Bring on the hearty food

Yesterday our first hard rain of the season fell, and the pellet and wood stoves were both cranking heat. This weekend will be full of rain and cool air — and for us, that means it’s time to get out the recipes for hearty food. Stews, soups, breads, pastas with thick sauces — accompanied by red wine or dark beer, of course.

Ready for some stick-to-your-ribs cold-weather food? Here are some tips:

  • Hit the library. From the local paper, which usually has a weekly food section, to cooking magazines galore, the library is a great resource to find recipes you want to make this winter. Find what makes you drool, and try not to short-circuit the photocopier.
  • Go through your home collection. As one season starts to close, I sit down one evening and sift through our cookbooks and loose recipes. I make notes of things I want to make for the coming season, from old favorites to new and untried dishes. Then I clip them all together, notes and recipes, to sift through when planning meals.
  • Check supplies. Making a lot of chili this winter? Check the cumin, chili powder, paprika and cayenne supplies. If possible, buy spices in bulk so you always have needed seasonings on-hand. Don’t get too much though; 6 months is a pretty good rule of thumb for herb/spice shelf life.
  • Include a dinner party or two in your plans. For us in the Pacific Northwest, a lot of the joy of winter is relaxing at home, warm and snug. Jodie and I love the solitude of our home, but we love our friends too, so we try to make sure to have people over regularly for a home-cooked meal. (Well, that, and I love cooking for friends.) Good company and camaraderie are a great antidote to gloomy weather.

I love fall and winter here. The leaves change; the air gets crisp. But we also have mild winters here, and I like that we have rain instead of snow, and gray skies instead of air that could freeze-dry your lungs. Most of all, I love cooking big stews, soups and what-not, and can’t wait to bust out the first of many hearty meals.

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