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Snow Time To Panic

Snowpocalypse Raleigh NC

No, this isn’t Norfolk, Virginia where I live. This is Raleigh, North Carolina a relatively short drive south, a few years ago. But we react to snow about the same way around here. Our AT-ATs are a touch smaller, though.

So today (Wednesday the 3rd of this brave new world of 2018) I had a mental healthcare appointment to keep (no emergencies — in fact, I’ve been feeling better than I have for the past 3 or 4 years). I first set up these appointments when the family car was working, but because I am a prescient prophet capable of seeing that driving 20 year old cheap beater cars means we’ll be carless from time to time when one dies, I chose a practice in walking distance.

And of course it’s winter when the car chooses to die, the jerky little bastard. And of course the Earth’s hat of cold air has lately slipped rakishly to the side and we’re under all that fine polar air right now while the precious icecap continues melting in frickin January.

But the walk isn’t so bad because it’s over freezing unlike the walk I had to take for yesterday’s appointment, and the legacy of a Wisconsin childhood is knowing how to dress for cold. Only my cane hand gets truly cold, and maybe my nose.

My appointment was on one side of a rectangular route with one of the two grocery stores in walking distance on the other side of it on the way home, so instead of taking the shorter route back home I figured I’d stop by the store as long as I was already walking and pick up a few odds and ends like some apples and pears for the children who, I am very happy to report, can chow fresh fruit like champions and do at every opportunity. Yay, nutrition!

I wasn’t planning on picking up enough things to justify taking along the collapsible cart I recently bought thanks to my Patreon patrons, so I brought an empty backpack. All good. Planning ahead.

But what I did not plan on — and I should have known better given my past experience as a manager in the grocery biz — was the forecast of 8-12 inches of snow in the forecast for tonight (there’s a bit less than an inch on the ground as I type this, and the snow is beginning to come down again after taking a break for nightfall) and what it would mean for my mission.

In Norfolk, Virginia where close proximity to the ocean gentles the temperatures, this is a MASSIVE BLIZZARD WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE OH GOD.

The grocery store was clotted with swarms of half-crazed customers. Like, a no shopping carts available, I got one of the last 6 or 7 handbaskets swarm of shoppers — and at that point, not a single snowflake had fallen yet.

Ew, a handbasket. I don’t like using them anymore, because they unbalance me due to my limp and bone-on-bone hip, and I already limp heavily enough even with the cane thankyouverymuch.

I almost decided to say screw it and head home. But, the kids want apples. And the wife’s upset tummy craves full-sugar Coca Cola (which horrifies me; as my grandma’s good little boy I cleave to her teaching that 7-Up is the magic tonic that soothes all ills).

So I shop.

Weather panics are weird.

Some of it is predictable. Half the bread aisle is blown out, as it always is when bad weather threatens. Apparently there’s something about blizzards and hurricanes and nor’easters that makes people crave sandwiches and toast.

The bottled water is also half blown out. Because if anything is scarce during a blizzard, it’s water which is LAYING ALL OVER THE GROUND A FOOT THICK JUST SHOVEL A FEW DRINKS INTO A BUCKET AND BRING IT IN TO THAW FER CRISSAKE. Also, since when does a blizzard knock out the water supply? Your pipes shouldn’t be freezing, because you should be running your water if it’s that damn cold. And the snow will insulate the crawlspace under your home. It’ll actually be warmer under there than it has the last 3 or 4 nights with the cold snap.

And, this is the one that really gets me, and I’ve seen it before (and it’s weirder than anything else I’ve seen in a storm except the guy who bought a whole cart full of frozen dinners because he was afraid the hurricane would knock out his electricity, or the woman who bought two dozen (!!) gallons of milk, also in the teeth of an approaching hurricane. WTF!) — the meat case is also half blown out. The hamburger is GONE. And three customers are standing next to the empty hamburger shelf asking each other if there’s any more hamburger anywhere else and when will the butcher bring out more hamburger?

People, if the blizzard comes and knocks out your power, I assume some of you have gas stoves. But not all of you! Are you planning on crouching in your dark living room gnawing a pack of raw hamburger like Gollum gnawing a fish? Do you figure hamburger will cook itself up if you toss it into one of the snowdrifts in your front yard?

Is there something about a snowstorm that demands you start a cookout?

Is there some theory I’ve never heard of that says you can save yourself from freezing to death if your home is heatless by covering yourself with ground beef?

People are weird.

