Gifts of January

Even though I know many folks are counting down the days until spring, I’m not quite ready for that yet. I’m still enjoying taking morning walks bundled up with a thick coat, gloves, hat, and scarf on. I’m making a cozy fire in the wood stove each evening and cooking hearty dinners. There’s more time to curl up on the couch under a soft throw blanket with a good book and a hot cup of English Breakfast tea or work on an indoor project.

Our winter has been mild so far and its highly likely that if we were having severe winter weather I very well would be wishing for the color and warmth of spring, but instead, I’m seeing gifts.

This month I’ve been appreciating the delicate beauty and peace that winter brings: intricate shapes of bare branches, patterns and colors of foliage, and the interesting elements of the various barks of trees. I don’t tend to notice these things so much in other seasons. I’m smiling over the winter blossoms of narcissus, cyclamen, snowdrops, pansies, primroses, and… in my book, the queen of winter blooms, daphne.

And if that’s not enough, just drop what you’re doing and go outside to take in the splendid sight of the full, blue moon tonight. Two full moons this month! Ahh yes, nature in any season is full of beauty and gifts. We just have to open our eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

Soups On!

January is moving along quickly, and even though it has been a mild winter for us so far, I have not done much in the way of winter chores outdoors. There’s cutting back the ornamental grasses left to do, as well as pruning trees and roses, but I still have lots of time for that. My focus for this month is spending lots of time indoors working on some projects that I had put on the “back burner” some time ago. It feels so good to finally be pursuing these interests again.

One of my favorite meals in winter is soup and stews – –  so easy to make, healthy, and as comforting as a homemade quilt. I love that while I’m busy working (playing) on my projects, the house is filled with the savory aromas of dinner.

Today, I’m sharing three delicious, wintry soups that I’ve recently made. Hope there is one that appeals to you and your family. Enjoy!

Southwest Beef Chili with Corn

From Real Simple magazine

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 carrots, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 poblano or bell pepper, chopped

1/2 lb. ground beef

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

2 cans (15 ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 Tablespoon chili powder

kosher salt and pepper

1/2 cup corn kernals

1/2 cup grated cheddar

2 scallions, sliced

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high-heat. Add the carrots, onion, and poblano and cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is no longer pink.

2. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring until it is slightly darkened, 1 minute. Add the beans, chili powder, 3 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the corn. Divide among bowls and top with cheddar and scallions. 

Cioppino

From Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes

Ingredients:

1 lb. cod, halibut, or any firm fleshed white fish, cubed

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce

1 can (14 ounces) beef broth

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

7 ounces cooked clams

1/2 pound cooked shrimp

6 ounces cooked crab meat

minced parsley

Directions:

  1. Combine fish pieces, mushrooms, carrots, onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato sauce, broth, salt, black pepper and oregano in slow cooker. Cover; cook on low 10 -12 hours.
  2. Turn slow cooker to high. Add clams, shrimp, and crabmeat. Cover; cook 15 – 30 minutes or until seafood is heated through. NOTE: This type of seafood is delicate and overcooks easily, becoming tough and rubbery, so cook only long enough for foods to be done. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.Mexican Chicken and Dumplings

From Sunset magazine (I copied this recipe out of the magazine quite a few years ago and was not able to find this particular recipe in their online database).

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, peeled and diced

1 green bell pepper, rinsed, stemmed, seeded, and diced

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 can (15 ounces) chicken broth

1 can (14 ounces) Mexican style stewed tomatoes

1 can (10 ounces) red enchilada sauce

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons chopped jalapeno chilies

3 Tablespoons butter, melted

3/4 cup milk

Directions:

  1. Pour oil into a 5 – 6 qt pan (I used an electric skillet) over medium-high heat; when hot, add onion, bell pepper, and garlic and stir often, 5 – 7 minutes.

2. Add broth, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, and chicken to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and jalapeños.  In a small bowl, whisk butter into milk; stir into flour mixture until well blended. Drop batter in tablespoon portions into simmering chicken mixture; cover and simmer gently until dumplings are cooked all the way through (cut to test), 10 – 12 minutes. At this time I also added about a cup of frozen corn to the pan (not in original recipe).

4. Ladle chicken, dumplings, and sauce into bowls and serve immediately.

Gentle Days of January

Hello and welcome to the gentle days of January! After all of the hustle and bustle of November and December I’m thriving on these slow, quiet days. You’ll find me mostly in my happy, little house working on organizing, cleaning, and writing; in general I’m catching up on projects and hobbies that haven’t gotten much attention lately. Dinners are made in the crock pot. Oh, January does feel so cozy, so hygge-good.

Our still-mild winter season is allowing me to put down the home project du jour for a bit, leash up my sweet furry companion and get out in nature regularly. All of these heart rock treasures were found during one morning hike recently.

I’m wishing you the gift of a cozy, quiet, heart filled January too!