Culinary Cabin Fever

We live in a big old Victorian house. We absolutely love our house. We have transoms over the doors and 100-year-old pine floors. In the kitchen there are spots burned into the floor where coals fell out of the cast-iron stove in bygone days. All the windows have beautiful old wavy glass. Those windows are wonderful, but they come at a cost. Because of them we live in a big old drafty house.

When cold weather rolls around, we really start to feel it in here. That’s when another of our house’s lovely features comes in to play — the gas heaters in the living room and the “sitting room.” Technically, the sitting room is a bedroom, but since our house has more bedrooms than people, we bought comfy chairs and turned this room into our work room. Pretty much everything you read by us was written sitting in this room facing a gas heater.

Now in addition to the door to the hall, the sitting room has doors adjoining the living room at the front of the house and our bedroom toward the back. This arrangement works well for cold days. We shut all the doors except for the one between the sitting room and our bedroom, we fire up the heater, and voilà, we’re nice and warm without having to heat our entire huge house.

Since this room is where we spend most of our homebody time anyway we don’t think much about being shut-ins. At least not at first. It’s when we get hungry that things start to be different. Leaving our cocoon to brave the chilly kitchen isn’t one of our favorite things to do. During our shut-in phase we tend to eat a lot of sandwiches. We microwave potatoes and frozen leftovers. And that’s what finally drives us to turn on the furnace — we get tired of bologna sandwiches.

Now that the kitchen is bearable, we have started to cook again. Yesterday we turned four pounds of onions into four cups (yeah, four cups) of caramelized onion joy. The caramelized onions are frozen now and will appear later in some Indian dishes. And maybe in some sour cream onion dip. We will make more onions soon so that we can blog the process. It is time-consuming but easy and actually fun.

We also put our Waring Pro FS150 Food Slicer to the test making paper thin slices of a frozen round roast to use in a recipe from a cookbook we got recently. More on the slicer and the book soon too. (And on the other books in the huge stack we have here in the warm room.)

But with all that time and prep work, we still didn’t have a completed meal. Fortunately, Angela had a plan. During a recent trip to Viet Hoa for groceries, we saw what was essentially a frozen bag of seafood surprise. This reminded us of the seafood soup that we love at Mariscos El Quetzal (originally Mariscos Mazatlan). So while onions were cooking down and beef was marinating, Angela whipped up a pot of…

Knipple Mariscos Melange

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Serving Size: 8 servings

Serve with additional salsa for diners to add as they wish.

You can add other vegetables if you like. Potatoes, green peas, onion -- any of those would be great. You could also add beef or chicken stock to the tomato juice or add a bullion cube if you don't have stock. To make a heartier meal, serve with warm corn tortillas.


  • 2 quarts tomato juice
  • 1 pound frozen cut green beans
  • 1 pound frozen whole kernel corn
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Valentina salsa or salsa verde
  • 1 pound frozen seafood mix or peeled deveined shrimp


  1. In a large sauce pan, over medium heat, combine the tomato juice, green beans, corn, salt, pepper, and salsa. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the seafood. If using frozen, simmer for ten minutes. If using fresh, simmer for five minutes or until the shrimp turn a bright pink.
  3. Add salt to taste.

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