You open the front door after a long day at school or work and a cold drive home, and it hits you: the wonderful smell of a winter dinner wafting toward you, just as your body starts to feel the comfort of a warm house. The smell of a savory casserole baking in the oven, or a stew with herbs and spices simmering on the stove -- those are some of the best moments of winter. With all that in mind, I've put together a collection of easy winter recipes for delicious dinners.
Among these easy dinner recipes for winter are several casserole recipes. One recipe features pasta; another, beans; and a third, potatoes. You'll also find recipes for a tomato-based soup and a stove-top steak, in case you feel like having a nice, lean steak at a time when barbecuing outside is out of the question. And the best news? All are healthier than the standard versions of these comfort foods.
In winter, some produce items might not be available or affordable, but fear not. Frozen vegetables will generally work well in these winter recipes. And as far as fruits go, choose from pears, apples, avocados, cranberries, grapes, oranges, and kiwi to complement your winter dinner.
Chicken O'Brien Casserole
Just buy a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket, and you can easily have your three cups of shredded skinless, boneless chicken.
2 pounds frozen O'Brien potatoes (about 8 cups), partially thawed
1 1/2 cups fat-free or light sour cream
1 cup chopped sweet onions or green onions (use the white and part of the green)
10 3/4-ounce can Healthy Request condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half (or substitute low-fat or nonfat milk)
2 cups shredded, reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
3 cups shredded, roasted chicken breast and thigh (skinless, boneless)
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 ounces baked potato chips, coarsely crushed (or use Light Ruffles)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat the inside of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with canola cooking spray.
- In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except potato chips. Spread mixture into prepared dish; top with the crushed potato chips.
- Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until casserole is lightly brown and bubbling.
Yield: Makes 10 entree servings
No-Boil Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Lasagna
Preparation goes fast with this no-boil recipe.
15 ounces low-fat or part-skim ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese (divided use)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto (from a jar) or finely chopped sun-dried tomato (from a jar)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup prepared pesto (such as Armanino pesto, found in the frozen Italian food section)
1/2 cup low-fat milk or fat-free half-and-half
3 cups shredded or finely diced roasted turkey breast (or use chicken breast)
1/2 cup chopped green onions (the white and part of the green)
2 cups marinara sauce from a jar, such as basil and garlic marinara (divided use)
9 whole-wheat blend lasagna strips (about 9 ounces)
1 cup shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella, the Parmesan, egg substitute, sun-dried tomato pesto (or sun-dried tomato), and black pepper and set aside. In another medium bowl, combine the 1/2 cup of regular pesto with the milk or half-and-half. Stir in turkey or chicken breast and green onions.
- Spread 1 cup of the marinara sauce on bottom of 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Arrange 3 uncooked lasagna noodle strips evenly on top of sauce. Spread another cup of marinara sauce over the noodles. Top with half the ricotta cheese mixture (you can use two small spoons to drop small spoonfuls over the top). Arrange 3 more uncooked lasagna noodle strips in the pan, and spread the turkey-pesto mixture evenly over the top.
- Arrange last 3 uncooked lasagna noodle strips over the turkey-pesto mixture and spread the remaining ricotta cheese mixture over the top. Cover with foil; bake for 50 minutes.
- Remove foil, sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella cheese over the top and bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.
Yield: Makes 12 servings
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 portion frozen dinner light + 1 ounce low-fat cheese OR 1 cup hearty stews + 2 ounces low-fat cheese OR 1 serving lean meat without added fat + 1/2 cup starchy foods with 1 tsp. fat maximum
Cheeseburger Chili Pie
This is basically a higher-fiber, lower-fat rendition of the famous Betty Crocker Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie. If you don't want to use beans in this recipe, delete them and increase the ground beef to 1 pound.
1/2 pound extra-lean ground beef (or substitute ground turkey or soy crumbles)
1 cup chopped sweet yellow or white onion
1 cup canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 cup shredded, reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese (or substitute reduced-fat Jack or medium cheddar)
1/2 cup Heart Smart Bisquick
1 cup fat-free half-and-half (or substitute low-fat or nonfat milk)
1 large egg (use a higher omega-3 brand, if available)
1/4 cup egg substitute
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat the inside of a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with canola cooking spray.
