Chow Town

Several recipes to help you get through winter

My cold nose peeks over the blankets; the morning is dark as night. This is the hardest time of year for me to get moving.

Winter is also when we yearn for “comfort” foods and end up eating fattening processed concoctions.

Don’t get me wrong, fat always tastes great, but it does not give us sustenance. My advice: Stick with root vegetables and winter squash and your body will thank you.

This transition into winter makes me excited for the silky textures of soups and stews, served alongside roasting meats. Warmth, comfort and rejuvenation is what winter is all about, and it starts at the hearth of the home.

Easy Mulled Wine

Makes 12 servings

3 cups apple cider

1 cup orange juice

1 750 milliliter bottle Cabernet wine

1/4 cup honey

2 cinnamon sticks

1 orange, sliced

4 cloves

3 star anise

1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled

6 cardamom pods

Nutmeg for garnish

4 orange peels for garnish

Combine the cider, juice, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, orange, clove, star anise, ginger and cardamom in a sauce pot. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. You can also use a slow cooker; allow 30 minutes to heat the wine. Garnish with nutmeg and orange peel.

Pork Roulade

Makes 6 to 8 servings

4-5 pounds pork loin, bone out

1 tablespoon butter

1 shallot, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound spinach

4 ounces Marsala

8 ounces dried apricots

8 ounces dried cranberries

6 ounces pecans

1 pound bacon, sliced

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

For the glaze

8 ounces maple syrup

1 orange zest

16 ounces tart frozen cherries

6 sage leaves, chopped

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the pork loin in half lengthwise. Open like a book and pound until  1/2 -inch thick using a meat mallet.

Heat a pan over medium high heat and add the butter. Add the shallot, garlic and spinach, cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the Marsala wine, apricots, cranberries and pecans. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, remove from the heat and set aside.

Layer overlapping strips of the bacon on a clean surface. Place the pork loin on top of the bacon. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the apricot, cranberry and spinach mixture on the flattened pork loin, leaving 1-inch of space all around the pork loin. Starting at one end, roll the pork loin, making a roulade, leaving the bacon on the work surface.

When the loin is rolled, go back and wrap the pork loin with the bacon. Turn the pork loin over, keeping the bacon seam on the bottom. Place the pork loin on a rack on top of a baking sheet. Place in heated oven for 15 minutes.

While the pork is roasting, combine the maple syrup, orange zest, cherries and sage in a sauce pot. Simmer on medium low for 8 to 10 minutes. Put aside.

After baking for 15 minutes, turn down the oven to 325 degrees and continue to roast for 35 minutes, basting with the glaze every 10 minutes. Roast until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Slice thin and serve.

Roasted Cauliflower

For the brine:

4 cups water

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar, honey or molasses

1 orange, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

1 bunch thyme sprigs

For the cauliflower:

1 large head cauliflower

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

4 ounces Chevre goat cheese

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup pecans

In a sauce pot, mix all the ingredients together for the brine. Heat until sugar and salt are dissolved.

Clean the head of cauliflower, keeping the florets in tact. Soak the cauliflower in the brine for 2 to 4 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place the cauliflower on a sheet pan. Drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle the cauliflower with salt, pepper, paprika. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes or until tender.

Blend the goat cheese with the honey, reserve for serving.

Toast the pecans in a skillet over the stove, shaking continuously for 2 minutes.

To serve: When the cauliflower is tender, remove from the oven, sprinkle with the pecans and serve with the goat cheese on the side.

Spiced Beef With Caramelized Turnips

Makes 8 servings

1 (6-pound) beef roast, sirloin tip or eye round

For the brine:

1 cup molasses

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup sorghum

2 teaspoons ground mace

8 whole cloves

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon allspice

2 tablespoons ginger, freshly grated

1 tablespoon black pepper

1/2 cup sea salt

1 sprig rosemary

2 bay leaves

1 bottle Guinness Stout

2 cups water

For the dish:

3 tablespoons ghee, clarified butter or olive oil

3 pounds turnips, peeled and medium dice

1 tablespoon olive oil

For the brine: Mix all brine ingredients together in a sauce pot, bring to a simmer. Pour over the beef while still warm, let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes, then cover and keep in the refrigerator. Let stand in brine for 2 to 6 days, turning the beef and rubbing the mixture on the beef about twice a day. The longer the beef is in the brine, the better it will taste.

Remove beef from brine, and remove any of the excess spices, reserving the liquid.

Heat a sauce pot with the ghee over medium-high heat. Sear the beef on all sides. Cover with water and add back the spice liquid. Let simmer for about 6 hours.

Heat a sauté pan with the olive oil. Add the turnips and coat lightly with the oil. Add 1 cup of the braising liquid from the beef, let simmer for 7 to 10 minutes, or until soft. If the turnips get too dry, add a little more liquid until the turnips are soft.

Serve with the beef.

Variations: If you would like a thicker sauce, thicken some of the braising liquid with 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water.

This dish also goes well with braised collard greens or kale.

Beef and Guinness Stew

Makes 6 servings

4 tablespoons ghee, clarified butter or olive oil, divided

3 pounds beef stew meat

4 tablespoons oat flour

2 carrots, peeled and medium diced

1 celery rib, medium diced

1/2 medium yellow onion, small diced

1 celery root, peeled and medium diced

1 rutabaga, peeled and medium diced

1 pound mushrooms, baby bellas or shiitakes, sliced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 bottles of Guinness Stout

4 cups stock or broth

1 1/2 cups pearled barley

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat a sauce pot on medium high, add 2 tablespoons ghee. Coat the stew meat with the oat flour and sear the stew meat until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and reserve.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoon ghee, followed by all the vegetables; carrots, celery, onion, celery root, rutabaga and mushrooms. Sauté until onions are tender, about 5 minutes

Add the tomato paste and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add the Guinness, broth and meat, scraping the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes. Add the barley and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Finish with the fresh thyme, salt and pepper.

Variation: This stew goes great over celery root/potato mashers. Omit the barley from the stew, boil 2 pounds peeled potatoes and 2 pounds peeled celery root. Place in a food processor and pure until relatively smooth. Season with salt and pepper and plain yogurt.

Macaroni and Cheese

Makes 8 servings

This by no means is “healthy.” It’s more of a solid recipe for when you want gooey goodness. This would be my cheat meal, followed by a three-hour nap.

1 pound dry pasta, fusilli, orchetta, or shell pasta, cooked to al dente

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup diced capicola

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups milk or cream

4 ounces Brie, rind removed

4 ounces havarti, shredded

6 ounces Gouda, shredded

Sea salt


1/2 cup capicola, pancetta or prosciutto

1 tablespoon butter

1 shallot, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon thyme, chopped

2 tablespoon parsley, chopped

2 cups breadcrumbs

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a heavy-bottom, oven-safe sauce pot melt the butter and add  1/2 cup capicola. Cook until crispy, dust the capicola with the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the cream and allow to come to a simmer until it starts to thicken, stirring so the sauce does not stick. Turn off the heat and add in the cheeses; stir with a wooden spoon until all cheese is melted. Stir in the cooked pasta and season with salt and pepper.

In another sauté pan, cook the remaining capicola, with 1 tablespoon butter. Cook the shallot and garlic, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the thyme, parsley and breadcrumbs, turn off the heat and fold in the Parmesan cheese.

Pack the breadcrumb mixture on top of the pasta and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Renee Kelly is the owner of Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Johnson County. Her passion lies in changing the food system, one plate at a time. Her inspiration is Mother Nature and the many growers in the Kansas City area.