Breakfast bagels, mac and cheese skillets, chicken enchilada soup and cranberry pie will hit the spot this winter
It’s winter time, which, for many, means comfort food season.
For the cooks among us, the sky’s the limit when it comes to putting together the soups, stews and baked goods that warm up the coldest of days. But for those without the time or inclination to spend a day in the kitchen, there are just as many easy options that will satisfy all your comfort cravings.
From breakfast to dessert, I’ve got you covered.
Love a bagel and a schmear for breakfast but hate to brave the cold to get one? You’ll be surprised just how easy it can be to make a batch at home that will beat anything you can buy at the store.
With a stand mixer, the ingredients come together in minutes, and though there’s some time involved in the dough rising, there’s little hands-on work beyond shaping and boiling the dough before baking.
The best part? Customizing your creations with your favorite flavors — cinnamon and sugar, everything seasoning, or cheese, a favorite in my house. They freeze well, too, if you like to save them for a weekend treat.
Easy homemade bagels, courtesy of Simply Sophisticate
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
4 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon seasonings such as garlic or onion powder (optional)
Sprinkle yeast on top or warm water. Add sugar and let sit or a few minutes. Stir in salt and garlic powder options. Add flour one cup at a time. Knead for 10 minutes (stand mixer, using the paddle attachment is best, but can be hand kneaded). Place dough in a buttered bowl. Let rise, covered for 30 minutes. Separate dough into 6-12 balls depending on how large you want finished bagels. Shape bagels (form into a rough circle, flatten somewhat into a patty shape, then gently poke a hole in the middle and stretch slightly). Cover and let rise for 30 additional minutes. Place bagels into boiling water about 4 at a time, for about 1-1 1/2 minutes on each side. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until golden on a lightly greased cookie sheet. For cheese bagels, place sliced cheese on top before baking.
I have a theory that winter carbs don’t count, and my kids love to customize their meals, so mac and cheese skillets are a perfect cold-weather meal that comes together quickly. If you have picky kids, this is a good way to at least try to sneak in some veggies or protein.
Mac and cheese skillets
1 pound macaroni or other pasta that holds sauce well, such as shells or rotini
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheese of your choice
Add-ins such as chopped ham, chicken, cooked crumbed ground beef, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach
Boil pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in flour once butter is melted, cook for 1-2 minutes to cook out raw flour taste.
Slowly whisk in milk, bring to a low boil to thicken. Remove bechamel (white sauce) from heat. Divide pasta into mini-cast-iron skillets, stir in bechamel, toppings and cheese until combined. Top with additional cheese. Broil for 2-5 minutes until brown and bubbly. (Don’t have cast-iron skillets? Use other oven-proof dishes, but only if they’re broil safe.)
Some favorite combos: Spinach, mushroom and provolone, ham and cheddar, taco seasoned beef with Mexican cheese blend.
Love soup? Who doesn’t? Crockpot chicken enchilada soup is another customizable recipe that takes just minutes to put together but has all the homemade flavor you could want. Pantry ingredients make it easy to prepare, and fresh toppings give everyone the option to make it the way they like it. This is a very adaptable recipe. Love black beans? Use two cans, or use pinto beans instead. Use chopped red peppers in addition to onions. The ingredients are easily adjustable.
Crockpot chicken enchilada soup
1 32-ounce carton chicken broth
1 19-ounce can red enchilada sauce, mild or hot
1 can Mexicorn or 1 cup frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained
1 can tomatoes with green chilis undrained (or plain if you don’t want the heat)
1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 medium onion finely diced
2 cups chopped cooked chicken (rotisserie, leftover or grilled works)
1/2 cup cornmeal
Toppings: Tortilla strips, shredded cheese, sour cream, lime
Place all ingredients, except cornmeal, in slow cooker and stir well. Cook 6-8 hours on low or 4-6 hour on high. About 30-60 minutes before serving, whisk in cornmeal and cook to thicken. Garnish with toppings.
There’s no better way to cap off a long winter day than with the perfect dessert. Cranberry Pie, also known as Nantucket Pie, perfectly encapsulates the flavors of the season and is fast and easy to prepare. A simple sponge cake, topped with caramelized berries and walnuts, looks and tastes fancier than its 6 ingredients suggest.
Cranberry Pie, aka Nantucket Pie, courtesy of Souffle Bombay
2 cups of halved fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease a springform pan (you really do need a springform or cheesecake pan for this).
In a medium bowl, combine cranberries, walnuts and 1/2 cup of sugar.
Toss well. Pour mixture directly into your well-greased springform pan.
Spread evenly and pat down a bit.
In a medium bowl, combine butter and sugar. Mix well. Add the eggs and the flour. Mix well.
Spread batter gently over the cranberry/walnut mixture until all areas are covered, with a spatula and your fingers.
Bake on top of a baking sheet (to catch drips … trust me) for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake portion comes out clean.
Once removed from the oven, let it sit for 15 minutes. Then ever so gently, go around the perimeter of the pan with a butter knife gently breaking the connection of the pie and the pan. Slowly, release the side of the pan and remove.
Let the pie sit for another minute. Then gently invert onto a plate. As you slowly begin to remove the bottom of the pan from the top of the pie, use a butter knife to guide the topping away from the pan, if necessary. Newer pans just come right off, no problem (be sure to grease your pan well with an oil spray).
Cool and serve.