Settling In to Fall

DSC_0693Although the official first day of fall is still a week away, there’s no denying that it’s already here. That autumn chill is in the air, leaves are just starting to turn, and it’s darker and darker each morning when I wake up. It’s sad to see summer go, but part of this transition is comforting. Fall is about beginnings – for many (and me this year) it’s time to go back to school, which is a natural transition time. We’ll all take fewer vacations in the next 3 months, meaning we all settle in where we are at home. It’s rather nice when you think of it that way.

As a friend recently put it – summer is about family and fall is about friends. We probably all spend more time with our friends in the fall than in the summer. Summer is full of family reunions and vacations, and fall is more community focused, through watching sports events, going apple picking, dressing up for Halloween. It’s a great time to connect with your larger family in the community around you.

So, in honor of everything fall has to offer (such as apple picking, corn mazes, pumpkin carving, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin flavored everything, boots, sweaters – do I sound cliche yet?), I’m sharing three previous posts that remind me why this season is so great.

  1. 4 Tips for Soup Season – how to make the most of the cooler weather and fall vegetables
  2. Butternut squash soup – put those tips to good use (plus a story about that time Evan read my diary)
  3. Will Run for Pie – a reflection on one of my favorite fall traditions, the NMH Pie Race (bonus: my simple apple pie recipe)

What are you excited about this fall?

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Shakshuka – Eggs Baked in Tomato Sauce

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Food trend alert: shakshuka. I’ve seen this traditionally Middle Eastern egg dish popping up everywhere. I first laid eyes on it on Instagram; someone leaning over the stove, wearing an apron, cracking eggs into a pan of tomato sauce. I was insta-trigued – what was this mystery dish? Then I spotted it again, this time on Plated’s Instagram feed, and finally learned what the dish actually was. Then, a girlfriend forwarded me this New York Time’s article, saying that she and her boyfriend had made it over the weekend (while reading the Financial Times and drinking mimosas – so posh). I was convinced – had to try it. Because I hate following recipes, I made my own version.

Since I was in tomato overload last week, I had a low bar for giving this recipe a try – what else was I to do with all of that tomato sauce? I instantly realized that the hype was real. This dish is easy to prepare, hearty, and can hold up at any time of day. I made it for dinner last night and it was great. I have no idea what a traditional Shakshuka chef would say about this recipe, but it worked for me. (According to Wikipedia, variations of this dish are popular in Moroccan, Algerian, Israeli, Egyptian, Libya, and Tunisian cuisines. As described in the New York Times article, it’s often served at Passover.) The feta added a saltiness to the tomato sauce that was countered perfectly by the cilantro, and the eggs melted in my mouth since they were poached slowly in the sauce. YUM.

As proven by it’s popularity in many different cuisines, this dish is easy to adapt based on your taste. You could add some spices, like cinnamon or cumin, to the tomato sauce and get a totally different flavor profile. Add some different vegetables to the tomato sauce, or try a different cheese – there are all sorts of options here to customize this to your preference. Then have your friends over and impress them with your new favorite dish. (Don’t forget the mimosas!)

Shakshuka – Eggs Baked in Tomato Sauce

Yield: 1 serving. Per Serving: $5.88, 362 calories, 13g fat, 27g carbs, 16g protein.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat up 1.5 cups of tomato sauce (I used my basic tomato sauce made with farm fresh heirloom tomatoes) in an oven proof saute pan (I used cast iron, but a stainless steel can work too). Use a smaller sized pan so the tomato sauce is at least half an inch deep and fills the bottom of the pan. If you don’t have a smaller pan, double the recipe (the more, the merrier). When the sauce is warm and starts to bubble, crack two eggs into opposite sides of the pan Turn off the heat and top with 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese.

Put the pan in the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes. Keep an eye on it and take it out when the eggs are cooked to your liking (I like medium cooked yolks, so I took it out around 9 minutes). Let cool for 5-10 minutes, top with 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, and serve with crusty bread or a toasted English muffin.

Kale Caesar Salad & Raw Chocolate Pudding

Hello! I’m so honored to be the first guest-poster on Cook Like Kayla. As Kayla’s former work twin (no joke- our colleagues would get us confused) it seems fitting that I would be subbing in for her today. I’ve enjoyed watching this blog grow and I’m excited to be sharing with you today my two new favorite comfort foods turned healthy recipes.

As a background note, these recipes came from a place of pure desperation- crawling into my apartment after a long day in the hospital and wanting nothing more than to just stuff my face full of goodies and collapse into bed.  What’s amazing about these recipes is that they not only fill that comfort food craving but are also incredibly healthy and take only about 15 minutes to blend up in your Vitamix or blender. Say hello to your new long day pick me up.

Kale Caesar Salad

If you have any kale skeptics in your life, try this recipe on them. I guarantee they’ll change their minds.

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Place 1 garlic clove, 3/4 cup olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and 2-4 anchovies (optional) into your Vitamix or other high-powered blender. Blend until fully emulsified, about 30 to 45 seconds.

Pour dressing over 1 head of kale, center stalks removed and sliced crosswise into fine ribbons. (Lacinato, also known as dinosaur kale, works best but any type of kale will do. Sprinkle 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and 1/2 preserved lemon (optional) on top of the salad and toss to combine. Enjoy!

Raw Chocolate Pudding

I know, avocado and pudding don’t sound like they should even be in the same sentence. Trust me, the avocado gives the pudding its texture, not its taste. Plus, what’s better than healthy chocolate pudding?!  Not too much.

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Place 1 avocado (seed and skin removed), 1 ripe banana4 tablespoons dark cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons liquid sweetener (agave, honey, brown rice syrup, etc.), 1/4 cup coconut flakes, 1/2 cup water1 teaspoon sea salt, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into your Vitamix or blender. Blend to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Add more water as needed for consistency.

Chill until cold (or approximately the amount of time it takes you to eat your salad, if you’re me). If you’re really feeling ambitious, garnish with fresh berries.

Enjoy!

-Aka