Make the most of snow days
Like drunken, unwelcome guests, a pair of winter storms is roaring into the Red River Valley to wreck the region's New Year's parties, leaving a snowy mess in its wake.
If they don't snow you in, they'll still make travel a hassle, meaning celebrating at home might be the best option. But tipping back a few and watching a lighted ball slide down a pole an hour before midnight need not be the only thing to do on your days off.
Jessica Sevald, a Gilby, N.D., native and a classically trained chef, said she actually doesn't mind being stuck at home. "I absolutely love blizzards. If I have a wine rack and a well-stocked pantry, I'm good to go."
She lives in the Fargo area now, where she's executive chef at the Waterford at Harwood Groves but is headed back to Gilby to be stuck at her parents' house.
Adam Kemp, a Grand Forks artist and partner in the You Are Here studio downtown, said he likes to do a bit of snowshoeing and enjoy the silence as the snow snuffs away sounds. He takes ordinary materials -- debris along the river are a favorite medium -- and turns them into something extraordinary, he said, but snow makes everything extraordinary already, so as far as he's concerned, "it's my day off."
Here are a few ideas for riding out the storms.
"When I hear a bad weather report, I try to think of a theme for the storm, like a blizzard brunch, soup and sandwich, or finger foods," said Sevald, who also runs the Everyday Gourmet blog (see the end of the story for links).
Comfort foods, in particular, suit her. "A blizzard to me is not a time to be healthy. You can burn off the calories when you do the shoveling anyway. I can put a little extra cream sauce with my potatoes and not feel guilty about it."
If you're looking for something quick and simple, she recommends pork chops baked with a cherry and mustard sauce. The sauce is a jar of cherry preserves and a jar of stone-ground mustard. The pork chops are rubbed with salt, pepper and garlic powder, and browned in a pan. The meat and the sauce are baked together at 375 degrees until the meat is cooked, or about 155 degrees inside.
Serve with au gratin potatoes (recipe is on the blog) and steamed vegetables.
If you're into something a bit more elaborate, Sevald recommends a beef burgundy or chicken in red wine, also known as coq au vin. There are plenty of recipes on the Web, she said, but pick the ones with lots of steps, not the ones that call for throwing all the ingredients in at once. Vegetables take longer to cook to bring out the flavors, she said. She also offers a tip: simmering on low heat. High heat makes meat tough.
Serve with sour cream and garlic mashed potatoes. Boil the garlic with the potatoes and mash together. Use the sour cream to supplement or substitute for butter. For dessert: cherry blondies, or brownies made with white chocolate (recipe is on the blog).
For a fun snack to make with children, Sevald recommends something with multiple ingredients that the kids can participate in making, such as pizza with different kinds of toppings or fresh popcorn with different candies and chocolate drizzled on top.
On a related topic, why not mix some hot drinks while you're at it?
Sevald offers a recipe for hazelnut hot chocolate on her blog, with a pinch of cayenne pepper. Other hot drinks, alcoholic and nonalcoholic, include hot apple cider, hot buttered rum, hot brandy toddy, coffee and Bailey's Irish Cream, and mulled wine, what Norwegians called glögg, which is wine steeped in spices such as cinnamon and cardamom.
Alternatively, you could also take advantage of all that snow and make a snow cone. The syrup used for flavoring coffee will do or make your own with Kool-Aid and sugar.
Obviously, you want to avoid yellow snow, but a blogger called Ruralmomof3 offers more detailed advice: "Wander around and find a snowdrift that nothing has messed with (no road spray, people or animal marks, etc) scrape off the top layer and then fill your bowl with the clean snow underneath (there still will be occasional flecks of dirt, but remember your kids eat this stuff anyway, and so did you just a few years ago!)."
Making art is a good way to kill time and also end up with some creation you enjoy for a while. It can be as simple as making paper snowflakes or as elaborate as a YouTube dance video or an old timey radio play.
Kemp, the artist, said he likes taking an old or cheap piece of furniture, such as a chair, and gluing newspaper and magazine cutouts to it like a collage, maybe apply some acrylic paint and cover the whole thing with Mod Podge, a kind of glue that dries clear and seals in whatever's underneath.
It's not as durable as a varnish, but it's water soluble, nontoxic and lasts a couple of years, he said.
What's really fun, he said, is if you have a basement, you can get a large drop cloth, put the chair in the middle and toss paint on it.
If the furniture has a smooth finish, he recommended sanding it to roughen the surface so the glue and paint will bind better.
Not all projects need to result in something.
One year, Kemps said, he applied food coloring to snow just for fun. "It didn't look like anything in the end; it was awful," he said, but the process is sometimes more illuminating and interesting than the results.
For Kim Greendahl, lots of snow means lots of skiing.
An avid cross-country skier, she works with the Greenway park system for the city of Grand Forks. The Greenway offers groomed trails along the Red River from Riverside Dam in the north to the area near 47th Avenue South, with various alternate trails and loops along the way.
Her favorite area, she said, is between the Point Bridge into Minnesota and the pedestrian bridge at Lincoln Golf Course. The trees are thick and the seclusion increases the chances of spotting wildlife, she said. "You get closer to the river. I just like the view there."
If you haven't got skis or snowshoes, you can rent them at the Ski & Bike Shop in Grand Forks, which offers them for $15 a day or $25 for three, said Nic Buer, a ski and snowboard specialist there. A good set of skis will cost about $280 for the narrow ones useful on groomed trails and $300 for wider ones for off-trail uses. Snowshoes run from $200 to $250, but those are the heavy-duty models that the shop only carries.
Of course, with all the blowing snow, the grooming will probably have to wait, meaning anyone skiing will probably have to do a bit of trailblazing.
Buer said any ski will do, but the wider ones are most stable. If you've got the narrow ones, stick to flatter terrain with fresh snow where the chances of encountering uneven ground is lowest.
Snowshoeing is appropriate on all terrain, though it's a lot more work than skiing simply because lifting your legs isn't as efficient as gliding, he said. Some folks prefer snowshoes because they're more stable and, in wooded areas, more maneuverable.
- Everyday Gourmet: EverydayGourmet.areavoices.com. Au gratin potatoes are at tinyurl.com/sevaldaugratin. Cherry blondies are at tinyurl.com/sevaldblondies. Hazelnut hot chocolate is at tinyurl.com/sevaldhazel.
- Snow cone advice from Ruralmomof3: tinyurl.com/mom3snowcone.
- Advance paper snowflake instructions: www.instructables.com/id/Paper-Snowflakes.
- Greenway trail maps: tinyurl.com/gfgreenwayskitrail.