Where Can you Find In-Season Real Food in the Winter?

It seems easy, fun, and even exhilarating to seek out local, in-season foods in the summer when farmer”s markets are hopping and the sun is bringing nourishment everywhere you look.

In the dark days of winter, whether your hometown is covered in snow four feet deep or just stuck in “gray day” syndrome, eating locally, seasonally, or even just finding a vegetable to grace the dinner table can be a bit more daunting.

In a perfect world, you would have canned tomatoes and dehydrated produce last summer, and you”d have an attic filled to the brim with home-preserved food reminiscent of Little House in the Big Woods, but if you”re living in my world, that”s probably not the case.

It”s all too tempting to rely on comforting grain-based foods like bread, pot pies, quick breads, and sweets when it”s cold outside. The problem, of course, is that all those carbs can wreak havoc on your system, which is most likely more idle at this time of year than when the sunshine is calling you and your bare toes outside to frolic.

Here are four simple ideas for keeping healthy with real food when all you want to do is cuddle up with hot chocolate and toast:

1. Use Squash

Photo by monado
Spaghetti Squash

We”ve turned to spaghetti squash instead of pasta so often in the past few months that my 2-year-old offered me a plastic plop of play food the other day with the endearing phrase: “Mama, you want some spaghetti squash?”

I recommend baking it in advance, preferably the day before when your oven is on for something else anyway. This is just for “quick meal” factor the day you want spaghetti.

Simply wash, halve, scoop out the seeds and place facedown in a glass baking dish with a little water. Bake anywhere between 350-400 until you can puncture the skin with a fork, usually 30-60 minutes. Use that fork to scoop out the stringy insides.

Either immediately or after refrigerating, mix and heat in a pot with a jar of spaghetti sauce and anything else you”d use in traditional spaghetti: meatballs, sausage, ground beef, pinto beans, etc. You can almost imagine you”ve just boiled up a box of pasta, but with far more vitamins and fewer carbs. Spaghetti squash can also be served with butter and salt and pepper as a side dish, but I always prefer the tomato sauce option.

Squash Pancakes (aka “Pumpkin Pancakes”)

Photo by Katie Kimball
I usually refer to these babies as “pumpkin pancakes” simply because people are used to sweet pumpkin treats, but they give me skeptical looks if I offer “squash pancakes.” They have almost no grains in them, so they”re a great substitute for all the carb-loaded breakfast options we”re used to.

Ingredients:

1 c. cooked, pureed squash*
4-5 eggs**
¼ c. coconut flour OR whole wheat flour OR 1/3 c. sourdough starter
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1-2 Tbs. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla

Method: Separate eggs. In one bowl, whip egg whites a few minutes until frothy/foamy. In a separate bowl, combine yolks with squash, flour, sweetener, vanilla and spices. Fold in egg whites. Fry slowly in lots of fat in a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat OR on a griddle with a bit of butter at about 300-350F. Watch for the bottoms to begin browning when the edges look dry and flip once. If you find the pancakes are very thin and breaking apart, add a bit more flour or sourdough starter to the batter.

The lazy way: Instead of separating the eggs, just mix everything together willy nilly in one bowl. The pancakes might not have as much height or fluff, but they’re still perfectly fine, especially for a weekday morning!

Makes about 20 small pancakes.

*I recommend a sweeter squash like buttercup for these pancakes, and butternut would work very well also. I bet pumpkin puree, even from a can, would be simply delicious and still get excellent super food veggie nutrition into Hvis du er interessert i a l?re mer om Roulette Strategier, kan du lese mer om det her. your breakfast.

**Note on eggs: The recipe works with either 4 or 5, which you may choose depending on how large your eggs are or how many you have on hand.

Butternut Squash Instead of Potatoes

Squash also makes a great pseudo french fry (try these directions if you”ve never made your own), as do sweet potatoes. Again, more vitamins, lower carbs.

2. Go Beans!

Photo by WordRidden
If you feel like you”ve overdone the holiday season and need to cut some weight and get more energy, beans (the legume kind) are a great way to go. They”re also easy on the budget, which can get a bit taxed in December as well.

Beans are high in fiber and protein, tend to fill you up and stick with you, and they also shine in important categories such as B Vitamins, folic acid, zinc and iron. Legumes are a great way to buy a vegetable without wandering the produce aisles wondering in what country the green thing on the shelf was grown.

Skip the starchy potatoes and add beans to your stew instead, like this slow cooker beef and bean stew that we just love. We try to eat legumes at least once a week. Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Sometime this month I”m publishing an entire ebook filled with bean and legume recipes, as well as tips on how to cook and use dry beans.

3. Don”t be Afraid of Meat

Photo by Katie Kimball
Did you know chickens are actually in-season in the summer and fall, and eggs in the spring and summer? It seems crazy to us who have all-access to anything we want at our local grocery store, but if a farmer wants his chickens to lay eggs when the days aren”t long enough, he has to provide artificial lighting to trick the bird”s systems. Two hundred years ago, folks just went without eggs most of the winter.

Winter meats include beef (usually slaughtered in the fall, then frozen or dried/smoked), pork, and venison. So have a comforting stew, a slow-cooked roast, or even a beef stir fry or fajitas (maybe you froze some summer peppers?), and you can still pat yourself on the back for eating seasonally. We love these simple beef and cabbage pockets dipped in Dijon mustard, which can also go over rice with soy sauce for a gluten-free option.

