Comfort Foods to Get Us Through Winter.

Comfort foods that’ll make staying home this winter a little more bearable. All easy to freeze, reheat and scarf down while pulling your bra out through your sleeve.

Even if I have 72 big snowfalls to shovel, 7 cords of wood to chop and am forced to jump up and down 25 times to get my jeans over my thighs every time I put them on –  the winter exercise I get doesn’t even come close to my summer exercise.  Even with The DIY walking desk I become a bit lumpy in the winter.

And that’s O.K.

It’s part of what I love about living in an area of the world that gets 4 distinct seasons.  You have 4 distinct lives.  There’s spring life (happy and optimistic), summer life (sweaty and exhausted), fall life (exhilarated and nesting) and winter life (cocooning and lumpy). 

Although this year I’m working on a new project so in addition to cocooning and lumpy, my winter season is going to be frantic.  It’s kind of a big deal actually – but still a secret – so I’m needing MORE and more food that will be comforting and perfect for freezing so I can have quick meals on hand.

December 21st marks the very first day of cocooning and lumpy. The first day of Winter.

Each season also has its own clothing and food requirements.  For instance, thou shalt not feast on stew in summer.  Because, gross.  A thick, heavy, bowl of stew sitting in your gut makes it really hard to chase fireflies.  And yuck.  That’s meat sweats on top of humidity sweats and that’s just stupid.

But a warm, nutritious bowl of stew with root vegetables on a cold winter’s night?  That make sense.


Comfort Food Recipes

Today I’m going to load you up with some of my favourite comfort food recipes that you can make over Christmas and also freeze for later this winter.

You probably won’t want to eat them in January because January is the month we traditionally pretend to go on a diet.


Squash Soup

It’s all about what goes on top!  O.K., well it’s not ALLLL about what goes on top, but when that something on top is pumpkin and bacon caramelized in brown sugar it’s worth a lot. Also there’s fried sage leaves so there’s that.

This pumpkin soup (which is also a squash soup) is full of pumpkin flavour with hints of nutmeg and apple. It’s really good. 

TO FREEZE

Freeze soup individually in storage bowls or baggies. 

Freeze toppings (caramelized bacon & seeds, fried sage leaves)


Martha Stewart’s Macaroni & Cheese

I mean seriously. 

Once I whip up my first pan of Martha Stewart’s gooey macaroni & cheese, I know my new life has begun. It’s usually around the beginning of November.  The lightweight blanket on the sofa gets tucked away and the thick, fluffy one pulled out.  The heated floors in the kitchen are turned on, the flannel pajamas that smell like drawer after being in hiding for 6 months make their first appearance and I start adding more butter to my grocery list.

This post on Food52 outlines exactly how to make Martha’s Mac & Cheese with beautiful photos.

TO FREEZE

Scoop individual sized servings into freezer containers.  Reheat gently in microwave. And some milk if it seems dry.  Once it’s heated through put under the oven broiler to re-crisp the croutons. 


Chili Con Carne

I plan on filling the next 6 months or so with bowls of comfort food.  It’s a well known fact that comfort food almost always comes in a bowl.  At least true comfort foods do.

My chili gets made regularly in the winter and I’ll happily eat it for 3 nights in a row. Anything left over gets put in these small glass bowls and put in the freezer. I like them because the lid is raised instead of depressed so when the food expands in the freezer there’s room. I don’t always have bread in the house so I make sure I include a couple of slices of bread in the freezer with each serving too.

Get my chili recipe here.

TO FREEZE

Freeze in glass freezer bowls or baggies.

If you don’t always keep bread in the house, stick some toast in a baggie along with the chili in the freezer.

 


Classic Beef Stew

Let’s all ignore the fact that this photo looks like, well less than appetizing.

BUT it’s a well known that the uglier the stew, the more delicious it is. 

I don’t use a strict recipe for stew, but I basically follow the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook beef stew recipe.  It’s out of print but you can get a used copy here.

SINCE it’s out of print,  I’ll share the recipe here. I change it a bit, but this gives you a good base. 

America's Test Kitchen Beef Stew

America's Test Kitchen Beef Stew

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes

A classic beef stew recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 (3-pound) blade/chuck/cross rib roast
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1.5 pounds potatoes (around 5), cut into 1" chunks
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced thick.
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • *for how I change the recipe up see notes

Instructions

Heat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Dry beef pieces with paper towel, season with salt & pepper then brown in a dutch oven with 1 tablespoon of oil. You'll have to do a few batches because you don't want to crowd the pan with beef when you're browning. Set all browned beef pieces aside when done.

Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the empty pot and cook the onions until softened. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook for 30 seconds - until you can smell the garlic.

Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly stir in the wine to deglaze the pan (that's scraping up the delicious browned bits of beef fond on the bottom of the pot).

Stir in the broth, thyme, bay leaves and browned beef along with juices. Bring to a simmer, cover with the dutch oven's lid and put the pot in the oven to cook for 1 hour.

