One Pot Meals: The Best of Winter Cooking
Now that the weather is cooler and the days are shorter, many of us experience the urge to hunker down at home (a roaring fireplace and some hot apple cider in the picture wouldn’t hurt, either). On days like these, who feels like cooking?
The good news is that winter is tailor-made for big-batch, one-pot meals. Just throw everything in a saucepot or casserole dish—a single prep, and a single cleanup–then trot off to do other things while your dinner essentially takes care of itself.
Here are some tips to optimize the ease and benefits of one-pot meals:
- Cook more than one meal at a time and prep them all of them together. If you have two or three favorite casseroles or big-pot meals in your repertoire, chances are they contain some of the same ingredients. Chop up onions, grate garlic, or dice tomatoes all at once for two or more recipes. The extra prep time involved is minimal, but it saves hours on the other end of the task!
- Cook once, freeze for later. Another great trick is to make large batches and then freeze leftovers for a later date. I always double every recipe so I can portion out the remainder in single-serve, freezer-friendly containers. Labeled with date and number of servings, these make quick and easy weekday dinners or grab-and-go lunches to take to the office.
- Adapt the meals to your preferences. While it makes sense to stick fairly close to a recipe the first time, one-pot meals are easily adaptable to your preferences and ingredients on hand. No rice available? No problem—you can usually use an equal amount of quinoa, millet, or oat groats instead! If a recipe calls for chopped carrots and you don’t have any on hand, other yellow or orange root vegetables (or even squash) will make an admirable substitute. Since most one-pot meals are made with sauces or gravies, it’s easy to add more veggies or protein to your basic recipe.
- Enjoy a full spectrum of nutrients in a one-pot meal. Most one-pot recipes combine protein along with grains or legumes and a variety of veggies, so it’s easy to obtain all the essential vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and amino acids you need in a single pot—which translates to a single plate or bowl on your table.
- Take comfort in your one-pot meal! Something about a thick, warm sauce blanketing bits of your favorite ingredients makes for a warming, comforting and very satisfying wintertime meal. A great way to enjoy the frosty season!
Here are some links to get you started on great one-pot meals:
- Quick Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
- Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes
- Jamaican Tofu Chowder with Collards
- Mushroom and Lentil Ragout
- Irish White Bean and Cabbage Stew
- Seven Grain Dirty Rice and Beans (Low Fat)
What’s your favorite one-pot dinner?
Ricki Heller is the author of Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar (one of only three cookbooks endorsed by Ellen DeGeneres on her website) as well as three e-cookbooks. She writes the popular food blog Diet, Dessert and Dogs, where, for the past three years, she has chronicled her journey with candida and posted almost 600 sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, whole-foods recipes.