-Friendly Mac n’ Cheese

Everyone knows that I love anything that Mark Bittman does. So when I ran across this recipe two years ago, I absolutely had to try it. Bittman’s article, “Creamy Cauliflower Mac“, is genius- use pureed cauliflower in place of a bechamel! Not only does the recipe call for an entire head of cauliflower, it cuts out all butter and flour from the recipe! Oh the calories you save.

Apparently, Kraft sneaks freeze-dried cauliflower powder into its mac n’ cheese so Bittman figured he would make a vegetable-heavy, less caloric, unprocessed version of this popular American dish. When I made this recipe for the first time a while back, I followed it to a tee. It was good but the dijon mustard flavor over-powered everything so, this time, I decided to tweak it a bit.

I had a busy afternoon of cooking yesterday. In addition to this delectable mac n’ cheese, I made some homemade tortilla chips (post to follow) and another batch of the Ina Garten Buttermilk Ranch Dressing. It was a good day in the kitchen- something I have definitely been missing these past two weeks or so! Give this recipe a try and tweak as needed for your family. This is by far one of the sneakiest ways to slip in a big serving of vegetables without the kids knowing! You could even amp it up a bit more by adding broccoli florets in place of some of the pasta…

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Creamy Cauliflower Mac n’ Cheese*

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking dish (I used Pam)

Salt

2 1⁄2 cups vegetable or chicken stock plus 2 cups water (I used the stock I had in my freezer)

1 cauliflower, cored and separated into large pieces

8 ounces elbow, shell, ziti, or other cut pasta, preferably whole wheat (I used gluten-free quinoa elbow pasta**)

1 ⁄2 cup grated fontina cheese

3/4 cup grated cheddar

6 scallions chopped, white and pale green only

1/2 tbsp- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, or to taste

1 ⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste

Black pepper

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, separated

Bread crumbs to cover casserole

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking dish with a little Pam.

Pour chicken stock into a large pot and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and salt it (unless your stock is already pretty salty)

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(I cooked the cauliflower in just the stock before adding 2 cups of water for the last 10 minutes of cooking. This is was because the liquid level got too low. Just add the 2 cups of water at the beginning to avoid having to do this)

Cook the cauliflower in the boiling stock/water until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes

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Scoop the cauliflower out of the water with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a blender or food processor

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Add the pasta to the boiling stock/water and cook until still somewhat chalky inside and not yet edible, about 5 minutes

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Carefully process the cauliflower with 2 cups of the stock, the 2 tablespoons oil, fontina cheese, cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup of parmesan, scallions, mustard, nutmeg, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper (I had to do this in two batches because I only have a 7-cup food processor)

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If the sauce seems too thick, add the remaining 1⁄2 cup stock. Taste and adjust the seasoning

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Pour the sauce into a large bowl and add the partially cooked pasta, toss, and spread the mixture evenly in the dish

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Sprinkle the top with the 1/2 cup of Parmesan and bread crumbs if you’re using them. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, 15 to 20 minutes (check every 2-3 minutes after the 15 minute mark). Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings

WW Points: 9 points per serving

I made this batch yesterday and enjoyed a piece for lunch today. The fontina cheese is tangy and different and is nicely balanced out by the salty parmesan and creamy Cabot cheddar. I will definitely be making this more in the future!

*This is adapted from Mark Bittman’s version.

** Using the Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta and eliminating the bread crumbs on top make this a gluten free dish!

Pasta with Manilla Clams

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I got the idea for this pasta dish from the Mark Bittman article I posted last week. His was a pasta (dry spaghetti or linguine) with manilla clams removed from the shells. I decided to take that idea and mix it up a bit. I took a trip to Eataly and bought 4 ingredients: fresh pasta (chitarra), pancetta, manilla clams and parsley.

Ingredients

Fresh Manilla Clams (6 per serving)

Fresh Pasta (2 oz. per serving)

Pancetta (1/4 inch thick- 1/8 cup per serving)

1/4 cup White Wine (use this amount when making 2-4 servings)

Parsley to garnish

Directions

Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Heat a large skillet (that has a lid that fits) over moderate heat. Once warm, add the pancetta and allow to cook for 4-5 minutes- you want to render the fat so you basically have some oil in the pan.

Add the manilla clams and toss to coat with the pancetta “grease”. Add white wine and cover with the lid. Cook for 8-10 minutes until all the clams are open. Don’t check too often- you don’t want to loose the steam. While the clams are steaming in the wine, add your pasta to the boiling water. Cook fresh pasta for 2 minutes and dry pasta for 8- you want it a little less than al dente.

Discard any clams that did not open (they are no good) and remove the rest from skillet to a plate to cool. Using tongs, move the pasta from the pasta water into the large skillet. Add about 1/8 cup pasta water to the pasta, pancetta and wine. Toss to mix everything and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes (until the pasta is done).  This is important because the pasta will absorb the extra wine and pasta water! Turn off the heat and add in roughly chopped parsley. Toss to mix and move to a serving bowl. Add clams to the bowl in a decorative way!

Enjoy!

WW Points: 9 points per serving

Food for Thought: Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan

I just wanted to share a few links quickly. While working at Slow Food, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some amazing minds in the food movement. I even got to talk to Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan on the phone a few times!! My reaction after hanging up the phone after talking to them on different occasions was similar to my reaction to seeing Hanson in concert circa 1998. I’m a food nerd but I’m ok with that.

1. Here is a link to a recent Mark Bittman article from the New York Times Opinionator called “Slow Food Quickens the Pace“. This more or less summarizes my outlook on life and the food movement.

2. Another Mark Bittman article from about a year ago about meat consumption and the industrialization of food. 

3. Everyone should read this book. Michael Pollan is a genius. This book is short and simple and can be read in a subway ride from Brooklyn to Washington Heights.

If we could all get in line with these views, the food system as we know it would improve immensely! Enjoy!