Signs of spring

Diminishing snowbanks, sightings of robins, the honking of huge flocks of geese flying overhead, the darkening of the ice on Lake Okabena, pools of water in the basement, the shedding of winter outerwear. Those were all welcoming signs of spring spotted in the days leading up to its arrival on Sunday.
At our house, there are two topics of conversation that annually herald the arrival of warmer temperatures. Hubby Bryan and I begin to speculate about when we’ll be able to get the second Jeep Wrangler out of storage (and when the tops will be able to come off both Wranglers) and when we’ll be able to wear shorts on our daily morning walks.
Topic No. 1 is usually initiated by Bryan saying, “I want to go Jeeping,” or “I want to go to Wisconsin,” in an exaggerated whiny voice. It’s a lament that I’ve heard quite often throughout these particularly harsh winter months as we’ve also lamented not planning a winter vacation to a warmer climate. But not taking the time off in the winter or spending the money to go someplace exotic means we will have more time and money to spend on Jeep trips when the weather does get really nice, right? At least that’s the thinking, although rising gas prices might nix many summer travel plans.
Topic No. 2 — the donning of the shorts — has been broached as we’ve gingerly walked across early-morning icy patches and skirted puddles of water created by the melting snow on our early morning walks — still dressed from head to toe in winter apparel. I did manage to ditch my longjohns last week, and tried to put the winter parka away, but it’s still pretty chilly at 7 a.m. But each piece that we’re able to shed gives us hope that eventually we’ll be able to wear the new shorts that Bryan recently purchased and the sandals that I couldn’t resist when there were still seven-foot snowbanks in our front yard.
Hope springs eternal when you live in the Upper Midwest.

A Daily Globe reader called last week and asked for a copy of the “Bachelor Cook’s Playbook,” or whatever it is we end up titling the cookbook that co-worker Justine Wettschreck and I are compiling for sports editor Aaron Hagen. The reader wanted it for her bachelor grandson. So far, the book is just an odd assortment of recipes not in any organized form, so the call spurred us into thinking we should actually do something with them. It hasn’t been a priority of late, because Aaron has been far too busy with winter sports to do much cooking.
Here are a couple more recently received recipes that will be put in the Aaron file, the first of which he could make in his hand-me-down slow cooker, although he might be put off by the title of the book from whence it came.
“My daughter Julie recently bought a new cookbook, ‘Busy Woman’s Slow Cooker Cookbook: Meals Ready and Waiting,’ by Sharon and Gene McFall with Linda Burgett,” writes Ruth Nystrom in an e-mail. “The following recipe is from that cookbook.”

Souper Hash Browns
Coat inside of slow cooker with cooking spray.
In large bowl, combine one 32-ounce package frozen shredded hash browns, 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, 2 cups diced ham, one 12-ounce can evaporated milk and one 10¾-ounce can cream of potato soup. Mix well and pour mixture into slow cooker.
Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or high 2½ to 3 hours.

Gwen Recker of Adrian submits an easy-to-assemble hotdish that seems to be likely bachelor fare.

Ramen Noodle Hotdish
Brown ½ pound lean ground beef with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and onion flakes or chopped onion.
While meat is browning, cook 1 package chicken or oriental ramen noodles. Add one 14-ounce can Chinese vegetables (drained) to the noodles the last minute or so before done. Add the ground beef and combine. Sprinkle with chow mein noodles (optional).

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