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kitchen-decorThere’s something about this time of year that lends itself to being in the kitchen. I love the process of making, and thoroughly enjoy the smell and taste of comfort foods. But, never more than during the fall season. With it finally starting to cool down this past weekend, I’ve begun the process of trying to decide which new recipes to try out on “Red”. He’s a really good sport about everything and has proven on more than one occasion that he’s willing to try just about any dish I put in front of him. While there are a few things I have to avoid – like elbow macaroni – I think that he’s been able to honestly say that he’s enjoyed a few of the new things that I’ve cooked for him. It should also be said that for the record he does cook, and I don’t mean that he just grills food outside either. On our second date, he tackled a pork roast, sauerkraut and homemade German potato salad – all because he heard me mention that I grew up in a German household around home cooked meals.

chickendumplingsSome of my favorite fall foods are some of the easiest (I think) to make. I LOVE one pot meals and fresh bread. Crock pot and cast iron dutch oven recipes top my list. Anything that takes minimal prep and that can sit and cook for a few hours – is something that will wind up in my personal book of “go-to” recipes. I also love using my bread machine on the dough cycle to prep my homemade breads and rolls. As I get older, kneading the dough for the recommended time – gets tougher – but the bread machine takes away that grueling task.

mirepoixAs soon as I could reach the stove, my mom ensured that I knew how to cook. I believe that’s where I first heard about the Mirepoix or as some refer to it the Holy Trinity of cooking. Carrots, onions and celery are the basis to most (if not all) of my soups and stews. I will, and have literally gone out in the worst weather – in order to purchase one of the three that I was missing. From my Chicken n’ Dumplings, Chicken Stew and good ol’ Chicken Soup to my Beef Barley Soup and Peppered Beef Stew – the Holy Trinity is always in the mix.

My plans are to post the new recipes I try and to let you know how they turned out …and if they met my “comfort food” expectations or if I made substitutions to make them more “comfortable”. The first one on the list will be a White Bean and Spinach Soup with fresh Rosemary Olive Oil bread. The recipes for both are below.

– J.B.


White Bean and Spinach Soup

What’s in it:
3 14-ounce cans vegetable broth
1 15-ounce can tomato puree
1 15-ounce can small white beans or Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped
8 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach or kale leaves
Finely shredded Parmesan cheese
In a 3-1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker, combine vegetable broth, tomato puree, beans, rice, onion, basil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Cover; cook on low-heat setting 5 to 7 hours or on high-heat setting 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. Just before serving, stir in spinach or kale and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.


Rosemary Olive Oil Bread (using bread machine dough cycle)

What’s in it:
1 cup water
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 1/2 Tablespoons rosemary
1 Tablespoon yeast
additional rosemary to garnish
1. Place ingredients, according to manufacturer’s directions into your bread machine.
2. (some call for all liquids, or all dry ingredients first, so know your machine) Set machine to “dough cycle” and wait. (This takes most machines about an hour and a half for a full cycle).
3. Remove from machine when cycle is complete and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
4. Shape dough by hand, into a rectangular mound, spreading kind of thin, maybe an inch or two of thickness.
5. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size. (This is a good time to go ahead and turn the oven on to preheat and help warm the kitchen).
6. Brush with a little olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary and salt if desired.
7. Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes until crust is golden and crispy. Bread is meant to be a flatter shape and not a high rising bread.
8. Have everyone tear their pieces of bread with their hands and serve with olive oil flavored with fresh ground pepper.