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The Food of Fall

by C.S. Elston

Two of my favorite “F words” are “food” and “fall” – I truly love this season. The cool, crisp air of a sunny autumn day and the warm, comforting foods we start to crave feel like a glimpse of Heaven to me. So, I thought I’d share a few of the recipes I tend to turn to around this time of year. For me, one of the most cozy and comforting foods on a cold day is a hot bowl of soup. So, it’s no coincidence that three of the five recipes fall into that category. I say five but, stay tuned for a bonus 6th recipe – a delicious, post-pumpkin-carving snack.

Fall also tends to be when I’m trying to shed a few pounds from the summer BBQ season. So, I’m going to include a healthier version and a “cheat meal” version of the same recipes. Typically, the difference between the two is a minor tweak but, the lower calories help when you’re trying to slip back into the jeans that fit you in spring and suddenly feel just a bit more snug. This is particularly appropriate for some of us after the COVID-19 quarantine.

Without further adieux . . .

Spicy Chili

Healthier Version –

2, 20-ounce packages of 99% fat free ground turkey breast

2, 26-ounce jars of Ragu Tomato & Basil Sauce – light

1, 15-ounce can of black beans, drained

1, 15-ounce can of red beans, drained

1, 15-ounce can of pinto beans, drained

1 chopped onion

2 chopped tomatoes

3 cups of chopped mixed bell peppers

12 minced cloves of garlic

4 tablespoons of fajita seasoning mix

1/2 tablespoon of black pepper

1/2 tablespoon of white pepper

1/2 tablespoon of red pepper

1/2 tablespoon of dark chili powder

1 tablespoon of smoked paprika

*** Makes 12, 1 ½ cup servings

 

Cheat Meal –

3, 16-ounce packages of 80% fat free ground beef

4, 12-ounce bottles of chili sauce

1, 15-ounce can of black beans, drained

1, 15-ounce can of red beans, drained

1, 15-ounce can of pinto beans, drained

1 chopped onion

1 chopped green pepper

1 chopped red pepper

1 minced clove of garlic

1 tablespoon of black pepper

1 tablespoon of white pepper

1 tablespoon of red pepper

4 tablespoons of fajita seasoning mix

2 chopped tomatoes

Brown the meat in a skillet, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Drain any excess liquid.

Add meat and all other ingredients to a slow cooker or a large pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dish reaches preferred temperature and the vegetables are cooked to desired tenderness.

Serve in a bowl. If it’s a cheat meal, a little sprinkle of some freshly grated cheddar cheese won’t hurt most people’s feelings.

 

Shepherd’s Pie

 Healthy –

Canola oil spray

1 pound of 96% fat free ground beef

1 cup of chopped onion

2 2/3 cups of frozen mixed vegetables

2 cups of diced Roma tomatoes

4 russet potatoes, quartered and boiled until soft

½ cup of skim milk

2/3 cup of WW Mexican Style shredded cheese

¼ teaspoon of white pepper

½ teaspoon of black pepper

1 ½ teaspoon of salt

*** Makes 4 servings

 

Cheat Meal –

4 teaspoons of canola oil

1 pound of 80% fat free ground beef

1 cup of chopped onion

2 2/3 cups of frozen mixed vegetables

2 cups of diced Roma tomatoes

4 russet potatoes, quartered and boiled until soft

¼ cup of 2% milk

1/8 cup of melted butter

1 cup of freshly grated cheddar cheese

¼ teaspoon of white pepper

½ teaspoon of black pepper

1 ½ teaspoon of salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat a skillet to on medium and add oil. Brown the ground beef, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Add onions, tomatoes, frozen mixed vegetables, ¼ teaspoon of white pepper, ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for 5 minutes.

Mash potatoes with milk (and butter for cheat meals,) ½ teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper.

Move meat and vegetable mixture to an oven-safe casserole dish. Cover with potatoes. Top with cheese. Bake 10-15 minutes until cheese is browned and bubbling.

Cut into four equal parts and serve.

 

Chicken Noodle Soup

Healthy –        Spray oil

2 Chicken Breasts – approximately 1 ¼ lbs.

1 large red onion, chopped

2 cups of shredded carrots

4 cups of celery, chopped

¼ of a cup of green onions, chopped

12 ounces of high fiber spaghetti noodles

3 quarts of chicken broth

½ of a teaspoon of dried nutmeg

½ of a teaspoon of dried sage

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

1 teaspoon of dried basil

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

1 teaspoon of dried marjoram

1 teaspoon of ground black pepper

1 teaspoon of ground white pepper

1 teaspoon of ground salt

1 tablespoon of Adobo seasoning with pepper

1 tablespoon of Adobo seasoning with cumin

*** Makes 8 servings

 

Cheat Meal –  1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of butter

2 lbs. of chicken

1 large red onion, chopped

2 cups of shredded carrots

1 cup of red onion, chopped

4 cups of celery, chopped

¼ of a cup of green onions, chopped

12 ounces of wide egg noodles

3 quarts of chicken broth

½ of a teaspoon of dried nutmeg

½ of a teaspoon of dried sage

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

1 teaspoon of dried basil

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

1 teaspoon of dried marjoram

1 teaspoon of ground black pepper

1 teaspoon of ground white pepper

1 teaspoon of ground salt

1 tablespoon of Adobo seasoning with pepper

1 tablespoon of Adobo seasoning with cumin

Flatten chicken and cut into ½ inch pieces. Brown in a soup pot with oil (and butter if this is a cheat meal) and add onion, celery, carrots and seasonings when done. Continue cooking and simmering for at least 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and stir until it boils. Add noodles. Turn heat to low and let simmer until noodles are nice and soft.

