Thursday, January 29, 2015

Recipe for Surviving a Blizzard (Especially a Blizzard That Wasn’t)

Sheila York

The Blizzard of 2015 just clipped us here in North Jersey: we ended up with only about 6 inches. I do not blame the meteorologists for any of it, not the cancelled train service, not the closed roads, not the fisticuffs at the dairy case. I was very briefly a weather reporter – back in the days when the guys running the TV stations thought it was just fine to call us Weather Girls – and, yipes, is it hard to predict the direction of certain kinds of storms, more so when they’re coming off the water. 

As I was writing this blog, on Tuesday, I watched a car spin a couple of 360s at the bottom of my street. And my street had been plowed. I pictured the Garden State Parkway lined with stalled cars and stranded citizens if we had got any kind of real storm and the roads had been left open. It’s freakishly dangerous when it’s dry, given too many Jersey drivers’ challenged understanding of the rules of the road. (Yes, when the YIELD sign is facing you, it means you have to do it.)

In expectation of the blizzard, David and I meticulously rehearsed our well-considered plan for being cabin-bound for days.

We have natural gas, so we were unlikely to lose heat and the ability to cook. David and I both had fully charged Kindles, so we could read even if the electricity went off. And we had plenty of food and booze. I think we could have been dug out in April and been found fat and happy.

To test Part 1 of our plan: Monday night as the temperature plummeted, the wind rose and the snow became horizontal, we invited neighbors over to share a pot of spicy vegetarian chili — warming, delicious, easy to make.

Vegetarian Bean Chili
From Martha Stewart Living’s cookbook Meatless (2013)

What you’ll need (measure out all ingredients before you begin; things go much faster)
2  tablespoons olive oil
1  large onion, chopped
1  poblano chile, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
4  garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt
1  can (4 oz) diced green chiles
1  tablespoon + 1.5 teaspoons chili powder
2  teaspoons ground cumin
3  cups good quality canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3  cups good quality canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1  can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, with juice
2  cups water
Assorted toppings such as toasted/thinly sliced tortillas, chopped avocado, sliced scallions, grated cheese, sour cream or yogurt

What you’ll need to do
1.    In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. 
Add onion, poblano and garlic; season with some of the coarse salt
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes.
2.   Stir in green chiles, chili powder and cumin; cook, stirring frequently, till spices are darkened and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
3.   Add the beans, tomatoes and their juice, and the 2 cups of water; bring to a boil over high heat.
4.   Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender and chili thickened, 20 to 30 minutes
5.   Remove from the heat. Season with salt. Ladle into bowls and set out the toppings.

For Part 2: We served plenty of Blizzard Margaritas, which can be made in advance and stored in the snow if the power goes out. Hey, the roads were closed. We weren’t going to drive.

Blizzard Margaritas (David's recipe)

What you’ll need
1  cup tequila (David recommends using one of good quality)
1/4  cup triple sec
6  ounces frozen limeade
3  tablespoons lemon juice (doesn’t have to be fresh lemon; bottled juice is fine)
Crushed ice, if your blender is powerful enough to do that; Otherwise, you can serve on the rocks.

What you’ll need to do
1.    Place the tequila, triple sec, limeade and lemon juice in a blender; blend.
2.    Pour into pitcher and set aside
3.    Crush ice cubes in the blender.
4.    Scoop crushed ice into the margarita pitcher, stir
5.    Serve 

6.    For a salted rim, pour an even layer of coarse salt onto a plate. Wet the rim of the glass with water and dip lightly into the salt.

For Part 3: I finished these books, and recommend them to be added to your plan for the next blizzard warning. Or your celebration of living in a part of country that doesn't get them.

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

Rachel, whose drinking lost her a marriage, continues to ride the train to London every day, to avoid telling her new roommate she’s also lost her job. Every day, through the window during the train’s daily delay on the line, she sees an attractive young couple in their back garden, and day after day fantasizes, or more accurately obsesses, about their perfect life together, just paces from where her former husband has set up housekeeping with a new wife and a baby (into whose lives she continues to insert herself). Then the young, perfect woman disappears, and Rachel's spotty memory suggests she might know what happened, and might even have been involved. Her self-deception will frustrate the heck out of you (no, showing up drunk on your ex-husband's doorstep again is not a good idea), but despite her considerable faults, you pull for her and remain terrified she won’t make it, right to the whiz-bang finish.

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
The story of the young Americans from the University of Washington who won rowing gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. They weren’t rich or privileged, but instead struggled to keep their heads above water during the Great Depression. Most of them had never rowed before. Brown creates riveting portraits matched by exhilarating descriptions of what was once one of the most popular sports in America, and provides a sharp history lesson about a time when Americans wondered if their country would ever recover from the crushing economic collapse and Germany prepared for the next horrific war. The young men’s story is triumphant, but you will also mourn that they were all gone before you knew they ever lived.

Copyright 2015 Sheila York


  1. I live in Collingswood and got about an inch and a half of snow. I work from home so I don't get snow days anymore But then I don't have to stress out about whether I can manage the snow and ice. We favor brandy as the drink and though we have fully charged Kindles, I always quiz Bob about batteries for various book lights that we own. Thanks for the book recommendations, Sheila. I have "The Girl on the Train" and will now get "The Boys in the Boat."

    1. A nice brandy sounds just the thing for a cold night. I mostly work remotely at the other career, and as it doesn't take much to strain NJ Transit's equipment -- snow or just brutal cold (which we did get) -- I stayed home this week. Tuesday felt like a snow day because it was so slow at work. But I did manage to change out of the flannel jammies!

  2. My work has been slow at my day job as well because we do a lot of business in New England and New England has been closed.

  3. Fortunately all was well in Lambertville this time. The last time we lost power, during Sandy, we came to find out that our new gas furnace would not work without its electric ignition. The hot water heater worked. We took a lot of showers and then shivered afterwards.

    1. Er, think I'll be making a call to the boiler guys today. Thanks.

  4. Sheila, being safe over here in Italy, I nonetheless took a great interest in the storm. I couldn't agree more on the subject of better safe than sorry. The books sound fascinating and it's amusing that, home bound, you read about people on the move on trains and in boats.

    1. I thought the real non-story of the storm was that people would be upset with the meteorologists. I heard tons more about "oh, people might be angry" from reporters with nothing to do standing on no-snow corners than I did from citizens. And that is odd about the books. I choose to read about transit that works, I guess.

  5. Was glad to hear from you... had wondered if you were deep into a new manuscript... but after reading your blog and the delicious grub and beverages, I am happy about ya, kid!!!! This brings back memories of being stranded on top of a Tennessee mountain with 100 teen agers in their dorm and the nightmarish fun we all had! I'll probably do a blog later on that experience - which was actually life-threatening and luckily none of us got killed ! Thelma in Quiet Manhattan

    1. I have been deep in a manuscript that is doing its best to frustrate me at every turn. Apparently my imagination has a grudge against me. Please do blog about your Tennessee Terror!

  6. Keep in mind, all manuscripts have little demons inside and their function is to worry and tease us!!! Part of the game1 tjs

    1. THANKS! So I'm not crazy. There really are gremlins! And they whisper "Not good enough."