Winter Warmers Special - Week 4



FOOD


At this time of year, I lose all interest in salad and fresh summery foods and start craving lots of filling, starchy meals (I could live on mashed potatoes all winter!) so the challenge is always to ensure I'm getting as much healthy food as possible to counter balance all the carbs (cake & cookies!!) that I invariably stuff my face with!!!


I am of the opinion that eating a couple of carrots cancels out the calories from the 5 cookies I've just eaten! Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!!!


So in this post I will share with you some of my favourite seasonal recipes as well as some I've found online that look amazing! Food that soothes the soul, makes us feel happy and also some healthy options to ensure we're getting all the vitamins and minerals needed to keep us well throughout the long winter months.


So let's start from the beginning of the day and work our way through.

This might prove to be a lengthy but yummy blog post!!

 

Breakfast / Brunch

It's always important for me to have a good start in the morning. I can't just manage on coffee till lunchtime, although coffee is an important part of my day!!!

I also find it difficult to eat savoury food early in the morning so the breakfasts I make will often have a sweet element to them. But brunch is another matter!!

Here are a couple of recipes that I love to make when I have the time.


Pancakes - I absolutely love them!!! They are so versatile and easy to make. And of course they're really filling which makes them a good choice for keeping you going through the day.


When I talk about pancakes, I mean the hearty American style stack of pancakes.

Mine don't look as neat and fancy as this photo - usually they're rather mishapen! But tasty!!! It's taken me some time to find a recipe that works well but I found one online recently that makes really fluffy ones.

This pancake recipe uses American cup measurements but there are plenty of weight convertors online to show you what is required for your weighing scales. I typically drench my pancakes in maple syrup so I didn't add the sugar to the pancake mix but you might have more of a sweet tooth than I do!


Lately I've been mixing it up in terms of flavours, adding other ingredients to the batter. I did some gingerbread ones recently where I put in some vanilla essence and mixed spices which turned out really well. I also tried another batch with grated orange rind and almond essence which worked well but were a little too sickly for my taste - the fact that I made an orange juice flavoured maple syrup probably pushed it too far over to top!!

But the limit is your imagination!!! Chocolate chips maybe, adding in some chopped nuts or mixing in banana. Adding fresh fruit as a topping is a great way to get in some of your 5 a day too!


Huevos Rancheros - is one of my favourite brunch dishes and is another that keeps you full throughout the day. It is essentially a Mexican dish consisting of a tortilla topped with tomato salsa, black beans and fried eggs. Throw in some avocado slices, a little grated cheese and some chopped chorizo and it's even more delish!!!


This photo is quite a large amount to be honest but you can see why it's called Ranchers Eggs! A bowl of this would see you through a hard days work on the farm!! Here's a slightly more pared back recipe for you to try.

 

Lunch

Can often be a rather overlooked meal as we're usually rushing around or working so we grab things on the go. This can be rather expensive and not really a very healthy option.

Making sandwiches to take to work with you can often be boring and uninspiring. Soup is a healthy and filling option that you can batch make at home, keep in the freezer, then take a portion out when needed. It travels relatively well in it's slushy state so perfect for taking to work and blasting in the microwave.


Pumpkin or Butternut Squash is one of my favourites. There are all kinds of interesting versions but I like to keep mine simple. Saute chopped onions and garlic till soft. Then add the chunks of pumpkin or squash and saute for a few more minutes.

Time to add enough water to cover the squash, add a sprinkling of chilli flakes and a stock cube, then simmer till soft. I then blitz it in the blender till smooth but you could mash it down with a fork or potato masher if you don't have a blender. I rarely measure out the ingredients, I just eyeball it depending on the size of the squash.


Or what about a delicious, nourishing bowl of ramen noodles. This can be adjusted to fit whatever veggies and protein you have at home. And this could be portable too, the thin noodles just need boiling water so you could take all the ingredients with you to work and assemble when needed!



Grilled Cheese is my other go to lunch option. Not something that is portable or healthy but very comforting so when I'm home this is often what I make. Sometimes I do the whole British 'cheese on toast' way of making it under the grill. But I much prefer a panini style grilled cheese. I don't have a panini maker so I use a frying pan. Butter the outside of the bread and place the sandwich butter side down in the heated pan. I use a plate on top to keep the sandwich pressed down firmly. Once it's browned turn over to do the other side. It also goes well with soup!!!

