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It snowed. We survived — and met our neighbors.

For those of you who have been living under a rock — or are still waiting to be plowed out and have your newspapers delivered — it snowed in the Washington region. Quite a bit.

What started with a traffic-snarling dusting on Wednesday evening turned into a nonstop deluge Friday night and lasted all day Saturday. By Sunday, we had enough snow to bury 2-3 rulers, or a small child, not that I tried to measure it by either. It was a lot.

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When I realized it was really going to snow as much as they said it was going to (Washington has a long history of hype), I was stoked. As a kid, endless snow days (kids here got four days — four days!) with sled-worthy hills was the stuff of dreams. Growing up in Kansas, we had plenty of snow but not nearly enough snow days — and far too few hills.

As an adult, I thought of all the indoor projects I’d get to, namely, in the office-of-neglect, and all the comfort food I’d have the excuse to make. Let’s just say I did more of the latter than the former (especially after reading this spot-on article).

If you ever thought you didn’t need to know how to cook, consider a Washington snow. How, I wondered, did all the people who eat out every evening survive? I had carefully planned my grocery runs. My pantry already had enough staples to last us through the winter. Yet we managed to plow through every single perishable item by the time we emerged from the storm to the store on Wednesday.

As farmer Mike of Heritage Hollow Farms explained to me, snow makes us hungry. OK, he was talking about how cows eat more than usual to keep the internal heaters that are their stomachs going during a storm. But I thought the principal applied more broadly and used it to justify an extra helping of apple cobbler on a couple occasions.

But for all of snow’s glorious indulgence-inducing abilities, the best thing it did was introduce us to our neighbors. Sure, we’ve met most of them since moving here in August. But this was more than mailbox chit-chat. This was borrow-a-shovel, share-a-snowblower bonding, especially once we realized we were basically on our own down here at the end of our cul-de-sac.

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I mean, we got a lot of snow. Enough that you had to shovel he same spot 3-4 times to start seeing concrete. So when I saw the neighbors fire up their snowblower, it was like a ray of hope for two parents trying to clear a driveway during a toddler’s nap. After they used it to clear the pipestem they live off of, they generously polished off the job on our driveway. Bless their souls.

That was Sunday. We all had our driveways and sidewalks plowed and could proudly make it… as far as the end of them. We hadn’t seen a plow since one made a cursory run on Friday night. I said as much in an online complaint to the county after my husband had to walk out of the neighborhood to catch a ride to work on Tuesday. By the end of that day, I guess the neighbors decided help wasn’t going to come. Others on the unplowed street leading up to our cul-de-sac had taken to the streets, shoveling their way back to the main road that had been plowed.

So we did, too. By we I mean, my dearly beloved neighbors. With my husband back to work and the next-door daycare still closed, I could either abandon my child to help them shovel or do one of the few things I can (barely) manage with a toddler in tow: cook. C

And by cook I mean throw things into this lovely contraption I’ve been meaning to tell you about: The Instant Pot. 

This thing is just the best. It’s a crockpot-slash-pressure cooker, which means all those oops-I-meant-to-start-the-crockpot moments can be saved by the push of a button. I’ve made chicken soup from frozen chicken in 30 minutes. I’ve adapted a dozen slow cooker recipes to it, but so far this one has been my favorite. We lured or neighbors over for it after days of shoveling, and I repeated it for our home group this weekend. I REALLY like the addition of rice because of the magical things the Instant Pot does to rice, fully integrating it into the dish, making the whole of it fluffy and comforting. Try it in your slow cooker or on the stove — and don’t forget all the fixins!

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Snow Day Chicken Chili

Serves 6 to 8 — adapted from The Kitchn

1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or a mix
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 4-ounce cans diced green chili peppers, preferably “fire-roasted”
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 13.5-ounce can cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn

1 cup white rice, optional for thicker, creamier soup

To serve: shredded monterey jack cheese, lime wedges, chopped cilantro, sour cream, hot sauce, etc.

For crockpot directions, go here: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-slow-cooker-white-chicken-chili-215412

For Instant Pot:

Press Sauté button. Add onions and celery and sauté until translucent about five minutes. Then add chicken, liquid and the rest of ingredients. Add rice if desired for thicker soup. Press Soup button. Allow 30 minutes for pressure cooking and 30 minutes for depressurization (or you can use the fast de pressure option).

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