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!

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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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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Skillet chicken with orzo pasta


My mom used to make this skillet chicken with orzo pasta when I was growing up. I loved it and started making it myself when I moved in with Paul a few years ago. It’s pretty easy and very satisfying. She got it from a newspaper column that I think was in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

This meal is good for weeknights, especially because there are very few dishes involved. The fewer dishes, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

It’s great for lunches the next day too. I can’t remember for sure, but I think my mom packed this in my lunchbox when I was in junior high or high school. It’s funny to me that I can’t remember high school as well as I used to. It was 10 years ago now, so of course.

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Chicken pozole rojo

Chicken pozole rojo

This recipe is based off a recipe on The Kitchn called 30-minute chicken pozole. Let me just tell you, it used to take me about 30 minutes back in the pre-kid days but this time it took longer. I have made this several times and it has always been easy and turned out amazing.

It’s a great weeknight meal. I used to make this when I would come home from work sometimes. I also like that it makes a lot of servings, so for some families there would be leftovers the next day.

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Beer braised beef short ribs in a Dutch oven

Braised short rib with couscous

For this short rib recipe, jalapeño, onion, garlic, beer, and rosemary all come together to make a savory and slightly spicy braise. I love that the liquid imparts a lot of flavor on the short ribs in the long cooking process.

I should probably mention that you should plan on getting started on this about 3 hours before you would like to eat dinner. It takes about 1/2 an hour to prep and sear the meat and then it cooks in the oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. It is so worth all that time in the oven though. The meat becomes very tender and pulls completely away from the bone.

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Beyond basic banana bread

Cool the banana bread

Everyone has their own favorite banana bread recipe, it seems, and the Internet has plenty so what am I doing adding another? Well, when I looked for a recipe to make banana bread a few weeks ago, I didn’t find one that I loved. Either they called for ingredients I didn’t have on hand, or they seemed too simple and I wanted to add a bit more flavor to them.

I ended up turning to a basic recipe. I added almond flour and almond extract as well as a few spices, and substituted brown sugar for about 75% of the white sugar.

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Kale “Funyun” chips

Kale Funyun chips baked

One day earlier this year when I was in the break room at the child care center I was working at, I was snacking on a leftover container of kale chips. Another teacher looked at it and said, “What is that? Weed chips?” She seemed genuinely weirded out. I was a bit put off by her question. It must have been a joke, but we weren’t friends and din’t work in the same room, so I felt embarrassed. I guess baked kale looks like weed. But of course that wasn’t what I was eating while on break at a school where I took care of infants and toddlers.

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