Winter is a great time to try recipes inspired by restaurants

As winter saunters along, I have truly learned to appreciate its beauty.

There is nothing that compares to the sparkling white landscape with the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets in the distance. The starlit nights and the moon shining over the snow-covered fields are mesmerizing. We just need to take notice of the natural artwork that surrounds us.

To make the chilling season more bearable, prepare warm menus that entice us with nutrition, aroma and great taste. The dark evenings give a certain ambiance and calm around the dinner table so take time to slow down and enjoy some comfort food.

Over the winter months there is more time to experiment with new recipes. Our inspirations often come from restaurants. When eating out, we often opt for a specialty drink, the house soup, which is often creamed in the winter, and a dessert. It is fun to try to replicate some of our favourites at home.

Turkey vegetable soup

We recently tasted this soup at a concession booth at a high school basketball tournament. It hit the spot and fuelled the parents and players through the day. This is our version — and a great way to use up turkey.

  • 1 c. finely chopped red, yellow or orange peppers 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. chopped onions 125 mL
  • 2 tbsp. butter 30 mL
  • 4.5 oz. cream cheese, cubed 1/2 – 250 g pkg.
  • 2 c. shredded cooked turkey 500 mL
  • 12 oz. can cream-style corn 341 mL
  • 2 c. chicken broth 500 mL
  • 3/4 c. milk 175 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper 2 mL
  • salt to taste

Saute the peppers and onions in butter in large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat for approximately five minutes, stirring often.

Then add the cream cheese; cook on low heat for approximately three minutes or until melted. Stir in turkey, corn, broth and milk. Cook until soup is heated through, stirring often. Makes four to six servings.

Variation: use chicken for turkey.

Butternut squash soup

I had never ordered squash soup before, but recently at a little bistro it was highly recommended and I decided to jump out of my comfort zone. After the first sip I was disappointed in myself for not trying it on other occasions. It is so smooth and comforting, and I actually had a butternut squash in my cold room that was waiting to be used.

  • 2 c. chicken broth, divided 500 mL
  • 1 onion, chopped 1
  • 1 carrot, chopped 1
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped 1
  • 4 c. chopped butternut squash, seeded and outer skin removed (1/2-inch chunks) 1 L
  • 1/2 c. white rice, uncooked 125 mL
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg 5 mL
  • 2 1/2 c. water 625 mL
  • 1 1/4 c. milk 300 mL
  • salt and pepper to personal taste

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat, bring 1 cup broth, onions, carrots and celery to a boil. Cook until vegetables are just tender, stirring occasionally.

Add squash, rice, nutmeg, water and remaining broth; simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes.

Then blend the soup in batches in the blender or food processor until smooth. Return to saucepan and stir in the milk. Cook on low for five minutes or until heated through, stirring often. Season and top with chopped fresh parsley or dill greens and a few drops of cream if desired.

Notes: Pair the soups with a fresh dinner bun, cheese bun or a sliced baguette for dipping.

Both soups were adapted from www.kraftcanada.com.

Raspberry and cream trifle

I always try to keep some fresh vitamin C-rich raspberries in the refrigerator because they are a great addition to menus and protect us from free radicals and inflammation, both of which speed up the aging process and make us more prone to disease. They are especially preventive in cold and flu season. Eating berries allows you to use food as your medicine. They are worth the splurge — and are awesome in desserts.

  • 1 c. cold milk 250 mL
  • 1 c. sour cream or plain Greek yogurt 250 mL
  • 1 pkg. vanilla instant pudding 102 g
  • 1 tsp. grated orange or lemon peel 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. amaretto liqueur (optional) 5 mL
  • 2 c. whipped cream 500 mL
  • 8 c. cubed prepared angel food cake 2 L
  • 4 c. fresh raspberries 1 L

In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk, yogurt or sour cream, dry pudding mix, orange-lemon peel and amaretto (if desired) on low until thickened. Gently fold in the whipped cream.

Place half the cubed cake in a large glass serving bowl. Arrange a third of the raspberries around the outside of the bowl and over top of the cake cubes. Top with half of the pudding mixture. Repeat the layers once and top with the remaining berries. Chill for two hours before serving. Serves eight to 10.

Variation: Try making eight mini trifles in single serve bowls. We made some in parfait cups, antique tea cups and wine glasses. This method is so much fun to put together and easy to serve.

Oat-Rageous chocolate chip cookies

These chewy cookies with a crunch are such a sweet bite. The peanut butter and the nuts give this mixture added protein. They are delicious with a cool glass of milk for dipping.

  • 1/2 c. butter, softened 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. sugar 125 mL
  • 1/3 c. packed brown sugar 70 mL
  • 1 large egg 1
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 2 mL
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. rolled oats 125 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 5 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 1 mL
  • 1 c. semi sweet or dark chocolate chips 250 mL
  • 1/ 2 c. nuts such as pecans, almonds or walnuts 125 mL

In a bowl, cream butter, peanut butter and sugars; beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Source: Adapted from www.tasteofhome.com.

When the dinner rush is over…

It is tradition for me to have tea with my evening dessert. A steamy cup just makes the meal complete and relaxes me for the evening ahead.

Lately I have been acquiring a taste for healthy green tea. Studies show that sipping on four cups of polyphenol rich green tea a day, either hot or cold, can help to prevent cell damage in our bodies. This includes reducing the effects of the elements on our skin by up to 25 percent, boosting our metabolism to help maintain a healthy weight and helping our brain to function optimally. Who does not need this drink.

Use up any leftover cooled tea in your morning smoothie for a nutrient boost or brew a fresh pot to start your day.

Green tea matcha latte

In addition to adding green tea to your beverage choices, why not try a green tea matcha latte. I tried my first one at DavidsTea and I was hooked.

Once you have the matcha powder, which is a dried green powder from green tea leaves, the preparation is simple. It is available at DavidsTea, many grocery stores, health food stores or online.

You will need one of the two methods of preparation: a small whisk and a saucepan and an immersion blender (optional) or a milk frother.

  • 1 tsp. matcha powder 5 mL
  • 1/4 c. hot water 60 mL
  • 1 c. whole milk or choice of non-dairy milk such as almond milk 250 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar or sweetener like stevia to taste 2 mL

Pour the matcha powder into a mug along with 1/4 cup of hot water. Let the tea “bloom” for one to two minutes, whisking rapidly to break up any small pieces. For this you can use a whisk.

If you have an automatic milk frother, add the milk to the frother, heat and froth the milk, pour it into the prepared matcha and sweeten to taste.

If you do not have a frother, add bloomed matcha to a small saucepan with the milk and sugar or sweetener. Heat until mixture bubbles around the edges, whisking constantly. If you prefer a frothy latte, use an immersion blender to carefully whip up some foam after it is heated through.

Pour into a large mug, serve and enjoy. Adjust the sweetener to taste. Source: www.toriavey.com.

Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.

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