Roasted Beets, Shallots, and Feta Winter Salad

FullSizeRenderThere’s something autumnal about this salad with roasted beets, shallots, and leeks that makes it perfect cold weather fare. I made this one up for my friends Marylee and Marcella, to serve the day after Thanksgiving when I did NOT want to do turkey soup or a mashed potatoes and gravy repeat. Tired of multiple treks to the grocery store prior to Thanksgiving, I wanted to work with what was in my frig. Since I had the shallots and leeks on hand, I thought I’d see how they paired with cooked beets. The nuttiness of the shallots and mildness of the leeks worked really well as compliments to the beets, and the crunch of walnuts and tang of feta rounded out the flavors really well. I whisked up a dressing of balsamic vinegar with a touch of Dijon, and we all dubbed this delicious salad a wintertime winner. 

Follow the directions below to roast and peel the beets with minimal mess. I served the salad pictured here as a side to leftover sweet potatoes and turkey. I put the warm, cooked beets right on the salad, drizzled the dressing, and we gobbled it up (Thanksgiving pun intended!). But I had a leftover beet that I refrigerated, and the next day I made this salad for lunch with the cold beet. It was just as good cold as warm, so do whatever is easiest for you!

Makes 4-6 salads

4-5 beets—cut off stems and tips of root
1 cup walnuts
3-4 shallots, chopped
2 leeks, with slices of white and light green parts only
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups spring greens mix
½-1 cup feta cheese *

For Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I used creamy, not coarse ground)
Dash each salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Scatter walnuts on baking sheet and pop in oven for 5-10 minutes or until they start to toast. Remove and let cool. Wrap each beat in a square of aluminum foil to cover, and place on a baking sheet. (May also want to cover baking sheet with foil to help with clean up, as beets will leek juice as they cook.) Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, put on rubber gloves and peel off foil, then rub skins off of each beet with your thumbs, and discard skin. Place peeled beets in a bowl and keep handy for salad.

To make dressing, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, Dijon, salt and pepper in container with a lid and shake until all ingredients are incorporated. Set aside.

In frying pan set on medium-high heat, add shallots, leeks, and olive oil. Sauté and stir until golden brown. Set aside. Add a handful of mixed greens to individual plates (about 2 cups), and top each mound of greens with the cooked shallot mixture, dividing between salads. Chop each roasted beet into bite-sized cubes, and place 3/4 to 1 whole beet on top of each salad. Add toasted walnuts, and a sprinkle of feta cheese. Drizzle with dressing and serve.

*NOTE: You could also try this with blue cheese, but that might be a little too sharp for this salad. I was going to use the blue, but when I pulled my container from the frig, it was bluer—and fuzzier—than I think it was supposed to be. So we went with the feta instead. I’m pretty sure your cheese shouldn’t be fuzzy…

Cream of Mushroom Soup

FullSizeRender-1Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom has NOTHING on this savory made-from-scratch soup by Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), posted on foodnetwork.com in 2006. I’ve been making this soup for a few years, usually to serve to company in the fall or winter. The intense mushroom flavor comes from making a vegetable stock with the mushroom stems, and adding that to the mushroom cap roux. (There’s that word again, Tom! Roux just means adding flour to butter to make a paste, which thickens cream sauces and soups.) Everyone who’s slurped this soup has absolutely raved about it, including my new bosses we recently hosted. Hey, that’s one way to stay employed—dazzle ’em with butter and cream in dishes like this one!

