After an unusually warm and snowless first half of February, we are in the midst of a three-day “snow event” with 12-20 inches of snow expected and high winds to boot.  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.

I am home and ready to “cozy in” in front of the fireplace.  Here I can watch the deer family that live in the woods behind the house.  I feel sorry for them foraging for food in so much snow.  First part of the plan is 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.

I think it would be great to read the whole poem of Snowbound while treating myself to fireside food for extra comfort and fun.  Here are a few recipes I pass on to you in case you want to do the same.

Baked Apples with Raisins

(6 servings)

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

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

(makes about 6 cups)

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.

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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