Saturday, January 15, 2011

Snow Angels and Comfort Food

January 2011 105 Sometimes the most unexpected things can raise your spirits. For me, it was these three neighborhood kids who don’t know it, but who were responsible for an upward shift in my outlook.  The prospect of shoveling my driveway (again!) was not engendering warm, fuzzy thoughts and I was remembering how my sister and I, as children, used to shovel not only our parents’ driveway, but our neighbor’s as well.

“Aren’t there any kids like that anymore?” I thought to myself, bracing myself to start clearing the 8 inches of white stuff that covered our driveway as a result of the third snowfall in three weeks. Before I could suit up for the job, I hear a knock at the front door. Opening the door, I am greeted by three  adorable, rosy-cheek children, asking “Would you like us to shovel your driveway?” 

How much are you charging?” I ask, thinking “I don’t care what you’re charging. I’m just glad you’re here” When they reply “It’s free,” I am nearly bowled over. 

I’d love for you to shovel, but I insist on paying you,” I tell them.

Halfway through their work, I mix some cocoa, milk and sugar for hot chocolate, and take it outside to them along with a plate of cookies.  By now, they’re nearly finished their work, so I happily pay them, remarking, “You know you really could charge people to shovel.” 

Oh no, we do this as a neighborhood service,” they reply.

At this point, a smile bigger than the widened driveway transforms my face and my mood. The good feeling has stayed with me since Wednesday – the day that these three siblings - Piper, 10; and 11-year-old twins Adam and Lana, appeared at my door with their generous offer and enthusiasm.

So I thank you, my little snow angels, (and your parents too, for teaching you to help others) for clearing my driveway and bringing some brightness into my life this week.

That little bit of help gave me the time and energy to focus on other things, like putting together this beans-and-sausage recipe that reminds me of my own daughter. Most kids ask for pizza, pasta or burgers as their special birthday meal, but no,  my little munchkin - now a sophisticated career woman who has called Manhattan her home for years - always requested this humble dish on her birthday. 

Feb. 2010 342  The recipe is adapted from my well-worn 1971 edition of  “ The New York Times International Cookbook” by its former food editor Craig Claiborne. The original recipe calls for 1 pound of cotechino or fresh kielbasa sausage. I prefer to use the type of Italian sausage you would find in a sausage and peppers sandwich. I buy a brand that comes from a local farm called “Simply Grazin.”  The pigs are raised on certified organic feed in large paddocks where they able to roam freely. If you live in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Virginia or Philadelphia, here’s a link to where you can buy their products.  The taste is so much better than normal supermarket sausage – and I’m not being paid to say that. It’s just really good and I want you to try it if you can.

In this recipe, I use only 1/2 pound of sausage rather than the full pound called for. A half pound goes a long way toward flavoring the dish, and as much as I love good meat, I am trying to cut back on eating too much animal protein.

Sausage and White Beans

(serves 4 to 6 people)

printable recipe here

1/2 pound Italian sausage

1/4 cup olive oil

6 green onions, green part and all

6 cloves garlic

2 13-ounce cans white cannellini beans (or other type of white beans)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

fresh ground pepper, coarse salt to taste

  • Peel the casing off the sausage and place the sausage in a saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes or until cooked. Do not throw away the water.
  • Meanwhile, drain the beans in a colander and rinse them.
  • Trim the green onions and chop fine. Cook briefly in the oil, then add the garlic and cook a few minutes. Cut the sausage into thin slices, or break into bits, and add to the pan, along with the beans, the wine, the salt and pepper and enough of the cooking liquid to barely cover the beans. Cook over very low heat about ten to fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the parsley, and add more water if too dry. Serve hot with some crusty bread.

Feb. 2010 343


  1. I love these random acts of kindness that seem to come right when we are struggling to feel joy in our hearts. What great kids! What a great recipe. I felt a little guilty as I was enjoy our 75 degree weather, and my friend in the East Coast is groaning about how much snow has been dumped. Wishing you all the best!

  2. Kind kids! So sweet of them...

    That dish looks so yummy and soul-uplifting!



  3. What a kind thing for those children to do. I'm sure they really enjoyed your cocoa and cookies as I'm sure I would enjoy that pot of sausage and beans.

  4. Awwww, They're adorable! I love how they said they do it as a neighborhood service, how sweet, I'm sure they make their parents proud! It's no wonder your daughter loves this dish Linda, it's warm, comforting and always brings her back home!

  5. What nice kids! And that dish looks great. I am bookmarking it for later!

  6. Their parents have certainly taught them well. What I would have given in the days when I still lived in my house with it's loooong driveway and a husband who was always working out of town. It seems like a neighbourhood BBQ will be inorder when the snow clears with some of your daughters favourite beans.

