Detroit in spring is pretty and resurgent; Detroit in fall is brisk and energetic; Detroit in summer is lush and quite possibly the best city in the world. But winter, quite frankly, sucks — and even more so this year, when staying home is a lonely mandate rather than a cozy retreat.
So if you spend every January planning to move to California, this is for you. If grey skies feel more like a state of mind than a weather event, this is for you. If you answered “meh” the last time someone asked how you’re doing, this is definitely for you. If you “actually really love winter,” this might not be for you — but we’d love to know your secret.
Here at Detour, we’ve been dreading this winter since July, and the early nightfall and limited socializing is seriously wearing us down. Of course there’s plenty one can do in the city — but it can still be a struggle to find the curiosity, good spirits and motivation to turn off Netflix and break out of our pandemic routines.
So we’re throwing down a challenge to ourselves, and to you: to do something every day that brings a little joy to ourselves or others, makes life a little better or at least distracts us for a few minutes. And maybe when we look back at this time — safe in a post-COVID future — it won’t just be a grey blank.
So, join us! For the next two months, we’ll be updating this guide with ideas for things to do, try and occasionally buy to improve your winter outlook and help you survive until spring. Forecast: overcast, with brighter days ahead. #letsdetourwinter together — at least the worst of it.
Take one of our recommendations? Share your experience on social with the hashtag #letsdetourwinter and tag @detourdetroiter. And if you have your own winter survival tip, or need one we haven’t covered? We want to hear ‘em — you can also submit your ideas and questions here.
- Venture out and explore the city like a newbie with a winter adventure checklist.
- Have some collaborative or competitive fun with a board game.
- Cultivate coziness and meaningful moments in the Danish tradition.
- Spend 10 minutes making preserved lemons and brighten up heavy winter dishes.
- Try a 5-minute exercise to set 2021 goals grounded in self-connection and balance.
- While away the hours with a great Detroit podcast.
- Get a humidifier ASAP, because you’ve suffered enough.
- Put on a playlist that’ll keep you warm until spring.
- Spruce up your home with these simple dollar store crafts.
- Make this luscious and boozy weekend hot chocolate.
- Take some of the existential dread out of winter’s darkness with ‘candle time.’
- Make a Detroit chef’s chili recipe with whatever you have in the fridge.
- Build an outdoor fire that lasts so you can see people without freezing.
- Cook for the weather you want with this recipe from Khana Detroit.
- Catalog your books to make your home library extra legit.
- Stay active like a pro soccer player.
- Make your meal a party with an app from Chef Kate Williams.
- Brighten your day and boost your mood with a happy light.
- Make Xinjiang cumin pork with help from the chefs at Bunny Bunny.
- Dig into a Motown legend’s stories and archives.
- Take a nature walk in a new environment.
- Make a hearty vegan lunch from Cooking with Que.
- Enjoy the snow like a kid, but better.
#23: Enjoy the snow like a kid, but better.
Big overnight snowfalls can be daunting — shoveling your walk, shoveling out your car, traversing unplowed roads, wet socks no matter how much you swear you waterproofed your boots. But if you’ve got the time… try to think back to how EXCITING snow was when you were a kid, and then go act on it. Snow angels, snowmen, snowball fights and sledding are the classics. In my bookish household, we were a little too into making “snow candy,” as described by Laura Ingalls Wilder in the “Little House” series. (The legit recipe is here, but you can also just pour boiling maple syrup on a tray of snow.)
Since you’re an adult, though, you’ve got the focus to do something a little more involved. How about building an epic snow fort? I’m obsessed with this rainbow one (freezing water and food coloring in trays to make ice bricks).
#canadiancheck #canada_life🇨🇦 #icecastle #winterdays #foodcoloring #ice #frozen #frozentiktok #canada🇨🇦 #canadatiktok🇨🇦 #socool #rainbow #igloo♬ ayo canadian check – kait samec
And if you want to unleash your inner architect, here are the expert tips to building a structure that’s unique and, well, structurally sound. Lest you think architecture is a bit of stretch, see these amazing critical reviews of snow forts. A fave: “Reaching back to the ancient methods of Stonehenge slab construction, this work rejects the role of column and accentuates the attributes of horizontal slab. Vertical elements are pushed outside the structural envelope in a tongue-n-cheek parody of uselessness. While a clear reaction to techtonic architecture is realized in the form, it’s interior functions are unclear.”
Get started with some inspirational snow builds — and a pair of serious gloves.
#22: Make a hearty vegan lunch from Cooking with Que.
This is an amazing leafy green and yummy soup, perfect for winter days to warm you up with amazing flavor.
Roasted Lentil and Vegetable Soup
- 1 butternut squash, small
- 2 carrots
- 1/4 teaspoon chilies, dried
- 4 cloves garlic, skin on
- 4 bunches kale (stems optional)
- 1 onion
- 1 cup of dried red or green lentils
- 1 teaspoon thyme, dried
- 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon pepper blend
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 450 F.
- Add carrots, squash and garlic to a large baking sheet and drizzle with half of the olive oil, then season with a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper. Transfer to the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
- When the vegetables are almost done cooking, start the rest of the soup. In a large pot, heat remaining oil on medium-high heat. Add onion, sprinkle with sea salt and cook for 3-4 minutes until tender.
- Pour in lentils, thyme and chilies, stir to combine, and cook for an additional 30 seconds until you’re literally overwhelmed by the aroma!
- Once the vegetables are done roasting, remove pan from the oven and remove skins from garlic cloves. Then transfer the vegetables to the pot with the onion mixture.
- Cover with broth, just enough to cover all of the vegetables, and simmer on low for 20 minutes. (It’s best to start with less broth and add more at the end as needed).
- Add chopped kale, adjust broth level as needed to keep veggies covered, stir to combine and simmer on low for an additional 10 minutes.
- If you find the soup too liquidy, simply use the back of a fork to squash a few pieces of squash to thicken the soup.
- Season with additional pepper blend to taste.
