A cold January to remember

This will be a January to remember. It’s not quite as bad as the Blizzard of 1950, but only we older folks remember that. The snow isn’t as bad as the bitter cold has been, but hopefully, most of that will lessen as we head toward February. However, we will take what we get and hope for the best. If you have elderly family, neighbors, or friends, it is a good idea to check on them. Protect your pets and keep the kids warm. Be very thankful if you have a warm house, warm clothes, and food for a hot meal. Try to help those who don’t have that if you can. Spring is coming, really, just not as fast as we would like, temperature wise.

As a young one, we didn’t seem to notice the cold or snow. It seems we used to have more snow than now – deep enough for constant sledding and snow ice cream. A very favorite memory is Grandpa Semon hitching up the horses to the farm sled, putting the sleigh bells on them, and going for an evening “sleigh ride” to the neighbors house. Our “heaters” were bricks warmed in the oven and wrapped in towels. That, along with heavy blankets and quilts, kept us toasty warm as we enjoyed the beauty of the snow and the family outing. You could say we “enjoyed simple pleasures” on that hilltop farm back of Marietta.

As the wood kitchen store was kept hot all the time (for heat as well as cooking), there was always an abundance of fresh bread, coffee cakes, cookies, and soups. We ate well in the winter, as well as the rest of the year. Many of our “supper” meals were ones that the kids today would think was weird. One favorite was Apple Dumplings with either cream or milk. The apples, from our own orchard, were stored in the cellar for winter use, and our cows furnished the milk, and the real cream that came to the top of the milk.

Another winter supper was Mush and milk. It wasn’t my favorite unless it had a lot of brown sugar and cinnamon on it. Brown sugar was a special treat as it was one of the few things that were “store bought”. Cinnamon was a staple in Grandma’s kitchen and used freely in most baked goods and considered a necessity. Pie and milk was considered a proper evening meal, also.

Breakfast was a full meal – not like I eat today! – and dinner meant the noon meal which was the main meal of the day. Supper was what we ate in the evening. This did change a bit when Mom was teaching and we kids started school as a lunchbox wasn’t like the hot school lunches of today and our suppers got a little more like a regular meal. I still consider pie and milk as a good breakfast or evening meal. The winter is a good time for hobbies. What new thing, or old thing long put away, have you thought about doing this year? One can’t garden right now, although one can order the seeds and start some in the kitchen window. So, why not learn a new skill. Learning new things is supposed to be one of the things that helps one maintain good mental health. Besides, it is fun and during nasty weather, one needs something that is fun to do. Cooking can be fun – trying new recipes – and baking is absolutely delightful, but both have to be done conservatively or that summer bathing suit will never fit. Doing something with one’s hands is a better choice and keeps one from using those hands to feed the face. I started an afghan when I heard my first grandchild was expected. It is somewhere, packed away; too big a project for that time, but now would be a great project to finish. Just one problem – it is “packed away” somewhere and I haven’t found it. If you have some project – unfinished – this would be a good time to hunt it up and finish it. I am going to keep looking for that afghan, as well as the knit coat that was almost finished. If I can’t find either, then I will have to find something else. I do have more ideas than can be tried before the weather turns, and then those new projects will end up unfinished. Just can’t get time and energy to be coordinated. I could just clean the house and discard a bunch of unneeded items, but that would be work and not under the title of fun.

Norm just looks at my office (clutter room) and shakes his head. He can’t say too much though – there is that wicker rocker with just a little to be done, and several broken lamps that need to be rewired. When football season is over, perhaps we will be able to tear ourselves away from the TV and do something other than falling asleep at half-time. Super Bowl is next – go Peyton! – we won’t fall asleep during that one. The Olympics will keep us awake, too (I think).

Please find something to enjoy about this cold spell. It can be a time of doing that which you usually don’t take the time. I have a room full of books in case the libraries run out of them for you to read, and stacks of craft books and cookbooks. Join me in the pursuit of fun and joy during this time when Mother Nature tries to make us miserable. Keep warm, laugh often, hug your family members, and God Bless!

GROUND BEEF SOUP

One-half pound lean ground beef

One-half cup chopped onion

One garlic clove, crushed

One-half cup sliced carrots

One can (16 oz.) pinto beans, drained

One can (16 oz.) tomatoes

One and cups beef broth

One cup water

One-half cup dry red wine

One bay leaf

One teaspoon salt

One-half teaspoon basil

One-fourth teaspoon pepper

One-half cup shell or elbow macaroni

One package (9 oz.) cut frozen green beans (or one can cut green beans, drained)

Grated Parmesan cheese

In a Dutch oven, or heavy saucepot, brown beef, stirring occasionally. Add onion and garlic and saut 5 minutes. Pour off any fat. Add carrots, beans, tomato with liquid, beef broth, water, wine, bay leaf, salt, basil, and pepper. Heat to boiling; cover and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes. Add macaroni and cook 10 minutes. Add green beans and cook another 10 minutes. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese on each serving.

NOTE: Double or triple this recipe and freeze any leftover from your meal. Freeze in containers that each holds enough for one meal at a time.

COCONUT AND SPICE CAKE

Two and cups all-purpose flour

One and teaspoons baking powder

One and teaspoons ground cinnamon

Three-fourths teaspoon baking soda

One-half teaspoon salt

One-fourth teaspoon ground cloves

One-fourth teaspoon nutmeg

One-fourth teaspoon ground allspice

One-eighth teaspoon ground ginger

One-half cup butter or margarine

One-half cup granulated sugar

One -half cup brown sugar, packed

One teaspoon vanilla

Four eggs

One and cups light cream

One-fourth cup molasses

One and cups shredded coconut

One-half teaspoon grated orange rind

Two-thirds cup nonage marmalade

One three oz. package cream cheese

Six tablespoons butter or margarine

Two cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Two to three drops orange extract

Toasted coconut for garnish

Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Combine first nine ingredients and set aside. Beat cup butter for 30 seconds. Beat in the sugars and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 1 minute after each, and set aside. Combine the cream and molasses. Add dry ingredients and molasses mixture alternately to the egg mixture, beating after each addition. Stir in coconut and orange zest. Turn, equally, into the three pans. Bake in the preheated oven for twenty minutes. Cool ten minutes. Remove from pans and finish cooling on wire racks. Stack cakes on serving plate, spreading marmalade between layers. For the frosting, beat together cream cheese and remaining butter. Beat in confectioners’ sugar and extract. Frost top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with toasted coconut.

COUNTRY

BREAKFAST PIE

One 9-inch unbaked pie shell

One pound bulk country sausage

One and cups grated Swiss cheese

One-fourth cup chopped green bell pepper

One-fourth cup chopped red bell pepper

Two tablespoons chopped onion

One small can mushrooms, drained

Four eggs, lightly beaten

One cup Half-and-half

Cook sausage until done. Crumble and drain on paper towel. Mix cheese and sausage and sprinkle in pie shell. Lightly beat eggs in a bowl. Combine remaining ingredients and add to the egg mixture. Gently pour into the shell over the cheese and sausage mixture. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.