COLUMN: Meals to warm up winter evenings

Pea soup

Pea soup

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Now the nights are drawing in and the days are getting colder, it can be really easy to forget about healthy eating and turn to stodgy comfort food.

Salads that are quick, easy and healthy in summer, no longer have the same appeal – so now’s the time to re-think the menu and find some comforting, but healthy alternatives.

If your mind has already turned to hearty winter food, then casseroles and stews can be a cost effective option. They use cheaper cuts of meat that benefit from long, slow cooking and can be packed full of vegetables.

Onion, celery, carrots or other root vegetables in season can be combined with stock and the meat of your choice to produce a hearty, warming meal.

Chicken thighs can be a tasty, low cost ingredient, and if the skin is removed, they are low in fat.

Slow cookers are readily available for various budgets and even when cooking for up to eight hours cost about a third of the price of using a standard oven for two hours.

With a bit of planning and preparation in the morning, you can come home from work to a ready cooked, healthy meal that all the family will enjoy.

Any leftovers can be safely frozen for up to three months, so you can have a stock of meals for when time is really short.

If you still hanker after a feeling of summer, then warm salads could be the answer.

Try some grilled chicken with noodles, finely sliced carrots, mushrooms and spring onion, or if you’re after a meat free option, grilled halloumi with couscous, roasted peppers and chick peas is quick to cook and contributes to your five-a- day.

When it’s cold, a bowl of warming porridge or a poached egg on wholemeal toast can set you up for the day, and helps avoid the mid-morning hunger pangs.

If you still need a snack, a piece of fruit or some vegetable sticks, or a small handful of nuts or seeds can see you through until lunchtime.

Measure out the nuts or seeds as although they contain ‘good’ fats, they are high in calories so if you eat too many, you will still put on weight.

Homemade soup can be quick and easy to make ready for lunch. Add your favourite vegetables to some stock, throw in some lentils that don’t require pre-cooking and simmer until cooked through. Blend, or mash if you prefer a chunky soup, and serve with some crusty bread.

With a bit of planning and using seasonal foods, winter meals can be healthy, comforting and won’t break the bank.

Get some more tasty recipe ideas at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/sizewiserecipes.