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!

 

Greek Chicken and homemade Tzatiki sauce

We have tomatoes! LOTS of beautiful, juicy lovely cherry tomatoes. So many tomatoes I don’t even know what to do with them anymore. Oh and cucumbers. We have those too! Lots of them.

So with lots of cucumbers and tomatoes, the first thing that came to mind was a cucumber and tomato salad, but Karol said she wasn’t a fan. So I had to think about what she does like. And what she (and the rest of the family) like are chicken skewers. With a greek marinade, and pita bread and feta cheese. We like Tzatiki sauce also, but the boys can live without that. We eat this Greek Chicken and homemade Tzatiki sauce many times in the summer because it is so easy and so Delicious!!

So off to the grocery store I went to get some greek yogurt and pita bread. I always make my own Tzatiki because it just tastes better. One thing I will say is that it tastes even better the day after you make it then the day you make it so if you can have the presence of mind to prepare (as I didn’t) and make your Tzatiki the day before it will be much yummier. In this case they got what they got. Just kidding, we loved it and we like it even more the next day!

First, you make a simple marinade for the chicken and let it sit in there for as long as you have — sometimes I have 20 minutes and sometimes (although not as often as I would like) for as long as 24 hours. Mostly I just forget to plan ahead. Either way the chicken will taste delicious. Then you make a huge amount of Tzatiki. More than you think you will need, but trust me, it goes fast.  You chop lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and red onion (for others than my family I do this, we are not big red onion eaters). Then you grill the chicken. You can either grill your chicken whole or use skewers. For some reason my family just loves food on a skewer. We also always grill the pita bread. Grilling gives it a nice texture and takes away some of the “flour” taste. A super easy way to feed a family or even a large gathering, and you will hardly break a sweat. Added plus of making a light, summer meal that everyone will love and they can take what they want or don’t want, (onions and sauce for my kids, and pita bread for the people not eating gluten) and you can just simply enjoy a lovely glass of whatever your favorite summer beverage is (I like a white sangria personally, or wine spritzer) and enjoy the smell of grilled food and the sound of happy people on a summer evening!

Grated cucumber

 

Yogurt

I put my yogurt in paper towels (because I don;t have cheesecloth) and then put in over a large cup (a tall plastic container works also). I wrap a rubber band around it so the liquid will drip through the cloth and your sauce will be thicker. You definitely DON’T have to do this, especially if you use Greek yogurt which has less moisture. I just like my sauce thick.

 

Tzatiki….yum!

 

We freeze the chicken with the seasonings on them. Makes dinner prep faster and easier.
Chicken done.

 

Ready to assemble. Also, side note I used Naan bread.

 

Ready to devour! Delicious!
Chicken
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-4 (depending on size of group) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Tzatziki dressing
  • 1 1/2 cups (554 grams) plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 hothouse, English or seedless cucumber, unpeeled (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Assembly
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced (we skip this unless there is company that likes it)
  • About 1 pound small-medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 hothouse, English or seedless cucumber, chopped
  • small can of black olives, sliced
  • 4 large pitas (intending 1/2 per person) or more as needed
  • crumbled feta cheese

Prepare the chicken: Combine all ingredients in a large freezer bag. Rub all around, coating chicken as evenly as possible. Let marinate for 20 minutes or up to 24 hours, whatever time you have. (we put marinade on chicken and then freeze with marinade, easy peasy when thawed)

Make tzatziki: Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Slice your cucumber in half, and remove the seeds. Coarsely grate your cucumber and after sitting for a few minutes, wring it out as well as you can. All of that liquid makes the sauce too wet. Add wrung-out cucumber to yogurt bowl along with lemon juice, sour cream, dill, garlic, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. Chill until needed.

Prepare salad components: Arrange, onion, tomatoes, black olives and cucumbers on a platter, or in bowls.

Cook chicken: Heat your grill to high heat or a grill pan to medium-high. Remove chicken from marinade and grill on first side until dark lines appear, about 5 minutes, then flip and grill for 3 minutes more on second side. Cooking times will vastly range by the thickness and coldness of your chicken, as well as variations between grills. Transfer cooked chicken to a cutting board, let rest for a couple minutes while you quickly heat/toast your pitas on the grill. (or cube chicken and put on skewers)

Cut chicken into chunks. Cut pitas into wedges. Add to platter with vegetables and let everyone dig in.

Recipe Notes

This is a great recipe to make ahead of time. Add the marinade to the chicken, package for the freezer and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then grill or bake in the oven.

We make this a LOT in the summer. Definitely  a family favorite and super easy!!