If you thought I waxed poetic about drinks, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. (Sorry, my Idaho likes to come out every so often.)
Food. Is. Life. And good food is good life. Good food doesn’t have to be expensive, either. I’m a firm believer that simple recipes are often the best recipes (all the ingredients get a chance to shine), and while quality ingredients make for a quality meal, quality ingredients don’t have to be expensive. Quality ingredients are generally fresh and/or homemade. Sometimes the “homemade” aspect requires a bit more effort, but I find that if I have the time and the love, it’s well worth it.
That love part is central to me. For me, food is love. I make involved meals for my husband not because we need them, but because I love showing him that I love him through the effort of shaping handmade pasta, tending to a pot of bolognese for five hours, mixing up artisan bread dough the night before I know we’re having soup, spending a day making separate elements for a true comfort meal, taking the time to mix up a special blend of garlicky, herby butter because I know that grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup is his favorite meal of all time, etc. There is something intimate about sharing a meal with someone, made all the more intimate when you are the one planning and making that meal.
And sometimes, truly, the simplest meals are the loveliest. White bean soup with spiced butter is budget-friendly and full of warmth. Sheet pan chicken and veggies meals make for quick, simple, delicious meals when we’re feeling conscious of our waistlines (damn you, late 30s!). I don’t want to denigrate the simple and quick, because those express just as much love and effort as the more involved meals. Every time we make someone food, we are taking time out of our days and rest to give others nourishment to sustain their bodies, comfort their anxieties, and assure them that someone is looking out for their well-being and not-inconsequential taste buds.
The holiday season makes all that food love even more fun. To celebrate all that food can bring to our celebratory and quiet, daily lives, here are my favorite recipes for the holiday and winter months.
Butter Drenched and White Wine Roasted Turkey
Photo from HowSweetEats.com
In the words of Jessica Merchant, “YOU GUYS.” This roast turkey recipe is phenomenal. The smell as the turkey is roasting is just… something else. Even though I know we’re often exhausted after the time-intensive feast that is Thanksgiving, after Thanksgiving unpurchased turkeys go on sale for pennies on the pound. You almost can’t afford not to buy a turkey. I highly recommend buying a post-Thanksgiving, super-sale turkey (and a second one for your local food bank) and saving it for a meal over the holidays. Christmas Eve? Christmas Day? New Year’s Eve? Whenever you make it, your loved ones will be thrilled, and it has the added benefit of making your life SO MUCH EASIER over the weeks following. There is nothing better than roasted turkey leftovers for easy dinners as a reward for your roasted turkey labor (see here, here, and here), so why not look out for 2019 You and, in doing so, treat your loved ones to the best roast turkey dinner of their lives?!
I won’t outline the full recipe here because Jessica deserves a blog visit, so I will just link to her recipe again. I will also recommend that you start with the brine and aromatics from Alton Brown’s recipe. The three together are PURE. EFFING. GOLD.
Creamy Tuscan Sausage Tortellini Soup
Is there anything better than soup on a frigid day? Of course not, don’t be ridiculous. My favorite soup is a riff on the Creamy Tuscan Garlic Tortellini Soup from The Recipe Critic. I sub the shredded chicken for browned Italian sausage and, every couple of years or so, sub the chicken broth out for Parmesan broth. (Seriously, start saving your Parmesan rinds now for next year’s winter soup. PHE.NOMENAL.) This soup is perfection and the perfect expression of love in soup form.
5-Minute Artisan Bread
No winter soup is complete without fresh bread. While I have some quick bread favorites for when planning-ahead fails me, you can’t get any better than the ease and deliciousness of 5-minute artisan bread. (No one will complain if you add a little garlic to your slathering butter, fyi!) The only downside is the necessity of planning to eat the bread a day ahead and guaranteeing that none of the busyness and last-minute happenings typical of the holiday season will come between you and that bubbly, yeasty fabulousness come dinnertime.
Cranberry Orange Chicken Thighs
Photo from Sweet & Savory
A simple, one-pan meal with a holiday punch! I love chicken thighs. Packed with protein and with a deeper flavor and moistness than chicken breasts, chicken thighs are my favorite dinner protein. This recipe gives chicken thighs a decidedly December feel with aromatic orange, sweetly sour cranberries, and the smooth/sweet/tangy zip of olive oil mixed with honey and balsamic vinegar. It makes for a fantastic base for a wonderful quick, easy weeknight holiday season meal. Serve alongside steamed asparagus and 5-minute artisan bread (WOOP).
Do you want to really commit to homemade food? Make some homemade pasta. It is surprisingly easy (just a little time-intensive) and far superior to the dried grocery store version. I highly recommend the book Mastering Pasta: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi, and Risotto by Marc Vetri and David Joachim. I’ve made several of the noodle recipes and, yes. So. much. yes. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and get in touch with your inner Nonna.
And there you have it! Some of the food I like to keep on-hand or recipes I keep in mind when I am deciding what to keep in my refrigerator “just in case”. Remember: “homemade” doesn’t have to equal “difficult and time-intensive” and making food for someone, no matter how difficult or easy, is a quintessential form of love.