Appetizers to enjoy during the cold

Two weeks into this crazy new year! We could have done without some of the things that have been thrown at us weather-wise. As this is written (early in the week before you read it), we have had freezing rain, ice, and snow. Both Monday’s and Tuesday’s weather caused the schools to close as it wasn’t safe to be outside or on the roads. Warmer days are to be coming, but right back to the nasties for this weekend. Hopefully, the forecast will be a little nicer to us as we enter this week. I like snow, but really it is nicer at a ski resort.

As we go through this weather cycle, I keep thinking about our ancestors as they met the challenges of living in this valley. All they had to give them information of coming weather was The Farmers’ Almanac, and it was written months before the seasons they were facing day to day. They had to have great faith that it would get warmer, based on what the weather had been last year, and the promise from that Almanac for the present year. No TV or radio to listen to that could give them any information for either more cold or a warming trend. Those “Good Old Days” had their down sides, too.

That “thankful” word that I am trying to use all year just got a long list to reinforce it. I am thankful for a warm house (the gas company is, too, and rubbing their hands together and smiling, thinking about all the gas that has been delivered), and (I am thankful that husband Norm is able to provide for it); warm clothes; electricity that has stayed on; cold water pipes and bathroom drain pipes that stayed open; food in the freezer and cellar; communications (TV and internet); knowing that Monday’s cold would be replaced by warmer temperatures during the week; just too many “thankfuls” to list them all. A warm cup of tea, a rocking chair, and fireplace is all I need to help me count these blessings.

Another giant “thankful” is for those folks (like the Salvation Army) who are able to take what we can give them and help those who need assistance, especially during these winter months. Do share, but it is wise to check out the groups who ask for your donations so that most of what you give them goes toward helping those who actually need it. If you have elderly neighbors or those who might need help, please check on them regularly.

As the snow piled up this past Monday, I looked at those new seed catalogs that had arrived. All the new versions of flowers and vegetables looked so interesting that it was hard not to grab the order blank and send for some. I knew it would look more like work next spring, but dreaming about a perfect garden did help ignore the snow and ice that showed up outside the farmhouse windows. Living in this valley causes one to complain about the weather a lot. Shame on us. We know it changes often — just wait around and the bad (or the good) will do a 180.

The weather did give us an excuse to take needed housework a little easy and gave us time to cook some new recipes and do some of that baking that requires us to stay close to the kitchen. It was a good chance to interact more with the young ones. Of course, not everyone was so lucky to be able to stay home and have that “mini home vacation”. To those who had to face dangerous conditions to get to work, bless you and may your way have been safe. Life doesn’t always give us an easy road to travel.

As the snow fell this past week, the childhood memory of Snow Ice Cream surfaced. That was before contaminated air in our area that made eating snow somewhat risky. And, somehow, I don’t remember thinking it was so cold, either. Back then, no one was concerned about eating raw egg products, like in ice cream. The snow did seem to be deeper and it was easy to skim off the top, then fill a big bowl with fluffy, white snow. Sugar, vanilla, eggs, and “top” cream (the very top of the cream that rose on the milk crock — fresh from last night’s milking, not pasteurized, either) and Grandma’s wooden spoon made a dessert that can’t be matched today. Of course, we didn’t have much with which to compare it then, either. Kids, today, would probably turn up their noses at the thought of it, but it was a treat for us. (Now, I reach for Turkey Hill, too.) I wonder what today’s kids will remember many years from now when they recall the “old days” of their childhood.

Remember your “old days”, but enjoy today; it is the first day of the rest of your life. Smile, count your blessings, and be thankful for the little, everyday things. Keep those dear to you in your prayers, as well as those who protect all of us. Enjoy the recipes today, and have that cup of tea. God Bless.

***

STUFFED MUSHROOMS

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1 hard cooked egg, finely chopped

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

1/2 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 lb. fresh mushrooms

4 tablespoons butter, melted

In a mixing bowl, combine cheese, egg, bread crumbs, garlic and the softened butter. Blend thoroughly. Remove stems from mushrooms and place unfilled mushrooms, rounded side up, on a baking sheet. Brush tops with the melted butter and broil 3 to 4 inches from heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from broiler. Turn mushrooms and fill each with the cheese mixture. Return the filled mushrooms to boiler for 1 to 2 minutes.

***

SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE DIP

2 packages (8-oz. each) cream cheese, softened

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 teaspoon garlic powder

1 bag (16-oz.) frozen spinach, thawed and well drained

1 can (13 3/4-oz.) artichoke hearts, rinsed and well drained

2/3 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 cup salsa

In a food processor, process the cream cheese, cream, Parmesan cheese and garlic powder until smooth and creamy. Add spinach and process until thoroughly mixed. Add the artichokes and process until they are coarsely chopped. Put mixture into an oven proof dish, sprinkle with the Monterey cheese, spoon salsa around edge, and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and cheese is melted. Serve warm.

***

HOT CRABMEAT DIP

1 can crabmeat

1 package (8-oz.) cream cheese

1 heaping tablespoon horseradish

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash Worcestershire sauce

Juice from 1/2 lemon

Slivered almonds

Combine all ingredients except almonds. Put into a small baking dish and add slivered almonds to top of dip. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 15 minutes or until bubbly.

***

POLYNESIAN TURKEY SALAD

4 cups cooked turkey, cut into small pieces

3 cups diced celery

1 1/2 cups diced canned pineapple chunks

1 1/2 cups seedless grapes

1/2 cup shredded carrot

1 cup toasted almond halves or slices

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

Salad greens

Minced fresh parsley

Combine turkey, celery, pineapple, carrots, and almonds. Blend mayonnaise with sour cream and seasonings. Pour over turkey mixture and toss lightly. Chill thoroughly. Serve on salad greens and garnish with minced parsley.

***

SOFT AND CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 1/2 cups butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 eggs

4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 package (12-oz.) chocolate chips

In a large bowl, beat sugar, brown sugar, and butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, blend well. Add flour, baking soda, and salt and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake in preheated 375-degrees oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until light golden brown.

***

SPICED TOASTED NUTS

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

2 cups nuts

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Beat egg white and water slightly with a fork. Stir in the nuts. Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle over nuts, stirring until well coated. Spread in a shallow baking pan that has been buttered. Bake in preheated 275- to 300-degrees oven for 30 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. Remove from oven, let stand 5 to 10 minutes and stir again.

COMMENTS