This weekend, I've got to face the inevitable -- winter is approaching and the hatches need to be battened down. OK, there really are no hatches, but it sounds good.
The pots of summer plants have to be dumped out and put away in the shed, the pool deck furniture has to be put in the shed (the pool has been closed for two weeks, much to the dismay of our Labrador retriever) and the house deck has to be picked up. I really don't think we'll need the insect repellent or sunscreen out there any more -- or the citronella candles.
I don't want to put away the house deck furniture just yet; there are still some warm Indian summer days ahead and when the afternoon sun hits the deck, it's still the perfect place for a Saturday afternoon snooze -- oops, I meant reading a good book.
I have some winterizing chores inside the house too. In the living room I have to get out the various afghans and my Snuggie -- yes, I fell for the infomercial -- so we can be cozy and comfy watching TV and movies this winter. I also noticed a few of the drapery pins were missing from the heavy drapes we pull across the sliding deck door, so I'll be up a step stool replacing those.
We've been eating meals on the deck all summer, so there's nothing much to do in the dining room except swap out the summery print tablecloth for one with falling leaves and fill the napkin holder. Oh, yeah, almost forgot -- I have to pull up the storm window in the front door.
Then it's on to the bedrooms, where I'll strip the beds and replace the cotton sheets with flannel ones and add the electric blankets under our comforters. I washed all my bathing suits when we closed the pool, but they're hung over the doorknobs in my bedroom. Guess I can put those away and unearth my turtleneck jerseys, sweaters and sweatshirts.
And in the kitchen, all things autumn and winter will be going on, too. My son received a text message the other night from one of his former football teammates, now on Long Island. The message said simply "I could go for one of your Mom's whoopie pies right now." He didn't specify whether he was thinking about my chocolate whoopie pies or the pumpkin ones, so I plan to make a batch of each. I'll split half of each batch between friends here and mail him the rest.
But before making the whoopie pies, I plan to put a big pot of soup together and let it simmer on the stove. The one I'm thinking about comes from a co-worker at The Berkshire Eagle. If there's any kind of pot-luck lunch going on, her Buffalo chicken soup is usually one of the main attractions.
Nicole noted she uses a store-bought rotisserie chicken and adds 1/4 cup of jalepeno peppers and 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Once she has mixed everything and the cheese has melted, she pours the soup into her crockpot and lets it sit on low heat for a few hours. Works for me! When I make this, I shred the chicken before adding it to the soup.
BUFFALO CHICKEN SOUP
2 medium onions, chopped
1 bunch celery, chopped
1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
4 small cans chicken broth
4 cups chicken
1 1/2 cups buffalo wing sauce
8 ounces Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
In a 2-quart sauce pan over medium-high heat, cook onions and celery in butter until tender, then stir flour into the pan. Slowly whisk in milk and broth. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the cheese has melted. This should serve 6 to 8 adults.
Along with the soup I plan to serve some hot, homemade bread, but after baking two batches of whoopie pie, I'm going to take the easy way out and and make beer bread. What could be easier than a four-ingredient bread that requires no kneading? If you do not have self-rising flour on hand, you may substitute 3 cups regular flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt, sifted together.
3 cups self-rising flour
1 to 4 tablespoons sugar, to taste
4 tablespoons melted butter, divided
1 1/2 cups beer
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
Mix the flour, sugar, 3 tablespoons of the melted butter, and the beer, stirring until fairly smooth; don't worry about a scattering of small lumps.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter.
Bake the bread for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted about 1/2" into the top of the loaf comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out onto a rack to cool.
Wait until the bread cools completely before slicing. Store airtight at room
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to email@example.com.