Crockpot Comfort Food for Fall

One of my favorite crockpot dishes for fall offers an Indian twist on a fall favorite – sweet potatoes. Adding green or red lentils and cooking in coconut oil amp up the healthiness of this hearty dish.

Curries come from India, where chefs prepare flavorful blends of spices, herbs and chiles to cook with vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, chickpeas and lentils. Various proteins are made into curries as well, like chicken, lamb and goat. Commercial curry powders began to be produced in the 18th century, as British colonial government and military members desired a quick spice blend to cook the dishes they’d enjoyed in India. Curries are often wet, meaning the vegetables and meats are cooked in a thick sauce. Rice or naan bread is served to sop up the sauce.

Start by sauteeing your onion and ginger over medium heat.

Once that gets soft and flavorful, you can take it off the heat and add it to your crockpot. Next, add in your peeled, diced sweet potato, carrots and peas (if you like) and your spices.  Cover the mixture with vegetable broth and let it cook on high for two hours or on low for six hours.

Once the mixture has cooked down, I like to mash it with a potato masher until it gets to a smoother, stew-like consistency.  I have it with basmati rice, and I usually freeze some for later.  This dish is delicious and filling, a great work lunch for fall to pull out and heat up quickly.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

1 1/2 tbsp. coconut oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup dried green or red lentils
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small bag frozen peas and carrots
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1 teaspoon ginger powder or 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth

 

 

Sunday Meal Prep – Pumpkin Oats & Salads in Jars

Sundays in our house mean waking up early to go for a run, watching football, going grocery shopping and prepping breakfasts and lunches for the week. I’m trying to detox from meat and eat clean, so I decided to make a couple of different kinds of oats and some chopped salads in jars.

There’s hardly anything simpler than throwing some oats in a container, adding some kind of fruit, some nuts, honey and spices. These quick-prep breakfasts are delicious and nutritious, and make busy mornings getting three kids out of the house to school easier on me.

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I get tired of eating the same thing every day, so I made two different variations. For the first, I put 1/4 cup of organic, quick-cooking oats in a container. I added about three tablespoons of canned pumpkin, a tablespoon of local honey and a handful of pecans and pistachios. A sprinkle of cinnamon and pumpkin spice fills these breakfast bowls with fall flavors. For the other two bowls, I tossed in about 1/4 cup of frozen blueberries, a teaspoon of lemon zest, some pecans, local honey and about 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.

For lunches, I made an Israeli chopped salad, with diced tomato, cucumber, red onion and green pepper.  I topped them with some feta cheese, oregano, olive oil and salt and pepper. What is today referred to as “Israeli” chopped salad originated in the Palestinian territory, and was adapted by the various kibbutz communities in Israel. The vegetable mix can vary based on what is fresh and in season, but typically includes tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers along with herbs and lemon juice. For my other two salads, I tossed in some baby spinach, diced red onion, tomato, arugula, bleu cheese and diced strawberries.  Then I drizzled some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top.

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I’ll probably add a banana as a snack and have a cup of yogurt with my salads at lunch. Prepping everything on Sunday afternoon means I have a week’s worth of fresh, delicious meals that were inexpensive to make and easy to prepare.

Do you prep your meals for the work week on Sundays? What are your go-to meals?

Corn Chowder and Old Bay Potato Chips

It’s fall! My favorite season of the year means it’s time for hearty soups and big flavors.

Chowders are the type of thick, rich stews that have long been important in American cooking. Most settlers, whether they were in the northern Massachusetts or southern Virginia colony, had easy access to the main ingredients for a good chowder:  potatoes, milk, vegetables (like corn), chicken or clams. While the north is known more for seafood chowders, owing to its abundance of clams and fish, the south had plenty of corn, shared with the English by the native Americans, and peppers, brought from Africa by enslaved Africans. Colonial Williamsburg even has a corn chowder recipe in their cookbook.

