Snow Day!


They got this one right on the money...SNOW! The weather wonks predicted that we'd get 3-5 inches of the fluffy stuff after midnight last night, and that's just exactly what happened...wonder of all wonders. We went to bed after 11:00, nothing on the ground, nothing falling from the sky. We woke up this morning before 7:00...accumulation all over the place! The dogs are having a ball, playing in the backyard, but as you can see in the photo to the left, Missy M isn't having so much fun.

Even though her company was on a two-hour delay (officially), she got up early to try and dig her car out...no such luck. When she emailed her manager of her plight, she received a reply that the roads were actually worse than they appeared. Looks like she's working from home today.

There seems to be a layer of ice underneath the snow. The City of Louisville doesn't salt or clear the streets in neighborhoods (unlike the service we enjoy in O'Fallon), just the main arteries, so the curve in front of her house appears to be a slippery slope for the few passing vehicles that we've observed...from the warm interior of her house. Hot chocolate, anyone?

I'm putting Snow Day rules into effect. When Missy M was a little girl, we always made a big pot of either soup, stew, or chili on a Snow Day. Then, while we watched videos (back in the Dark Ages, before DVDs), we baked bread and cookies. The house was warm and smelled wonderful...and lovely memories were made.

Fast forward to the present. I've put some chicken breasts on to boil, in preparation of making Brunswick Stew. I baked Blueberry Muffins to enjoy with hot tea for our breakfast. I've got some Oatmeal Cookies (Missy M made these last weekend and froze some of the dough before we ate them all in one sitting...:) in the oven right now, and when they are done, I'll get started on the dough for a couple of loaves of bread. Yep, it's all about staying warm and being comfortable...and what better way than keeping the stove in service? And, with the threat of more cold weather with ice on the way...and the potential of losing electric power...I've learned that it's best to have your gas stove in action before the lights go out!

I'm using Missy M's humongous Crock Pot to cook the Brunswick Stew. Although it means preparing all the veggies before they go in (raw carrots and potatoes just don't do as well crocked in all that tomato base), I think the taste of the finished product is ever so much livelier. And, by par-boiling the potatoes, I end up with potato-water to make my bread dough...see, it all is connected! Plus, cooking the stew s-l-o-w-l-y is exactly what the Stewart Clan did on the farm in Tennessee, all those many years ago. So what if their Pot wasn't a Crock but a big, black kettle on an open fire? Just making Brunswick Stew draws me nearer to those who came before me.

Here's my recipe for Crock Pot Brunswick Stew for a Snow Day:

Ingredients:


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (use large ones...or 3 smaller ones)
1/4 pound (more or less) cooked pork loin
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (for water to boil meat)
Water to cover
2 large, peeled, diced potatoes
Water to cover (no added salt for the potatoes, if using the water for bread dough recipe, below)
1 small onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
8-10 baby carrots, diced
2 Tablespoons butter to saute veggies
2 cups of reserved (meat) broth
1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz) with liquid
2 small cans tomato sauce (8 oz each)
1 can lima beans
1 1/2 to 2 cups corn kernels (I use the frozen kind)
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon Paula Deen's House Seasoning (I make it according to her recipe with salt, pepper, & garlic powder)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1-2 hot pepper pods (remove before serving, if possible)
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4 cup catsup (optional)

Preparation:

Place chicken breasts and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt in a large stew pot; add water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 2 hours, until chicken is done and falling apart. Drain chicken on a plate to cool; reserve broth. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken with a fork. Place shredded chicken in a large Crock Pot.

Skim fat from reserved broth. Add cooked pork loin to stew pot. Return broth to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer pork, uncovered, until pork is done and falling apart. Drain pork on a plate to cool; reserve broth. When cool enough to handle, shred pork with a fork. Place shredded pork in Crock Pot. [NOTE: tastes better when you have a mixture of chicken and pork...or, you can be traditional and use squirrel. I've warned those varmints that are presently nibbling on the birdseed in the feeders to be afraid, be very afraid...but they seem to know that I'm only kidding. Squirrel? Ewwwwwweu.]

Fill a saucepan with water (NO salt). Add potato, and simmer 10 minutes. When done, add diced pototoes to the Crock Pot. [NOTE: if not using the potato-water to make bread dough, you can use some of the reserved broth to cook the potatoes and add both to the Stew in the Crock Pot when the potatoes are fork-tender done.]

Melt 2 T. butter in a saute pan. Add diced carrots, onion, and celery to melted butter and saute for 8-10 minutes until tender-wilted. Add to Crock Pot. [NOTE: Nana/Momma/Edith adds diced green pepper, but I'm not particularly fond of the taste. Cook's choice.]

Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, lima beans, and corn to the Crock Pot. Stir in reserved chicken broth and seasonings, and simmer cook on HIGH for a couple of hours. [NOTE: here's where you can add the traditional okra, if you'd like. I don't particularly like. Also, N/M/E uses canned, creamed corn...I prefer the frozen niblets, as they hold up to the Crock Pot better.]

Add 1 T. butter and catsup to Stew and reduce setting to LOW for 4-6 more hours. Adjust seasonings and remove pepper pods before serving. Great with hot cornbread muffins or freshly baked bread. Yum!

Serves 6 to 8. Leftovers (if any) freeze well.


Basic Bread Dough for 2 Loaves

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of water, warmed to 105-115 degrees
1 teaspoon sugar
2 packages yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 cups potato-water (water reserved from boiling potatoes with NO salt added)
7-7 1/2 cups flour, divided
1 Tablespoon salt
melted butter

Preparation:

In a 2-cup measuring cup, put the lukewarm water, the yeast, and 1 tsp. of sugar. Set aside to bubble and double in bulk.

In a 4-cup measuring cup, put the potato water (warm enough to melt the room-temperature butter, but not boiling hot), the 1/4 cup butter, and the 1/4 sugar. Stir to mix.

In the mixer bowl, put 3 cups of flour. Add the yeast mixture and the potato water mixture and stir to mix well. Allow this batter to rest for about an hour, until doubled.

Add the 1 T. salt to 1 cup of flour. Add this to the yeast batter and stir down. Using the dough hook on the mixer, begin incorporating more flour, one cup at a time, until a soft dough begins to form. Resist the urge to add too much flour. Knead the dough, either with the dough hook on the mixer (I do) or by hand for about 5 minutes. Let rest while you prepare the pans.

Grease well two 9x5 loaf pans. Divide the dough in half, form each half into a loaf, and place in a prepared pan. Cover and let rise in a warm part of the kitchen until the loaf has topped the edge of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. (I like a soft crust, so I place a pan of water in the oven while preheating, to create a moist environment.) When ready, put the pans in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the top of the loaf rings hollow when tapped. I like to brush melted butter on the top crust at this time.

Remove loaves from the pans. Let cool on a rack. Slice with a serated bread knife and enjoy!

OK...enough blogging. Better check on the stew. And pop in a Midsomer Murders DVD. Some things change...some things never should!

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