Fall is coming. Even as a child, I felt equal parts mourning for the end of summer, and excitement for the start of the school year (yes, I was that kid, and I still am). The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler, kids are heading back to school, and our schedules are changing. I am up to teaching 19 piano students this year, plus a volunteer gig that is getting crazier by the week. We’re not in full-time school mode yet (that will come next year for my oldest child), but preschool and other activities are starting back up. So, I put a premium on getting dinner on the table efficiently. One of my favorite resources is The Slow Cooker Revolution from America’s Test Kitchen. Because I have some time in the morning, I can put in a little more effort to get something into the crock pot, and then we don’t spend a lot of time futzing in the kitchen just as the kids are starting to melt down. My favorites so far from this cookbook are the turkey breast, beef burgundy (better than Ina’s, in my opinion), chicken with tarragon, and braised brisket with onions. I’ll also be pulling out some of the Barefoot Contessa’s many butternut squash recipes, and some apple recipes as well. (For some reason, Ina seems to be allergic to the slow cooker. Is it too pedestrian for her? Too Midwest soccer mom? I don’t care. I embrace it. But not literally – that would burn.)
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve invented some fall-ish recipes. Quantities are all approximate.
Pasta with Kale and Sausage
1/2 lb. orecchiette
1 large bunch kale, chopped
1/4 lb. Italian sausage (if using links, remove from links)
1 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
In a large saute pan, brown the sausage, using a small amount of olive oil if necessary, and breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks.
While the sausage browns, cook the pasta, reserving 1-2 cups of pasta water.
After the sausage has completely browned, add the kale and onion, and cook until the onion is translucent and a little bit caramelized, and the kale has wilted. Add some olive oil and/or pasta water if necessary to keep the mixture from drying or burning. Add the pasta water in small amounts. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Drain the pasta, and combine with the meat and vegetables. Serve with freshly grated parmesan.
Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal
2 c steel cut oatmeal
8 c water
1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree (unsweetened)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 c honey
1/2 c brown sugar
Combine everything in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. Serve with whatever your family likes on oatmeal (e.g., milk or cream, walnuts or pecans, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, beer, gin). Include this note if you’ve just made up this recipe and your house guests might rise before you do.
What is your favorite fall recipe or tradition?