Fall Favorites: Part 2

Nothing warms up a home like a pot of soup simmering on the stove. Soup was almost always the comfort food my mom made for my dad whenever he came home from a long trip. It’s a food I associate with family and sharing. No matter how hard I try, I’m incapable of making a small batch of the stuff. I always wind up with tons leftover, and find myself giving it away to friends willing to take it off my hands (and by that, I mean Marianne, who has been my designated soup-taker for the last two weeks).

When an overnight frost came through over the weekend, I made a quick pesto out of my wilted basil leaves. As I looked through a magazine planning my meals for the week, a vegetable soup seemed like the perfect way to put my pesto into action.

Vegetable Soup with Pesto

Ingredients

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic
1 to 2 stalks celery
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 32oz carton of vegetable broth or home-made vegetable stock
1/4 pound green or yellow wax beans
1 small zucchini, cubed
1 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup macaroni noodles or other small pasta
3/4 cup pesto (store-bought or home-made)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly, until the onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots and salt and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, stock and about 1 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce heat and add the potatoes. Continue to simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are nearly cooked.
2. Stir the zucchini and green beans into the prepared broth along with the white beans and the pasta. Simmer until the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes.
3. When ready to serve, whisk the pesto into the soup. Ladle into bowls and top with any remaining pesto. Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan or Gruyere and serve with bread.

Fall Favorites: Part 1

One of my favorite things to do growing up was to go apple picking in the fall. The fruit farm near where I grew up sold the best apple pies and apple fritters, so when my mom and I got done picking our apples, we would go to the bakery and select a few desserts to take home.

Yesterday, at the grocery store I couldn’t resist the selection of giant honey crisp apples or the beautifully green granny smiths. The honey crisps make an awesome snack, and granny smith apples are considered the crème de la crème of baking apples.

This apple crisp is easy and delicious. It’s good by itself and even better topped with whipped cream or ice cream (but let’s be honest, almost everything is better topped with whipped cream or ice cream).

Ingredients:

For the filling:
3-4 granny smith apples, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c white sugar (or more if you want a sweeter filling)

Topping:
1/2 c old fashioned oats
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp butter (cut into very small pieces)

Mix the apples with the flour, cinnamon and sugar until coated. Place in buttered casserole dish, cover with oatmeal topping and top with small pieces of butter. Bake at 375 until crust is golden brown and apples are cooked through (about 35 minutes).

Fall, Friends and Fried Okra

This past weekend was one of those rare weekends where each day was filled with exciting activities interspersed with unexpected surprises. With Patrick out of town, I had a chance to catch up on some much needed me time. Here’s my weekend recap.

On Friday, my gorgeous friend Kristin picked me up for our downtown date to a monthly gathering called First Friday. All the shops and restaurants in downtown Bryan are open late, and the streets are filled with families and groups of friends. It’s impossible to go anywhere without seeing someone you know, which is one of the things about “small town” living that truly appeals to me. I broke my diet for one night on behalf of free ice cream.

Saturday, I walked to the farmer’s market down the street and bought fresh okra, carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers, zucchini and honey. I also got some amazing Armenian cucumbers that are about two-feet long and extra skinny.

After I got home, I went on a run with my friend Dean in a park I’d never been to before. And after that, Kristin and I met up again for lunch at my place. Following our meal, we discovered a new friend outside.

At first, we weren’t sure what to do with the adorable little guy… but then the answer made itself clear.

Kristin now has a kitten.

Saturday evening I planted my garden and proved that an Ohio girl can be a southern belle at heart: I made myself a big plate of fried okra for dinner with a side of sweet potato.

Yesterday morning was another great run with Dean followed by an afternoon walk with my friend Sondra and her awesome Zuni Moon Dog.

Zuni wanted in on the action….

Sondra is helping spearhead the Buddy Walk, which is a cause near and dear to both of our hearts, and is an all-around wonderful friend. Any Bryan/College Station people need to make it out to Wolf Pen Creek this Sunday to support those with Down syndrome.

I got home yesterday evening exhausted and ready to see my boy. It was great to have a weekend to myself, but when it comes down to it, fried okra is always better when you have your southern boy to share it with.