- In a nonstick frying pan coated with canola cooking spray, cook ground beef (breaking it up into bits as it cooks) with onions over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until beef is browned (about 5 minutes). Stir in kidney beans, chili powder, ground pepper, and shredded cheese. Spread mixture into prepared pie plate.
- In mixing bowl, combine Bisquick, half-and-half, egg, and egg substitute with whisk, fork, or mixer until blended. Pour mixture into pie plate over the beef and bean mixture.
- Bake about 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out reasonably clean.
Yield: Makes 6 servings
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 portion frozen dinner, light, OR 1 cup "hearty stews, chili, bean soup"
Nutrition Information: Per serving: 236 calories, 19 g protein, 22.5 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 73 mg cholesterol, 3.2 g fiber, 508 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 30%.
Pasta Fagioli (Hearty Soup with Meatballs, Whole-Wheat Pasta, and Beans)
I like to use Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs for this recipe. The soy-based meatballs are tender and take on the flavor of the dish well.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow, white, or sweet onion, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons minced or chopped garlic
2 cups bottled marinara sauce or canned tomato sauce
4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
8 ounces dried whole-wheat pasta (like Rotelle); should be about 2 1/2 cups, depending on the shape
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
15-ounce can dark kidney, white (cannellini), or navy beans
10 to 12 ounces prepared meatballs of your choice (lean beef, lean ground turkey, or vegetarian), thawed if frozen
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- In a large, nonstick saucepan or stockpot, saute onion in olive oil over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in garlic and continue to cook for another minute. Stir in marinara sauce, broth, pasta, parsley, basil, oregano, and beans.
- Cover pot and let soup boil for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer, add pre-cooked meatballs. Cover pot and cook for 45 minutes, or until pasta is al dente.
- Ladle soup into individual bowls. Garnish each with a scant tablespoon of shredded Parmesan cheese.
Yield: Makes 6 servings
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 1/2 cups "hearty stews, chili or bean soup" OR 1 portion frozen dinner light + 1 slice bread
Nutrition Information: Per serving: 340 calories, 22 g protein, 48 g carbohydrate, 7 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 11 g fiber, 1077 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 19%.
Brandied Pepper Stove-Top Steak
If you want to ignite the brandy over the steak, you'll need plenty of clearance above your stove -- the flame shoots up about 3 feet. If you don't have that kind of space, you can just skip that step.
1 top round steak or London broil (about 1 1/2 pounds), free of visible fat, and about 1-inch thick
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black peppercorns or fresh-ground black pepper
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 tablespoon whipped butter (salted or unsalted)
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
1/4 cup brandy
- Season both sides of steak with salt and pepper; firmly press seasonings into steak.
- In large, nonstick saucepan or stockpot, over medium-high heat, begin heating canola oil. Add steak and sear (without disturbing it) for 7 minutes. Flip steak over; sear other side for another 7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in small, nonstick saucepan, melt butter, sage, thyme and rosemary over medium heat. Continue to heat and stir mixture until the butter is no longer foamy and has turned golden brown. Stir in fat-free half-and-half and set aside.
- When steak has finished cooking, carefully pour the brandy over the steak. Turn off heat.
- If you have plenty of clearance over your stove, complete the following step: While standing way back, ignite the brandy with a foot-long match. After about 5 seconds, the flames will die down. Remove the steak from the pan and place on a serving plate.
- If you don't have enough clearance over your stove, just pour the brandy over the steak but don't ignite it.
- Turn the heat back on to medium. Add the herb and fat-free half-and-half mixture to the saucepan in which the steak was seared, scraping up any bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. Simmer mixture for about 1 minute. Add any juices that have accumulated under the steak on the serving plate to the brandy cream sauce.
- Cut steak into slices. Serve with brandy cream sauce.
Yield: Makes about 5 servings
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 serving lean meat with sauce
Nutrition Information: Per serving: 255 calories, 32 g protein, 2 g carbohydrate, 9.5 g fat, 3.4 g saturated fat, 71 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 556 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 33.5%.
Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2009 Elaine Magee
Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.