I sauteed onions and bacon in a little bit of canola oil, then added the diced peppers (You can add red peppers too, if you like. I stuck with green) and corn. Chicken stock, heavy cream and some cheddar cheese rounded out this delicious and hearty chowder. I ate some for dinner on Sunday, then packed the rest for lunches for the work week.

I didn’t use potatoes in my chowder because I knew I wanted to try chef and Vice contributor Matty Matheson‘s Old Bay potato chips.  They’re super easy to make. Peel some potatoes (or don’t, if you don’t want to), slice them very thin (I used a mandolin slicer), fry them in vegetable oil until they just start to brown, drain them on some paper towels and toss them in Old Bay seasoning. They were easily the most delicious potato chips I’ve ever eaten.

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Mid-Atlantic Fall Foodie Events

Fall is prime time for foodie events, and there are plenty to choose from in the mid-Atlantic region. These are some of the best:

Fire, Flour and Fork (Richmond, VA) – Nov. 17-20.  Since its inaugural year in 2014, this Richmond food extravaganza has evolved into a premier food showcase. This unique event offers an insider view of the food scene in the Capital City, from themed brunches, lunches and dinners to a full slate of classes, tours of regional food areas like the Rappahannock River with Merroir and culinary history events, like an Edna Lewis Sunday Supper.

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Heritage Harvest Festival (Charlottesville, VA) – Sept. 9-11. Set at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Heritage Harvest encompasses the world of gardening, farming, homesteading and food history. Beginning with an old-fashioned seed swap, this event offers a tomato, pepper and melon tasting, classes and tours based around Thomas Jefferson’s garden, talks by culinary historians and gardeners and much more. With luminary talent like Michael Twitty, Peter J. Hatch, Libby H. O’Connell and Joel Salatin on tap, this event promises to provide a wide range of voices on our founding father and his food.

Smithsonian Food History Weekend (Washington, DC) – Oct. 27-29. Each year, the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History presents a weekend of culinary history events. This year’s plans include an opening gala, “Dine Out for Smithsonian Food History” featuring Julia Child inspired dishes at local restaurants, a day of roundtable discussions, a food history festival and an evening devoted to the history of brewing in America.

Beast Feast (Beaverdam, VA) – Sept. 25. Put on at Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown by Richmond area butchers and food producers, this year’s Beast Feast celebrates Belmont Butchery’s 10th anniversary. This event features various meats cooked over an open fire, as well as local chef-made dishes, beers, wines and cocktails, all from local producers and bars.

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Cocktail Classes at Barmini (Washington, DC) – Bites, drinks and education on how to make some of the creative cocktails at the renowned Minibar by Jose Andres. Wednesdays at 5:30 pm on Sept. 28, Oct. 26, Nov. 23 and Dec. 21.

Uncorked Wine Festival (Washington, DC) – Sept. 24, 5-9 pm. Featuring over 50 regional wineries, local food trucks, live music and more, this new wine festival promises a good time. Held at the DC Armory in partnership with several local wine stores, Uncorked will also have a fun photo booth and wines from many countries around the world.

Underground Kitchen dining events (East Coast) – Throughout the coming months, Underground Kitchen offers a number of private dining events with well-known chefs. Whether you’re in Virginia (Richmond, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville or NoVA) or in another state (Raleigh, Asheville, Columbia or Baltimore), you’ll find interesting and engaging culinary events throughout the fall. From an “Alice in Wonderland”-themed meal to The Culinary Mosaic and even a single ingredient meal focused on saffron, there are plenty of fun events to enjoy.

Ironbound Wine and Food Expo (Newark, NJ) – Oct. 7-8. The inaugural Ironbound food expo centers around Spain’s tapas tradition, showcasing food and wine from the region. Carnival dancers, a cigar and porto lounge and a food expo round out the events for this exciting weekend.

I’m planning on hitting up a few of these. What about you?

The Return of Classic Cocktails

The earliest known mention of the word “cocktail” dates from a 1798 issue of London’s The Morning Post and Gazetteer, however it wasn’t until 1862, with the publication of How to Mix Drinks: or The Bon Vivant’s Companion, by “Professor” Jerry Thomas, that recipes for cocktails were first published. The four basic ingredients of any cocktail – spirits, sugar, water and bitters – formed 10 cocktail recipes in Thomas’ book.

