- Written by Julie Van Rosendaal, Photo: Julie Van Rosendaal
When you live in Calgary, winter is no excuse to stay indoors. There are as many reasons to get outside as there are at other times of the year - and after an afternoon on the cross-country ski trails, at the ice rink or on the toboggan hill, you'll need replenishing. Why not pack a winter picnic? Warm, sippable soups, stews and other comfort foods transport perfectly in a Thermos or other insulated container, and effectively warm bodies from the inside out.
There are a few options for keeping hot food hot on the trail; Thermoses and insulated carafes and coffee mugs make it easy to tote along hot chocolate, tea, mulled cider or even hot spiced lemonade. Foods that are contained in liquid - such as soups and stews - tend to retain their heat more, with their broth or sauce acting as a sort of insulation and heat catalyst while taking the place of the air that would normally occupy any empty spaces. Sippable soups will be easier to serve - with no need to fumble with spoons in mittened hands - and no need to remove the lid. Thick, sturdy biscuits, presliced quickbreads and Irish soda loaves make perfect pairings with whatever soup you choose.
Don't forget the beverages; winter tends to be a dry season despite all that snow, so it's important to stay hydrated, particularly when engaging in winter sports. Warmed, spiced lemonade and orange juice make great options when the weather dips below zero, and are equally delicious even if they do cool down. Powdered hot chocolate mixes can be very high in saturated and trans fats, sugar and preservatives - and once you make the real thing, there's no going back.
Hot Chocolate Bisque
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets
Use a really great chocolate for this, like Bernard Callebeaut, Lindt or Scharffen Berger. The blending is more important than you might think; whipping it emulsifies the chocolate and milk, making it perfectly smooth.
- 3 cups milk -2 per cent or whole
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 6 oz. semi or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, sugar and water over medium heat; whisk occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture just to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate. Blend right in the pot with a hand-held immersion blender, or transfer it to a traditional blender. Blend for a minute, until smooth and frothy. Serve immediately; rewarm if you need to get it hot. Serves 2 to 4.
Hot Spiced Ginger Lemonade
Try this with orange juice instead of lemonade, or a combination of the two. To make easy lemonade syrup, combine equal parts lemonade and sugar in a saucepan; bring to a simmer to dissolve the sugar and cool. Add to water to taste; two Tablespoons of syrup per cup.
- 2 L lemonade (preferably not pink)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5 whole cloves
- 5 whole allspice berries
- A 2" chunk of peeled fresh ginger, coarsely grated or sliced
In a large saucepan, combine the lemonade, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and ginger and bring to a simmer; cook for about 10 minutes. Strain into a glass pitcher, insulated carafe or Thermos and serve warm. Serves 8.
Julie is a food editor for ParentsCanada, a best-selling cookbook author, food writer, cooking instructor and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio. Watch for her cooking show, It’s Just Food, with co-host Ned Bell on Access TV and CLT stations across Canada. For more information, visit www.dinnerwithjulie.com.