Winter Entertaining That Won’t Warp Your Waistline

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Sidestep seasonal weight gain and host in style with these calorie-conscious recipes for winter entertaining…

Did you know that gaining a winter coat is nothing but a myth? That extra padding that ‘keeps you warm in winter’ is neither biologically determined nor necessary. Hibernating animals experience changes in their hunger hormones in winter, when they bunker down. Humans, however, are not subject to the same seasonal changes.

Weight gain over winter is largely associated with changes in motivation and mood. It’s hardly surprising. It takes a rare beast to embrace exercising on those dark and stormy nights. And with cosy winter interiors so suited to entertaining, keeping your diet on track can be challenging.

Also, it must be said, winter seems to offer an inordinate array of ‘comfort foods’. From high-carb pasta bakes and cheesy casseroles to creamy chowders and pastry-heavy potpies, the pressure on your will power is significant. (And that’s without even touching the sweets!)

The answer? Find a balance. Beware the expanding portion size. Curb that wily winter appetite (another fable!) with lean proteins, wholegrains, fruit and vegetables. There are plenty of healthy alternatives available. And this doesn’t have to mean compromising on flavour.

Here are some of our favourite recipes for winter entertaining that promise to deliver colour and flair and that satisfying full-bellied feeling.

Gordon Ramsay by Royal Doulton Maze 16-Piece Dinner Set Gordon Ramsay by Royal Doulton Union Street Cafe 12-Piece Dinner Set

L to R: Gordon Ramsay by Royal Doulton Union Street Cafe 12-Piece Dinner Set and Gordon Ramsay by Royal Doulton Union Street Cafe Platter. Browse kitchenware and dinner sets online at Zanui.

Brunches, Lunches and Starters

Fuel up with friends on these gorgeous bruncheon recipes. This deliciously light Prawn and Wonton Soup combines freshly cooked veggies with homemade wontons. It’s destined to earn you kudos with your guests.

The Kale Veggie Mini Frittatas are protein-packed, starring everyone’s favourite superfood – kale. They look AND taste great. Substitute the veggies for your personal faves, add cheeses, different spices and meats to make your very own variations.

Prawn Wonton Soup apple-of-my-eyedotcom

Prawn Wonton Soup

You need:

  • 120g jumbo cooked prawns, separated
  • ⅛ cup water chestnuts, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • ½ tbsp soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp chopped spring onions
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • 18 wonton skins
  • 4L low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1½ tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • ½ cup snow peas
  • ½ cup shredded carrots

Prawn Wonton Soup apple-of-my-eyedotcom 2 Prawn Wonton Soup apple-of-my-eyedotcom

The how:

  1. Roughly chop cooked prawns, reserving 4 for garnishing.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine chopped prawns, water chestnuts, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, chopped green onion and a pinch of white pepper.
  3. Lay out several wonton skins and place a teaspoon or so of shrimp mixture in the centre. Dip your fingertip in a bit of water and dampen edges of half the wonton. Fold wonton skin over to cover filling and use a fork to press down edges. Repeat till filling is all used up. (Approx. 18 wontons.)
  4. In a large pot, bring chicken stock and soy sauce to a low boil. Add in wontons, snow peas and shredded carrots. Cook for 4-5 mins or until wontons are done and veggies are cooked, but crisp. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve immediately, garnishing with reserved prawns, red pepper flakes and chopped green onion! (Or serve within 30 mins of cooking to prevent wontons from growing soggy.)

Prep time: 20 mins / Cook time: 5 mins / Total time: 25 mins / Serves: 5

Nutrition (per serving – approx. 2.5 cups soup)

Calories: 110 / Fat: 0.6g / Saturated fat: 0.1g / Carbohydrates: 14.3g / Sugar: 1.4g / Sodium: 1,250 / Fibre: 0.9g / Protein: 10.7g / Cholesterol: 47.8mg

Recipe and image credit: appleofmyeye.com

Kale Veggie Mini Frittata recipe twopurplefigsdotcom

Kale Veggie Mini-Frittata

You need:

  • 1 tbsp of butter (or oil)
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and sliced into 15mm thick slices
  • 1 bunch asparagus tips
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp fresh black pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh kale
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced

Kale Veggie Mini Frittata recipe twopurplefigsdotcom 2

The how:

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C.
  2. Grease a large (1-cup capacity) or standard muffin pan and set aside.
  3. In a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter and add spring onions. Sauté for a minute, add sweet potatoes and sauté for another minute.
  4. Add asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes and sauté for 30 seconds, then lower heat to low and cover skillet with a lid.
  5. Let veggies slowly cook and soften up on low heat for about 5 mins.
  6. While veggies are cooking, in a large bowl beat together eggs, milk, kale, herbs and seasoning.
  7. Arrange slightly cooled vegetables in each muffin pan cavity. Pour egg mixture, dividing it evenly over veggies.
  8. Bake frittatas for about 8 mins (depending on size) until eggs are puffed and cooked through.
  9. Remove from oven and allow to cool 1-2 mins. Gently remove frittatas from muffin pan and serve on their own or on toasted wholegrain (or gluten-free) bread.

Prep time: 10 mins / Cook time: 20 mins / Total time: 30 mins / Serves: 4

Nutrition (per serving)

Calories: 157 / Total Fat: 9.1g / Saturated Fat: 2.4g / Cholesterol: 248.5mg / Cholesterol: 76mg / Sodium: 312.1mg / Carbohydrate: 8.9g / Fibre: 2.2g / Sugar: 3g / Protein: 10.5g 

Recipe and image credit: yummly.com.

