Real Cooking

“May your days be merry and bright…. And may all your Christmases be white.”

Oh, it’s so hard to get out of bed these cold, wintry mornings. The house seems so dark and with the wind howling outside the bedroom windows, it’s just too tempting to pull the covers over my head and hit the snooze button one more time.

But with the school bus coming, I have to get up and around, gathering up all of the added paraphernalia that comes with cold weather. You know, the boots, the gloves, the hats-and then making sure that they are all dried out from yesterday’s use.

Is there anything more miserable than pulling on a pair of cold, wet boots?

It almost seems cruel to turn on the hallway light and call for the kids to “rise and shine” when the sun has decided not to. They stumble out of bed and always look out the window to see just how much snow has fallen during the night.

I know they have plans for snow forts and snowball fights, but with the wind-chill temperatures falling somewhere between frigid and freezing to death, their mother just hasn’t been to eager for them to play outside in the snow.

Perhaps, I tell them, while they are home on Christmas break the sun will once again grace the sky and the wind will stop shrieking like a banshee and they will be allowed out to do those things that kids do in the snow.

And to ice skate. We have a couple of shallow ponds that are fine for skating and Meg and Alex, along with assorted cousins and friends, love to get up a hockey game or just glide around the frozen surface. Of course, our two beagles and their cousins’ two dogs accompany them, as well. It’s quite a sight.

But we aren’t going to risk frostbite for a couple of turns around the pond. It wouldn’t look good, I tell the children, for the Christmas pictures.

And they know it must be really cold because the beagles have been sleeping in the utility room at night for over a week now. You know it’s cold when a farmer decides that the doghouse isn’t warm enough for the hounds to sleep in and he makes a bed for them in the back room.

It’s been kind of funny. We weren’t aware that our older dog, Biscuit, is inclined to snore. And snore quite loudly. Our family room is located in the basement just below the utility room where the dogs have been allowed to sleep. In the quiet of the night, when the kids are in bed and Keith and I go downstairs to watch the news and-of course-the weather, we hear this deep, sonorous rumbling coming from up above.

The first time we heard it, we weren’t quite sure what it was. Had I left the dryer on…was it making a funny noise? Was the wind rubbing a tree branch against a window?

No, it’s the dog.

Now when I hear Biscuit snoring in the night, I just think how contented she must feel, all warm and cozy and snuggled up next to Fetch.

There have been times in the last few days where I have felt that same contentment. When commitments have been light and we haven’t had to go out in the storm, Keith has lit the fireplace and so we can roast marshmallows. We’ve played board games lying on the floor in front of the Christmas tree and we’ve started watching the movies that we save for holiday viewing.

Alex is pleased. He sees the snow as an answer to prayer. He told me one day that he really hoped that we could have a “white Christmas” and he was going to talk it over with God.

I guess He listened.

* * *

And now for a musical interlude. Sing along with me to the tune of “Winter Wonderland”….

Winter’s here, snow’s a fallin’;

Kids are home; they’re a callin’.

They can’t find their boots, or last year’s snowsuits

To go out in the winter wonderland.

Cold north wind, came a swirlin’;

Christmas lights, they’re now twirlin’.

They’re all fallin’ down, lightin’ up the white ground

And brightening up the winter wonderland.

Need to go and finish Christmas shopping.

Need to go and feed some cattle, too.

This winter storm, it shows no signs of stopping.

I think I’m coming down with Asian flu.

On the road, folks are slippin’;

Outside temps, still are dippin’.

But to the store I must go, through the ice, slush and snow.

Oh, how I love this winter wonderland.”

Merry Christmas, everyone.

* * *

After all your Christmas dinners and parties, you might be in the mood for something warm and hearty yet low in fat. Well, here you go….

Tex-Mex Chicken Soup

1/2 pkg. chili mix

4-6 boneless chicken breasts

1 tsp. vegetable oil

Cooking spray

1 onion, thinly sliced or chopped

3/4 cup thinly sliced yellow


3/4 cup thinly sliced red pepper

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup salsa

1 tbs. lime juice

3 flour tortillas, cut into strips

3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese

Dredge chicken in chili mix and saute in vegetable oil until chicken is done. Remove chicken, cool and then slice into thin slices. Add onion and peppers to the skillet and saute for three minutes. Add chicken, broth, water and seasonings and bring to a boil. Simmer about 30 minutes.

Add salsa and lime juice and simmer for 10 minutes. Spread tortilla strips on a baking dish and spray with cooking spray. Broil until lightly browned. Ladle soup into bowls, top with tortilla strips and cheese.

Note: you may use packaged baked tortilla chips as a substitute for the tortilla strips.

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