Taste beef to see if it's flavourful and almost tender. Add potatoes and carrots then cover and continue to cook for another hour.

When done, remove your pot from the oven, throw in the peas, and cover letting them warm from the residual heat in the stew with the lid on.

Add salt and pepper to taste then serve.

Notes

* If you don't want to use wine, just replace the amount with broth.

* I also add in a teaspoon of oregano and Worcestershire sauce. Add the oregano with the thyme and the Worcestershire with the broth.

* If you aren't great at gauging when your beef will be tender, just cook the stew until the beef is done to your liking then remove all the beef from the pot before putting in the carrots and potatoes to cook. Once they're done add the beef and juices back to the pot to warm.

* It's ALWAYS better with dumplings. I honestly just use Bisquick

Bisquick Dumplings

2 cups Bisquick
2/3  -3/4 cups milk

Mix with fork until dough forms.

Drop onto boiling stew.

Cook uncovered 10 minutes.

Cook covered 10 minutes.



The next time I make stew I’ll try to get my shit together enough to do a post on exactly how I make it.

TO FREEZE

Toss into glass freezer bowls and stick in the freezer.

I’ll be honest, it doesn’t freeze the greatest, . Only because the potatoes can (but don’t always) get weird and grainy.

Whenever I worked out of town shooting one of my television shows, I made sure I was booked a room with a kitchenette so I could bring all of my own food.  The reason for this was twofold – I was given a food per diem by the network or production company and if I brought my own food I could squirrel that money away to buy jelly beans. Secondly, I didn’t want to eat garbage the whole time I was working.

Even though it is a tiny bit weird after freezing, I still brought this stew as part of my preprepared frozen meals whenever I shot a show out of town.


Spaghetti & Meatballs

Again, an old, bad Instagram food shot, but I cannot stress enough how delicious this recipe is.  

You can completely change the flavour of it just by changing the length of time you cook it. Cooking it longer will take it from a bright, tomatoey flavour to a dark, smoky tomato flavour.

It’s made with tomato juice.

And the meatballs are cooked entirely in the sauce.

Why? Because Canadian tomato juice is made of 100% tomatoes that have been pressed. The exact thing you make when you press tomatoes for canning at home. Because of that, Canadian tomato juice is the best substitute for a tomato base to almost anything.  I press my own tomatoes so I use those in the recipe instead of tomato juice.

In the US, however, most tomato juice is made from concentrate (tomato paste + water) but the results should be the same.

Delicious. And if you’re worried about the meatballs being pale and brown, they float a bit to the surface as the spaghetti sauce is roasting (didn’t I mention it’s a roasted spaghetti sauce?) and get beautifully browned.

TO FREEZE

Put in glass freezer bowls. If you have leftover garlic bread, wrap it in tin foil and freeze that with it too.

I’m not one for freezing pasta but the sauce freezes like it was born to be frozen.


Because they’re all things you can freeze in a bowl, they’re also things you can share with someone. Plus if you’re having a stupidly busy winter night of doing puzzles and watching snow fall everything can be thawed and reheated faster than you can say Shit, someone’s at the door, where’s my bra?

Those meals will be on rotation, interspersed for the foreseeable future and I’m smiling like a lunatic just thinking about them. 

Which is unfortunate, given that I’m currently at a funeral.

My condolences to Mother Nature on the death of fall but congratulations on the resurrection of winter.


If you’re someone who read this post to the very end I have something special for you.  I’ve been working on something for the past few months that I’ll be making public in the New Year. I can’t tell you anything about it but I guarantee it will be fun.

If you want to be the first to find out about my new project click here. 

DO YOU WANT TO BE THE FIRST TO HEAR ABOUT MY NEW PROJECT?

(of course you do)  CLICK HERE.

Comfort Foods to Get Us Through Winter.

27 Comments

  1. Jennifer Parslow says:

    Hi Karen, is it me or does the total cooking time not add up? It says cook time 3 hours and 30 minutes. There is one hour and then a second when you add the vegetables. Is the first hour depending…..it could take two hours to get tender? Thanks, Jen

  2. Emie says:

    Every single recipe from America’s Test Kitchen is to die for. Their Best of ATK’s cookbook has a recipe for Crème Brûlée that is simply delectable and EASY. I only make it once or twice a year when we have guest… it serves 8 but there’s only 2 of us so it can’t be an every day thing.

  3. Kathy Knapp says:

    Roasted Spaghetti Sauce w/Meatballs. This is the way my husband’s Italian mother made it. Seriously spoiled me for life. I loved the way she dropped the balls into the simmering sauce with intention and care – only where a bubble would come to the surface – ensuring no balls collided w/each other. Melt-in-your-mouth meatballs! Molto bene, grazie Karen!!

  4. Erin says:

    Congrats on the new project…whatever it is!

