Wintertime is a food lover’s dream. The hearty stews and warming one-pot classics like chilli con carne and pot pie are a winter food staple when the weather gets frostier outside.
Each year my slow-cooker gets a run for it’s money as I cook up tons of tender, tasty dishes for the family. Not forgetting, I also like to do my fair share of winter baking and indulging.
If, like me, you love making the most of cooking during winter time, buckle in!
I’ve put together my ultimate guide to surviving the colder weather through the beauty of winter food, essential vitamins and comfort food treats.
Fighting the Cold and Flu Season
When it’s blistering cold outside and there’s lots of sniffly red noses around, it’s easy to dislike the winter. Everyone seems a little fed up and the kids are bound to have a poorly stint.
There’s little worse than seeing your little one suffer. There isn’t much that you can do to cure them, but there’s ways you can help.
When you start to detect that the kids are coming down with something, it’s time to act!
Sometimes you’ll get a daunting letter from their school letting you know that there’s a nasty bug going around. My first port of call when I suspect that they’re susceptible to getting ill is to whip up a round of flu bombs.
It isn’t an instant cure, but it’ll certainly soothe a sore throat. The natural ingredients are a lot gentler on them than the chemicals you can find in some cold and flu sachets.
Winter foods, including seasonal fruit and veg are also fantastic sources of vitamins that should help to keep winter colds at bay.
Which Winter Food Ingredients Are in Season and How Can I Use Them?
Winter is the perfect time of year to take advantage of seasonal veggies. It’s no surprise that many of them are what we consider to be ‘traditional’ roast dinner veg.
I usually take this time of year to ensure that my roasts are more frequent and particularly colourful.
1) Brussel Sprouts
A controversial place to start, but Brussels sprouts have always been a love of mine. When other kids turned their noses up at them, I wolfed down the unwanted ones. They’re in peak season during the winter months.
Whether you like them or not, Brussels sprouts are essential on a Christmas dinner – I won’t hear anything else on the matter!
A lot of people don’t like them because they’ve grown up with mushy, incinerated sprouts on their dinner plate. That’s not how to enjoy them! I recommend either using a steamer for no more than 5 minutes.
That’ll keep them crunchy and lock in the nutrients. If you’d like something a little more interesting, chop your sprouts into halves and roast them in a brown sugar and rosemary glaze. Absolutely delicious!
Parsnips are an incredibly versatile vegetable that you can use in so many wintery dishes! I’ve almost started to associate the taste of parsnips with the feeling of snug jumpers.
I love making up warming parsnip soups and stews. Though they’re quite similar to carrots in many ways, they add a little extra texture that I can’t quite put my finger on.
If you can get your hands on some bitter cooking apples, parsnips are a great combination to make a festive soup, just add some cayenne for a classic winter warmer.
They’re also a delicious element to a Sunday roast with all of the trimmings. If you’re making a particular effort for a roast, peeled parsnips chopped into 5cm wide sticks are excellent roasted in honey and mustard. Just add equal parts honey and wholegrain mustard and soak them to roast.
3) Curly Kale
Similarly to Brussels sprouts, kale gets a bit of a bad rep. I think it’s something to do with how it’s perceived as a super healthy food for fitness lovers. The thing is, it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible to foodies like us!
During the winter months when curly kale is at its peak season, you can pick up a bag at the supermarket for less than a pint of milk.
Curly kale is another ingredient that is often over cooked. Most people boil it, but as with sprouts, I’d suggest steaming for just a few minutes.
I personally only steam mine for 3 minutes, but I do prefer al dente veg. If you like it a little softer, try 5 minutes. I definitely wouldn’t suggest any more than this, so you can imagine my horror when I see people put kale in a pan to boil for 15 minutes or more!
If you’re not keen on kale by itself, ease it into your diet by adding it to soups. I make a delicious chorizo and butterbean soup that’s a perfect midweek winter meal. I use a handful of chopped kale to add an extra flavour to the mix.
When I say to guests that I’m preparing a dish with fennel, they look at me as though I’m talking about an exotic ingredient! Fennel is an interesting ingredient and it’s at its very best during the winter months. We start to see it in the farmers markets in late autumn but it sticks around until early spring. So, you’ve got plenty of time to take advantage.
A lot of restaurants use fennel as a garnish for their dishes, usually raw. Most recipes I tend to see these days use fennel in winter salads. While I do love raw fennel to add a little crunch and festivity to my dishes, roasted is absolutely delicious. Fennel tastes quite different when cooked, and is an excellent pair for butternut squash. Though I wouldn’t class fennel as a traditional roast dinner ingredient, it doesn’t do any harm to add it to roast squash!
One of my absolute favourite fruits! I wish I could use pomegranates all year round but two things get in my way. Firstly, they’re only in season from October to January, so they’re quite expensive in summer. Secondly, they’re tricky to de-seed and enjoy!
That’s why, in the winter, I get a little bit pomegranate mad. They’re perfect to brighten up tons of dishes. I do take a lot of pride in how I present my food. I secretly love when dinner guests snap a picture before tucking in. So, pomegranate seeds are a quick colour fix that I can’t resist. They’re full of antioxidants too. I like to sprinkle a few on most of my winter salads. However, don’t stop there! Pomegranate seeds are also amazing to garnish tasty winter soups and mulled wine.
An underrated winter food, oranges are extra sweet in the winter and are a refreshing source of vitamin C. Keep your skin glowy throughout the colder months by making oranges a go-to snack or adding them into colourful meals.
I recommend adding oranges into your winter salads for a sweet twist.
Alternatively, why not create a unique side dish by roasting oranges, sprouts and bacon together with a drizzle of oil and sprinkle of salt?
