In South Louisiana we experience quite a few sunny days in the winter, however, January and February are still usually pretty dreary. Pair the weather with less daylight and post-holiday blues, and these months aren’t usually my favorite (until Mardi Gras, of course!). However, this year, I’ve decided to take advantage of a slower winter pace and give myself some room to rest. I’ve recently been interested in learning how to create cozy spaces in my home and a mindset that leans into hibernating in the colder months. In addition to twinkle lights and candles, I’m going to try to cook low key meals so I can enjoy those last daylight hours outside with the kids as well as have less clean up after dinner for some quality refreshment time, which for me is usually reading or taking a hot bath.
Easy meals allow me to spend more time outside with the kiddos in the late afternoon. I love going outside during this time of day because that can often help ease the overwhelm of the witching hour. Here are a couple of my go-to low key or no-cook dinners:
Italian Pot Roast
The best part about pot roast is that after browning the meat, you literally just dump everything into the crockpot and forget about it. This recipe has you adding white beans at the end. You can also serve this over noodles and top with parmesan cheese. It’s a hit in our family!
Sheet pan nachos
I basically always have chips, shredded cheese, beans, and salsa in our house. Add some rotisserie chicken, sliced onion, jalapeños on the adults’ side and you’re good to go! I love this meal because for kiddos you can adapt certain corners of the pan. One of my kids doesn’t want cheese (I know) and the other doesn’t want beans. No problem! It takes minimal time to throw together and is always good slathered in sour cream or guacamole.
Change Your Life Chicken
If you haven’t made this recipe, it can look a tiny bit scary because you’re pulling back chicken skin and cooking things at 500 degrees. But TRUST ME, it couldn’t be easier and it’s an absolute home run at our house every time. I actually timed myself while making this recently and the prep took six minutes! You do have to remember to get it in the oven an hour before eating, but once in the oven you can forget about it and go out in the backyard. I recommend adding shishito peppers or whole jalapeños to the pan for the adults!
Spaghetti Squash Casserole
Ok, I’ll admit that the cauliflower sauce you’re making here is a bit intensive. However, you can totally do it ahead of time. I was uncertain of how my kiddos would respond to this meal, but they absolutely devoured it which made me happy because of the loads of veggies in it. The leftovers reheat perfectly!
Costco Street Taco Kit
So yummy and you’re just warming things up! My toddler tried to drink the green sauce that comes with it.
I wrote about my favorite soups and stews here. I love making a double recipe and eating the leftovers throughout the week.
With fewer dishes to do after dinner, you have time (in theory!!) to relax. As mentioned, I love to read, either in bed or in the bath. If you don’t already have one, my sister got me one of these bath caddies for my birthday and it’s elevated my bathing experience. Add in a bath pillow and you’ve basically got a spa experience. I also enjoy my heated shoulder wrap and a cup of my favorite tea. Both help me relax and get to sleep more quickly.
For my winter reading, I want books with stories that I can completely immerse myself in. Here are a few on my to-be-read pile.
- West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge—this is our January pick for book club, inspired by true events of two giraffes being transported across the Atlantic to the San Diego zoo.
- Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan—a fictional account of how C.S. Lewis came up with the story of Narnia. It looks truly magical.
- Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristen Neff—a therapist friend of mine recommended this and I’m really enjoying listening to it on audio as the narrator has a really soothing voice. She also shares honestly from her own life struggles which is really refreshing and helpful.
- I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman—I loved The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by the same author and this novel about a mother-daughter duo looks delightful.
Here’s to embracing the slower pace of winter and enjoying some time to purposefully slow down.