Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Depending on where you are in the world, you may have heard about the giant Nor'easter which is currently wreaking havoc up and down the East Coast of the United States. We rarely have snow before January here in NJ and today we've gotten almost a foot of snow (last I checked) and it's still supposed to continue another seven hours!

There's The Viking, knee-deep in the beautiful fluffy stuff as he attempts to clean off my car. Man-Cub had a hard time getting through some of the drifts and came in for the night after he ran into a stump hidden in the snow.

Here's the view from our backdoor into our neighbor's yard. The Viking's truck has 4-wheel drive so we were out driving around this afternoon, running errands and stopping over at our dear friends' house for their daughter's first birthday party. It was slow going because of the poor visibility (not to mention the hordes of NJ drivers who have no clue how to drive in snow and freak out at the slightest coating), but we had great fun doing it!

From the kitchen porch. We're back home now and hunkered down for the night. The timing of our stove being completed couldn't be better. We've got plenty of wood and hot chocolate and eggnog and in a few minutes I'm making another stellar Cottage Pie! I think we'll be eating in the living room around the stove tonight! Last night, Man-Cub fell asleep on the floor in front of it with faithful Nutmeg beside him. What a photographic opportunity lost!

After dinner, we're supposed to bake some yummy things: some to give away as gifts and others simply for our own enjoyment. But first things first...time to make some Cottage Pie magic!

Take any hunk of leftover beef you may have on hand and, if it's tough and dried out, give it a braise bath in a pan half full of a mixture of beef broth and wine for about 30 minutes. Trust me, you'll be amazed at how tender and flavorful it is when it's done. If it's just fine the way it is, just cube it up into bite-sized pieces.

Fortunately (miraculously) I did not need to revive this meat. This time. This time I was smart and braised it right from the start. A good searing, then a 3 hour simmer in some beef broth and the last of the cranberry wine with a large onion chunked into it was all it needed. And, I promise you, despite its appearance in this photo, it did NOT look like dog food.

Some minced onion, sauteed in butter...

The rest of the carrots, threatening to turn manky in the fridge, chopped and added with some frozen corn (only veg I had in the freezer: WHERE did that bag of peas get to?)...

About a cup-and-a-half of beef broth, one-and-a-half tablespoons flour slurried with a few teaspoons water, some rosemary and thyme were all that was left to make a nice Cottage Pie base. But, WHOOPS! I forgot we were out of potatoes...dear oh dear...can't have Cottage Pie without potatoes. So, a quick flip through my cookbook and a quick scan online later, the Cottage Pie became...

Beef Pot Pie! Biscuit mix really is a great thing. And I don't mean biscuit mix out of a box. I mean the kind you can make easily yourself with some flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, some sugar and milk, buttermilk or cream! As you can see, we all tore into it pretty well. I actually remembered to stop and take this photo which is quite an accomplishment for me! It was darn tasty. And now I know: this recipe works with either potatoes or biscuits on top. Who can resist a recipe like that?

We ate our delectable dinner in the living room within cozy range of the stove while the weather outside got crazier and crazier. This is the view from the dining room window at around 10:30 tonight.

The view of our deck out of the laundry room window. This is where we let Nutmeg out to conduct her business of keeping our property free of small animals (among other things). She was not happy about having to walk around in cold wet stuff up to her armpits (do dogs have armpits, technically?) in order to continue business as usual. It took a few doses of tough love in order to get her out there. Sissy dog.

And the money shot, my car nearly completely snowed in. If you compare this to the above shot of The Viking you can see just how much snow has fallen in just six hours around here. We're estimating we've gotten nearly two feet and it hasn't stopped yet! I wonder what the grand total will be when we venture out tomorrow. We're supposed to be getting our tree which I'm sure will be a grand adventure! It sure will be a tree retrieval the kids will always remember!

Right, then, it's late and I've got great plans to nestle all snug in my bed while sparkling snowflakes swirl overhead.

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