Here’s a budget tip: I’ve found Trader Joe’s has the best price on all of the mushrooms needed for this recipe. Some of them were about $2 per 8-ounce package, a huge cost savings over Cub foods, where they are often $4-5 per 8-ounce package. TJ’s also consistently has all of these mushrooms on hand. I’ve been to other grocery stores that only carry the shiitake mushrooms seasonally, and they do add a nice nutty nuance so are worth the search. One disclaimer: Those not mushroom fans will find there’s no subtlety of flavor here, so best to avoid this recipe. But the rest of you will love this soup as a side or main dish, with a crusty slice of warm, buttered, baguette. Mmmmmmmmmm…

Serves 8-10

8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
8 ounces fresh button mushrooms (these are the ones that are often just called “mushrooms” on the package…)
8 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms (aka: baby bella)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
1½ teaspoon dried thyme, divided
2½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
2 cups chopped leeks (about 2)*
¼ cup all-purpose flour, or Namaste gluten-free flour blend
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups half-and-half
¼ cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley, or 1 tablespoon dried.

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Do not rinse in water. Separate the stems, trim off bad parts, and coarsely chop them. Slice the mushroom caps, and cut larger caps in half so pieces are bite-sized. Set caps aside.

To make the mushroom stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in large pot or Dutch oven. Add chopped mushroom stems, onion, carrots, 1 teaspoons thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables are soft. Add 5 cups water, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid. There should be about 4 cups of stock. If not, add water to 4 cups.

Heat the remaining ½ cup butter in the pot and add leeks. Cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, or until leeks are soft and begin to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender and browned. Sprinkle the flour or Namaste gluten-free blend over the mushrooms, stir, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the chicken broth and stir to remove bits from bottom of pot, and cook for an additional 1 minute. Add the mushroom stock and remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the half-and-half and parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat on low (do not boil) and serve.

*NOTE: Leeks often are full of sand and grit, so it’s best to chop them, then soak them in a bowl of cold water. The sand will sink to the bottom, and the leeks will float on top. Scoop them out of the water, and drain in colander.

 

Fall Display Pots

FullSizeRenderKale, swiss chard, and Jerusalem cherries make an interesting combo for fall pots—these happen to greet guests at my front door. The summer lime green sweet potato ivy was getting a little leggy, and the coleus had grown gargantuan, so it was time to refresh my entryway buckets with plants that love it cool and crisp. I ripped most of the plants out and put in this grouping, leaving only the green spikey thing (can’t remember what it’s called…) in the middle.

The feathery golden ornamental grass at the back adds a nice texture, something understated needed with everything else being so showy and attention-seeking. In the past, I’ve put in one tall spike or grass, and filled the rest of the bucket with different kinds of kale. But they didn’t have the variety in colors and textures I wanted this year, so I tried something new, proving you can teach an old dog new tricks. (FYI, these plants are all from Bachman’s—the nursery with the most selection close to my home.) While the rainbow Swiss chard IS edible, many signs warned the Jerusalem cherries are NOT. Apparently they’re quite poisonous to pets and kids! So I’m not sure if that will affect the Swiss chard growing in the same soil or not, if we wanted to chop some up for dinner. I know my husband Rich is just dying to try the chard…again, NOT. 

Nette’s Cranberry Salsa

FullSizeRender-2Tomato salsa is so last year! This cranberry salsa has some kick and some sass, just like my neighbor Nette—which is fitting, since I got this recipe from her. You’ll need a food processor or blender to make it, but if you’ve got the tools, it’s a snap to whip up. If you serve it with corn tortilla chips, it’s both gluten free AND dairy free—how many appetizers can make that claim? Not many! At least not the appetizers found on most midwestern buffets in the cold winter months. And if you need more incentive to try this recipe, take note that cranberries are higher in antioxidants than the highly-acclaimed blueberry, and offer 24% of your daily allowance of vitamin C. So stick THAT on your chip and eat it. (Smiley face…)

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into slices
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup chopped red onion
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and membranes removed, and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño (like Mrs. Renfro’s brand)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained

Combine apple, sugar, onion, lime zest and juice, fresh and pickled jalapeño, and cilantro in a food processor or blender and pulse several times. Add cranberries and pulse until grainy. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving for flavors to blend. Serve with tortilla or pita chips.

