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BEGINNING OF WINTER — By Leonid Afremov

The best winter recipes will warm you up inside and out, will warm your home and make your house smell fantastic.

Soups, stews, casseroles and chili are very versatile dishes. Not really in the mood to cook after a long day at work? Let your crock pot do the work for you. There are lots of crock pot recipes out there for stews, roasts, chicken, chili and more.

Even if your recipe doesn’t call for it, it’s easy to add or substitute any veggie or lean meat that you have in the refrigerator. These types of recipes usually make a lot of servings. You can always freeze leftovers in individual containers, so you’ll have a quick, pre-portioned meal for another day.

Below are five dinners guaranteed to help you warm up.

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Sausage, Broccoli Rabe and Polenta

This dish is perfect for a cold winter night and is a complete meal all in one bowl.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, tough stems removed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds hot or mild Italian sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from a 14-ounce can)
  • 1 1/2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/3 cups polenta or coarse/ medium cornmeal
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccoli rabe for 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Cut into 2-inch lengths.

In a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the sausage links and cook, turning, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate. When cool enough to handle, cut into slices.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan. Reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the wine; bring to a simmer. Add the sausage slices, tomatoes, broth, thyme and 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe, parsley and pepper to the sauce; bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the water and the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt to a boil. Add the polenta in a slow stream, whisking. Whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until very thick, about 20 minutes. Serve in individual pasta bowls and pour the sausage/broccoli sauce over the top. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

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Winter Fish Chowder

Serve with some delicious crusty bread.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 dozen mussels, scrubbed
  • 16 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 slices of bacon, finely diced
  • 1 celery rib, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 6 ounces skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 ounces white fish fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions

In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with the water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over moderate heat until the potatoes are tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered.

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add half of the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook over moderately high heat until they open, 3 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Add the clams to the saucepan, cover and cook. As the clams open, transfer them to the bowl. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid. Remove the mussels and clams from their shells and coarsely chop them.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the bacon to the pan and cook over moderate heat until crisp, 4 minutes. Add the celery and the remaining onion and garlic. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until softened, 7 minutes. Stir in the flour, then gradually whisk in the potato cooking water. Bring to a boil, whisking, and cook until thickened slightly.

Add the potatoes and the half and half and bring to a simmer. Add the salmon and fish and simmer over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the fish is just cooked, 3 minutes. Add the mussels and clams and pour in their reserved cooking liquid, stopping before you reach the grit at the bottom; stir until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley. Serve the chowder in bowls.

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Gnocchi-Meatball Bake

A salad is all that is needed to complete this meal.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 16 – ounce package shelf-stable potato gnocchi
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion, divided
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoned  bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 2-quart rectangular baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in marinara sauce; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine ground beef, ¼ cup chopped onion, egg, bread crumbs, oregano, basil, garlic powder and fennel seeds. Shape meat mixture into 24 equal balls, about 1 inch round.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, bell pepper and the remaining onion; cook about 7 minutes or until tender. Add vegetables to the bowl with the gnocchi.

In the same large skillet heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Cook meatballs, half at a time, about 6 minutes or until cooked through (160 degrees F), turning occasionally. Transfer meatballs to the bowl with the gnocchi and vegetables. Gently stir to combine.

Pour gnocchi mixture into prepared baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until cheese is melted and golden brown.

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Tuscan Kale and White Bean Stew

A meatless option.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered (2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches kale, stemmed, torn into bite-size pieces (8 cups)
  • 1 15.5-oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan and the 2 teaspoons of olive oil in small bowl. Set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and butter in large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add mushrooms; increase heat to medium-high. Stir, cover pan, and cook 5 to 6 minutes, or until mushrooms are lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Uncover the pan, add garlic and stir 30 seconds. Add kale, and cook 2 minutes, or until wilted.

Add beans, broth and 3/4 cup water. Cover, and simmer 6 to 8 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by about three-quarters. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat.

Heat broiler to high. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over stew and broil 3 minutes, or until topping is golden.

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Stuffed Chicken Rolls

Serve with a vegetable side dish for a complete meal.

Ingredients

  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flattened to 1/4 inch
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices prosciutto, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces baby spinach
  • 4 ounces light cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray the bottom of a baking dish with nonstick spray.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add prosciutto and cook until crisp. Remove to a mixing bowl.

Add spinach to the skillet and stir until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Transfer wilted spinach to the bowl with the prosciutto. Add cream cheese, Parmesan and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir until thoroughly combined..

Divide spinach mixture evenly among the chicken breasts and spread over the surface. Roll up chicken, dip in egg and roll in breadcrumbs. Place chicken rolls seam side down in the prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Spoon on marinara sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella. Turn on the broiler and broil the chicken rolls 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese melts.

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