Baked Farro With Sausage and Squash
What’s great about this dish is that it’s comfort food, while still working in a whole grain and a hefty portion of vegetables. The farro and butternut squash braise together in chicken stock and sage, then get a generous pour of heavy cream and some salty Parmesan. Top off with sausage and more cheese, naturally, for something that would be right at home in a warm house on a snowy day. The farro and butternut squash mixture would also make a great side dish for a wintery dinner party. You could even make it vegetarian by using vegetable stock.
If there were a definitive ranking of comfort foods, shepherd’s pie might just be number one. Step one: make a batch of buttery mashed potatoes. Step two: cook up a mean vegetable-enriched beef filling. Step three: enjoy fire-side with a cozy blanket and a glass of red wine. Okay, that might be overkill, but the red wine should be doable. If you can’t find red new potatoes for the topping, substitute with another waxy potato like Yukon gold or fingerlings.
Beans from a can are one of the great inventions of the modern world, but beans slow-simmered with bacon, Parmesan, rosemary, and garlic? That has almost no competition. The recipe works for any type of bean, but it’s best with something mild-flavored like navy or pinto. Almost any meat, braised pork, roasted chicken, or seared steak would all be at home alongside these deliciously-flavored beans. A salad with bitter greens would balance all the rich flavors well—try a mix of arugula, endive, or radicchio.
Honey Mustard Snack Mix
If there were a competition for favorite party food, snack mix would probably be number one. It’s like a choose your own adventure book, where every ending leads to deliciousness. This one combines the usual suspects (peanuts, wheat cereal squares, and pretzels) with exciting new ones like Bugles and wasabi peas. The real question is: why haven’t these been staples in every snack mix before? If you’ve made the mix in advance and want to re-crisp it, toast in the oven at 300ºF until hot.
Slow Cooker Apple-and-Pear Sauce
Easy to find at the grocery store? Apple sauce. Not easy? Apple and pear, together. Enter your slow cooker, a simple list of ingredients, and a hands-off method for an easy and delicious recipe. When you combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker, it might not seem like enough water, but due to the way a slow cooker works, the steam from the cooked apples and pears will mix in to make sure it’s all good and saucy. Two cooking tips: make sure to remove the seeds before cooking the apples and pears, and cool the apple sauce completely before refrigerating.
Pickled Winter Vegetables
Cucumbers get all the fame in the pickle world, but come winter when cucumbers aren’t in season, radishes, fennel, beets, and butternut squash are all game to get brined. If you don’t want the beets to stain the other vegetables, you can either substitute yellow beets or don’t include them at all. The best part about pickles is that as long as you stick to the ratios, the recipe will work. Once you feel comfortable with the method, you can switch up the spices or vegetables to your liking.
Hot Cocoa Mix
When you’re a kid it’s all about hot cocoa, but then as an adult? It’s all cappuccinos and matcha and Earl Grey. It’s time to bring cocoa back, and this homemade mix is up for the task. The key to a great mix is ingredients that dissolve easily: instant nonfat dry milk and confectioners’ sugar will mix effortlessly into hot milk. Plus, confectioners’ sugar contains cornstarch, which makes the cocoa thicker. Add a hint of nutmeg for subtle spice and salt to balance the sweetness, and you’ve got a cocoa that’s adult and sure to make hot chocolate a regular treat.
Once you get the hang of homemade chicken stock, you might never go back to the store-bought kind. When you make your own stock, you can control the flavors and it often ends up to be more affordable. This recipe uses chicken wings, which work well since they’re mostly just skin and bones, but if you have a leftover roast chicken, an equal quantity of bones would work just as well. Smart storage tip: Many recipes call for 4 cups of stock, so it can be convenient to invest in quart containers for efficient cooking.
Spiralized Sesame Beet Salad
Crunchy, sweet, and slightly spicy, this Asian-inspired salad will quickly become a household favorite. It's especially perfect for cold winter months, when you're craving a fresh in-season salad and the pickings are slim. Spiralized beets are the best way to enjoy the veggie raw—you don't have to worry about a grater or mandolin. Serve it as a healthy side dish alongside fish, chicken, or tofu. Add the parsley just before serving to keep it from wilting. Not a fan of beets? The flavors of this salad taste just as great with carrots. In fact, multi-colored carrot ribbons would be beautiful here.
Green Coconut Curry With Zucchini Noodles and Tofu
Spiralized zucchini will never be satisfying if only used as a replacement for pasta. But when added to an easy vegetarian curry, the strands bulk up the amount of veggies, add a fun twisty texture, and eliminate the need for a base of white rice. Adding the zucchini after the green beans and snap peas have hit the heat ensures they retain a crisp-tender texture and don't wind up limp. Searing the tofu separately in a hot skillet gives it those beautiful brown, crispy edges—just be sure to press the tofu before sautéing to reduce extra moisture.