Stay warm with hearty comfort food on cold days

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Photo by Ann Cipperly

By Ann Cipperly

With Christmas over and the decorations tucked away, the cold days of January settle into a quiet, cozy time of resting from the rush of the holidays. After so much rich food for weeks, plan for comforting meals for your family. Serve a hearty main dish with a winter salad and easy warm bread fresh from the oven.

For a comforting meal, serve Janet Bartlett’s robust Beef Stew with her Winter Salad and Cornmeal Muffins. Beef cubes simmer with onions, garlic, carrots and potatoes until tender, while the salad combines romaine lettuce with shredded Swiss cheese, almonds, cranberries, apple and pear. The muffin recipe belonged to her father-in-law, who was a chief steward on a merchant ship.

Chicken Pot Pie is another popular dish. Kim Walker makes an excellent Chicken Pie prepared with a creamy sauce made from chicken broth and whipping cream. She adds peas and carrots with the chicken and tops with a pre-made piecrust from the refrigerator section of the grocery store.

Kim serves the pie with rice and a salad combination of red grapefruit sections on iceberg lettuce with French dressing.

Chicken Pie with Dropped Biscuits was one of my children’s favorites when they were growing up. It is a little fussier, but it doesn’t take much time to mix up the biscuit batter. Another option is using purchased frozen biscuits.. While the recipe calls for boiling the chicken, you can use a roasted chicken from the grocery store and canned broth.

During winter, I frequently boil chickens for making soups and casseroles as well as chicken pies. I fill a stockpot with one or two chickens, add onions and celery, and let the chicken simmer two to three hours until very tender. I have started using a pasta pan, as I simply pull the pasta drainer out with the chicken and vegetables, leaving a clear broth.

An Instant Pot will cook chickens much quicker.

Spaghetti is a good hearty dish during winter, and children especially enjoy it. Dr. Ellen Royal makes flavorful Spaghetti and Meatballs. She adds a quarter pound of ground pork to the beef and Parmesan cheese to enhance the flavor of the meatballs. The meatballs are then mixed with tomato sauce and served with spaghetti noodles topped with additional cheese.

Char Warren prepares Chicken Spaghetti that is one of her children’s favorite dishes that they request when visiting. Char uses chopped chicken breasts. The sauce is embellished with Cajun seasonings and red wine for creating a richly flavored dish.

The No Knead Yeast Muffins are another bread choice to serve with hearty dishes. The batter goes together quickly and will keep in the refrigerator up to a week. Simply drop batter into greased muffin tins and bake.

While comfort food can bring back good memories, the homey food is good on cold days and warms body and soul, especially after a long day at work or dealing with stress.

Look over the following recipes for assembling cozy, comforting menus for the coming week. Select an entree and pair it with a salad and bread for a heart-warming meal.

Ann Cipperly can be contacted at recipes@cipperly.com.

Recipes:

Winter Salad
Janet Barlett
This is always a hit when I make it.
½ cup white sugar
½ lemon juice
2 tsp. diced onion
1 tsp. Dijon style prepared mustard
½ tsp. salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds (optional)
1 large or 2 small head romaine lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
4 oz. shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup cashews or slivered almonds
½ cup dried cranberries
1 apple, diced
1 pear, diced
In a blender or food processor combine sugar, lemon juice, onion, mustard and salt. Process until well blended. With machine still running add oil in a slow steady stream until mixture is thick and smooth. Add poppy seeds and process just a few seconds.
In a large serving bowl, toss together the romaine lettuce, shredded cheese, cashews, cranberries, apple and pear. Pour dressing over salad just before serving.

