Foodie: February 2015 Simple Foods for cold weather

The Foodie Column for February 15th

Inspiration for Simple Foods

By T. Myers

After the holidays, when everything slows down, we celebrate Valentine’s Day and then it is about four weeks until St. Paddy’s Day and during that time, it is just nice to have a few simple dinners up your sleeve to let you relax during the busy work week and look forward to coming home for a quick hot meal with no fuss. (That is not my usual style- so when I say no fuss- I mean simple!)

I love soup and I love fresh bread and there is never anything wrong with preparing a meal that features both. Over the weekend I tried an oats, corn, wheat and rye combo for the bread and added flax seed and craisins.  (basic bread dough is 5 Cups of water with 2 T of yeast, 1/3 cup oil. 1 T salt and enough of the choice of flours to make a ball that you knead, raise and form loaves, raise again and bake at 350 for 40-60 minutes depending on the size of the loaves.) A hearty loaf is good with either a clear broth soup or a cream based soup and I made mushroom soup out of 4 oz. fresh sliced mushroom cooked slowly in 1-1/2 cup water that is salted mildly. Add a T of Brandy and some cracked black pepper. Mix up 1-1/2 cup milk and 1-2 T of cornstarch and add to the cooked mushroom mixture. Season to taste. I love to add fresh thyme leaves. Cook gently until thickened and float a pat of butter into the serving bowls and top with parmesan cheese.

Try French onion soup with a slice of toasted French bread that is smothered with gruyere and parmesan. The soup is usually cooked with beef broth and caramelized onions, thyme or fresh sage and salt and pepper. Using a good stock, add your onions and simmer with the herbs and serve up in heavy ceramic bowls that hold in the heat. It is a clear broth that also goes well with cognac, brandy or a splash of red wine as a seasoning addition.

For a good chowder, you can make potato soup and add bacon crumbles, onions, clams, corn, cooked celery, other kinds of seafood or fish and after cooking the items until tender, add salt, pepper, a dash of tabasco or cayenne pepper for heat and when the flavor is just right, add canned milk, thickening agents and let it cool to cold then bring it back up to serving temp to get the full bang out of the flavors. All of these soups keep in the fridge and can be microwaved hot, so plan on a few nights of good eating when you make a batch!

Sometimes it is just wonderful to oven roast some root veggies with a sprinkling of olive oil, salt and pepper and eat them hot with a slice of bread and cheese and a glass of wine!

Do you have some ham or sausage left overs? A Potato casserole of sliced potatoes and onions flavored with the bits of ham or sausage and cooked like an Au gratin with some cheese and milk stirred into the casserole will be a delicious use of the ends of meat and make a fresh meal that can be reheated and served as a side to another meal later?

Serve your soup and bread with some of this year’s good oranges sliced on a plate for a low calorie and tasty dessert. All of these meals with a glass of red or white wine will be more civilized and if you have a couple of glasses of wine, even better! Bon Appetit!

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