Shorter days and longer nights can really take a toll on your weeknight momentum. While summer months are filled with after-work hikes and 9 p.m. barbeques, the winter season makes us want to curl up in front of a fire with a bowl of soup and a good book.
Even if we generate enough after-work energy to skin up Snow King, stop by a yoga class or clock some miles on the gym treadmill, I’d be surprised if you then felt like cooking up a feast and checking off items on your to-do list. Winter darkness simply zaps energy — an entirely unhelpful trait of the winter season, especially at a time of year where shopping, wrapping, baking, knitting and decking the halls are all par for the course.
I’d like to now introduce you to your new best friend — the slow cooker. Personally, I’d never realized the potential of this kitchen workhorse, placing it in the category of the rarely used kitchen items: the apple corer, garlic press, avocado slicer, crepe pan, potato ricer … all helpful, but unnecessary.
I was wrong. Power up that puppy in the morning before you hit the slopes or your office chair and come home to warm food and time saved, and if you plan wisely, leftovers.
Recipe: My Favorite Chili
- 1 pound ground meat of your choice
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1, 16-ounce can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
- 1/8 cup chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (depends on spice tolerance here)
- 1 can kidney, pinto or black beans
- 1 large sweet potato, cubed
- 1 cup of frozen or fresh corn
- 1 can or bottle of dark, flavorful beer
- 2 tablespoons or so of the following spice mixture (I keep this pre-made in jars at home), or more to taste:
- 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder**
- 1 tablespoon pasilla chile powder **
- Heaping 1/4 teaspoon chile de arbol **
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- **if you don’t have a medley of chile powders, just use what you have
- In the morning or the night before, chop the onions, sweet potato and garlic. Add some olive oil to a pan and sauté the above with the meat until aromatic and the meat is beginning to brown.
- Add the meat and veggie mixture to your slow cooker, add the beans, corn, beer, tomatoes, chipotles, spice mixture and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Stir and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
- Serve with your choice of toppings: cornbread, tortilla chips, chopped scallions, grated cheddar cheese, or sour cream.