My Favorite Beef Stew
Janet Barlett
2 lbs. beef cubes
1 cup flour
1 tsp. paprika
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
4 cups water, divided
1 tsp. salt
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. Worcestershire
4 beef bouillon cubes, divided
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup carrots
3 cups potatoes
Combine flour, paprika and pepper. Coat meat and heat oil on high. Add meat and brown. Add onion and garlic. Cook 2 -3 minutes.
Add 2 cups water, Worcestershire, 2 bouillons, bay leaf, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer 1-1 ½ hours.
Add vegetables, 2 cups water and 2 bouillons. Add black pepper to taste. Cook until vegetables are done. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Cornbread Muffins
Janet Barlett
My father-in-law was a Chief Steward on a merchant ship. This was his cornbread muffin recipe.
2 cups plain white cornmeal
2 cups plain flour
2 Tbsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
2 ½ cups buttermilk
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
Sift dry ingredients together. Beat eggs and add buttermilk. Add to dry ingredients, stir until well blended. Stir in oil until completely mixed in batter. Bake 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Chicken Pot Pie
Kim Walker
Serve with rice and red grapefruit sections on iceberg lettuce with French dressing.
Chicken Pot Pie
6 Tbsp. butter
6 Tbsp. flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup whipping cream
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper and salt
2 to 4 cups cooked chicken, chopped
2 chopped sweet onions, cooked
1 cup peas, cooked
1 cup sliced carrots, cooked
½ cup chopped celery, cooked (optional)
1 cup mushrooms, cooked (optional)
1 Pillsbury rolled piecrust
Preheat oven to 425. Put chicken in a deep casserole; cover with vegetables.
Melt butter in saucepan; stir in flour and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Slowly add broth, cream, salt and pepper; cook 5 minutes until thickened and smooth. Pour over chicken and vegetables. Stir carefully.
Place piecrust over pie and crimp edges. Cut vents. Bake 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Can prepare ahead and bake the next day.

Southern Cornbread
Betty Traylor
2 cups White Lily self-rising corn meal
1½ cups buttermilk, enough to make batter thin
¼ cup margarine, melted
1 egg
Mix together and bake in greased pan as directed on back of corn meal package.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Dr. Ellen Royal
2 slices white sandwich bread
1/3 cup buttermilk
¾ lb. ground beef (80 percent lean)
¼ lb. ground pork
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1 large egg yolk
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil
4 cups tomato sauce
1 lb. spaghetti noodles
Bring 4 quarts water to a boil for spaghetti.
Remove crusts from bread and tear slices into small pieces. With a fork, mash bread in buttermilk to a smooth paste.
Add beef, pork, Parmesan, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Stir mixture gently with mashed bread. Form into about 12 meatballs.
Pour oil to ¼-inch deep in skillet. When simmering, add meatballs in a single layer. Cook until brown on all sides. Remove meatballs to platter; discard oil.
Place skillet with any brown bits over medium heat; add tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low. Add meatballs, turning occasionally, until heated through. Cook for about 5 minutes.
While meatballs simmer, add about 1 Tbsp. salt and spaghetti noodles to boiling water. Cook noodles until almost tender. Reserve ½ cup water. Drain spaghetti and return to pot.
Toss spaghetti with some of the tomato sauce. Thin sauce as needed with reserved cooking water. Add remaining sauce and top each serving with meatballs. Pass extra Parmesan cheese.

Chicken Spaghetti
Char Warren
My children love this and request I make it for them when visiting. Make a lot of this, as it is requested for days after it is prepared.
4 lbs. chicken breasts, poached and cooled in broth
8 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 large onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 green peppers, finely chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
I often use food processor on pulse to chop the above ingredients. Don’t over chop, as you want some texture to the sauce.
Sauté chopped veggies until wilted and soft, in enough olive oil to cover bottom of large roaster. This makes a very large amount of sauce, but it freezes well.
Add:
6 cans tomato paste (8 oz. size)
Three 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes, do not drain
4 cans mushrooms (Or use 1 lb. sliced, fresh and sauté with veggies)
2 quarts chicken broth
Add 1-1 1/2 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1 Tbsp. dried basil (If you have fresh basil, add 3-4 Tbsp. at end of cooking as it will darken.)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, sprinkled on top
Bone and shred, or cut up chicken and add to sauce. Simmer about 2 hours, stirring to prevent sticking.
Makes about 20 cups. Serve over noodles cooked in broth from chicken, with a generous grating of Parmesan on top and fresh basil as garnish.

