Dear Fall, I love you.

I love you for the way you take away the lingering summer heat and give us some cool nights so we can use our comforter. I love you for the way you make the sun set a little earlier every day–even though it makes me a little wistful for summer, it makes me excited for the holidays you’re bringing our way soon. 

Maybe most of all, I love you for the way you give me an excuse to play with your delicious flavors: pumpkin, pecan, brown sugar, cinnamon, apples… and maple. Oh, maple.

I have to admit that I love maple, too. But you don’t mind, do you Fall? Because maple is such a characteristic part of you. And maple makes me love you even more.

These blueberry maple oatmeal scones are a little bit of a love letter to you, Fall. The maple flavor goes so well with the wholesome sweetness of the oats, which add a little bit of scrumptious texture to the light, buttery scones. Did I mention that scones always remind me of you, too?

I did borrow those blueberries from August–a little touch of summer in my freezer–but I have to think that you don’t mind much since they go so well with the maple and oats. Don’t take it as nostalgia for the summer–think of it as introducing these little berries to the beauty of these fall days.

These things are best served warm, so I’m glad that these days are cool enough that I don’t mind having the oven on a lot. With a cup of hot tea and a little pat of butter, I and these scones are toasting to you today, Fall. Thanks for being a season of comfort and coziness.

Love, Carol

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Ginger Scallion Sauce

For me, this entire year has been an exploration in vegetables. From cooking my first collard greens to really learning to love salads, I’ve been happy to make the acquaintance of veggies and cooking methods that were previously unknown to me. I’ve been pretty happy with the progress I’ve made, though I do find that I still have the same sweet tooth and carbo-love as ever.

Lately, though, veggies have been on my mind more than ever, since the man of the house started requesting more veggies and salads for his own diet. I’ve been packing him salad almost every day for lunch, and in an effort to support him and to boost my own health, I’ve also been eating more salads than ever. But even though our diets are veggie-heavy these days, we’re still far from vegetarian. Shortly after we changed our eating habits, I began to make sure that we get a bit of meat each day so that we’re not lacking in protein. It’s a lot less than we usually eat, but it’s probably all that we actually need.

This ginger scallion sauce is the star of our dinners these days. Salty, fragrant, and ridiculously flavorful, just a tiny scoop of this sauce transforms a simple poached chicken breast into a delicious part of any meal. The sauce is a bit oily, to be sure, but I don’t mind because a little bit really goes a long way.

The thing I like most about this sauce is how simple it makes dinner prep for me. Since we’re trying to focus on vegetables, we’re not eating a whole lot of protein. But because of that, the protein that we do eat is always a very treasured part of our meal. With this sauce, all I have to do is make a single chicken breast to go with our veggies, and a healthy, well-balanced dinner is served. 

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Whole Grain Cornbread

The “-ber” months are some of my favorite and least favorite months of the year. September, October, November, December: four months of cold-to-freezing weather, shorter days, and a return to “normal life” from the paradisiacal days of summer. But they are also four months of comfy sweaters, family gatherings, and perhaps most enticingly, soup! As much as I want to complain about the fall blues, I’m just too easy to win over. Fall, you had me at soup.

Given that I’ll be eating a lot of soups this season, I guess I should also be prepared to make some perfect accompaniments to these bowls of joy. This whole grain cornbread is something I made to go with that turkey and black bean chili I wrote about the other day. I love cornbread, but I always feel a pinch of guilt eating it, knowing that it’s loaded with oils and sugar and flour and basically, things that can really take away from that healthy vibe I was aiming for with my lean, protein-packed chili. So the fact that this stuff is made with whole wheat flour and corn meal definitely sits well with me. 

Keep in mind that this skillet cornbread is made specifically to be dunked in chili. It’s not as moist as it could be if I had used a ton of butter, or as soft as it could be if I had used white flour instead of whole wheat. But in the soup, all of that sweet corn flavor really comes out, and it adds a delicious bit of crumbly cornbread texture to your chili without much added guilt. Healthy and tasty–it almost goes without saying that this is a very welcome addition to this season of soups. 

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Turkey Black Bean Chili

Hello, soup season. As much as I don’t love the shorter days or the ever-chillier nights, the end of the summer still holds a little joy for me in the form of a warm bowl of liquid comfort. Soup is one of the top reasons that I appreciate fall. 

The only tricky thing about soup is that different people tend to have pretty different reactions to it. I tend to feel really full after I drink warm soup, so for me, soup is usually a satisfying meal all by itself. But my husband tends to think of soup as an appetizer, so even after downing a large bowl of soup, he’s anticipating the next course–which isn’t always on the way. I crave the comfort of that hot liquid, while he craves something a little heartier.

But if there’s any soup that just screams “meal,” it’s chili. It’s one of the soups we can agree upon as being enough for dinner all on its own: it’s hearty and satisfying, meaty and comforting. The best of both worlds. 

This turkey black bean chili is one of my favorite chili recipes. I love me a great tomato-based soup: the way sweet-salty-slightly tangy mix of flavors plays on your tongue, the satisfaction that comes swallow after swallow. The spices add the signature bite and smoke of chili, which to me is what makes this stuff irresistible. 

But what I really love about this chili is that it doesn’t need a whole lot of rich ingredients to make it delicious. Health-wise, this is something I can feel good about serving to my family. There’s tons of lean protein from the turkey and black beans, and a lot of flavor without a ton of added salt or sugar. Served with a little whole grain cornbread and greens on the side, this is a wholesome meal that everyone can enjoy. 

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I don’t know what makes me love Chinese chives so much. These skinny herbs are pungent bordering on stinky, but I just can’t get enough of them. Is it their spicy, slightly garlicky flavor? Is it the way they kind of just melt into whatever you cook them with? Is it just in my genes?

Let me tell you what it isn’t: It’s not the fact that they demand super-careful washing because they’re so thin and long. And it definitely is not the way these things make my fridge smell. It’s certainly less than pleasant to get a whiff of these every time you open the refrigerator. In fact, perhaps best advice I can give regarding Chinese chives is to cook them soon after you buy them. Your refrigerator and its other tenants will thank you. 

These Chinese chive pockets are one of my favorite ways to eat Chinese chives. The basic filling is comprised of a ton of chives with a little bit of egg and vermicelli, but there are many delicious variations out there. If you’re not against seafood, a few dried shrimp or fresh shirasu are great for adding little salty bits to the filling. And if you’re looking for a little more protein, I’ve seen these made with bits of baked tofu or ground pork. In any case, all these additions are only meant to enhance the flavor of the chives, which are the real star of this dish.

And finally, see that sauce on the plate? If you think it’s soy sauce, guess again. There’s only one thing that goes on our chive pockets, and that’s vinegar. Black vinegar is a favorite, but sometimes we mix in a little white rice vinegar too. As I write this, I’m realizing that chives + vinegar does not sound necessarily sound like the most appealing combination. But trust me, it’s basically a flavor explosion that tickles your tongue with all 5 basic tastes at once. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. 

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