It's time to come out of the sugar coma. The one where we've all eaten way too many sweets for the past four weeks -- minimum.
It's time to look Old Man Winter in the face and say, "I need to make some good food ..." The unspoken words tacked onto the end of that statement are "... that doesn't look like Christmas trees or angels or is covered in chocolate."
If your tastebuds are yearning for something meaty, dense, intense, crisp or crunchy, this winter menu is for you. It will fill you up, keep you warm and perhaps lower your glucose level.
When I pondered what it was that I wanted as my antidote for the holiday excesses, my first thoughts turned to a stew, but one made with inexpensive and more flavorful chicken legs and thighs.
Next would be some slices of hearty bread to mop it up with -- a recipe that didn't require any kneading.
If that seemed too heavy, I considered roasted vegetables dusted with feta cheese and wrapped in a warm flour tortilla, or a cabbage salad sprinkled with chopped apples, avocado and broccoli and drizzled with a maple-ginger vinaigrette.
And would I dare add a dessert to my dietary musings? Mais oui, as the French say. And if there is one winter fruit to put in the culinary spotlight, it should be the darling clementine. Small, but mighty with citrus flavor, a dense cake would show off its assets, minus any frosting. Although, possibly a glaze might be necessary.
Mix and match to find the right combination of dishes for your robust 2013 winter table.
Sarah is the blogger at twobluelemons.com, but it is her sister, Anna, who lives in China and makes this bread in her toaster oven. Since bread is rare in China, she decided to learn to make it at home. You can, too.
Anna's Easy Homemade Bread
2 cups luke warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups flour (all-purpose, bread flour, or a 50-50 mix of white and whole wheat)
1. In a large plastic container or big bowl, mix everything except the flour until yeast is dissolved; just a few seconds should do.
2. Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon for a minute, just until all the flour is absorbed into the water.
No need to knead. You just want to mix until the flour is combined into the water.
3. Cover loosely and let the dough sit overnight.
Anna said she usually mixes the dough in the late afternoon or evening and it's ready to bake in the morning. She knows the dough is ready when it's overflowing out of the container. It will more than double in size and be riddled with air bubbles.
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Oil and flour a round metal baking dish.
5. Dump the risen dough straight into the prepared baking dish. Do not punch down, knead, reshape, etc.
6. Bake until the top of your loaf is a deep golden brown color. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
Note: It's tempting to cut straight into the loaf, but resist the temptation. The bread will finish cooking as it comes to room temperature and may be doughy if you cut into it too soon.
Poulet Basquaise (Pepper and Tomato Chicken Stew)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 chicken legs (drumstick plus thigh), skin on
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup white wine
2 red bell peppers, peeled and cubed
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a deep saucepan, heat olive oil on medium heat. Brown chicken for about 8 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Drain excess fat if needed.
2. Add onion and garlic and cook for 1 minutes, paying attention not to burn them.
3. Deglaze with wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula.
4. Add bell pepper, tomato, paprika, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix and return chicken to the pan.
5. Reduce heat, cover with a lid and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Serve with rice on the side.
Notes: The traditional recipe calls for 2 pounds fresh cubed tomatoes, but I canned crushed tomatoes work well, too. You can also add 1 green bell pepper.
Yield: Serves 4, each 1 drumstick or thigh and a quarter of the sauce has 255 calories, 28 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 14 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 8 grams sugar. 5 Weight Watchers points or 6 points on the Plus plan.
Winter Salad with a Maple-Ginger Vinaigrette
For the Salad:
About 4 cups shredded* cabbage, (a mix of green and red was used)
1 cup arugula
2 Golden Delicious apples, skin on and roughly cubed
1 cup broccoli florets, roughly chopped
1 persimmon, skin on roughly cubed, or 3 clementines, peeled and sliced
1 cup dried cranberries
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds
For the Maple-Ginger Vinaigrette:
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 or 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Assemble all salad ingredients in a large salad bowl.
In a small container with fitted lid, place vinaigrette ingredients. Cover lid and shake vigorously before pouring vinaigrette over salad. Mix salad ingredients with vinaigrette to combine. Serves 4-6.
Notes: You can make the vinaigrette ahead of time and store it in an air-tight container in the fridge. It will keep well for up to two days.
*A large chopping knife works very well to cut up the cabbage.
Note: You can turn this salad into a main dish by adding smoked salmon, sliced chicken, grilled steak, beans, cubed tofu/tempeh, etc.
-- Inspirededibles.ca, a blog by Kelly Mulcair, a registered nutritionist and former lawyer
Taco-size flour tortillas
Onions (red or yellow)
Bell peppers (any kind you like)
Vine ripened tomatoes
1. Heat oven to 380degrees.
2. Cut up a mix of garlic, onion, bell pepper, mushrooms and tomatoes.
3. Sprinkle a dash of salt and peppers on mix. Squeeze lime.
4. Grease pan with olive oil and place mix on pan. Put in oven until thoroughly roasted.
5. Brown tortillas in the oven for no more than a minute.
6. Add mix to tortillas and top with feta cheese and a squeeze of lime.
Editor's note: You can add a spritz or two of olive oil to the vegetable mix, if desired.
-- Talaia Whisenant, submitted to wholeyum.com, a whole foodies online community
4 to 5 clementines (about 1 pound)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1. Place clementines in a pot with cold water, enough to cover. Bring pot to a boil and cook for 2 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
4. Drain pot and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the seeds.
5. In a food processor, finely chop the skins, pith and fruit.
6. Butter and line an 8-inch pan with parchment paper. Use a springform pan if you have one.
7. Beat the eggs into submission.
8. Add the sugar, almonds and baking powder. Mix well.
9. Fold in the chopped clementines by hand.
10. Pour the cake mixture into the pan and bake 1 hour, or until the skewer comes out clean. If the top is getting too brown, cover with foil and continue until baking is complete.
11. Remove from oven and leave to cool, then remove from pan.
12. Add a simple glaze, if desired.
Makes: 1 8-inch cake.
-- Adapted from Nigella Lawson by somekitchenstories.com