Saturday, December 12, 2009

things to cook when it's 40 below

Start by preheating your oven to 350. Before you even figure out what you're making, it's a nice temperature and will bump up the heat in your kitchen (also, it's the most common temp for baking and roasting... not that this matters when you can see your breath indoors...) I would probably whip up some ginger molasses cookies. Scour the web; there are plenty of recipes. My favourite is:

Once those are in the oven, you can begin to tackle that basic bread recipe that's been calling out to you. I know bread baking seems daunting. There are words like rising, knead, and punch down that are enough to fluster any beginner breadie, but I promise you, the feeling you get from watching those few basic ingredients go from disparate to united forms is incredible. In addition to giving off heat as the yeast ferments and requiring you to leave the oven on low (around 200) while it rises inside, that glowy feeling you get from accomplishing a kitchen feat will warm you and whomever you are baking for.

After you get a knack for it, you'll find baking bread to be a most wonderful way to spend a free afternoon. You might even feel so inclined to purchase a cookbook on bread making. Look for one with good illustrations that will give you tips on how to knead and form your loaf and so on. Another good place for bread baking tips is Youtube. I just entered bread making into the search bar and came across this:

Another staple for chilly winter days is a good hot soup you keep simmering on the stove. The longer your soup cooks, the more flavourful and harmonious the taste will be. Some great winter soups are beef and barley, butternut squash, French onion, potato leek, or curried Dal (yellow lentil). Soup is so easy, and it's a great way to use up vegetables that are starting to look a little sad in your fridge. A basic stock of carrot, celery, onion, and bay leaf is all that is holding you back from an infinite array of flavour combinations. Don't be shy. Try some green apple, sweet potato, white beans, or mushrooms. It doesn’t matter! Soup is healthy, cheap, and after sitting on the stove, it can be easily transferred to a resealable container and reheated at another time. Or bring some to your grandma. I'm sure she'll be ever so happy for it, and you. In fact, she'll have something new to brag about to her friends at bridge.

The last thing you might want to consider making on a day when the wind blows so cold and the sky is so freezing it doesn't even snow, is something that'll warm you up even after you've downed the last of it. Mulled wine is a British drink that I first discovered at a family friend's holiday party when I was quite young. I saw something red and steamy on the stove, with oranges and cinnamon sticks and cloves floating in it and thought I would help myself to some punch. Wow, was I mistaken. But I knew then that I was on to something pretty special. Empty a bottle of dry red wine into a large pot. Remember, if you wouldn't drink it at a normal temperature, then don't think for some reason that it'll be any better when it's hot and mixed with other ingredients. So use something half decent. Slice an orange into eighths, squeeze the juice into the pot and then add the peels as well. Throw in a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves, and a sprinkle of sugar. Let it all heat together, but be careful not to let it boil. Again, you can get creative here, adding cranberries, sliced apple, or star anise.

Now that you've got dinner and desert all ready, and a nice hot glass of something warming your hands, cuddle up under the blankets and throw an old movie on, so you can wait out the cold with a full belly and flushed cheeks, as one ought to.

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