- Guessss whatttt!!! It’s time to eat!!!! I hope you love it as much as I do!!
-Quiana “Que” Broden, owner and chef at Cooking with Que and The Kitchen by Cooking with Que. Patio seating, carry-out and catering available.
#21: Take a nature walk in a new environment.
If you’re sick of trampled urban snow, head to a trail where you can appreciate the beauty of winter. Take a contemplative early morning walk at Belle Isle, or bring a pup or friend and head to the northern outskirts of the suburbs for a day-long mini-adventure, where you can find several trails that stretch more than 15 miles. Here are 20 trails to choose from.
#20: Dig into a Motown legend’s stories and archives.
If you were thrown by Mary Wilson’s sudden death this week, you might have had The Supremes playing on repeat… we certainly have. But if you’re craving more than the old favorites, check out her channel — in the months before her death, Wilson got big into YouTube. She’s been regularly uploaded off-the-cuff convos and reminisces, but we’re really digging the archival vids, like a Supremes performance of a Sam Cooke tribute medley on Swedish television from 1968.
#19: Make Xinjiang cumin pork with help from the chefs at Bunny Bunny.
When we were living in Chicago and running Thank You Chinese, we’d go to Chinatown as frequently as our schedules would allow and try anything and everything we could. One restaurant (the name escapes us) specializes in all things lamb noodles, breads, etc. We saw this on the menu and had never seen or heard of it, so naturally we ordered it! It was amazing.
It wasn’t until about a year ago that we saw it again at 168 Asian Mart in Madison Heights and we recently happened upon a recipe in Carolyn Phillips’ “All Under Heaven,” which we adapted our version from. So, with the context we found from the cookbook, we decided to put it on the menu. It comes from Xinjiang and tells the story of trade and immigration through its proximity to the Silk Road.
Xinjiang Cumin Pork
- 8 ounces thin-cut pork chop (or you could substitute beef, chicken or lamb as long as it’s a tender cut and can be cooked quickly)
- 1 small onion, julienned (strips)
- 1 green pepper, julienned (strips)
- 1 tsp toasted cumin seed
- 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 jalapeño (optional)
- 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup black vinegar (can be purchased at an Asian market)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or thinly cut
- 1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce (we make our own, but it can be purchased at an Asian market)
- 4 pieces flatbread — store bought or see recipe below
- Cut the pork chop into thin strips. Marinate the strips in the soy, black vinegar, 1/2 cup water, garlic and a little jalapeño, if using. Let that sit about 10 minutes.
- Get a cast iron or your favorite pan ripping hot, add the pork first and brown, then add onion, green pepper, jalapeño and the toasted cumin. Cook for a couple more minutes. You still want some crunch to the vegetables. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.
- Warm your flatbread and top with pork and vegetables, a little hoisin and cilantro. Enjoy!
Yields 10 at 90 grams each
- 3 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/3 cup lard or crisco
- 1 and 1/3 cups hot water
- In a mixer with dough attachment (or by hand!), add flour, baking powder and lard. Slowly add in the hot water. Knead until a ball forms. Wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
- After it has rested, portion into 90-gram dough balls. Roll out as thin as you can (it’s okay if they aren’t perfect circles). If you are making several, put flour between each tortilla and cover with a damp towel until you are ready to cook them.
- Get a pan (preferably large cast iron) smoking hot and add a tiny bit of oil. Move the oil around the pan and add your tortilla, it should start browning, blistering and puffing in spots, once that starts to happen flip over — BE CAREFUL! Same thing on that side, and keep making them until you have what you need. Keep them on a tray covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
-Jennifer Jackson and Justin Tootla, owners/chefs at Bunny Bunny. Open for delivery and carry-out.
#18: Brighten your day and boost your mood with a happy light.
Can you fully replace the warmth and brightness of the sun in the middle of Midwestern February? Probably not, but happy lights, also known as therapy lights, provide the illusion — and some of the benefits — of getting those rays when it’s dreary and freezing outside. Since the pandemic has kept us indoors even more than usual over the past year, my partner and I were eager to see what these happy lights were all about.
We went with the brand HappyLight from Verilux just shy of a month ago, and it has become something I look forward to each day. Since I’m not typically someone who jolts out of bed ready to start the day (I’m working on it), I like to turn it on soon after I head into the kitchen in the morning while making my coffee.
While it does not emit Vitamin D, the happy light mimics the type of light produced by the sun, without harmful UV rays. Light therapy is often used to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka, SAD, which is more common among women), and can “positively impact your body’s regulation of melatonin, a hormone that helps control your sleep-wake cycle, as well as serotonin, which helps regulate your mood by relaying signals in your brain,” according to the Cleveland Clinic. Before purchasing one, it’s best to double-check with a healthcare provider first to make sure it’s a suitable buy for you and your needs.
The HappyLight produces full spectrum, 10,000 lux light (which measures the intensity of light seen by the human eye). The Verilux website states that 10,000 lux is the recommended amount of light that’s best for therapy. It is also recommended per the website to start gradually, with just 10 minutes of light therapy per day, and then increasing the length of time slowly to at least 30 minutes for maximum benefit. I not only can set the length of my light therapy session with the built-in timer, but I can also adjust the intensity level of light with a push of a button.
So far, my happy light has been a useful supplement to combating the winter blues. Keep in mind that it’s not a perfect solution — and it may not be for everyone. But in my day-to-day routine, it’s allowed me to start my mornings on a much brighter note.
#17: Make your meal a party with an app from Chef Kate Williams.
This is a nod to all the potted fish in my life — but it also feels waaaaayyyy fancier than it is and we need that during COVID times… It’s the little things. Like when I put on lipstick and curl my hair in the middle of the day just to feel more glamorous than my normal PJs and top bun (although my top bun is a lifestyle and would certainly even make an appearance at the Oscars, as soon as Leo realizes our destiny and invites me as his date).
Guys, we’re in a pandemic! Let’s take the wins where we can find ’em. Do the things that make you feel fancy.
