My Favourite Winter Comfort Dishes

26 01 2011

Beef Pie with winter vegetables in a rich wine sauce and topped with a cheddar-flecked crust

For anyone living in a northern climate, we’re into the toughest point of winter: the weather is frigid, the days are often gloomy and spring is still far, far away. The warm glow of the holiday season is a month behind us and people are starting to get cranky. However, there is no need to despair! It’s the perfect time to enjoy winter activities such as skiing, skating and sledding as well as indulge in our favourite hearty dishes. Here are a few of my favourite cold weather comfort foods. They’re not exactly diet-friendly but they are delicious and will be sure to warm you up!

Braised Short Ribs – The most popular recipe on The Seasonal Gourmet, these ribs are perfect for cold winter nights. Serve with Horseradish Cream and mashed potatoes.

Meatloaf with Zesty Tomato Glaze – Forget dry, boring cafeteria-style meatloaf: this version is moist and flavourful.  Serve with lightly steamed and buttered green beans and mashed potatoes.

 

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Three Cheeses

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Three Cheeses – Light?  No. Delicious?  Yes! This easy pasta dish can be assembled in advance and baked just before serving, making it perfect for busy nights.

Beef Pie with Cheddar Crust – A hearty pot pie packed with beef chunks and winter vegetables in a rich red wine sauce. Topped with a cheddar-flecked crust, it’s a great dinner after a busy day of skiing or skating (see photo, above).

Slow Simmered Ragu with Pasta – One of my favourite meals to make on a lazy Sunday.  Once the prep work it done, it just requires low and slow simmering to develop into a rich and flavourful sauce.

Juicy Herb Roasted Chicken – Roast chicken is the ultimate comfort food and this version doesn’t disappoint.  Serve with mashed potatoes, Savoury Mushroom Bread Pudding and a green salad.  Celery Root Slaw also pairs well with the chicken.

Lobster Pot Pie – For a special treat, splurge on a bit of lobster meat to make this decadent pie. Serve with a simple salad.

Steve’s Osso Bucco – This braised veal dish is ideal for snowy winter nights.  Serve with traditional Risotto Milanese.

Sausage and Mushroom Lasagna – Another Seasonal Gourmet favourite, this make-ahead dinner has layers of pasta and rich meat sauce, studded with mushrooms and topped with a hearty bechamel.  Decadent and delicious!

 

Chocolate fondue with fruit and cake

Chocolate Fondue – Melted chocolate, fruit and cake – what’s not to love?  A staple of 70’s parties, fondue is making a comeback in the 21st century.  Light a fire, gather ’round and enjoy!

Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce – Pears, nuts and a decadent caramel sauce make this dessert a favourite.

Baked Apples with Apple Brandy Sauce – These baked apples are one of my new ‘go-to’ easy desserts.  It’s simple to put together and the results are surprisingly delicious. Don’t let the apple brandy put you off – if you can’t find it, just use extra cider in the sauce. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Pumpkin Cream Puffs with Maple-Caramel Sauce – Cream puffs stuffed with a pumpkin pie-inspired cream filling and topped with caramel sauce – what more could you want in a dessert?

Brownie Cheesecake Bites – Fun little desserts combining the best of brownies and cheesecake are just the thing to end a decadent meal.  They’re also portable so you can pack them in lunches or take them on a picnic.

Bon Appétit and Stay Warm!

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Creamy Tomato Soup

19 01 2011

Tomato Soup with a grilled cheese sandwich is a classic cold weather meal

Tomato soup is a classic winter favourite.  Paired with crackers or a grilled cheese sandwich, it’s the perfect meal on a cold and gloomy day. Canned soup is quick and easy but making your own doesn’t take a lot of effort and you can control how much salt and additives are in the finished product. It can also be made in advance and re-heated for an easy meal on busy days.

Obviously tomatoes are not in season right now but canned tomatoes work beautifully for this recipe. Try to use good quality tomatoes that don’t have a lot of added salt or citric acid. I like Aurora brand diced tomatoes because they have good flavour, don’t have any additives and are affordable.  San Marzano tomatoes are also a good choice but they tend to be a bit more expensive.