Ginger Crisps with Cranberry Goat Cheese, Pear, and Pepitas

IMG_1298It takes longer to say the name of these delicious, sweet and savory appetizers than it takes to make them. With only 4 ingredients (see picture below) and no cooking or baking required, you can churn these out in a snap, as long as you’ve got the right stuff on hand. Purchased ginger thins are the base, and they can be found at a variety of stores. I used to only be able to find Anna’s Ginger Thins at high end grocery stores like Lund’s, Byerly’s, and Kowalski’s. While they still carry these, you can also find them at Walmart or even Walgreen’s right now. (I believe those two places only carry them seasonly, so if you’ve got a craving for these appetizers in the spring or summer, check at the aforementioned places.) Trader Joe’s carries something called “Triple Ginger Cookie Thins” and are about $4 per box. Again, they only carry them when people are gaga for ginger and pumpkin flavors. Not sure that the “triple ginger” claim makes them taste any different than the other brands… But I think the best value can be found at IKEA, where they sell a large box of Pepparkakor for $7.99, and the cookie/crackers are bigger and sturdier, like any good Swede should be.

FullSizeRenderThe other seasonal ingredient you need is a small log of cranberry goat cheese. Goat cheese straight up is a little too pungent for my taste, but with the addition of the sweetened cranberries, it’s perfect on these little appetizers. They sell this at just about any grocery store in the fall and winter—high end to Trader Joe’s. I even found a brand called Celebriti’s Cranberry Goat Cheese at Costco this year. For the fruit, you can use any type of pear for this recipe (Bartlett, Anjou, etc.), but the Red Anjou looks especially festive on top. 

The last ingredient is a sprinkling of tasty little pepitas, roasted Mexican pumpkin seeds. These are sold in bulk at just about any grocery store, or pre-packaged at the high-end grocery stores. They taste similar to a sunflower seed, but you can eat the greenish shell after they’ve been roasted and salted.

Whew!!! That enough info for you? Believe me, it’s worth the effort to seek out these special ingredients. These little taste treats are a perfect way to start anything—especially a New Year!

Serves 8-10

Rating: Super Easy

1 package Anna’s Ginger Thins, Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Cookie Thins, or IKEA’s Pepparkakor
1 (8 to 11 ounce) package cranberry goat cheese, at room temperature*
2 Red Anjou pears, cored and sliced
¼ to ½ cup pepitas

Spread goat cheese on ginger thins. Top with slide of pear and a sprinkling of pepitas. Arrange on a platter and serve.

*NOTE: It’s easier to spread the cheese and not break the crackers if it’s room temp. You can make these with goat cheese straight from the frig, but you may have a few more broken cookie fatalities.

Rutabaga Whip

FullSizeRender-1Get some variety in your veggies with this easy rutabaga side dish. If you’re Scandinavian, chances are you’ve grown up on this meat-and-potatoes staple, and if you’ve not tried this root vegetable yet, you’re in for a treat. I found this basic recipe in my ancient Better Homes and Gardens cookbook ( you know, the one with the 80’s helmet-haired ladies I’ve mentioned before…). The only trick is letting the rutabaga chunks boil until they are good and tender before adding the potatoes. Rutabaga takes much longer to boil than potatoes do, and it’s tempting to think they are done before they are. We love these as a side to roast pork, smoked ham, or grilled chicken—they just have a little more flavor than plain old mashed taters, and are great when you’re craving some comfort food but want to switch it up a tad. And this may be easy, but it’s still worthy of a place at your Thanksgiving or Christmas table. (Rutabaga whip is pictured here with smoked pork roast, courtesy of my husband, and a golden melon, grapes, and raspberries, drizzled in a simple mint and lime syrup, courtesy of my friend and fabulous cook, Karin.)

As Thanksgiving is approaching, I’m going to be posting some of my favorite holiday side dishes the next two weeks. Most of you probably have your go-to family recipes at the ready—like grandma’s stuffing recipe—but if you’re in the mood to shake it up a bit or add to your répertoire, you’ll have some options.

