Mother Nature gets a huge F for how it's treated us the past two holidays. I think we're all hoping the frost issues and power outages are over for good. I know the linemen (our heroes) hope the same.
The continuous accumulation of frost over three days, while pretty, was dangerously destructive. In the spring, once the snow is gone, I'll be busy for quite a while constructing a new pile of broken tree limbs. I'm afraid it will be quite a large pile. I've wanted a small wood chopper for years. Maybe that will finally happen? There won't be any scenes reminiscent of Fargo at our place, though.
This column is being composed at the tail end of 2019, but for the first week of 2020. So forgive me for living in the past for a bit. Our generator had quite the workout Christmas week. We were still able to have our Christmas meal as planned, but I know others weren't. It wasn't a large feast as there were only the three of us to enjoy it.
I defrosted the chocolate pecan pie I'd made for our aborted Thanksgiving meal. (Why does it seem as though the rotten weather chooses holidays to hit?) That pie is very rich, and even though I'd sent a chunk of it home with mom, I was able to enjoy it for several days. Dennis didn't help me consume it because he doesn't care for pecans. That recipe was shared in the holiday cooking special in this paper right before Thanksgiving.
Having purchased fruit through the local FFA chapter at the school in Opheim, I have a lot of pears. Besides eating them fresh I decided to try baking some. I copied four recipes from online to try. This is the only one I've used so far. The sauce didn't caramelize for me, but it still made a tasty syrup. I used three pears but didn't increase the other ingredients. In fact, there was enough sauce I could have easily done four or five pears. The three fit in an 8" square pan.
Caramelized Baked Pears
2 large pears, cut in half and cored
1/3 C butter, melted
1/2 C brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbl granulated sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Lay pears flat, cut side down, and slice, being careful to not cut all the way through. Lightly brush with the melted butter. Add brown sugar and vanilla to the rest unused butter and spread on the bottom of the baking dish. Put pears on top, sliced side down. Spoon some of the sauce over them. Mix granulated sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle on top. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes, or until tender.
I baked extra potatoes with my ham as I'd already decided I'd be making the following soup. Since the oven was already going to be on for a long time, why not use that heat more productively? The ham only needed 325°, but for two hours. That's plenty of time to bake potatoes, right? They weren't huge spuds, and I set them upright in a muffin tin to prevent them from rolling about and that made it easy to both insert and extract them from the oven.
Loaded Baked Potato Soup
4 slices bacon, diced
5 Tbl butter
1/4 C flour
3 1/2 C milk
3 potatoes, cubed
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 C sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 C sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Brown bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Melt butter, whisk in flour, then gradually whisk in milk until slightly thickened. Add potatoes and onions. Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the rest, adding more milk if needed, letting cheese melt.
I did modify the recipe to include some chopped leftover ham. I used plain Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream. I chopped up red onion, sauteed in butter, instead of green onions. I grated some asiago cheese and used provolone instead of cheddar. Almond milk replaced regular milk as my body has issues with real milk. My other big change was pre-cooked bacon crumbles, so there was no bacon grease. I have made the recipe as written, and it's good, but I suffered afterwards from the dairy.
Lots of my recipes are simply guides: mere suggestions rather than laws. Go ahead and be creative with your cooking. Yes, there will be failures along the way, but there will also be lots of successes.
I was going to share a family gingersnap recipe, that I've used for years, but have decided I've filled enough space for this week. That might show up next week - maybe. I make no promises.
Reflecting On 2019
It's the end of 2019. A new decade, 2020, is looming. I, for one, am not looking forward to the coming constant political campaign ads. It seems as though that nastiness is never-ending. It's hard to remain upbeat with all the mud being slung. My perception is that ALL the candidates spend most of their time putting the other side down and almost no time on how they plan to improve things. My feeling is that NO incumbents should be reinstalled. But I'm only one vote...
I spent a bit of time this morning reflecting on the year that just passed. I looked through the columns I penned. (I keep a list of my topics, and especially the recipes shared. I try to not repeat those, but a few do bear reprinting.)
Last year started in Florida for us. The Whole Life Challenge started in mid-January, continuing with four sessions throughout the year. An air fryer was purchased, so new ways of cooking healthy meals commenced.
A trip to the Chicago area occurred in February. I enjoyed time with our youngest and her family. March was endured.
April was when I began cleaning up the winter's detritus fro