Winter sucks. Especially this year’s winter. But a few things make it better, namely fuzzy jammies, hot cocoa, weekends snuggled on the couch with blankies and kitties, and soups and chili. While those jammies warm your outside, soups, stews, chili and the like warm your insides. Together, it’s magical.
So in this spirit of this polar vortex, here’s what we like to cook in our house come wintertime. Consider these my go-to trusty recipes and a few new ones that have surprised me enough to make it into rotation:
-Tater tot hot dish. Some of you non-Midwesterners may not know what this is, and I certainly didn’t know either until I moved to these parts. It’s wonderfully Minnesotan, and my mother-in-law makes the best, but mine isn’t bad either. Just bake together a bag of frozen tater tots, some cooked hamburger, cream of whatever soup, some frozen veggies, and there you go.
-Pesto pasta. Any kind of noodle, any kind of pesto sauce (I love the Bertolli kind), together. Easy and delicious.
-Meatloaf. Lately, I’ve been making mini meatloaves instead. Just combine some hamburger, cheddar cheese, chopped onion, BBQ sauce, bacon bits and garlic, and cook in cupcake tins. Delicious.
-Green bean casserole. I could eat this every day. With my mom’s home grown and canned beans, it just can’t be beat. Goes great with mini meatloaves!
-Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato or whatever kind of soup you have on hand. Gooey cheese is one of the best things on this planet. A fun variation we tried was to make it “monkey bread” style – cubed up pieces of cheese wrapped in packaged refrigerated dough baked together, for pull-apart pieces you can dunk in soup. Fun for kids AND adults.
-Breakfast. We’re guilty of having breakfast for dinner many times year round. But warm eggs, fluffy pancakes and bacon hit the spot any time.
-Chili! The best thing about chili is it’s hard to mess up. Some meat, beans, white or red brothy presence and whatever else your heart desires, and you’ve got yourself a chili that pretty much always tastes good. I’ve made many varieties over the years, and learned some fun shortcuts along the way. My friend Jenessa told me once she likes to use salsa in her chili so that she doesn’t have to chop veggies. The second I heard that, I totally stole the idea. It’s saved me lots of time, and turns out, I like the taste better anyway with it! I also one time heard a tip to try using a can of tomato soup in place of actual tomatoes, and for our household that really isn’t a big fan of tomatoes in the first place, it’s been a wonderful variation. I love that it adds a bit of a creamy note that you don’t get otherwise. Lastly, since my discovery of quinoa and a pin for quinoa chili, I add that in now too for additional texture and nutrition. Those, my friends, are my three top chili tips.
Now we all have our own specific tastes, so you should always feel free to adapt recipes. Add or remove ingredients to what you like. No one will know, and it won’t get screwed up, I promise. That being said, here’s the recipe for my chili, Hofland style:
-Brown 1 – 2 lbs of ground hamburger in skillet. Drain. Put in crockpot.
-Add 2 cans of your favorite beans to crockpot. (I use one can of navy beans and one can of dark red kidney beans.)
-Add 1 or 2 cans of tomato soup (I’ve used both Campbell’s and Amy’s organic and both are lovely) to crockpot.
-Add salsa to crockpot. However much you want. I probably dump in 1 cup or so.
-Add any additional veggies you heart desires. I love corn and want it in everything, and since it’s not in most salsas, I add a jar of corn as well.
-Cook quinoa according to package directions and add to crockpot. I use approx. 1 cup of cooked quinoa, give or take.
-Add spices to crockpot. I use different spices and amounts each time. I just gather whatever I feel like and dump stuff in. Usually present are a few dashes of onion powder, garlic powder, Lawry’s seasoned salt, regular salt and pepper, cumin, and chili powder. It doesn’t really matter.
-Stir together and cook on low 6ish hours or high 3ish hours or until you can’t wait anymore.
-Serve with cheese, sour cream and crackers. I can’t tolerate spicy food, but if you’re a fan of the heat, add your hot sauce too. My husband throws in a few squirts of Sriracha on top.
I also recommend making a huge pot and adjusting the ingredient amounts based on your family size or willingess to cook in the coming days. One crockpot worth of chili will feed our family of 2 for lunch and dinner for about 2 or 3 days.
What is YOUR go-to winter pick-me-up meal?