Two emails popped into my box almost simultaneously this week. One came from someone whining about not being able to afford to fly somewhere warm, and how she couldn’t wait for winter to be over.
The other was from a friend describing how much she enjoys this time of year, and how she keeps healthy during these long months of cold and dark.
Winter can be a tough slog. But complaining won’t make it shorter. It probably makes it seem longer. The best approach is to make the most of the time.
Other older cultures whose winters are as long or longer than Canada’s embrace winter.
The Scandinavians have learned to wait out their very long, dark winters by making their homes especially bright and cosy with candlelight and colour. They build with their windows oriented in the direction of optimum sunlight. They are outdoors people who love and respect nature and they are outside in it often.
The writer of that happier email described how she tries to get to bed an hour earlier and catch up on sleep this time of year. But she’ll also bundle up and get out virtually every day for a fast-paced walk. Back indoors, she reads and loves the long evenings to do handicrafts. It’s a time to reflect and think and plan.
Food is a comfort any time of year, of course, but rich flavours and the warmth of a wonderful meal is just that much more pleasurable in cold weather. Let’s eat hearty and healthy throughout the weeks ahead, and if we simply must complain — we are Canadians, after all — let it be good natured and over a good dinner.
If you can’t go there, heat things up at the dinner table with spicy food from a warm, sun-filled place. Try Mexico! Here are two recipes for a chili you can switch up into pie the next night, plus a delicious moist cornbread for serving alongside.
Chicken Chili with Corn and Black Beans
Use any other leftover leafy vegetable you like in this soup such as brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or that kale that always seems to wilt before you get around to using it. No one could taste the handful of shrivelled cilantro I threw in.
- 2 tsp. canola oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb. ground chicken
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 5 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp. EACH hot pepper flakes and black pepper
- 1 can crushed tomatoes (796 ml)
- 1 can black beans (570 ml), rinsed and drained
- 2 c. kernel corn (fresh, frozen or canned)
- 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat, cook onion and garlic until onion is soft. Add chicken and stir cook, breaking up the lumps, until the chicken is no longer pink. Stir in red pepper, celery, spices, tomatoes and black beans. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in corn and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Stir in parsley. Serve with salad, and crusty bread or cornbread.
Tip 1: This recipe can be doubled or tripled. It freezes very well.
Tip 2: Slow cooker version – cook onion, garlic and ground chicken as described above. Place in a slow cooker and stir in red pepper, celery, spices, tomatoes, black beans and corn. Cook on high for five hours or on low for eight. Stir in parsley just before serving.
Recipe courtesy of Manitoba Chicken Producers
- 6 to 8 corn tortillas (or 3 large whole wheat tortillas)
- 1-1/2 c. TexMex or Nacho shredded cheese
- 1/2 recipe of Chicken Chili with Corn and Black Beans
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the tortillas, overlapping them to cover the edges of the pie plate. Sprinkle half the cheese over the tortillas. Heat the chili in the microwave then pour it into the pie plate and top with remaining cheese. Bake until the edges of the tortillas are crisp and the cheese has melted — about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serve with a tossed salad.
Recipe courtesy of Manitoba Chicken Producers
This mouth-watering cornbread tastes absolutely delicious alongside the chicken chili recipe. A jalapeno pepper makes it nice and spicy but you can omit it and use any cheese on hand if you don’t have smoked mozzerella.
- 1 c. Robin Hood Original All-Purpose Flour
- 3/4 c. cornmeal
- 1/4 c. granulated sugar
- 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1-1/4 c. buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 c. Crisco vegetable or canola oil
- 1 c. corn, fresh or frozen
- 1 c. grated smoked mozzarella
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 9×9-inch baking dish. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs and oil. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir just until combined. Stir in corn, smoked mozzarella and jalapeno. Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Bake in preheated oven 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centre of bread comes out clean.
Preparation time: 15 minutes.
Baking time: 40 minutes.
Makes: 16 pieces.
Recipe courtesy of J.M. Smucker Co.