The Ultimate Winter Meal

Before winter escapes us and we welcome the greens and freshness of spring, I thought I'd write a little bit about how the seasons have re-shaped our ways of eating over the past couple of years. A typical winter meal has begun to look nothing like a meal during other seasons of the year.  Partly with the help of our CSA farmshare from Harmony Valley Farm, we've learned how to eat winter vegetables and how to find a place for them in our diets, without relying on the ubiquitous tomatoes and peppers and zucchini and other summer vegetables that still show up in our grocery stores, but are a sure sign of non-local and non-sustainable (and often non-yummy) foods.

So, from a meal we cooked a couple weeks back, an illustration of winter-ness captured on a plate.

Much of it begins with hearty root vegetables from the winter farmer's market, sliced up and ready to roast. This time around, we relied on beets and sweet potatoes and cabbage.

I peeled and sliced up the beets and sweet potatoes (if you have a food processor with a slicing attachment, this can go even more quickly!), and tossed each of them with a bit of oil and salt in a baking dish. These went into the oven at about 375 for 45 minutes, or until tender.  [top right and middle in photo above]

Then, I chopped up the cabbage, coarsely, and sauteed it in a large pan. Usually, I'd begin a pan of cabbage with a saute of diced onion and garlic, but for this meal, we were thinking utilitarian-style, so I just went with a little oil, sriracha, ketchup, and soy sauce. And it still turned out deliciously. [bottom right in photo above]

The last two elements of the meal could be replaced by any whole grain (like brown rice or bulgur) and protein (like beans or tofu or greens or meat, if you'd like), but we went with quinoa and seitan. The basic cooking instructions for quinoa [top left in photo above] are:

Basic Quinoa Cooking Directions

1 part Quinoa
2 parts Water
  1. Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a small strainer or by running fresh water over the quinoa in a pot.  Drain.
  2. Put quinoa and water in a saucepan; bring to boil.  
  3. Reduce heat to simmer; cover and cook until all water is absorbed (10-15 minutes). When done, the grain appears translucent and the germ ring will be visible.
And although I've since figured out how to make my own seitan (recipes and photos to come!), for this particular meal, we relied on this product, straight from the co-op: 

It's yummy, and the only ingredients are wheat gluten, water, and spices, so it's minimally-processed. For this meal, I crumbled up the seitan from the package and cooked it with a bit of oil in a pan. [bottom left in photo above].

And when plated with home-canned pickles and corn relish (ways to capture the delights of summer cucumbers and corn, even in winter!), it all looked a little something like this:

(this is the same plate, but one photo is taken with flash and the other without--still getting the hang of this whole food photography business).

We made plenty of extra, and boxed it up in these awesome pint-sized Pyrex containers to serve as lunch for the next few days. (we never think of food as "leftovers," because we always intentionally make enough for at least two dinners and two lunches):

And lest you think the winter meal excitement is all over, I managed to squeeze these acorn squash halves into the oven while the beets and sweet potatoes were roasting, and made extra quinoa, too. Which means, we also had the fixings for four more meals, these of stuffed squash! I just sauteed the quinoa with some diced onions and grated carrot and apple and walnuts and raisins and chickpeas (along with some spices and a little liquid), and popped all that into the squash shells for some easy and delicious lunches!

So, you see, winter does not have to be a time of privation after all, even if you're trying to eat locally.

How does your eating change in the winter, if at all? What are your favorite winter dishes?


  1. Yum! Did the cabbage preparation succeed in maximizing the net balance of pleasure over pain in the world?

  2. Just as John Stuart Mill would've liked it!

  3. Looks so yummy and, I am sure tastes also delicious. It reminded me meals in my previous life in Russia. We ate seasonal food because that was the only food(veggies) available during the winter months. We didn't feel so deprived but were looking forward to Spring and Summer of plenty.


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