The northern and southern hemispheres have been experiencing a unique meteorological phenomenon the past few weeks and it’s what experts call “polar vortex.”
We’ve got our share of the chilly weather here in the Philippines, too. It’s no polar vortex, but it’s definitely colder than the tropical climate we’re used to. There are times that it’s even chillier to take a walk outside that to stay inside an office with airconditioning. I personally am donning a cardigan inside the house at 12 noon. It’s that cold.
Since winter’s about to leave to make room for spring, here are a few activities and recipes to help you make the most of what’s left of winter.
Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow
Strap on your snow boots and zip up your parka! Take the kids out for an afternoon (or morning) of “snow-tivities” (that’s snow + activities, in case you’re wondering). Let your little ones experience and enjoy the abundant snow—make snow angels, snow men (and women, or even snow animals), build a fort and have a snow ball fight. You can even take your kids sledding! All you need is flat piece of plastic big enough to cover their bum, a well-padded winter attire, lots of snow free of rubble, and you’re good to go.
This is also a great time to get ready for the holidays. Yep, you read that right. Gather the family in your most adorable winter attire and strike a pose for your Christmas cards and greetings.
You can also turn ordinary and otherwise mundane winter chores into something fun and incredibly informative by trying out these two experiments from LiveScience that require—what else—snow!
You can try freezing bubbles by basically blowing bubbles outdoors when the temperature is around 9-12 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly -11 degrees Celsius). Make sure that you blow the bubbles high up so they’d have time to freeze while they’re floating in midair.
Mom, dad, and kiddos alike will enjoy this next experiment. You just need to inflate a balloon indoors (make sure no air is escaping from the balloon) and when you take it outside, it’ll slowly deflate; then watch it re-inflate once you bring it back inside the house where it’s warm. This is a good experiment to teach gas volumes and interaction.
Don’t forget that there are also tons activities that you can do indoors in the warmth of your electric blanket and fireplace, like game nights, movie marathon, and cooking sessions.
Recipes to Warm the Heart (and Tummy)
After a day of snowy fun, bellies will be grumbling for sure. And what better way to ease those aching muscles and rumbling tummy than to serve a hearty meal that’s easy and quick to prepare.
Here’s a simple yet zingy winter salad courtesy of FineCooking.com.
Spicy Carrot Ribbon Salad
1 lb. medium carrots (about 5)
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Peel the carrots and shave them with the vegetable peeler into long, thin ribbons; you’ll have about 4 cups. In a medium bowl, toss the carrots with 1 Tbs. of the lime juice and 1/4 tsp. salt and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the onion with the remaining 1 Tbs. lime juice, the coriander seeds, pepper flakes, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Let sit for 10 minutes then add to the carrots along with the parsley. Toss to combine, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced carrot
1 cup sliced celery
1/2 chopped red bell pepper
1 3/4 cups solid pack pumpkin
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/4 cups hominy
1/2 cup sour cream ( I prefer fat free)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro ( Parsley may be substituted)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper ( I prefer freshly ground)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg ( I promise this is good)
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken, onion and carrot; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Add celery and bell pepper; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in pumpkin, broth, hominy, sour cream, cilantro, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, and nutmeg. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until flavors are blended. This recipe will feed about 6 to 8 people.
Of course a hearty meal wouldn’t be complete without a sweet ending. Here’s a classic dessert with a twist courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens and Yahoo! Australia.
Blushing Bread and Butter Pudding
Olive oil cooking spray, for greasing
1 loaf day-old white bread, thickly sliced
100g unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp cinnamon sugar
500g stewed rhubarb
600ml pouring cream
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
Zest of 1 orange
Icing sugar (optional)
Ice-cream, to serve
For the Stewed rhubarb:
2 bunches rhubarb, trimmed, washed
300g caster sugar (plus extra, if required)
For the pudding, preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 24 x 15cm casserole dish with oil spray. Cut crusts off bread and cut into triangles. Spread both sides of each with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Put rhubarb in prepared dish. Whisk eggs, cream, caster sugar, vanilla and zest in a large bowl. Dip bread into mixture, layer on top of rhubarb, then pour over remaining custard. Bake for 45 minutes or until just set. Set aside for 5 minutes. Dust with icing sugar, if you like, and serve with ice-cream.
To give it a little kick, don’t forget the stewed rhubarb! Cut rhubarb stalks into 3cm lengths. Weigh sliced rhubarb. For every kilo of rhubarb, you need 300g caster sugar, so adjust sugar as needed. Combine rhubarb and sugar in a large saucepan and set aside for 10 minutes. Put pan over a low heat and cook, stirring regularly, for 40 minutes, or until rhubarb is a deep red colour and sauce is thick.
Enjoy what’s left of winter!