Gordon Ramsay by Royal Doulton Bread Street Casserole Gordon Ramsay by Royal Doulton Union Street Cafe Platter
L to R: Gordon Ramsay by Royal Doulton Bread Street Casserole and Gordon Ramsay by Royal Doulton Maze 16-Piece Dinner Set. Browse kitchenware and dinner sets online at Zanui.

Hearty Mains

Baked potato pizza, mac and cheese toasties, deep-fried Mars Bars… Winter seems to encourage a carb-on-carb approach to nutrition. If you’d rather not blow your monthly carb budget in one go, take the healthy casserole option. We love this Chicken Zucchini and Enchilada Casserole – the pasta has been swapped out in favour of zucchini. Shredded chicken, Mexican-style seasoning and a smattering of quinoa. That’s a whole lot of goodness.

Serve up a treat for the eyes and the tastebuds with these Spanish Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers. Displayed on a platter, this colourful entrée or main meal instantly makes your dining table. Plus it’s both vegan and gluten-free.

Zucchini and Chicken Enchilada Clean-eating Recipe from ifoodrealdotcom

Chicken Zucchini Enchilada Casserole

You need:

Enchilada Sauce

  • 700ml passata or strained/crushed tomatoes (optional: low-sodium)
  • 2 tsp taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper, ground

Chicken

  • 680g chicken thighs or breasts, boneless and skinless
  • ½ tsp taco seasoning
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt

Casserole

  • 3 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into 3mm thick slices
  • 3 tbsp quinoa, uncooked and divided
  • 1½ cups (170g) mozzarella/cheddar/pepper jack cheese, grated
  • ½-1 jalapeno pepper seeded, diced (for kids, use ½ only)

Zucchini and Chicken Enchilada Clean-eating Recipe from ifoodrealdotcom 2

The how:

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir enchilada sauce ingredients and set aside.
  3. In another medium bowl, combine chicken ingredients. Mix with your hands and let marinate for 5-10 mins while you’re slicing the zucchini.
  4. Preheat large skillet on medium heat and add chicken. Cover and cook for 10-12 mins, turning once. Let cool a bit, transfer to a cutting board and shred using 2 forks.
  5. In a medium 20cm x 28cm baking dish, add a few tablespoons of enchilada sauce. Spread to coat and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of quinoa. Place sliced zucchini width-ways, overlapping a bit to create a single layer. Spread half of the chicken, then half of the enchilada sauce. Top with half of the cheese and jalapenos and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of quinoa. Repeat for another layer, finishing with a layer of zucchini and sprinkling cheese on top.
  6. Bake covered tightly for 45 mins, then uncovered for another 20 mins. Finally broil on high for 5 mins or until cheese has browned. Let stand for 10 mins before slicing. Cut into 8 slices and serve hot.

Storage instructions: Refrigerate in an airtight glass container for up to 5 days. Do not freeze.

Prep time: 25 mins / Cook time: 1 hour 25 mins / Total time: 1 hour 50 mins / Serves: 8

Nutrition (per serving)

Calories: 259 / Total Fat: 8g / Saturated Fat: 5g / Monounsaturated Fat: 0g / Cholesterol: 76mg / Sodium: 647mg / Carbohydrate: 16g / Fibre: 3g / Sugar: 8g / Protein: 29g

Recipe and image credit: ifoodreal.com.

Spanish Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers recipe 4

Spanish Quinoa Stuffed Peppers (Vegan and Gluten Free)

You need:

Peppers

  • 1 cup (168g) quinoa or rice, thoroughly rinsed and drained
  • Scant 2 cups (460ml) vegetable stock (substituting w/ water will be less flavourful)
  • 4 large red, yellow or orange bell peppers, halved, seeds removed
  • ½ cup (120g) salsa, plus more for serving
  • 1 tbsp (4g) nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1½ tsp garlic powder
  • 425g can black beans, drained (if unsalted, add ¼ tsp sea salt)
  • 1 cup (168g) whole kernel corn, drained

Toppings (optional)

  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Hot sauce (chipotle, anyone?)
  • Coriander, chopped
  • Diced red onion
  • Aioli
  • Salsa

Spanish Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers recipe 2 Spanish Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers recipe - minimalistbakerdotcom

The how:

  1. Add quinoa and vegetable stock to a saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy – about 20 mins.
  2. Preheat oven to 190°C and lightly grease a 23cm x 33cm baking dish or rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Brush halved peppers with a neutral high-heat oil, such as grape seed, avocado or refined coconut.
  4. Add cooked quinoa to a large mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients (salsa, yeast, cumin, garlic powder, black beans and corn). Mix to thoroughly combine then taste and adjust seasonings accordingly, adding salt, pepper, or more spices, as desired.
  5. Generously stuff halved peppers with quinoa mixture until all peppers are full, then cover the dish with foil.
  6. Bake for 30 mins covered, then remove foil, increase heat to 200°C and bake for another 15-20 mins, or until peppers are soft and slightly golden brown. For softer peppers, bake 5-10 mins more.
  7. Serve with desired toppings (listed above) or as is. Best when fresh, though leftovers keep covered in the fridge for 2-3 days. Reheat at 180°C until warmed through – about 20 mins.

Prep time: 10 mins / Cook time: 65 mins / Total time: 1 hour 15 mins / Serves 4

Nutrition (per serving – 2 halves)

Calories: 311 / Fat: 3.4g / Saturated fat: 0g / Carbohydrates: 59g / Sugar: 8.2g / Sodium: 498mg / Fibre: 11.5g / Protein: 14.4g 

Recipe and image credit: minimalistbaker.com

Kay is a feature, blog and copywriter. She collects empty jam jars, academic degrees and tawdry dreams in the hopes of turning them into something useful someday. Her work has been published in ACP magazines, ABC fiction, Overland, Brittle Star, Seizure, trade publications and online forums. Her creative writing has won several awards.