Training in the middle of winter can be cold and miserable, but that doesn’t mean your food needs to be. One of the nice parts of the cold weather is the warmth a hot meal brings to warm a chilled runner from the inside out. Unlike in the summertime, when the thought of having the oven on for prolonged periods of time is unbearable, in the winter it’s welcomed with open arms. Soup, stew, chili, and slow cooker meals, are hearty staples for a winter diets. Another bonus to these soul-soothing meals is that they are filled with nutritious ingredients that are sure to help with recovery and refuelling from a hard session. Here are some tips of how to perfect your winter meals.
When making soups remember to:
- Cook raw spices for about 1 minute to intensify the flavours
- Fry any ingredients that need to be softened with a little bit of oil before simmering in stock (i.e. onions, garlic, spices)
- Add in your main ingredients (vegetables, meat, potatoes etc.) and add just enough stock to cover them
- Bring this all to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are tender. If adding in noodles, or rice, time the boiling duration right to fully cook the vegetables and the grains.
- Add extra water if using rice in a recipe as the grain will absorb a lot of liquid.
- If blending the soup to make it creamy, place in a blender and cover with a tea towel to allow the steam out, or use a hand blender.
- Season well with salt and pepper (to taste).
- Adjust the consistency using water to thin it down, or cook it longer to thicken.
When making slow-cooker meals:
- Choose the right cuts. Chuck roasts, short ribs, or dark meat from poultry will remain juicy and become melt-in-your-mouth tender. Lighter and leaner meats will tend to dry out unless a larger amount of flavourful liquid is added.
- Keep the lid closed! Opening the lid and releasing the steam will increase cooking time even further. No stirring is required in slow cooker meals, so there’s no need to open the lid for that.
- Care for your crock pot. If you’ve pre-assembled the ingredients and placed in the refrigerator overnight, allow the pot to reach room temperature before placing it on the preheated base.
- Browning boosts flavour. Piling raw ingredients into a slow cooker works just fine, but to add depth to the flavours, brown the meat and sauté the vegetables. If you want a thicker sauce, coat the meat in flour before browning.
- Avoid overcrowding. For best results, fill the slow cooker about one-half or two-thirds full, so the lid still fits snugly on top.
- Trim the fat. Take an extra few minutes to trim excess fat from the meat, and skin from chicken to ensure the sauce / gravy is silky smooth. Too much fat can lead to greasy cooking liquid.
- Layer wisely: Cut all ingredients into equal bite sized pieces. Place all root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, turnips etc) on the bottom, and place the meat on top.
- Add dairy last. Sour cream, milk, and yogurt break down in the slow cooker. Stir them in the last 15 minutes to avoid breakdown.
- End of a fresh note: Sprinkle fresh herds, or a squeeze of lemon juice at the end of simmering to enhance the flavours and cut the richness of long-cooked recipes.