Cook books laid out on a dining room table, displaying recipes. Everyone needs comforting, nostalgic foods to get through our long Oregon winters; here are my top six recommendations. Image by Hazel Karon Snow.

With cold weather and rainy evenings just around the corner, you may be wishing for a warm and comfortable way to end the night. The foods we eat are typically replicated in the different seasons: salads in summer, fresh vegetables in spring, pumpkins and squash in fall, but what are the foods to eat this winter? Here are my top six winter recipes that you should try, to warm up throughout this chilly season.

Shepherd’s Pie

Starting with this easy-to-be-left-alone dish, shepherd’s pie is perfect for when you want something hearty to end the day, but don’t have extra time to spend in the kitchen. While it does require prep work, once the potato topping and the meat and vegetable filling are finished, this dish spends the majority of its time in the oven. The recipe yields a crispy crust that doesn’t require excessive time spent. It is also relatively simple to make this dish vegetarian, or even vegan. Switching the ground lamb or beef filling for a mushroom and zucchini mixture would be my suggestion. When looking for a recipe, be sure to look for a simple list of ingredients, those recipes tend to be the best. I suggest one from Delish called “Best Shepherds Pie” made by Lena Abraham.

Kale and Arugula Salad

There is always an abundance of kale during the winter months. Sometimes it can be hard to process; however, this kale and arugula salad makes that a simple task. With an easily mixed dressing of lemon juice and olive oil, the citrus creates a balance with the earthy kale and arugula. The New York Times Cooking website has a simple version of this recipe, called “Lemon-Garlic Kale Salad Recipe,” by Julia Moskin. With a few modifications, this recipe can adapt to the individual’s tastes. Massaging the kale heavily with olive oil before mixing the ingredients together will greatly help tenderize the kale, making it easier to chew. You don’t have to stick to the recipe for it to be great; while it’s not called for in the recipe, the addition of arugula for roughly a 1:3 ratio to kale will diversify the flavors.

Tomato Soup

The creamy, comforting parts of this soup make it perfect for a simple lunch or dinner. Traditionally made with slow-roasted tomatoes and lots of cream, this soup can definitely be time-intensive, but there are shortcuts to making it easier. Former Franklin Post Forum editor and alum Ella Kauffman Smith is a self-described “soup enthusiast.” While not wishing to limit herself to just being a tomato soup connoisseur, she still enjoys the classic and nostalgic flavors that it holds. During her time in the Post, Kauffman Smith wrote an article choosing the best winter soup through a competition bracket. The winner? Tomato soup. “While the tomato soup that I made for the bracket was by far the simplest, its simplicity and comfort set it apart,” she explained. Adding grilled cheese to this dining option is an additional choice to bump this meal up to the next level. Kauffman Smith says that she “can never go wrong with a crisp grilled cheese; [her] favorite is made with a sharp cheddar and sourdough bread. Because the crust of the bread is already crispy, and grilling it only increases that, it ensures that there will still be a crunch after you have dunked the sandwich in the soup.” When unable to make this soup from scratch —due to college dorms— Kauffman Smith resorts to “the Trader Joe’s version of tomato soup. Its flavor and texture are not quite as good, but it gets the job done, and [she] still [has] fun eating it.” If you need to expand your soup repertoire, you might choose to start with the soup competition article that Kauffman Smith wrote. It also features the winning America’s Test Kitchen tomato soup recipe.

Kale, Italian Sausage, and Cannellini Bean Soup

This twist on the traditional Zuppa Toscana Italian soup omits the potatoes and adds cannellini beans, turning the thicker stew version into a lighter, soupier soup. Packed with flavor, from the ground Italian turkey sausage and deep, bitter kale, this soup is perfect to warm you up after a long day. Hearty enough to leave you satisfied, yet light enough that you don’t feel too full after eating it. A fantastic recipe for this soup can be found at Taste of Home, named “Italian Sausage Kale Soup.”

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

Inspired by Trader Joe’s “Autumn Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce,” this winter sauce is a standard in my recipe collections. The autumn flavors, plus the squash’s creamy heartiness brings this sauce to perfection. This sauce and pasta combination is hearty and comforting. When looking for an easy option, I would recommend the previously mentioned Trader Joe’s option. But if you are looking for a time-commitment recipe, the New York Times Cooking site has a wonderful version, full of squash and sage. Just look for “Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Sage and Walnuts” written by Lidey Heuk.

White Bean Turkey Chili

A lighter version of the traditional fan favorite chili, white bean turkey chili focuses on its brothiness. When craving the flavors of chili but not the heavy, thick stew we think of, turning to this version is the best bet. With ground turkey and (typically) cannellini beans, this soupier version will leave you full, cozy, and satisfied. A fan of green chilies rather than red? This chili is for you. This dish produces similar results from both canned and home-cooked beans, so regardless of the time you might have, chili is possible. The Defined Dish has an incredible recipe for this called “Turkey and White Bean Chili” written by Alex Snodgrass.

Whether you choose to enjoy simple or complex recipes this winter season, there are many ways to make your taste buds tingle. The best advice for the best winter recipes: embrace the seasonal produce and spend time in the kitchen.

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