So, I took the idea of traditional potted fish (Irish, English, etc.) and combined it with one of my mom’s favorite appetizers to make when we’d have company. Since we can’t have company right now, this is just for you. It’s perfectly trashy in that 1960s American way, where the dish wasn’t much more than crab and cream cheese served on crackers. I’ve lightened it up just a bit, but it’s still creamy and perfectly utilitarian — you can store it covered in the clarified butter for a pretty long time, then eat it cold with toast or crackers.
Crab has a sweetness to it that works really well here, but I would also substitute cooked or canned whitefish or salmon. I wouldn’t use canned tuna in this, although I am a tuna fish enthusiast. It’s best enjoyed in your COVID best with a glass of bubbles. You deserve it.
Potted Crab with Pimento
Serves 6 to 8 (times that you want to snack on it)
- 1 pound fresh or canned crab meat
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more for serving
- ½ cup finely chopped pimento peppers
- ½ cup finely chopped chives
- ¼ cup medium dry sherry
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Salt to taste
In a large bowl, whip together all of the ingredients until well combined. Divide the mixture between ramekins and top each off with a drizzle of melted butter. Chill for at least two hours and eat with crackers.
-–Kate Williams, chef/owner at Lady of the House. Open for curbside pick-up.
#16: Stay active like a pro soccer player.
We spoke with Roderic “Roddy” Green, a forward for Detroit City FC and fan-turned-player to get some tips for staying active right now.
Even though Green is a professional athlete whose job demands that he stay in top physical shape, he experienced months of quarantine last year when a portion of DCFC’s season was cancelled.
“We had just gone through a full preseason, physically and mentally preparing ourselves. We played one game and went straight into lockdown,” Green said. “The team stayed connected through Zoom, but staying focused and fit was tough.”
For the first time in his athletic career, Green had to develop his own regimen. He’s always had a gym membership or access to trainers and coaches. “I never really had to come up with a workout routine at home before,” he said. “It was a new thing for me.”
Fortunately, there’s more ways to workout from home than ever before. Here are some of Green’s most important tips for staying healthy during the pandemic.
1. Keep it simple
As you’d expect, Green works out more than most. But he only recently started going back to the gym and working out intensely.
Before that he had some weights and a Peloton at home. But unless you really want to bulk up or do some intense training, those aren’t necessary. “You don’t need any equipment to stay in shape,” Green said.
You might want to consider buying good shoes and a mat. If you plan on running outside, you’ll want a thin thermal layer. But that’s it.
When he’s not weightlifting or running, Green’s favorite kind of workout is high intensity interval training (HIIT), which involves a short burst of exercise followed by a slightly shorter break.
Green recommends 40 seconds of activity followed by 20 seconds of rest. He’ll often do these six exercises: mountain climbers, lunge jumps, side shuffles, burpee broad jumps, lateral side steps and running in place. Take a one minute break. Then do the whole set three more times. In total, the whole workout takes just under 30 minutes.
“These exercises are a full-body workout,” Green said. “But you could definitely do a different workout in the same format.”
HIITs are convenient because you can mix and match exercises and time lengths based on your level of fitness, how much time you have and whether you want to target certain muscle groups.
2. Everything you need is online
If you’re looking for information or inspiration, there are countless resources online right now. Roddy really likes the Instagram account of Nike trainer Jamie Reynolds for both.
Or if you want a guided workout, you can find tons of routines on YouTube, whether you have 10 minutes or an hour. Or, design your own HIIT workout with an interval timer app.
3. Have fun
Motivation is also an important consideration for exercise. Working out — especially if you’re on your own or just starting out — is difficult. Your body strains during it and often hurts afterwards.
Green has a couple of suggestions on getting started. “Having a routine every single day is essential,” he said.
It can take a while for a habit to form. But once it does, it can be harder to break the habit than not do the activity, even if it means putting your body through the physical stress of a workout. After a while, you’ll probably even begin enjoying your workouts — a lot.
“Afterwards you’ll feel so good about yourself,” Green said. “It’s a great way to improve your mental health.”
He also adds that even if you have a goal of getting in great shape, it takes time, and not to get discouraged. “My biggest advice for people is to not worry so much about results right away,” he said. “Lots of people want to lose weight or gain muscle right away. But they just need to be patient and enjoy it as much as they can.”
#15: Catalog your books to make your home library extra legit.
I love books. Some of my earliest memories are of snuggling close to my mother while she read me her favorite stories. Then, there were the times I sat on the floor in the kitchen and read to her while she cooked. I’d stumble on a word; she’d tell me to spell it. My five-year-old self is still amazed at her ability to get the word right every single time—without even seeing it on the page! Books offer me information, entertainment and comfort. When there’s no pandemic, I’m known to spend a Thursday after work in a bar with bourbon and a book. All that’s to say, I have a lot of books. The exact number I currently own is 603.
I know that number because I catalogued them all in an app called Libib. I highly recommend it.
Libib is a website and app that lets users catalog their own books, movies, music and video games. I started using it a few years ago when I almost bought a third copy of James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time.” A few months after that, I was looking for a reference book I lent to a friend — but couldn’t remember which friend I let borrow it! It’s the disorganization for me. So, I used the app to get it together.
My favorite parts about Libib:
- Users can create multiple libraries.
- It takes less than a second to scan a book’s barcode and add it to your library, with cover art and details — just like a public library record.
- The database is searchable.
You can make the database more searchable by adding tags and groups to a record, writing down notes about the book, adding the price you paid for it or the price it will cost to replace it if it’s lost, and tracking your reading status (not begun, in progress, abandoned or completed). You can add reviews and ratings as well.
For some books, there’s a link to purchase it if you’re like me and decided to create a “Books to Buy or Borrow” library. (The downside there is Libib sends users to Amazon rather than a site like Bookshop.org, which splits proceeds from sales with independent booksellers across the nation.)
