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Mrs. Sundberg's Recipe Collection - 12 tried-and-true--one for each month of the year--featuring an introduction and tips from Mrs. Sundberg herself

I Know When to Haul Out the Snow Pants

February 11, 2008

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I missed bits of it here and there, unfortunately, with that cold spell coming up on us out of nowhere. Lord, that was something. I had to run out for wood about twice as often as usual, and the kids wanted sweaters and then blankets for the big movie and popcorn night they'd planned all week. I'd made some chili in the afternoon so it was that and cornbread for dinner, and it was so good we ate it all up. So, instead of sitting back and shivering, I busied myself in the kitchen.

Where I live has a reputation of being cold and that's fine. We rather like it, and take a strange pride in getting through each year what others regard as one cold winter. Truth is, most winters aren't all that bad, and winter is one reason I live here. I've been to Texas and California and Florida, and they're all really very lovely, but I can't imagine living out my days in a place without four clearly defined seasons. I grew up here. I know when to haul out the snow pants and I know when to put them away. I know when it's time to get out the rakes, and when the lawn chairs can be stacked up in the rafters of the garage. I know when it's apple pie time, and time for The Ham, when to stock up on cinnamon and when to buy a few more clothespins. I've learned it all, and know it the way birds know about flying south and leaves know when to turn. And I love it, and I wouldn't give it up for a condo in Lake Havasu, or for a split-level in Clearwater, or for a house near the dock of the bay in San Franciso. Nope. Not in a million.

That said, I must say that cold weather like we had this weekend can be something of reminder to those of us who might complain a bit when the temperature hovers around zero. Zero is cold, yes, but it's not that bad. No, it's not. Cold has a lot to do with wind chill, and when the wind picks up like it did sometime between dinnertime and 10 p.m. Saturday, and the wind chill factor reads -50, well, now we're talking cold. The kind where you stay away from windows and burn candles because they look warm and bake because it smells warm and leave lights on because light kills darkness, which seems to bring on more cold. The kind of cold where water freezes before it hits the ground and nipples...well, let's just say the intent there may have been something of a weather-related warning system.

I spent Saturday evening putting together a tater tot hotdish, a new recipe I've been working on. After that, and after I tucked in the kids with an extra quilt each, I filled the tub up to the top and read the next chapter in my new book on how to be more productive in less time, and I fell asleep right there, in all that steam and warmth. I dreamed I was an iceberg, the one the Titanic hit, and I hovered there awhile feeling helpless and a bit guilty. I heard people calling out from far away and it took a moment before I recognized the kids' voices. Mr. Sundberg was on the phone, calling from the Cook Islands, where he's been for nearly a week giving a series of talks on Possibility.

He said he'd be home Wednesday, that he sunburned his arms and legs quite badly while helping the locals clear some land in order to expand the school, and that he was enjoying the warm, sunny weather but he sure misses home. I told him everything is fine, and that it is actually quite cold out but we're warm and no one is sick and there's more than enough wood. And I told him how I've at last perfected my tater tot hotdish, and promised to whip up another one when he gets home. It is his favorite, after all, and Valentine's Day is just around the corner.

Mrs. Sundberg's Tater Tot Hotdish

1 lb ground beef

1 chopped onion, optional

Brown the above ingredients and drain.

Mix with one can cream of celery (or chicken) soup and spread evenly in 9x13 pan.

Salt/pepper as desired. Mix 1 can corn and 1 can green beans, both drained,

with 1 can cream of celery soup. Spread over meat layer.

Place layer of sliced cheddar or American cheese

over vegetable layer. Arrange tater tots over all.

Bake at 350 uncovered for 30-40 minutes.


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