Tried and Tested: Alex’s Fall Favorites
Maybe – just MAYBE – the burning question you’ve been seeking the answer to is, “What in the world is Alex eating?” I mean, probably not, but there’s a small possibility. You probably have some standby dishes that grace the table, especially for fall which is easily the best season for cooking. The produce is good, it’s finally not too-hot-to-cook, and the crock pot is always brimming with goodness. As soon as the temperatures start to cool, my kitchen is my haven. I look forward to every moment spent in it. I adore chowing down on crunchy, fresh salads during the summertime, but I miss truly looking forward to a hot and hearty dinner every night. So, what’s on my menu as of late? Let me share some of my absolute favorite recipes that get made over and over again. We all need a little extra fuel to fight off the cold and power through those frigid morning workouts as winter rolls in.
So, I recently hosted a housewarming party. I love to host events, and I especially LOVE to cook, but the two combined really throw me off. I end up with a whole lot of anxiety getting in the way of my kitchen prowess. Fortunately, I had just picked up Well Fed 2, a cookbook from Mel Joulwan. Let me just say that she single-handedly saved the day. I thought, “Everyone likes chicken.” I also had to know if this dish would live upto its claim as the best ever. Final results? It did. I’m a fairly lazy cook sometimes, so brining chicken was brand new to me. Let me tell you this: do NOT skip that step. I have never bitten into such a juicy, flavorful piece of poultry in my life. Needless to say, there were no leftovers. My mild disappointment in thinking I’d have more for me was outshined by the fact that I was able to serve something amazing to my guests. The recommended cooking method is grilling, but I threw these in a glass dish for the oven. This is just as easily done in the slow-cooker, though.
I kinda stick to my guns when it comes to food. I like quick, easy, and cheap. The problem? Well, I also eat real food three times a day. Those “guns” are generally found in the drive-thru which I adamantly avoid. So, how do I implement the drive-thru mentality to a healthy diet? Recipes like this one. It uses a cheap cut of chuck roast (cheap), a simple dry rub for flavor (quick), and a slow-cooker for the rest (easy). You could easily use a different cut for this like beef cheeks or pork shoulder to create the same shredded goodness on a similar budget. It’s perfect for Taco Tuesday or DIY burrito bars which should be a common occurrence in your life.
Speaking of tacos… you’re gonna need something that will hold all that meaty goodness. I personally follow a paleo diet which means no wheat and no corn. At first glance, you might think this means no tortillas. I’m not a monster, though. I searched high and low to find a recipe that would allow my indulgences while sticking to my plan. Where there is a will, there is a way. These tortillas are comprised of plantains instead of a flour replacement, which offers a ton more in the way of nutrition and makes these tortillas super durable. Plantains are a great post-workout carb, and they’re ideal if you’re on a budget. These come together easy, and you can easily freeze half the batch for convenient wraps of all sorts throughout the week. Breakfast burritos? Yes, please.
Here’s where my inner nutrition nerd comes out. Liver is a powerhouse food. You thought kale was a “superfood?” Organ meats are your one-stop shop. Seriously, you could ditch your multivitamin if you can just get on board with a sliver of liver. It contains substantial amounts of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin A, iron, vitamin B12, and even vitamin D which most people are deficient in. This recipe hides the taste well. It uses ground beef, pork, and tons of fresh and dried spices to create out-of-this-world flavor. Meatloaf can be a special occasion, and this version proves my point. If you just don’t know where to start with adding offal to your diet, try this out. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a warm, classic dish that would taste great atop roasted winter squash wedges.
Nom Nom Paleo’s Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder
Drool. As soon as the calendar turns to October, my daily routine changes up a bit. After I finish my breakfast, it’s to the chopping block. What can I put in the crock pot today? My grocery list evolves, and it includes a lot more soup, stew, and roast produce. That produce comes to life with the meat that sits on the throne they form. In fact, this recipe is awaiting me for dinner tonight! Pork shoulder is yet another inexpensive cut that tastes pretty darn extravagant 8 hours later. My favorite part? Cracking a few eggs over the leftovers for breakfast in the AM. It’s hard to get out of bed, especially when it’s getting colder out. This cozy dish takes the edge off emerging from your blanket fort.
