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The urge to hide under blankets and wait for spring

By Becky Hoff

Fri, Jan 17th, 2014
Posted in All Columnists

January- the month of the hermit. Every January I am inclined to batten down the hatches, stock up on library books, and drink endless cups of coffee. This is preferably done while huddled under a blanket and anxiously awaiting spring. Cold weather puts me in touch with my inner grouch. No contact is desired from the outside world- no leaving the house, no talking on the phone, nothing. The only things I want to do are sleep late and eat cheese sandwiches for breakfast. I want to wallow under the covers. It is -23 degrees as I write this, and that isn’t helping. The urge to move to Florida, join a cult of sun worshippers, and change my name to Sunshine is strong just now.

But let’s be honest- wallowing under the blankets with a coffee mug and a novel is a good way to spend a day or two, but after that it becomes…boring. Once you’ve realized that you’re bored (and out of cheese) you have no choice but to get up and get moving. While winter will never be my favorite season, I am going to make an effort to enjoy what benefits it may offer.

Winter is a restorative season. Gardeners know that the earth must rest so that it can bloom again in the spring. Perhaps people need this down time as well. Having quiet days to read books and work on crafts and writing projects will restore my sense of calm. I will take time to reflect on the year I have had, and the kind of year I would like to have. When outside, I will admire all of the animal tracks in the snow, and be pleased with the knowledge that my yard receives many visitors every day. Perhaps I will play outside and build a snowman, or finally learn how to use snowshoes.

Today I am sharing a recipe from my Aunt Geriann, who is probably one of the nicest people I know! Connecticut Beef is a great supper for a cold and wintery evening. It is hearty, filling and simple. The recipe makes a 9x13 pan, but I have found that it divides beautifully into two 8x8 or 9x9 pans. One for now, one for the freezer. Or, one for a neighbor or friend!

Connecticut Beef

1-½ pounds stew meat, cut up

2 medium onions, chopped

A teaspoon of minced garlic

Vegetable oil for browning meat

2 (4 oz.) cans of mushrooms, drained (reserve liquid)

Liquid from canned mushrooms and water to make one cup liquid

1 can of cream of mushroom soup

1 cup milk

1 cup sour cream

½ tsp or so of salt

½ tsp or so black pepper

6-10 medium potatoes, peeled, quartered and sliced thin (six heaping cups)

3 cups grated cheddar cheese

In a heavy pot, brown the stew meat, onions and garlic in a bit of oil.

To this mixture, add the one cup of canned mushroom liquid/water and mushrooms. Bring to a simmer, partially cover and continue simmering for one hour. This tenderizes your beef.

Pour meat mixture into a lightly greased 9x13 pan, or divide into two lightly greased 8x8 or 9x9 pans.

Top the beef mixture with your sliced potatoes.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cream of mushroom soup, milk, sour cream, salt and pepper.

Pour this mixture over the potatoes, taking care to divide it evenly if you are making the two smaller casseroles.

Top with cheese, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for approximately 75-90 minutes. It’s ready when the potatoes are tender. Please note, be sure to cut your potatoes thin, though not wafer thin. Chunky potatoes take a looong time to cook all the way through!

Enjoy, and stay warm!

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