Divide equally into 8 bowls and serve immediately. Put salt and pepper out so people can add to individual taste.

 

Open-Faced, Stuffed Bell Peppers

Healthy –

Canola oil spray

1 cup of uncooked brown rice

20 ounces of ground turkey breast

1 cup of chopped yellow onion

1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes

6 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup of Weight Watcher’s Mexican Style Cheese

1/8 of a cup of Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon of dried sweet basil

1 teaspoon of crushed oregano

1/8 of a teaspoon of black pepper

1/8 of a teaspoon of white pepper

1/8 of a teaspoon of red pepper flakes

½ tablespoon of salt

1 tablespoon of Adobo seasoning with cumin

1 cup of water

4 bell peppers (any color)

*** Makes 4 servings of 2 pepper-halves per person

 

Cheat Meal –

2 tablespoons of canola oil

1 cup of uncooked brown rice

20 ounces of 80% fat free ground beef

1 cup of chopped yellow onion

1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes

6 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup of Shredded American Cheese

2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon of dried sweet basil

1 teaspoon of crushed oregano

1/8 of a teaspoon of black pepper

1/8 of a teaspoon of white pepper

1/8 of a teaspoon of red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon of Adobo seasoning with cumin

1 cup of water

4 bell peppers (any color)

Slice peppers in half lengthwise, removing stem ends, seeds, and membranes. Immerse pepper halves into boiling water for 3 minutes each. Sprinkle insides with Adobo seasoning and invert on paper towels to drain.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat oil in a large skillet to medium. Add meat, garlic and onion. Cook until meat is brown and onions are tender. Stir in tomatoes, rice, Worcestershire, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is tender (15-20 minutes.) Stir in half of the cheese. Fill peppers with mixture from skillet and place in a large baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for about 15 minutes, until heated through and cheese is brown and bubbly. Let stand for 1-2 minutes. Serve.

* You can use cooked rice (in which case water is not needed when rice is stirred in) to save time.

 

Turkey & Pumpkin Chili

Healthy –

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 package (12 ounces) of frozen, chopped onions

1 package (12 ounces) of frozen onion and bell pepper blend

1 tablespoon of minced garlic

2 pounds of 99% fat-free ground turkey breast

3 cans (14.5 ounces) of diced tomatoes

4 cups of pumpkin puree

1 can (15 ounces) of tri-color beans

1 can (15 ounces) of kidney beans

1 can (15 ounces) of black beans

2 heaping tablespoons of chili powder

4 tablespoons of brown sugar

2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper

1 teaspoon of salt

 

Cheat Meal –

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 package (12 ounces) of frozen, chopped onions

1 package (12 ounces) of frozen onion and bell pepper blend

1 tablespoon of minced garlic

2 pounds of ground turkey

3 cans (14.5 ounces) of diced tomatoes

4 cups of pumpkin puree

1 can (15 ounces) of tri-color beans

1 can (15 ounces) of kidney beans

1 can (15 ounces) of black beans

2 heaping tablespoons of chili powder

4 tablespoons of brown sugar

2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper

1 teaspoon of salt

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onions, bell peppers and garlic until tender. Stir in the turkey and cook until evenly brown. Mix in tomatoes, beans and pumpkin. Add in all the seasonings and the brown sugar. Stir it up while raising the heat until it begins to boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for at least 20 minutes.

One of the Shine-A-Light authors is bringing her husband over for lunch in a couple of days and will experience the above chili for herself – with a twist. Instead of turkey we’re going to try it with pork for the first time. Actually, three kinds of pork. Shredded pork loin, diced ham and crumbled bacon. It will be new to all of us but, with bacon involved, it can’t be bad.

A week or so after the Three Pork & Pumpkin Chili has settled, it will be “Pumpkin-Carving Weekend” at my house. However, I secretly call it “Pumpkin Seeds Weekend” because eating the seeds we roast after the pumpkin carving is over is easily my favorite part of the event. So, I thought, as a bonus, I’d also share the recipe (modified from one passed on to my mom by her best friend from childhood, the late, great Sheila Williams.) Sheila was a delight, these seeds are an annual treat, and hopefully, sharing this recipe, in some small way, honors a wonderful human being who is at home with our Lord and experiencing so much joy that, if she read my earlier “Heaven” comment, I’m sure she’d tell me, “You have no idea!”

 

Best Pumpkin Seeds Ever!

Ingredients for every Cup of Unwashed Seeds

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon of melted butter

1 teaspoon of your favorite seasoning salt (Johnny’s, Lowry’s, etc.)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Mix the seeds (I cannot stress enough how vital it is to leave them unwashed) and the other ingredients (again, portioned according to the number of cups of seeds – I usually have at least four cups, which means four tablespoons of butter, four teaspoons of seasoning salt and two teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce) in a bowl.

Grease a baking sheet (I just use a little spray oil – doesn’t take much because of the butter) and dump the seed mixture into it. Spread the seeds out into a single layer (or, at least, relatively close.) Depending on how many cups of seeds you started with, you may need to use more than one baking sheet.

Bake to desired crispness (stirring occasionally and sprinkling a bit of extra seasoning salt if you like them super salty.) I like mine rather crispy so, two hours, is a bare minimum. Again, depending on how many seeds there are, it can be three or four.

Try not to eat them all in one sitting. I find it to be extremely difficult.

 

Happy Fall, everyone! Enjoy the crisp sunny weather and, especially, the food!

 

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