All of these features are in the free version that I use. For a monthly or annual fee, you can add an easy lending system. Since my home isn’t an actual library, I just make a note in the book record if I let someone borrow one of my books.
For what it’s worth, if you own even more books than I do, the simple thought of cataloguing them may exhaust you. But the absolute sell for this app is its built-in scanner. You can catalog a book as quickly as you can point your phone’s camera to the scanner code on its back. For some books without barcodes — like older or used titles, artist books or chapbooks — it will take a little more work to manually add the info.
Still, about three weeks ago, I scanned all 150 titles on one of my shelves to figure out which ones I hadn’t properly added to my library — Libib tells you if a book you’ve scanned is already in your library and allows you to reject or add copies. The whole process took about 20 minutes.
-Courtney Wise Randolph
#14: Cook for the weather you want with this recipe from Khana Detroit.
As someone who was born in the heat of July and is constantly seeking refuge from the cold in these dreary winter months, I’ve found that a pseudo-spring fever has subconsciously crept its way into my home cooked meals, and I’m not mad about it. We’ve all heard that you should dress for the job you want. I suppose I’ve just started to cook for the weather I desire.
One of the most common staple items that I make a few times a month is my riff on a classic Tuna Nicoise Salad. This isn’t the typical winter favorite that I’d be all too quick to pass the recipe along to my group of cook friends. That would usually consist of a spicy lamb stew or coconut fish curry; something that would stick to your ribs. This is the dish I can make with my eyes closed when I have just had it with days of dinner delivery and rich foods that require a nap post-consumption. It tastes just as good for lunch as it does for dinner, as it does at midnight when I’m hungry enough for fourth meal.
The best part about this recipe, however, is that it never fails to leave me just the right amount of satiated but not too full, and that balancing act is one I’ve found to be difficult to execute. I hope that this coupling of dressed-up tuna, hearty potatoes, a perfectly cooked egg or two and the vinegary-sweet greens and veggies gives you the same warm feeling it gives me — and the illusion of springtime sun.
Tuna Nicoise Salad
For the Tuna:
- 2 cans solid white tuna (I prefer the brands Ortiz or Cento packed in olive oil)
- 1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 lemon
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons pickle juice
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Handful of chopped cilantro
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Red wine vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- Honey mustard dressing (Briannas is my all-time favorite)
- Red pepper flakes
- 2 Russet potatoes
- A heaping handful of green beans, ends trimmed, cut in half
- 2 eggs
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ red onion
- Heap of greens of your choice. (I prefer Tuscan kale, cut into bite-size pieces)
- 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
- Paprika, salt and pepper to taste
- Optional if you’re extra hungry: Add an avocado, sliced
*All measurements are suggestions — go by taste
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Cut the potato into 1-inch cubes, toss in olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika and half the garlic. Bake until the potatoes are golden brown and cooked through, flipping them halfway, about 20 minutes total.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to boil and blanch the green beans by boiling them until they’re just cooked, about 4-5 minutes, then immediately putting them in ice cold water to stop the cooking. Place the drained green beans in a sauté pan with a drizzle of olive oil, add more salt, pepper, paprika, and the remaining garlic. Sauté on medium-high heat until the skin is slightly blistered. Set aside.
- In a small pot, bring your eggs to a boil for 7 minutes to get a nice jammy yolk and run them under cold water after the 7 minutes. Peel when cooled.
- Slice your halved red onion. In a bowl, add on top of it a pinch of salt and sugar in equal parts, then cover the onions halfway with red wine vinegar and give them a good mix. Leave it in the fridge while you work to produce a quick-pickled red onion.
- If your tuna is packed in water, be sure to drain it well. If it’s packed in oil, leave a bit in the tuna. That’s good stuff. Combine all the ingredients for the tuna, adjust your seasonings and set aside.
- Combine all ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl, whisk together and adjust according to your taste. Toss with your greens and sliced shallot, reserving a small amount of vinaigrette for plating.
- To plate, start with a bed of the dressed greens and shallot, add sliced cherry tomatoes, avocado if you opted for it, the pickled red onion, potatoes and green beans. On top of that, add the dressed tuna, cut your peeled boiled eggs into halves or quarters and place them along the edges. Finish the salad with a small drizzle of the remaining vinaigrette. Enjoy.
*Variations: In the summer months when produce is vibrant and abundant, pretty much anything makes a wonderful addition to this salad. Don’t be afraid to swap out or add in watermelon, radish, fresh cucumber, parsley, etc., etc. The limit to experimentation with this recipe does not exist.
#13: Build an outdoor fire that lasts so you can see people without freezing.
Out: rowdy summer bonfires, with house party guests spilling into your yard. In: outdoor fires with a few of your housemates or closest friends gathered around for warmth in their biggest puffers (or sleeping bags).
If you’re being safe and limiting your indoor interactions as much as possible, you’ve probably already realized that in a Michigan winter, a backyard fire is a pandemic gathering essential. If you haven’t broken out the fire pit yet, no worries. It’s not too late to get the fire started, and it is easy enough to pull off this week, even if you’ve never gone camping or aren’t really sure what kindling is.
To make a top-notch outdoor fire in your backyard, start with one important rule: It’s not a campfire! That makes your life easier: no foraging for sticks, getting it started with even littler sticks and huddling around in the cold for an hour while waiting for your fire to slowly get bigger and start producing heat. You’re going to make a fire that’s hot from the moment you light it and stays hot all night long.
Here’s your foolproof guide to building a fire that keeps you nice and toasty.
#12: Make a Detroit chef’s chili recipe with whatever you have in the fridge.
Cooking can feel like an uninspired chore — especially in winter, and especially if you’ve been putting off grocery shopping. But with a little push from our favorite chefs, we’re suddenly feeling eager to spend an hour or two in the kitchen. If you want to try something new but don’t want to rush out and buy a bunch of ingredients, you’ve got to try this recipe from Esteban Castro, chef and owner of Esto’s Garage.
