3 tricks to creating convenient winter meals

couscous

The cold winter months often make us crave a hearty meal. Or junk food. But definitely something warm, filling, and delicious. Food helps us to keep warm, fuels our metabolism and is a great reason to come together as a family or a group of friends. If you are cooking for your partner and kids then you’re likely to be in the market for quick and easy meals.

There are many different types of quick and easy meals available. You could, of course, go the takeaways route but it’s not necessarily as nutritious to prevent colds and flu. And during the colder season, most of us tend to not consume as much fresh fruit and raw veg as during the summer months. Raw carrots and hummus are less than ideal when it’s storming outside. Braised beef stew is what you’re after and yet that sounds like such a lot of work. But there are dishes that can provide a quick and healthy meal for the whole family that’ll fill everyone up and warm you from the inside out.

1. Consider the one pan rule

There are a number of different recipes for meals you can make in one pan. This could refer to a roasting pan or a pot on your stove top. So you don’t have to wait for different parts of the dish to finish cooking before putting it all together. Of course, the obvious is your roasted chicken and vegetables. If you choose hardy vegetables – such as butternut and sweet potato – then you can cook the chicken and vegetables together. Whereas broccoli would wilt away into mush if roasted for too long.

If you search through Pinterest, or just in general on the internet, you’ll easily find some interesting, flavourful dishes that can be cooked in one go. There’s even an easy one pot Boerewors pilaf you could try. The recipe says it’ll be ready to serve within 30 minutes.

2. Swop out your starches for easy grains

So roasted, sauteed or mashed potatoes and fluffy rice take some time and energy to prepare. But replacing it with bulgur wheat or couscous is a great idea. You’ll still have your starch and carbs in your meal but it’ll take you so little time to prepare.

Both couscous and bulgur wheat are prepared by just adding boiling water and letting it stand for a couple of minutes. The grains will swell up and you’ll have a fluffy addition to your food. These can be used no matter what you’re cooking. They are easily paired with meats, stews, curries and warm salads. What’s more, bulgur wheat, in particular, is a healthy wheat for your gut and maintaining a healthy weight.

3. Warm salads are a win in winter

A warm salad doesn’t necessarily sound fantastic but it can be. And even your kids will enjoy it. There are a variety of warm salads to choose from but many of them work predominantly as a side dish, paired with meat. However, you can easily make one that works as a main meal which is guaranteed to fill you.

Consider using blanched spinach and asparagus as your greens. If you choose spinach then pair it with roasted and honey-glazed butternut, throw in some beetroot for colour and a sprinkling of feta. This combination will go well with chicken or beef. But crumbed chicken fillets will work nicely and to underpin the sweet and salty flavours, serve it with some balsamic vinegar glaze.

If you decide on asparagus then blanch some rosa tomatoes, fry up some croutons and pair it with a salmon fillet. Serve it on a bed of peppery rocket leaves and a dollop of creme fraiche or cream cheese.

Salads always require a little bit of effort but both of these can be quickly whipped up in under 30 mins and will satisfy the whole family. Both are extremely nutritious and rather impressive to serve to guests.

There are many other winter meal ideas that abound on the internet. You could even do a “brinner” in the pan. This is an especially simple and fast meal as it’s quick fry up and very filling. If you have a gas stove it’ll go even quicker because of the immediate heat and your preparation won’t take very long.

Ultimately, winter meals feel like hard work but they don’t have to be if you think smart. And when you do have some time to prep a hearty stew, curry or soup, make sure to prepare enough for freezing. Nothing says convenience like a quick defrost of a delicious homemade feast.

Feature image from Timothy Tsui on Flickr.