Snow Day Sustenance
On the days when the weather forecasters predict inclement weather, students universally anxiously wait and pray to the snow gods for a snow day. Whether the snow day is wished for by the procrastinator crowd or by the hopelessly sleep-deprived student, it is loved and cherished by all. Sleeping, cramming and sledding can only be topped off by delicious snow day food or as I like to say, the literal “cherry on top.”
When I fuse thoughts about food and snow together, two words come to mind: “snacks” and “comfort.” Comfort food makes curling up under the covers an even more decadent pleasure, while the snacks will tide you over while you incessantly watch seasons on seasons of your favorite show on Netflix.
First up on the comfort food hit parade is none other than a gooey, cheesy macaroni and cheese. This particular mac and cheese recipe comes from the unique and talented Alton Brown; he indisputably knows “Good Eats.”
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.) In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente (which literally means “to the tooth,” or that it should to a point where it still has some bite to it).
3.) While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. (No one wants to mistake a chalky flour ball for indulgent cheese!) Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika; simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
4.) Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Melt the butter in a sauté pan and toss the breadcrumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for five minutes before serving.
This recipe can be shared or eaten as a very large single serving (directly of the casserole dish with a spoon!) Either way, this macaroni and cheese will surely send you into a twenty-four-hour-snow-day food coma.
Continuing the theme of nonstop gorging while utilizing a spoon, chili is a perfect comfort food that gets rid of the cold chill outside, while helping to prevent the next shiver that comes from the scary Netflix murder mystery that is holding you captive. The Neely’s bring you “down home” with this mouth-watering chili filled with all the meats, beans and spices that will keep you satisfied and keep your stomach from rudely interrupting the confrontation scene in your melodrama.
Pat’s Famous Beef and Pork Chili
6 slices thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 cup beer (recommended: Budweiser)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (24-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (24-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
Lime wedges, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
Shredded Cheddar, for garnish
Sliced scallions, for garnish
1.) In large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until lightly crisp, stirring occasionally.
2.) Once the bacon is browned, add the garlic, onions, bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, chipotle chili powder, oregano, and smoked paprika and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
3.) Cook until the vegetables are tender and seasonings are aromatic.
4.) Add the beef and break it up with a wooden spoon.
5.) Once beef is broken up and beginning to brown, add the pork. Break up with wooden spoon like the beef, and brown, until no longer pink, roughly 4 minutes.
6.) Stir in the beer and beans. Toss together, and then add the crushed and diced tomatoes.
7.) Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, if necessary.
8.) Transfer the chili to serving bowls and garnish with lime wedges, sour cream, shredded cheese, and sliced scallions.
For those of you who cannot, do not and will not eat meat, I have a fiery vegetarian chili from Emeril that will make the shots fired in the crime investigation show fall short in comparison to the power this chili packs into your mouth. Let’s just say, “Bam!” (Hand motions and gestures included).
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 cup chopped red bell peppers
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 to 3 Serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced, depending upon taste
1 medium zucchini, stem ends trimmed and cut into small dice
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
1 1/2 pounds Portobello mushrooms (about 5 large), stemmed, wiped clean and cubed
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 cups cooked black beans, or canned beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Cooked brown rice, accompaniment
Sour cream or strained plain yogurt, garnish
Diced avocado, garnish
Essence, recipe follows, garnish
Chopped green onions, garnish
Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1.) In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
2.) Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and Serrano peppers, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes.
3.) Add the zucchini, corn, and mushrooms, and cook, stirring, until soft and the vegetables give off their liquid and start to brown around the edges, about 6 minutes.
4.) Add the chili powder, cumin, salt and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and stir well.
5.) Add the beans, tomato sauce, and vegetable stock, stir well, and bring to a boil.
6.) Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
7.) Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro.
8.) Adjust the seasoning, to taste. To serve, place 1/4 cup of brown rice in the bottom of each bowl. Ladle the chili into the bowls over the rice. Top each serving with a dollop of sour cream and spoonful of avocado. Sprinkle with Essence and green onions and serve.
As far as snacks are concerned, you are going to want something that you can mindlessly munch on that will not take any attention away from your computer or television screen. Here are two recipes, one sweet and one savory, that will hit all parts of your taste buds, while simultaneously increasing your chances of reaching your snow day goal (also known as finishing all episodes of a newly-released season on Netflix).
Some call it “puppy chow,” and others call it “muddy buddies,” either way, this indulgent Chex snack will do nothing less than overwhelm your sweet tooth.
9 cup Chex
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1.) Put cereal in large bowl. Melt chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
2.) Pour over Chex cereal, put into a large plastic bag with powdered sugar and shake well to coat.
3.) Spread mixture evenly on wax paper and allow to cool.
Popcorn is a simple and delicious snack that can be transformed a plethora of savory ways. Here is a recipe that is one of my favorites, using both garlic and parmesan cheese (if you are using your snow day to cuddle with that special someone, make sure to have gum handy).
Kraft Parmesan cheese
Melted butter (optional)
1.) Pop the corn kernels (microwavable popcorn is acceptable).
2.) Melt butter if desired and pour over a knife onto popcorn slowly.
3.) Sprinkle with garlic salt (or garlic AND salt if you, god forbid, only have these two items separately, and Kraft grated Parmesan cheese.
4.) Shake well and enjoy.
Tasty Tufts Tip all of you Frozen lovers out there: you will probably be asked at least one (hundred) time(s), if “you want to build a snowman.” If this happens, when they whine that they “never see you anymore,” tell them that it has only been four hours of non-stop Netflix and then ask them to leave or pass the popcorn.