“Fall” Into Some Cozy Meals

Fall is in the air here. We’ve had such  warm and sunny weather over the past 2 months, but cooler temperatures, more wind and gray skies are starting to set in. Along with the cooler weather, It’s starting to get dark now before I get home, which means more time spent indoors. While I’m more of an outdoors sort of person, this time of year can be fun too. More time spent on crafts, sewing, reading, catching up on movies. And getting ready for the holiday season. I don’t know about you, but eating right this time of year can be particularly challenging for me. I have an interest in “heavier” or more substantial meals in the fall but don’t want to get a head start on this year’s addition to the holiday-season spare tire that’s already been growing around my middle over the past few years. Some of you may also have little time (or maybe little interest) for making home cooked meals. No worries! Today, I’m sharing some of my favorite cool weather meals that are quick and easy to make, and are satisfying without expanding your waistline. As long as you eat in moderation……which can be hard to do with these meals, because they are goooooood!

First up, black bean quesadillas. Last year, I found several recipes for these and they were “ok”,  but I wasn’t thrilled about any of them. So, I just threw together what I had on hand, and it turned out great. They can be made in 15 minutes, tops. Whole grain tortillas and the beans give it lots of fiber, which helps keep your blood sugar (thus your energy level) even after eating and keep you satisfied until the next meal. I tend to cook the way my grandmother’s generation did, which is to say, not a lot of measurement, just adding ingredients to taste. But to give you some guidelines, here’s what I used:

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Sautee 2-3 slices of red onion and a chopped red bell pepper in a tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat. I see a lot of recipes recommending using olive oil over medium high heat. Just step away from using olive oil in any temperature higher than medium, as it denatures the oil and can actually make it rather unhealthy. So take it easy, turn down the temperature cause it still won’t take long to get a good family meal on the table.

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Drain and rinse the beans, add to the skillet along with some frozen corn and a cup of your favorite salsa. Add some fresh chopped tomatoes and heat through.

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Lightly spray a skillet with Pam, put a whole grain tortilla in the pan, warm it a few seconds, sprinkle some grated cheese on half of the bottom, add some bean mix and top with a little more cheese. Fold the tortilla in half and lightly fry on each side.Easy!

Ellie Krieger creates some great recipes for healthier versions of high calorie favorites. She has a Chicken Cacciatore recipe that is delicious. Though not authentically Italian, I like tomato sauce. A lot. So I make her recipe with a few modifications. Whether you use her recipe as it is written or you mix it up a bit, its all yummy.

Ellie uses skinless chicken breasts, which is lower in fat. However, I believe most foods are permissible in moderation, so I sometimes use chicken thighs with the skin on. Brown the chicken…..

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Then put it in the over at 325-350 degrees to continue cooking while you put red bell peppers, a sliced onion and button mushrooms in the same pan and cook over medium heat until vegetables begin to soften.

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Add tomato sauce, 1/2 cup of red wine (if you are so inclined–it makes any sauce better!) and place the chicken breasts or thighs back into the pan. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

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Utter perfection! You can find Ellie’s recipe at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/chicken-cacciatore-recipe.html

We all know eggs are not just for breakfast. Eggs are still one of the best grocery store buys there is. Yes, I know the price of a dozen of these babies has skyrocketed, but for a measly 80 calories, an egg packs a lot of nutrition. Eggs have also been cleared of charges of increasing cholesterol levels. Most of us can safely eat eggs in moderation. Having said that, I personally find whole eggs a bit rich, so I use half whole eggs and half egg whites.

Lorenza De’Medici of The De’Medici Kitchen created this slightly sophisticated but simple dish called Frittata Arrotolata  or Omelet Roll with Spinach. This recipe is not available online and is under copyright, so I cannot reprint it here. However, you can create a similar dish that makes a tasty evening meal or a main dish for a weekend brunch. Pat dry a package of frozen spinach or lightly steam a small package of fresh spinach, then pat dry. Add parmesian cheese, garlic, and pine nuts to the spinach and set aside. Prepare the eggs, using 2 eggs or 1 whole egg and 1 egg white per person. Lightly spray your favorite skillet with Pam, add the eggs and cook until the bottom is set.

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Slide the egg mix onto a baking sheet. Add the spinach mix over the eggs and roll up. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes after removing it from the oven and serve promptly. This frittata is particulalrly good with a fresh fruit salad.

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Give these simple fall meal recipes a try.Home cooked meals can be fast, delicious and tasty as well as healthy. I’d llove your input if you try any of these recipes or if you would like to share you own quicky and healthy meal recipes.

Next time, let’s talk turkey….Oh, I mean, let’s talk Thanksgiving. I’ll share some ideas of how you can really bring the spirit of this holiday alive even in the midst of a busy life. Until then….

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