This Saturday is Groundhog Day, when we supposedly learn from a socially inept rodent if winter will endure or spring will force its way through. It's not a holiday, but rather just a day to consider the season. Personally, I think it's simply an excuse to justify either side of the argument - some of us are like the bears who hunker down to hibernate for the full extent of winter, and others are itchy to see green shoots and feel a warm sun. If you are feeling restless or maybe a bit stiff and bored, here are some foodie ideas to survive the season...
Full disclosure here, folks - I have to tell you that my secret to surviving winter is a fitness program. As a gourmand I will admit that a good part of my motivation to stay in shape has to do with being able to eat those rich, delicious comfort foods of winter and not end up feeling like a big old bear. I also want to make sure that I am around for a long time so I can enjoy more great tastes. So take a bit of time to walk, run, snowshoe, go to the gym, swim or do whatever you find fun. You can share the stories of your adventures around the table with friends.
Okay, so how about one of these ideas?
- Host a fondue - it can be cheese, or chocolate, or even a broth fondue if you want something a bit lighter. Communal food is always a fun way to bring people together. Add some extra entertainment by creating a rule that anyone who loses their morsel in the pot has to tell a joke or do a trick.
- Make weekend brunch - easy dishes like a "strata" (a savoury bread pudding) can be made the night before and left in the fridge to soak. Even home-baked quick breads (banana loaf, scones, muffins) and a bit of fruit salad is a great way to start the day. Kids can help with this meal too. (Maybe it follows a morning stroll or precedes an afternoon trip to the toboggan hill...)
- Bring snacks to the office - they say that having a candy dish at your desk increases your odds for promotion. Imagine what it could do if you brought homemade cookies or squares! Rice Krispie squares will do it, especially if you add chocolate chips or dried cranberries and coconut, or go for broke and try my S'mores bars.
- Start a pizza night - like I said, communal food is fun. Gather a group and have everyone pitch in to chop, grate and prepare pizzas. Get creative with toppings. Pizza dough is simple enough, but if you want to be even quicker, use bread or tortillas or pita bread as a base. The secret to great pizza is heat - if you use a stone, make sure it's hot. Don't have a pizza stone? Try a preheated cast iron pan. Just remember those oven mitts!
- Potluck without the pasta salad - send out your invites with a theme, and if your guests are busy folks or they don't cook much, take the pressure off and let them do an appetizer or tapas dish, like _____. Lots of small tastes can make a meal, sometimes even better than a bunch of stews :)
Whatever you do, indulge. Savour the tastes and be adventurous. Have dessert. (Chocolate is full of antioxidants, it's good for your health.) The calories you ingest from a treat are largely nullified by the resulting boost in your spirits that comes from enjoying good food.
Don't get the heebee jeebies like Bill Murray did in his Groundhog Day movie, doing the same thing over and over again. Savour a number of experiences, but keep them unique so that you can enjoy every one. It will make the long winter nights pass more quickly, and before you know it those green shoots will be sprouting and the party can move outside.