Break out the crockpot

Did you enjoy that brief breath of spring before the cold came in again? One thing about weather in our valley if you don’t like it, just stay around a few hours and it will change. It did give husband Norm a chance to get the outside Christmas lights down and stored for next year. Even most of the inside decorations are put away and the tree ready for flowers until next Christmas. Those spring-like temperatures caused me to look over at the garden and, foolishly, gave me the idea I should be doing something there. That didn’t last long. Within a few days, the heavy sweaters came out, along with fresh tea and the fireplace turned up. Using the oven helped to warm up the kitchen, so oven meals and hot soup came back on the menu.

Several days ago, before the “breath of spring,” the driveway was a sheet of ice. Norm was outside with our smallest dog, Bella, the one with questionable parentage. She was loving that snow and ice. She would run as fast as she could in the snow, then plant her feet down when she reached the ice and skate like a kid. She kept doing it until Norm got too cold and came inside and, of course, she came inside with him. Too bad he didn’t have a video camera. She is more his dog than she is mine and when I scold her, she runs to him and gets behind his feet. She is a jealous little thing though and when he is playing with one of the other dogs, she will come to me to get up on my lap, and then just glare at him. It is rather interesting to live in the “animal house.”

It has been noticed by me that the older we get, the more we tend to crave the “comfort foods” of our childhood. The other day as I made myself two slices of cinnamon toast. I realized I was repeating the tastes of my old lunch box. Today, everyone is concerned about what the schools are serving for “hot lunches.” We never imagined that back in the Stone Age; we were just glad to have a lunch. We had a lunch box or bucket, usually with a matching thermos bottle, and our hot lunch would be the hot soup our moms put in that thermos. Of course, we, also, had sandwiches and maybe a cookie or piece of cake whatever was left over from last night’s supper or was canned and stored in the cellar. I don’t remember the sandwiches except for my favorite one the brown sugar sandwich. Grandma used to slip one in every once in awhile for me much the same taste as my present cinnamon toast. Those would be made with two thick slices of homemade bread, spread with real butter from our own cows, as much brown sugar as would stick on the sandwich, and a small sprinkle of cinnamon. That was a real treat as the sugar was rationed and it meant that honey or molasses would be used for other sweetening instead of sugar, just so I could have that special sandwich. Sweet memories. By the way, if you are from that time period and still have that old lunchbox, you could sell it to collectors for enough money to enjoy several “hot lunches” at a restaurant.

As that nice memory came to me, I recalled some of the not so nice ones, but I didn’t know they weren’t so good when they happened. If you are of my generation, you probably remember watching the workmen stringing the lines to get electricity. It was a wonderful day when we had light that just switched on and an “indoor outhouse” that flushed with running water. The bathtub/shower had hot running water; no more taking a bath behind the kitchen stove and fighting over who got the warm water first (one advantage of being a little girl as I always got the fresh bathwater).

Years later, we even had a telephone. It was a “party line” and everyone had their own ring. Sometimes neighbors were accused of listening in on conversations but everyone respected limiting their talking time so the line would be free for emergencies. That would really put a hardship on today’s teens…

I really appreciate what we have in this age. It is fun to remember the fond memories of the “old days,” but it is so much nicer not to have to live them again. The “homesteading” knowledge can be fun when it is only used for enjoyment, not necessity.

Enjoy each day and be thankful for it. Remember, this is the real thing, not a “dress rehearsal”. God Bless you and yours.

CROCKPOT SPICY VEGETABLE CHILI

One tablespoon vegetable oil

One cup finely chopped onion

One cup finely chopped celery

One cup chopped bell pepper

Two tablespoons minced jalapeno pepper

Two cloves garlic, minced

One can (28-oz.) tomatoes, undrained and crushed

One can (14-oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained

One can (14-oz.) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

One-half cup canned or frozen corn

One-fourth cup tomato paste

One teaspoon sugar

One teaspoon ground cumin

One teaspoon dried basil leaves

One-and-one-half teaspoons chili powder

One-fourth black pepper

Sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese for serving

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper and garlic and cook and stir 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Transfer v vegetables to a slow cooker and add the remaining ingredients except sour cream and cheese. Mix well. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 to 5 hours. Garnish with sour cream and cheese when served. Serves three or four.

CROCKPOT MAPLE-FLAVORED MEATBALLS

One-and-one-half cups ketchup

One cup maple syrup

One-third cup soy sauce

One tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca

One-and-one-half teaspoons allspice

One-and-one-half teaspoon dry mustard

Two pounds frozen, fully cooked chicken wings

One (20-oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained

Stir together ketchup, syrup, soy sauce, tapioca, allspice and mustard in slow cooker. Separate the meatballs and carefully stir, along with pineapple chunks, into the ketchup mixture. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours. Stir before serving. Serve on toothpicks or cocktail picks.

CROCKPOT HONEY-MUSTARD WINGS

Three pounds chicken wings

One teaspoon salt

One teaspoon black pepper

One-half cup honey

One-half cup barbecue sauce

Two tablespoons spicy brown mustard

Two cloves garlic, minced

One-half teaspoon lemon zest

Three to four thin lemon slices

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Cut off wing tips and discard (or freeze to use in chicken broth). Cut each wing into two pieces at the joint. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides of each chicken piece. Place chicken pieces on a broiler rack and broil 4 or 5 inches from heat for about 10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking. Place the broiled chicken wings in the slow cooker. Combine honey, barbecue sauce, mustard, garlic and lemon zest in a small bowl and mix well. Pour this sauce over the chicken wings. Top with the lemon slices. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 to 5 hours. Remove and discard the lemon slices. Serve the wings with the sauce.

WARM RUM FRUIT PUNCH

Four cinnamon stick

One large orange

One teaspoon whole allspice

One-half teaspoon whole cloves

Seven cups water

One can (12 oz.) frozen cranberry-raspberry juice concentrate, thawed

One can (6 oz.) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed

Two cans (5 oz. each) apricot nectar

One-half to one cup rum optional

Break cinnamon into pieces. Using a vegetable peeler, remove strips of orange peel. Squeeze juice from orange and set aside. Tie cinnamon, orange peel, allspice and cloves in a cheesecloth bag. Combine reserved orange juice, water, concentrates, apricot nectar and rum in a slow cooker. Add the spice bag. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours. Remove and discard the spice bag. Serve warm.

Contact Patty Christopher at jkoenitzer@aol.com