10 favorite winter dinners

Do you have recipes or dishes that you come back to again and again when cold weather hits? Do you think there is a difference between warm weather food and cold weather food?

I was watching a Giant Bomb video podcast a while ago with Paul, and the guys were talking about whether there is a difference between summer food and winter food. They seemed to agree that they eat more salad in summer and more soup in winter. I would definitely say that’s true for me.

I love the opportunity to make soups and stews in the fall and winter months. In the California heat of summer, I try not to turn on the oven or use the crockpot much, as that quickly raises temperature of our already hot home. Even using the stove can be tough when it’s already sweltering. Once it gets cold, I am so happy to use my oven and crockpot. They can make for more hands-off cooking.


1. Beef ribs

This recipe for beef ribs created by yours truly uses a Dutch oven, a can of beer, a  jalapeño and seasoning. It doesn’t require much effort, but by the end you have tender, flavorful meat that falls off the bone with a butter knife.

Chicken pozole rojo

2. Chicken pozole rojo soup

Every fall and winter for the past five years, I have loved making this. This soup is sort of similar to chicken soup but it’s spicy. You can make it more or less so pretty easily depending on your preference. No noodles, but it has hominy.


3. Chicken tortilla soup

My sister Katie made this recipe for chicken tortilla soup up many years ago. It must have been more than a decade ago already! It’s a family favorite, but here I’ve updated it to be more spicy and added a note on how to make it thicker, almost like a chowder, if you would like.


4. Creamy broccoli soup

Vegetarian food can be comfort food too. This is one of my favorite soups ever. My somewhat picky husband likes it even though it has three vegetables and no meat.


5. Slow-cooker vegetarian chili

Here’s another recipe for you vegetarians, or if you’re like me and just want a break from meat sometimes. This recipe is so easy. You just put a few cans of things and some seasoning in a pot and let it simmer, but it tastes great.

6. Cranberry pecan spinach salad

This salad is made with a baby spinach and greens mix, pecans, cranberries, and a triple berry balsamic dressing. I was inspired to make the dressing when I came across my cousin Laura’s recipe for Triple Berry Spinach Salad in our family cookbook.

Orange chicken two servings

7. Fried rice and orange chicken

My mom used this fried rice recipe clipped from a newspaper column quite often when I was growing up and my Grandma Donna used the orange chicken recipe a few times, when she wasn’t baking it from the frozen Trader Joe’s bag.

Teriyaki meatballs with udon noodles_3

8. Teriyaki meatballs with udon noodles

This is most definitely the easiest recipe in this list. It uses packaged meatballs and the whole dish comes together fast. I like making this with kale, but spinach bok choy or cabbage would all work too.

9. My mom’s macaroni and cheese

There’s no shame in the boxed mac and cheese game. But once you try homemade you may be surprised how simple it is to make restaurant quality macaroni and cheese at home. This is a great comfort meal.

10. Skillet chicken with orzo pasta

Out of 10 recipes, this is the fourth in the list to come from my mom’s collection. Hey, she’s a great cook and I’m still finding and making my own favorites. I love that this recipe is healthy, filling and makes for fantastic leftovers, even cold in a packed lunch.

I also love making toasted sandwiches in the fall and winter, such as beef dip and meatball sandwiches. I don’t use recipes for those, as they’re so simple, so I didn’t include them on this list. Happy cooking!

Meal plan vs. reality

Once again, we ate pretty healthy meals this week. We didn’t eat much frozen food, not even for lunches. We only ate a meal out once and that was In-N-Out for lunch on Friday.

I felt very, very, very lucky to have home cooked meals Wednesday through Saturday that I didn’t cook myself. I’m counting taco man tacos at a party as home cooked here.

I made a pecan pie for Thanksgiving, so at least I contributed there. Next year I’ll try to make more. I think the trick is preparing as much as possible ahead of time if you know you will be busy. I’ll try to do homemade pie dough next time. It’s not like I have never done it before. I would love to make a ton of pies like young adult novel author Kerry Winfrey, it’s just hard to find the time.

Today I planned out the upcoming week’s meals, wrote a grocery list, and we all went shopping at Sprouts as a family. We got so much stuff and the cost came out to more than normal but it made sense. We had a near empty fridge beforehand. Also, if I don’t plan for enough, I end up having to go back to the grocery store later in the week. This time I also skipped the baby food because we still have some at home, and I stocked up on foods that Maggie can eat as I’m trying to have enough easy table foods on hand.

