Oktoberfest Sausage Stew

Oktoberfest Sausage StewOcto-beer-Fest
Oktoberfest is wrapping up over in Munich, but for those of us here on the other side of the pond the party is just beginning. Given the number of 19th-century German immigrants who came to our country, you would think that we would have a better idea as to the proper time to partake in Oktoberfest but Americans, it seems, have decided that October is the time.

For the next month, you will easily be able to find any number of Oktoberfest celebrations and Beer Gardens that will quench any thirst for a good quality ale—as well as tasty fare to go along with it. For the beer aficionados out there, October can be a little like Christmas. For others who drink a beer once every two years or so, like myself, Oktoberfest isn’t that big of a deal. If we’re talking about cooking with beer, that’s a different story. If that’s the case, I’m all in…

Here’s the thing. I don’t like the way beer tastes when you drink it by the pint or from a bottle BUT I do like the way it smells. (I know. It’s weird.) This is why I like to use beer when I cook. It adds the flavor of the beer without making the recipe taste like beer. The best example of this is a recipe for Beef Short Ribs Braised in Dark Beer with Bacon and Red Onion that is a fall staple in my family. Of course, in my opinion, you can’t make decent fish and chips without using beer in your batter. Same goes for chili and let’s not forget that the only proper way to eat a Bratwurst is to boil it in beer first.

So for my Oktoberfest, I am going to search out all of the beer recipes I can find to test them out starting with this recipe for Oktoberfest Sausage Stew…it sounds like the perfect meal for a cool-weather dinner.

Oktoberfest Sausage Stew 
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine
Yields 6 Servings

This recipe is based on a traditional Hungarian sausage, tomato and bell pepper stew called lecsó (LEH-tcho). The beer adds a rich, dark flavor. Read more…

Southwestern Chicken Stew

Southwestern Chicken StewSoup Switch
My whole life I have been a rule follower. I was that kid in the class who never put a toe out of line for fear of the punishments. I have never really been the kind of person to significantly test the boundaries of anything, though I have always wanted to be that person. A rebel. A maverick. I am pretty sure this is why I cook from recipes instead of off the cuff.

To be fair, I will change a recipe to suit my tastes but only after I have made it at least a couple of times. Rarely do I mess with things from the get-go. Last weekend though, my inner culinary rebel surfaced and I took a left turn…

What started out as an adaptation of a chicken stew with peppers from the Basque region turned into more of a southwest stew/chili/gumbo type thing. There was something about the combination of ingredients that had me reaching for the black beans and cumin. Served over rice, the flavors were reminiscent of the southwest with the hearty whole meal feel of the bayou.

Maybe it was innovation or maybe it was just muscle memory that made me assume that tomatoes and peppers should also have beans and a squeeze of lime but it turned out tasty. I made enough to store some in the freezer for a future mid-week dinner on the run.

Tonight the future is here…as is a tasty dinner!

Southwestern Chicken Stew
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Autumn Pumpkin Recipes

Autumn Pumpkin RecipesSquashes, Pumpkins, and Gourds Oh My!
One of the things I love most about the Fall, and October in general, is all of the displays with various pumpkins and gourds. They are so pretty and interesting. True, not all of them are edible like gorgeous Goose Neck Gourds but the better majority are.

Granted most of the larger pumpkins and squashes purchased around this time end up on your front doorstep with fangs carved out of them. Not much you can do with them after they have been out there for a while. At least nothing edible…

My question is what do you do with the ones that have been inside and are still good? If we’re talking about a cute little Sugar Pie pumpkin the answer is obvious. Bring on the pies and breads baby!

But there is more to pumpkins than pie…

Acorn and Delicata squash are fantastic to eat and easy to prepare. A giant Cinderella pumpkin is perfect for stuffing with cheese, cream, and other decadent goodness. Pretty green Kabocha squash is used in all sorts of cuisines from Mexican to Moroccan. Of course, Spaghetti squash can be a nice change from your usual pasta. Butternut squash is by far the most well known and eaten of all of the squashes and is great as a soup, in a casserole or on its own.

To help you figure out what to do with your squashes, pumpkins, and gourds, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite dishes for you to try. Read more…

Mexican Matzo Ball Soup

Mexican Matzo Ball SoupHigh Holiday Spice
When I think about Rosh Hashanah, I immediately think honey cake and brisket—this makes sense being traditional foods to celebrate the Jewish New Year. Those are quickly followed by chicken with pomegranate sauce and of course, fresh warm round challah. (I’ll pass on the Gefilte fish.) These are all foods I love (minus the fish) and one can find a lot of comfort in tradition. But, sometimes it becomes necessary to spice things up.

I ran across an article in the NY Times food section yesterday about a chef, Fany Gerson, who is of Jewish heritage but was raised in Mexico City. This fascinated me because while there are people of Jewish faith in any number of places, I just never put those two things together in my own mind. And, by doing so, my mind is blown. (Apparently, Mexico has one of the largest Jewish populations in Latin America…who knew?)

She grew up eating the same traditional foods for the holidays but over the years, the recipes were personalized using the flavors of their surroundings. As I read the article my mouth started watering at the description of the foods they would eat. Freshly baked challah with cinnamon and apples? Yes, please. Rugelach with chipotle-laced cherry filling? OMG! I did not see a mention of a cookbook in the article but I hope to God it’s coming soon.

One of my most favorite things, holiday or not, is Matzo Ball soup. I will choose matzo ball soup over chicken noodle any day of the week and twice on Sunday. This is why when I saw this recipe, I flipped out. It combines two of my favorites…Matzo and Mexican. How can you go wrong with that? This one is definitely on the menu this weekend. I don’t care if it’s 90 degrees outside…

Mexican Matzo Ball Soup
Read more…

Chicken Stew with White Beans and Sausage

Chicken Stew with White Beans and SausageSoup’s On!
The fact that the rest of the country is enduring record-breaking cold temperatures has inspired me to ramp up the soup making. Well, this, and the fact that it is the New Year and I can’t just go on eating the way I did through the holidays. I have found that soup is a satisfying way to fill you up with a lot of veggies without feeling like you haven’t eaten anything.

I have a number of go-to soups that I make all the time. This Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup one is a staple as is my Spanish Chickpea Stew with Kale and Salt Pork from our cookbook club. Chicken Noodle Soup with Dill is a no-brainer this time of year—as it seems everyone is catching a cold. and of course, it’s a favorite with the kids.

This is also the time of year where I find myself using dried beans in the slow cooker during the week, or filling the house with wonderful aromas on the weekend. Gam’s Navy Bean Soup Soup is perfect for cold winter evenings. But, a little spice can be welcome too in our Spicy Chicken and Rice Flu Chaser Soup or Thai Hot and Sour Chicken Soup.

If you are one of those who is part of the Instant Pot craze (or maybe you got one as a gift for Christmas) they are great for producing tasty, authentic-tasting Pho in half the time. Check out this article on Epicurious.

With the rain moving in this week (Finally!), it’s the perfect time to stock your freezer with healthy and hearty soups for the new year. For me, I am breaking out the crockpot this weekend and making this oldie but goodie…Chicken Stew with White Beans and Sausage .

Chicken Stew with White Beans and Sausage
Recipe adapted from of Slow Cooker Revolution
From America’s Test Kitchen
Serves 6 to 8

This Chicken Stew with White Beans and Sausage is inspired by a classic Tuscan white bean stew—we added sausage. Browing the chicken, sausage, and aromatics makes for a richer, deeper flavor. The abundance of spinach wilts down substantially.  Read more…