How to ____ in the winter

Minnesota winters are often among the coldest in the country. This year’s winter, however, has really outdone itself. This is my seventh winter in Minnesota and by far the worst. Schools have been cancelled five times (often on government order) due to extreme temperatures, and there were 36 consecutive days where Minneapolites woke up to sub-zero temps. I’ve managed to still keep biking on some days when it’s above zero, but those days have been few and far between. What’s worse, we’re now into March and spring seems far from around the corner.

Having such a prolonged and extremely frigid winter has been a challenge to several typically-enjoyed activities. How can we Minnesotans keep up when it looks like this outside?!

IMG_3162 IMG_3155 IMG_3160

How to exercise in the winter

I have run less this winter since any time since I started running (about six years ago). Normally, I continue to run outside a few days a week during the winter and head inside to the gym for the occasional treadmill run on an especially cold day. This winter, however, I have only run outside once since December! I’ve been logging a few miles on the treadmill, but it’s also started to feel a little too much like the dreadmill…

The solution? Find new activities! Fortunately, introductory free weeks to fitness facilities abound, and I recently tried out an awesome gym called The Shed Fitness in Uptown (I know, it just sounds hardcore, right?!). The Shed offers a variety of classes including spin, circuit training, body pump, TRX, and yoga sculpt. I tried five classes during my intro week, and I definitely hope to go back for more!

IMG_3156 IMG_3158 IMG_3159

How to stay busy inside in the winter

Normally, if I’m not at work or another scheduled activity, I like to spend a lot of time outside – walking, exploring, biking, visiting friends, etc. The severity of this winter has meant a lot more time cooped up indoors in my apartment, needing to fill long periods of time. The best solution I’ve found is to do more cooking! Plus, the extra time means I can put more effort into elaborate recipes and dishes that require extra prep time. Some favorites from the last couple weeks include:

homemade ice cream

IMG_3152IMG_3153

roasted kabocha squash

IMG_3154

chickpea and red pepper soup with quinoa (recipe from Women’s Day magazine)

IMG_3111

and chilean squash (from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook)

IMG_3184 IMG_3186 IMG_3188 IMG_3190

How to smile big in the winter

It’s no secret that weather is a large determinant of mood for many people. I’ve never considered myself to be highly impacted in this regard, but there have definitely been a few times where I feel a bit down or blue and think sunshine sure would help! In this long winter abyss, it’s been nice to take special notice of ‘the little things’ and to make an effort to do something fun/goofy every day.

feeling positive after finding this note stuck to a bathroom mirror

IMG_3193

enjoying an impromtu photo shoot

IMG_3089

Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Dandelion Greens Soup

My weekly trip to the Wedge Coop last weekend resulted in me coming home with several large sweet potatoes and a humongous bunch of dandelion greens. Now, nearly a week later, I still have both of those items in bulk. What to do? After flipping through a few cookbooks, the Gypsy Soup recipe in Moosewood caught my eye. The original recipe calls for sweet potato, tomato, onion, and green peppers, but Mollie Katzen says in her recipe notes that any orange and green vegetables will work. So, I modified the recipe heavily and made my own….

Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Dandelion Greens Soup *full recipe below

To start, I chopped up three stalks celery and two sweet potatoes and added them to a large pot with a little bit of olive oil:

IMG_2519 IMG_2520

I didn’t think they were cooking much since they were piled so high, so I added a little bit of water in the pot and let steam for about 5 minutes. After a few minutes, I added three cups water along with paprika, turmeric, basil, cinnamon, cayenne, a bay leaf, and some soy sauce:

IMG_2521

After simmering for about 15 minutes…

IMG_2527

I added a half bunch of roughly chopped dandelion greens:

IMG_2522 IMG_2528

I simmered for another 10 minutes and then added some leftover cooked chicken. I used one wing, one breast, and three legs, but you could use whatever you have on hand!

IMG_2530

As soon as I added the chicken, I turned the heat off, stirred to combine, and left in the pot to heat through:

IMG_2531

I had the soup for lunch with a cheesy tortilla. I wasn’t familiar with dandelion greens before making this, and they were a little bitter – perhaps a sweeter green, like spinach, would be a bit better. Nonetheless, the soup was delicious with a good spice level. Plus, anything with sweet potatoes is fine by me.

Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Dandelion Greens Soup, serves 4
Ingredients
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 3 stalks celery
- 1 tbsp oil
- 3 cups water
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- pinch cinnamon
- pinch cayenne
- half bunch dandelion greens (approximately 5 cups)
- leftover chicken (approx. three cups or whatever you have)
Method
1. Chop sweet potatoes and celery and heat in large soup pot with oil 
for approximately 5 minutes. Add a bit of water depending on size of 
the pot.
2. Add 3 cups water and spices and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
3. Add dandelion greens and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
4. Add chicken (shred or chop, according to preference), stir, and turn 
off the heat. Let sit until chicken heats through.

And…since I was in the kitchen I also made a batch of Tina‘s no-bake Almond Joy Cookies. I haven’t had one yet, but they look good!

IMG_2532

Veggie Lasagna

Although I generally cook from a combination of websites and my own imagination, there is one cookbook author who I have a particular affinity for: Mollie Katzen.

Yes, she is one of the only Mollie’s I know (okay…’know’) who share my spelling.
Yes, I may have fantasized that the spelling of my name was inspired by her Moosewood cookbook – a classic in my house.
Yes, her recipe for mint chocolate chip cookies in Still Life With Menu is my favorite cookie recipe of all time.
So, OF COURSE YES, when I was looking for a vegetable lasagna recipe to make this week she was my first stop.

I found this version online from Mollie’s Moosewood Restaurant’s Low Fat Favorites. The lasagna turned out delicious. I made a few simple adjustments to the original recipe as posted online.*full recipe below

First, chop 2 cups zucchini, 1 cup tomato, 1 cup red bell pepper, and 4 cups mushrooms:

IMG_1886 IMG_1887

Combine in a pot with about 1/2 cup water and cook until the vegetables are tender and reduce down a bit:

IMG_1888 IMG_1891

Remove the vegetables (leaving any leftover water behind) and stir together with 3 tablespoons of freshly chopped basil:

IMG_1889 IMG_1890

Then, cook 5 oz. spinach in about 1/4 cup water just until the spinach starts to wilt (don’t let it get too wilted – you still need to chop it!):

IMG_1892

Remove the spinach from the pot, coursely chop, and add to a separate bowl:

IMG_1893

Add 1 cup shredded mozzarella, 2 cups cottage cheese, and 1/4 cup shredded parmigiano cheese to the spinach and stir to combine:

IMG_1894 IMG_1895

Now, it’s time for the layering! First, a layer of tomato sauce (I used canned):

IMG_1896 IMG_1898

Then, a layer of noodles and veggies:

IMG_1899

Then the cheese:

IMG_1900

Continue in this fashion until all of the ingredients are used up and then top with some more shredded mozzarella and parmigiano:

IMG_1901

Bake at 350° for 60 minutes, covered, until melty and delicious!

Vegetable Lasagna
Ingredients

– 2 cups cubed zucchini
– 1 cup chopped red pepper
– 1 cup chopped tomato
– 4 cups chopped mushrooms
– 3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
– 5 oz. spinach
– 1 cups shredded mozzarella (plus more for finish)
– 2 cups 1% cottage cheese
– 1/4 cup shredded parmigiano (plus more for finish)
– 8 oz whole wheat lasagna noodles
– 2 cans organic no-salt added tomato sauce
Method
– Combine zucchini, red pepper, tomato, and mushrooms in a pot with 1/2 cup water. Cook until

vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes).
– Transfer vegetables to a large bowl (leaving extra water behind), and mix with basil.
– Cook spinach with 1/4 cup water until it just starts to wilt. Coarsely chop the spinach and combine with cheeses.
– Layer tomato sauce, noodles, veggies, and cheese (in that order) until all ingredients are used. I preheated my oven to 350° when I started to layer.
– Finish with some shredded mozzarella and parmigiano and cook, covered, for 60 minutes at 350°.