Thursday, January 29, 2009

Toasty Winter Obsessions

I've been trying not to complain, but this is the worst winter I've experienced in Chicago. Its the most snow with the worst cold. Normally its one or the other. My 12 mile round trip bike commute is killing me.

To combat the winter chill and anger, I've been focusing on recent obsessions of mine, which help warm my cold winter attitude.

Toasting anise seed and curry powder in olive oil.

If you've read my last couple of recipes, you'll notice almost every dish begins with toasting spices. This easy technique of infusing the pungent flavor of spices in hot oil is an awesome way to release the warm earthy aromas of the seeds and really make the flavors pop. I've become obsessed with this method common in Indian cooking if not just for the amazing smells alone. The sweet exotic aroma of toasting curry powder warms me to my toes. The intensity of flavor which results from this simple procedure is a quick way to infuse a sultry tropical sensation into an average winter soup and warm me right up.

Do you have any suggestions for easy ways to warm up and cure the winter seasonal depression (and anger) of cabin fever? I'd love to hear them!


IBerg said...

As far as the cabin fever goes, my wife has been doing jigsaw puzzles, hows that for some cheap old-school fun. She got one from Target that was a glitter and glow princes puzzle. She said that is was hard as hell, but worth it.

As far as that commute, you might try the link below so you wont have to fishtail home in the snow any more

Shayna said...

I built a bar in my basement, so now I don't have to go anywhere! But you don't have a basement. But you could come to mine...but then you have to go outside.

Puzzles is a good idea. My boyfriend hates games, but maybe puzzles will work!

Shayna said...

Oh...and maybe this will help:

Sarah said...

I don't know if I would recommend eating this, as it feels like play dough, but it's a fun way to spend 5 minutes of your life and it's pretty much guaranteed to make you giggle.

*Please note that it's normal for it to rise while in the microwave. Do not be alarmed and scream as I did.
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug
- Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
- Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
- Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.
- Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.
Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
- EAT! (this can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous).

Andrea said...

Puzzles are awesome. I just put together a jigsaw puzzle of American presidents (stopped with Bill Clinton) with a map of the US and all their birthplaces and fun facts. It was awesome. well except for the 14 missing pieces. that's what you get for a garage sale jigsaw puzzle. I'd put it together again though. I love maps and I love presidential history.

Sarah: the mug cake looks incredibly kooky. I've got to try this! Thanks everyone for the great comments.

katherine said...

I've always wanted to try TheraFlu with booze in it.

Stacy said...

Well, I'm not sure if this is tastey, but I went skiing a couple of weeks ago with 35 high school kids and 8 chaperones. The head of the trip is an older man - Kurt - he's the athletic director from our school and the type of guy who looks like he played baseball professionally...SO fit, he's almost 70-something and is skiing black diamonds all day.

SO. It's negative 7 degrees and we're all in face masks...the ones that look like Hannebal Lecter...and we're miserable...the wind is blowing and I'm going numb. And Kurt tells me, "Stacy, back in the day when we used to take a Thermos with beef broth and tequila on the slopes - it really takes the edge off and keeps you warm".

Beef broth and tequila.
But...there's something great about that. You should try it for fun. And if you're feeling really sad, I now live in SC and it is warm. Come stay!

Janice said...

Wait-here's another great way to warm up and cure the cold weather blues-YOGA!!
You can do it at home and it is peaceful and makes you feel great!

Anonymous said...

Hi Andrea,

I live in Australia and love your blog. I have my own little blog ( and have even made a couple of your dishes with much success.

I am quite jealous of your snow and cold at the moment. Here it is 43 degrees C (about 110F) with forecasts looking the same for the whole of next week. It is quite sad when it is too hot for cooking!

- Helen

missile said...

sometimes my mom sends my dad to work with the dry ingredients for the kooky mug cake! he throws it together with the wet ingredients at work. he loves it! i'm scared of microwaves, so i haven't tried it, but i'll take stan malnar's word for it and believe him when he says it's a delicious snack to break up a 12 hour shift at the ethylene unit.

missile said...

ooh, and here's another ny times link...

this is my most recent winter obsession...baking the easiest bread EVER a few times a kneading required! you seriously just stir it up and let it sit for, like, 20 hours and then bake it in a covered casserole. amazing. doing this in the summer isn't quite as fun (unless you like living in a sauna) so i'm appreciating winter for the opportunity to bake tons of bread. winter ain't all bad.
since i'm sort of a hippie and like to substitute whole wheat flour for all-purpose in every recipe i encounter, i've found out that you can sub in whole wheat in this recipe and achieve fantastic results.

other ways to cope with winter:
taking free yoga classes at nature yoga and moksha, learning how to crochet, reorganizing/rearranging my entire apartment, and taking time to acknowledge how frickin pretty humboldt park is when it's covered in snow EVEN IF it's only -4's still pretty.

Andrea said...

Ok first of all. Theraflu with booze is perhaps genius.

2. Tequilla and beef broth is totally weird, so weird i have to try it.

3. Helen. AWESOME! I love the fact people across the planet read my blog. Thanks!! I was thinking...I guess I'll keep the cold. I hate the heat. 110? I am imagining the outback with crocodile Dundee. Am I far off? (are you thinking, sigh ...stupid american stereotypes?)

4. Missle: I LOVE shortcuts. Awesome link. Thanks.

5. Its friday and the weekend has begun. Have fun!

J. Elizabeth said...

Cabin fever hits me right about this time of year: right when MORE snow piles in. So I start watching full seasons of shows I've never watched before, and to keep warm, I knit something while I watch! I also do a LOT of baking in the winter. Mostly hearty brown breads, but pies are next best. I start using up the squash stash from Autumn's harvest. They keep well, and provide a nice comfort-food series of meals... mmm

Anonymous said...

Not quite the outback! I live in the Adelaide Hills, which for most of the year is cool, leafy and green. But the sun has decided to come out to play a bit too much at the moment. I am hibernating too - love the air con today!

- Helen

Andrea said...

Yes, I love TV shows on DVD. I'm finishing the Wire right now. I've also been watching TV online. I just watched the Australian Project Runway. So many nice "frocks".

I haven't mentioned my number one winter obsession: taking a hot bath every night. Nothing better to warm up and relax!

Thanks guys for all the awesome comments.