When I close my eyes, I can see the white sandy beach being softly lapped by azure blue waters, surrounded by palm trees. I can feel the warmth of the sun and the soft breeze on my face.
Then I open my eyes and see the white piles of snow being shaped by wind-driven waves of more snow, with snow-covered trees in the background. I can feel the gusty wind buffeting the house as I look out the window, and the cold even seems to permeate the well-insulated glass.
From the euphoria of paradise to the reality of the frozen landscape in the blink of an eye.
I no longer enjoy winter, and as I have said many times in recent months, I enjoy it even less with each year that passes. There was a time — back when my bones were less brittle — that I may have looked forward to it. I was a downhill skier back then, and I surely anticipated days spent on the slopes, or maybe an excursion to go sledding out on Pfeil’s Hill.
But those days are long past. The skis still sit in the corner of our basement, but will likely never again be used, as I have no desire to brave broken bones and frost-bitten feet for the thrill of speeding downhill on a snow-covered slope. I have no interest in pulling on long johns (I once even owned a red union suit!), wool socks and all the other layers necessary to spend extended periods of time in the wintery great outdoors.
My idea of braving the weather is sprinting between the house and the car, complaining under my breath along the way.
Still, if there is a bit of joy to be found in the midst of blizzards, polar vortexes, cold snaps and whiteouts, it is in the foods we dish up to warm us from the inside out. Soup is still on the menu at our house at least one day a week, and weekends usually find some sort of “comfort” concoction simmering away in the slow cooker. So I am always glad when new options for both soups and slow cooker meals are brought to my attention.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared the recipe for lasagna soup, sampled by my sister on her way to warmer climes down south. That prompted Amy Moritz to email her recipe for a similar concoction that Amy said she enjoys — “especially on a cold winter day.”
1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Two 14 ½-ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 ½ cups water
One 13- to 15-ounce jar spaghetti sauce
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 ounces spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook meat, onion, celery, carrot and garlic over medium heat until vegetables are tender and meat is no longer pink, stirring frequently. Drain excess fat.
Add undrained tomatoes, water, spaghetti sauce and seasonings. Bring mixture to a boil. Add broken spaghetti, return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 12-15 minutes, until spaghetti is tender. Serve immediately.
Now it’s on to the slower cooker. Here’s another meal idea, shared by my niece, Gretchen Rickers Ennis, who said the meatballs can also be used as an appetizer. In fact, the friend from whom she got the recipe, Diane Kopsas, brought them to a Super Bowl party.
Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
Mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
1 pound ground beef
1 pound hot Italian sausage
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup bread crumbs
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup whole milk
½ cup chopped parsley
Spaghetti sauce or tomato sauce
Combine beef, sausage, seasonings, bread crumbs, Parmesan, eggs, milk and parsley. Roll mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs, pressing a cube of cheese into the center of each one. Arrange meatballs in the slow cooker. Cover with spaghetti sauce or tomato sauce. Cook on high for 2 to 2½ hours. Serve over favorite pasta or as meatball sandwiches on buns.