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VOL. 39 | NO. 10 | Friday, March 6, 2015

Is eating Phil really the answer to winter blues?

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These past few weeks have me thinking that the renown, not-so-accurate Punxsutawney Phil of Gobbler’s Knob, Pennsylvania, was right – we do have six more weeks of winter. At least it’s looking that way outside today.

As I sit here writing this column, I’m occasionally glancing outside and watching the snow flurrying about.

I really don’t mind the snow. What I mind is the ice that’s already covering the ground. There’s about an inch of it covering my patio, making it look like a skating rink.

If I were younger, I’d be having all kinds of fun! But I’m not, so I say, “That darn Phil!”

Speaking of ice, I have a story to share.

One of my daughters, April, fell last October and bummed her knee up pretty bad. She had to have her ALC, meniscus and MCL surgically repaired. It’s often referred to as the “Unhappy Triad” or “O’Donoghue’s Triad.”

This blown knee surgery required her to be on crutches and wear a full-leg brace for quite a while. Not long after, she started a long stint of physical therapy.

About three to four weeks into her healing and PT, she slipped while exiting the shower and had to have more surgery, so the process started all over.

Last week, she was going into her PT building for an appointment. I guess this is where I need to mention that April is a soft-hearted pushover when it comes to elderly people and making sure they don’t need any help in any way. When she goes somewhere, it’s like her eyes automatically scout out elderly people.

Groundhog Meatballs

1/2 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
2 pounds groundhog meat, off the bone, fat and tendons removed
1/2 pound bacon
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon tarragon
1/8 teaspoon sage
1/8 teaspoon rosemary
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup cake flour, sifted
1 cup water
Ground black pepper

In skillet, over medium heat, sauté onion and garlic in tablespoon of butter until onions are translucent. Refrigerate until chilled.

Cut groundhog and bacon into one-inch pieces. Grind together evenly. Grind a second time to ensure even mixing. Mix egg thoroughly into the meat.

In a separate bowl, mix breadcrumbs, salt, and herbs. Mix meat and egg mixture with bread crumb and onion-garlic mixtures. Chill in refrigerator for one hour.

Remove mixture from refrigerator and form into one-inch balls.
In a frying pan over medium-high heat, brown the outside of the meat, turning regularly. Reduce heat to medium and cook until cooked through, turning occasionally. Remove meatballs from pan, onto serving tray. Reserve drippings.

Over medium heat, melt remaining butter with drippings. Reduce heat to low.

Add flour slowly to the pan, stirring constantly, until flour is mixed well. Add water slowly, stirring constantly, until mixed, making a rich gravy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour gravy over meatballs. Top with fresh Parmesan cheese.

Tomato-Lentil Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
6 ounces Baby Bell Mushrooms, quartered
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups water
1/2 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 tub Knorr Vegetable Broth
8 ounces chicken broth

Heat oil in large soup pot; add carrots, onion, and celery. Cook on medium heat until tender. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook about three minutes more.

Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Turn heat to simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about one hour. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve with piping hot multi-grain bread.

As she was going into the building for her appointment, she spotted an elderly couple trying to get into their car parked in front of the building.

She said this couple should not have been out, and they should not have been driving. In her words, “It would be scary to see them out on a normal, sunny day, and here it was iced over.”

Anyway, being the “elderly aide” she is, she tried to help them settle into their car. Then it happened – again; she slipped, and down she went. She fell and hit so hard that she blacked out. She said when she came to, a crowd of people was bent over her, asking her questions.

Her response: “Y’all just need to get back.”

They sat her up, got her in a wheelchair, and took her into the clinic. X-rays on her knee, which was in excruciating pain, determined she once again had torn the MCL. So, back on with the full-leg brace.

She’s doing better, and the pain has subsided some, which is good, but she’s having a time with this knee, and the weather isn’t helping the situation at all.

My recipe this week is for groundhog meatballs. I say, in honor of April and all the other people who are suffering with injuries due to this miserable weather – and the upcoming forecast – let’s eat Phil!

The second edition of “The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Game Cookbook” offers several recipes for serving up a delicious plate of groundhog. Groundhog (or woodchuck) is excellent table fare, the cookbook states.

However, if you don’t have any groundhog, or woodchuck, meat on hand, maybe you should stick to the soup – it’ll warm you up regardless of the howling, snowy and icy weather outside!

Kay Bona is an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at kay@dailydata.com.

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