Best Fall Recipes

IT’S FALL, GUYZ. YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS. Pumpkin. Squash. Cinnamon. Spices. Hot tea and coffee. Soups. Stews. Deliciousness.

Fall cuisine is my favorite. Probably because I love the heartiness of stews, the comfort of a hot dish, and all of the different things I can do with soup. The leaves are turning and it’s getting cold outside and slaving over a hot stove is not nearly so terrible as it is in the summer.

So, without further adieu, here are a few of my favorite fall recipes!

untitled-8-3-620x775Caramelized onion and stout mac ‘n cheese
Seriously, how can you go wrong with this? The rich undertones of the stout (a bourbon barrel aged stout is my personal favorite with this dish) combine with the sweetness of the caramelized onions and creamy provolone cheese. Bake with bread crumbs on top to add the perfect crunch. Get the recipe.
12599306425_ed4bac5b06Dijon and cognac beef stew
A little more work, this baby is worth every last minute. It seems like a lot of mustard, but it really just adds the perfect flavor and tang, while you can’t help but bite all the round little mustard seeds. The beef falls apart in your mouth. Serve it over egg noodles—you won’t regret a single bite. Get the recipe.
french-onion-andmushroom-soup-recipe-mountain-mama-cooksFrench onion and mushroom soup
We all know that French onion soup is kickass. Now, add some mushrooms and barley. Now you have a kickass soup that’s a touch more filling. Tip: if you make slow-cooker beef at any point, SAVE ALL THE LIQUID. It can turn this soup from good into something your coworkers will moan over when you heat it up in the break room. Get the recipe.
158Butternut squash and leek soup
Easy, delicious, and comforting. The recipe says to swirl with sour cream, but I like some Greek yogurt on top. Don’t forget the cracked pepper! Get the recipe.
Chicken-Pumpkin-Soup-aboveChicken and pumpkin soup
You knew the pumpkin was coming. This one is hearty, easy, fairly cheap, and it has the addition of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, adding the perfect amount of kick. Don’t miss out on this soup. Get the recipe.
roasted-pumpkin-shallot-sage-soup-1Roasted pumpkin and sage soup
All right, all right, another pumpkin one. This is another favorite (it actually calls for A REAL PUMPKIN). Roast that pumpkin and then include  the delicious, fall-y flavor of fresh sage, one of my all-time favorite herbs. To be extra freaking cool, serve your pumpkin soup IN AN ACTUAL PUMPKIN (I won’t judge if you serve it in a plain ole bowl). Get the recipe.

What are your favorite fall recipes? I’m always looking for new, delicious things to cook.

Vanessa is a digital media coordinator by day and a writer, novelist, and badass cook by night. In her spare time she haunts used bookstores, gets serious about tea, and loves a good stout (Russian Imperial, please). Follow her on twitter and instagram if you wanna be buddies, and maybe check out her writing blog.

The Beauty of Cooking

Fresh spinach pasta w/homemade pesto & meatballs plus salad.

Fresh spinach pasta w/homemade pesto & meatballs plus salad.

Okay, guys (and gals), cooking is hard.

I began cooking for myself when I started at MSU in 2010. I did okay, mostly sticking with cheap things: beans, veggies, rice, pasta (I can still cook a badass lentil chili). I learned how to make homemade marinara sauce to save money and other great cheap-o things.

Even though I self-identify as a badass cook, I’m not really quite there yet. I’m working at being a badass. Because that shit is hard. It takes time, effort, experimentation, dedication, and a serious fucking love of food to be good at cooking.

I started to really experiment when I got my first real job in June of 2012. I had more money, and I was going to spend it. On food (and good beer, but that isn’t what this post is about).

Lavender cheesecake with earl gray whipped cream frosting.

Lavender cheesecake with earl gray whipped cream frosting.

Though I had already followed several food blogs, I quickly found more and more wonderful blogs to follow that gave me new and different recipes. I began to cook more meat (man, that was a process), began to buy expensive things (pine nuts are expensive but they make the best pesto!), and generally hang out in the kitchen more. It helped that I wasn’t just cooking for myself anymore, I was cooking for Jacob. It’s better to cook for others.

Cooking has become such a wonderful thing for me. I always enjoyed it, always loved putting together delicious meals, but now it’s something else. It’s another place for me to express creativity, to try new things, and to fuck up sometimes (okay, a lot). There is something magical to me about coming home when the sun is setting and throwing open the windows, chopping onions and managing not to cry, sauteing leeks to make a delicious leek quiche, kneading dough for the pizza I’m going to make in an hour.

Thai slow cooked pork, jalapeños, pickled carrots/onions/cucumbers, & Sriracha. Best sandwich ever.

Thai slow cooked pork, jalapeños, pickled carrots/onions/cucumbers, & Sriracha. Best sandwich ever.

It’s a time where I am allowed to be in the moment. I don’t worry about all the work I have to do, because hey, I have to eat. And I can focus on cutting peppers and slicing sausage into little medallions, and maybe sipping some wine while I do so.

Writing has always been my escape, and now cooking has joined the list. It’s fun. I get to eat the finished product. But, I think most importantly, I get to share with someone I love and who loves what I make. That part is pretty awesome, too.

I always wanted to be a badass cook from the get go. I wanted to throw shit together like my mom does and have it come out and taste like heaven. Except that sometimes the cake was hard and the soup was too salty. It’s easy to get frustrated at food, get mad that it won’t do what you want, but the trick is to take your time. Learn from it. Maybe you didn’t pick the best recipe, or maybe you had the oven too hot, or crowded the pan and nothing browned.

Oeufs en coquette - quail eggs, leek, zucchini, creme fraiche, & smoked salmon.

Oeufs en coquette – quail eggs, leek, zucchini, creme fraiche, & smoked salmon.

Cooking isn’t just a beautiful thing I do and eat. It is something that reminds me that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to take your time with this. Watch the chocolate liquify. It glistens so beautifully on a whisk in the sunlight. The cheesecake needs to refrigerate overnight, but that’s okay, you can wait. The onions need to caramelize. Stir them, occasionally, sip your wine, and watch them transform. Add some mushrooms, that’s a kickass combination. Let your soup simmer for thirty minutes. Take the time to make homemade veggie broth with kitchen scraps, filtering out the little bits with cheese cloth.

Be patient with yourself. You aren’t going to learn to be the best chef there was with a few harder-than-mac-and-cheese meals. It takes a while to find your palate, to know instinctively what will go well together. You’ll make it, though, and even when you’ve made it, there will still be some epic fails.

Embrace them. You are human and you are a badass cook. That’s what I keep telling myself, and you know? I’m starting to believe it.

Some Food Blogs that I Love

Brown Eyed Baker
Budget Bytes
French Foodie Baby
Gimme Some Oven
Just One Cookbook
La Tartine Gourmande 
Mountain Mama Cooks
Table For Two

Want to see more pics of my food? Follow me on Instagram @vanessalevpom

Vanessa is a digital media coordinator by day and a writer, novelist, and badass cook by night. She loves used bookstores, is way too serious about tea, and doesn’t give a damn if she wears the same outfit 2 days in a row. She totally wants to be your friend, so you should follow her on twitter & maybe check out her writing blog.