The “whiskey cocktail” in the Companion contains 3-4 dashes of gum syrup, an old-fashioned type of simple syrup that adds gum arabic for a smoother texture, 2 do. Bogart’s bitters, 1 wine-glass of whiskey and a piece of lemon peel. Compare this simplest of cocktails with the classic Old Fashioned and you can see the similarity:  whiskey, sugar or syrup, bitters and citrus. Add in a cherry and you have a delicious way to enjoy your favorite whiskey, whether bourbon or rye. My favorite version combines Bulleit Rye, Tippleman’s burnt sugar syrup and Jack Rudy bourbon cherries.

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From classic to modern, the Moscow Mule is a 20th-century creation seeing a resurgence in popularity. Created in the 1940’s when bartenders had an overabundance of vodka and ginger beer, this drink is refreshing enough to drink in summer, and warm and spicy enough to drink in winter, making it the perfect all-year cocktail. Smirnoff Vodka, the original brand used in the drink, and Q Ginger Beer combine with fresh lemon juice to create my perfect Moscow Mule.

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Another favorite cocktail I love to mix up is a fresh, delicious agave margarita. While the classic Mexican margarita contains orange liqueur, this agave variation nixes the orange liqueur in favor of fresh, crisp lime juice and sweet agave nectar. Use a good quality silver tequila, like El Jimador, and an organic agave nectar like Tres Agaves for a quick and easy, go-to drink.

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Whatever your favorite flavor, the world of classic cocktails offers plenty of interesting, delicious and sometimes little-known drinks for your to explore. Whether you check out a bar specializing in classic cocktails and variations, like The Dead Rabbit, or mix up your own drinks at home, these drinks are usually quick and easy to make and taste best if you start with high-quality spirits and other ingredients. Drink up!

Favorite food bloggers, vloggers and podcasters

Besides writing a food blog, I’m also an avid follower of various other food blogs, YouTube channels and podcasts. If you’re into food history as much as I am, I’m sure you’ll adore these links:

The Grandmas Project – Many foodies credit their love of cooking to their families, especially their grandmothers. I still remember some of the simple recipes my Granny made, especially at Thanksgiving and other family gatherings, like her Pocketbook Rolls and quick fudge from this post. The Grandmas Project aims to preserve family food history by collecting videos recorded by grandchildren learning about food and recipes from their grandmothers. The recipes collected by the Project come from all over the world, and offer insight into the food and familial traditions of a number of different cultures.

A Taste of the Past podcast – Culinary historian Linda Pelaccio presents this weekly podcast on the Heritage Radio Network, a Brooklyn, New York based radio and online station offering numerous podcasts dealing with food and drink. From “Paletas and the History of Mexican Sweets” to the foods of Alsace and “Foodways and Cooking of Appalachia,” this well-researched show interviews the best food history writers and brings food history’s past into the culinary present.

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MAD YouTube channel – Sometimes referred to as “the TED of food,” MAD, Danish for “food,” offers culinary talks from some of the best and brightest chefs and culinarians around the world. Discussions range from reducing food waste in the restaurant industry and foraging for wild food to kitchen techniques and addressing poverty and hunger. Luminaries like Roy Choi, David Chang, Albert Adria, Michael Twitty and Dr. Vandana Shiva present engrossing and inspiring talks for foodies of all stripes.

Researching Food History – This culinary history blog offers bite-size tidbits of food history, covering topics like “A Colonial Kitchen in 1864,” “Mint Juleps for the Kentucky Derby,” “Jellies whipped or with whipped cream or ice cream” and “Robert Burns’ birthday and birthplace kitchen.” Culinary historian Pat Reber focuses on foodways and cooking apparatus, such as ovens and cooking vessels of various time periods. Besides her blog posts, she has a number of PowerPoint presentations on her website from talks she’s given, and a Historic Culinary Resources online database cataloging over 1,000 historic cookbooks and receipt books.

