By Mary Heyl
The post-holiday slump combined with subzero temperatures can make the first couple weeks of January feel almost unbearable! Even if it’s too cold to spend the day on the slopes, there are still lots of ways to have fun on a chilly winter day. Enjoy some homemade fun and homemade food—just perfect for a cozy weekend at home.
The crunchy, cold snow is perfect for snowman building, and the freezing temperatures will allow you to work on your snowman bit by bit, even if it’s 30 minutes or an hour at a time. If you want to make a snowman that will maintain its roly poly shape for weeks to come, there are a few tricks that will preserve your hard work:
First, be sure to choose a place in the yard that is shaded, as the sun can make quick work of a snowman, even on a cold day. If the snow seems too dry to pack together, bring a full spray bottle or a watering can outside with you and spray a mist over the snow you plan to use to help it stay together. After rolling your snowman and stacking his body parts together, pack extra snow where each of the snowballs meet. Use the spray bottle to mist the whole snowman, which will create a thin layer of ice to keep him from melting.
Raid the fridge for some facial features: a carrot for the nose, a couple of tomato slices for the eyes—use your imagination! Old dried out houseplants are perfect to use for a snowman’s (or snowwoman’s) hair. For a snowman that is visible even at night, use reflectors or solar-powered LEDs for the eyes, mouth and buttons. Fill a couple of small spray bottles with a mixture of food coloring and water to give him a tie-dye look. Or, if zombies are more your style, fill a spray bottle with red food coloring for a bloody effect. Last but not least, be sure to take lots of pictures before old Frosty melts away!
After an hour or so outside, why not warm up with a nice, hot bowl of Chunky Tomato-Red Pepper Soup, with grilled cheese croutons. If shedding a few pounds is one of your New Year’s resolutions, this soup is a win-win: the rich flavor is satisfying, and the grilled cheese croutons give you just a taste of the classic comfort food, without the extra calories of a whole sandwich.
To make, sauté 2 diced medium red bell peppers and 1 diced medium sweet onion in a large Dutch oven in 2 tablespoons of melted butter over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes (or until golden and tender). Stir in 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Stir in 1 can of whole peeled plum tomatoes with basil, 1 ½ cups of vegetable broth, 1 teaspoon of sugar, ½ tablespoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper.
Crush the tomatoes into chunks with the back of a spoon. Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup of heavy cream and 1/3 cup of chopped fresh basil. Season with salt and pepper.
To make the grilled cheese croutons, rub four slices of toasted multigrain sourdough bread with 1 clove of garlic. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet; sprinkle with 1 ¼ cup of shredded white cheddar cheese. Broil for 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden. Let stand for 1 minute; cut into 1 ½-inch pieces. Garnish the bowls of soup with your fresh croutons and enjoy!