While it is true the winter officially ends on March 19th, it’s not so clear that the weather will cooperate with the Farmers Almanac. With the series of storms and record-breaking snowfall in the Sierra Nevada, it may be that “winter” will linger in Northern California for a bit longer this year.
Which means that making plans for cozy winter nights and great dinner recipes will be a sure hit in 2023!
Cool Days, Chilly Mornings, and Rain Means Great Indoor Dinner Conditions
Winter nights call for warmth, robust flavors, and a bit of spice. For many, the thought of a meal on a winter night evokes imagery of rich recipes and “comfort” food. From pastas to creamy soups to chicken and dumplings, winter evenings are perfect for dishes that are marked by substance, deep flavors, and heat.
Depending on the region of the country, Americans have traditionally lifted their spirits and satisfied their appetites with a variety of dinner dishes. These have included pot roast, macaroni and cheese, Irish lamb stew, chili with beans, and – yes – even chicken and dumplings.
Add to that mix some of the less familiar but equally delicious and filling dishes such as ginger-and-turmeric noodle soup, pasta with mushrooms and leeks casserole, or a pot of lentil, bean, and gremolata stew.
Of course, the best recipes for winter nights must include more than main dishes.
In addition to salads, there is most definitely a place for soups, chowders, and stews, as well as various appetizers and desserts afterwards.
So, with that culinary imagery now firmly in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the best recipes for winter nights in 2023!
Napa Valley Winter Nights are a Great Time for Festive Get-Togethers and Meals
Pasta, produce, and peppers all have a home in Napa Valley. Many dishes paired with the fabulous range of fine wines that are so abundant here are based on pasta and local produce.
We came across this recipe at Food & Wine and simply couldn’t pass up what is definitely a dish that would quite at home in the wine country.
These hearty kale and artichoke-stuffed shells also make for a fabulous vegetarian menu option, as well.
According to the recipe’s creator, Ann Taylor Pittman,
“Cannellini beans add hearty creaminess to these stuffed shells, while mild heat from Calabrian chiles and earthy sweetness from fennel seeds amp up jarred marinara sauce.”
Not familiar with Calabrian chiles? According to The Spruce Eats,
“If you’re a fan of spicy condiments and spreads, you’ll probably love Calabrian chiles. The spicy, smoky peppers from southern Italy are incredibly versatile, and pack just the right amount of heat without being overpowering.”
Kale-Artichoke Stuffed Shells
Active Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 1 hrs 5 mins
- 3 quarts plus ¼ cup water, divided
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 16 uncooked jumbo pasta shells (about 6 ounces), plus more, if needed
- 1 ½ cups jarred marinara sauce (such as Rao’s)
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped jarred Calabrian chiles (about 3 chiles), or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- Cooking spray
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 medium bunches lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped (about 6 cups)
- 1 (12-ounce) jar marinated quartered artichoke hearts, drained, and chopped
- 1 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (5.2-ounce) container garlic-and-herb spreadable cheese (such as Boursin)
- 4 ounces provolone cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Stir in 3 tablespoons salt and return to a boil. Add pasta shells; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water; set shells aside.
- Stir together marinara, Calabrian chiles, and fennel seeds in a medium bowl. Season with salt to taste. Spray a 13- x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray; spread sauce in an even layer in dish and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium; swirl to coat. Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add kale and toss to coat. Drizzle remaining 1/4 cup water over kale. Cover and cook until kale is tender, about 5 minutes, stirring once halfway through cook time. Add artichoke hearts; cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until warmed, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Combine beans, spreadable cheese, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a food processor; process until smooth and creamy, about 45 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Add bean mixture to kale mixture and stir until well combined. Season with salt to taste.
- Spoon bean mixture evenly into cooked pasta shells (about 3 tablespoons per shell). Arrange shells on marinara mixture, and sprinkle evenly with provolone. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven until provolone melts and sauce is bubbly, about 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to high broil, and broil until cheese begins to brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Serve hot.
Pittman also recommends that you cook a few extra pasta shells to have ready in case some tear during boiling. Note, too, that pasta shells can be stuffed up to two days in advance and stored in refrigerator. Simply allow the shells to come to room temperature before baking.
A Hearty Winter Recipe for a Robust Meal
While meatloaf may strike some as a bit, well, pedestrian when it comes to fine foods, it can also serve as a filling foundation for more creative approaches.
For example, take this mini meatloaf recipe with potatoes, leeks, and Brussels sprouts from the editors at Southern Living. As they describe it,
“Full of savory ground beef and vegetables and topped with a tangy soy-ketchup glaze, these mini meatloaves bake up tender and delicious along roasted red potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and leeks.”
And, to make it more enticing, it can be done with just 15 minutes of work and an hour of baking time.