Creamy Tomato Soup

Makes about 4 servings – can easily be doubled

(Can be made VEGETARIAN)

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (use vegetable stock if serving vegetarians)
  • 28 oz. (796 g) can of tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream or evaporated skim milk
  • Pinch of sugar, to taste (optional – it’s to balance the acid in tomatoes)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Grated swiss, parmesan or old cheddar cheese to garnish (optional)
  1. In a large saucepan or medium enameled cast-iron pot, heat the butter on medium-high heat until melted. Add the onion and sauté until it’s just beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook for another two minutes.
  3. Pour in the stock and tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with a large spoon and let the soup gently simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes (don’t let it come to a hard boil).
  4. After 20 minutes, remove the pot from the burner and let the soup cool for a few minutes.  Carefully puree the soup mixture with a hand blender until smooth (or transfer to a regular blender and puree – use extreme caution with hot liquids).
  5. Return the pureed soup to the pot and place back on the burner. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar, if necessary. Add the cream and stir until combined.  Heat on medium until the soup is hot.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
  6. To serve, top with grated cheese and fresh ground pepper if desired. Serve with crackers, sandwiches or Cheddar Herb Biscuits.

A tip for freezing: Prepare the soup as directed but don’t stir in the cream/evaporated milk at the end.  Freeze the pureed tomato base.  To thaw and prepare: Defrost the frozen soup base and place in a pot.  Add the cream/milk as directed and season as necessary.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Slow Simmered Ragu with Pasta

12 01 2011

A Tuscan-style ragu, simmered slowly with herbs and wine, pairs perfectly with fresh pasta

We’re deep in the heart of winter and snow is blanketing much of North America (including areas that don’t normally get a lot of snow). It’s the kind of weather that makes you want to put something comforting on the stove to simmer while you curl up with a blanket and a good book.  A slow simmered Tuscan-style ragu sauce fits the bill perfectly.

A few years ago I was visiting Tuscany and happened upon an outdoor cooking demonstration. A chef and his mother, Mamma Donatella, were demonstrating how to make classic Tuscan dishes.  One of the dishes was fresh handmade pasta with a ragu sauce and Donatella’s version was unlike any I’ve had before: rich with flavour and light on tomato sauce.  Since then, I’ve worked on developing my own take on this Italian classic.  The secret is to let the sauce cook down for a long time (at least 2-1/2 to 3 hours).  You can make your own noodles or buy fresh pasta at many Italian markets. Good quality dry pasta will work as well – try wide noodles such as papardelle or tagliatelle.

Click here for the recipe on Suite 101: Slow Simmered Ragu with Pasta.

Bon Appétit and Stay Warm!

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Healthy Recipe Ideas

4 01 2011

Eating healthier is one of the most common new year's resolutions.

Happy New Year!

If you’re anything like me, the holidays were a whirlwind of crazy overindulgence. From turkey dinner with all the fixin’s to an insanely decadent trip to Montreal (which included such delights as foie gras poutine, smoked meat sandwiches and vintage champagne), it’s now time for me to get back to eating a more balanced diet.

Many people make new year’s resolutions to eat better and exercise more.  To get inspired, here are a few helpful links to recipes and sites that will make eating a healthier diet pleasurable and delicious (no dry rice crackers and starvation diets are necessary!)

 

Fish can be a delicious part of a balanced diet

Recipes:

Sablefish with Caramelized Fennel and Cherry Tomatoes

Roasted Green Beans with Shallots

Avocado Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

How to Make Flavorful Low-Fat Soups

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Thyme Croutons

Spiced Apple Walnut Bread

Peppery Leek and Potato Soup

More great ideas can be found here:

Cooking Light

Simple Till Six: An Eating Plan for Busy People

Five Healthy Ways to Post-Holiday Detox

Healthy Eating – The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

I’d like to wish everyone a healthy and happy 2011!

Bon Appétit and Enjoy,

Trish

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Christmas Brunch

23 12 2010

Pre-cooked ham makes an easy Christmas brunch dish.

Christmas morning is an exciting time for anyone who celebrates the holiday.  Kids wake up at the crack of dawn to see if Santa has arrived and many adults still feel a tingle of excitement when they see the tree surrounded by gifts in the morning. Once everyone has opened their presents and settled down, why not enjoy a delicious brunch?

