It’s not always easy cooking in winter, but a little healthy inspiration can always help.
In the cooler months, our bodies naturally desire more calories to keep warm, but it's important to choose the right types of food so that you don't overwhelm your system and lower your immunity at the same time.
The word "vegetable" has it's historical origins meaning "to strengthen and establish" and so most of the lower water content and heartier vegetables naturally come forth in the cooler seasons.
Here, we've put together a handful of healthy, hearty vegetable-based recipes from seasonal winter foods. They'll help to keep you and your taste buds happy while the weather is still cool.
1. Sweet Potato Pasta
Regular, packaged wheat pasta is a common staple in many diets due to it's simplicity and convenience, but it's not the healthiest food around.
This sweet potato version is so much healthier and even a fun change to your everyday regular spaghetti or pasta shapes.
It uses sweet potato noodles, which might sound obscure, but they're easy to prepare with a spiralizer and super tasty too.
First, peel and spiralize three cups of sweet potatoes into noodles. If you don't have a spiralizer, go to your local cookware shop or jump online and get one. They're an absolute must if you want to add versatility and creation to your plant-based cooking.
Soak one cup of raw cashews in hot water for 30 minutes, drain and combine in a blender with three cloves of garlic, 4-5 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, ½ teaspoon good sea salt, 2 teaspoons arrowroot starch, 1-1 ½ cups of almond or rice milk, and a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional). Blend on high until smooth and thick, and pour into a pot over medium-low heat.
Whisk the sauce often until it bubbles, then lower heat to a simmer (add more milk if it becomes too thick). Steam your sweet potato noodles for 3-5 minutes, then add noodles to the sauce. Add sautéed spinach or kale if desired. Garnish with chopped parsley, lightly toasted pine nuts and chilli flakes.
In about 30 minutes, you’ll have a new version hot, healthy creamy pasta dish bursting with flavour and winter-friendly ingredients, but still healthy and plant-based.
2. Roasted Vegetable Soup
Soup was made for winter, but a soup full of delicious roasted vegetables is next level nourishment and body warming. This soup will help build up your immunity and gives you multiple servings of vegetables and a variety of nutrients in one hearty meal.
Start by adding two tablespoons of olive oil to a roasting tray, and add three whole cloves of garlic, 2 sliced carrots, 1 chopped medium onion, 1 sliced celery stalk, 1 cubed sweet potato, ½ cubed fennel bulb, 2 cups cubed sweet potato, and 10 whole fresh sage leaves.
Sprinkle the mixture with salt and pepper, and roast at 200 degrees celsius for 35 minutes, gently shuffling the vegetables mid way through.
Place the freshly roasted vegetables and 5-7 cups of vegetable stock in a blender, adding salt/pepper to taste. For a less creamy texture, only puree half the vegetable mixture and combine with the rest of the vegetables after.
Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley and an extra splash of olive oil.
You can mix and match the vegetables based on anything you have on hand and you can also use ginger, cayenne pepper, ground cumin and coriander for added spice. In less than an hour you’ll have a hearty, homemade vegetable soup that makes enough for a few meals.
Tip: If you're looking for personal care products and natural remedies to help keep your immune system strong, check out our Winter Wellness Kit which includes six different products to keep you healthy, germ-free and breathing easy during peak virus season.
3. Butternut Pumpkin Pizza
Pizza is usually a treat meal, but this plant-based, healthier version gives you the indulgence with less guilt. The sauce is the perfect combination of savoury and sweet, while the veggies give you a delicious crunch.
For this recipe, you will need to make your own pizza dough at home using organic flour, or simply go to your local health food store or supermarket and get your hands on the healthiest ready-made pizza bases you can find. These days, there plenty of brands that offer high quality options, vegan and even gluten-free or vegetable bases made from cauliflower, sweet potato etc. if you're extra adventurous!
Your first step is to bake 3 cups of cubed butternut pumpkin with 3 whole cloves of garlic and a drizzle of olive oil at 200 degrees C for 15-20 minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper. Blend the squash and garlic with 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and maple syrup in a blender or food processor.
In a hot fry pan, add 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1 ½ cups broccolini, ½ cup chopped red onion, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
On the pizza base, spread just enough of your blended sauce, the sautéed veggies, and sprinkle on oregano and plant-based cheese (optional). Bake at 220 degrees C for around 15 minutes until the crust is golden brown and serve with a spicy chilli oil for drizzling.
Learn more in Five Winter Immune-Boosting Foods.
4. Plant-Based Chilli
Chilli doesn’t have to be packed with beef to be a winter staple. This plant-based version is healthy, hearty, and so simple to make using just one pot.
Start with a large pot and sauté 2 cups diced sweet onion with 4 cloves of garlic in olive oil until soft. Add a pinch of salt, 2 finely chopped jalapeños, 2 stalks chopped celery, 1 diced red bell pepper, and stir often for another 5-7 minutes.
Add a can of diced tomatoes, 1 cup vegetable broth, 6 tablespoons tomato paste, and increase heat to medium-high. Add a can each of drained and rinsed kidney and pinto beans, plus 2 tablespoons organic chilli powder, 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon oregano, and a pinch of sea salt. Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes until thickened.
Add the optional cayenne pepper and hot sauce to taste. Serve with chopped fresh green onion and cilantro leaves, plus a drizzle of red wine vinegar and lime juice. Dip fresh pita bread or pita chips into your chilli and enjoy.
5. Thai Yellow Coconut Curry
This tasty Thai yellow curry uses the healthy power of coconut and spices for a hearty, flavourful meal that’s bursting with fresh vegetables.
On medium heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil to a large skillet. Mix in a medium minced shallot, 2 tablespoons of minced ginger and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Season with pepper and sea salt and sauté 2-3 minutes.
Add 1 cup chopped red cabbage and 3 tablespoons red curry paste (make sure you find a plant-based paste), and cook for 2 more minutes. Mix in 2 cans of light coconut milk (14-ounce cans each), 3 tablespoons coconut sugar, a pinch of sea salt, 2-3 teaspoons tamari, and 1 teaspoon turmeric. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
Add chopped red pepper and ¼ cup green peas, cooking for 5-10 more minutes and stirring occasionally. Add cubed mango, ¼ cup roasted cashews, and the juice of 1 medium lemon. Simmer 3-4 minutes more and then serve over organic steamed rice or quinoa. Sprinkle with fresh basil or coriander leaves.
Remember, in the cooler months you are naturally designed to eat more vegetables and hearty foods to build strength and to support your immunity.
Experiment with these simple recipes, add and remove ingredients, use your intuition and have fun with it or use them as inspiration to create your own. It's simply about remembering that plant foods have an abundance of variety, nutrients and colour, even in winter, that we should embrace and enjoy to stay healthy and nourished.
Tolman Self Care.