Meal planning and reflection has taught me that it’s helpful to have a plan but not be disappointed if I don’t do exactly what I have planned. That’s a lesson that I keep on learning and of course it’s not just applicable to dinner plans.

Meal plan as written on Sunday morning:

Monday: Chicken and Brussels sprouts potato salad with spicy aioli

Tuesday: Sheet pan chicken teriyaki and veggies with white rice and fresh fruit

Wednesday: Thai inspired pizza like California Pizza Kitchen

Thursday: Thanksgiving at my mom’s house (I’m making pecan pie this year.)

Friday: Turkey with wild rice soup

Saturday: Out for dinner

Sunday: Salmon, rice, broccoli

What we actually ate:

Monday: Chicken, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes

Tuesday: Skirt steak, potatoes, butternut squash, toast

Wednesday: Minestrone at my Mom’s house

Thursday: Thanksgiving

Friday: Thanksgiving leftovers

Saturday: Had taco man tacos, mulitas, rice and beans at a family party as a late lunch and cereal as a late dinner

Sunday: Chicken wings from Sprouts butcher shop with celery and carrots

Stovetop macaroni and cheese


One of my favorite comfort meals is macaroni and cheese, especially when it’s cold. It’s one of my favorite winter meals, right up there with chili and broccoli soup. Although it’s not winter yet, it’s starting to feel like it. Today it rained fairly hard and it was windy too. That doesn’t happen too much around Southern California, so when it does it’s a big deal. We’re wimps, I know.

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My 10 favorite newborn products


My sister Mary is exiting the newborn stage with her beautiful baby Elena. Thinking about that, I started reflecting on my time with Maggie as a newborn recently. It was an exciting time, but like all new parents, Paul and I had a hard time figuring out how to care for our new baby. Maggie was adjusting to a whole new way of life too, being outside the womb.

In addition to the invaluable support of family and friends, there were some products that I found especially helpful in the newborn stage. I thought I would share my top 10 list with you all.

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Meal plan vs. reality

snack plate dinner

Sleep hasn’t gotten any better. I have been thinking of doing sleep training with Maggie but I’m not sure how. I don’t know if certain methods would work for us. I hate to hear her cry. But I also want to teach her to fall asleep on her own eventually and not have to hold her until she falls back to sleep 4 times a night.

We had simple meals this week because of the poor sleeping habits. My favorite meal was the barbacoa meat made in the crockpot using the Gimme Some Lovin’ recipe. The meat turned out perfectly seasoned and tender

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Sweet potato oat muffins (Toddler-friendly)

sweet potato oat muffins

My baby is quickly turning into a toddler. She’s a toddler who loves to eat and I’m thankful she’s not picky yet. To try to keep up with her appetite and nutritional needs, I’m trying to give her more healthy “big kid” food and not rely on purees as much. She’s become a lot better at picking food up, putting it in her mouth and chewing it. Adults don’t really think about how eating involves all those skills that babies have to learn.

If you don’t have a toddler to feed, you can certainly still make these muffins. The recipe is very easily adjustable and they make a great healthy snack. You can easily make them more sweet by adding sugar or chocolate chips. If you don’t have mashed sweet potato readily available, canned pumpkin totally works.

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Cranberry pecan spinach salad

This salad is made with a baby spinach and greens mix, pecans, cranberries, and a triple berry balsamic dressing. I was inspired to make the dressing when I came across my cousin Laura’s recipe for Triple Berry Spinach Salad in our family cookbook.

I think this salad would be a great addition to a Thanksgiving table. It feels like a fall or winter dish because of the cranberries and pecans. You could also eat this the day after a holiday get together with the addition of leftover turkey or chicken.

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Meal plan vs. reality

This week mostly went according to the plan. I planned very simple things so that’s probably why. We ate dinner out Friday, Saturday and Sunday with Sunday being homemade food at my mom’s house. I feel lucky that I didn’t have to wash as much dishes.

I ordered groceries from InstaCart on Friday. I didn’t order any fresh meat this time for a few reasons. Last week I accidentally let some ground beef go bad because I didn’t get to cooking it in time. I didn’t want that to happen again.

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Claremont, CA: Restaurant guide

I love Claremont and have been coming here for years. I used to spend time with my family here when I was a kid. I went on dates here in college. Paul and I got married in Claremont, even though we lived in Santa Monica at the time, and now we live here.

Consider this list like Chrissy Teigen’s list of L.A. restaurants, which she was criticized for by L.A Times writer Jenn Harris. (I still care for them both any way, by the way.) I’m no restaurant critic. I may have missed your favorites as I still haven’t been every where but these are my personal favorites.

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