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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Cooking for the weather can be tricky in these hills

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Most of us veterans of these hills tend to plan and prepare meals according to the weather. I can definitely say that it has been difficult, as has been the forecast, during the month of January. We’ve run the gamut with rainy, icy, snowy, windy, and sunny days, and yes, so has my meal planning. In the last week alone, I have cooked the best outdoor chicken on the grill; I made salads too beautiful to eat, stuffed with that leftover chicken and fruit, and we ate them by the glow of the living room fireplace. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the proverbial tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich day (some of you may know it’s my favorite meal!) and today, with heavy rain, a bit of ice, and winds visible from my window, I’ve got a big pot chili on the stove. Tomorrow it will resolve itself, but it will probably be something with leftover chili. Maybe nachos or loaded baked potatoes or another bowl of chili with cornbread?

Depending on the weather, let’s consider a hodgepodge of possibilities for your next few meals. The way I see it, anything goes these days, so eat and savor every bite. And about those resolutions? Yeah, I already screwed up, but I’m not alone. I’ve noticed that local gym parking lots have a few more vacant spots every day. But, I must say, in those beautiful days, several of us were walking along the greenways. That has to count for something, right?

So for those sunny days when you want to do the right thing and for those cold dreary days when you want to stay inside and cook and eat, I think you’ll find something here to suit your needs.

morning energy shake

4 large strawberries

½ cup low-fat plain yogurt

1 cup of fresh orange juice

1 medium-sized banana

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon honey

Remove the stems from the strawberries and wash them. Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth.

Makes two 8-ounce servings

South of the Border Cornbread (Great with that chili!)

1 ½ cups of cornmeal

½ cup self-rising flour

½ medium onion, chopped

½ chopped green pepper

2-3 hot peppers, seeded, chopped

1 beaten egg

¼ cup oil

¾ cup creamed corn

2/3 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1 cup of milk

Mix all ingredients together, bake in a well-oiled pan at 400 for about 35 minutes.

Low Fat Brownies

¾ cup sugar or equivalent substitute

½ cup flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Combine ingredients in a large bowl, mix well. Pour the batter into the mold and bake in a preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes until set. To test, insert a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the brownies are done. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes in the pan. Carefully remove from pan; place on wire rack to cool.

Slow Cooker Braised Beef

1½ lb of beef for stew

4 slices of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 brown sauce boat

1 can of chopped and peeled tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 pound baby carrots

8 small potatoes, quartered

2 small onions, cut into eighths

1 package (8 oz.) fresh whole mushrooms

In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook beef and bacon until beef is browned; drain.

In a slow cooker, combine the sauce, tomatoes, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add meat, bacon, and remaining ingredients, stirring gently to combine. Cover, cook on low 8 to 10 hours, or on high 4 hours, or until meat and vegetables are tender. Makes about 6 servings.

Chocolate Coconut Caramel Dessert

1 box Girl Scout Caramel deLites

3 tablespoons margarine, melted

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

¼ cup) sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1½ cups non-dairy whipped topping, thawed

1¼ cups cold milk

1 small packet. instant coconut cream pudding and pie filling

¼ cup toasted coconut (See instructions below)

3 tablespoons mini semisweet chocolate morsels

Nonstick cooking spray

Blend the cookies in a food processor until fine crumbs are obtained. Prepare bottom of 9-inch square pan with cooking spray. Combine cracker crumbs and margarine; press evenly into bottom of pan. Mix cream cheese, sugar and 2 tbsp. milk until smooth. Stir in ¾ cup whipped topping; spread over cookie layer. Pour 1¼ cups of milk into a bowl with the pudding mix and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour over the cream cheese layer. Cool several hours. Spread a thin layer of coconut on a baking sheet; bake in a 325 degree oven 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently; cold. Just before serving, spread remaining 3/4 cup whipped topping evenly over dessert; sprinkle toasted coconut and mini bites on top of dessert.