Autumn is my favorite time of year, especially when it comes to food. During the summer, I get sick of cooking. I worry that my fish has gone bad during the steamy car trip home from the supermarket, I hate turning on the oven and heating up the house, and I have even started getting bored with making stuff on the grill.
I’m not sure if it’s some sort of vestigal back-to-school sentiment of family dinners, or if it’s the cooler weather that makes my kitchen a cozy place. Most likely it’s the fare of the season: Hearty pot pies, big bowls of chili with all the fixings, roasted vegetables, apple crisps… they’re all treats that I look forward to enjoying in the fall while I’m roasting during the long, hot days of summer.
1. I’m going to make cooking less of a chore and more of an adventure, especially as my almost-one-year-old, Sadie, is gearing up to eat whatever’s on the table for the family meal. I vow to make at least one new recipe each week, either from my cookbooks or the countless food magazines that I clip recipes from that pile up, untested.
I’ve already chosen this week’s recipes-a root vegetable chicken pot pie, and a nourishing-sounding farro dish with wild mushrooms, both from Cooking Light.
2. I’ll recommit to visiting the farmers’ markets and checking out the local, seasonal produce at my supermarkets. We had a blisteringly hot August and September, so I’d stopped going to my local Thursday-evening market. But now that it’s cooler, and it’s peak harvest time for so many things, I’ll make it a part of my weekly routine.
If you’re into eating seasonal ingredients (and if you’re not, you definitely should be!), autumn is a great time to do so. Both my Whole Foods and a couple of the independent supermarkets here do a great job with local, seasonal produce, plus Atlanta is teeming with tiny farmers’ markets. I might even return to the big Georgia State Farmers’ Market and see if I fare better now that there’s more in season.
I’m seeing lots of squash, like zucchini, acorn squash, and even some late yellow crookneck squash. Kale, cabbage, chard, and other greens are in abundance—they make good alternatives to spinach when sautéed in a little olive oil with chopped garlic or shallots. Best of all, it’s time for muscadines, the sweet, grape-like fruit that are native to the South. I haven’t found a good recipe for muscadine pie or jelly yet, but I’ve been buying them simply to eat out of hand.
3. I’ll get back on the healthy bandwagon. Not that we’ve been living on fried fish sticks and PB & J sandwiches, but this summer both Chip and I have gotten a little more indulgent about our diets, “forgetting” to substitute salads for French fries with our sandwiches, and treating ourselves to fattening frozen coffee drinks whenever we’re out running errands. But now I’m going to focus on healthier, lower-fat dinnertime offerings, and try to wean ourselves off excessive sugar.
But not without a last hurrah—I adapted a rice crispy bar recipe from one that Alton Brown featured a while back on his show, Good Eats. The recipe uses brown rice, dried fruits, and almonds, so it’s a little better for you than the gooey version from childhood bake sales. Here’s the recipe, if you’re in need of a lunchbox treat or a quick dessert.
What culinary resolutions are you making this fall?