On a cold, cloudy, snowy, New England winter day — let’s face it, pretty typical here from November through March — there’s nothing that sounds better to me than having a roaring fire in the fireplace, the family nice and cozy, and the delicious smell of a hearty, warm meal wafting through the air. (OK, having kids sleep through the night may sound slightly better. But that doesn’t help with romanticizing the New England winter, so hear me out!)
Back to the cozy scene: Perhaps the meal is cooking in the slow cooker, or simmering on the stove, or baking in the oven, just waiting for the family to sit down together to enjoy. Toys may be askew on the floor, the rugs likely need vacuuming, laundry may be piled up next to the washer, and every single glass surface in the house could be smudged with tiny handprints. But the very essence of home is there in the smell of that succulent meal that brings all the love in the house together.
So what’s on the menu? As a mother of relatively picky eaters (who is not, by any measure of the word, a stellar cook), I know that while the scent of my cooking may be enjoyed by all, not every meal is going to be consumed by all littles in the household. That said, below are some ideas for hearty and healthy meals perfect for a cozy winter’s day. These have been tried and true in my house for delivering a mouthwatering aroma and a delicious taste as well.
Slow cooker or Crock-Pot
At the beginning of last year, my husband and I embarked on a Whole30 way of eating. And we discovered several recipes along that way that we love and have made time and time again — with children tasting and enjoying as well.
One that we make nearly weekly in the Crock-Pot is easy chicken tikka masala from The Iron You. It has all the aromatic spices and tastes just like the chicken tikka masala I’ve ordered at many Indian restaurants. My littlest guy thought this was a winner, too. And, bonus, this meal is both hearty and very healthy (especially when substituting coconut milk for dairy)!
A non-Whole30 favorite to make in the slow cooker is Guinness beef stew. Coupled with a crusty loaf of warm bread, this is the very definition of hearty in my book.
On the stove
We recently discovered that spiralizing favorite vegetables made them both more delicious and more palatable to our kids. Sweet potatoes are a staple in my house, so we tried sweet potato noodles stir-fried with a little olive oil, and now little man can’t get enough of them. Many grocery stores sell sweet potato noodles ready to cook. Or, if you have a spiralizer, you can easily turn a sweet potato into noodles, too. Saute them with olive oil, let them get a bit crispy, and voila, you have a delectable side dish!
Recently, we discovered a savory dish with sweet potato noodles that rivaled regular pad Thai — sweet potato noodles with shrimp and Thai-style almond sauce. It has similar ingredients to those in the classic Thai dish, but healthier alternatives substituted in. This dish was so tasty, filling, and healthy, too!
In the oven
Pesto is a favorite food in my house. To say that both my kids love it and could/would/do eat it many nights of the week on pasta is a major understatement! To divert from pasta once in a while, and to gain protein, we bake chicken with pesto and tomatoes. This is simple, delicious, and aromatic.
To make the pesto, I take a container of basil, several garlic cloves, a package of pine nuts, and olive oil, and blend this all in my food processor until the mixture is a pasty texture.
Next, I spread the pesto over boneless chicken breasts and add slices of tomato, then bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
What are some of your favorite meals to cook in the winter? Bon appétit!