Serves 6-8

Rating: easy

1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2-4 tablespoons butter
2-4 tablespoons milk
Additional salt and pepper to taste

Fill large saucepan or small Dutch oven half full with water. Add rutabaga, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt to the water, and bring to a full boil. Reduce to medium heat, and cook rutabaga for about 20-25 minutes, or until tender to a fork. Add in potatoes, and return to a boil. Reduce to medium heat again, and boil for additional 10-15 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender when prodded with a fork. Drain off water. Place cooked rutabaga and potato in mixing bowl fitted with wire whisk attachment, or food processor bowl. Add butter and milk, and whip or process until smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spicy Pumpkin Bundt Cake

IMG_1172You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting something pumpkin flavored in the fall, so it’s at the risk of pumpkin overload that I post this. I just tried this moist and delicious pumpkin cake recipe, after seeing it on Martha Stewart’s website. It called for cake flour, which I didn’t have, so I subbed in all-purpose flour using this little trick that’s all over the internet: measure out 1 cup flour, then remove 2 tablespoons, and sift in 2 tablespoons corn starch. Use that concoction cup for cup as a replacement for the cake flour. I have a confession to make—I don’t think pumpkin actually has much flavor! Now, don’t pummel me with candy corn for my sacrilege against the sacred gourd. While it adds moistness to a recipe, it’s really the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves in a recipe that we associate with the pumpkin-infused desserts and drinks so popular in autumn. (Personally, I think butternut and acorn squashes have more going on in the flavor department…)

Some people, like my daughter-in-law Jessica, can totally rock a layer cake. But cake making is my Achilles heel, so I love a good, simple Bundt®* cake recipe, especially one like this that requires no frosting. A light dusting of powdered sugar is all that’s needed to finish this tasty cake, and bing, bang, boom, it’s ready to serve. Maybe add a dollop of whipped cream or Cool Whip if you’re going to serve this instead of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving… And then watch this clip from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” as a reminder that the term “Bundt® cake” isn’t universally recognized.

Serves 12-16

Rating: easy

4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), or 4 cups all-purpose flour minus ½ cup flour, plus ½ cup cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2½ cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk**
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Spray a 14-cup Bundt® pan with cooking spray or coat with butter. Dust with flour, and tap out excess.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to low. Beat in flour mixture gradually, alternating with the buttermilk or sour milk. Beat until just combined. Add pumpkin puree, and beat until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes. Let cool on awire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully turn cake onto rack to cool completely. Before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

*FUN FACT: The Bundt® pan was created in the 1950’s by Nordic Ware, a Minneapolis company started by a husband and wife post-WWII to make Scandinavian ethnic cookware products. It comes in a wide variety of fluted or ridged configurations within the general ring shape. No one recipe needs to be used with the Bundt pan—it works for hundreds of different cake batters, as well as making a beautiful Jell-O mold.

**NOTE: I’ve never bought buttermilk when it’s called for in a recipe. I always make my own sour milk by putting 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in a measuring cup, and filling it with 1% or 2% milk (don’t use skim—the milk needs some fat to “sour”) to 1 cup measurement. Stir and let sit for 5-10 minutes before using in recipe.

Carrot Cake Cookies

FullSizeRenderI love carrot cake, but it seems like a special-occasion dessert, not a make-any-old-day deal. So when I ran across this recipe for carrot cake cookies that promised the same moist deliciousness without the cake fuss, I thought I’d give them a spin in the old KitchenAid. The recipe from the December 2014 issue of Real Simple said it made only 16 cookies, which is a snack for two at our house, so I doubled it. But then I ended up with 32 frosted cookies, which can’t be stacked in a container. So I brought them to my friend (and fellow blogger) Kathy’s house when she invited us for dinner, asking them to consume a few so I didn’t have to get creative with storage. No hardship on their part! We were barely home before she was texting to ask for the recipe, saying her husband was craving more of the tasty muffin-like morsels. Since you may have similar trouble with storage, the recipe here is for a single batch. Oh, and I added cloves to the spices, and used more confectioners sugar in the frosting than there was in the Real Simple version. They had also suggested these be made as sandwich cookies—two cookies with frosting between thembut my taste-testers decided that wasn’t nearly enough frosting-to-cookie ratio. And you gotta give the people what they want! And they want these perfect autumn spice cookies.

