SPELLING BEE Time
BY BEA WESTERBERG
“Snowflakes are pretty patterns etched in water’s dreams”. Anthony I. Hincks
I think we can give ourselves a few pats on our backs for making it through snow, rain, wind, rainbows, ice, electricity outages, trips not planned off road and lots of shoveling and car window clearing. And that is just for the first 2 full weeks of January!
My “new” used car and I are on very good terms and she fits very nicely in the car shelter that Neighbor Tony and crew put up for me in late fall. Of course I had to wait to get plowed out and it took a few days for that to happen so I knew I was not going anyplace. I have the roof rack on the car and I am beginning to think I might have to tie a red rabbit or a purple pig on it to make me see my car when I am out and about. It really does look like almost every other car in the lot! So, if you see me walking around a parking lot, I am out hunting for Sylvia, the silver Subaru.
Some of us might call January “down time”, but let’s take advantage of this time to take care of ourselves and do some things we may not normally do. I have been totally enjoying my chocolate drinks. I usually do have chocolate in the house, but I have been gifted with chocolates from faraway places. I have chocolates from Oaxaca, Mexico, a hot chocolate mix with chocolate from Ecuador with Japanese green tea and a single serving mix of 12 different chocolate mixes. And yes, I did get cream to make them better and got the spray whipped cream to make pretty designs on my treats. I did say I was treating myself! As long as I said I was treating myself, I probably will mention that I got some great Abdallah chocolates from Big Brother Jeff of Rio Gran and See’s Candies from Western Sister Eileen. Nothing like a good chocolate drink with a chocolate candy treat!
We do not have to feel guilty this month about heating up the kitchen and the air conditioning bill so let’s get those ovens and stoves working. You can start without extra calories by having your kitchen, etc. smell like you have been baking all day. The old trick of putting the spices in a pan with some water and low heat on the stove works every time.
Ground spices work the best and be sure to check the water level as it goes down faster than you think. You can also do the spice route with apple juice/cider or cranberry juice drink and have a great end result. If you are going to consume the drink, it works best to use the stick or whole form of the spices. You can also put the spices in a bag that can be removed at serving time. If time is an issue, you can put the spices in the coffee maker where the coffee grounds go and have it run a cycle. The large coffee makers for events are also useful for serving spiced drinks.
January is also a perfect time to make your own soup and once you do, I will be willing to bet you are going to have a hard time to go back to the cans. I know that some of you say that making soup is totally outside of your box, but with the help of the thousands of easy soup recipes available at your fingertips on the internet, YOU CAN DO IT! I always make a big batch so that I can freeze for later use. Daughter Nissa got me 2 wonderful silicon containers; one is a cup size and the other a two-cup size that are perfect for freezing soup. The block shapes are very easy to store in plastic bags. Chicken wild rice soup is one of the soups I need to make it through the winter months, along with chili and a beef noodle soup. I am going to try a potato bacon soup that they say freezes well. I am going to do a small batch of this so I can see if freezing a potato-based soup really works out. Last week I made a chicken dumpling soup with chicken leg pieces. I like dark rather than white chicken in general, so this worked out very well for me.
The Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, your oven and stovetop can all be used with joy to make these winter goodies. I still would do a pot roast on the stove top or the oven just to get the wonderful smells in the air. Of course, if time is an issue, then the Instant Pot is the answer and if you are not going to be on site, then the Slow Cooker is the answer for that.
We probably better toss in the Air Fryer as I am sure that was a Christmas present for a number of households. They come in styles to fit on your Instant Pot and also as a totally separate unit. (Note that your Instant Pot is only a holder for the air fryer unit and it itself does nothing for the cooking process). For the most part, they do a good job of cooking things and also reheating leftovers. In fact, something like fries and tater tots seem to be better when reheated at home.
All is not perfect at the Westerberg kingdom as the Christmas Cookie Supply is getting down to the low side! I did not make as much as I had planned (which really should be considered a good thing), but between gifts and sister sharing I had a wonderful collection that I should just be happy with and say no more cookies at this level until next Christmas. I did slip in some chow mein noodle cookies after Christmas that turned out pretty good. I had tried the “melt the chocolate” in the bowl over the Instant Pot thing and it was kind of okay but I will not do that again. The saute heat seemed too hot and the yogurt setting too slow to melt the chocolate. I think the hot water did get mixed in with the chocolate and it was not the smooth chocolate I always got by using my electric fry pan on low without any water. Some of this chocolate was leftover so I added some new chocolate and the chow mein noodles. I also added all the malted milk balls I had on hand. Half the amount of “cookie” was put on a parchment and I placed a tablespoon of Litehouse Old Fashioned Caramel Dip on that. Then I placed what would have been the other half of the cookie on top of that and pressed in place.
Make some new trails in your cookie, baking or soup projects. We have a little over eleven and a half months of this year to enjoy, make do and have a few hard times, so make the most of it! Bea Westerberg [email protected]