The Final Home Stretch of Winter

Is it over yet??? Winter, I mean. Gloomy skies and shorter days. Blistering wind. Cold temperatures. Shoveling snow. For some, winter means going into hibernation mode – curling up on the couch with a blanket and a warm cup of tea, binging on Netflix, or reading a good book.

 

For others, the winter months mean getting outside and putting on the skis to go cross-country skiing or going for a jog or brisk walk. The cold crisp air feels invigorating, and the idea of movement outdoors during the winter months is a welcomed feeling.

 

Whichever camp you may be in, we tend to crave comfort food during the winter months. As a result, meals tend to be heavier. Light summer salads are out. Heartier winter salads made with ingredients that include grains, beans, legumes, squashes, and bitter greens like escarole, arugula, and dandelion are in.

 

Many like to gravitate to dishes that include some heat as well. Casseroles and soups that include warming spices like hot chili peppers, cayenne, garam masala, curry spices, chipotle peppers, and Sriracha sauce keep us warm inside. (According to Dr. William Li, the bioactive capsaicin found in hot chili peppers activates fat cells and turns them on, so they burn fat. An added bonus!)

 

Soups, stews, casseroles, and meal bowls are popular during the winter months. Stews are thicker and have less liquid than soups. A meal bowl can include any grain, protein, and vegetable drizzled with a sauce. Bowls have endless possibilities and are easy to put together. For example, a sheet pan of roasted vegetables like butternut squash, beets, parsnips, carrots, brussels sprouts, onions, and carrots have multiple uses, including wraps, sandwiches, as a side dish, or included in your favorite grain dish or pasta sauce.

 

My latest winter-favorite recipe, Irish Colcannon Soup, comes from Kim Campbell’s new cookbook PlantPure Comfort Food. The Merriam-Webster definition of colcannon is cabbage and potatoes boiled and mashed together with butter and seasoning. Campbell’s recipe omits the butter but adds sauerkraut to meld the flavors of this soup together beautifully. I added a can of rinsed white beans and doubled the number of carrots. If you want to enjoy what would be defined as a cozy winter meal, this is it.

 

Irish Colcannon Soup

1 leek, thinly sliced

2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (1/2 small cabbage)

2 carrots, diced

4 cups of no-sodium vegetable broth

1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1” cubes (about 3 cups)

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup raw cashews

1/4 cup whole wheat flour (or oat flour for gluten-free) or 2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

1 1/2 cups sauerkraut

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 green onions, sliced

Red pepper flakes for garnish

 

In a large pot, sauté the leek, cabbage, and carrots over medium-high heat until the leek and cabbage are tender, 10-12 minutes.

Add the broth and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Combine the water, cashews, flour, and nutritional yeast in a high-powered blender and blend until thick and creamy.

Add the creamy mixture, sauerkraut, smoked paprika, and black pepper to the pot and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens – 8-10 minutes.

Ladle the stew into bowls, garnish each serving with green onions and a pinch of red pepper flakes and serve. Yield 4-6 servings.

 

In my former life as a carnivore, meatloaf was a favorite comfort food. The warmth and texture of the meatloaf fed that comfort food craving. From her cookbook, Happy Herbivore Holidays & Gatherings, Lindsay Nixon created a vegan meatloaf recipe that fits into the comfort food category. Even though the meatloaf could be baked the traditional way in a loaf pan, I love that the meatloaf bites are baked in a muffin tin, making the individual-sized portion more interesting and fun to eat. Serve the meatloaf bites with potatoes prepared your favorite way, add a salad and vegetables, and you have dinner. In addition, the individual portions freeze well, making them a lifesaver when in a pinch for a quick meal.

 

Meatloaf Bites

 

15 oz. kidney beans, drained

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon Italian season

1 tablespoon chili powder

3 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce

1 cup mixed frozen vegetables

1 tablespoon instant oats

 

Preheat oven to 350º. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or use a nonstick or silicone muffin pan.

Mash beans in a bowl with a fork or potato masher until well mashed. Add remaining ingredients except the oats, and stir to combine. Stir in oats. Spoon into muffin pan and pack down. Bake for 20 minutes or until crispy on the outside and fairly firm to the touch (firms a bit as it cools). Serve with ketchup. Yield: 8 meatloaf bites.

 

I look forward to the spring’s official beginning on March 20th at precisely 4:24 PM. In the meantime, I will be enjoying the home stretch of winter, taking walks in the cold crisp air, snuggling up with a good book, and savoring crave-worthy healthy, plant-based comfort foods

 

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