One way to curb the dreariness of winter is to create warm and beautiful meals at home.
Creating hygge — a Danish word for coziness and contentment — can be as easy as starting a fire in the fireplace, lighting candles and eating warm bowls of potato soup in the living room.
Think about the foods that create warmth or bring smiles, and make those foods this month. A roasted pork loin with apples, vegetable soup or fudgy brownies might do the trick.
This potato cheese soup is a classic. It has lots of flavor from bacon and onions and creaminess from both heavy cream and sour cream. Pureed potatoes help to thicken the soup, giving it just the right texture. The soup is great with a sliced baguette or cornbread. Or, serve it with a winter salad of radicchio, arugula and butternut squash — a crunchy and colorful salad with a warm balsamic vinaigrette.
Butternut squash salad with warm vinaigrette
1 pound butternut squash, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups loosely packed baby arugula leaves
1 small radicchio, cored, thinly sliced
½ cup pecans or walnuts, lightly toasted, coarsely chopped
¼ cup pomegranate seeds (or substitute dried cranberries)
1. Peel the butternut squash. Cut into small cubes. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Place squash in the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown on each side. Cover, and cook until tender, 10-15 minutes.
2. In a small saucepan, heat ½ cup oil and garlic cloves over medium heat until warm and garlic begins to turn golden brown. Remove from heat, and discard garlic. Carefully add balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Return to heat, and warm, over low heat, whisking until emulsified.
3. In a large salad bowl, toss together arugula and radicchio. Top with cooked squash, pecans and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle with half the warm dressing. Add more dressing to each serving, to taste.
Potato cheese soup
½ pound bacon
8 large potatoes
1 quart chicken stock or broth
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
½ cup sour cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
¼ cup chopped chives
1. In a pan, cook bacon until crisp. Set cooked bacon aside, and crumble once cooled. Keep bacon drippings.
2. Peel and dice potatoes. In a large pot, cover potatoes with chicken stock. Add water if needed to just cover potatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
3. While potatoes are cooking, cook onion in 2 tablespoons of reserved bacon drippings over medium heat. Cook onions about 5 minutes or until translucent. When onions are done, add garlic, cooking just until fragrant, about 1 minute.
4. When potatoes are done, remove half and place in a food processor or blender, pureeing until smooth. Add pureed potatoes back to the pot of potatoes. Add cooked onions and garlic, salt, pepper and bay leaves, stirring to combine. Turn up heat to bring soup to a simmer.
5. Stir in sour cream, and simmer 15 minutes. Add heavy whipping cream, bring soup back up to a simmer. Stir in grated cheese, stirring until melted. Do not boil. Garnish with crumbled bacon and chives.