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  • Trent Hamm

4 Hearty, Cheap and Easy Meals to Make for Winter Evenings

On a cold winter evening, there are few better things than a hearty dinner. The warmth of the kitchen, the aroma of cooking food and the sight of a delicious meal being served add up to a great end to a chilly day.

Like many families, mine is often busy well into the evening. Most days, we’re lucky if someone has half an hour to prepare dinner. Sure, slow cooker meals can be a great solution, but sometimes those recipes don’t work out either, particularly if your mornings are busy.

Here are four hearty, inexpensive and easy winter evening meals. All of these can be prepared in 30 minutes or less and do not require expensive ingredients.

Hearty White Chicken Chili

This is a great way to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey if you replace the chicken in this recipe.


3 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, diced (about 1 3/4 cups)

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound ground or finely diced chicken

3 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cans (15 ounce) white beans (garbanzo, great northern or cannellini), drained and rinsed

3 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups frozen corn

Diced jalapeño peppers, salt and pepper to taste

To prepare, pull out a large pot and add the oil. Put the pot over medium-high heat for a few minutes, then add the onions and garlic. Stir until the onions just start to become translucent, then add the chicken, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and optional jalapeños. Stirring regularly, cook until the chicken is cooked through (about five minutes if ground or finely diced), then add the remaining ingredients, wait for it to return to a boil and reduce the heat to medium. Let everything simmer for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.

“1958” Minestrone Soup

For some reason, the recipe for this soup had the number “1958” written in giant handwriting at the top when I received it. Thus, I’ve called it “1958 Minestrone” ever since.


2 medium carrots, chopped

1 celery rib, thinly sliced

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons canola oil

3 cups vegetable or beef broth or stock

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) Italian stewed or diced tomatoes, undrained

1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed

1 cup elbow macaroni

To prepare, add the oil to a pot and warm over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Meanwhile, start cooking the macaroni according to package directions. Add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic cloves to the oil, and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly. Then add the broth, tomatoes and spinach. When the macaroni is cooked, drain the macaroni and add it to the soup. Cook for another 10 minutes, then serve.

Skillet Lasagna

Ordinarily, we make lasagna in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish in the oven, but sometimes we just don’t have time for that. In those cases, we make skillet lasagna, usually accompanied by breadsticks that cook at the same time.


1 28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes

2 cups water

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground beef or ground chicken (or 2 cans white beans, drained, if you're vegetarian)

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

8 ounces elbow macaroni or farfalle (bow tie pasta)

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 cup ricotta cheese

To prepare, mix the tomatoes, water and tomato sauce in a bowl and set aside. Add the oil to a large, deep skillet, heat for a few minutes over medium-high heat, then add the garlic and stir for a minute. Add the meat and cook thoroughly, then drain the grease. Put the meat back in the skillet, then season it with a bit of salt and pepper and all the seasonings. Put the pasta right on top of the meat, then add the tomato mix on top. Cover and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat until it stays at a simmer for 20 minutes or so. Add the mozzarella and half the Parmesan cheese, stir thoroughly, then add dollops of the ricotta cheese by the spoonful. Remove from heat, cover again, and allow it to rest on the dinner table (while you set the table). Serve with the extra Parmesan cheese.

Quick Gumbo

This is a great gumbo that can be prepared surprisingly fast. Prep the vegetables at the start, then shred the chicken while the vegetables are cooking.


3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup flour

2 bell peppers, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tablespoon dried oregano

1 10-ounce package frozen okra

1 whole cooked rotisserie chicken, bones and skin removed, shredded

8 ounces smoked sausage, diced

To prepare, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat for a minute, then add the flour and stir for 15 seconds. Add the bell peppers, onion, garlic cloves and oregano, and cook for eight to 10 minutes until the onion is nicely caramelized, stirring frequently (shred the chicken during this time, too). Add the meat, okra and water, then stir thoroughly and wait until the mixture reaches a simmer. Then reduce heat to medium, and allow it to simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve, ideally with some cornbread.

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