Old man winter gets a bad rap sometimes. Cold weather is often blamed for aches and pains, and depressed moods, especially on rainy, gloomy days. There is conflicting research about whether weather actually does anything to alter moods, worsen depression or cause arthritis pains. I think everyone can agree that a cold, rainy, gray day makes one want to curl up inside under a warm blanket for a nap.
So what can we do to reverse the cold-weather coma that tends to settle over us? Here are a few ideas for cold weather fun to enjoy with your family and friends:
1) Old fashioned hot chocolate. I’m not talking about packets of powdery stuff and hot water. If it’s cold out, take the time to get out the old saucepan, heat up some milk, dissolve cocoa powder and sugar and sprinkle little marshmallows over the top. Sure, the old fashioned way takes a little extra time, but you can’t beat the taste and richness that warm you through and through. Here’s a recipe: http://www.southernplate.com/2009/12/old-fashioned-stovetop-hot-chocolate.html
2) Chili! Hearty, warm chili is the perfect cold night supper. Popular with kids and adults alike, chili tends to bring everyone together around the table. The varieties of chili are endless: over a bowl of Fritos and topped with cheese, with cornbread on the side, over a hot dog, and so on. Chili is such a simple dish to make, easy for kids or the kitchen-challenged! You can add extra meat or tomatoes as your tastes prefer. Our family loves to eat chili on cold winter nights, and recently I shared my simple, easy recipe with St. Francis Villa’s kitchen and the residents loved this hearty style of chili:
(Made for a family of 5)
2 lb ground beef, browned and drained.
4 cans dark red kidney beans
2 cans crushed tomatoes
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cups water
2 packets McCormick mild chili seasoning
Place beef in the bottom of a dutch oven, add all other ingredients. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. While simmering, shred cheese or make cornbread to go with this delicious, heartwarming dinner.
3) Quilts! Many families have heirloom quilts, some even handmade by a mother or grandmother. Blankets and quilts tend to carry stories, often given as wedding or baby gifts. Cold, dreary days are perfect for getting out those heavy quilts and sharing those family stories.
4) Seed starting. Cold days when most gardens can’t be in beautiful bloom are the perfect days to be busy planning for warmer, more garden friendly weather. What a great way to fight cold-day gloomies! All you need is some potting soil, a few small cups, and your desired seeds. Plant the seeds, water them, and place them in front of a sunny window. Spend the next few weeks of cold weather caring for your seedlings, then transplant them to your garden as the weather starts to warm, or even give them away to a friend.
5) Rest. We so often forget the many natural patterns and rhythms that work together to bring about balance. I recently read about a small farm that considers the months of December to February their “Sabbath” during which people, plants and animals rest from the work of growth and life. Sometimes cold weather and dreary days prevent us from getting out and doing things we want to do. Consider taking advantage of slow days and use that time to catch up on reading, writing notes, and even taking some extra naps. Though it’s currently in fashion to be as busy as humanly possible, it’s really OK, even beneficial, to slow down and rest.
Today, we are preparing for a rare occurrence of “wintry mix” weather in New Orleans. We may even see some snow! As the winter months go on, and more folks bemoan the gloomy weather, I hope you’ll take the cold temperatures as an opportunity to share flavors, memories, and good times with those you love. Though it’s cold outside, make sure your heart stays warm!