When the first frost hits and winter veers its head, our thoughts begin to turn to those comfort foods that have become synonymous with this time of the year. Whether you choose a gooey baked ziti or a hot and spicy chili or a hearty and meaty stew, warm foods for winter keep us cozy as the temperature goes low.
Why We Want Heartier Meals Through Winter
We instinctively as mammals crave warm foods for winter in much the same way as our animal friends who use these foods as their insulation and energy throughout the winter months during their hibernation period. Substantial foods that tend to be higher in fat and calories are going to break down at a much slower pace within the digestive tract. In so doing, there is a steady flow of energy being released throughout the body and the internal temperature rises. The vegetables that come into season in the winter are also much more dense such as beets to pumpkins up to acorn squash.
Unfortunately, the winter weather disallows much physical activity to burn off the added calories that these foods provide meaning that many suffer from the dreaded holiday weight gain unless you are following a healthy winter diet plan.
Key Ingredients For Comfort Food
Traditional warm foods for winter would not have necessarily coincided with many of the diet choices surfacing on the market today. Vegetarians and vegans would not have been able to partake nor would many who follow the clean eating approach. There were key ingredients in hearty winter recipes that couldn’t be substituted or taken out in order to satisfy those food categories. One was meat. When you had a hearty meatloaf or a meat stew in the winter, there was actual meat in it. If there was going to be a lasagna for dinner or a baked ziti or some other type of pasta dish, there would be real pasta with real cheese. If a recipe called for rice or perhaps chicken, the true ingredients would make up the warm recipes.
Using real ingredients in those days was the only way to experience an actual hearty winter comfort food. Once there were substitutions or alterations made to a recipe, it’s wasn’t the hearty, cozy dish that it was supposed to be. These dishes were passed down from generations and had history and tradition that couldn’t be altered or changed in order to make them something that they were not.
Healthy Winter Recipes To Try
What makes recipes into healthy winter dinner ideas are the things that are added in while retaining the main ingredients that give the dishes their integrity. Adding seasonal vegetables or topping salads with tangy fruits not only add color and variety to the dish but provide extra nutrients that the body needs to fend off illness during the cold months.
Most adults are not achieving their daily servings of vegetables or fruits, leaving them without the health benefits and subject to chronic illness that could be prevented by eating plant-based foods. When you make cheesy enchiladas for your family, use sweet potatoes as a hearty base or add red peppers and broccoli to a homemade mac and cheese for added crunch. The family won’t notice the extras that you’re incorporating into your specialty dishes but their health will be positively affected.
The worst thing on a cold winter morning is to wake up to a cold breakfast but if you have a slow cooker and steel cut oats with some nice fresh fruit, you’re all set for a hearty and healthy breakfast to set you right, fill you up for the day, and make you cozy as you prepare to head out into the cold. It’s so easy to throw all of the ingredients into the cooker the night before and wake up to a steaming pot of comfort. For this recipe you can add an apple of your choosing, cranberries, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, kosher salt, a little bit of water, and some milk and for the topping you’ll want to use chopped apple, almonds sliced, cranberries dried, cinnamon, maple syrup. Cook it on low for approximately 6 hours and serve with the toppings as a garnishment.
It’s not winter if you don’t have chili on hand. This particular recipe calls for pork and green chilies with the first step in the process being to make the base comprised of garlic, sautéed onions, cumin, tomatillos, chicken broth, and cilantro. After this the pork shoulder needs to be diced and browned before the chopped poblano is added in with the oregano, Anaheim peppers, dried cannellini beans along with the pureed tomatillo-broth blend. Cooking time will vary but chili takes time and can go from 2-4 hours so you won’t want to try this on a weeknight. The pork should be tender with a good texture for your beans. Don’t forget to top it with the best sour cream, shredded cheddar, and lime.
In modern times, people are taking the traditional comfort foods and making their own versions in an effort to create more healthy alternatives. There are some with no meat, others with no dairy, still more with no pasta. Times have changed drastically, but no one will make a comfort food quite like grandma did.