But first: for those of you are local or semi-local, or you're not local but are just really bored or need to procrastinate, I now have a weekly column over at WCCO, covering interesting Minnesota things to do: Wander Minnesota.
OK then. Oh, wait. There's another "but first."
Here's the scene outside my window this beautiful (no, I'm not being sarcastic) morning:
I know there are those of you out there that are preparing for a big whinefest about this. "Wah, oh, wah, snow on Nov. 7, the world is ending, it's Obama's/McCain's fault, wah wah wah."
Oh, please. Suck it up, people. Let me just tell you a few things. I was raised up in rural northern Minnesota, where snow this early was common. Big snow. Lots of snow. And no, I did not wade through miles of waist-deep snow to get to my one-room school shack (well, K-12 was in one building, but there were multiple rooms). We did have buses. Buses without phones, and there were no cell phones, and the rural routes ran 60-90 minutes at the best of times and could go miles between houses. So there was an element of danger, you see. But because of that element of danger, the school district built snow days into the calendar, because sometimes it was simply too dangerous to risk having a busload of kids trapped on some of those roads. Sometimes it had nothing to do with snowfall, but everything to do with windchill of -50F or worse.
So! You see! I'm the hardy type who associates winter with that most wonderful of concepts--snow days. Is it any wonder the sight of snow gives me no end of cheer? My poor children, living in a well-prepared suburb that keeps roads clean and dry, and living in times where buses have phones and nearly every kid riding has a cell phone to boot, have only gotten to enjoy one "real" snow day in all their years of school (that's not counting the ones I gave them because I felt sorry for them--yeah, shhh, don't tell the schools, I might have called them in sick once or twice or four or five times for a really snowy day). There's no danger. No reason to cancel school.
So. Winter is not the enemy. Winter is our friend. OK, winter is *my* friend. I'll take ownership here.
Besides, winter and snow mean comfort food. And what's more comforting than something that starts with a crockpot and a big meaty ham bone?
Make sure it's a good ham bone. Lots of meat. Very smoky. Now let's add some chopped veggies.
The recipe calls for 1/2 cup each of chopped carrots, celery, and onion, but in my opinion, 1/2 cup amounts to why bother. I usually add one cup each or more.
Then it's time to get out the can opener.
Three different types of canned beans and one can of tomatoes. The recipe again is kind of bossy and says to drain and rinse the beans. I drain but don't rinse. I like that extra beany flavor. You just empty all these cans on top of that ham bone and exorbitant amount of chopped veggies.
Stir it all up. Then you either open another can, this time of chicken broth, or you pull your container of frozen homemade chicken broth out of the freezer, and pour it in.
Set your crockpot on low and cook for 8-10 hours, depending on how speedy your crock pot is. Eventually you take the ham bone out of the crockpot. The meat should just collapse right off the bone. Chop into bite-size pieces and put back in soup. Stir to combine. And serve.
Heaven in a bowl. Nothing fancy. Just really good. Bonus points if you have cornbread or a crusty baguette to serve with it. But it's OK if you don't. Oh, and the leftovers are even better.
1 ham bone
½ cup (if you’re a wimp, otherwise kick it up to 1 cup or more) each chopped celery, onion, and carrot
1 can each pinto beans, kidney beans (light or dark, doesn’t matter), and great Northern beans, drained
1 can tomatoes
2 cups (or so) chicken broth
Place in crockpot. Stir to combine. Cook for 8-10 hours on low. Cut meat off ham bone and return to soup, stirring to combine. Serve.