Hello October

Forget Christmas; Right Now it’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

There are four seasons to a year, and generally we experience them all dramatically in New England. Summer’s too humid, Winter’s too treacherous, and Spring’s too allergenic. Fall doesn’t have an underlying irritant, therefore Fall reigns in my seasonal hierarchy.

From the beautifully changing colors, to that cozy “in-between” sweater weather, to flavors and scents that intoxicate us with warmth — Fall is a force to be reckoned with by the other sorry 9 months of our calendar year.

To celebrate truly the most wonderful time of the year, here is my fall bucket list (some of which I’ve already completed):

  1. Go apple picking.
  2. Hoard apple cider and cider donuts in the home. 
  3. Bake a bunch of yummy treats with said apples.
  4. Drink pumpkin spice lattes and coffee repeatedly.
  5. Watch Hocus Pocus. More than once.
  6. Take a few scenic drives around New England.
  7. Have a Croc Pot cooking marathon all month.
  8. Make warm, boozy concoctions for nights in.
  9. Dress up the cats for Halloween.
  10. Eat lots of squash in varying forms.
  11. Embrace fall fashion; plaid, boots, hoodies, deep colors.
  12. Enjoy walks during lunch and after work in the most perfect temperature.
  13. Watch 5 horror movies I’ve never seen and a bunch of classics.
  14. Hoard fall-scented candles and revel in their perfect aromas.
  15. Start reintroducing beanies and knit hats to the wardrobe.
  16. Go to a haunt even though I am the most petrified.
  17. Have a Walking Dead premiere viewing event.
  18. Pair scarves with every outfit possible.
  19. Carve pumpkins (and give to someone who has an actual yard).
  20. Roast the pumpkin seeds and become instantly happy.
  21. Relish in the fact that fall “witch” makeup is so in right now. Give me all the crimson and black.
  22. Wear fuzzy socks and squish my toes in them because SO SOFT.
  23. Visit many of the Salem Haunted Happenings attractions.
  24. Go to a Rocky Horror live audience showing (even though I am a live show virgin and will probably get hazed).
  25. Go to Topsfield Fair for the first time in many years.
  26. Eat a turkey leg because, fair foods.
  27. Read a book under my new cable knit blanket.
  28. Sit outside by the fire with a beer and friends.
  29. Celebrate Dan’s Halloween birthday however his heart desires.
  30. Top my fall-inspired birthday desserts from year’s past.
  31. Photograph everything and look back when Fall is over.

To help keep me on track, I’ve found this awesome photo-a-day challenge for October that I’ll participate in on my Instagram page.
October photo challenge

I look forward to enjoying my favorite season with family and friends. A gallery of all my memories is sure to follow. ☪

Chez Jill: Mushrooms, Mexican, MMMM

One thing I have been excited to dabble in again is my “love” for cooking. I use the term loosely only because the conditions in which I cook are specific: prep and cook time must either fall under 1 hour of work, or be split among two days. I have found if cooking exceeds these limits, I no longer have the desire to eat what I produce.

Cooking for me has to be a creative process; one that takes a dish to new levels of flavor and ingredients. Also, the emphasis on being health-conscious is important – taking a comfort dish that lacks nutritional value, and turning it into one using alternative fixings. I do most of my shopping at Trader Joe’s and came to discover that their website has a library of recipes, all of which sound mouth-watering.

I bookmarked ten and decided on 3 dishes for last week’s dinner:

Portabella Mushroom Pizzas

Portobello Pizza Recipe

I love pizza. If pizza were a man, he would be my soul mate, ‘til indigestion do us part. Let’s face it though; pizza is not the reigning champ in diet dishes. This recipe cans most of the carbs by subbing in Portobello caps for crust. I added a dollop of tomato sauce to each before sprinkling with sundried tomatoes and freshly diced mozzarella. Pop in the oven for ten minutes, add some fresh arugula to the top, and let cook for another 8-10 minutes (once your mozz is melted). A meal that takes 5 minutes to prep, 20 minutes to cook, and represents my favorite junk food is a triple win. But how do they taste? Flavorful, juicy, pizza-y. Sold!

Crock Pot Chicken Chile Verde

Chile Chicken Verde Recipe

Sometimes I forget that even though it’s summertime, I can still utilize my crock-pot. This recipe inspired me to dust it off and make a meal of epic proportions (literally, I had leftovers for days). This meal was a 2-day prep process, but required very little effort. I diced the veggies the night before and defrosted the chicken thighs. Before work, I combined all ingredients in the pot to cook on low for 8 hours. Once I got home, my house smelled fantastic and all I had left to do was boil the jasmine rice and simmer the black beans. The meal in pieces looked great, but assembled looked phenomenal. A scoop of rice, the shredded chile chicken mix over the top, black beans on the side, and a dollop of sour cream. Garnish with cilantro and a spritz of lime juice. It may sit pretty on a plate, but how did it taste? Savory, a bit spicy, just enough salt, and the right amount of sour. All the flavors you expect in a fulfilling Mexican dish. Eating leftovers for 3 days wasn’t even a chore this time around.

Carne Asada Tacos

Carne Asada Tacos Recipe

I adapted this recipe a bit to tacos rather than salad, considering I had corn tortillas to use. The magic behind this recipe is the carne asada you can get prepared at Trader Joe’s. It’s undeniably delicious and you don’t have to do the legwork to get those spices just right. The other secret to success is to make homemade guac to add as filler, rather than just avocado slices. Dice some onion, tomato, and cilantro, toss in a bowl with sliced avocado, a dash of salt and pepper, and spritz with lime juice. Then MUSH. Once you’ve seared your steak and gooped your guac, add to a corn tortilla. Top with some diced tomato, onion, cilantro, shredded cheese, and a dash of green Tabasco sauce. Make two tacos, and pair with chips and salsa for a light meal, heavy on the flavor.

I still have coconut chicken and pork belly tacos to try out next week. 🙂

What are some recipes you have tried lately? Always looking to source new ideas in the kitchen!