I have learned to appreciate winter’s beauty rather than dwell on its seemingly endless stay.
The daylight is slowly getting longer, there is not much yard work to take up our time and it is a perfect time of year to enjoy the start of the day with a beautiful sunrise at an acceptable time.
My morning experience is also nostalgic because I can see the tree lines of homesteads from two sets of my great-grandparents as I watch the morning start in the east. I guess that coins the expression, “well rooted.”
A prairie sunrise is a special form of art that cannot be replicated, not even in photos. Instead, it must be experienced. However, to get the most out of our winter days, we must first have had a restful sleep.
Sleep problems plague many of our fast paced lives. Whether we have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or getting back to sleep after a disruption, it is a good time of year to deal with some of the issues that are keeping us from total refreshment.
This is a good time to do this because the nights are still just long enough to learn to properly shut down.
As well, studies have shown that good sleep is directly related to healthy weight. For many Canadians, this time of year is when we are at our heaviest.
We tend to reach for food choices that are “less than healthy” when we are tired and less active.
A five-year study at Wake Forest University found that test subjects younger than 40 who slept five hours or less a night had gained about two times more abdominal fat than those who slept at least six or seven hours a night. They tended to eat more trying to gain energy.
Shortage of sleep not only affects our eating habits but also our hormones. Less sleep causes low levels of melatonin, which affects how our body regenerates and metabolizes. As a result, bad sleep is directly related to bad eating habits, and our bodies get stressed and do not function properly.
Here is what you can do:
- Sleep in complete darkness. Make use of light blocking blinds and curtain panels, and tape over any lights on alarms. Any light can affect your sleep.
- Always wear clothing that is comfortable, loose fitting and made of natural fibres such as cotton. This also goes for bed linens. Natural fibres keep our temperatures just right: not too hot and not too cool.
- Make a regular sleeping plan. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day-night cycle. Be in bed by 11 p.m. at the latest and sleep at least 7.5 hours per night. Things should fall into place as you commit to this routine.
- Get light upon arising. This means opening the curtains as soon as you get up because morning light naturally signals the body to get going. Exposing yourself to morning light is an easy way to boost your energy.
- Use calming colours and reduce clutter in your bedroom to heighten your sense of relaxation.
- Make sure all electrical items including cellphones and alarm clocks are at least a metre away from you as you sleep. As well, do not get used to using the television in the bedroom to help go to sleep.
- Try pure essential oil of jasmine (read the labels) to fragrance your room and help you sleep. According to a 2010 German study, the scent of jasmine can be as effective as valium or other anti-anxiety drugs for helping calm your system. Try 10 or 20 drops in a mister, humidifier or in a room spray such as those from Saje, which is my personal choice. You can buy this mixture or make your own by mixing essential oil in a spray bottle of distilled water to spritz when needed. Check out what is available at www.saje.ca. Do not use synthetic jasmine fragrance. Instead, use only essential oil.
Winter is a time to learn restful sleep habits, but it is also a wonderful time of year to enjoy good food. My daughter and I spend much more time cooking together in winter. We also love to try out restaurants that offer tantalizing food. Lately, some of our fun has been trying to replicate some of our favourite restaurant menus at home.
Chicken Vegetable Chowder
Serve this warming winter soup with fresh bread or buns for dipping.
- 2 to 3 uncooked chicken or turkey breasts, cut into small pieces
- 4 tbsp. chicken broth or equal amount of bouillon 60 mL
- 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 3 carrots, sliced
- 2 chopped celery stalks
- 2 medium onions
- 1 / 2 c. flour 125 mL
- 4 c. milk 1 L
- 2 tbsp. butter 30 mL
- 2 10 oz (284 mL) cans of cream corn
- 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
- 1/2 tsp pepper 2 mL
- 1/4 tsp. paprika 1 mL
- seasoning salt to taste
Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet, add the chicken and broth and cook until no longer pink. Set aside.
Saute the potato, carrot, celery and onion in a soup or stock pot. When softened, add the chicken to the pot. Stir and add the flour, milk and butter. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Stir often. Once thick, add the cream corn and spices for flavour.
If you want a spicy kick, add about a tablespoon of sriracha sauce before serving and stir. Makes four servings. Add some water if the soup seems too thick. Garnish with bacon bits or shredded cheese if desired.
- 1 package of white angel food cake mix
- 1 c. finely crushed pecans 250 mL
Make the cake according to package instructions and then fold in crushed pecans and cut the batter with a knife. Bake in an angel food pan following box baking instructions.
This makes a huge batch of sauce, so you could half it if desired. I make the whole amount to have extra sauce to pour over top and garnish.
- 2 c. whipping cream 500 mL
- 2 c. brown sugar 500 mL
- 2 tbsp. butter 30 mL
In a saucepan, bring the whipping cream and sugar to a boil. Cook for five minutes on low, stirring constantly. Take off the heat and add butter. It will thicken as it cools.
As sauce is setting, cut the completely cooled cake into an equal half, or thirds if your cutting is precise and your knife is sharp. Let stand.
- 2 c. whipping cream 500 mL
- 2 tbsp. icing sugar 30 mL
In a mixing bowl, add the icing sugar to the whipping cream and beat on medium until stiff peaks form.
Separate the prepared cake layers. Drizzle each layer with sauce, whipped cream and crushed Skor bits. Once layers are stacked, ice with whipped cream and drizzle sauce over the top and sides. Sprinkle Skor bits over the top. Makes eight to 12 slices. Source: www.mennonitegirlscancook.ca
Nut free chocolate drops
- 3 1 / 2 c. rolled oats 875 mL
- 2 c. sugar 500 mL
- 1 / 2 c. milk 125 mL
- 1 / 2 c. butter or margarine 125 mL
- 1 / 2 c. cocoa 125 mL
- 1 dash of salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
Prepare a large baking sheet by placing wax paper over the top.
Measure oats into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
In a saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, butter, cocoa and salt. Heat to a boil, stirring often. When the top of the mixture is all bubbles, cook for five minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the hot ingredients into the large mixing bowl with the oats. Mix as quickly as possible, and once combined, drop by spoonfuls onto the wax paper. Cool and enjoy. Makes 25 cookies.
Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: email@example.com.