  7. It's so relieving to learn that there are kids like that. Sometimes we think the world is really dying from cold hearted people and then we are blown by someone like those kids.
    Chapeau uto the parents.

    I am intrigued by this recipe and will try it soon.

  8. A lovely story-it warms my heart to know these adorable children and their act of kindness lifted your spirits.

  9. How wonderful that you have these little snow angels!
    My mother in law also has wonderful neighbors that shovel their driveway.
    They work for "treats"!
    Very nice.
    Look at my post tomorrow, our photos are very similar! (cassoulet!)

  10. Your neighbors look very happy with their hot chocolate and cookies, Linda. How sweet of them to shovel snow for you.

    I would love a plate of your sausage and beans on this cold, rainy day. That's my idea of comfort food.

  11. Those snow angels just melted by winter being. It snows every other day here and it does my heart good to see people with plows (we don't shovel anymore) plowing neighbors driveways as a matter of course. These kids are going to be grand adults.

    I have the wonderful old NY Times cookbook and don't know how I missed that recipe. Your daughter has exceedingly good taste in birthday meals. And it will be on my dinner table this week.(Probably with turkey sausge - don't balk!)

  12. Your snow angels are absolute sweethearts! There still are some good kids (and good parents) out there. They have brightened my day too!

    Your sausage and white beans look delicious. I would love a bowl with some crusty bread right now!

  13. Your post made me so very happy!
    Snow Angels indeed!
    The beans and sausage would really hit the spot today. I need to try that recipe...really soon.

  14. Oh Linda, I cried.. and believe it or not, I felt like I was right there with you. Such God sent kids... good kids, I would have to have squished them so much they would have paid me to let them go.

    How wonderful are these kids and that you posted them is just too beautiful!

    And that you posted your beautiful daughter's favorite birthday meal is just so kind again. Tell her I love it. Don't tell anyone, but I am half Polish, second generation, but I prefer Italian as well. Hey does having the most wonderful Italian Aunt by marriage count? Loved her......

  15. your dish looks really good but since I dont eat Beef/pork can I sub it for like Turkey meat? what you think?


  16. Oh my goodness, I just love those beans..Photos are just stunning!

  17. Great story, especially in a time when people have become so fearful that we still have neighbors that we don't know that well and they happily have put a smile on a lot of peoples faces while helping with a sometimes dreaded chore. The beans and sausage is a welcome winter time warmer to boot.

  18. E' vero a volte basta poco, anche il sorriso di un bambino per rendere solare la nostra giornata. E' anche vero che è difficile trovare dei giovanotti cosi'. complimenti per la tua ricetta. Un abbraccio Daniela.

  19. oh I love this...the dish looks yummy.Plus the twins were part of my group at the after school program and they are two of the nicest children we had.

  20. That was one of my favorite cookbooks in the 70's. As a matter of fact it is one of the few that moved from the East to West coast with us. It had sentimental value and I couldn't bear to part with it. The beans look wonderful and will be on my table soon. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  21. It seems so unusual these days, I think that you are lucky. They seem like kids raised (luckily, imho, these days) old school. Good chance they will go far with their attitude (at least I hope for them, and for the rest of us).
    Still, the subconscious voice of my old Italian great-grandmother (the nana of the family) in my upbringing rings out "how could you make them pose like that outside with their coats open, disgraziata", but I suspect they are used to it (as I was at that age in the semi-nordic Chicago winters, so long ago, back before global warming kicked in).
    It is wonderful to see you back blogging, however difficult it may be for you, which I can only imagine.
    Thanks for the wonderful recipes and culinary inspiration.

  22. What sweet children! I wish there were a few like them in my neighborhood.

    I have the same NY Times cookbook! Since I am half Ukrainian I like to use kielbasa but the sausage you recommend sounds delicious!

    Fingers crossed we don't get more snow tomorrow!

  23. great to have such nice kids in the neighborhood. Delicious recipe!

  24. Oh my, I sure wish we had some snow angels in my neck of the woods! I am so glad you have that help - of all winters, it is much needed for you during this one, for sure! And those potatoes further up the page - you're killing me! (not quite lunchtime yet...). All best, Faith

  25. What a lovely story, Linda. It's great to hear there are children, and parents, out there who believe in community service. Can you send those sweet snow angels to my house? :-)
    And your daughter is a wise woman - what a wonderful choice of birthday foods!

  26. They are so cute! Hope for the future, YAY!
    And the casserole looks great, especially during the cold weather!

  27. I found this cookbook for $1 and it was worth EVERY penny. Praise God for such beautiful, thoughtful children. I happen to have kids like that the walk elderly neighbor's dog for free. Children of God are so sweet. God bless you, Page