In my perfect world it would be 75 degrees all year round, but cold weather does have a few advantages:
1) Fires in the fireplace: While we do have a chimney on the roof of our house, appearances in this case are deceiving - we have no fireplace. No crackles and pops to break up the quiet of a sleepy, snow-covered evening, no marshmallows roasting on skewers, no red glow coloring chubby little baby cheeks . . . it's very sad.
2) Long sleeves and sweaters: I've always loved the look of fall and winter clothes. I'm not sure why, it's just a personal preference.
3) Burrowing underneath the covers: I love piling blankets on and snuggling up to Tom to keep warm. Kieran, on the other hand, has an internal furnace that has him kicking off the covers and sleeping spread-eagle in between us. We have to struggle, shivering, to pull the covers up underneath his leaden body so we won't freeze. Tom claims that I have the same furnace, but I have the courtesy to keep it under the blankets.
4) Stews, chili, and soups in the crockpot: there is nothing like throwing a few ingredients into the crockpot in the morning and coming home to a finished meal that evening. Plus, the smell of whatever is cooking fills the whole house - yum! Another great thing about many crockpot meals is that they can be frozen and stored for later. Every time I make any kind of stew, chili, or soup, half of it goes into a container for one of those days I don't want to cook.
I had some vegetables in the fridge that I needed to use, so I decided to make vegetable stew. I also had bean stock (made from cooking a bag of black beans) in the deep freeze just waiting for a good recipe - I was happy to thaw it out. Here is what I did to make our stew, but the nice thing about vegetable stew is that you can easily improvise with whatever you have in the fridge or in the pantry.
Easy Crockpot Vegetable Stew
Water or stock (use enough to cover all of your veggies plus a little more, depending on how soupy you want it)
3 carrots, sliced
2 potatoes, diced
Tomatoes (I used one can of organic diced tomatoes, undrained; I also had about 12 cherry tomatoes leftover that I diced and added)
2 yellow squash, diced
1 onion, diced
1 can corn, undrained
Garbanzo beans (approx. 1 cup; I had cooked and frozen them previously, you could also use canned)
Spinach, shredded (mine was frozen from the garden, I thawed & shredded it)
Lentils (I actually have a Bob's Red Mill soup mix that has lentils, peas, etc.)
Spices (I used cilantro, garlic, a seasoning salt blend, and a few spoonfuls of fresh salsa)
Boil carrots and potatoes for a few minutes in a separate pot to soften them.** Put the carrots/potatoes/water, stock, garbanzo beans, spices, and all veggies except for cabbage and spinach into the crockpot. Add at least enough stock or water to completely cover the veggies. Cook for 6 hours on high or up to 12 hours on low. Approximately one hour before serving, add cabbage, spinach, and lentils. If you want your soup to be thicker, you can slowly add cornstarch while stirring briskly about 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with some shredded cheese and a side of bread (cornbread would be good, we had garlic bread though).
**Ok, I have a change to the recipe since posting this. When it was time to add the cabbage and lentils, I realized that my carrots and potatoes were not anywhere near soft enough. I transferred everything to a big soup pot and boiled it for 10 or 15 minutes, then let it simmer for the next hour. In the future, I will probably give the carrots and potatoes a quick boil in a separate pot before adding them to the crockpot.
I did add cornstarch - probably 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons. It made the broth thicker, just what I was in the mood for.