It is very easy to reach for the stodgy and starchy comfort foods at this time year. It’s cold outside, and little bellies need warming foods to help keep them satisfied all day and to fight off colds and ‘flus. A lot of the food we crave at this time of year is high in sugar and starch, so I am going to share some recipes with you that are perfect for this time of year and are healthy and packed full of nutritious goodies.
The best way to start a winter’s day is with something filling and energy boosting for breakfast like porridge or natural muesli with warm milk. I like to make my porridge with wholegrain oats that are more nutritious than the instant variety. Use half water and half milk for creaminess and add fruit for sweetness rather than sugar; sliced banana, a teaspoon of sultanas or grated pear are just some ideas. You can add a very small amount of maple syrup or honey if you really have to, and try sprinkling the porridge with linseed, sunflower and almond meal or chia seeds. These add essential fatty acids, protein and dietary fibre.
The best thing about the main meals we eat in winter is that they tend to be one-pot dishes such as bolognaise, casseroles and stews that we can make ahead. A recent survey into Australian cooking habits shows that the main cook of the household prefers one-pot meals for convenience. Slow cooked meals can be made at whatever time of day is convenient for you, and you can cook enough to freeze for another occasion or have the next day. They often use cheaper cuts of meat, which are nicely tenderised during the cooking process and are perfect for smaller mouths and the household budget.
One of the best things about winter food for me is stewed fruit. It is naturally sweet and deliciously warming on a dark, winter evening. My top tip is to add only a dessertspoon of sugar, with the exception of rhubarb that may need four or five, and the juice of a lemon. The lemon juice brings out the flavor of the fruit. You can add a crumble topping for a classic winter dessert. This only takes 15 minutes to prepare and can incorporate ground nuts, coconut oil instead of butter and maple syrup instead of sugar.
The most important thing to remember when preparing winter food is that we still need to keep to the same ratios of the main food groups. It is all too easy to increase our carbohydrate and starch intake at the expense of proteins, fresh fruit and vegetables. Keep snacks simple, make the most of easy one-pot recipes and the occasional hot chocolate is definitely allowed.