Castro’s All City Chili is infused with family history, creativity in lean times and plenty of sofrito. Here’s his recipe, and the backstory:
I remember the way my mother Doris could always make a dinner happen from whatever was in the bottom of the fridge. She would tell me, “Boy, go get the bottom of that fridge out and let’s see what we’ve got for tonight.”
It was amazing to see how creativity could overcome poverty, and it is one of the many great lessons that I carry with me to this day.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of her passing, but the love, wisdom and food culture live on. If she were here, she would love it if all of you could dig down deep in your hearts (and fridges) to cook with greater passion during this excessive time we all have at home. I’m proud to share her method of creating delicious chaos with far too many pots, pans and skillets for just one meal. Trust me, it will be worth the trouble!
Esteban Castro’s All City Chili (bottom-of-the-fridge method)
You will need: A crockpot and multiple skillets for this recipe.
- Good olive oil
- 3 pounds ground sirloin
- 1 pound cooked shredded pork (smoked), to be added to crockpot
- 16 ounces black beans
- 16 ounces pinto beans
- 16 ounces northern white beans
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 1 summer squash
- 2 yellow onions
- 2 shallots
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 jalapeños
- 2 poblano peppers
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bundle fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon chili powder/paprika
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- Black pepper
- Balsamic vinegar (or can use Old Grand-Dad whiskey)
*You may substitute any of these ingredients with whatever is in the bottom of your fridge/freezer. However, the spices and sequence of preparation are sacred!
- Dice the vegetables, including jalapeños (save the garlic and cilantro for later), and sear the diced veggies in a skillet.
- In a large skillet, add a few tablespoons of oil and a big pinch of salt. You want them to be reduced and sticky in a pre-paste form. Turn off and allow it to rest. Save a little of each of these to add to the chili later during simmer mode for good texture variety.
- In another skillet, brown the ground sirloin with 3 tablespoons olive oil and lime juice. Break up the beef and make sure it gets browned well. Do not drain any rendered fat, as this is a leaner meat. Once browned, add cumin, smoked paprika/chili powder, garlic powder, black pepper and sea salt.
- Mix the above seasonings in with the beef fat, and add additional olive oil if needed. Douse with balsamic vinegar or a little Old Grand-Dad whiskey to deglaze the skillet. The flavors will burst forth from the spices at this point and become one with the meat.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and reserved chopped veggies from earlier.
- Simmer the ground sirloin for 10 minutes, then add all the good stuff (aka: sofrito) from the other skillet. This is also a good time to add the minced garlic to the mix.
- Add black, pinto and northern white beans and bring to a medium simmer for another 15 minutes. (If the beans are canned, first rinse them partially.)
- Drop your cooking temperature to a low setting for a couple of hours as you transfer everything, including smoked pork, into your favorite crock pot. Stir occasionally and add spice as needed. Add a cup or two of heated water to the thickened sauce.
You will notice true day-old flavor and a silky smooth texture from the caramelized vegetables. Garnish with cilantro, tortilla chips or cheese crackers — and enjoy!
#11: Take some of the existential dread out of winter’s darkness with ‘candle time.’
It begins not long after daylight saving time ends each November: that unmistakable, visceral sense of dread in the pit of my stomach that grows as the nocturnal hour creeps ever closer to the dinner hour.
Admittedly, we’re lucky here in Detroit, located as we are at the far western edge of the Eastern time zone, meaning nearly an extra hour before sundown compared to people further east — and not too far north. We have only a few weeks of darkness starting at 5 p.m. to contend with before late January when the sun begins to linger above the horizon until nearly 6 p.m. Take heart, every day we’re gaining whole minutes of precious daylight.
But for some of us, those short days combined with wintry gray skies can be downright paralyzing.
One simple way to combat the darkness: Light a candle, and allow the warm, yellow light of a flame to make things feel a little more special, transforming cold darkness into warmth and coziness.
In her 2018 New York Time essay “Candle Hour” (also turned into a gorgeous episode on the podcast “Nocturne”), writer Julia Scott makes a compelling recommendation:
At night, by candlelight, the world feels enduring, ancient and slow. To sit and stare at a candle is to drop through a portal to a time when firelight was the alpha and omega of our days. We are evolved for the task of living by candlelight and maladapted to living the way we live now.
Scott came to candle hour by accident, during an ice storm in Montreal that forced her family to live without electricity for a week. She makes candle time a ritual, a daily (albeit loose) practice involving journaling and scents and the stowing of all electronic devices.
I love the idea, but these days I find myself unable to dedicate an hour to anything on purpose. Instead, I welcome the dark hours of winter as space and license to light candles on the regular, to bask in their glow no matter what I am doing. I light them in the morning while drinking coffee, put them on my desk during the day while working, keep them burning in the evening when I’m cooking and light a few more after sundown while reading or relaxing (or working extra hours in the evening to catch up, as we remote workers tend to do). I choose mild fragrances or unscented candles that burn long.
It’s a lot of candles, so lately I have begun making them, using upcycled glassware, beeswax bought in bulk, and coconut oil. It’s so easy and so satisfying — I’m not sure why I never thought to do it before.
In more contemplative moments, I can see winter’s short days as a gift as precious as July sun: a space to illuminate. Soon, the sun will return, and with it the bright early mornings and slow-fading twilights. My candles will go into storage. But when that sense of dread appears once again, I’ll return to my tiny bulwarks against the darkness.
- Detroit Rose
- Discount Candles Detroit
- Green Daffodil
- City Bird Detroit
- Detroit Wax Works
- Savvy Chic
- 12th and Viv
Tips for making your own candles:
-Nina Misuraca Ignaczak
#10: Make this luscious and boozy weekend hot chocolate.
Making and enjoying a proper cocktail isn’t just a hobby for me. What I drink reflects the season, my mood, and — in a global pandemic — how I’m coping with change.
