Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January Kitchen Blues

Its occurs to me that I haven't lately posted any pictures of memorable meals or beautiful food. Why and wherefore? Have I become a culinary slacker?

The answer (reached after some careful five minutes' thought) is yes ... and no. I've been spending a lot of time crocheting and designing - which consumes creative energy that might be otherwise directed towards cooking. Then there is the seemingly inevitable post-Christmas slump. When the sustained effort of holiday preparations is no longer required, I and my self-discipline deflate like a popped balloon. It takes a few weeks - just a bit longer than the leftovers last - to re-establish some semblance of household normalcy.

But I think there's another reason for the cold-season blahs. In my opinion, winter cooking just isn't as much fun (or photogenic) as spring and summer cooking. In spring, there's the excitement of fresh young growing things - chives and spring onions, radishes and new lettuce. Summer, of course, brings a rainbow of food to the table - which inspires all kinds of creativity, both culinary and photographic. The riot of fresh local colour lasts well into autumn - then dies with the leaves (at least where I live).

Of course we do eat vegetables in January - living in Wisconsin, we'll never be successful year-round locavores. Lettuce and spinach, broccoli and bell peppers are regular purchases, along with root veggies. But somehow a pepper from California isn't as exciting as one grown just outside the door or up the road. Our salads take on a certain sameness: tasty, yes, but not memorable. Steamed broccoli (even topped with grated Muenster) just isn't as much fun as young lettuce from the garden sprinkled with chive blossoms and lemon thyme.

One thing I really need to do is expand my soup repertoire to include root vegetable-based soups. I'm sure something of the carrotty and gingery variety would be both cheering and warming, and probably pretty enough to photograph. Things like chard and kale are worth looking into. (Perhaps the new management at our village supermarket will upgrade the produce section to include more winter greens.)

It also helps to remember that some wonderful fruits are in season now, including citrus and pineapple (and locally grown cranberries). Cranberry, orange, and chocolate, in combination, make sublime cookies and entirely delightful muffins:

A winter trifecta of flavour:
orange, chocolate, cranberry

And I mustn't forget my all-time favourite scones (orange-chocolate chip), which I only make during the cold months when oranges are cheap and plentiful.

Plays well with quiche

What are your favourite winter foods?

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  1. Peanuts. Did you really have to ask? The Goatmother, however, has a love affair going with cranberry orange scones. Might you share your recipe?

  2. Ironically, my post today is about bowls of food I've made this past week. Quick, easy, healthy meals that are yummy and filling. Thought it is hot here more often than not, I still like soup, any time of year and have favorites that I make over and over and over again. However, I did just try a curried green lentil soup the other day. I had to adapt it a bit, but turned out yummy! I had two bowls for lunch. I love scones! A friend made orange cranberry cookies with icing and boy were they good! Have a great rest of the week, Tammy

  3. I do quite like winter food, but then that's probably because I like comfort food! I do like casseroles, soup with lumps of cheese and warm bread, tarte tatin, sticky-toffee pudding.....ah, now you've sent me into a spin!

    I love food and I love cooking and baking. I can't think of anything better than eating yummy good food with good friends. I have to admit that if I don't get a little baking in, I feel a bit rubbish, it's funny how the simple things can ground you isn't it.

  4. Carrot soup made simply with carrots, onion, bay leaves and peppercorn, and eaten with buttered soda bread, is a great winter favourite here.

    Those cranberry, orange and chocolate scones look wonderful!

  5. Ditto re: the scones.

    I like any crock pot meal that includes beans and something spicy...that lentil green curry soup of Tammy's sounds like the ticket.

    It just started snowing here today and should continue for the next few days...perfect "bowl food" weather. :-)

  6. I do a lot of one-pot meals. A favorite for us is a pork rib stew done with loads of veggies.

  7. Oh, those muffins sound wonderful!!!! I love all of those flavors and never considered putting them all together!! I must sit back and process this important discovery!! :)

    I love root vegetable anything so Winter cooking is my favorite!! I generally like to chop them into chunks, toss in olive oil, salt and bake. That is so yummy because it brings out some of the sweetness and I love their flavors so much!! Potatoes, yams, rutabagas, turnips....anything like that is sooooo good!!! :)

  8. Soup! Especially with butternut squash or coconut/curry! But, just wait 'til my Project Blizzard at the end of the month. Chili Mac with a HUGE little surprise!!!

  9. My favourite winter food?-mashed potatoes with pretty much anything (except cake that is!)

  10. I have to admit that I love the deliciousness that all seasons bring. Winter meals may look like something the cat dragged in, but, oh the scents and warmth that fill the house! It's all good. Nourishing food especially in the bleakness of winter warms more than the body.
    Your scones look lovely!

  11. My stomach rumbled as I looked at your pictures!

    I have to say I love cooking with winter vegetables, and as some others have said, love to make soup. Moosewood Restaurant Daily Specials cookbook has some great soup recipes (I first got it at the library, then bought a used copy)like a butternut squash soup and a curried cauliflower soup.

    Also, do you know the website It lists farmers markets, CSAs, etc. There is a traveling winter farmers market in the Chicago area - maybe you have one, too. I think you're in Central Wis, yes? There is a wonderful organic farm west of Berlin called Prospera Farm - Two of the nicest guys own and run it: Leo Sances & Michael Zink. They might have some info on where to buy local, seasonal produce at this time of year. (If anyone would know, they would!)


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