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Spice of life: Time to slow down, recharge


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Hot lemonade offers a winter take on a summertime favorite.
SUBMITTED PHOTO
Hot lemonade offers a winter take on a summertime favorite. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Slow-cooked hot chocolate is a delicious way to warm up on a cold winter day.
SUBMITTED PHOTO
Slow-cooked hot chocolate is a delicious way to warm up on a cold winter day. SUBMITTED PHOTO


My kids know things are about to get real when I have all of my Crock-Pots on the countertops and ready to use, when I get out all of my big guns, so to speak.

I seem to know when things may get bumpy because all I seem to shop for are ingredients for our favorite slow-cooked recipes. A need for comfort? The sense of ease at dinner time? Who knows, but I like it.

In typical fashion, I have once again scheduled myself to the hilt. Thanks to the calendar on my smartphone, I can now schedule every last minute of my life with reminders of both verbal and melodic varieties. A tone when it is time to wake up, when it is time to leave and time to have lunch. This is what my world has come to.

It’s my fault really. Like many young business owners I am afraid what is here one day may not be here the next, so I try to squeeze every last drop of time out of the 24 hours I am given each day. Strike while the iron is hot, don’t let grass grow under my feet, you know how that goes.

I have not touched the time when I am with my kids, in their “awake” time. But the rest has become a series of phone conferences, deadlines, revisions, typing and cooking. I knew it would all come to a halt, and over the past few weeks it happened.

I became so rundown and tired I had to cancel almost every commitment I had and pare down my priorities to caring for my kids, working and spending more time at home. For two solid weeks I did just that, and it was more than enough time to recharge and refocus on my priorities.

While I was nesting, which is what it felt like, I made so many great things to eat. My kids would walk into the house with that look I hadn’t had a chance to notice in a while. That look after they smelled something they loved to eat baking away in the oven or on top of the stove. Cookies, potato soup, black and bleu burgers — you name it and we had it.

I spent a little time cooking my way through another Gooseberry Patch cookbook called “Slow Cooking All Year Round,” and when all was said and done I made 15 pretty fantastic meals. I even made a few desserts like pumpkin pie and molten lava chocolate cake — all in the slow cooker.

So, in the name of slowing down and moving at a slower pace, I am sharing a few unique recipes from that cookbook today. They are both drink recipes, which I never think of doing in a slow cooker, with the exception of warm wine. That’s not very family-friendly.

The first is for Hot Lemonade, a soothing drink that is perfect if you are fighting a cold or suffering from a sore throat. My kids really liked it, too. Next time I will back off of the sugar and lemon juice a bit, but if you like traditionally sweet lemonade, then the proportions will work for you. Throw a few cinnamon sticks in there, and you will be set.

The other is The Best Ever Hot Cocoa. The name says it all as it was probably one of the best I have had in a while. My oldest son, the hot chocolate expert, gave it his seal of approval, too. I used dark chocolate chips for this because that’s what we all preferred, but the recipe calls for milk chocolate. Use what you like.

Make sure to whisk every 15 minutes or so and turn the heat down after 2 hours. The day I made this, the temperature never got past 9 degrees; so it was great timing. I set out a few toppings and cute mugs, and we made an event of it.

BEST EVER HOT COCOA

Ingredients

1½ cups of whipping cream

14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

2 cups of milk chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chips)

6 cups of milk

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low setting for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Ladle into mugs, serve warm.

Serves 8-10

HOT LEMONADE

Ingredients

4 cups of water

juice of 14 lemons or 3 cups of lemon juice

2 cups of sugar (or less if you want it less sweet)

¼ cup of honey

Garnish: cinnamon sticks

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.

Whisk well.

Ladle into mugs, serve with cinnamon sticks.

Makes 9 servings.

Heather Tallman lives in the Center Grove area and writes the cooking blog Basilmomma.

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