Spring 2020, when COVID-19 shut the world down, was all about easy, uncomplicated cocktails I could refill on Zoom while commiserating with friends (I drank more than recommended, mostly negronis). There were summer nights where I’d mix a mean mezcal margarita, but the fatigue of 24/7 parenting and work often meant that I’d just settle for cracking a beer (Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale, my favorite summer sour).
Almost 12 months into a quarantine that now feels normal-ish, I’m leaning into winter and having fun creating weekend cocktails to match the chilly charm of this frozen season. My husband Will perfected this boozy hot chocolate recipe to sip by our backyard bonfire.
Boo’s Bourbon Hot Chocolate
Serves one, easily doubled or quadrupled
For the hot cocoa:
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1-2 pinches kosher salt (to taste)
3 cups milk or milk substitute (I’m sensitive to lactose so coconut milk is my go-to)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cocktail:
2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Italian amaro (he likes Averna)
Dash cocktail bitters (have fun experimenting with different flavors!)
Pour milk into a small saucepan and heat on medium low until hot to the touch. Add vanilla extract, salt, sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk cocoa powder into milk until smooth. In a mug, add bourbon and amaro (or portion out into multiple mugs if making several drinks). Pour in hot cocoa. Add bitters to taste and stir gently until mixed.
Pair with your parka and Detour Detroit’s winter Spotify playlist for the full fireside drinks experience.
-Ashley Woods Branch
#9: Spruce up your home with these simple dollar store crafts.
I have always been the arts-and-crafts kid.
I was the one who made snowmen out of socks, Christmas bells out of egg cartons and of course, the classic paper snowflake.
I was never a talented artist or musician, but arts and crafts allowed me to express my creativity in a guided way. I often felt accomplished creating something new from a bunch of scraps.
As an adult, arts and crafts look very different. It’s less about making macaroni necklaces and more about creating functional, cute and budget friendly items for my home.
While specialty stores like Michaels and JOANN offer a variety of supplies for your DIY needs, they can be pricey depending on the project you’re trying to do.
In 2019, Dollar Tree introduced Crafter’s Square, a section dedicated entirely to arts and crafts. The aisle contains materials like chalkboards, paint, glitter and magnets, as well as tools like hot glue sticks and detailing knives. Honestly, I’m obsessed with it. I get to create as much as I want without breaking the bank. Find my three quick and easy crafting ideas here. And if you try them — show us how it went!
#8: Put on a playlist that’ll keep you warm until spring.
Here at Detour, plenty unites us: our love for Detroit is a big one. Our musical tastes, however, are all over the place. We believe we are better together, and playlists are no exception. So we put together a little winter survival playlist to keep us all sonically warm and, we hope, give us that little oomph we need to get us through to spring.
But this is no finished product. We want your contributions! Send us a link to a song and a one-liner about why this song helps you survive the winter — hit us up on social with the hashtag #letsdetourwinter or submit it here.
#7: Get a humidifier ASAP, because you’ve suffered enough.
This piece of winter survival advice falls under the “boring and obvious” category — but also the “totally essential and life changing” category if it’s new to you or you’re new to Michigan winters. It’s this simple: buy a humidifier and run it every night while you sleep (if not all day), and at least through March (if not until summer).
I had no idea I should be using a humidifier regularly until a few years ago, when I got one during a fun bout of pneumonia to soothe some of the symptoms worsened by dry indoor air. Only once I recovered did I figure out that the raspy throat and pounding headache I think of as a daily winter hangover weren’t something I just had to live with. The humidifier helped with those, as well as dry skin, chapped lips and allergy symptoms. A random bonus — the mild whirr is better than a white noise machine for putting me to sleep.
But it’s not just symptoms and white noise. Viral infections can occur more often and spread more easily when relative humidity falls seasonally and people’s respiratory tracts are drier. Don’t take it from me: Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at the Yale School of Medicine, recently told STAT she advises people to buy a humidifier for their homes as the pandemic rages on through winter.
So, which one to get? The basics: You can choose between cold-mist and warm-mist humidifiers, but most of the recommendations I’ve seen are for the former. Some warn against using the latter if you have young children, because the hot steam can be a safety hazard. More complicated: evaporative and ultrasonic humidifiers — and a few less common types — are available. This refers to how the humidifier releases moisture into the air.
Instead of doing a careful comparison, I blindly followed the advice of Wirecutter and bought the Honeywell HCM-350 Germ Free Cool Mist Humidifier. I have no complaints after two seasons, though a discerning friend wasn’t a fan (shoutout to my humidifier group text). And literally as I was writing this, Wirecutter tweeted a thread addressing the apparent flood of complaints about the Honeywell — prompted by this scathing and delicious review — and said they’re taking critiques into consideration and planning more testing.
So… take that as you will? Better a flawed humidifier than no humidifier, I always say. Wirecutter recommends a few alternatives as well, and Consumer Reports rounded up their own picks. My Honeywell-hating friend is pleased with this one from LEVOIT, which also happens to be almost 50% cheaper.
Two big things to keep in mind: Get the right size for your space. Humidifiers are designed to cover different square footages. Some have just enough capacity for a small bedroom, while others are meant to work for an entire house. And please, keep it clean. Change the filter and clean your humidifier regularly per the instructions! (Seriously, misting bacteria or mold into the air kind of defeats the point.) You might consider using an antimicrobial cleaning cartridge — I actually don’t know how necessary this is, but they’re supposed to reduce bacteria and buildup, and they’re fairly cheap. This one is shaped like a fish.
Next up for me? I’m coveting a mini-humidifier to sit on my desk in the “home office.” I mean, I spend half my time here… and some of them are frickin’ adorable. Hey, it’s the little things.
#6: While away the hours with a great Detroit podcast.
Obsessed with the vaccine? There’s a local podcast for that. Need advice? We know one for that, too. Trying to avoid serious news and would rather immerse yourself in history, cooking or some old-fashioned great storytelling? Check, check and check. Find whatever you’re looking for in our carefully curated roundup of 13 Detroit podcasts worth binging — or try a little bit of everything with this Spotify playlist.
