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Your Winter Home - Warm, Cozy and Soothing

Another holiday season is behind us and the glisten of holiday decor is packed and stored for the year. Do you feel as though you packed away your inner sparkle, too? Does your home feel bare and devoid of warmth? Are you suffering from a case of the post-holiday blahs?

The trick to quick recovery from the holiday blues and embracing the chill and early darkness of winter is an easy home makeover – not the kind that requires a paint brush, hammer, and ladders, but the kind that transforms your home into a cozy retreat and renews the sparkle of your inner spirit. Think light, warmth, comfort, romance, and savory aromas wafting from your kitchen.

One of the things I love best about Christmas is the glow of tiny white lights on our tree, the mantle, the tops of china cabinets and bookcases, the stair railing, and the trees outside our window. It was always a shock to my system to remove the lights and pack them away after Christmas, so years ago I decided I would keep their sparkle, add a few decorative touches, and create a warm, romantic atmosphere throughout our home for the winter. It’s easy and inexpensive, and you can do it, too.

Create a nature-inspired arrangement for the top of a bookcase or china cabinet and add a string of tiny white lights. Use pine cones, pods, and dried flowers, silk leaves and greenery, and branches from your yard. As darkness falls each evening, plug in the lights and enjoy the warm, romantic glow they add to your room.

Soft, woven throws not only add color and a cozy atmosphere to a room, they’re handy on a cold afternoon. If the same accent pillows have been on your sofa since last summer, replace them with pillows in rich jewel colors. This simple change will make you feel wonderful! The flicker of scented candles in colors that complement your décor provide the sparkle so many of us crave after the holidays, and their scent can be very soothing. Light a fire in the hearth and relax in its glow and warmth, but if your fireplace doesn’t work, votive candles placed among the logs are beautiful on a winter evening.

Few things are as comforting to body and soul as tantalizing aromas from the oven or stovetop. The fragrance of hot gingerbread, a pork roast, beef stew, or apple pie can banish winter blues and make all right with the world. I’m happy to share my recipe for One-Pot Chicken White Chili, a quick and easy savory meal for a winter day. Add candlelight or a fire in the fireplace, and embrace those happy feelings!

One-Pot Chicken White Chili
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  Water
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, not drained
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, not drained
2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Place the chicken breasts in a stockpot with just enough water to cover them. Add onion, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a low boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, and skim any foam from the water’s surface. Cook 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and set it aside until it is cool enough to handle. Drain all but 1 ¼ cups of broth from the pot, reserving the excess broth for another use, and remove the peppercorns. To the broth, onions, and bay leaf remaining in the pot, add the beans and their liquid, the green chiles and their liquid, the cumin, red pepper flakes, and white pepper; stir to mix. Cover and cook over medium-low heat 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and the chili has thickened somewhat. Remove the bay leaf.

Divide the chicken meat into bite-size strips and add it to the chili mixture. Stir gently and cook 5 minutes more until the chicken is hot. Spoon into bowls and top the chili with cheese, if desired.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings