It is easy to warm up cold nights with quick simmering, filling meals

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I am not sure why it seems all of my favorite winter dishes need to simmer on the stovetop for long periods of time.

Homemade chili, beef stew, red beans and rice, gumbo, vegetable soup — none of these are the perfect dish to cook when you get home from work dish, but they are the perfect comfort food on a cold evening.

Since cold weather seems to be holding on to us for awhile longer, I still try to make a pot of one of these on the weekends to put into individual containers for Emily and me to eat during the week.

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But the truth of the matter is that no matter what working parents try to do ahead of time, there are those weekends where you are just too busy to get that cooking done. For those evenings I have the following suggestions that you can serve with a grilled cheese sandwich, a salad or simply add some cornbread muffins.

Quick southwestern chicken chili

2 cans Great Northern or Navy beans

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

2 teaspoons chicken base or bouillon powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles

1 small zucchini, chopped

1 cup corn kernels

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash of Tabasco

2 cups of chopped cooked chicken

Shredded cheese for topping

You can go two routes with this recipe. You can combine all the ingredients in a crockpot, cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours. Or you put everything in a pot when you arrive home, bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and cook for about 1 to 1/2 hours. The longer it cooks the better the flavors meld, but I have served it in an hour.

This recipe comes together even quicker if you have leftover mashed potatoes. I have used boxed mashed potatoes and add the sour cream and cheese to make them better.

Shepherds pie

1 pound ground beef, turkey or venison

3 tablespoons flour

1 1/4 cup beef broth or stock (I keep a brand of stock base in my refrigerator named “Better than Bouillion” it comes in several flavors and it mixes into hot water very quickly. I use it to boost the flavor in my gravies and soups.)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

4 cups frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrot, corn), thawed and drained well (If you are running behind, fill your sink with not quite hot water, place the veggies in a metal bowl and float in the water till thawed and stir occasionally.)

2 to 3 cups of mashed potatoes

1/2 cup sour cream

2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Brown ground beef in large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat stirring occasionally to break up the larger pieces. Stir in flour and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the broth and mix well. Then add the salt, pepper, catsup, Worcestershire sauce, and mixed vegetables. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer into a 3-quart baking dish.

To your mashed potatoes add the sour cream and cheese. Cover the meat mixture with the mashed potatoes, spreading it evenly. Bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 25 minutes or until golden.

Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

If you want the top to be a little more golden you put it under your broiler, but you have to watch it.

Christina Hall writes a weekly column for The Democrat. She can be reached at