The Essentials Of Hearty Winter Cooking

For many, one of the main joys of the winter is that it is an opportunity to create and craft some beautiful hearty meals. There are plenty such meals that you might be keen on having in your repertoire, and it is a good idea to make sure you have a few of them clearly understood, so that you can much more effectively and evocatively know how to create them at a moment’s notice. In this post, we are going to make that a lot easier by looking through some of the essentials of hearty winter cooking. As long as you bear the following in mind, you should be able to create wonderful winter meals.

One of the things you will probably find yourself turning to quite often when you are cooking winter meals is cooking in a deep pot. There are so many amazing meals that are cooked this way, and it’s important that you are doing all you can to find a pot that you can use for such meals as well as possible. You might be keen to cook a chicken pot pie recipe with biscuits, for instance, in which case you’ll certainly need this – or a casserole, which will require a casserole dish or just any deep dish that you can use.

Hand Blending

Very often, you are going to find that there is a need to do some blending by hand. For example, you might be looking at creating some delicious soups – as these are always popular in the colder months – and in that case you will certainly need to have a blender that you can easily use. These days you can easily get hold of some powerful hand blenders for this job, so they are definitely worth looking into if you are keen to make a lot of soups this year – and even some stews will require this sort of help as well.

So much winter cooking relies upon using a lot of spice, for the obvious reason that it provides plenty of heat, so you might want to think about stocking up on your spice rack essentials too. Really there is no such thing as having too many spices in your kitchen, so this is something that you might as well go out and shop for right away. The more you have, the more taste you can put into all of your winter dishes, and in a way which is going to be so much easier than if you had no such spices lying around at all. Often the spices are what really makes the dish heart in the first place, so that is something you’ll want to bear in mind.

As you can see, there are a few essentials to consider when you are trying to create beautiful homemade winter meals. As long as you have thought about the above, you’ll find that making those kinds of meals is a lot easier than you might have thought.

 

Creamy Chicken Rice Soup Recipe

My family has always enjoyed eating a lovely soup or stew during the cold months. In fact, I can get both of my grown up kids home for dinner very easily by announcing I am making beef stew, pot roast, or chili. They will rearrange their schedules to be home for dinner on those nights. And if any of you have adult children who have busy lives you will understand what a feat that is!

Now we can add a new meal to the “whole family home for dinner” line up. Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup!

I was actually surprised both of my young adult sons loved this soup so much! But they did, and even the leftovers were eaten. ALL of them. I don’t know if your house is like my house, but in my house the leftovers usually sit and sit until eventually either I eat them or they get fuzzy. For some reason my family thinks that leftovers don’t taste good. I will admit they don’t taste as yummy in the microwave, but if you heat them in a pan they are just as good as the first time, and sometimes better because the flavors have had a chance to “shake hands”.

So here is the amazing Creamy Chicken Rice Soup Recipe

 

CREAMY CHICKEN RICE SOUP

Ingredients

1 tablespoon EVOO

2 pounds boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-2 inch pieces

½ cup celery, chopped

½ cup onion, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped

1 cup frozen vegetables

1 cup cooked brown rice

½ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups chicken broth

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)

 

Directions

1) In a large saucepan cook the cubed chicken in ½ tablespoon EVOO until it is browned. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Pour the remaining ½ tablespoon EVOO in to the pan and add the onion, celery, and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent (about 3-5 minutes) and add the carrots. Sauté for about 3 minutes.

2) Add in the Chicken broth, rice, and frozen vegetables, stir well. Then add the cooked chicken to the pan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer with a lid on the pan for 15-20 minutes.

3) Mix the flour and milk in a container with a lid and shake or stir well to create a slurry. Pour into the soup while stirring to thicken the soup. Add Flour/milk mixture to desired thickness. Heat through and serve.

YUM!

 

Ultimate Brownie Cheesecake

We are dessert lovers! I mean I am really not kidding you when I tell you I work out so I can eat dessert. I will work out for an hour so I can eat a piece of cheesecake without feeling *too* guilty. I have learned that life is not meant to be free of dessert so we should indulge on occasion. But I also know that life is about balance, so I can’t eat cheesecake every day and not suffer the consequences if I am not working out. I like a sweet after dinner, but on most days it is a biscotti. However during the holidays I make a Cheesecake. And not just any old cheesecake. I usually make my Ultimate Turtle Cheesecake.  

However this year I wanted to stretch a little further and make something different. I happened upon a recipe from one of my favorite cooking websites, Smitten Kitchen, and made a few tweaks and there it was!! She called it Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake because the brownie bites are nestled lovingly inside the cheesecake and it looks like a mosaic pattern , but I wanted to give it my own spin, so let me introduce you to

 

 

Ultimate Brownie Cheesecake

 Adapted from Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake by Deb Perleman of Smitten Kitchen

Step One: The Brownie

Adapted from Baker’s One Bowl Brownies

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

¾ cup butter (1 ½ stick)

1 ¾ cup granulated sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×13 baking pan with foil, with ends extending over the sides of the pan. Grease the foil.

Microwave chocolate and butter in a large microwavable bowl on high for 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixed with butter. Stir in sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and salt, mix well. Spread into prepared pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out with fudgy crumbs. It is important not to overbake the brownies as they will be going back in the oven in the cheesecake batter. Cool brownies on wire rack in pan.

Once brownies are cool cut them into ¾ to 1 inch cubes to put into the cheesecake batter. You will have more brownie than what is needed for the cheesecake batter. It is up to you what to do with the leftover brownies. (wink wink) Although next time I will crumble some of them up and put them on top of the ganache of the cheesecake. I mean is anything really too extra at this point with this cheesecake?? I think not.

Step Two: Chocolate crust

 1 ½ cups finely ground chocolate teddy grahams (or chocolate graham crackers)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Stir the ingredients together and then press into the bottom and up the side about an inch of a buttered 9-inch springform pan.

Step Three: The Cheesecake

 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons lemon juice

¾ cup sour cream

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cups brownie cubes (from above recipe)

Beat cream cheese on low until creamy (if you want a nice thick New York style cheesecake, be careful not to mix on high because that will incorporate too much air into mixture). Once cheese is creamy, add eggs in one at a time and incorporate into cream cheese. Add vanilla, sugar, lemon juice, sour cream, beating on low speed until each ingredient is mixed in, scraping down bowl between additions.

Fold brownie cubes in very gently and pour mixture into prepared pan. Put springform pan in a shallow baking pan, (this will catch any spillover) in the middle of the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly jiggly when the pan is shaken.

Step Four: Chocolate Ganache

Adapted from Purdy’s original recipe

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped; or ½ cup semi-sweet or bittersweet morsels

2 ounces butter

¼ cup heavy cream (I used coconut milk)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon (or more to create desired consistency)

Grind the chocolate into powder in a food processor. Scald the butter and milk in a saucepan. With the machine running, pour the hot milk/butter into the food processor with the chocolate. Blend until chocolate is smooth. Add the vanilla and sugar until smooth. If needed add more powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. Spread over cheesecake while chocolate is still warm. Chill until ready to serve.

This cheesecake was absolutely amazing! It was delicious and creamy and decadent and everything you would want or desire in a cheesecake or a special dessert!

 

I hope you love this decadence as much as we did! It will take me a month of working out to work it off, but man oh man it was worth EVERY drop of sweat!