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!

Restaurant Review and Some “Scary” Reading

I haven’t posted any of the New York Times Restaurant Reviews yet- I’m not sure why! When I was working at Esca, we had to read the restaurant review in print every Wednesday because we were quizzed on it during our pre-shift meeting. At first this was really annoying and daunting because you never knew what aspect of the review the chef was going to question you on. However, I quickly learned that reading the review kept me in the loop in the restaurant world and it educated me on all the best restaurants in New York.

This week, Pete Wells, the New York Times food critic, reviewed Carbone in Greenwich Village. Nowadays, I will read the review if industry friends post about it on facebook (usually because they work there) because I am not “forced” to read it every week. A chef I worked with at Eataly is now working at Carbone so when his post about the review popped up I wanted to read it. It also caught my eye because Nick and I ate at their sister restaurant, Torrisi, two weeks ago (where I know the GM through a co-worker at Gwynnett St.).

You should definitely check out the review here!

If you are interested in some other light reading, check out this link from Buzzfeed. Just another reason to make your own food and stay away the processed “food” in grocery stores!

Easy Wednesday Night Lamb

A few weeks ago I posted a link from Buzzfeed (which was taken from the New York Times) about an easy lamb dish. I mentioned that I have only cooked lamb once in my life because messing up lamb, which is easy to do, can be an expensive mistake. This recipe seemed almost too easy to mess up so I decided to give it a try last night. I must say, it turned out really well. I may have over cooked it by a minute or so but I will know for next time. I also changed it up a bit with spices and made a 2 person portion. Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

1/2 rack of lamb– frenched (about 1/2 a pound)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic cloves

1/2 tablespoon chipotle powder

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium slice rye bread, broken into pieces

Directions

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Trim the lamb of excess fat, but leave a layer of fat over the meat (I trimmed a little too much but I was trying to make it a little healthier).

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Cut about halfway down the bones between the chops; this allows the meat between them to become crisp.

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Put the oil, garlic, chipotle and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in a food processor and purée; add the bread and pulse a few times to make rough crumbs

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Rub this mixture over the meat side of the rack and sprinkle with more salt and pepper

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Put it in a roasting pan and into the oven; roast for 15 to 18 minutes*. Insert an instant-read meat thermometer straight in from one end into the meatiest part. If it reads 125 degrees or more, remove the lamb immediately. If it reads less, put the lamb back for 5 minutes, no more. Remove and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve, separating the ribs by cutting down straight through them.

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I made a quick salad with cherry tomatoes and feta with a balsamic vinaigrette and some Alexia chipotle sweet potato fries to finish off the meal. It ended up being a 16 point dinner but it was completely worth it!

WW Points: 3 points for one serving of rub and 9 points for 3 oz of lamb
*I adjusted the original cook time from 18-20 minutes stated in the Buzzfeed and New York Times articles because I used 1/2 a rack of lamb instead of the full rack. I also adjusted the amounts used in the rub.

Why I Fell in Love with Food in Vietnam

Whenever people ask me how I ended up in New York after college, I have to go back to my semester in Vietnam. I was a History major and concentrated on Cold War American society (specifically how the Vietnam War affected American society) and this is how I found myself headed to Vietnam in August 2008. Little did I know my “career path” would change after my 5 months there.

There is something about Vietnamese food culture that captivated me from the moment I landed. Eating a meal is about sitting with friends and neighbors and sharing what you have created from simple ingredients that were cultivated from your family land- land that has been yours for generations. I will always remember being in Nha Trang (South/Central Vietnam) and out on a boat with the entire CIEE group (which was only 19 of us). We had been on the boat all day when we were lead to the roof where a feast of fresh seafood had been prepared for us. It was the moment I decided I wanted to get into the food industry and be as close to good, simple, local food as possible.

Nha Trang FeastOur meal of fresh fish, prawns, seafood stew and a few other Vietnamese favorites

Eating feast

My friends, Chris and Summer, enjoying the food on the roof of the boat

This morning Nick sent me an article from the New York Times about a man’s relationship with food in Vietnam. Reading it, I was brought back to my own journey with Vietnamese cuisine . I will always remember my first morning there. I stumbled out of our hotel in the backpackers district in Saigon and I had no idea how to find something to eat. I wasn’t nearly as adventurous with food as I am now and I was all by myself, in a city I did not know, surrounded by a language I could not understand. I walked down our block and stumbled upon a bahn mi cart (I did not know this is what it was at the time). I pointed at something that looked remotely breakfast-like- little did I know that the pho restaurant right behind it would have been the right choice for a true Vietnamese breakfast. What I pointed at was something like a dumpling so I just bit into it. I had no idea what was inside, so I wrapped it up and brought it back to the hotel to find one of our directors so he could tell me what it was. Inside my “breakfast dumpling” was a soft boiled quail egg. I couldn’t finish it knowing what it was.

Looking back, I’m sad I couldn’t appreciate how special that first meal was and how delicious it could have been. I ended up throwing it away and waiting until lunch to eat again but I wish I had just enjoyed experiencing something different. My daily routine did turn into going to a “people’s food” store front twice a day that was located just across the street from our hotel. I would go first thing in the morning for a bahn mi with a fried egg on top and again for lunch for a bbq pork chop with sauteed greens with garlic and rice (exactly what the author describes in the article above). I miss those days of being in the warm sunshine, eating a simple meal that cost less than 75 cents.

I cannot wait to go back to Vietnam (hopefully soon) and experience the food all over again but, this time, with a much better appreciation for just how special Vietnamese food culture really is.

Maysville

I just wanted to post something quickly about a restaurant I have checked out twice in the past week or two. Nick and I first stopped in on his birthday for a cocktail before the Rangers game. Maysville (named for the birth town of Kentucky bourbon) is about 6 months old and it specializes in everything bourbon. Everything bourbon:

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Well today, I was wandering around Chelsea with a friend of mine and we decided to stop in for lunch. Maysville received 2 stars from the New York Times a month ago so I figured we would be in for a great lunch as well as a great Redemption Rye Old Fashioned. I didn’t do so well with breakfast today so I opted for one of the healthier items on the menu: a beet salad with whipped goat cheese, cured pork belly and wild greens.

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Kris got the pulled pork sandwich (which looked amazing!) with homemade potato chips dusted in BBQ powder. I will definitely be back for the food (and the bourbon!). Check it out!