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The calendar has rolled around to November. I think it is safe to say that we can wish goodbye to warmer weather. If you haven’t pulled winter hats and gloves out from storage, now is the time. The mornings come early and they are chilly! Drag your window-shaker air conditioners out, or cover up the central air conditioner outside. Drain the gas out of your mower and put it to bed for the season. Clean and stack your patio furniture away into storage for a long winter’s nap. Empty those gutters and make sure the downspouts are pointed away from your house.

Do you have anything else on your to-do list before you too can curl up in front of a toasty fire this winter? If you are anything like me, I bet you do. If you still have plenty of items on your checklist to winterize your house, how about brushing off the crock pot and pushing it back into service for the season to ensure you’ll have something tasty to eat once you tick a few items off that list. This slow cooker recipe from Savvymom.ca is sure to be a delicious hit with any family. It should certainly be a winner for any chef that is also wearing the hat of busy home owner preparing their home for winter.

SHREDDED TEX-MEX CHICKEN

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 cups salsa
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp chili powder

Directions:

  1. Place chicken thighs in a single layer at the bottom of a slow cooker and season well with salt and pepper, before pouring the lime juice over the chicken pieces.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the salsa, cumin, paprika, oregano and chili powder. Pour the salsa mixture over the chicken, spreading it evenly to cover the meat.
  3. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours (or high for 3 hours).
  4. To serve, remove the chicken from the cooker and place it in a bowl. Using two forks, pull the meat apart to shred it. Place it back in the cooker and toss with the sauce before serving.

Good to Know: If there is a lot of watery sauce in the crock-pot, pour a few scoops over the chicken when it’s in the bowl instead of returning the meat to the pot.

Have you started raking yet?

Have you started raking yet?

With the crock pot cooking, you will have plenty of time to get outside to rake leaves, wrap trees and shrubs, put away your garden ornaments, drain your hoses and store them, turn off your outdoor water taps, plus see if you need to replace any burnt out bulbs in your outdoor lighting. Night falls much earlier this time of year, so exterior lighting because that much more important for home owners. You might want to make sure that you have a store of salt for your driveway, while safety is on your mind too. A shovel or snow blower is an essential tool for anyone in this part of Canada that has to leave their house come the first snowfall of the season. That goes for the second, third and beyond’s dumps too.

Better waterproof your winter boots while you are at it. You never know when Old Man Winter will hit us with one of these nasty surprises…

Shovelling safety tips

This reality isn’t as far off as you’d like to believe. Just saying…

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Lovely. Another storm watch. They are predicting 15-20 cm of snow to fall in Southwestern Ontario from tonight through to tomorrow. If you have to go out, drive carefully, as it will be a wet mix with rain intermixed into all that snow. Not looking forward to the morning commute, I can tell you. Just another winter day in Canada.

Seed packets are in!

Ah, but there is a bright spot in all of this. If you take a peek into your local garden centre, a sure sign of spring is already there in the form of seed packets! If you are an avid gardener at heart, now is the time to start planning this year’s garden. That means ordering seed catalogues and deciding how many plants to start indoors to get a jump-start on your garden. You can save time and money by starting your own seeds indoors and all it really takes is a bright spot in your home. If natural light is at a premium in your house, then fluorescent lights will do the trick as well. Once you have your growing medium and the pots to grow the seeds in, then all that is required is a little water and you are off to the races!

A tray used in horticulture (for sowing and ta...

A tray used in horticulture (for sowing and taking plant cuttings) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you shaking your heads at the memory of a less than green thumb from previous seasons, relax. Winter doldrums disappear at the sight of tiny saplings sticking their head out of the dirt. And it really isn’t nearly as hard as one would think! Here are a few pointers to keep in mind before you start;

