March and April Snows

It’s been quite some time since we’ve experienced back-to-back snow storms in Minnesota.  And this March—purported to be the snowiest month of the year, came in like a lion.  But we did not have our traditional Tournament blizzards.  We also did not have our traditional hockey and basketball tournaments.  Coincidence?

After experiencing days of temperature in April in the 60’s and one day, yesterday, at 70, Easter Sunday (today) we have even more of the white stuff piling up around us.  Except for the difficulty of travel and the labor of removing snow, it is rather exciting and reminiscent of one’s childhood if you—like I—grew up in the cold and snowy north.  This week I am home due to social distancing and the Covid-19 pandemic and ready to “cozy in,” hopefully for the last snow of this season.

 

I decided to get out Whittier’s Snowbound and re-read it.  I had forgotten what a wonderful piece of literature it is.  Of course, any references to food popped out at me and I share this delicious passage:

Shut in from all the world without,
We sat the clean-winged hearth about
Content to let the north-wind roar
In baffled rage at pane and door,
While the red logs before us beat
The frost-line back with tropic heat;…
Between the andirons’ straddling feet,
The mug of cider simmered slow,
The apples sputtered in a row,
And, close at hand, the basket stood
With nuts from brown October’s wood.

We actually had 9 working fireplaces in our B&B, even though 5 were in guests’ bedrooms.  We don’t have any in our retirement home, but I think it would be great fun to read the whole poem of Snowbound out loud to each other.  Add some “fireside food” to comfort us.  Here are a few recipes I pass on to you in case you want to do the same.

Baked Apples with Raisins

6 baking apples (such as Golden Delicious or Braeburn)
1 1/3 cups golden raisins
¾ cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cup apple juice
¼ cup butter

Preheat oven to 375. Scoop out stem, core and seed of apples, leaving bottom intact.  Peel skin off top half of each apple with an apple peeler.  Arrange apples, cavity side up, in a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.
Stir raisins and sugar in a bowl to blend.  Pack about 2 Tbsp raisin mixture into cavity of each apple.  Sprinkle remaining mixture into the dish around apples.  Pour juice over and around apples.  Dot with butter.
Bake apples for 1 hour and 10 minutes, basting often with juices.  Let apples stand 10 minutes, basting occasionally.  Serve in bowls with juices poured over and pass thick cream.  (6 servings)

Delightful Hot Chocolate

4 cups whole milk
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup sugar
4 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
Pinch of salt
Miniature marshmallows

Bring milk, cocoa powder and sugar to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking frequently.  Add chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth.  Add salt; bring to simmer, whisking constantly until frothy.  Ladle into 4 mugs.  Sprinkle with marshmallows.

If you’re not a big hot chocolate fan or want something a little more bracing against the storm, try this concoction:

Mulled Cranberry, Apple and Rum Cider

1 large orange
3 cups cranberry juice cocktail
3 cups apple cider
¾ cup (packed) golden brown sugar
4 ½ 3-to 4-inch long cinnamon sticks
18 whole cloves
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
6 Tbsp. dark rum
6 additional 3-to 4-inch-long cinnamon sticks (optional)
6 orange slices

Remove peel from orange in long strips.  Place strips in large saucepan; halve orange and squeeze juice into pan.  Add cranberry juice cocktail, apple cider, sugar, 4 ½ cinnamon sticks, cloves and nutmeg.  Bring to boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer 25 minutes.  Add rum to cider; simmer 5 minutes.  Ladle into mugs.  Garnish with cinnamon sticks and orange slices, if desired, and serve.  (makes about 6 cups)

For heartier fare, the obvious choices are usually the best:  a big pot of chili or any thick, hot soup, or perhaps a robust beef stew.  Here’s one that should stick to your ribs and comfort you as well:

Blustery Day Beef Stew

4 ounces bacon slices, coarsely chopped
4 Tbsp olive oil
3 pounds trimmed boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
3 Tbsp. flour
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
2 cups red wine
1 ½ cups canned beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 pound rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 pounds white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

Cook bacon in heavy large pot over medium-high heat until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes.  Transfer bacon to small bowl, leaving drippings.  Add 3 Tbsp. oil to drippings in pot.  Increase heat to high.  Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper.  Add beef to pot and sauté until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.  (Do it in batches).  Transfer beef to large bowl.  Add remaining oil to pot; add onions until brown, about 8 minutes.  Add flour and stir 1 minute.  Return beef and any accumulated juices to pot.  Mix in bacon tomatoes with juices, wine, broth, bay leaf, and thyme.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Cover pot and simmer 15 minutes.  Add rutabagas, carrots and potatoes.  Cover and simmer 45 minutes.  Uncover and simmer until meat is tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Serve.

I say, “Let it snow!”

 

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