Another fantastic source of vitamin C to incorporate into your winter meals is garlic. Discover more about the benefits of garlic and vitamin c here.
Easy and Delicious Meal Ideas for Winter Food
When the darker nights and chilly evenings set in, sometimes all I feel like making is a quick and easy dish that will warm me up.
Keeping the Balance During Winter
While there’s nothing wrong with a treat here and then, making quick and easy meals doesn’t have to mean giving in to processed food or ready meals.
I like to make sure I’m still getting all of the vitamins and nutrients I need to keep me going throughout winter – and of course making sure my children are getting this too is my priority!
There are plenty of comforting and healthy dishes to make that will brighten up winter’s most dark and rainy evenings.
So if you’re looking for a sprinkle of inspiration, take a browse of my go-to winter meal ideas.
1) Loaded Baked Sweet Potato
Give the humble baked potato a flavoursome twist with loaded sweet potatoes. This is one of my favourite winter warmers and always goes down a treat with my friends and family.
The fun of this meal is that you can keep it as simple and sophisticated as you like, or get creative and load your sweet potato with colours, flavours and nutritious toppings.
Giving Your Meal a Healthy Twist
Once your sweet potatoes have been baked (for approx 45 mins) or popped in the microwave (about 8 minutes on a high setting), it’s time to load your potato with all your favourite things.
I like to top mine with a helping of fresh guacamole, black beans, peppers, seasoning and a dash of salt for a tasty finish.
2) The Ultimate Kale Winter Salad
My love for kale doesn’t end with soups!
A quick and easy meal for the colder months of the year, I recommend making raw kale the base of tasty winter salads.
The ultimate tip for kale…
The key to making delicious kale in its raw form is…massage. After all, there are few things a massage can’t solve!
Massaging kale makes it less chewy and removes the bitter taste that tends to put people off when they first try this renowned superfood.
Add a little lemon juice to your kale. Then top it with veggies, seeds, olives, nuts, avocado or some squeaky halloumi. So delicious!
This meal is filled with nutrients why not add some warm pitta bread and hummus on the side for a filling treat?
3) Chip Shop Chips at Home
Chip shop chips are one of the best comfort foods out there. A timeless family favourite, this simple meal is ideal for an evening treat during the week.
Don’t Miss My Guide…
My guide to making chip shop chips at home, which can be found here, will provide you with all the details you need for creating golden, crispy chips that taste even better than those from your favourite chip shop!
4) Butternut Squash Risotto
A winter warmer that I make time and time again is butternut squash risotto. This comforting dish doesn’t take too long to prepare and is ideal for cooking for guests during the festive period.
This delicious meal takes around 40 minutes to cook overall. There are plenty of recipes online that I like to take inspiration from!
Tips for the Tastiest Risotto
I’d recommend using good quality cheese for this dish. Pre-grated cheese won’t melt as well into your sauce, so it’s well worth spending a little more on cheese that will really help bring this dish to life.
5) Homemade Bibimbap
This Korean dish is one of my all time favourite meals and absolutely perfect for a quick winter dinner.
The beautiful flavours and the abundance of tasty vegetables will restore your energy on colder days.
Make homemade bibimbap in 10 steps
My guide to creating homemade bibimbap in 10 simple steps is a fantastic starting point for those who have never cooked this dish at home.
I’m sure you’ll love this unique winter food just as much as I do!
My Favourite Winter Food Treats
I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t be able to survive winter without a little indulgence!
I’m not a fan of dieting or restricting – I’m all about healthy moderation.
So when it comes to the lead up to Christmas, I like to take some time to celebrate winter foods that can brighten up even the rainiest of days…
You can’t beat a British scone, especially when it’s chilly outside and you’re looking for a treat to enjoy with a cuppa.
There are a variety of different flavours you can try, so don’t miss my guide to scone flavours for inspiration!
These simple cookies are easy to make and will bring a sprinkle of festive cheer to your household. Sugar cookies are one of my go-to treats to make during the lead up to Christmas with the help of my kids.
If you’re not sure where to start, follow this step by step recipe below…
Christmas Sugar Cookies
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup butter or margarine
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- Sprinkles, icing and decorations as you wish to use them!
- Using a large bowl mix your powdered sugar, butter or margarine, vanilla, almond extract and egg.
- Then, its time to stir in the flour, cream of tartar and baking soda. Cover and chill for between 2-3 hours.
- Heat oven to 375°F (gas mark 5). Lightly flour a clean surface to roll small sections of your dough to 1/4 inch thickness.
- Cut into fun festive shapes with cookie cutters and place your shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake your cookies for 7 to 8 mins or until they turn a lovely light brown. When you're happy with them, remove them from the cookie sheet and over to a cooling rack. Your cookies should be left to cool for around 30 mins.
- Now it's time for the decorating! Beat together your frosting ingredients until smooth and spreadable, you may want to use food colouring to achieve festive colours.
A Bonus for Parents
The best part of sugar cookies (apart from how delicious they are) is that they are so easy to decorate! Even the little ones can get stuck in and enjoy icing these tasty treats.
Cheese to Share
Winter food is perfect for sharing – it’s the season for opening a bottle of wine with someone you love and indulging in delicious cheese! I love to stock up on cheeses for cosy nights in and evenings with friends.
Baked camembert is one of my go-to choices for when I’m entertaining friends over the festive period or enjoying a romantic night in.
Pair it with warm toasted bread or crunchy crackers for dipping it into the gooey cheesy goodness!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to surviving winter. I’ll be adding tips, tricks and more recipes throughout the season, so make sure you check back soon!