The Coastal Journal is pleased to announce that Karen Schneider, of Cundy’s Harbor, will become our new cooking columnist, beginning Feb. 8.

Last week, CJ staff narrowed the search for Paula Anderson’s replacement to five candidates. Since we couldn’t decide, I forwarded their writing samples to Paula for her thoughts on the next CJ Top Chef.

She was happy to help, and true to form, she considered each sample against the background noise of a cleaning lady’s vacuum and a houseful of company.

Paula used a scale of 1-10 for categories of style, content, and clarity of instructions, and then offered overall notes about whether the column would be a good fit for CJ. A person knows a thing or two after 20 years, and I appreciated her time and consideration.

Paula rated Karen’s writing sample and recipes a 9 for style; 8 for content; and 10 for clarity.

“Overall, I liked her opening chatter very much,” she said. “It felt like Karen was inviting me into her kitchen. Well written and clear instructions and proper abbreviations. Good grammar.”

That clarity bit is no surprise, really, as Karen has had lots of practice over the years.

Her columns and feature stories have been published in both the Lewiston Sun Journal and the Coastal Journal for over 20 years.

When she isn’t writing, editing, cooking, or at the library, Karen is off on an adventure with one, some, or all of her eight grandchildren. She lives on a salt water cove and is director of the Cundy’s Harbor Library.

“I’ve been training for this job since I was 7 years old,” Karen said. “I loved sitting at the kitchen table copying recipes from my mom’s recipe cards.”

The Coastal Journal is honored to have Karen in our kitchen and we look forward to her inaugural Cooking at the Cove column next week.

For now, I hope you enjoy cooking from her writing sample as much as I did. Over the weekend I tried the beef stew and butter dips.

If I had any lingering doubts that Karen is the one upon whom to bestow Paula’s coveted spoon and apron, they disappeared as fast as dinner.

Snow Day Supper
I must say that I really enjoy snow-days. I don’t have any problem at all with simply staying home and engaging in my three favorite occupations – writing, reading, and cooking. Nothing gives me more pleasure except, of course, when my grandchildren all come piling in to see what I’m up to.

Because this tribe is always voraciously hungry and because I live nearly 10 miles from the nearest grocery store, I have a tendency to keep my larder well-stocked with basics that can be combined in myriad ways. I’m always prepared to have a snack at the ready or put a meal on the table. The leftovers, if there are any, can be divvied up and sent to the freezer.

Ahh, snow days. I have such wonderful childhood memories where I sat at the kitchen table, my nose in a book, while my mom cooked up a storm as she hummed a little tune to herself. This beef stew recipe that I’m sharing this week was part of her regular repertoire that I have tweaked over the years. Sometimes I add parsnips, other herbs, and even wine!

Like all my favorite recipes, this is flexible. It can also be cooked in a 350-degree oven instead of on the stove top. Sometimes Mom added dumplings to the stew, but I was often allowed to mix up a batch of Butter Dips, one of the first recipes I ever made all by myself, to sop up the silky brown gravy.

And speaking of dipping, this Mustard Dip is rated five stars by the grandchildren and is perfect with pretzels. (Of course, they need a snack to hold them over while the stew is doing its thing on the back burner.)

Of course, we can’t possibly have a snow day supper without dessert, preferably something chocolate. These brownies are divine and most of the children are old enough to prepare them from start to finish. If I’m lucky, I’m allowed to lick the spoon.

I bet you just can’t wait for the next snow day!

Mustard Dip
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. garlic powder
3 Tbsp. oil
3 tsp. yellow mustard
1 Tbsp. wine or apple cider vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl except mayonnaise. Refrigerate at least one hour. Stir in mayo. Refrigerate at least three hours longer. Yield: 1 1/2 cups.

Snow Day Stew
2 lbs. stew beef, cut in 1-inch cubes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. thyme
Pinch of salt and pepper
4 cups hot water
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, sliced
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
6 carrots cut in 1-inch chunks
4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

Heat oil in Dutch oven or other large heavy pot. Combine flour, thyme, salt and pepper. Dredge meat in flour mixture and brown in hot oil. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened and beginning to brown. Add water, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours. Add carrots and potatoes and cook another 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Thicken liquid with 2 Tbsp. flour mixed with 2 Tbsp. water to make gravy. Yield: 6 servings

Butter Dips
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup milk

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Melt butter in 8-inch square pan in oven then remove when butter is melted.
Stir dry ingredients together in bowl. Add milk then stir with a fork until a sticky dough is formed. Turn onto well-floured board and knead lightly. Roll 1/2 inch thick into an 8 inch square. Cut dough in half and then crosswise to make 18 “sticks”.
Dip both sides of each stick in the melted butter in baking pan and place close together in two rows in pan. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
Minced garlic, herbs and/or cheddar or parmesan cheese can be added to the dough or sprinkled on top for variety. Yield: 18 dips.

Fudge Cinnamon Brownies
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
7 Tbsp. cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk w/1 tsp. vinegar added
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon

Stir together milk and vinegar and set aside. Sift together flour and sugar in mixing bowl.
Mix together butter, cocoa and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Slowly pour mixture over flour and sugar and blend with electric mixer. Add milk and vinegar, eggs, vanilla, baking soda and cinnamon; mix well. Spread in greased 15-1/2 x 10-1/2 x 1-inch baking sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting
1/2 cup butter
5 Tbsp. cocoa
6 Tbsp. milk
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter in medium saucepan. Add cocoa and milk; stir, bringing to a boil. Remove from heat. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth. Pour over brownies while warm and spread to cover. Cool and cut into squares. Yield: 35 squares.

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