6 Recipes to Beat the Winter Blues
Whether you’re stuck inside from another snowstorm or it’s just not beach weather yet, you could probably use something to take your mind off of the cold. This is the time for satisfying comfort food, all-day braises, and conquering kitchen qualms in the borrowed time of a snow day. Whether you’re sticking your face in a warm hug of hot soup or tricking your brain into happier moods with chocolate’s effect on dopamine, these 6 recipes are bound to lift you out of your mid-winter rut and revitalize you.
1. Wine Braised Short Ribs
A smoker isn’t the only way to get meat that falls off the bone, which is a good thing when you can’t see your grill through all that snow. When you have time to put the crockpot away and pull out a dutch oven, give braising a go. It’s quicker than using your slow cooker, concentrates the flavor better, and retains that great sear you’re going to put on these short ribs before you add the wine. The wine in this recipe from Bon Appétit will help tenderize the meat, leaving you with richly seasoned short ribs, falling to pieces at the mere glance of a fork, to eat for a cozy dinner. These short ribs are even better the next day, making a strong case for leftovers. For extra comfort on a cold winter night, serve over garlic mashed potatoes.
- 5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 medium onions, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry red wine, preferably Cabernet Sauvignon
- 10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
- 8 sprigs thyme
- 4 sprigs oregano
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
- 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
- 4 cups low-salt beef stock
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons drippings from pot.
Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.
Cook until short ribs are tender, 2 to 2½ hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls over mashed potatoes with sauce spooned over.
So the kids are home from school again. They’ve come back inside from playing in the snow, they’re dripping all over the house, and they want something else to do because it’s cold outside. What about soft pretzels? Not only is it fun to watch the dough rise, they smell fantastic through the whole cooking process, they get a bubble bath in baking soda, and the kids get to make fun shapes that they then get to eat. Cleanup, as far as cooking projects with kids goes, is a snap. This recipe from Once Upon a Chef is an Auntie Anne’s inspired recipe, softer and lighter and just a touch sweeter than a traditional German-style pretzel. In a taste test with real kids, this one wins.
- 1 cup milk
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- ⅓ cup baking soda
- Coarse salt or cinnamon sugar, to taste
Directions: Warm the milk in a small saucepan or the microwave until it’s about 110 degrees Fahrenheit; pour into a medium bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let the yeast activate, about 2 minutes; stir in the brown sugar and 1 cup of the flour with a wooden spoon. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and stir into the mix. Add the remaining 1¼ cups flour and fine salt to make a sticky dough. Add more flour if necessary to form dough into a ball. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if needed, until smooth but still slightly tacky, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball, place in a clean, lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Punch the dough to deflate it, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll and stretch each piece with the palms of your hands into a 30-inch rope, holding the ends and slapping the middle of the rope on the counter as you stretch. Form each into a pretzel shape: Form a U-shape, then holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press firmly onto the bottom of the pretzel.
Dissolve the baking soda in 3 cups warm water in a shallow baking dish. Gently dip each pretzel in the soda solution, then arrange on a prepared baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with course salt or cinnamon sugar. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter and brush on baked pretzels. The pretzels are best enjoyed fresh on the same day.
3. Homemade Pizza
Host a pizza party! Invite some friends and/or family over and crank the oven as high as it can go to warm up the kitchen and make awesome homemade pizzas. For really great pizza dough that requires no kneading, just time, Deb of Smitten Kitchen uses Jim Lahey’s no-knead pizza dough recipe. She adapts it for folks who can start it the night before, those who can start it in the morning, and those who can start it around noon. Check out our articles on making gourmet and healthy pizzas to branch out from margherita.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- Slightly heaped ⅛, ¼ or ½ teaspoon active dry yeast for Overnight, All-Day, or Part-Day
- Schedules respectively
- 1½ teaspoons sea or kosher salt
- 1¼ cup water, plus an additional tablespoon or two if needed
- One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon sea or kosher salt
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- Pinch of sugar, if desired
- 8 ounces aged mozzarella
- ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
- Two glugs of olive oil
- Few leaves of fresh basil, torn or sliced
Directions: In a very large bowl, mix all ingredients with a spoon. The dough will be craggy and rough; this is fine, but if it feels excessively so, add another spoonful or even two of water. Cover bowl with plastic and keep at room temperature for approximately 22 hours for the overnight schedule, 12 hours for the all-day schedule, or 6 hours for the part-day schedule, or until the dough has more than doubled.
Preheat the oven to 550 degrees Fahrenheit, or as close as your oven will get, with a pizza stone if you have one. Place tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl and squeeze to release any trapped juices. Let them drain for 30 minutes.
Add salt, garlic, and red pepper flakes, adding a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes taste overly acidic to you, and blend in a blender or with an immersion blender until they reach your desired sauce texture.
Add ⅓ cup of sauce to each stretched-out dough and spread it evenly. Tear or crumble mozzarella into tiny bits and scatter it over the pizzas. Finally, give each assembled pizza a quick drizzle with olive oil and bake it for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating once if needed, until the top is bubbled and lightly charred and the crust is golden. As soon as the pizza comes out of the oven and is still blazing hot, finish with basil and Parmesan or pecorino.
Slide pizza onto cutting board or serving plate and cut into squares or wedges.
4. Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup
There are those who can’t survive winter without an ode to warmer weather in the form of summer vegetables, and then there are those who become terribly depressed at the pallid ghosts of tomatoes and zucchini available at the supermarket in the throes of winter. It’s just not the same. If you can’t look at a head of lettuce without noticing the bruised wilt it comes with as a souvenir from the far-off place it originated, try Marcella Hazan’s rice and smothered cabbage soup. Food52 describes this as the technique for bringing out the hidden beauty in cabbage, the winter rose of the vegetable world, and a lazy risotto-esque bowl of warmth that will, as they claim, cure the winter blues.
- 2 pounds green, red, or Savoy cabbage
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
- 1 tablespoon wine vinegar, white or red
- 3 cups homemade meat broth, or 1 cup canned beef broth, diluted with 2 cups water
- ⅔ cup rice, preferably Italian Arborio rice
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
- Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
Directions: Detach and discard the first few outer leaves of the cabbage. The remaining head of leaves must be shredded very fine and the core discarded.
Put the onion and olive oil into a large sauté pan, and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it becomes colored a deep gold, then add the garlic. When you have cooked the garlic until it becomes colored a very pale gold, add the shredded cabbage. Turn the cabbage over 2 or 3 times to coat it well, and cook it until it is wilted. Add salt, pepper, and the vinegar. Turn the cabbage over once completely, lower the heat to minimum, and cover the pan tightly. Cook for at least 1.5 hours, or until it is very tender, turning it from time to time.
If while it is cooking, the liquid in the pan should become insufficient, add 2 tablespoons water as needed. When done, taste and correct for salt and pepper.
When the cabbage is done cooking, put the cabbage and broth into a soup pot, and turn on the heat to medium.
When the broth comes to a boil, add the rice. Cook uncovered, adjusting the heat so that the soup bubbles at a slow, but steady boil, stirring from time to time until the rice is done. It must be tender, but firm to the bite, and should take around 20 minutes. If while the rice is cooking, you find the soup becoming too thick, add a ladleful of homemade broth. If you are not using homemade broth, just add water. When finished, the soup should be rather dense, but there should still be some liquid.
When the rice is done, before turning off the heat, swirl in the butter and the grated Parmesan, stirring thoroughly. Taste and correct for salt, and add a few grindings of black pepper. Ladle the soup into individual bowls, and allow it to settle just a few minutes before serving. Serve with more grated Parmesan.
5. Orange Sweet Rolls
With the bright, sunny zing of in-season oranges, the lofty, yeasty softness of the buns, and the sticky sweetness of these orange rolls from the Food Network, it’s almost like we’re not in the middle of winter. The rolls will fill your kitchen with a zesty sweetness as they bake, creating a sense of warmth and promise of sunny days. The carbs and sugar will also activate happy chemicals in your brain, making these the go-to project for beating the winter blues. Ree Drummond declares these rolls to become “pretty much a miracle” when the icing seeps down into the crevices. What are you waiting for?
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 4½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ rounded teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 8 tablespoons orange marmalade
- 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar, plus more as needed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Zest and juice of 2 oranges
- 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- Dash of salt
- ½ cup whole milk, more if needed for a pourable consistency
- ½ stick butter, melted
Directions: In a large saucepan over a low heat, heat the milk, oil and granulated sugar until warm but not hot. Remove from the heat and add the yeast and 4 cups of the flour and stir together. Cover the pan and leave to rise for at least an hour. Stir in the remaining ½ cup flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 30 inches wide by 10 inches deep. You’ll want it to be as thin as you can get it so you can add plenty of filling. Drizzle the melted butter all over the surface of the dough. Use your fingers to smear it all around so that it coats evenly.
Spread the orange marmalade all over the buttered dough, distributing as evenly as you can. Sprinkle plenty of brown sugar all over the marmalade. Finish with a light sprinkling of salt to offset the sweetness.
Using both hands in a back-and-forth motion, gradually roll the dough toward you into one long log. Pinch the seam to seal it. Then slice the log into ½-inch pieces.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the rolls in a buttered baking dish and allow them to rise for 20 minutes.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes.
While the rolls are baking, make the icing. Add the orange zest and juice to a bowl. Add the powdered sugar and salt. Splash in the milk. And some more melted butter because the recipe doesn’t already have enough. Just kidding on that last part. Whisk it together until smooth.
Pull the rolls out of the oven when they’re golden brown, and drizzle on the icing immediately. Serve them warm.
6. Spiked Mexican Hot Chocolate
When all else fails, throw some tequila into your hot chocolate. Go for the aged stuff here in this recipe from Foodie Misadventures, añejo or reposado, for the warm vanilla notes the booze will impart into your drink. The cinnamon adds a lovely warming spice, while the cayenne adds a little heat. Cayenne is also good for your circulation, which we could all use after being cooped up inside all winter. Just remember that a little goes a long way!
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon, plus more to garnish
- ½ cup water
- 3 tablespoon agave nectar
- 10 ounces whole milk
- 2 ounces tequila
- Whipped cream, optional
Directions: In a medium saucepan, whisk together cocoa powder, cayenne, cinnamon and water over medium heat. Stir in agave and bring mixture to a low boil. Pour in milk and heat until warm.
Divide hot chocolate mixture into two mugs, add in 1 ounce of tequila in each. If desired, top each mug with whipped cream.