There is a very clear pattern as to what I crave during the autumn months, and it can be summed up in two words: meat and pumpkin. A whole roasting chicken is always on my grocery list. Again, as someone on a budget, these offer up more than just meat, but I’ll get to that in a minute. A simple dry rub before you set it and forget it will give you juicy, fall-off-the-bone rotisserie chicken. If you want to eat the skin, I highly recommend browning it in the broiler after you pull it out of the crockpot. I tend to throw a ton of veggies on the bottom. Now that I’ve mentioned pumpkin, I have to suggest you cube some up for the bottom of this roast. No liquid necessary, as this will create some very luscious juices to glaze whatever else you throw in the pot. I love to use lots of whole garlic cloves and fresh rosemary and thyme for my chicken. When you’ve finished carving it, put the bones back in the pot and fill it with water. Strain after 10-12 hours for the best soup broth you’ve ever had. Now that will warm you up.
Like the average human, sometimes I just crave that old familiar starchy and salty. There’s something magical about the french fry. Unfortunately, they don’t have a particularly healthy reputation. An order of fries from your standard burger joint are loaded with deep-fried in processed vegetable oils and generally comprised of potatoes. Potatoes are not by any means evil or forbidden, but there are plenty of substitutions you should be familiar with! This recipe uses butternut squash instead which takes on a similar texture and flavor. It’s healthier overall with less carbs and more vitamins and minerals. Use olive oil or coconut oil and a spoonful of real salt in addition to your favorite spice blend. I love to use allspice, cinnamon, and sage to complement the natural sweetness of the squash. Bonus? The beautiful aroma coming from the oven. It smells a whole lot like fall! Beware – these are just as addictive as french fries!
I woke up one day recently at the crack of dawn as per usual. As I sipped my coffee, I thought my usual thought: “I don’t want this to end.” As I try to set limits with caffeine for the sake of a good night’s sleep (I’m sensitive!), I got to thinking about what exactly I would miss about the coffee. I decided then that I would extend the warmth of my cup right on over into breakfast. I pulled out some homemade broth and leftover chicken from my whole roasted chicken (see above – how convenient!), spiralized a little zucchini, and let it simmer for awhile. Let me tell you, eating soup for breakfast on a chilly morning is absolutely splendid. It’s delicious, nourishing, and sets that “take it easy” tone. It’s like sun salutations for the belly. This is what I consider “soul food.” Dig it.
Funny thing about this recipe is that I thought I made it up. Yep. True story. I was trying to find a way to inject it into my fall favorites post with a quick link, and one Google search proved to me that this is NOT my recipe. Sigh. And I thought I was brilliant. Anyhoo, spaghetti squash is another fall favorite of mine. It’s incredibly versatile, and it makes eating pasta dishes while following a paleo diet a possibility. Sausage packs the protein while kale adds the greens-factor. Eggs help bind this casserole-esque recipe together while coconut milk makes it ultra dreamy and creamy. This feels like comfort food without the lethargic feeling that comes from eating a big heap of pasta. I can’t recommend this dish enough!
Okay, so I guess to be fair this is an all-year-round favorite of mine, but I couldn’t leave it out. When we’re picking “favorites,” meatza is SO important. I’ve attempted making pizza crust out of everything that isn’t wheat under the sun. Plantains, cauliflower, coconut flour, cassava root, almond meal – you name it. I’ve had moderate success across the boards, but none as good as when I finally made my first meatza pie. Ground meat is a grocery staple as it’s affordable and versatile. In the autumn months, my pizza toppings generally include some sort of squash like roasted slices of delicata which prove that a recipe like this has potential to be your own magic. I always keep homemade tomato sauce in the freezer so I can melt down a chunk for pizza/pasta creations. This is so filling, and it’s always a winner with dinner guests.
So, there’s what I’m chowing down on. I am no master chef, but I get immense joy from throwing it down in the kitchen. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are sacred to me. Trying new recipes and cozying up to a nourishing plate are some of my absolute favorite things in the world. The best part? I get to do it every single day! What makes you happy? If you want to eat better, changing your attitude in the kitchen can be the key to being more consistent. Sometimes, we just need some inspiration. Like I mentioned before, all of my favorite recipes are quick, easy, and cheap! At the same time, they look and taste amazing in the end. We have the power to do (and eat) awesome things. I hope these seasonal recipes serve you well and keep you warm this fall!
Master your instincts!