Cold Weather Coping Mechanism

Ohio sunshine in November is deceiving.  You expect to walk out into it and be blanketed in its warmth and have your face flushed with its toasty rays.  But you are always surprised when it's not warm, and even the splashes of sun can't cut through the windy chill.  A light sweater doesn't provide enough barrier to block the chill from hitting your skin, and you realize that you must wear a jacket or more layers to keep yourself warm. 

For me, it's always hard adjusting to the falling temperatures.  We experience such distinct seasons in Ohio that I am just getting used to summer when fall starts pushing the warm weather out.  There is never enough time to truly get comfortable with one season before you have to swap out your dresser drawers for a more weather-appropriate wardrobe. 

I try to ignore the changing weather for a while.  This morning I decided to leave my warmer sweater in the car and walk the half block to my office without it.  It wasn't so bad the first 30 feet or so, and then I found myself in a self-hug position, trying to shield my self from the cold air with my arms.  Tomorrow, if the cold temperature remains, the sweater is coming with me!

Heating myself up from the inside out is really the only solution I can reasonably come up with for coping with the cold.  Hot tea becomes my new best friend, replacing her iced cousin.  The amount of hot tea that I've imbibed during just the few short weeks of cold temperatures is enough for most people to be worried about staining their teeth.  However, I have been blessed with perpetual white teeth (thankfully) and drink my tea with reckless abandon.

Tim has found his own way of staying warm.  Spicy foods--and the spicier the better.  A few days ago we ordered some Dewey's pizza, and before I even handed Tim his plate I went ahead and sprinkled his slices generously with red pepper flakes.  I knew if I didn't he would do it himself.  And it isn't uncommon for Tim to put red pepper flakes AND sriracha on his pizza simultaneously.  I often wonder how his taste buds have fared with all of this intense spiciness but he assures me that they are all in good working order. 

This cold weather coping mechanism is not unfamiliar to me as my dad was known to eat hot wings so hot (how hot were they?) that he would wipe sweat from his brow between bites.  So maybe it's a man-thing, or maybe it's just a men-in-my-life thing, or maybe a men-in-my-life-during-cold-weather thing, but no matter why, it has increased the spicy factor in our food as of late. 

If you are also a lover of warm, spicy, comforting foods, you should definitely try upping the spiciness of vegetarian chili, home-made stir-fry, and this incredibly easy Coconut Thai Curry (all of which I thought were plenty spicy as I've adapted, but Tim added extra sriracha to his for added heat).

Coconut Thai Curry
adapted from Everyday Food Magazine
serves 4

I was able to find coconut milk very easily in the international aisle or the "mixed drink" aisle of the grocery store.  You can buy it in a 13.5 ounce can.  Also, consider adding broccoli or carrots when you add the cauliflower and potato.  Or toss in some peas or cashews when you add the chickpeas.  The possibilities are endless with this curry. 

Ingredients for the rice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 cup jasmine rice
salt & pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and ground mustard and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring until onion is soft.  Stir in rice.  Add 1.5 cups water, season with salt & pepper, and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce to a simmer; cook until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.  Fluff with fork before serving.

Ingredients for the curry
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp red curry paste
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tbsp spicy chili garlic sauce (or more for extra spiciness)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets (about 2.5 cups)
salt & pepper
1 can chickpeas (15.5 ounces), rinsed and drained
optional--fresh cilantro for serving

At the same time as making the rice, in a Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring until soft about 3 minutes.  Add curry paste and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in coconut milk, spicy chili garlic sauce, and 1 cup water and bring to a boil.  Add sweet potato and cauliflower, season with salt & pepper, and reduce heat to medium.  Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, between 10 and 15 minutes. 

Stir chickpeas into curry and increase heat to high.  Simmer rapidly until liquid reduces slightly, about 2 minutes. 

Serve curry over rice with cilantro.


  1. this sounds like a recipe I would LOVE! And I agree, I've been ignoring the signs of fall for awhile and finally broke down and bought a coat last weekend. Boo!

  2. wow, Jen! this sounds and looks fabulous (great picture too)! i am definitely going to try this soon, as you know i love curry and all things veggie. i'm so impressed with your recipes. i love them! thanks for posting.

  3. Great recipe. I love spicy food and love curried spices. Coconut milk is a lovely way to balance the heat. And yes, you're right, chickpeas and squash must be very in. :)

  4. Wonderful, thoughtful post, and I'll have to try the curry sometime. I often find myself completely lost with curries, and I appreciated your clear instructions.

    I've always thought it fortunate that the weather that is most challenging to the psyche is also the weather that permits us to cook the most comforting food, stews, braises, thick soups, it just works.

  5. Thanks everyone. I do hope you give it a try! I've made it again since I wrote this and tried some different vegetables and it was still just as good.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!