No matter where you live, there is a definitive moment every year that marks the beginning of winter. Whether it’s the first snowflake of the season, a kiss of frost on the grass, or just a nippy chill in the morning air, as you dig out your favorite wool scarf, you start thinking of soothing food and drinks to enjoy as the days grow shorter.
Warm winter drinks quickly take the chill off cold days and nights. Steaming cups of hot chocolate, coffee, tea, and mulled cider warm your hands as you cradle the mugs and slowly sip the calming liquids. A nip of brandy or rum adds extra cheer to hot chocolate and a shot of Irish whiskey and dollop of whipped transforms a simple cup of coffee into a consoling Irish Coffee cocktail. Hot buttered rum enjoyed in front of a roaring fire right before bedtime is a cozy way to end the evening.
Start frosty days off with a hearty breakfast to fend off the icy wind and provide plenty of energy to get you through to lunch. Hot cereals such as oatmeal or cream of wheat enhanced with fresh or canned fruit, nuts, or granola served with whole grain toast or buttered raisin bread make good winter breakfasts. On lazy weekend mornings, take the time to make a batch of pancakes or waffles, served alongside crisp bacon, juicy breakfast sausage, or thick slices of sautéed ham, or make a massive omelet that feeds the whole family filled with an assortment of colors and textures from sautéed red and green bell peppers, gently melted cheese, and crisp hash browns.
Nothing is more comforting on a winter day than a warm bowl of soup, chili, or stew. Whether it’s a rich minestrone full of vegetables, beef or chicken chili brimming with kidney or cannelloni beans, or a traditional beef stew with chunks of potatoes and carrots, digging a spoon into a well of goodness and raising the bounty of flavors to your lips is sublime. Serve warm buttermilk biscuits, corn muffins, or cloverleaf rolls with honey butter on the side to round out a perfect lunch or dinner.
When temperatures dip, appetites increase as the body needs more fuel to keep it warm and fully functional. Meals centered around beef and pork with sides of potatoes prepared in a myriad of ways provide substantial, satisfying fare. Pot roast and pork chops paired with scalloped potatoes or au gratin potatoes and a green vegetable are filling and comforting dinner dishes and make great lunch leftovers.
Winter meals centered around chicken and turkey are affordable, easy, and quick to prepare, and often have the added primal pleasure of eating them with your hands. Fried chicken or braised turkey legs and thighs are simple and satisfying entrees. Served alongside a casserole of macaroni and cheese or creamy risotto, they are the perfect final meal on a cold day. Use the leftover poultry to make turkey tetrazzini or a deep-dish chicken or turkey pot pie with a flaky crust.
Fish and seafood often get forgotten during winter months but they can be as gratifying as meat or poultry. Fry up a batch of authentic fish and chips, make a pot of cioppino or bouillabaisse, or bring a dish of memories to the table with an updated version of tuna casserole. A kettle of steamed clams or mussels served with crusty French bread to sop up the pot liquor is as enjoyable as a thick soup or stew.
Delving into a plate of pasta with your favorite topping is warm and welcoming. Spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccine Alfredo and linguine with clams are reliable favorites and nothing ends the day better than a pan of lasagna oozing cheese and rich sauce. Add a simple side salad and a basket of garlic bread to balance the meal. If you yearn for a lighter, spring-like pasta dish to contrast with winter meals, make pasta carbonara or pasta primavera.
No matter how filling the meal, it’s always better with a sweet ending. Finish with a slice of simple pound cake, an old-fashioned oatmeal cookie, or a butterscotch bar and a cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea. If you prefer confections with crusts, bake a creamy custard pie, use frozen or canned fruit to make a cobbler, or slice up some fresh apples for an apple crisp.
Cooking during the winter not only fills the house with wonderful aromas, the closed windows and doors keep the tantalizing smells inside, whetting everyone’s appetite as they anticipate the upcoming meals. The heat from the stove gives the kitchen a cozy atmosphere that draws in friends and family members to chat while you cook and share the events of their days. Celebrate the intimacy of winter cooking before the light-hearted spring weather finds you getting the barbecue ready for summer grilling and arranging the outdoor furniture for dining al fresco.