Cooking Up Some Winter Warmth
I lose a lot of people when I talk about how much I love winter. I honestly do. The chilly weather, endless mugs of hot chocolate, and lazy weekend afternoons curled up on the couch…isn’t this what being a New Englander is all about? Regardless of your stance, I think we can all agree that the declining temperatures offer a perfect opportunity to connect indoors through cooking and togetherness. Plus, warming up beside a toasty oven is a definite bonus! It’s also the time of year when kids get increasingly antsy with cabin fever and, this year, a lack of snow to keep them occupied. Children are constantly searching for things to do, so gather them up and allow them to get their hands dirty!
Some of our favorite family meals during the winter happen through the magic of a slow cooker. It’s a winter staple in our home now, however, my love of the cherished Crockpot hasn’t always run deep.
I used to be consumed with the idea that cooking had to be some extravagant event that included exotic ingredients and elaborate techniques in order to “count for something” (whatever that means). I was so caught up in the notion that everything had to look, smell, and taste picture-perfect. This would often equal lonely hours in the kitchen, shooing away willing helpers in a quest for perfection. Reflecting, I am able to appreciate my evolution. Where I once viewed food preparation as a stressful and uninviting chore, I am now able embrace it as a new avenue of connection with my family. Food has been a journey for me, and not always an easy one. My advice? No matter where you are in your own relationship with food, I encourage you to roll up your sleeves and dive right in! So what if you accidentally burn the chicken, or over-spice the potatoes? That’s what the journey is all about. Make a few mistakes, forgive yourself, and try again.
So whether they’re 2 or 12, rally the kids into the kitchen! Allow toddlers to sort ingredients by size, shape, or color. Delegate the chopping to older children, while the younger ones add the ingredients to the pot. We can find opportunities to grow and strengthen our bonds anywhere we look. Connection isn’t about having the latest culinary gadget, or spending hours crafting the perfect Beef Wellington (but if you do, I’m totally free for dinner tonight). It’s about having fun with simplicity, sharing a few laughs along the way, and spending precious, ordinary moments with those we love most.
Here are a few of my family’s favorite slow cooker recipes to warm your tummy, your heart, and your home this winter! If you have a family favorite you’d like to share, please do so in the comment section below.
[Photo credit: (cc) Julia Frost]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cheryl lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. In addition to freelance writing, she works as a private practice Mental Health Counselor in Chicopee. Cheryl is passionate about local and organic food. In 2012, she founded GMO Free Massachusetts, a grassroots organization designed to educate consumers about the benefits of an organic lifestyle while empowering people to make informed choices. Cheryl is also an avid theater-goer, a passionate writer, and aspiring playwright.