Sunday, January 8, 2017

Snowbound for the Weekend

  It has honestly been one of the best weekends on record.  But it could have gone horribly the other way.  A really bad way.  After some treacherous snowfall on Friday morning and a brief interlude of afternoon sun, the forecast called for up to 18" to fall on Cape Cod beginning Saturday morning and not stopping until sometime early Sunday.  O.K. I can do a light, steady snowfall.  But when the weather people start taking about Nor'easters and heavy winds, I just want them to shut up.  Val called to let me know her own grim interpretation of the radar and reports.  I wouldn't let her talk about it, either.  I implore you, don't mention such words and phrases should they actually come to pass.  I don't mind being snowbound for a brief amount of time, but please oh please don't let the power go out.  How else will I blow dry my hair in the morning?
  I have a gas stove, so I can still cook a grilled cheese or heat up some soup.  I stockpile plenty of candles and high powered flashlights with fresh batteries.  We have board games and heavy blankets.  I did all the laundry ahead of time.  There are drawers full of clean socks and underwear.  But I really hate it when there is no electricity.  It makes me feel helpless and little bit crazy, too.
    I am happy to report that Mother Nature cooperated with my wishes and prayers.  Sure we got hammered with snow but at least all the creature comforts remained in place.  All that was left to do was cook, bake, eat and catch up on some movies I have been longing to watch.
    Sunday at dawn revealed the end of the snowfall.  One big, puffy white blanket covered the neighborhood streets and  trees.  And the plows had already cleared our side road.  All that was left to do was dig ourselves and the cars out just in case we needed (I mean, I needed) a quick getaway.  We already had plenty of manpower in the form of well fed children. Ava had her trusty friend Lola sleep over for the night.  Two silly just about teenage girls goofing around, adding a bit of energy and fun. I fired up the oven and cooked bacon and my favorite biscuit recipe.  Plenty of butter, jam and fluffy scrambled eggs made it to the table, too.  I cleaned out our stash of hot chocolate and plopped a ball of marshmallow fluff into each mug.  Those kids should be able to shovel snow for days on the breakfast they ate this morning.

     After the shoveling and sweating through our winter gear in spite of the below freezing temperatures and windchill, I was happy to let Rob take Declan out sledding and the girls headed off to Lola's house down the street to "help" brush off the cars and possibly shovel before complaining that they were cold and wanted to go inside.  What else could I do at that point except bake some bread?  Not just any bread.  The kind that takes some babysitting.  Watching out for the right moment to form the loaves and place the dough into the pans and then to wait until it rises again for a slow bake in the oven until perfectly browned, their scent wafting through the house, thankfully masking the smell of bacon from this morning.

     As the sun sets, I'm already thinking about Monday morning, getting organized and ready for the week ahead.  The laziness of the past two days will soon be behind me and I'll be back into the madness of our daily schedule.  As I look through the photos on my phone of the kids having fun in the snow, I'm glad we had this weekend.  I got to bake, eat snacks, drink wine and finally watch "Hundred Foot Journey".  (The book is much better but the movie is still worth seeing.)  The house stayed warm, and the kids will be back at school tomorrow.  Being snowbound for just Saturday and half of Sunday is a perfect amount of time to relax and perhaps catch up on those activities that always get put aside.  And best of all, my hair looked awesome all weekend.

Fancy Biscuits
(makes about 15 large biscuits or 24 regular sized)

4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter (ice cold), cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons cream cheese (cold), cut into small pieces
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk
coarse sea salt and pepper for tops of biscuits
jam and butter for serving

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Cut in butter and cream cheese using a pastry cutter or 2 knives  until  mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stir in
 1 1/2 cups butter milk until mixture just comes together.  Do not over mix or biscuits will be tough.  
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured board.  Pat dough into a rectangle and roll out with a floured rolling pin until dough is about 1 inch high.  Cut out biscuits using a biscuit cutter or a floured knife.  Place biscuits onto parchment lined baking sheets.  Brush tops with remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk and sprinkle with coarse sea salt and pepper.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until edges of biscuits are golden brown.  Remove from oven and serve warm with butter and jam.

Val's Oatmeal Bread
(Makes 2 loaves)

4 1/2 -5 cups flour
1 cup rolled oats
2 pkgs yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups skim or lowfat milk
1/4 cup molasses
3 tablespoons butter

In  a large bowl, combine 3 cups flour, rolled oats and salt.  In a medium sauce pan, heat milk, molasses and 2 tablespoons butter over low heat until the butter just melts. (115-120 degrees).  Remove 1/2 cup of warm milk mixture and add yeast to proof.  (Wait 5-10 minutes to make sure yeast becomes puffed and bubbly on surface.)  Combine dry ingredients with all wet ingredients (including yeast mixture) in a stand up mixer fitted with dough hook.  Add more flour until mixture becomes a sticky dough.  Scrape side of bowl to combine all ingredients.  Turn dough out on floured surface and knead for 4-5 minutes, adding more flour as needed to prevent dough from sticking.  Place in a greased bowl, turn once to grease surface.  Cover and let rise until doubled in size (about 45 minutes).  Punch down and turn out onto lightly floured board.  Cut in half and let rest for 10 minutes.  Shape into loaves and place in greased pans.  Cover, let rise until doubled in size (about 30 minutes).  Melt remaining tablespoon of butter and spread over loaves.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.  If loaves brown too quickly, cover lightly with tin foil.  Remove from oven.  Turn out of pans onto wire rack and cool completely before slicing.  Store in airtight bags.

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