Winter Warmers: My Favourite Healthy Comfort Foods

Is it just me or did Mother Nature turn off the heating?

It’s my first Autumn at home in 6 years. I’m very excited to see nature burst in their vibrant yellows, oranges and reds before winter. Despite the cold, it’s my favourite time of year.

—not just nature, but for the food!

Stodgy stews, fresh bakes, seasonal spices – it’s such a comfort.

No, I’m not talking about a pumpkin spice latte, where the pumpkin is replaced with your weekly intake of sugar.

As soon as the temperature changes my mind jumps to fuel my body with comforting foods, most of which I grew up on.

Being from Scotland, our traditional meals are hearty and warm – it’s like a reflex when my fingers go numb!

Here are some of my favourite winter warmers to keep you toasty this autumn;

Homemade Bread

I challenge you to find a better smell than freshly baked bread.

Everything about making bread is satisfying: the process, the love, the effort, the taste – the feeling of making it.

When you make your own bread, you know exactly what goes into it.

The preservatives, heaps of sugar and trans fats are eliminated and replaced with a high concentration of nutrients that is humble on your body. All through combining flour, yeast, water and a little salt.

To get an extra health boost and add in some more winter comfort, you can choose whole wheat flour over your standard bread flour.

However, to really get the benefits of nutrients in bread, you can start your own sour dough for continuous healthy bread as it dough grows and grows.

Stews

A good stew is flavoursome, hearty and full of goodness.

I also like to have a little kick of spice in mine, but that is optional!

Scottish winters come with an abundance of root vegetables at hand, perfect for stews.

The best part about this simple idea is that are no rules for a good stew, just feel it out, and see what you have in the fridge.

As a creature of habit, my stew is typically tomato-based with a little turmeric.

A mix of root vegetables and some beans for protein—bubble away and it’s good to go!

I don’t tend to follow recipes, which is great for me, but terrible for anyone who would like to make my food.

After some digging for some travel guides I wrote, I discovered this combination is typical of stews in East African countries, particularly in Tanzania and Kenya!

This is how I discovered that a little coconut milk will change everything.

I found an amazing African bean stew recipe from a blogger for better guidance!

Homemade Granola

Cooking should be about experimentation.

So, one day, I wanted to make my own granola. It’s easy, right?

Put everything in a tray with spices and then bake it with honey.

—oh, how wrong I was!

My berries were very, very burnt and the oats were… well, cooked oats that tasted of nothing. It was a disaster.

Granola is both indulgent and healthy.

To clump the oats and give them that sweetness, you need butter and honey. The more honey, the more crunch you’ll have!

The secret is to add cinnamon, and lots of it, with a little mixed spice to make it taste like Christmas.

Once the oats are baked, throw in some dried berries, nuts and seeds, and you’ll have delicious granola!

I like to add dried cranberries, goji berries, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and linseeds to mine to balance out the sweetness with earthiness.

This is my idea of a recipe 😉

Soup, Soup, Soup

I lied at the start of this article.

I don’t think about all these things when my fingers are numb.

I think about soup – and only soup.

When I was younger, I lived for my granny’s soup. In many ways, I still do.

How does she make it taste so good?

It will forever be a mystery.

I’ve seen her make it. It’s just ingredients in a pan, so that’s what I do too.

I have found; however, that by making my own stock, it tastes that little bit more like hers.

Shop-bought stock is packed with preservatives, MSG, sugar and a huge amount of salt. For a healthier soup, making your own stock is good for the environment as well as your body.

Stock is a chance to boil the leftover cut-offs from your meals. If you eat meat, this is where your bones should go too!

A basic vegetable stock recipe contains onion, carrot, leek, celery, some garlic and herbs stalks.

Anything you have leftover is perfect. To save your ingredients, you can keep them in the freezer for boiling later. The whole process takes about an hour, and you don’t really have to do anything!

The simplicity of soup is what makes it so healthy. There are no fancy shop-bought sauces with all your calories in one jar. Just good, honest food.

All of my winter warmers have come with some great cooking secrets too. However, I don’t think my granny’s will ever be revealed!

The best food is made from scratch. Simplicity and seasoning will be the answer to all of your cooking successes this winter.

Have fun and experiment!

Most importantly–stay cosy!