On the other hand, since I can get chickens and eggs in the winter, I”m going to embrace them and run with it! We eat a lot of scrambled eggs for breakfast, and if I run out of homemade chicken stock I can hardly function when trying to meal plan for a week. It”s wonderful to have incredibly nourishing, frugal chicken stock in the freezer for our once and twice weekly soup nights. Soup is the perfect winter food and a great way to stretch both your meat and vegetables, and even include beans when you can. Here are some of my ultimate favorites:

4. Grow Something

Photo by Lindsey T
Even in the coldest of winters, you can have living foods and real, green chlorophyll in your very own kitchen with a few simple items to make a homemade sprouting kit:

  • glass jar, any size
  • tulle, bag from onions, or similar mesh with small holes
  • rubber band
  • seeds for sprouting (find them at your health food store) or legumes

Here are some photos and my complete directions for sprouting.

With little attention, you can grow your own sprouts for munching, salads, or sandwiches, adding live enzymes and huge nutrition to your diet. Sprouted legumes decease the carbs and add vitamins to any bean dish; simply sprout and use in your recipe as directed like dry beans (you do cook them). Sprouted lentils are pretty good raw, on salads or as their own salad with some sliced carrots, cucumbers, and vinaigrette dressing.

I admit I”m still turning to breads and rolls a lot and enjoying toast for breakfast, but we can strive for vegetables and hearty soups when we can! I just got a copy of Shannon of Nourishing Days” new eBook, Simple Food {for winter}, and I”m learning so, so much. Shannon, who also writes for Simple Bites is very knowledgable about enzyme pairing and lacto-fermentation. I highly recommend it.

I”m also encouraged by this post on “Getting to Know Your Food” with some good challenges for goals for the year and links to probiotic food resources.

What are your favorite healthy winter staples?

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19 Comments

  1. Jackie @ Crest Cottage

    I love the idea that meat is in season in the winter. It makes perfect sense, but I never thought about it like that before! I wish we had an attic full of preserved foods, but we just moved into our house this summer, so nothing yet. Maybe next year?

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kara

    How interesting! I did not know that chickens were in season summer/fall and that their eggs were in spring/summer. Always learning here… Many of these recipe ideas sound great; I want to try them all out. Right now. 😉 My favorite winter staple: beans. You can make so many delicious soups with them!

  3. Kristy

    What a great post! Thanks!

  4. Nicole

    what a fantastic post!!!

  5. Two Chicks and a Hen

    Oh, thank you for this. Learning to eat seasonally in the winter has been a goal of mine for awhile, and I really haven’t mastered it yet. I think I’ll put a note on my fridge with some of these ideas.

  6. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    I think pumpkin pancakes are going to be on the breakfast menu tomorrow—and added to regular rotation. Great tips, Katie! Looking forward to meeting you at Blissdom.

    • Katie Kimball

      Ditto that, Amy! Hope you like them! 🙂 Katie

    • Nicole

      I can’t wait to make the pancakes as well. 🙂

  7. ~Heather

    Winter CSAs are great for beets, parsnips, leeks, celeriac and all the other great storing vegetables. A cold frame can keep you in the dark, leafy greens for a spell too! (You can cheat a little too: Freeze some of your summer bounty and thaw it out in soups or sauces. )

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Heather,
      I don’t know how I’d make it through without the peppers and greens I’ve frozen, but I was mostly shooting for folks who haven’t already planned ahead here. Preserving the bounty (if you don’t have a brown thumb, like me) is another great post idea! 🙂 Katie

  8. Homemaker, MD

    really great ideas here, thanks!

  9. Caitlin

    I love this article and I feel the same way–and was border-line depressed when our CSA ended in November!! (Sort of kidding)

    I am currently plowing through the freezer, eating up our soups and spaghetti sauce I made in the fall. Mmmm!

    http://www.babyinthekitchen.com

  10. Frances

    One thing I would add would be cabbage. I’m not a fan of coleslaw but cabbage soup with hickory smoke or sausage (and a little balsamic vinegar) is amazing! We are very lucky to have a produce store that has a cold storage room and a greenhouse, extending the season for many fruits and veggies with no energy waste. Their prices are amazing too. I’ve had a lot of fun learning how to cook beets, parsnips, acorn squash, and so on, with plenty of advice from the owners! They also have beans and nuts in bulk, and locally made sweets.

  11. Alicia

    Great ideas! I still haven’t tried sprouting and now I’m even more committed to doing it soon. We’re vegetarian so meat isn’t an option for us, but the rest are all ones we are doing now or I want to add.

    We still have tons of squash and pumpkins in the freezer and I’d love to try the pancakes, but we get our eggs from a local friend and her chickens aren’t laying in this cold. I’ll have to brainstorm on another way to use it.

    Here in MN, wild rice is another local staple that I use in the winter. I buy the broken wild rice up north and it’s cheaper and perfect for soups since it cooks more quickly.

    We also still have turnips in the basement, but I found that I’m not such a fan of turnips despite how well they grow and keep. 🙂

  12. Gay Herron

    Love all the articles you provide through your site! We live in the U.P. of Michigan, in a remote cabin, we heat by woodstove and have electrictity from a solar powered generator. We try to live off grid as much as possible and I grow and can a lot of our food. My favorite winter receipes are just about anything I cook on top of the woodstove, we do beans, soups, stews and let them simmer long and slow….delicious smells in the cabin 🙂 I have even baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, cornbread on top with a little creativity. I would love th have this cook book for more winter inspiration!! Thanks again for your site!!

  13. microdermabrasion

    It is a good recipe of Roasted Balsamic Butternut Squash. It is my one of the favorite food. I like to make a different dishes every Sunday. Thanks for sharing so nice recipe with us.

  14. Manuel Porras Brand

    Since I want to use some of this, I wont copy it. I will just link back to the Post. Sound ok ?

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Manuel,
      Links from other bloggers are always welcome; thanks! Glad you found the info helpful. 🙂 Katie

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