We’ve endured such blustery, bitterly cold this winter that even my mules, normally a hardy pair, needed two blankets to stay comfortable. But I knew that here in South Jersey, or not, we had it comparatively easy when my sister in Connecticut sent me Brussels sprouts and the sister in Massachusetts added soup to a text.
It’s what cooks in the cold traditionally do. We compose hot comfort food. But in the case of my sisters, another factor was at work. “This is what cabin fever makes me do,” my CT sibling, Maredith, texted when she sent a picture of braised Brussels sprouts.
My sister Kathy, facing protracted inside-only days, filled her hands with meat sauce, casseroles and a soup to warm the inner you.
Even Jason, my New Hampshire nephew and a man who knows his way around a kitchen, acknowledged a tendency to combat cold and cabin fever with some creative hot cooking. So in case you need inspiration, here is Jason’s, “wonderful when warm” home-made scones, Kathy’s heat-filled, “…good little soup, easy and tasty”, and Maredith’s satisfyingly-hearty, “cabin fever” Brussels sprouts dish.
Takes 2 days to make and worth every minute
2 C all-purpose flour
2 Tbls sugar
1 Tbls baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbls butter
1 1/4 C heavy cream, plus more for adjustment and for brushing
1/4 C of chocolate chips
FOR ICING (optional): 1/2 C confectioner’s sugar; A dash of orange juice
Preparation begins the night before: Mix the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in the freezer. Cut the butter into pats on a small plate, and then divide those pats into pea-sized pieces. Cover the plate with plastic wrap and put in the freezer overnight. Put a pastry cutter on a second plate and put it in the freezer overnight also.
In the morning: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and zest two oranges. Take the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients out of the freezer, and add the butter you cut up the night before, using the pastry cutter to cut it in. When the butter is well distributed, add the orange zest and the chocolate chips. Stir to mix evenly.
Add the heavy cream and stir. Add more cream as needed until all of the flour is absorbed and the dough just starts to become slightly tacky. Lightly flour the bottom of a pie pan and drop the dough ball into it. Flatten out the ball until it is an even thickness.
For triangular scones, cut the dough in half, each of those halves in half, and then each of those quarters in half. Or, for round scones, use a biscuit cutter to divide the dough. Transfer the scones to an ungreased baking sheet, with a few inches of space between them. Using the remaining cream, lightly brush the tops of the scones.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Makes 8 triangular scones; fewer or more round scones, depending on size of biscuit cutter.
If icing the scones, let cool. Combine confectioner’s sugar and enough orange juice to absorb the sugar but not become runny. Spoon icing into a sandwich bag, cut a corner off, then use to pipe icing over the scones. Or thin icing a little and spoon as a drizzle over the scones.
Avocado slices and sour cream toppings make this soup special
1 jar salsa
1 can black beans, rinsed, drained (OR use any “round” bean you like)
1 small can corn niblets, drained
Cooked chicken, about 1/2 lb or more, to taste (cubed, from a package, freshly shredded or canned chicken)
tortilla chips, avocado slices, sour cream for topping soup
Empty salsa into a sauce pan and heat just to simmering. Add rinsed and drained black beans, corn niblets and chicken. Add enough water to cover the beans and chicken and to thin the soup as desired. Season with fresh lime juice to taste. Once the soup is heated through, serve topped with tortilla chip pieces, avocado slices, and sour cream. Serves four.
TIP: To save time if using freshly-cooked chicken, get a rotisserie bird, already cooked, from your market.
Hearty, tasty, rich in heat-storing fiber
Small Brussels sprouts, frozen or fresh, enough for full meal or side dish (amount will depend on how many servings you want)
Slice of bacon per expected serving plus “one for the pot”
1 small to medium onion, peeled and diced into chunks
1 to 2 large stalks celery, diced into chunks, more if making a large dish of sprouts
1 Tbls butter
Garlic powder to taste (OR 2-3 fresh cloves, finely diced)
Salt, pepper to taste
Steam sprouts over a saucepan until just tender. Set aside. Fry bacon in a heavy frying pan, large enough to place sprouts in without crowding. Remove bacon when medium-crisp and set aside to cool. Pour off all but enough bacon grease to fully cover bottom of pan, reserving the poured grease in case more is needed for braising. Add butter to frying pan and blend with the bacon grease.
Saute onion, garlic, celery and seasonings in the blended grease until heated through, stirring to mix. Add Brussels sprouts and braise, turning frequently, on medium to high heat until firm but tender in the middle (check with a fork). Turn heat to low-medium. Crumble the cooked bacon and add to the pan. Stir, cover, and cook another couple of minutes to blend flavors and heat dish through.