Country Kitchen: Enjoy Our Winter Visitors

Country Kitchen: Enjoy Our Winter Visitors

By Mary Emma Allen

Winter in New England means...itÂ’s time for the birds to gather around the feeders. The blue jays, once they've discovered this outdoor dining room, appear periodically with their raucous cries filling the air. They drown out the "chick-a-dee-dee" melodies of our black-capped friends.

However, the chickadees become our frequent winter visitors and contribute to the delightful sights and sounds that surround our home on a wooded lot during this cold weather. These little birds congregate in pairs and groups around the feeder and delight the children, as they did my mother when she lived with us in her AlzheimerÂ’s world.

First thing in the morning and throughout the day, we might hear their "chick-a-dee-dee-dee" calls from the maple tree. Then when they think no oneÂ’s watching, they'll fly to the feeder and pick at the seeds found there and on the ground.

Often Overlooked

These black-capped visitors with their distinctive calls are so common around this area that we often overlook them for the more rare and less frequent birds. But when we take time to notice them, particularly in the winter when they'll come closer to the house, we find them fascinating entertainment.

No weather seems too cold for them. They appear on mornings when itÂ’s below zero. Their feathers are fluffed up for warmth, so they look more like fat feathery balls than birds.

It always amazes me how they can survive our frigid weather. When we snuggle inside around a warming fire, these little chickadees are out in the snow searching for their meals.

We also get out our bird books whenever other birds come by and discover nuthatches, juncos, grosbeaks, and woodpeckers. We marvel at the endurance of these small creatures who often face natureÂ’s forces which might defeat a human being.

Winter Foods

Midst the chilling winter weather, at least in the north, our thoughts turn to warming foods, such as soups and stews. My daughter has been using the crock pot frequently for Hearty Beef & Vegetable Soup and Ham & Pea Soup.

One of our favorite dishes, not a crockpot one, has always been Mom AllenÂ’s CHILILESS CHILI.

Brown 1 pound ground beef , 1 medium chopped onion, and 1/2 cup chopped celery; drain excess fat. Add 2 cans red kidney beans and 1 can tomato soup. Stir in 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Cook together slowly in Dutch oven or deep skillet.

This also is good made ahead, stored in the refrigerator and served, heated up, the second day. Good accompanied with corn bread or hot biscuits.

(C) 2003 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing her "Cooking Column" for newspapers and online publications for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. SheÂ’s currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

Click Here for The Country Kitchen Series Index


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