BBC Food Programme – BBC Radio 4’s food radio show and podcast offers an in-depth perspective on current food trends and issues in culinary history. The “Brexit and Food” special sends host Dan Saladino on the road throughout Britain to discover how Brexit will affect the UK’s food supply and trade relations with nations in the EU and worldwide. In a multi-part series called “The Ark of Taste,” the programme chronicles some of the most unique indigenous foods and food growing and preparation methods from around the planet.

 

Spring Food History Events in Virginia

The weather’s getting warmer, and that means historic sites across the Commonwealth are hosting spring events, many of which focus on culinary history. Virginia is also gearing up for a busy year of food festivals, and nearly all parts of the state have a special dish or food they’re known for. Explore Virginia’s many food history offerings this spring:

*Saturday, April 2 – Beers in the ‘Burg (Colonial Williamsburg) – Enjoy an 18th-century alehouse experience and discover brews from Williamsburg Alewerks, including a few created specially for Colonial Williamsburg. You’ll also have the chance to meet the brewer and hear live music.

*Saturday, April 9 – Hearth Cooking Workshop (Louisa County Historical Society) – Learn how to prepare historic recipes with traditional hearth cooking methods in the ca. 1790 Michie House.

*Saturday, April 9 – Rum Punch Challenge (Gadsby’s Tavern, Alexandria) – Local restaurants and distilleries vie for the crown as creator of the best rum punch at this historic Alexandria museum and restaurant. Period and modern food will be served, and at the end of the evening the Alexandria town crier will announce the winner.

*Friday, April 22 – A Dinner With Benedict Arnold (Walkerton Tavern, Henrico County) – Enjoy period music and historically authentic food from the late 1700’s while meeting notorious British spy Benedict Arnold and hearing about his time in Richmond.

*Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23 – Franklin County Moonshine Festival (Franklin County) – This family-friendly event kicks off Friday evening with a bluegrass concert and features the Chug for the Jug 5k, a Prohibition-era car show, children’s activities and Shine n’Dine, a local foods and moonshine tasting under the stars.

*Saturday, April 23 – Open Hearth Cooking Class (Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre, Bristow) – Learn how to build a fire, then prepare, cook and enjoy three historic dishes in the ca. 1850 Haislip farmhouse.

*Saturday, April 23 – North vs. South Dinner Duel (Pharsalia, Nelson County) – Two chefs – one representing the North, and one representing the South – will cook their way through a seated dinner, course by course. At the end of the meal, diners will decide on the winning chef, and the winning side!

*Saturday, May 7 – Chincoteague Seafood Festival (Chincoteague) – For more than forty years, Chincoteague Island has hosted a spring seafood festival to showcase the bounty of the sea, from littleneck steamed clams and oysters to fried fish, shrimp, hushpuppies and more. Enjoy all your steamed and fried favorites at this all-you-can-eat seafood bonanza.

*Friday, May 13 through Sunday, May 15 – Spring Wine Festival and Sunset Tour (Mt. Vernon) – In its 20th year this year, Mt. Vernon’s Spring Wine Festival offers the opportunity to sample wines from 20 different Virginia wineries while enjoying stunning sunset views of George and Martha Washington’s home and grounds. Guests can tour the property, greet costumed interpreters and purchase wine and cheese boxes for an evening picnic.

*Saturday, May 21 – Gordonsville Fried Chicken Festival (Gordonsville) – Famous for its fried chicken that was served to passengers on departing trains, the town of Gordonsville welcomes visitors with the best fried chicken in the country. Take in fried chicken and pie contests, a wine garden and a craft fair at this charming food festival.

*Saturday, June 4 – Dinner With the Lee’s (Stratford Hall, Stratford) – This all-day event encompasses a lecture on hearthside cooking, tours of Stratford Hall’s Great House and kitchen and an 18th-century mid-day meal featuring historic recipes such as Maryland crab soup and “carrots dressed the Dutch way.”