Cooking with Lady Smokey: Fall’s A Coming…

And I am ready! I’m already to start making some yummy comfort food dishes. Gradually, though, I’ve been trying to cook healthier and healthier so I have been trying to cut back on the unhealthy fats and incorporate some different grains and vegetables. I mean let’s face it, the old idea of “comfort food” is pretty much only comforting to our emotional well-being. It certainly doesn’t make our bodies feel so great. These one-pot wonders, on the other hand, will make you feel comforted all over. At least I hope so, they did us. The leftovers also made for great nutritious lunches throughout the week. And it’s not cold out yet, no need to bulk up just yet.

First up, I’ve recently become acquainted with farro. Farro is one of the oldest cultivated grains in the world. It is used lots in Middle Eastern and Italian cooking. It has twice as much fiber and protein as modern wheat. Farro has been found to stimulate the immune system, lower cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels. While farro does contain gluten, it is easier to digest than modern day wheat.

One-Pot Wonder: Italian Farro
Serves 4
• 4 ½ cups Stock (I used homemade chicken)
• 1 ½ cups Farro, rinsed and drained
• 3 Bay Leaves
• 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• 1 small White Onion, finely chopped
• 2 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
• 1 bunch Broccolini, cleaned and trimmed and cut into long stalks
• ⅓ cup chopped Sundried Tomatoes in Olive Oil
• 1 cup quartered jarred or canned Artichoke Hearts
• ½ cup chopped Fresh Herbs (Basil, Oregano, Parsley)
• 1 cup finely grated Parmesan Reggiano
• Salt and Black Pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, add the stock and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the farro, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Preheat oven to 400. Heat an iron skillet on the stove to medium heat. Add olive oil. Saute onion for a couple minutes. Add garlic. Add farro. Stir all together. Add tomatoes, artichokes, herbs.

Pour the liquid back in. Stir. Arrange the broccolini pieces on top. Place in the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes, until farro is just about done (very slightly al dente). Pull the skillet out. Sprinkle the cheese on top and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes. Serve.

I have never cooked with bulgur, also known as cracked wheat, but I have enjoyed it many times before in Tabbouleh and I recently read an article about all the health benefits bulgur can offer. Turns out bulgur is way faster to cook than rice and offers more nutritional value. It has tons of fiber, helps slow digestion, and research shows that loading up on fiber from unrefined grains can offer protection from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases. It also has significant amounts of manganese which helps our bodies maintain healthy bones. Comforting, right? So, eat up.

Bok Choy Mushroom Skillet Supper with Bulgur
Serves 4
• 2 tsp Grapeseed Oil
• ½ Onion, finely chopped
• 8 Crimini Mushrooms, sliced
• 6-8 Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced
• 2 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
• 1 cup Bulgur
• 1 cup Vegetable Stock
• 2 Tbsp Nama Shoyu
• 2 Tbsp Sherry
• 1 bunch Bok Choy, chopped
• ½ cup chopped Fresh Cilantro

Heat a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the oil. Add onions and cook for a few minutes, stirring. Add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, stirring. Add the garlic and the shoyu (or tamari or soy sauce) and sherry. Stir. Add the bulgur and stir to coat. Add the broth. Stir. Cover. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lid. Place the bok choy on top. Cover and cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Sprinkle the top with cilantro. Let sit for another 10 minutes and then serve.

Many of us would agree that Mac & Cheese is the ultimate comfort food. For me, this goes back to childhood. My Mom, and my Grandmother before her, always made it from scratch. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and still find it quite comforting, however, I always feel the need to make broccoli, peas, or a big salad to accompany it to help up the nutritional value. I thought it would be nice to do that yet keep it a one-pot meal. I decided to use French Comte cheese as it goes so nicely with fall vegetables and I love rosemary and walnuts in the fall. You can easily make more changes or substitutions to make it even more healthier but here is the recipe I came up with.

Fall Harvest Mac & Cheese
Serves 4-6
• 3 cups Whole Wheat Elbow Noodles
• 1 Tbsp Ghee (or Butter)
• 1 medium sized Fall/Winter Squash (I used a local, organic Delicata)
• 1 bunch Rainbow Chard, cleaned and chopped into bite-sized pieces
• 2 ½ cups Milk (I used organic whole milk)
• 1 Egg
• 2 ½ cups grated Comte Cheese
• 1 tsp Sea Salt
• ¼ – ½ tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
• 1 cup Walnuts
• ¼ cup Pepitas
• 1 Tbsp finely chopped Fresh Rosemary
• ½ cup grated Grana Padano Cheese
• Butter or Olive Oil to coat baking dish

Cook the macaroni, drain, and set aside. Wash and peel the squash. Cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Dice. Preheat oven to 375. Heat a skillet on the stove on medium. Add the ghee. Once the ghee has melted, add the squash and saute for a few minutes and then push to the sides of the skillet. Begin to add in the chard, one handful at a time, to gently wilt it.

Once all the chard has all been added, stir with the squash and mix together. Remove from heat. In a bowl, mix the milk with the egg, Comte, salt, and pepper. In a small skillet, toast the walnuts and pepitas together. Remove from heat.

Chop the nuts, pepitas, grated Grana Padano, and rosemary together and set aside. Use a pat of butter or a teaspoon of olive oil to coat the bottom of a baking dish. Add one third of the noodles to the dish and then one half of the squash chard mixture. Pour half of the milk and cheese mixture over. Next, layer another third of the noodles and top with the rest of the squash chard mixture. Add the last of the noodles Top with the nut mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

I have a yummy, comforting dessert recipe to share, too, thanks to my awesome neighbor Kathryn Kubiak-Rizzone. We lost our sweet, dear dogger Cora last week after a long illness and the next thing I knew Kathryn was on our doorstep with this yummy Pear Almond Crisp and the sweetest card. I love our neighbors and the South!

We found that because it was loaded with yummy pears and almonds and not too sweet, we could eat a little bowl for dessert or for breakfast. It was so delicious that I asked her if I could share the recipe. It seemed to go well with the theme of week- comforting one-pot meals. She adapted it from a recipe in the cookbook, Meals That Heal, by Anne Egan and Regina Ragone, M.S., R.D.

Pear Almond Crisp

Serves 8
• 4 Large Pears, cored and sliced ¼” thick
• 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
• 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
• 1 tsp Almond Extract
• ½ tsp Cinnamon
• 1 cup Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
• ⅓ cup Sliced Raw Almonds
• ¼ cup Brown Sugar
• 2 Tbsp Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
• 2 Tbsp Cold Butter, cut into small pieces
• 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
• 1 ½ – 2 Tbsp Cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350.
Combine the pears, maple syrup, lemon juice, almond extract, and cinnamon in a 9” x9” baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, almonds, brown sugar, flour, butter, and oil and mix with our fingers to form crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the pear mixture. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the pears are tender and bubbly and the topping is lightly browned.

I’m still trying to catch up on all this year’s album releases and I really enjoyed cooking to Holly Williams’ latest titled, The Highway. Turns out Hank’s granddaughter has quite a voice of her own. I first saw Holly nearly a decade ago when we still lived in Seattle. She came through town singing back-up for Bobby Bare, Jr. Since then, she’s released 3 albums and gained quite a following. I found The Highway to be a great album to cook to or a great choice to accompany you on a long road trip! Here’s the video from the opening track, Drinkin’. Enjoy!