Mini Meatloaves with Potatoes, Leeks, and Brussels Sprouts
Active Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 1 hrs
Servings: 4 (serving size: 1 meatloaf, 1 cup vegetables)
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoon chopped garlic (about 2 garlic cloves)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus 2 Tbsp. fresh juice (from 1 lemon)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 12 ounces Brussels sprouts, halved
- 1 leek, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 8 ounces red potatoes, cut into wedges
- 8 ounces lean ground beef
- 8 ounces mild ground pork sausage
- 1/4 cup grated carrot (from 1 carrot)
- 1/4 cup grated yellow onion (from 1 onion)
- 1/4 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk together oil, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper in a large bowl. Add Brussels sprouts, leek, and red potatoes, and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables on a lightly greased, aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake vegetables in preheated oven 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile combine beef, sausage, carrot, onion, breadcrumbs, egg, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix gently just until combined. Shape into 4 (2- x 3-inch) loaves. Remove pan from oven, push vegetables to 1 side, and carefully place meatloaves on pan. Return pan to oven and bake until meat is cooked through and vegetables are tender, about 35 minutes.
- Whisk together ketchup and soy sauce in a small bowl. Spread over meatloaves. Increase oven temperature to broil, and broil until sauce begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Divide meatloaves and vegetables evenly among 4 plates. Sprinkle with parsley.
One of the crowning touches of this recipe is the superb sauce/glaze, so consider making a bit more than the recipe calls for since it will be much appreciated.
A Wonderful Way to Wrap Up a Winter Night’s Meal
No great winter night’s meal is complete without a cozy dessert to finish off the evening. And this take on one of Harry Potter’s favorites is sure to make a splash.
This British tradition, sticky toffee pudding, is typically made in winter. It is easy to make and can even be cooked and eaten immediately. However, by following the recipe below, you can also make it in advance and let it soak with the sauce for an even stickier pudding.
The Ultimate Sticky Toffee Pudding
Prep Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 90 mins
Servings: 6 servings
For the Pudding:
- 8 ounces (225 grams) dates, stoned, finely chopped
- 6 ounces (175 milliliters) boiling water
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 ounces (175 grams) self-rising flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 ounces (6 tablespoons/85 grams) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 5 ounces (140 grams) demerara sugar, or cane sugar
- 2 tablespoons black treacle
- 3 1/2 ounces (100 milliliters) milk
For the Sauce:
- 6 ounces (175 grams) light muscovado sugar
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons/55 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 8 ounces (225 milliliters) double cream, or heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon black treacle
- Gather the ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 325 F /160 C / Gas 3.
- Butter and lightly dust an 8 x 8 x 2 1/2-inch square baking tin with flour.
- Put the chopped dates into a large glass bowl, cover with boiling water, leave for 20 minutes to swell, and soften. Once soft, add the vanilla extract.
- Sieve the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large baking bowl.
- In another baking bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy, don’t worry about grains of sugar, they will melt during cooking.
- Little by little, add the beaten eggs, mixing really well between additions. Add the treacle and beat well.
- Using a large metal spoon carefully fold in one-third of the flour, then carefully stir in one-third of the milk. Repeat until all the flour and milk is used up.
- Add the chopped dates (including any liquid in the bowl) and stir gently. The pudding mixture will resemble a thick batter.
- Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes until the sponge is raised and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out.
Make the Sauce
- Over medium heat, melt the butter, sugar, and half the cream in a saucepan. Raise the heat slightly and bring to the boil stirring constantly until all the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the treacle and allow the sauce to bubble for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 1 minute then stir in the remaining cream.
- Place a portion of the cake onto warm individual serving dishes, and drizzle generous amounts of sauce over. Serve with custard or ice cream.
For Restaurant-style Puddings:
- Lightly butter 6 (200 milliliters) individual pudding tins, and dust lightly with flour.
- Follow instructions 4 – 9 above for the sponge batter.
- Place the tins on a baking sheet and divide the batter evenly between them.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until raised and firm to the touch.
- Remove from the oven and leave for 10 minutes in the tuns before turning out for serving.
- Make the sauce as described above.
As The Spruce Eats editors note,
“Traditionally, a sticky toffee pudding is made in a large square tin and served cut into squares. However, for a more restaurant-style dish, make individual puddings using the instructions after the main recipe. Whichever you decide to make the sticky toffee pudding, always serve with vanilla ice cream or a large dollop of custard sauce.”
Visit Cal Mart for All Your Winter Night Recipes This Year
Cal Mart’s has been a market resource and a shopping destination for in Calistoga for over five decades years and has become an established Napa Valley tradition.
Cal Mart is a long-time, family-owned, and independent grocery store, offering our customers a unique, enjoyable, and memorable shopping experience. And that is something we’ve been doing consistently for more than half a century now. We are proud of our exceptional employees and to be able to offer a large variety and wide selection to our loyal customers.
These are just some of the many reasons why Cal Mart has become a popular local destination for fine Napa Valley wines, meats, cheeses, and specialty food items for more than 50 years. And also, why we are known today as “Napa Valley’s Finest Grocery.”
So, this winter – and in the spring that is just around the corner – take some time to come by and explore all that we have to offer.
And we invite you to feel free to talk with our friendly staff and maybe even treat yourself to a cup of hot chocolate, coffee, or tea from our Coffee Bar.
Remember that at Cal Mart, you will always find something that is unexpected, unusual, and uncommon!