Makes 16 cookies

Ease rating: medium

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1-2 large eggs (1 makes them more cookie-like in texture, 2 makes them more cake-like. If doubling recipe, 3 eggs is perfect amount.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups coarsely grated carrots (2-3 medium)
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup raisins

Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk—whatever is needed to get frosting to spreading consistency

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cloves in a mixing bowl. Set aside. In mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high. Add sugar and cream again until light and fluffy. Beat in egg (or eggs—one at a time if using two), then vanilla. Scrape down bowl occasionally. Reduce speed to low, and slowly add in flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Fold in the carrots, pecans, and raisins. Cover and chill for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Drop 1-2 tablespoons of dough onto baking sheet, 12 per sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown around edges. Let cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For frosting: Whip cream cheese in mixing bowl. Slowly add confectioners sugar until it’s all incorporated. Add vanilla, and milk, if necessary, to get frosting to spreading consistency. (You do not want this too runny, as this is not intended to be icing.) Frost cooled cookies. Store frosted cookies in airtight container. As this frosting recipe will frost a double batch of cookies, store any remaining frosting in frig for next time you make these cookies.

Paper Bag Leaves

IMG_1070Here’s a way to use up extra paper grocery bags AND decorate for fall at the same time. This might even be considered “up-cycling”—the new trend in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” movement. How hip is that? Since most of us have cupboards or closets brimming over with used paper bags, you’ve got most of the supplies you need for this craft already! You might need to pop out to Michael’s or Jo-Ann’s for the paint and brushes, and maybe for some Aleene’s tacky glue or a hot glue gun as well. But these supplies are pretty cheap, so this isn’t a break-the-bank project, even if you didn’t have everything on hand already. Here’s the supply list:

  • Craft paper bags, preferably with twisted raffia handles
  • Twisted raffia cord in natural, if your bags don’t have raffia handles*
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Sponge paint brush
  • 2-ounce bottles of metallic acrylic craft paint (in fall colors)
  • Fall leaves to trace—maple, oak, birch, aspen
  • Hot glue gun or Aleene’s tacky glue (not pictured)

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First step: Take a walk and look for good leaves to use as your patterns. If you want to use these as a grouping on your table, mantle, or whatever surface needs a touch of fall whimsy, try grabbing leaves from a variety of trees. Heck, you could even offer to rake your neighbor’s yard to find some choice specimens!

Once you have your leaves in hand, you’re ready to begin. Cut the paper bag down one side, and cut off bottom. Discard bottom of bag, as the folds and double-thickness make it not usable for this project. (If you think of another use for the bottoms of the bags, please let me know! If I think of a project using bag-bottoms, I’ll be sure to let YOU know.)

IMG_1101Remove handles from bag. (I’ve got a Chipotle bag pictured here, but a lot of places use bags with the twisted raffia cord handles. I suppose this would work with white bags as well as the brown. Would need more paint to cover, probably…) Cut each handle into 4 pieces, for a total of 8. If you’re using purchased twisted raffia, cut pieces 3-4 inches long for leaf stems. (*NOTE: I could not find the twisted raffia cord at Michael’s, Jo-Ann’s, Hobby Lobby, or Walmart, places where I’ve found it in the past. But I did find it online at www.papermart.com.) Set aside.

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Trace leaf shapes onto printed side of bag with a pencil. Trace as many as you want! The bag pictured here would yield you about 8 leaves, perfect for the number of leaf stems you get from cutting up the handles. Making a bunch at a time is easy, and then you’ll have more to work with when decorating later on.

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Next, tear out the leaves along the pencil line. This works best if you use both hands, and keep your thumbs and index fingers tight to the pencil line—that way you will be able to control the tear best, and keep your leaf shape in tact. The leaves look the most natural if you squiggle as you tear. So don’t aim for perfection.

