freezing at 69 degrees

The other day my cell phone rang while driving in the car. It was my sister-in-law checking in from her home for our weekly updates. “Where are you?” she asked innocently, completely unaware of how I was about to spoil her day.”I’m in my car (pause), on the way to the beach (bigger pause), for a picnic” (cut-the-air-with-a-knife pause).Now, I love my sister-in-law. Not only is she one of the few sane, grounded members in my husband’s family, she is a really nice, sane, grounded member whose company I greatly enjoy. Over the years we have become, not just family, but close friends. Still, I’d be lying if I’d say I don’t get a teensy bit of pleasure out of doing this to her. You see, she lives in Omaha, Nebraska.Don’t get me wrong: Omaha is a great town. It has great beef; great schools and is conducive to a wholesome family upbringing. You don’t have nearly as many nut jobs in Omaha as you have in South Florida. The glitch, of course is, that in the month of February, Omaha is amazingly, incredibly, inhumanly cold. Now, maybe this is good and fine if you are a true-bred Omahanian: mother, grandmother, great-grandmother; the whole shtick, but my sister-in-law is not. She is from Venezuela, that tropical land south of us that boasts beautiful, lush beaches and warm, comforting weather all year long. Cursed by her heart, she had the fortune of falling in love with a true-bred Omahanian which led her back to Omaha where she has been subjected to self-induced record-breaking lows for over 20 years.There is a painful pause in our conversation and I hear a sound in the background. Now, I could attribute it to cellular phone static of some sort but I know better. It’s some poor miserable branch snapping off some miserable tree stuck in miserable weather. This ode to the cold is quickly muffled by my sister-in-law whom, having survived the blow of my news, proceeds to wail back at me:”Oh maaaaaaan.”And for all the love and respect in the world that I feel for her (and I do, Koki, I really do) I still can’t help smiling at her misery and offering her some empty words of comfort:”I’ll save you some of my killer stuffed mushrooms.”This is the time we Floridians are really proud to be living in Florida. No longer in need of dashing from one over-blasted a/c environment to another in order to prevent a suffocating attack of humidity, we savor these two months of “winter” by actually venturing outdoors. Most outsiders think of Florida as a place to be outdoors (the beaches and fairways and wonderful sunshine) but us locals know the truth: no one in his or her right mind would dare venture outdoors for the most part of the year.So we have this time to escape our climate control and discover what nature is all about. We golf, we jog, we play tennis, or for those like me who must include food in the event, we go picnic on the beach. During these months there is a skip in our step and a less harried look on our faces. Our electricity bill actually drops below $300. Still, we lose all weather perspective imaginable by complaining of a cold front that took us down to a freezing 69 degrees, grumbling about it with a hint of nostalgia for the stifling heat and humidity we are so programmed to feel.My sister-in-law is quiet on the phone. I seriously think she is trying to figure out a way to take the three planes she would need to take in order to get over here. The thought of the weather, the beach, and her favorite appetizers out of her reach are too much for words. So I hear that branch crack again and the wind howl in the background and I offer the only words that pop into my mind:”Don’t worry. I am sure it will warm up to a cozy 33 degrees.”KILLER STUFFED MUSHROOMS:(Adapted from Silver Palate Cookbook)12 medium-sized mushroom caps1 tablespoon olive oil1 tablespoon sweet butter1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion2 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts1 garlic clove, peeled and minced5 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thoroughly defrosted and squeezed dry1 ounce Gruyere cheese2 ounces Feta cheese, crumbled2 tablespoons minced fresh dillzest of 1/2 lemonsalt and pepper, to taste1. Remove stems from mushrooms and save for another use. Wipe the mushroom caps with a damp paper towel and set aside.2. Heat the olive oil and butter together in a small skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, covered, until tender, about 15 minutes. 3. Preheat oven to 400F4. Add walnuts and garlic to onion and cook for another minute. Add spinach and cook another 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add cheeses, dill, lemon zest and salt and pepper.5. Arrange the mushrooms, cavity side up, in a baking dish. Divide the spinach and walnut mixture evenly among the mushroom caps.6. Set baking dish in upper third of the oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until filling is browned and the mushrooms are thoroughly heated through. Can be served warm or at room temperature.12 mushrooms, 3 –4 portions.

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freezing at 69 degrees

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