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.

 

Delicous meals with The Neighborhood Harvest

I have been blogging for many years. In those years I have been contacted by companies to sample their products and write about them. Some have been fun, some have been okay and some not so great. Recently I was contacted by Rebecca from The Neighborhood Harvest about trying some of their locally grown greens and writing a review about them. This one I was really excited about! For complete transparency I received these greens for free, but that will not keep me from writing a completely honest review. The great news about that is I TRULY did REALLY like everything I tried!! If you want to sign up for delivery and use the coupon code COFFEE your $15.00 fee will be waived!!!  Whoop Whoop!!!

So The Neighborhood Harvest is a company that delivers greens to your door in Hampton Roads.

From their website:

“Simply put, we farm the Finest Greens, Lettuces and Herbs for Delivery To Your Door Within A Day of Harvest.

You’re gonna love this service!

Our greenhouse farm is not weather-dependent allowing us to deliver freshly-cut greens year round.  Delivery within a day of harvest yields plants with two-three times more shelf-life than store bought greens.  Yet we are comparably priced.

There is no other source of greens and lettuces that are: 

*Delivered to your door the day after harvest.

*Sustainable, Beyond Organic, Pesticide and GMO free.

*Locally grown in Suffolk, VA reducing your environmental footprint and supporting the local economy.

*The most incredible flavor!”

We received quite a few of their products to check out and I was happy because the things Rebecca sent were not greens we usually eat so on top of checking out their items we were able to try some new things also. Win Win!

We received the following items from The Neighborhood Harvest:

Two heads of Bibb Lettuce

Bibb Lettuce
Bibb Lettuce

Two baby Bok Choy

Babyu Bok Choy- was in the fridge, hence the condensation
Baby Bok Choy- was in the fridge, hence the condensation

Arugula:

Arugula
Arugula

Microgreens:

China Rose Microgreens
China Rose Microgreens

Basil:

Sweet Basil
Sweet Basil

Okay, so here is my assessment of the greens. I really liked the Bibb lettuce. We mixed it with our romaine and made a salad. It was fresh and lasted a week in the plastic container. (it probably would have lasted longer, but we ate it all within a week, it was so good. NONE was wasted!). Mixed with a head of romaine there easily enough lettuce for two salads for Karol, my 17 year old and myself. It was tasty and crisp and very fresh. It had a taste like it was just picked and was clean and didn’t even need to be washed. I was very happy with it.

We added the microgreens to the salad for some variety, but they definitely could have been eaten on their own. I think they would be very tasty in a sandwich! I had never tasted these before, and they had a fresh radish taste. I am not a fan of radishes, but I really liked the way the microgreens tasted. They had that bite that a radish has but it wasn’t too pungent, it was fresh and tasty. We added the greens to the salad, and it was truly delicious!! The greens added a really nice taste to what could otherwise be a boring salad.

Romaine, Bibb lettuce and China Rose microgreens. YUM!
Romaine, Bibb lettuce and China Rose microgreens. YUM!

It was so good y’all!!!  For real!!!

We had a stirfry and used the baby bok choy. It was fresh and tasted so good! When we usually use store bought bok choy I don’t always use the leaves because they are a bit wilted. These leaves weren’t and we used the whole thing (but I forgot to take a picture).

Because I want to be completely transparent I have to say that I tried the arugula and didn’t like it. Not because their arugula was not good, but because I didn’t like the way arugula tasted. So I gave it to my neighbor who loves arugula on the condition she sent me a picture of what she made with it and gave me an honest review of the Arugula, and this is what she said:

The salad my friend made with the arugula
The salad my friend made with the arugula

Her review: “I made a Greek salad with balsamic vinaigrette, feta cheese and black olives. I consider that it was very good and tasted very fresh. I noticed that it was stronger in flavor than my regular arugula so it was maybe a little harder to get used to it but I suppose it’s because it’s more natural. On appearance it looks great I also noticed the leaf was bigger in size, more similar to spinach leaf. I liked also that it seems to last longer, staying dry and crispy without spoiling versus the regular one you get from the supermarket.”

The last thing we used was the sweet basil. I used it to make one of my favorite summer meals, caprese panini.

before grilling
before grilling

After grilling with the yummy salad:

Best. Dinner. Ever.
Best. Dinner. Ever.

Now I will say that the basil from The Neighborhood Harvest, while tasty, did not have as much flavor as the basil I grow in my backyard. Not sure if that is because it is grown hydroponically, or not, but while it was good, it could be more flavorful.

Overall I was very very pleased with the greens I tried, and my friend Yancel was pleased with the arugula. The cost is awesome: a large weekly box which is only $16.00!! Here is a description of what is in a large box:

This box option is perfect for subscribers who like a changing variety in their weekly delivery.  We bring you different flavors each week depending on what is growing best!

Feeds 3 – 4 people.Details:

– 1 Large clamshell of Mesclun Mix

– 1 Large clamshell of Rotating Green #1

– 1 Large clamshell of Rotating Green #2

– 1 Tray of Microgreens

A medium box is $12.00 and a small box is $10.00. For more information you should definitely check them out at The Neighborhood Harvest.

There is a one time $15.00 fee to set up your account but you can use your own cooler on the front porch and then the cost is just for the greens you order. There is a $2.00 delivery fee for any orders under $10.00.

Their delivery area is quite large:

“What areas do you deliver to?
Currently we deliver to most of north and east Virginia Beach as well as areas around the farm in Suffolk.  These areas include Towne Center area, Kings Grant, Little Neck, Northhampton Blvd to Shore Dr, Shore Dr at Northhampton to the Oceanfront, Oceanfront to Laskin to Great Neck corridor; Suffolk city, north Suffolk and Western Branch. If you are unsure if you are in our delivery area, please give us a call or email, or complete a customer profile using the Sign Up button on the homepage and we will contact you asap.”

So my advice for you if you are a local to Hampton Roads is the The Neighborhood Harvest is a great way to get delicious, fresh, safely grown greens, herbs and microgreens delivered to your home for your family’s eating pleasure!!!
I know I will be ordering from them!

 

Clean Eating: Dirty Rice with Chicken

I have posted previously about our journey to eating “real Food” which for us meant going organic and healthier. In doing that I lost about 25 pounds and Karol lost 40. I have kept those 25 pounds off for about two years, but it is time for me to take things to the next level. In doing so I am doing a “30 day detox” using my Arbonne products. Protein shakes, fiber, energy fizz sticks, and removing food items that can cause problems such as gluten, corn, ground nuts, coffee (although we can have green tea and caffeinated Arbonne fizz sticks). Removing coffee is about removing acidic foods.

Anyway I am currently on day 4. I have found quite a few recipes we are going to try and I will be happy to share them here. The one I made last night was “Dirty Rice with Chicken”. It was super easy and super yummy!!

Dirty Rice with Chicken

Ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small zucchini, diced
1/4 cup onion. chopped
2 cups brown rice
Creole Seasoning: I used Tony Chachere seasoning but you can make your own with:
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup organic frozen mixed vegetables
Directions:
1) Cook brown rice according to the directions on the package.
2) Put the olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the zucchini and onion and  saute until soft.
2) Add cut up chicken and cook until chicken is browned.
3) When chicken was almost done I added the mixed veggies. (Corn is actually not allowed during a 30 day detox, so I just picked it out and gave it to my cat as a treat…he loves corn….weirdo….)
4) Add in the rice and stir it together to marry the flavors.
5) I actually “overcooked” it a bit so some of the rice would have a crunchy texture, but that is definitely up to your personal preference.
Serve. Made 4 servings. (no leftovers….this was too delicious!!)
dirtyrice
Enjoy!!