For cooks, winter is often a time to resurrect favorite seasonal recipes that warm and comfort. Such rations are sometimes called "comfort foods" for their simplicity, heartiness and the nostalgia they evoke. But these 10 meals equate to more than that. They're not only delicious and chase away the chill, but they also boast relatively healthy ingredients compared to traditional comfort foods, which are often fried, breaded or smothered in butter. Food doesn't have to be bad for your health to taste amazing. Here's a fresh twist on some of our most beloved meals.
Sometimes the simplest recipes make the best grub. Here's a way to make one heck of a baked potato. Perhaps you're accustomed to wrapping a potato with tin foil when you bake it. By doing this, you essentially steam it, leaving it soggy or moist. Instead, bake the potato sans tin foil for crispier skin. Serve it as a side dish or add a variety of toppings to make it even more satisfying as a main meal.
Start by scrubbing the potato vigorously with a vegetable brush. Next, spear a fork into it, all over. Pour olive oil onto a paper towel and wipe it all over the skin. Sprinkle it generously with coarse sea salt. Bake it for about an hour at 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius). Using a knife, cut a "T" into the potato and pull it open. Place a soft slab of butter or margarine into the slot. Apply your favorite toppings.
Grilled Cheese Panini Sandwich
The grilled cheese sandwich might be one of America's favorite comfort foods. Both adults and kids enjoy it, and why not? It's fast to make, tastes good and requires few ingredients. If your cupboards are looking bare and you need to go grocery shopping, chances are you have these three ingredients to make this mouthwatering grinder.
- artisan or focaccia bread, thickly sliced
- sharp cheddar cheese
- brie cheese (optional)
- 1 small tomato (optional)
- 1 tsp. olive oil
Heat a Panini grill sandwich maker. Take two slices of your favorite bread, and brush one side of each one with olive oil. Put a thick slice of cheddar cheese in between two slices of bread, olive oil sides facing out. (You can also include a slice of brie cheese, as it melts well, or slices of tomato.) Place the sandwich between the plates of a Panini grill and press down until the cheese has melted.
Green Chili Mac and Cheese
Here's a tasty slow cooker dish that you don't have to wait all day to finish cooking. Great for the main course or a side dish, Green Chili Mac and Cheese is a creative adaptation of a comfort food staple. Although it's a souped-up, more gourmet version, kids are likely to enjoy it, too. Even if you don't care for spicy, hot foods, you'll probably like this dish because it's so mild. Feel free to substitute cheeses listed as ingredients with your favorite kinds, but keep in mind softer, creamier cheeses melt better.
- 6 cups of cooked macaroni or pasta shells
- 2 Tbs. butter or margarine, melted
- 4 cups evaporated milk
- 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded
- 1 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1 can (7 oz.) of diced green chilies
- 1 Tbs. red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. red chili powder
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- Optional topping: bread crumbs
In a bowl, toss macaroni with butter. Stir in evaporated milk, cheese, green chilies, red pepper flakes, salt, red chili powder and black pepper. Pour into slow cooker, cover and cook on high two to three hours. Dish up and sprinkle bread crumbs on top for garnish. Makes six to eight servings.
Three Bean Mole Chili
Make no mistake, this isn't ordinary chili. Perhaps most appreciated for its subtle mole flavor, Three Bean Mole Chili is both hearty and nutritious. In fact, five ingredients are among the top power foods for their nutritional value. Chili often is made with sugar or other sweeteners. Not this one, whose flavor comes from a medley of spices. The small amount of pre-made mole paste required can easily be found in the ethnic food aisle of grocery stores or at specialty markets. This vegetarian meal can easily be adapted for meat eaters by simply adding bite-sized pieces of raw or precooked chicken or beef to the slow cooker along with the other ingredients. Just make sure the meat is cooked thoroughly before serving by checking a few pieces first.
- 1 can (15.5 ounces) chili beans in spicy sauce, undrained
- 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) Mexican or chili-style diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 large green bell pepper, diced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1/2 cup beef, chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup prepared mole paste
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 2 tsp. ground coriander (optional)
- Optional toppings: crushed tortilla chips, chopped cilantro, shredded cheese
Combine all ingredients (other than toppings) in slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook on low five to six hours. Serve with desired toppings.
White Chicken Chili
Have you ever noticed a food’s presentation seems to affect how good it tastes? The prettier the arrangement, the yummier it is. Well, White Chicken Chili is not only sure to warm you up and put a smile on your face, but its monochromatic appearance has visual allure. Experiment with serving it in striking dishware, such as gem-colored ceramics or translucent glass bowls. Another plus is that this meal keeps particularly well -- leftovers you can look forward to eating!
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cans (14 oz each) fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 4 cans (15.5 oz each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chile peppers
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 3/4 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken, onions, and garlic, and saute until chicken is lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer chicken mixture to 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Add broth, beans, chile peppers (with juice), salt, and remaining spices. Stir to combine. Cover. Cook on low 4 to 6 hours. Uncover and cook 1 more hour, stirring occasionally, until flavors are blended.
[source: Prevention Magazine]
Vegetable Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken soup seems to taste particularly good when it's cold outside, a time of year when people often get sick. Whether or not it has actual medicinal qualities, this particular Vegetable Chicken Noodle Soup undoubtedly provides important nutrients you need to stay in tiptop health.
Now, here's a soup that can hold its own. Don't let the soup in the name mislead you: Tortellini Soup is more of a main course than a starter entree. Crammed with chunks of sausage, fresh vegetables and pillows of pasta, this flavorful melange is a filling winner for the dinner table come winter. The combination of spices gives it a kick and can warm you from the inside out on the coldest of days.