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Off-topic and Defying Conventional Wisdom: I Feel Like Blogging About My Breakfast.

Because it was delicious, and I feel like writing something right now.  So: the family-sized breakfast sandwich I made, from bottom to top:

–1 loaf of Italian bread, split lengthwise, liberally smeared with butter, parsley, oregano, garlic powder, pepper, salt. Grilled until surface is crisp (In my case, on a hot electric skillet. More power to you if you can do it on an actual grill.) Pressed slightly to flatten during cooking.

–Smear with a thick layer of refried beans.

–Cover beans layer with sliced mushrooms sauteed in butter with chili powder and smoked paprika.

–Add (very) chunky homemade salsa. This will be messy: pick it up by hand and press it a bit to get excess moisture out. Or you could use some sort of utensil like a civilized person. Personally, I’ve never claimed to be civilized.

–Thick layer of shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

–Arrange two 1.5 egg cheddar cheese omelets to cover entire surface of the cheese layer. Apply them straight out of the pan so their heat will melt the cheese under them. Yes, there’s a lot of cheese here. I used almost an entire 8 ounce bag.

–Lettuce. I had romaine, which was good. Red leaf would have been nicer, but that’s just my lettuce preference.

–And of course, the top of the bread goes here.

–Divide by family members. This fed 2 hungry adults, 1 very hungry teen, and two toddlers. We could easily have added a side dish and fed more people.

 

Giant sandwich meals for the whole family are good messy fun to cook and eat, and there are endless variations–as many as there are sandwiches, of course.

Enjoy.

Culinary Adventure: Chocolate Rosemary Bread Pudding

BreadPuddingChocRosemary

From time to time… okay, often… I decide to embark on a culinary adventure.  Sometimes it’s as simple as buying a new spice and trying it out on everything that I cook for a week or two.  Usually it’s trying something I haven’t tried before.  Lately it’s bread pudding.  This is the second one I’ve made.  The first was much the same, only with the zest of an orange rather than the cocoa powder.  Both have come out delicious.  I’ll give you the recipe of this one, if you’re interested in trying it out.  It’s not as sweet as some bread puddings I’ve had.  So pairing with ice cream or a sweet sauce of your own creation is recommended.

I am a ‘by eye’ home cook.  By that, I mean: I am not a chef, I have never been a food service professional of any description, my understanding of recipes is that they are rough guidelines meant to be played with, and my concept of measuring ingredients is sloppy at best.

Stuff for Chocolate Rosemary Bread Pudding: one jumbo ramekin… I guess the thing is about 8″ across.

One loaf of french bread or similar (about a pound)

One loaf of rosemary olive oil bread (about a pound) (I’d have added the leaves of a healthy (what, maybe 3 or 4 inches long?) sprig of fresh rosemary, minced, if it hadn’t already been rosemary bread)

A stick of unsalted butter

7 large eggs

3 1/2, maybe 4 cups of milk (I measured 3 and freehanded the rest when the mixture was too dry. You want wet, but no free liquid wandering around)

Cocoa powder — I’m guessing I probably put half a cup in.  Maybe a little more.  It’s definitely chocolatey.

1 cup sugar

Molasses — at a guess, a quarter cup?  I drizzled it in until I was happy with it.

Cayenne pepper — a pinch. Less than half a teaspoon, more than a quarter.  You don’t want to taste it, you just want it in the background giving the chocolate a little boost.

—–

Cut the bread roughly into cubes.  Put about half of them into a large mixing bowl.

Melt the butter.

Drizzle the bread with melted butter and sprinkle with cocoa powder & cayenne.

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl of their own.

Add the milk, sugar, and molasses to the milk and beat until the sugar dissolves.

Pour about half of it over the bread and mix it around a bit with your (clean) hands until the bread soaks up the liquid.  This reduces the volume of the bread, giving you room to add more bread and liquid until it’s all in there.  Try not to mix it up too much.  You don’t want mush, you want the bread soaked but most of it still holding its shape.

Grease (butter, shortening, lard, or other edible solid cooking fat) the ramekin and flour it.

Put into a 350 degree oven and cook it until a knife plunged into its chocolatey heart comes out mostly but not completely clean, and hot.

Let it rest for half an hour on the counter.

Remove from ramekin, slice, and devour.  If you haven’t tried it before, chocolate plays remarkably well with a bit of rosemary.  If you want to try it with ice cream, I’d start with good old classic vanilla.  I think it’d be a good counterpoint to the relatively aggressive and rich flavor of this bread pudding.