 

Dinner


These dark winter nights mean we often crave something comforting for dinner - provided we haven't stuffed our faces too much with breakfast pancakes or grilled cheese!!! I try to include as many vegetables as I can into my dinners so even though there often is a starchy element I'm getting as many nutrients as possible.


Chicken Stew and Herb Dumplings - is one of my favourite winter dinners. I tend to batch make it and save portions in the freezer. I came across this years ago but as I eyeball a lot of my recipes and don't bother having the cookbook open I have no idea where I found it.

Essentially it is chopped carrots, celery, onions and garlic sauted till soft along with some chopped parsley and dill. Then add some shredded chicken - sometimes I cook a couple of skinless chicken breasts or thigh joints in the stew, then shred it once cooked and add back into the stew. Other times I use some leftover chicken from another dish. Top the pan up with water, enough to cover the ingredients and add a stock cube then simmer till the water has reduced.

I make up the dumplings according to the suet package instructions adding more chopped parsley and dill to the mixture. Divide the dumplings into equal portions and sit them on top of the stew. Cover with a lid and cook till the dumplings have increased in size and are cooked through.

Shove in a big bowl and stuff your face!!!!

And of course it's really good for you! I often eat this when I have a cold just to give my immune system a boost.


Stews in general are a great way of making the most of what you have in your kitchen.


For example, instead of eating sausages individually and getting a couple of meals out of a pack, you could just take 2 sausages, fry them along with onions and garlic. Then add some canned tomatoes, a tin of white beans and some herbs to make a stew that will give you several more portions for your money.


Of course, there are loads of things you can make stews out of that dont require meat - a chunky butternut squash and chickpea stew is wonderful with middle Eastern spices, or you could use sweet potato!

I've seen a gorgeous tomato and halloumi (I'm obsessed with halloumi!) one that looks amazing and I need to try!

There are so many interesting flavours and colours to try out you will never get bored and of course, it all goes in one pot which means less clean up!!

 

Drinks


Whilst I would love to spend all winter drinking flavoured coffees and mugs of foamy hot chocolate, it's important to make sure we keep our fluid intake up especially as we'll be spending lots of time out in the cold, windy weather then coming home to hot central heating - all of which will dry our skin out.


Recently I bought one of those giant glass jars with a tap on it. I keep it in the fridge and top it up with water every day. I also put some fruit in to give it some flavour - usually I have slices of lemon and lime which are really good for you. I've also put in some bruised ginger root to add some more flavour. But of course, you can add whatever fruit you like to add some delicious flavour to your tap water. It's a good way of making it more palatable for those who aren't keen on drinking water.


Another thing I like to make are juice shots - being someone who loves to be able to get her vitamins and minerals in the easiest way possible these shots are really great way of starting the day. I have a juicer but I've found an interesting way of using your blender to extract all the juice which is actually quicker and creates less washing up than using my juicer!

My favourite juice is apple, carrot and ginger. I make these a lot especially when I feel a cold coming on. They are very refreshing and have a nice kick to them! Straightaway you can feel they're doing you some good!


When it comes to hot drinks, we all tend to get in the rut of drinking the usual cups of tea or coffee throughout the day and it can get a bit boring. How about trying out something a little different - like some flavoured teas? Or perhaps some fruit teas? There are loads available and most supermarkets have a large selection.


In recent years I've been drinking Rooibos tea flavoured with vanilla. I don't tend to drink 'normal' tea so much these days preferring the Rooibos. I usually buy the Dragonfly tea brand (now I'm wondering what dragonfly tea would taste like??!!!) from my local supermarket but if it's out of stock there is a similar one by the TickTock brand.


My friend recently bought me some festive flavoured loose Rooibos from The Tea House in Covent Garden.....Gingerbread flavour is nice but my favourite has become the Orange Marzipan flavour! They are available online so I've been able to replenish my stash!


I'm not saying that I spend all my time drinking healthy teas and juices - there is a lot of coffee drinking in between but it's nice to have some variety to switch things up a bit.

 

So I hope you've found some great ideas for switching up your winter diet?!


I was planning on adding some info on desserts and baking etc but I think that needs a whole blog post of it's own!


And of course, I would love to hear about your favourite winter recipes which you can post here on the blog or on the Instagram page. Also here is a Pinterest link to some ideas I think are worth checking out.


Have a lovely week everyone and make yourself something yummy!