Winter Dining

Winter Dining! One of the reasons why I love this season and the cold weather that comes with it.

During wintertime, we crave certain types of food: slow roasted meats, heavy stews with beans and potatoes, pumpkin cheesecakes, and chocolate cookies. Yep—heavy foods to both fill us up and warm us up, and sweet treats to sate that sugar craving.

This time of year we’re usually with family and friends, sharing delicious meals and snacks. I say, if you want to impress your guests, try to make some petits fours (small cookies, pastries, and confections). That way, people who don’t want to eat too much can just have small bites of everything. However, for this article, I thought I’d share some of my favorite winter foods. These are recipes guaranteed to warm your home and your soul. So, preheat your oven and get cooking!

The recipe for carrot cupcakes is easy to follow and the results are impressive. The carrots are a very healthy ingredient and I feel good when I eat these mini cakes. If you skip the frosting, you get a basic carrot muffin, which could be a good breakfast with a cup of tea.

Spiced Carrot Cupcakes

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1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c. coconut palm sugar
1/2 c. cane sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried ginger
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. shredded carrots
1/4 c, plain full fat yogurt
1/2 c. olive oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Frosting:

2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° F with the rack positioned in the middle. Line 16 muffin cups with paper liners. In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients (flour through ginger). In a medium bowl, mix all the wet ingredients (eggs through vanilla). Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Pour batter evenly in the muffin tins. Bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove from pan. Cool completely on wire racks. For the frosting: beat the butter and cream cheese with mixer. Beat in vanilla and powdered sugar. Continue beating until smooth. Spread with a spatula or fill a pastry bag with frosting and pipe on top of each cupcake. Decorate with your favorite toppings and serve as an afternoon snack or a light dessert.

Note: These cupcakes are very moist and carroty. The frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated for few days or kept in the freezer for months. Piping the frosting might be difficult the first time you do it, but here are few tips to follow:

First, place a tip (plain or fluted) at the bottom part of a pastry bag. Spoon the frosting into the bag for piping. To do so easily, place the bag (tip end down) in a water pitcher with the top end of the bag folded over the rim of the pitcher.

Fill the bag with the cream cheese frosting, then twist the top of the bag to close it. Start piping by holding the pastry bag against the palm of one hand and guiding it at the tip with the other hand.

Chili is a typical American stew. The ingredients change, depending on the region. Some states use ground beef, some make white chili with chicken, and others prefer the vegetarian version. No matter what chili recipe you like, it is a great dish for a large group. And the smells from the spices (think cumin, paprika, and chili powder) are so warming! Feel free to substitute the red kidney beans with any other variety of beans available in your pantry.

Beef and Beans Chili

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1/2 c. diced carrots
1 c. chopped sweet onion (about 1 small)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 c. water
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 pound grass fed beef rump roast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 (15-oz.) can organic red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. ground (cayenne) red pepper

In a large cast iron pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic. Cook two minutes. Add beef, cook five minutes or until browned. Stir in water, tomatoes, salt, and spices (all the ingredients except for the beans). Bring to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer one hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans and cook additional 10 minutes.

Serve in individual bowls and garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt or light sour cream to balance the heat from the ground red pepper.

Note: This cold weather dish is guaranteed to warm you up! It is a great “make-ahead meal.” Reheat by adding water to thin it, if necessary. Enjoy this hot and healthful dish for the cold days!

I love pumpkin, and during the winter months I cook pumpkin in many different ways: pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pie, roasted pumpkin, and more. The recipe below is somewhat traditional with a few twists. If you don’t have time to make the crust, buy refrigerated or frozen pie dough and just make the filling.

Pumpkin Pie

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Filling:
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 (15-oz.) can organic unsweetened pumpkin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt

Crust:

1 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 oz. whole-wheat pastry flour
2 oz. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. cold butter, diced
2 tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 425° F. For the crust, place sugar, salt, and flours in a food processor. Pulse a few times. Add butter and pulse five times. Add water and process until dough starts to come together. Roll out and fit dough into a 9-inch ceramic pie plate, previously brushed with oil.

Bake crust for 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wired rack.

For the filling, stir all the ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour over cooled crust. Bake 10 minutes at 425° F. Reduce oven temperature to 350° F. Bake the pie an additional 40 minutes. Cool completely and refrigerate for four hours. Bring it back to room temperature and cut it into 12 slices and serve each with a dollop of whipped cream or whole milk plain Greek yogurt.

Note: The pumpkin pie filling doesn’t need any additional sugar, because the can of sweetened condensed milk contains enough. If you decide to make whipped cream, take some heavy cream and whip it lightly with powdered sugar. It should be soft and fluffy. To make it look prettier, sprinkle some ground cinnamon on top of each dollop. Some people like lots of whipped cream, so pass the cream around the table!

Winter is the time to get cozy in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate. This beverage is good for adults and kids as well. If you have young children, you can also try different toppings like: whipped cream, marshmallows, peppermint candies, and white chocolate chips!

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate

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(4 servings):

4 c. low-fat milk (2%)
1/3 c. coconut palm sugar
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
Cinnamon sticks for garnish

Combine milk, sugar, cocoa, chocolate chips, and cinnamon in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Cook 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent milk from burning. Pour into mugs. Serve immediately with cinnamon stick for garnish.

Note: This hot chocolate is great for weekend brunch (just add a bit of peppermint schnapps, buttershots, or Irish creme) or even dessert with some cookies on the side. I like it with chocolate muffins for an afternoon snack! Anyway, I know you will want to drink this all winter long!

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Note: This cold weather dish is guaranteed to warm you up! It is a great “make-ahead meal.” Reheat by adding water to thin it, if necessary. Enjoy this hot and healthful dish for the cold days!

LET’S EAT!

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