First Day–

Later from the freezer…a break from cooking over the holidays………..

We don’t have many below-zero days in southern Colorado. In fact, our superior weather is one of our best-kept secrets. (“Oh, you have all that cold and so much snow,” is what non-residents often say. Mum’s the word on 350 days of sunshine a year.) But this week, Gabby goes out to do her business and beats it back in soooooooo quickly. Wouldn’t you? It was -8F yesterday morning when my feet hit the floor. And that after a day and night of snow and blow. Had to leave the faucet dripping in the mudroom or we might have had, like many, broken pipes. A furnace bought last year has kept the house at 65, but we had to stay away from the windows!

Tracks are from two lost dogs……

We also had a trio of bobcats visiting our yard (before second snow) for the second time this year. The mama (I think) weighed in at about 40 pounds, I’d guess. Two spotted younger ones at 25-30. Life here is beautiful, but it’s cautiously beautiful. You can barely see the mom? in the center of the yard near the little fence before the snow began; she blends right in. No amount of fooling around in the photo program improved the pic.

The resident neighborhood bear has, I think, hibernated. Well, she should have anyway! Our garbage remains undisturbed and that’s one sign of no bears.

Meantime, Advent cookie baking continues for DROP IN AND DECORATE, coming up on Monday, December 14, 4-7pm. Looking forward to decorating some great cookies with all of you (rsvp if you haven’t already) … The Bridge, a local assisted-living facility, is the lucky recipient of your good work. SEE YOU SOON!!

While it’s so cold, I thought you might like a good pot roast and next-day beef-vegetable soup recipe. We’ve enjoyed it for a few days and have shared with neighbors who haven’t gotten out in the weather either. You could freeze the soup for a quick holiday-time meal when your family’s in town and you’d rather play cards than stay in the kitchen. Stop by your favorite bakery and pick up best-quality bread, double-wrap in aluminum foil and freeze with the soup. To reheat soup, place up-side down container in sink under hot water until soup “pops.” Place in large crockpot and let unthaw on low all day. For bread, place frozen, wrapped loaf in 350F preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Unwrap and slice. Splurge on a little butter.

Butternut Squash Pot Roast

4-5# chuck roast (or any pot roast)

4T gluten-free flour mixture, divided (fine to use regular flour)

2 large onions, sliced

2T canola oil

2-3 c red wine

2 c gluten-free beef broth (or regular broth)

1# butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3-4″ pieces

3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces

3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-2″ pieces

5-6 sprigs fresh thyme or tsp dried thyme; 2 lrg sprigs rosemary or 1/2 tsp dried

Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper

1/4-1/3 c water

Heat oil over medium-high heat in dutch oven or stockpot. Cover roast with 2T gluten-free flour mix and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Don’t be stingy with seasoning this big piece of meat. Brown meat well on one side for several minutes. Turn meat and add sliced onions. When second side in nicely browned, add wine and broth. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 2 hours (or place on low in crockpot for 6 hours after adding vegetables below).

When meat is just beginning to be a little tender, add vegetables, thyme and rosemary to the pot for the last hour of cooking. When everything is fork tender, remove meat and vegetables to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

Skim extra fat from top of drippings in the pot. To a 1 c glass measuring cup, add about 1/4-1/3 c cold water. Whisk in other 2T gluten-free (or regular) flour mix. Whisk the flour/water slurry into the drippings and bring to a boil for about 2 minutes until gravy is thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over meat and vegetables.
Beef Vegetable Soup for Next Day or for Freezer

2 large onions, diced
1 c celery, diced
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
2 T olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Bay leaves
Kosher Salt and freshly-ground pepper
2 qts gluten-free chicken broth
1 qt gluten-free beef broth
1 qt water
Leftover gravy
32 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 c fresh, frozen or canned green beans
1 c finely chopped cabbage
1 c fresh root vegetables or winter squash (Iused leftover parsnips and butternut squash)*
Leftover root vegetables from pot roast meal
2 c leftover pot roast meat, cut into 1″ pieces
1 c small pasta such as tubetti or elbow macaroni, gluten-free if needed
Hot Sauce to taste

In a 10-12 qt stockpot, heat oil over medium heat and add onions, celery and carrots. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring often, and add garlic and bay. Saute briefly and season with salt and pepper. Add remaining ingredients; stir well. Bring to boil and reduce heat. Simmer until vegetables are nearly tender, adding water or extra broth as necessary to keep soup from becoming too thick. Add tubetti and continue to simmer until pasta is tender. Season with a few drops (to your taste) of hot sauce and more salt and pepper if needed. Cool completely and ladle into large freezer container. Freeze for up to one month.
*Potatoes or sweet potatoes would work as well.

Wine: Cotes du Rhone
Dessert: Peppermint Ice cream, of course

Stay warm; stay well. Keep your Advent journey well-fed. If you share your Advent plate, it won’t get too full. It’s a crazy season. Pick the couple of things you like most to do and skip the rest. Turn down the lights; put the candles on. Invite your friends and family. They won’t see the dust. They don’t care anyway; they just need to know you want to be with them. Ok, wipe down the bathroom sink if you have to.

Advent Reading: Henri Nouwen: ADVENT MEDITATIONS, LIVING IN HOPE

Advent Listening: We try to change out our cds daily to listen to different music every dinner. Three on the stereo right now are

THE HOLLY AND THE IVY Clare College Choir/John Rutter

AND GLORY SHOWN AROUND The Rose Ensemble

ALL ON A WINTER’S NIGHT Sting

Gabby wants to know if I’ll post a picture of her and her new friend, Anna ( who recently adopted some good human friends of ours):

Gab and Anna, seeing who has the best Christmas outfit………………. Or —-

Anna says,“Not the Mama!”

Sing a new carol; Dave and I have written one. New problem: how to share it on the blog..

Alyce