  • Do you want to grow annuals (live for one season) or perennials (return every year)? If you are thinking of seeds, annuals are the easier choice.
  • Are you wanting edible plants or flowers/grasses? They often have very different propagation time periods, so set a time-table for your sowing schedule.
  • If you are looking to start fruits or vegetables, how many people are you planning to feed with them? You only need as many plants as per people you will be feeding, so plant your seeds accordingly. No need to have 20 plants producing enough food to fee your neighbourhood, when you have a family of three to provide for.
  • When is the last frost date for your area? Depending upon the plants that you grow, you need to know when the last frost will occur in your area (approximately). Planting seeds too early might leave you with leggy specimens that don’t stand a chance once they reach the outside world. Calculate how long before planting you need to sow your seeds, then count back from the projected frost date. That is when to plant them.
  • Are you planting more than one thing? More than likely you are, so make sure to label everything! Seedlings tend to look alike when they first come up, so do yourself a favour and write on a popsicle stick, on the container or whatever else is handy to make sure that you know what you have on your hands a few weeks after planting your seeds.
  • Once it is time to take your seedlings outside to transplant, don’t forget the most important thing – harden them off! The atmosphere between your house (fairly uniform) to outside can differ greatly. Slowly acclimatize them to the outside sunshine and temperatures gradually, or else all your efforts will be for naught.

What is your best advice for the novice seed gardener? Any tips and tricks to help everything go and grow smoothly?

London, Ontario suffered through its first winter cold weather alert last week, but this week the weather has done a complete 360. At present the rain is pouring down outside, punctuated by the odd clap of thunder. What is going on with the weather?! It’s January!

Snow drifts that were a mess yesterday morning are rapidly melting into speedy rivulets that are running into storm drains wherever they can be found. While the rain might help to wash away the slush, you need to be aware of the after-effects from this January storm. You might be fascinated by the weird weather phenomenon of a thunderstorm in January, but beware of its effects.

JANUARY THUNDERSTORMS

and

THEIR EFFECTS

  • Stay clear of open bodies of water; rivers, streams, creeks, storm ponds, etc.
    • As snow melts, it joins all the rains running into waterways, quickly growing them in size and strength. Any waterways should be considered extremely dangerous and avoided at all costs.
  • Do NOT walk on ice on ponds, rivers, lakes, etc.
    • Existing ice is affected by the warmer temperatures and rain, making it thin and brittle – much too easy to break and have you fall into the icy waters below!
Storm Drain

Storm Drain (Photo credit: OnceAndFutureLaura)

  • Keep an eye on storm drains around your house
    • Blocked storm drains can back up, causing flooding, potentially damaging your home or any nearby property. Clear blockages as necessary.
  • Make sure that your drain spouts coming off your roof are free-flowing
    • Blocked spouts can create ice damns on your roof. If left untended, that water will back up into your house causing water damage. Don’t forget to point your spouts away from your house to avoid that fast-moving water running into your house.
  • Avoid doing laundry, washing dishes, or having a shower during the worst of the storm
    • Water systems in your home are already under stress from the added water outside. Adding more water to the equation from inside may push your drains over the edge, thus sending the excess water into your basement
  • Check to make sure your sump pump is plugged in and functioning properly
    • As your water system struggles to keep up with the extra water, it might need the help of a sump pump to keep that water flowing OUT of your home and not back IN. You will be grateful that you did!
  • Drive Safe Folks!

    If you have to head out, take it slow and easy

    • This morning the fog was thick and streets are all pretty slick. Water is pooling on roadways and accidents are rampant in weather like this. Slow down and drive as safely as possible. Keep your vehicle and its passengers safe, by arriving to your destination alive.

Wishing you dry thoughts on this WET day!

I hope you enjoyed that hot breakfast this morning. If you didn’t, grab some oats and try it tomorrow, as London, Ontario is in the grip of winter. The Middlesex-London Health Unit has even issued a cold weather alert for the next three days, as the temperatures are expected to remain below -15C until at least Thursday. Note to self; stay inside unless you have to go out folks. And if you do have to venture outside, make sure to dress in layers! Exposed skin will freeze pretty quick in -27C weather, which is what it is right now with the wind chill.

So how do you fight the cold, when it permeates everything?

