February’s Icy Start

Snowy Winter Road

Let It Snow!On December 1st Matt and I bought a charming little decorative sign that cheerfully proclaimed “LET IT SNOW!” We hung the sign in our kitchen and since then our town has received over 3 1/2 feet of snow, resulting in 5 snow days and 2 late openings and early closings at work.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Last Wednesday’s ice storm was the season’s most disruptive storm by far (as of today, at least!).  After a snow storm on Monday weighed down our trees with 7-8″ of heavy, wet snow, a wintry mix arrived late Tuesday night and coated everything in a thick layer of ice.  We lost power in the middle of the night (along with 620,000 other PECO customers!) and the only sounds we could hear when we woke up were the violent cracks of tree branches snapping under the weight of snow and ice.  Look at our sad, sad pine trees…

In addition to the extensive pine tree damage we also lost half a tree in our front yard as well as several large branches.  My mom’s yard fared even worse… Matt and I had to remove a tree from her driveway (before / after) in order to get to her house and upon our arrival we discovered her once-beautiful weeping willow tree had uprooted under the weight of the ice and was keeled over on its side in the snow.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  My mom and stepfather have a generator so our whole family ended up at their house for the day.  We spent our ice storm day chatting, drinking coffee, and completing a huge 1000 piece puzzle before enjoying a yummy dinner together.  On Wednesday night Matt and I received word from our neighbors that our power was back on (woohoo!!!) so after our day of fun we were able to go home and gratefully enjoy heat, running water, and internet.  🙂

Here are some photos that I took on Wednesday during the ice storm.  Brr…

Icy Pine Needles

526 Frozen

Icy Needles

Ice Fence Rails

Matt and I contemplated taking down our Let It Snow sign today but decided to leave it up a little longer.  We’ll see if it’s still hanging in the kitchen after the storm that’s forecasted to hit us on Thursday…  8-12″ of snow!!!  What a winter!

The Perfect Storm Food – Five Bean Chili!

It’s October in Pennsylvania which means that leaves are changing color, geese are flying south, pumpkins are being carved into jack o’lanterns, and we’re filling up the bathtub with water in preparation for a hurricane.  Wait, what??  That’s right, we’re about to receive a direct hit from a real live hurricane in October!

The storm, billed as Hurricane Sandy, “FrankenStorm,” and, most dramatically, “The Perfect Storm,” is forecasted to take a sharp left turn in the Atlantic Ocean and sweep up the Delaware Bay tomorrow.  If the Weather Channel is correct, we’ll experience 6-10 inches of rain, hurricane-force winds, and extended power outages.  That brings me back to the bathtub.  Since our water is pumped into the house from our well, we lose our running water when the power goes out.  That tub full of water will allow us to flush the toilet and have clean water available for washing hands and faces.  For drinking water, I filled up several pitchers and glass bottles with water from the kitchen sink.  (I didn’t want to join the mobs at the grocery store for “real” bottled water!)

That little yellow star is where we are. Eek!

I’m mildly worried about the 70mph winds and rushing floodwaters, but I think that right now my biggest concern is actually that the food in our freezer might go bad.  We have about $50 worth of wonderful fresh Maiale sausage along with yummy frozen pastas, vegetables, and fish and I am having nightmares about it all thawing out and going bad during a long power outage.  In order to give the freezer a fighting chance I reorganized all of the food so it is tightly packed together in the bottom drawer.  I also put ice packs in the freezer along with a big ziploc bag full of water and a reused gallon jug filled with water.  These are all frozen solid now and should help to keep our food cold.  (Watch, after all of the preparation the power isn’t even going to go out… but better to be safe than sorry!)

Anyway, all of this stormy and cold weather has me thinking about warm stews and soups!  A nice five bean chili would really hit the spot right now, but we are going to try to use up some food in our fridge tonight so I think I’m going to have to wait until after the storm to get my chili fix.  But, without further ado, here’s my chili recipe along with some photos from our last batch a few weeks ago…

Five Bean Chili (serves 5-7 and makes great leftovers!)
Note: I revised this recipe on 10/29/14.  The original recipe had chick peas (visible in the photos) which were yummy but in my most recent batch of chili I removed the chick peas and added a third can of kidney beans and second can of tomatoes with delicious results.  I also added fresh minced garlic, upped the ground beef from 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, and adjusted a few of the spice measurements.  Oh, and I added another half bottle of beer to give the chili a little more liquid consistency… feel free to drink the remaining beer as you cook!

You will need…
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 pounds Lean Ground Beef
1 White Onion, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
5 tablespoons Chili Powder
1 1/2 tablespoons Paprika
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
2 teaspoons Cumin
1-15oz. can Pinto Beans, rinsed & drained
1-15oz. can Black Beans, rinsed & drained
3-15oz. can Kidney Beans, rinsed & drained
1-15oz. can Corn, drained; or 1 cup frozen corn, rinsed
2-10oz. can Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies (not drained)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
18 oz. (1 1/2 bottles) Dark Beer

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Cook the ground beef.  When it is almost browned, add the onion and stir.  Once the onion has started to soften add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.  Stir in the powdered ingredients and then, when the meat is completely browned, add the beans, corn, and tomatoes and stir.  Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 20 minutes, taste the chili and add salt and pepper as needed.  (You can also add more chili powder and paprika at this point if you want more of a kick.)  Add the beer, stir again, cover, and allow the chili to cook over low heat for 60-90 minutes.  Serve with a generous slice of fresh cornbread.