It happens every year, no matter how much you try to prevent it. The winter slump is just one of those inevitabilities, a universal truth, a condition common to almost every human being on the face of the earth, especially for those who live in the Northern Hemisphere. It's cold, dark, and dreary, and one day seems to bleed into the next and cooking becomes a huge chore.
Okay, okay, not everyone hates winter. There are plenty of beautiful things to love about the season too––especially when it comes to cooking. The problem is that winter cooking can start to feel like a chore as you struggle to make meals tasty, interesting, and approved by the family.
Is it just a matter of muscling through the winter season or is there a way to improve, enhance, and embrace winter's offerings, at least in your kitchen?
If you're used to just winging it and making whatever your freezer spits out, you're going to love the offerings in this blog. Cut down on your prep time, add more flavor to your favorite meals, and find new ways to prepare and present familiar foods. We've got it right here.
Use flavor boosters.
Flavor boosters aren't just about what you add to a dish but how you add particular ingredients. Here are a few quick tips:
The usual suspects for booster flavor include spices, onions, garlic, and the like, and a light saute can gently release and merge their flavors.
Using butter or ghee to fry eggs or meat adds a whole new depth of flavor and substance you simply can't get from vegetable oil.
Add miso paste to stir fries and salad dressings. Miso paste is a dominant flavor so you need only a little bit to make a big difference. It adds a sharp tang and probiotic boost too. Look for clean, MSG-free options for the best taste.
Love mashed squash? Add a spoonful of tahini (sesame paste) for a creamier texture and cinnamon for a warming quality.
Try caramelizing onions before adding them to a stew or soup. Gently sauteing onions until they're soft and golden brown sweetens and softens their otherwise sharp flavor.
Choose a good quality salt. Salt can make a world of difference to the simplest meals. But ordinary iodized table salt can be quite harsh and overwhelming. Rock salt or sea salt is not only a healthier choice, it's a more flavorful choice too. Look for coarse granules of either, in a grinder, so you can enjoy the flavor party of fresh-cut salt.
Smash it out. A mortar and pestle is an ancient and ingenious method for releasing flavors from foods without using heat. Use a natural stone mortar & pestle to pound fresh herbs, make curries pastes, and smash out some delicious guacamole.
Give stews a stovetop start.
If you love your slow cooker or Instapot as much as you love your pooch, then continue to use it every day. We're all about sticking with what works. And slow cooking is easy, convenient, and the results are delicious.
What if we said you could make them even more delicious? And all it takes is a little extra step. Start at the stovetop. Throw all or most of your ingredients into a skillet and saute them for several minutes before transferring them to the slow cooker.
This method helps to release flavors and juices by tenderizing them a little. Flavor boosters like garlic, onions, shallots, spices, and butter are prime candidates for a little stovetop action. Braising meats too can help prevent toughness.
Choose booze over broth.
An organic, homemade bone broth is certainly the more healthy option, but it's not necessarily the tastiest! Moderation urges us to occasionally trade in the nutritious for the delicious.
Adding a bit of booze where you'd add broth can take those meat dishes from fine to fabulous. Braising, poaching, and stewing all require liquid for flavor. Fortified wines like sherry and port deepen the flavor and increase the succulence of meat dishes.
If you're not sold on the idea, start small. Use a 1:1 ration of fortified wine to broth or to water the first time around to test it out on your taste buds. And if you prefer dry, apple cider works just as well given its similar tartness.
Got a recipe that calls for white wine? Try vermouth instead. Unlike wine, it has a stable shelf life and works exceptionally well flavor wise.
Fire up a fondue.
You don't have to wait for a special occasion to get a fondue on. Indeed, every day is a special occasion if you choose it to be. Kids and adults alike love fondue for its communal, campfire feast feel, complete with poker sticks, hunks of fresh bread, gooey cheese, and heavenly chocolate. Fondue satisfies just about everyone with options for vegetarian and vegan diets too.
A couple of our favorites include: Pizza Fondue and French Onion Soup Fondue (see recipes below).
Similar to your basic cheese fondue, pizza fondue has the added, aromatic twist of herbed tomato sauce. Dip hunks of fresh French bread, cooked meat, mushrooms, or any other veggie into a hot pot of cheesy, tomato nom nom and enjoy the taste of pizza as you like it. You can also trade up the tomato sauce for a basil pesto to suit your preference.
French Onion Fondue
Dip potatoes, French bread, and cruciferous vegetables into the luscious French onion soup sensation. Here's our take of the recipe:
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, diced
½ lb Swiss cheese, grated
½ lb Gruyére cheese, grated
2 tbsp flour
¾ c beef broth
¼ c cooking sherry
½ tbsp beef broth
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Warm the oil on medium heat in a saucepan. Then saute the onions until brown and set aside.
Toss the cheese in flour until evenly coated and set aside.
Mix the beef broth and sherry over medium heat.
Whisk the cheese into the mixture, a little at a time, until melted.
Remove from heat and stir in onions.
Transfer to a fondue pot and sprinkle with nutmeg.
More Great Kitchen Tips…
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From our kitchen to yours, enjoy this year’s winter season with new and tastier ways to do breakfast, lunch, and dinner.