-Courtney Wise Randolph
#5: Try a 5-minute exercise to set 2021 goals grounded in self-connection and balance.
Stephanie Popso, a Detroit-based well-being coach, yoga instructor, intuitive practitioner and owner of her own wellness company, Naturally Empowered, knows a thing or two about creating healthy habits — and actually sticking to them.
She found success in her own life by creating and sticking to routines, and from there, created her own daily guide — The Empowered Life Planner — to help others find their pathway to success.
The motto of this year’s 2021 Empowered Life Planner is, “There is no for sure way to know what any given year will bring, but there is a way to create habits and rituals that bring us balance every single day. Our prompts will show you how to adjust your sails when you can’t change the direction of the wind.”
Popso shared several key steps to goal-setting, along with her own sage advice during her January goal-setting workshop with members of Detour Detroit and the Naturally Empowered Tribe Facebook group at a workshop Friday.
“When we allow ourselves to dig a bit deeper and connect with ourselves, we begin to uncover our paths,” Popso said.
So, why not get started today? Here are five bite-sized steps inspired by Popso’s workshop to get you feeling energized to work toward your goals in 2021.
- Get grounded. Close your eyes and take some slow, deep breaths.
- Close your eyes and visualize your morning or evening routine.
- As you visualize your morning and evening routine, think about a way you could adjust or upgrade your routine to align with your goal(s) or that you’d possibly like to experiment with.
- Put pen to paper and write down what you’d like to change. As Popso shared, we’re way more likely to accomplish something if we write it down.
- Now, with your main goal in mind, pick one action step you could commit to doing and is manageable in a one-week stretch. Then, move on to another step towards achieving that goal. For example, if your goal is to start a gratitude journal and write every night before bed, start by taking the action step of placing the journal and pen on your nightstand. Or, if your goal is to start working out in the morning, try setting your clothes out the night before. Even if you end up just making coffee in your leggings, you’re still starting to build that habit.
Remember — it’s easy to bite off more than you can chew. It’s okay to start small and take it slow.
Here are some fantastic 2021 goals participants shared during the workshop:
- Adding some fun activities to my evening routine. (Popso suggested creating a menu of 20 activities to choose from).
- Dig into a creative outlet
- Recycle or donate items I no longer use and make better use of what I have
- Go on dates with my spouse at least once a month
- Write something for myself that isn’t a work assignment
- Keep a gratitude journal before bed
- Limit screen time in the evenings
- Grow my business
- Wake up earlier to put on makeup, which makes me feel better
- Set one intention for my evening work sessions to get a sense of completeness
“Although there was uncertainty and worry in the past year, there’s something that’s really helped to keep me grounded,” Popso said. “When the lockdown happened in March, foundations and rituals I built upon from the foundation of my planner were all I had to create this sense of normalcy and sanity in my day. Keeping these routines within myself became a lifeline of sorts, which also helped me stay connected to the ones I love more.”
#4: Spend 10 minutes making preserved lemons and brighten up heavy winter dishes.
You know that satisfaction you get when you figure out that something you thought of as complicated, fancy or not at your level is actually very at your level? In cooking, I’ve had that realization a few times with ingredients or dishes that I assumed were for real chefs only, something I could eat at a restaurant or buy premade but shouldn’t bother with myself.
Preserved lemons — more… lemony, salty and complex than the fresh fruit — are one of those things. They’re kindergarten-level easy to make and use in home cooking, and they’re now one of my staples. Plus, they make great, attractive gifts — no one has to know they took 10 minutes and less than $5 to make.
Common in Moroccan cuisine, you can find plenty of recipes that specifically call for preserved lemons (usually the rind, finely chopped). But you can also use them in almost any dish where you’d find lemon juice or zest. Caramelize with onions and add to rice or quinoa; toss with parm and pasta; mix with roasted cauliflower or potatoes; use in a braise or white wine sauce; garnish a broccoli soup; add to fresh greens; the list goes on. Preserved lemons, raw or cooked, are honestly good with anything that might benefit from a little tang, and it’s hard to go wrong.
What you’ll need: organic lemons, glass jars, coarse salt, optional aromatics like cinnamon sticks or peppercorn.
What you’ll do: wash your lemons, make a big cut in each, stuff them with salt, press down into a jar, wait a month, then use. Yes, it’s really that simple, but here’s the longer explainer, with credit to David Lebovitz:
- Buy organic lemons, as many as you want to preserve plus a couple extra for juice. (About 2 large or 4-5 small lemons fit in a 16-ounce mason jar.) They really do need to be organic, since you’ll be eating the skin. If you use non-organic lemons, you’ll have to remove the near-invisible wax coating through a combination of boiling water bath, extensive scrubbing, vinegar rinses and hating yourself. Take it from someone who’s tried: it turns a super fast recipe into a frustrating process, you’re never sure you got all the wax off and it’s not worth the savings.
- Wash your airtight jars and lids. (Wide-mouth mason jars work well, but you could reuse jam jars or the like.)
- Scrub your lemons.
- Cut a deep X starting from the tip of each lemon, as if you were quartering it lengthwise, but stopping about three-quarters of the way down. If you need to see the cut in action, watch this vid.
- Pack each lemon with about a tablespoon of kosher salt. Don’t worry about getting it exactly right — you want them stuffed, and yes, a bunch of salt is going to fall out. Any coarse salt will do, but I wouldn’t try table salt.
- Put your stuffed lemons in a jar with a few aromatics if you have them: cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, dried chilies and peppercorn all work well, but aren’t necessary.
- Push down hard on the lemons (a wooden spoon or shot glass does the trick) and squeeze as many as you can into a jar. You’ll be smashing the lemons you just stuffed so nicely, but this is the point: over time, the lemons will soften and settle, so you’re just helping the process along.
- Squeeze extra lemon juice into the jar as needed to cover the lemons.
- Once a day for the next three days, open your jar, press down and add lemon juice as needed to cover the lemons. (If you skip this step or miss a day, NBD.)
