How are the first few days of fall treating you? I’m always so surprised by how quickly summer turns to fall here in the north. Thoughts turn to soups and roasts and brisk walks with the dog while bundled up.
Fall can bring about new stressors. Back-to-school, changing weather patterns, and a suddenly full calendar all seem to conspire to make us frazzled and frenzied. The impending holiday season will only make things more hectic, so now is a great time to check in with yourself and make any adjustments. I loved this article about how even the best nutrition can’t always counteract the inflammation that chronic stress creates. But don’t fret, there are so many ways to deal with stress. Mindful meditation is one of my favorite ways to quickly feel better. In fact, I have the Headspace app on my phone and use it regularly. Regular exercise is always a great bet. It releases endorphins that boost your mood.
And when all else fails, sometimes a hot bowl of comforting soup is just what you need. Here’s one of our favorites, tried and true. This hearty lentil soup is full of flavor, has great nutrition, and is vegan. Sure, you can add some chicken if you’d like. Whatever makes you happy.
It’s Friday! That means it’s time to try a new drinks recipe. The weather is cooling off for many parts of the world. Here, the leaves are changing into beautiful colors and the days are cool and the nights cooler.
When the weather shifts in the fall, I start ordering drinks with a bit more substance. The vodka tonics and rosé wines from summer don’t feel satisfying anymore.
In the last couple of years I’ve really started enjoying hard cider. And while I’m not a fan of typical sangria, I think this hard cider sangria recipe looks fantastic. While it calls for red, yellow and green apples, I wouldn’t worry too much about using all three unless you are having company and really want to impress. Put whatever you have in there, which for us is usually a fuji. Don’t have a navel orange? Use a couple clementines instead.
We are having people over for chili and treats on Halloween (click the link for a recent chili recipe I posted). This will be the perfect drink to serve.
1 cup quartered and thinly sliced unpeeled green, yellow and red apples (or whatever color you have on hand)
1 navel orange—quartered and thinly sliced crosswise (you can also use clementines)
I continued to test the recipes from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook It’s All Good this week, landing on the Chicken & White Bean Chili recipe because it seemed simple, approachable, and really tasty. I make a lot of soups and chilis once the weather starts to cool down. I usually double the recipe and put some in the freezer (lay flat in a freezer baggie) for a night when I’m too busy or lazy to cook.
Whenever I make a soup or chili recipe, I tend to double the vegetables called for. It’s such an easy way to get more vitamins, antioxidants and fiber into yours and your family’s tummies.
The alterations I made to this recipe were:
Add a can of kidney beans to the can of white beans called for.
Use chicken thighs instead of breasts (I find them less dry and more flavorful).
Use a teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon (the vegetable flavor). The recipe calls for the normal chili spices plus salt and pepper. I found when I tasted the chili it was a bit bland. Better Than Bouillon is a favorite of mine. I usually by the organic version and love that I don’t have to keep cans of chicken stock around in my pantry. It stays good forever and, unlike a half-used container of chicken stock, won’t make you feel guilty every time you see it in the fridge.
Add some of the chicken juice from cooking into the pot with the simmering beans and vegetables. It adds nutrients from the chicken, some depth to the mouth feel (I really hate that term, can we come up with something else collectively? Comment below with any suggestions!) and adds some yummy chicken flavor.
1.5 lbs of whatever chicken parts you want (I used thighs, and doubled the amount so I would have leftover roasted chicken to use later in the week)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt (I prefer sea salt but any will do)
2 small yellow onions, diced (about 2 cups)
1 red bell pepper, seeds and stem discarded, diced (about 1 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced (add more if you love garlic)
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika (the recipe calls for smoked paprika, but either variety is fine)
1 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
1 14 oz can cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained (I added a second can of kidney beans)
Whatever toppings sound good to you (sour cream, cheese, cilantro, diced onion, etc)
Rub chicken with about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 25 minutes at 425 degrees, until just cooked through.
When meat is cooked and cooled a bit, shred the meet with two forks
Measure the spices and combine in a small bowl to add during the next step.
Meanwhile, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot on medium and sauté the onions, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, paprika and a large pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until veggies are softened, about 10 minutes.
Add tomatoes and another pinch of salt and turn up the heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about 30 minutes. Break up tomatoes with a spoon.
Add beans and chicken to the pot (use bouillon now if you wish). Add about 1/3 cup water or more depending on how thick you want your soup.
Simmer another 15 or 20 minutes before tasting to determine the spices or salt and pepper you want to add.
Serve with toppings
My husband said the chili was “good, but not like oh my God I absolutely love this chili!”. He thought it needed a bit more chili powder and cumin to make it a true chili flavor and tasted more like a stew than a chili. My 10 year old daughter told me she likes my ground beef chili more. That being said, I really thought it was a solid recipe that I would go back to again if I wanted a variation from my ground beef chili that I usually make.
I always get melancholy at the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. I remember when my kiddo was 5 and starting kindergarten and how exciting it all was to have a little bit of time to myself finally! And I blinked, and now she’s 10 and going into fifth grade. And I realize how fleeting the years are. Someone once said to me about raising kids: “The days are long, but the years are short”. I think that’s the most accurate depiction of the passage of time I’ve heard.
The summer for me is a welcome break from the grind. It’s full of lazy mornings and late nights and sitting on the couch watching High School Musical 3 snuggled with my girl. It’s for pool days and zoo days and trips to the farmer’s market. It’s for road trips to see cousins and playing driveway basketball.
The school year holds a lot of promise, too. I will certainly get more done around the house. The laundry maybe won’t pile up as high, and the tumbleweeds of dog fur that blow across my wood floors might get swept up in a more timely fashion. I’ll be able to focus more on my cooking endeavors. And my regular trips to the gym after school drop off will resume. I plan to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. I am excited to tackle the closets and drawers.
But it also means tight schedules and rigid waking times. Carpool and school activities. And homework. Lord, the homework. And so many forms to be filled out.
But most of all, the start of another school year means another year has passed without my permission, and in another blink I’ll be helping her with college applications. Slow down, time. Just slow down for a bit.