 

WARM UP EXERCISES

Dress for the weather

Dress for the weather

KEEPING YOU WARM OUTSIDE

 

  • Dress in layers. Think sweaters, long johns, wool, or silk for warmth
  • Choose mitts over gloves, as they keep the fingers together, thereby warmer longer
  • Wear hats that cover the ears, as heat loss is greatest from an exposed head
  • Throw on an extra pair of socks in your warmest winter boots. No need to get your tootsies frostbitten too!
  • Retreat back inside for frequent breaks, to prevent frost bite

KEEPING YOU WARM INSIDE

 

Hot Toddy

Hot Toddy (Photo credit: Quite Adept)

  • Keep that sweater on. Extra layers help to reduce shooting your hydro bill through the roof this winter
  • Throw an extra blanket on the bed for warmth. In fact, why not fill up the hot water bottle to warm up your bed too!
  • Curl up in front of the fire with a cozy blanket. Perfect time for reading a book, cuddling or playing games during family time
  • Drink plenty of fluids, ie. warm fluids like tea, hot chocolate or maybe a hot toddy

KEEPING THE HOUSE WARM TOO

 

  • If you discovered drafty windows in that windstorm on the weekend, grab some window cling and seal your windows. It only takes minutes and your house will be noticeably warmer in no time
  • Place rolled up towels in front of exterior doors to keep out drafts
  • If you’ve got a fireplace, use it! If you aren’t using it, make sure the flue is closed to reduce cold air seeping down the chimney
  • Open your blinds to let in the sunlight during the day, but shut them up tight to keep out cooler air after dark
  • Close heating vents and/or doors in rooms that are not used frequently
  • Think about baking up something yummy for dinner or a snack. The oven will help to heat your home up some too!

What are you Baking tonight?

Hope you keep warm this week!

We are dead smack in the middle of January. The sun rises late and sets early. For many of you Canadians out there, this is a pattern that you can appreciate. And also follow. It’s no wonder that animals either hibernate or head south for the winter. I am all for hibernation and know of plenty of snowbirds that escape the chill of Canadian winters for the balmier weather south of the border. Realistically though, I still have to get up to start my day every morning, if not for school for the kids, then for their hockey practice. Or even work some days!

shudder…

When the day’s hours don’t seem enough, the presence of a crock pot can seem like a life saver for some homes. I have said it before, but I’ll say it again. Most crock pot recipes are simple and straight-forward with few ingredients and even less effort to prepare a nutritious and delicious meal at the end of the day. Because if you’re struggling to get out of bed, fit in your workout (remember that new year’s resolution you set?), spend time with friends, family, plus work, sometimes you just need those extra hours in the day.

Here are a few recipes that will save those hours for you. The first one is Easy Chicken Curry from lifemadedelicious.ca. Time to heat up January!

 

EASY CHICKEN CURRY

 

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 Chicken Leg/Thigh combos (bone-in)
  • 1 650 ml jar of Salsa (hot)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of Hot Curry Paste
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup of sour cream

Directions:

Add chicken to the crock pot.

Mix curry paste with the Salsa and pour over chicken. Cook in crock pot on low for 6-8 hours (or high for 4 hours) OR you can cook this in the oven covered for 1 hour @ 375f

Prior to serving stir sour cream into the curry dish. Serve with rice.

That’ll heat up dinner tonight!

Now, how about including a winter vegetable that can readily be found in most Canadian grocery stores this time of year. I am talking about cabbage; an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, thiamin, folate, manganese, and dietary fibre. Here’s a recipe for crock pot cabbage rolls from CanadianLiving.com.

 

CROCK POT CABBAGE ROLLS

 

Holishkes or Cabbage rolls covered with tomato...

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
  • 2 lb (907 g) lean ground beef
  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) uncooked rice
  • 1 small finely chopped onion
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) salt
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
  • 1 can (28 oz) tomato sauce
  • 2-1/2 tbsp (31 mL) brown sugar
  • 2-1/2 tsp (10 mL) Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-1/2 tbsp (31 mL) lemon juice
  • 1 head of cabbage

 

Directions:

Boil a large pot of water. Score the cabbage around the core as deep as you can with a large knife. Immerse in the boiling water and as the leaves soften (within 2 minutes, just peel them away with tongs and place in a colander or strainer.

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef with egg, milk, salt, pepper, rice and onion. Place a few tablespoons or so of the meat mixture in center of each cabbage leaf, fold the sides and roll. Place into the slow cooker, seam side down. Repeat process until all meat mixture is used.

In another bowl, combine the tomato sauce, brown, sugar, lemon juice and worcestershire sauce and pour over the cabbage rolls.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Serve with sauce.

 

What’s your favourite crock pot meal?

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