Friday, January 31, 2014

Slow cooker sausage and potatoes, and January.

Last week, in the check-out line at Trader Joe's, the guy bagging my groceries said casually, "Kind of cold out there, huh?"

"It's a little bit chilly," I joked.

"What's your favorite hot beverage?" the cashier asked.

"Whiskey," I replied. "Warms you from the inside out." We all laughed, and they finished ringing up my order and packaging my items, and I smiled as I wheeled my cart out of the store and into the cold, gray, slushy, frigid parking lot.


Typically, small talk about the weather is just that -- small talk about the weather. A surface conversation that gets us through those awkward silences. Something to chat about while we wait for the elevator to reach the top floor, or wait for other coworkers to arrive at the meeting, or wait for our groceries to be bagged. But when you're in the Chicagoland area, and it's January 2014, small talk about the weather becomes something much more. It's a small connection that tells the other person, "Hey. This sucks. And we're all fighting through it together."


Because it's really easy to feel sad and alone and frustrated when you're shoveling snow in the dark, in the freezing wind, and Tom Skilling keeps telling you that there's no end in sight. When you have to pull on three layers of clothes and heavy-duty boots just to get a few chicken thighs from the garage freezer. And when your 9-5 makes it so that enjoying natural light is only a weekend thing, and only when the sun actually decides to shine.


Knowing there's an entire city and its surrounding suburbs of people that are feeling exactly the same way makes it not as bad. Don't get me wrong, it's still really bad. But at this point, I'll take what I can get.


So this arctic chill we're experiencing in my neck of the woods explains why all my photos from January feature dark corners of my home, daily routines, familiar foods like eggs and tacos that keep us chugging along. That's what my January has been about, mostly -- taking one day at a time, and trying to find comfort in everything, even things as simple as humming along to happy music while cooking dinner or joking about the weather with strangers in the check-out line.

I hope you're staying warm, wherever you are!


Slow Cooker Sausage and Potatoes (adapted from Real Simple)
The original recipe is called a sausage and kale stew, but Murdo's not into kale, so I subbed those greens for green peppers. The spinach you see in that photo is some frozen spinach I heated in the microwave and added to my bowl. I also skipped the mashed potatoes from the original recipe and used small gold potatoes, served whole. 

This is my favorite kind of slow cooker recipe, because everything can be prepped the night before and thrown into the slow cooker the next morning.

1 lb Italian sausage links (sweet or spicy), casings removed and broken into large chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6-8 small Yukon Gold or red potatoes
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
dried oregano
crushed red pepper flakes

Combine all of the ingredients in the slow cooker with 1 cup of water (less if you don't want it too thin), making sure to nestle the potatoes as deep as possible so they're not just sitting on the top.


Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve with cooked spinach or kale.

2 comments:

  1. Nobody makes dark corners and a life low in natural light looks as pretty as you do. ps even from eight hours south, I am commiserating with you. It's not the same, but it's something. Big hug!

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    1. Thank you! Whenever I tell Murdo we should move someplace warm, he tells me our winters help us appreciate the warmer weather even more. To which I reply, I've experienced enough Chicago winters to never NOT appreciate warmer weather! Ha!

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