Country Cooking – January 15

Weather report for this week: a roller coaster of events from day to day at least it seems that way. Often I have had to scrape the ice and frost off the windows before I can leave the parking lot and when the windows are clear it is so nice to climb in the car and be on the way. It doesn’t seem to happen often enough. I did learn how to start my car from a distance, however, the ten minutes allotted are usually not enough to completely defrost the windows. So the last few days no frost but oh so cold. We can’t seem to win but then this is Minnesota and we have lived here long enough to know it will get better. 

Often at coffee in the afternoon we discuss former times. We all recall sleeping in a cold bedroom upstairs and coming down to the kitchen and warming up by the oven of the cookstove. I remember being quite happy not only to have company but especially those with children as we delegated to go upstairs to play while the adults could visit downstairs. It was then the door of the stairway was left open and the heat would rise to make it much more comfortable to climb into bed later. 

Our attire for these winter months was long underwear, long brown stockings held up by a garter belt for every day and white ones on Sunday. We also wore snow pants to school and our shoes were high top, mine had a fake fur trim on top, and overshoes usually with buckles and not zippers. My gloves or mittens were attached to a string as most of the time there were no pockets in my coat to put them in and it was one way not to lose them. Later we just stuffed them and our headscarves in the coat sleeve. Oh yes, we wore dresses to school and for sure not jeans. And they called them the good old days. We survived and grew up learning how to handle the situations as they were put upon us. Not much for coddling but looking for the answers to what was happening and making the best of it. 

It has been interesting to hear of the many stories the veterans have had during their time of service. We know some of what my father did but as we looked into his records we also realized there was much we weren’t sure of. A book has been written of his division and their training and going overseas to France. I knew he attended Bethel Academy but when was a question and still is. I know he didn’t graduate from Slayton but why he went to St. Paul for school is a question or when he attended Globe business school. He was also 21 1/2 when he entered the service and came back to Slayton when the armistice was signed. They didn’t stay in France to clean up such as Robert did when he was in Korea. Dad also had the Spanish flu and spent about two weeks in the hospital and recovered. Many of his companies had the flu in England according to the book and didn’t survive or see any combat duty. My sister Mary and my niece Sandy have each found copies of the book and it is fascinating reading for us. 

Cold weather is a good time to make soup although I like it any time of the year. I like it thick, almost like stew and so I seldom add crackers to it except for tomato soup and then I like spicy flavored ones.

Mac n’ Cheese Soup

1 1/2 cups dry elbow macaroni (6 oz.)

1/2 cup minced onion

1/4 cup minced celery

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon dry mustard

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups whole milk

4 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt to taste

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Cook macaroni in salted water according to package directions; drain and set aside. Saute`onion and celery in butter in large saucepan over medium heat until soft. Stir in flour to coat and cook 1 minute. Stir in broth, mustard, nutmeg, and cayenne. Simmer until slightly thickened, then whisk in milk and warm through. Do not let it boil or base may become grainy. Add cheddar, 1 cup at a time, allowing it to melt completely before adding the next cup. Stir in macaroni, lemon juice, and salt; remove from heat. Combine blue cheese and chives in a  small bowl. Garnish each serving with blue cheese mixture. Makes about 7 cups serve with Buffalo Chicken “Fries”.

Buffalo Chicken “Fries”

1/3 cup hot sauce

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon honey

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, sliced lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide strips, seasoned with salt and pepper

1/3 cup flour

1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided

Whisk together hot sauce, butter, and honey. Toss chicken strips with flour in a plastic bag until coated; shake off excess flour. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saute`pan over medium-high heat; add half the chicken strips, saute` until browned, about 2 minutes per side, then transfer to hot sauce mixture and toss to coat. Repeat with remaining oil and chicken strips. Makes 4 servings

Melt-in-your-Mouth Biscuits

2 cups sifted flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup shortening

1 egg, unbeaten

2/3 cup milk

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cream of tartar into a bowl. Add shortening to the flour mixture and blend together until of cornmeal-like consistency. Pour milk into flour mixture slowly. Add the egg. Stir to a stiff dough. Knead 5 times. Roll to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with 1 1/2 inch cutter or cut into squares and separate on the baking sheet. Bake on cookie sheet at 450º for 10-15 minutes.

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