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Steppig Out

In the kitchen

Culinary inspiration for a winter's weekend


We’ve put the holidays behind us; now it’s time to cozy up to some comfy winter nesting. And, of course, everyone wants to get back into a healthier eating routine now that we’re finished with weeks of festive over-indulgence.

January is the ideal time to decompress, get into the kitchen and work on those ‘Top Chef” skills. It’s not that difficult with some great comforting — healthy — foods to warm the heart and soul.

Experiment with new culinary creations that incorporate bold flavors for delicious results. Nothing pleases the senses quite like a comfort food dish on a chilly evening.

Try adding these recipes to your kitchen repertoire.

Tuscan Beef Stew with Mushrooms

2 pounds beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into

1-inch cubes

4 tablespoons flour, divided

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 (16 ounces) baby carrots

1 (16 ounces) cremini mushrooms, (baby bella) quartered

1/2 pound small red potatoes, quartered

1 medium onion, cut into wedges

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon rosemary, crushed

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground

2 bay leaves

2 cups beef stock

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained

Coat beef with 2 tablespoons of the flour. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in 5-quart Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add beef in batches; cook until browned on all sides. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil as needed. Return beef to Dutch oven.

Stir in carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, onion and seasonings. Mix stock and remaining 2 tablespoons flour until blended. Add to Dutch oven along with tomatoes.

Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beef is tender. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Vegetarian Bean Chili

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 poblano chile, seeded and chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 can (4 ounces) diced green chiles

1 green pepper, diced

1 red pepper, diced

4 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Coarse salt

2 cans (15.5 ounces each) kidney beans, rinsed

and drained

2 cans (15.5 ounces each) pinto beans, rinsed

and drained

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes

In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion, poblano, and garlic; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in green chiles, green and red peppers, chili powder, and cumin and cook 3 minutes.

Add beans, tomatoes and juice, and 2 cups water; bring to a boil over high.

Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender and chili is thickened, 20 to 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

Serve with desired toppings, such as tortilla strips, shredded cheese, sour cream and chopped cilantro.

Rustic Roasted Winter Vegetable Chowder

1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut

into 1-inch dice (about 2 cups)

3 medium parsnips, peeled, cut into 1-inch dice

(about 1 cup )

1 medium sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1-inch dice

(about 1 cup)

2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch dice

(about 1 cup)

1/2 fennel bulb, quartered & sliced thin (about 1 cup)

1/2 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse

sea salt

2 tablespoons plus 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, diced (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups vegetable broth

2 medium russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch

dice (about 2 cups) 4-5 fresh thyme sprigs

1 cup milk or unsweetened plain almond milk

Additional salt and freshly ground black pepper, to


More pepper and thyme leaves for garnish

Heat oven to 400 F.

In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash, parsnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, and fennel with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt. Spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet and roast until tender and browned in places, about 40 minutes, turning a couple of times while roasting.

While the veggies are roasting, prepare the base of the soup. To a large saucepan over low heat, add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion along with a pinch of salt and a bit of pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir in the vegetable broth. Add the potatoes and thyme. Bring to a boil over medium heat then reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Remove from heat. Pick out the thyme stems and discard.

Stir in the roasted vegetables. Carefully transfer about 3 cups of the chowder to the pitcher of a blender. Puree until smooth. Return the pureed mixture to the pot and stir to combine. The soup should be thick, rich, and creamy.

Stir in the milk. Place the pot back on the burner, and, with the heat on medium-low, return to a simmer, stirring often to prevent burning.

Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired.

Serve garnished with an additional turn of cracked pepper and thyme leaves.