Thanks for nothing, Groundhog. You sure lulled us into believing that spring was about to be sprung. All the signs of an early spring were there: crocus peeping from under the dead leaves in the back yard, forsythia blazing in the neighbor’s yard, daffodils popping up in sunnier pockets of the neighborhood. We even went for walks without extra layers – no mufflers, no gloves, no hats. And today, when we should be contemplating the excesses of Mardi Gras, today we are working in the kitchen, making warming, fattening, comfort food.
It is pouring down rain this morning as I type this. Luke the wonder dog has retreated to the deep recesses of his comfy bed in the living room. He didn’t see the need to go for our usual morning walk in the near-freezing precipitation. Nope. A little amble around the back yard was all he needed this morning. The weather pundits think that it might be a big winter storm; some history-making event of the season. I think they own shares in bread and milk companies myself. I will prepare, maybe not for the worst, but just enough that we can have a couple of meals tucked away in the freezer in case we don’t want to do battle with the weather.
We already have chili, turkey soup and spaghetti sauce neatly stacked in color-coded towers of neatly labeled Tupperware in our freezer stronghold. (This is Mr. Friday’s handiwork – not mine. You can tell when I put things in there – I favor freezer Baggies, with dates scrawled in Trump-y Sharpie.) Frankly, I could be very happy without chili again until we are roasting hot dogs in July. I have had enough chili stuck to my ribs already this winter. I’d like something sauce-y and warm, that is easy to re-heat, that only requires a little bread and butter and a small green salad on the side.
The easiest thing to do would be to roast a chicken, but that doesn’t lend itself to easy leftovers. I prefer leftovers to come out of the existing pan, without needing much imagination or extra preparation. I would rather spend this quality time reading or catching up on Call the Midwife. (Did you know that Call the Midwife is in its 9th season? There are still new shows coming to PBS! Amazing!) Still, you might fancy a roasted chicken. Mark Bittman can show you the way: https://www.markbittman.com/recipes-1/simplest-roast-chicken-8-ways
My mother, who had many opinions, did not believe in mixes or modern packaged convenience foods. She baked cakes from scratch, grated cheese (and knuckles) for macaroni and cheese because powdered Kraft Mac & Cheese would never find a place at her table. She never bought Shake & Bake or Hamburger Helper. We longed for these exotic foods that we saw hawked on our black and white Zenith television. She did relent and bought Tang, the powdered orange breakfast beverage that the astronauts drank, but otherwise my brother and I were shielded from the industrial food complex. I think she would approve of this homemade hamburger helper, though. Anything to keep us warm and full and happy – and outside.
If you can get past the New York Times paywall, this is a dependable recipe: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1020728-homemade-hamburger-helper
This version takes all the 1970s fun out of the meal, but you may have higher standards than the Spy Test Kitchens: https://fitfoodiefinds.com/healthy-hamburger-casserole/
Winter is back for a little while, but luckily it is the weekend. Enjoy yourself!
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
― Edith Sitwell