- 8 ounces tortellini (filled with cheese or meat)
- 1 pound sausage
- 1 cup onions, chopped
- 5 cups beef broth
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 zucchini, chopped
- 1/2 carrot, sliced
- Garlic, five cloves, minced
- 3 Tbs. fresh parsley
- 1/2 tsp. basil
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- Optional topping: fresh parmesan cheese
Sauté sausage, onions and garlic. Drain the grease and add to a large pot with beef broth and red wine. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, simmer 30 minutes. Garnish with grated fresh parmesan cheese.
Last-minute Lasagna is easy to prepare and ideal for freezing. With this favorite, you won't be caught craving a real meal without the time to make one again. There's no chopping, cutting, grating or other preparation steps involved. Just purchase the ingredients, put them in a dish and voila, it's ready to bake.
- 1 jar pasta sauce (24 to 26 oz.)
- 2 bags of frozen large cheese ravioli, unthawed (16 oz. to 18 oz. each)
- 1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed (10 oz.)
- 1 bag of shredded mozzarella (8 oz.)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176.6 degrees Celsius). Evenly pour 1/3 of the pasta sauce into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Place half of the ravioli on top of the sauce, covering the dish in one layer. Evenly distribute the spinach and mozzarella cheese over the ravioli. Layer the remaining ravioli. Pour the remaining sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella and all of the Parmesan cheese over it. Cover with tin foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the tin foil and bake until the top bubbles (about five to 10 more minutes).
Caribbean Turkey Stew
A jumble of fruits and vegetables in Caribbean Turkey Stew presents contrasting flavors, from the sweetness of bananas to the tartness of limes. Please your palate with the many layers of flavors in this stew. It'll wake up your taste buds and add variety to the meals you serve throughout the winter season.
- 2 pounds turkey thighs
- 1 Tbs. oil
- 3 cups thinly sliced onion
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- 1 cup turkey broth or reduced-sodium chicken bouillon
- 1 can (16 oz.) stewed tomatoes, drained
- 1 can (16 oz.) black beans, drained
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 medium bananas, sliced
- 1 bunch green onions, sliced
- 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- 1 or 2 limes, cut into wedges
Heat a saucepan, medium-high heat. Brown turkey thighs in oil, about three minutes each side. Remove and set aside. Using the same saucepan, sauté onions until they're translucent (about two to three minutes). Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan. Bring the stew to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer about an hour and a half. Ten minutes before serving, remove thighs from the mixture and use a fork to strip meat from the bones. Return meat pieces to the stew. Allow the meat to warm. Serve the stew in bowls and garnish with bananas, green onions and coconut. Squeeze a wedge of lime over the top.
Garlic Sirloin Tip Roast
Whether reserved for special occasions or served regularly in your household on Sundays for dinner, Garlic Sirloin Tip Roast is a special treat. It's pierced all over with fresh garlic and is sure to fill your home with a mouthwatering aroma. (If you don't like garlic, you probably won't like this fare.) Remember, whole garlic bulbs stay fresh for two weeks to two months, but the shelf life drops to just a few days once you break open the bulb, so make sure you stuff your roast with fresh garlic.
- 4 pounds boneless sirloin trip roast
- 6-10 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut into slivers cut lengthwise (about 3 to 4 per clove)
Using a sharp knife with a blade a bit longer than a paring knife, cut into the meat just enough to slide one sliver of garlic into the cut. Continue doing this, covering the entire roast until all garlic slivers are used. Use your finger to reseal the cuts. Coat the roast generously with your favorite seasoning salt and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the roast from the refrigerator about an hour before you cook it. Either cook it on a rotisserie or in the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit (162.7 degrees Celsius) for 35 to 40 minutes per pound. The meat thermometer reading should be between 150 degrees and 170 degrees Fahrenheit (65.5 and 76.6 degrees Celsius), depending on how well-done you prefer your roast. Let it rest 10 minutes to 15 minutes under tin foil before cutting.
Here is a delightful dish for a Fall harvest dinner party; Jim Deliman's carrot saffron soup recipe. Learn how to make Jim Deliman's carrot saffron soup.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- "Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes." Publications International, Ltd. 2006. Green Chili Mac and Cheese (adapted)
- Caribbean Turkey Stew. Null, Gary. "Power Foods: The 15 Best Foods for Your Health." New American Library. 2006.
- HowStuffWorks.com. Vegetable-Chicken Noodle Soup. https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/vegetable-chicken-noodle-soup-recipe.htm
- Prevention Magazine. http://recipes.prevention.com/Recipe/white-chicken-chili.aspx" White Chicken Chili
- Schettler, Renee. "Real Simple: Meals Made Easy." Time Inc. Home Entertainment. 2006.
- Last-minute Lasagna
- Surina, Donna. Personal correspondence re: Tortellini Soup. Recipe adapted from Nancy Sigfried. Sept. 22, 2009.
- Surina, Donna. Personal correspondence re: Garlic Sirloin Tip Roast. Sept. 22, 2009.
- Ganderton, Deb. Personal interview re: baked potato recipe. Sept. 23, 2009.
- Surina, Echo. Source for making chicken broth in Vegetable Chicken Noodle Soup, Grilled Cheese Panini Sandwich.
- Three Bean Mole Chili. Modern Publishing's Popular Brands Cookbooks: Casseroles." Triangle Group Ltd. 1993. University of Wisconsin Horticulture Web site http://wihort.uwex.edu/fruitveggies/Leeks.htm"