I like to make a nice meal on Christmas morning.  However, I don’t like to fuss too much because who wants to be slaving in the kitchen when everyone else is having fun?  (plus, I have a turkey dinner to cook later in the day!).  The key is to do as much as possible the night before so Christmas can be enjoyed with your family.

Here are a few ideas for a relatively simple brunch.  I have included some helpful tips for prepping in advance to make things easier.

Spiced Cranberry-Apple Cider – On Christmas morning, I like to get up before everyone and put on a pot of mulled cider so when everyone wakes up, the house smells wonderful and there is something warm to drink while we’re opening gifts. Prepare the spice packet the night before. To make cranberry-apple cider, mix equal parts non-alcoholic apple cider and unsweetened cranberry juice in a saucepan and add the spice packet. Let simmer for 10 minutes and serve.  Garnish mugs with cinnamon sticks if desired.

Crustless Quiche – Leaving out the crust makes things much simpler. Of course, asparagus isn’t in season during Christmas but you can substitute chopped spinach, sautéed leeks, diced red peppers or sautéed mushrooms.  Bake the pie the night before and serve at room temperature or briefly warmed in the oven.

Spicy Breakfast Potatoes – The potatoes can be peeled and cubed the night before. Place the cubes in a bowl, add enough cold water to just cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Drain well and pat dry before cooking.  The spices can be pre-mixed in a small bowl so they’re ready to go in the morning.  You can let the potatoes cook while you’re preparing other dishes.

Cheddar-Herb Biscuits – The biscuits can be rolled, cut and placed in the baking dish the night before.  Refrigerate overnight and let them come to room temperature before baking.

Ham with Spicy Maple-Dijon Glaze – I buy a ham that has been pre-cooked, which makes things much simpler.  It can be sliced and served cold or heated briefly in the oven while other things are baking. Prepare the mustard glaze the night before and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Baked French Toast – This entire dish can be assembled the night before and baked in the morning.

Morning Glory (Orange and Pomegranate Mimosas) – In a pitcher, add orange and pomegranate juices the night before and refrigerate.  Add the sparkling wine just before serving (the wine can be added to the pitcher or to individual glasses.)  Use club soda for guests who don’t drink.

Pancakes – Mix all of the dry ingredients the night before in a large bowl.  Measure out the wet ingredients (except the egg) into small bowls and refrigerate.  In the morning, combine everything and cook the pancakes.  Serve with pre-made fruit syrup or maple syrup.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins – Like pancakes, the dry ingredients can all be measured and added to a large bowl the night before.  Measure the wet ingredients into small bowls and refrigerate.  In the morning, you can mix and bake everything quickly.

Banana-Rum Bread – Banana bread and other sweet breads can be made in advance and frozen.  Remove from the freezer the night before to defrost in time for brunch.

Yogurt, cereal, bagels with cream cheese, smoked salmon, granola and fruit don’t require much prep work!

Coffee and Tea – Set up the coffee maker/espresso machine/french press with coffee and water the night before.  Fill a kettle with water for tea.

A Final Tip: You will be very happy in the morning if you take the time to set the table before you go to bed (and tell Santa not to mess it up with crumbs while he’s enjoying his milk and cookies on Christmas Eve!)

Bon Appétit and Happy Holidays!





Pomegranate Cocktails

21 12 2010

Pomegranate juice makes a great base for festive cocktails

Pomegranates are in season right now and they are ideal for making festive holiday cocktails (bonus: pomegranate juice is good for you!).  Whole pomegranates can be juiced but it’s a bit of a hassle and bottled pomegranate juice is readily available almost everywhere these days.  However, if you can’t find pomegranate juice, you can substitute unsweetened cranberry juice.

Christmas in the Tropics

This drink was inspired by a recent trip I took.  It’s a great way to use up that bottle of coconut rum you bought one summer that has been languishing at the back of your liquor cabinet.  The coconut is subtle and the pomegranate balances the flavours nicely.

Makes two drinks (can easily be multiplied for a crowd)

  • 3 oz. rum
  • 1.5 oz. coconut rum (such as Malibu)
  • 6 oz. pomegranate juice
  • Ice
  • Slice of pomegranate or pomegranate berries, to garnish (optional)

In a cocktail shaker, combine the rums, juice and some ice.  Shake well and strain into two martini or low-ball glasses.  Garnish with a slice of pomegranate or some seeds.

