Beyond bread and milk: Winter storm cooking

Homemade marshmallows perfect for a day at home during a winter storm

Watch a how-to video on making homemade marshmallows, the perfect companion for your hot chocolate.
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Watch a how-to video on making homemade marshmallows, the perfect companion for your hot chocolate.

The storm — whatever it turns out to be — is headed our way.

I don’t mind because I enjoy pondering what I will cook while iced or snowed in at home over the next couple days. As long as we keep power, it’s a delight. I’m craving chicken and rice, blueberry pancakes and hot chocolate. Or maybe I’ll try to make bolognese sauce, that long simmered, rich Italian ragu.

I’m not alone. Based on a quick Facebook poll, it’s clear that what we crave on snow days is hunker-down, stay-warm dishes. My friends wrote that they would be cooking chili, cassoulet, beef stew, chicken soup, chicken and dumplings, braised short ribs, meatloaf, lasagna, gumbo, even Szechuan red hot beef noodle soup with handmade noodles.

There’s two scenarios to consider before we head to the store after work: with or without power.

With power, we can pull out our favorite recipes — even long, complicated ones — and enjoy a few indulgent hours in the kitchen over the next couple days. Without power, we should stock up on foods that don’t require heating: bread, peanut butter, granola bars, cereal, cheese, apples, oranges, lunch meat and ice for the cooler.

Even without power, you can get creative with a camp stove or a gas grill. (Don’t forget to make sure you have full tank of propane gas. Don’t you dare use that grill inside.)

If we do lose power, I wanted to know what we needed to worry about food safety so I reached out to N.C. State University food scientist Ben Chapman. (Chapman is a food safety expert and regular contributor to the Here’s Chapman’s advice:

▪ Once your power goes out, start tracking time. Refrigerators built within the last 20 years actually do a good job keeping food cold even without power. Keep the door closed as much as possible. After eight hours, check the food’s temperature with a tip-sensitive digital thermometer. (If you don’t own one, now might be a good time to buy one.)

▪ You do not want food to be above 41 degrees for more than 4 hours. That’s when bacteria can grow and make people sick.

▪ Fill empty space in your freezer with ice to help frozen food last longer.

▪ Foods you should worry about include meat, cooked foods, sliced melons, sliced tomatoes, sprouts, soft cheeses and dairy products excluding yogurt. Foods that you don’t have to worry about include uncut fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, rolls, bagels, cakes without cream or custard, cookies, muffins, hard cheeses, condiments and dressings.

▪ If the food temperature is worrisome, transfer food to ice- or snow-filled coolers. Just be sure to keep coolers in a cool place, away from direct sunlight.

So what does Chapman stock up on in preparation for storms?

Beer and wine, he told us.

Now that is some very good advice.

Weigl: 919-829-4848;

Twitter: @andreaweigl

More Ideas for Winter Storm Cooking

If we still have power and you want to use these snow days as an excuse to cook or bake, here are some ideas from our recipe archive website, The Recipe.

Entrees: Poole’s Macaroni and Cheese, Classic Spaghetti Sauce, Mark Bittman’s Shrimp and Tomato Paella, Baked Beans, Jambalaya (which can easily be made using a rotisserie chicken), Sausage, Kale and Beans Pasta and Turkey Meatballs.

Soups: White Bean and Chicken Chili, Tyler’s Taproom’s Vegetarian Chili, Toast’s Spicy Lentil Soup, Centro’s Sopa de Pollo, Caldo Dourado (a Portuguese stew made with sweet potatoes, kielbasa and collards), Winston’s Grille’s Chicken and Mushroom Soup and Ina Garten’s Winter Minestrone.

Dessert: Mother’s Chocolate Cake, Grove Park Inn’s Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate and David Fowle’s Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Watch a how-to video on making homemade marshmallows, the perfect companion for your hot chocolate.