Cook up a pot of warmth

Crock pots can be one of the best tools in the kitchen during the cold days of winter

January is soup time

January is soup time

The new year is off and running and I’m chasing it with vigor, albeit about a mile behind (two weeks).

This will be the year of many changes, as I’ve deemed it’s time to let go of what’s not working for me, of beliefs and habits that no longer serve me; of things and possessions that aren’t being used. For starters, we have a full storage container holding nothing we’d ever miss, and a garage that stores everything but my car! Nobody needs 45-year-old skis, VHS players or old electronics and bins of old footwear and clothing!

I’m embracing new goals and challenges and have a great need to unclutter and make room for retirement. I have started in my kitchen where I have countless gadgets I never use, and duplicates of things I seldom use, and so it goes. However, no one should be without a slow cooker. It can save so much time for busy people and in fact, I need another one for cooking for crowds so if someone out there wants to get rid of one, let me know.

Creamy Clam Chowder

6-8 pieces bacon, cut into small pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

1 rib celery, diced

2 (5 ounce) cans baby clams, with juice reserved

6 7 potatoes, cubed

2 (10 1/2 oz.) cans cream of celery soup

1 cup heavy cream or half & half

1 cup milk

3 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. dried dill weed

Add bacon to saucepan and cook on medium-low heat until crispy. Add onion and celery and cook until translucent.

Add clam juice from both cans. Add potatoes. Cover and cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Stir occasionally so potatoes won’t stick. Add soup, cream, milk and dill weed. Stir together.

Add butter and let melt into the chowder.

Cook about 35 minutes, then add clams and cook 10-15 minutes or until thickened. Stir occasionally.

Serving suggestion: freshly baked cheese biscuits Note: I like the baby clams minced.

Crockpot Creamy Chicken Stew

2 large boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 Tbsp. butter

1 medium onion, diced

4 small red potatoes, cut into quarters

1 cup carrots, chopped in 1-inch pieces

3/4 cup string beans or veggie of choice

1/2 cup celery, diced

1 (10 ¾ oz.) can cream of chicken soup

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream

1 (1 oz.) packet dry ranch dressing mix

Salt/pepper to taste

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

5 slices cooked, crumbled bacon to garnish the top (optional)

Melt butter on bottom of crockpot. Add all of the vegetables on top and stir to coat with the butter.

Salt/pepper the diced chicken as desired and add to crockpot. Mix together soup, milk, sour cream and ranch dressing mix. Pour on top of chicken. Cover crockpot and cook on high 3-4 hours or low 4-6.

Sprinkle with parsley and crumbled bacon and serve, preferably with biscuits.

Note: Stove-top instructions: Follow same instructions and just cook over medium heat in large pot; it will be ready in about 40 minutes! Stir it occasionally as it cooks just as delish!