  5. Cindy G. says:

    I have definitely been stocking my freezer with some of my comfort foods- chili, turkey soup (very thick and more like a stew), and French meat pie. But, I also include a comfort dessert, which is apple crisp, and a comfort breakfast or two (pancakes and a French toast bake).

    And, I am looking forward to the big announcement! I’m sure it will be epic!

  6. TK says:

    I feel the same way about stew in summer! Or cold green salad in winter. Yet my pandemic garden is full of gorgeous salad greens, which will hopefully reduce some of my lumpiness.

    I signed on for early access to your reveal. I wish you the best possible outcome in your new endeavor, and all the best for this holiday season and in the coming new year.

  7. Karen Edwards says:

    I have spent my entire life on the prairies which gives us 4 distinct seasons—from summers that can be 100 degrees above zero to winter that can go to 40 below zero. Each has purpose as you say. Although I’m not in love with spending time in the kitchen for the most part, it’s another story once fall rolls around and we turn to our love of soups, chili and the like. Comfort!
    I read every last blog and love them! There is much there that I can identify with or maybe quietly long to do (gardening?).
    I thank you for each and every word and fun thought that you bless us with!

  8. Connie Sue Volkman says:

    According to my Polish Great Grandmother Anna, beef stew isn’t finished until you add fresh diced Turnips. I didn’t believe it until I didn’t add them. I’m glad that traditions was passed down to me and my sons. p.s. your recipes are grand.

  9. Molly Hawkins says:

    I love it when we get a little insight on the ways in which Canada treats its people – who knew people in the US have been oppressed by bad tomato juice all this time?

    It’s another reason to sweat over the hot water bath in September with the tomatoes from my garden, no matter how tedious. Thanks for justifying my madness once again!

  10. Cheverly says:

    Ooooh, I am so excited to hear!! I’m not even going to try to guess because knowing you, it’ll be something no one would expect… like you’re now Betty’s burlesque manager and will be traveling the world to keep her on schedule (that was a guess. I lied).

    I feel like I’d like 4 seasons, but I’m not sure about the reality of that. Here in Texas we generally have winter (2 weeks of COLD with 2 months of blech), fall (about 3 weeks of crisp and refreshing rejuvenation), and summer (good GOD will it ever end???).

    Since we’re coming up on blech season, I think I’ll have to try all of these. Even the spaghetti! I love the pasta but never been a big fan of meatballs… still, somehow your pictures get me drooling over them.

  11. Brooke says:

    A home decor-cooking-DIY project book.

  12. Deb says:

    I found a stew tip years ago that was a game changer – instead of adding potatoes to the stew, serve the stew alongside mashed potatoes. It requires a little extra effort, but elevates your stew to a new level! It is the epitome of comfort in a bowl.

  13. Pops says:

    To the chili recipe I used like to add ribeye steaks, two. I would smoke them with cherry wood, just enough to give them the smokey flavor then cut them in chunks and put in the tomato sause and let it simmer as I added the other ingredients.
    I say ‘used to’ because even tho I’m happily retired I don’t have the money for such luxuries. But I still make good chili.

  14. TucsonPatty says:

    I will be making my vegetarian chili recipe, and perhaps a small bit of that macaroni and cheese. It all sounds pretty good here in Tucson where my house has been staying at 65°F, or so. I’m very frugal with the heating (and the air conditioning) but it’s been crazy cold for me since I’m home all day now. Because of damn COVID, I can’t even go to work to warm up!
    I cannot imagine what your project could be unless you are going to add another story to your house! You have done just about everything else except run for public office. I’ll be waiting to hear! Cheers.

    • TucsonPatty says:

      I actually do have another idea, but I’ll let you surprise me with the news. I’ll write it down at my house and see if I’m right.

    • Karen says:

      Maybe just for fun, you should turn the heat on today.. 65 is exactly the right temperature to make you – you know, cold, lol. ~ karen!

    • Cathy R says:

      Hey Tucson Patty, this is Green Valley Cathy, and my first thought was she’s building an addition to her house! Great minds, eh?

  15. Mark says:

    Karen already guess you’re getting another show… I’ll throw out a few guesses out too:
    – your mother is moving in
    – you’re opening a b&b
    – you’re doing some catering related thing
    – you’re getting married
    – the “show” is a cooking show
    – baby is happening to someone
    – you’re travelling the world

  16. Sarah says:

    There are so many things you write that make me think we must be kindred spirits… but then I came across this line tonight: “ I don’t always have bread in the house ” and I can’t quite wrap my head around it. How is this possible?! I think my children would murder me if we didn’t have a healthy supply of bread and bread-like products in the house. And if that didn’t happen, I could possibly die from sadness. Even a slice of gluten free toast can get me through. I’m genuinely curious how you do it. Please share the secret of bread-free living.

  17. Karen says:

    Hi Karen,

    What a teaser. I’ve been thinking for awhile that your getting another show? Please don’t tell us we are losing you to the south.

  18. bill keiser says:

    beer

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