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Glue your stem to the printed side of the leaf, which will be the back side. If you use a hot glue gun to adhere, you can continue on with the project right away, perfect for the impatient crafter. If you use Aleene’s tacky glue, let stems dry for 30-60 minutes before continuing. Aleene’s tacky glue is MUCH preferred over Elmer’s school glue, which takes forever to dry, and makes paper soggy.

FullSizeRender-2Here comes the fun part. Fold your leaf along where the main veins of a leaf would be, and then crumple it. Doesn’t that make it look like a real leaf? Well, you’re getting there. Some paint will help…

 

 

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Paint front side of leaf with metallic acrylic craft paint, let dry a bit, and then flip and paint back side and stem. Once dry, flip and give front a second coat, if needed. I’m using purple paint in this tutorial so it shows up against the craft paper, but for my leaf grouping, I used gold, bronze, copper, rust, burgundy, and dark green. (See final picture.)

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Once, your leaves are dry, you will need to crease at veins and crumple again.

Place all your leaves in a grouping in your fall display, and enjoy! And when it’s time to put these away and pull out the Christmas decorations, throw these in a Ziplock bag or a box, and they will be ready for service next fall. I’ve had the leaves you see (pictured last) for about 15 years now. I came up with this project when we needed a cheap fall craft for kids ages 6-12 at my kid’s school one year, and it was a hit. But there’s no reason to let the elementary crowd have all the fun! Make your own batch and enjoy fall colors indefinitely.

Cheesy Corn Chowder

FullSizeRenderMade from kitchen staples and some common vegetables, this soup goes together quick, and goes down the hatch even quicker. My son Mitchell says this is hands-down his favorite cold weather soup, and he’ll eat it for lunch every day until the whole batch is gone. Where did I find this winner of a recipe? I ripped a page out of a Woman’s Day magazine back in 1999 (hopefully it was my mag and not my dentist’s), and have been making it a dozen times a year ever since. It was listed as a budget-buster, and rang up at $1.08 per serving. Keep in mind, that was in ’99, but even with inflation or cost of living increase (or whatever means things costs more than they used to), you’ve still got a very affordable lunch or light supper. I like this recipe because it’s thick and creamy, and you get the results of a roux, without the trouble of making one. This is especially great paired with a toasted ham or turkey sandwich. OK, now I’m just making myself hungry…

3-4 strips bacon or 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 cups chicken broth (from can or make with 2 bouillon cubes), or fresh chicken stock*
3 cups cubed potatoes, leaving skin on
1 cup diced carrots, peeling carrots first
1-2 cans (15 ounces) corn, drained (we like it extra corn-y, so I make it with 2 cans)
1 box (10 ounces) frozen, or 2 cups fresh chopped kale, optional
4 cups milk
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour or Namaste gluten-free flour blend (found at Costco)*
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Optional Garnish

1/4 cup sliced scallions

Fry bacon in Dutch oven until crispy. Drain on paper towels, then crumble and reserve for topping soup later. Drain all but 2-3 teaspoons bacon fat from pot. (If not using bacon, melt butter in bottom of Dutch oven and continue following directions.) Add onions to pot and sauté until tender. Add the chicken broth or stock, and potatoes, carrots, and kale (if using). Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add corn to pot.

In medium bowl, whisk together milk, flour, and salt until blended and smooth. Add to pot and return mixture to a boil. Reduce to medium, and gently boil and stir until mixture is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Add shredded cheddar and turn to low. Stir until cheese is melted. Serve with crumbled bacon, and scallions, if desired.

*NOTE: The last time I made this, I used the gluten-free flour blend and it worked perfectly. So while it’s not dairy-free, it can be gluten-free! If you want to skip the bacon and use vegetable stock instead of chicken, you’ve got yourself a vegetarian soup, too. But who wants to skip the bacon, for Pete’s sake?