The Merry Maker

This unusual cocktail captures the flavours of the holiday season: warming spices, pomegranate and mandarin orange. Vodka can be substituted for the tequila if you’d prefer.

Makes two drinks (can easily be multiplied for a crowd)

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teapsoon ground ginger
  • 1 oz. mandarin or regular orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz. tequila or vodka
  • 4 oz. pomegranate juice
  • Ice
  • Orange slice or twist as garnish (optional)

In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients (except garnish) and shake well.  Strain into martini glasses and garnish with an orange slice or twist if desired.

Morning Glory

Mimosas (orange juice with sparkling wine) make Christmas brunch festive.  Adding a splash of pomegranate gives it a new twist.  I sometimes juice some of the mandarin oranges or clementines that come in boxes around the holidays.

Makes one drink (can easily be multiplied for a crowd)

  • Orange juice or freshly squeezed mandarin or clementine juice
  • Pomegranate juice
  • An inexpensive sparkling wine such as cava or prosecco
  • Orange or mandarin slices to garnish, if desired

Fill a champagne flute halfway with orange juice.  Add a splash of pomegranate juice and top with sparkling wine.  Garnish with an orange slice.

Cheers and Enjoy!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Steve’s Osso Bucco

13 12 2010

Osso bucco (braised veal shanks) + risotto = the perfect cold weather meal.

It’s mid-December and in many areas the weather has taken a turn for the grim.  The days are short and dark and curling up with a cup of tea in front of the fire is a very appealing prospect.  What could be more delicious for dinner than a hearty braise, served over creamy risotto?

Any good butcher should be able to get veal shanks for you. Be sure to ask if you don't see any on display.

Osso bucco are Italian veal shanks and my friend Steve makes the best version I have ever had (it’s even better than the one I tried at Babbo restaurant in NYC!).  Luckily he gave me the recipe so now I can make it whenever I please.  It’s ideal for cold winter nights when you don’t want to fuss because it’s easy to put together and most of the cooking time is unattended.  Any good butcher should be able to get you veal shanks so ask for them if you don’t see them on display.

Tip: Don’t skip the gremolata – it brings all of the flavours together.

Steve’s Osso Bucco

Makes 6 servings

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 6 veal shanks (osso bucco)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium red onions, diced
  • 4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine
  • 3 cups (700 ml) chicken stock
  • 14 fl. oz. can San Marzano tomatoes with juice (or half of a large can)

Gremolata:

  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 3 Tablespoons finely chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • The rind from 2 lemons (yellow part only), finely diced
  1. In a large bowl, add the flour, salt and pepper and stir to combine thoroughly.  Roll each of the veal shanks in the flour, making sure they are coated on all sides.  Shake off any excess flour and set the shanks aside on a plate.  Discard any leftover flour.
  2. In an enameled cast iron pot (5.5 quart or larger) or other large pot with a lid, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the veal shanks to the oil, making sure they are not crowded in the pot (work in batches if necessary).  The shanks will take about 3 to 4 minutes per side to brown.  Use tongs or a fork to turn them over.
  3. Remove the browned shanks from the pot and set aside.  Add the butter to the pot and heat until melted.  Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 7 to 8 minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
  4. Turn the heat back to medium-high and pour in the wine, chicken stock and tomatoes.  Break up the tomatoes with a spoon and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.  Return the veal shanks to the pot and use one of the following methods to finishing cooking:
  5. Stovetop Method: Cover and simmer for 2 to 4 hours on medium-low heat, until the meat is tender.  Do not let the mixture come to a boil.  OR use the Oven Method: Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cover the pot and place in the oven, cooking for 3 hours or until the shanks are tender.
  6. To Make the Gremolata: In a small bowl, add the chopped garlic, parsley and lemon rind and stir to thoroughly combine.
  7. Stir the gremolata into the osso bucco sauce just before serving.
  8. Serve the shanks and sauce over risotto milanese.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired.

A Delicious Tip: The bone marrow at the centre of each cooked shank can be seasoned with sea salt and scooped out with a small spoon.  Serve with toast rounds if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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