To say that I miss the days of being afield on a cool, crisp autumn morning would be a huge understatement for me. It started at an early age for me, when my school buddies and I would walk up the river bottom in the fall of the year hunting ducks and rabbits. As I became older, and earned my driving license, my parents would let me use the family car on our Sunday trips to my grandparents’ home, to be able to get out and search for wild game in the Centralia area. For many years after that, I was lucky enough to be able to get out on these cool mornings, and gradually shed clothing as the day passed into a warm autumn afternoon.

What has changed you may ask? Well, age for one, there is absolutely no way I could spend the whole day afield walking the hills and gullies like I did as a younger person. Other factors include the near disappearance of the game birds I used to pursue. The Bobwhite quail has almost become a rarity in our area, as well as the prairie chicken. We still have plenty of other game left in the area, such as the Mourning Dove, but these early season gamebirds are abundant during the same timeframe as the ragweed season, which is something I can’t deal with on a regular basis. So I always preferred to wait until after the frost to venture out on these all day excursions.

The fall of the year always has been, and still is my favorite time of year. The Friday night high school football games, as well as the Saturday college games are other things that bring me joy this time of year. I have fond memories from back in the day, before the college game became so prominent on television, of attending the Wardog games on Friday night, and watching the Golden Norse on Saturday nights. Autumn is also the time of year for state fairs and festivals as well; with many of my acquaintances making these celebrations’ a weekly stop each weekend.

Yes, during these few months every year, I am blessed with so much of what I love about life, including the food fare. Soups now start appearing again on the nightly menu. I have heard it many times, and I’m sure you have as well, people saying “I’ll be glad when it cools off and chili eating season begins”? Well, I’ve never understood that statement, because I like and eat chili year around, but for some, I guess it must be seasonal? I don’t know? Chili is one of my favorite foods, because it can be served in so many different ways, including Frito pies and chile dogs. You can even buy Chile Mac Hamburger Helper from a box, which is alright, but it is still from a box. I have found that chili mac, as well as most of these Hamburger Helper meals, can be prepared from scratch just as easily as it can from the box, and taste a heck of lot fresher. So if you only eat chili products in the fall of the year, and looking for something quick for the family on a weekday night, here is a Chili Mac recipe I use when preparing homemade Hamburger Helper.

Chili Mac

INGREDIENTS

2 teaspoons oil

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup onion finely diced

1 teaspoon garlic minced

2 teaspoons chili powder (or more for added chili flavor)

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes do not drain

4 cups beef broth

8 ounce can tomato sauce

salt and pepper to taste

15 ounce can dark red kidney beans drained and rinsed

10 ounces elbow macaroni

1 1/4 cups cheddar cheese grated

Toppings such as chopped cilantro, diced tomato and minced red onion optional

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook for 5-6 minutes, breaking up the meat with a spatula.

Add the onion to the pot and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the chili powder, cumin, tomatoes, beef broth, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, kidney beans and macaroni to the pot. Stir to combine.

Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and cook for 12-13 minutes or until pasta is tender. Uncover the pot and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.

Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the pasta. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted. You can cover the pot if needed to help the cheese melt.

Top with cilantro, tomatoes and onion if desired, then serve.