- Set a calendar reminder for a month, at which point they’ll be ready to use. Store them in the fridge, and they should be good for six months.
- When it’s time to use ‘em: take out a lemon (or a quarter or half), peel off the interior pulp that you would normally eat and discard it. Rinse the skin, then chop it finely for use in braises, salad dressings, garnishes and sauces for pasta, meat, fish and veggies. And all that extra juice? You can use that, too, most places you would use lemon juice. Just be mindful of how very, very salty it is and adjust the rest of your dish accordingly.
Some inspiration to get you started:
- Quick fish tagine with chermoula
- Chicken and preserved lemon salad
- Roasted tomatoes, fennel and chickpeas
- Moroccan lemon chicken with olives
- Roasted fingerlings with preserved lemon
- 5 ways to use preserved lemon
#3: Cultivate coziness and meaningful moments in the Danish tradition.
Detour reader Vince Ziols shared how his household is surviving winter with comfort and thoughtfulness:
“We practice the Danish art of hygge (pronounced Hoo-Ga) which is more than just being cozy during the wintertime, but how to replicate small meaningful moments with those closest to you. The Demark Happiness Research Institute (funded publicly) actually published a book on how to bring more hygge into your life. Ever since the beginning of pandemic my household has practiced (and preached) hygge as a way to keep positive and mindful during this past year and especially, over the winter. Suggestions to get started: weekly planned activities and crafts, themed movie nights, cooking dinner together, sharing sweet baked goods and, of course, always have candles lit.”
Other words that come up in association with hygge, which has no direct translation into English: relaxation, gentleness, indulgence, gratitude. A great vibe to nurture this weekend!
#2: Have some collaborative or competitive fun with a board game.
Like so many others, my partner and I watched an embarrassing amount of Netflix at the beginning of the pandemic. Unable to go out at night, too frayed to concentrate for long on reading our books, we knew we needed another outlet.
Fortunately, we discovered board games.
As a kid, I played the classics: Monopoly, Life, Risk. Before the pandemic, I’d also played some “modern” classics like Catan and Ticket to Ride. But as we got into the hobby, we discovered that a whole new generation of designers and enthusiasts had ushered in a board game renaissance over the last decade. Hundreds of innovative, beautiful, and, most importantly, fun board games are released every year, giving players countless options beyond the stale games of our youth.
Whatever your level of engagement or affinity for games, there’s a board game for you. Want something light with just enough to keep you engaged? Check. A cooperative game so you won’t have another thing to fight with your family about? Check. A deeply strategic game with dozens of pieces that takes hours to finish? Oh yeah.
Even if you live by yourself or with people who have no interest in board games, it’s easier than ever to play online. The free site Board Game Arena has a large library of games and matches you with friends or strangers. There are ways to play certain games, like Drawful, over Zoom. Though the controls are a little clunky, Tabletop Simulator will allow you to play nearly every game in existence.
The appreciation my partner and I have for board games really flourished over the summer, when we shacked up for several weeks with her brother and sister-in-law, who have been longtime board game enthusiasts. We played a game almost every night, and looked forward to playing during the day. The combination of mental challenge, social nature of games and low-stakes outcomes make it the perfect COVID hobby.
Don’t know what to play? Here are 11 of our favorite games — and more on why we like to play them.
- Sushi Go! Party
- Terraforming Mars
- Legendary Forests
- What Do You Meme?
- Exploding Kittens
#1: Venture out and explore the city like a newbie with a winter adventure checklist.
If a tourist asked where they should go in Detroit, you could probably rattle off a list of your favorite spots around the city — but when’s the last time you went sightseeing yourself? Sometimes you just need a reason, so here’s a checklist to fill out over the next two months with just a tiny fraction of the city’s best sites, prompts to explore somewhere new and quick activities to help you connect with your community.
A little cheesy? Maybe. Just the encouragement you need to have a mini adventure? We think so! Snap pics of your progress and post ‘em– tag us @detourdetroiter with the hashtag #detroitwinteradventure. See below for some handy saveable, shareable checklists, and email email@example.com when you get all 21. First to finish gets a prize!
- Go to the DIA and take an art connoisseur selfie picture with your favorite piece.
- Go to Belle Isle and pretend to jump in the fountain (bonus points if you spot a bird or other wildlife)
- Take a pic at a street named for a famous Detroiter.
- Unleash your inner kid and go sledding, make a snow angel or have a snowball fight.
- Go to a local park you’ve never been to before.
- Send a postcard to a Detroiter you love, just because.
- Indulge in pączki (and drop off a few to friends?) — Pączki Day is Feb. 16.
- Enjoy the view from the Riverwalk and take a stop at the “Gateway to Freedom” monument.
- Spread some snowy goodwill and shovel your neighbor’s walk.
- Wander the stacks at your favorite indie bookshop and pick up a new read about something totally unfamiliar. (You can’t go wrong at John K. King, Source Booksellers or Pages Bookshop!)
- Eat in a dome or safe outdoor space (BYO hand warmers).
- Visit the Birwood Wall (here’s some recommended advance viewing).
- Get produce and provisions from local vendors at Eastern Market, then make a feast. Bonus if you use mostly Detroit-made products (here are some ideas).
- Take a trip down memory lane at the Detroit Historical Museum. Bonus if you dress like a flapper or bootlegger for the “Boomtown: Detroit in the 1920s” exhibit.
- Hit the Avenue of Fashion and check out a new-to-you business.
- Check out a book from the library — ebooks count! — here are some recommendations.
- Cook a meal and drop it off for a friend or neighbor.
- Find a mural that makes you go “woah.” — and shout out the artist. (Don’t know where to start? Eastern Market has plenty.)
- Architecture appreciation: visit one of Albert Kahn’s many masterpieces (yes, the Fisher Building counts).
- Dog spot! Take a pic of a Very Good Boy out in the urban wild.
- Get a warm up from your favorite coffee shop — you earned it!