Chicken Pie With Dropped Biscuits
1 whole chicken
2 sticks celery
1 large onion
2 small carrots
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large stockpot place chicken and remaining ingredients. Boil chicken until tender, about two to three hours. Remove chicken and strain stock. Remove chicken from bones and cut into large chunks. Set aside while preparing sauce.
Sauce
4 Tbsp. butter or margarine
8 Tbsp. flour
4 cups strained chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in skillet; stir in flour. Slowly add chicken stock, cooking until boiling and continue cooking for another minute or until sauce is thickened.
Assemble
Place chicken in the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan. Pour sauce over top. Prepare Drop Parsley Biscuits; drop tablespoons of batter over chicken and sauce. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven 25 to 30 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Serves 8.
Dropped Biscuits
2 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup milk
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening until dough is crumbly. Add milk and blend. Can brush top of biscuits with a mixture of 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk.

No Knead Yeast Muffins
1 pkg. yeast
2 cups warm water
1 ½ sticks butter or margarine, melted
¼ cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
4 cups self-rising flour
Place yeast in warm water. Cream melted butter with sugar; add beaten egg. Add yeast and water, then flour. Drop batter into greased muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Can be stored tightly covered in refrigerator up to a week.

Waldorf Salad
Nancy Smith
Mix together the following:
3 large apples, cored and cubed
2 ribs celery, diced
½ cup raisins
½ cup miniature marshmallows
½ cup chopped pecans
Mix the following together:
½ cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
Dash curry powder (1 add two dashes)
2 Tbsp. milk
Pour over the apple mixture, mixing thoroughly. Sprinkle with paprika.

White Chicken Chili
Nancy Smith
4 chicken breasts (I prefer 1 large whole chicken)
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. oregano
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 can El Paso green chilies, chopped
1 pkg. sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. cumin
4 cans chicken broth
3 to 4 cans white northern beans
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded Monterey jack cheese
Sour cream
Corn chips or tortilla chips
Bake chicken breasts with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Bone and cut into pieces. (Or use whole cooked chicken}
In large pan, sauté onion, garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms, chilies, cayenne, oregano and cumin in olive oil.
Add broth, beans, chicken pieces, salt and pepper. Simmer 1 to 2 hours.
Optional: Top each bowl with shredded Monterey jack cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a few corn chips or tortilla chips.

Italian Meatloaf
Kim Walker
Serve with Scalloped Potato Gratin, Broccoli with Parmesan and Lemon or Caesar Salad with Shortcut Dressing.
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 red pepper, seeded, small diced
1 onion, diced
2 tsp. chopped garlic
1 lb. ground beef
2 eggs
¾ cup breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. chopped basil
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 cup marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté peppers, onions and garlic in the olive oil until just soft; cool.
Combine remaining ingredients except marinara; add pepper mixture. Place into greased loaf pan. Top with marinara sauce. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until thermometer reaches 160 degrees. Let rest five minutes. Slice and serve. Serves 4.

Caesar Salad with Shortcut Dressing
Kim Walker
1 cup mayonnaise
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon
2 tsp. anchovy paste
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup Parmesan
1 tsp. black pepper
Combine ingredients in blender; mix until smooth. Serve with salad made from 2 heads romaine broken into bite-size pieces and croutons made by tossing a loaf of cubed French bread with 1 stick melted butter and ¼ cup oil olive. Brown in a 350 degree oven.

Quick and Easy Biscuits
Ann Gore
½ cup shortening, melted in microwave
¾ cup cold buttermilk
Immediately, stir buttermilk into hot shortening.
Blend in:
2 cups self-rising flour
1 dash baking powder
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Put on floured cloth and knead gently until dough comes together.
Roll or pat out to about ½ to ¾ inch and cut with 2-inch cutter.
Bake biscuits on baking sheet lightly greased with shortening for 12 to 14 minutes or until desired color is reached.

Kim’s Macaroni and Cheese
Ann Gore
Place in casserole dish, sprayed with cooking spray:
8 oz. macaroni, cooked according to pkg. directions
8 oz. shredded Mexican cheese
Combine:
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 eggs, beaten
Salt, pepper to taste
Pour this mixture over pasta and cheese and toss. Top with as much grated cheddar cheese as you like. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Winter Salad with Cheese and Walnuts
Assorted lettuces
Chopped apples or pears or mandarin oranges
Dried cranberries
Bleu cheese, feta or goat cheese
Toasted walnuts, almonds or pecans
Vinaigrette dressing
Use this list of ingredients as a base for creating a salad. Select from the items to make a salad to suit your taste.

Sausage, Shrimp and Grits
Char Warren
Grits:
3 cups milk
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream (may need more later on to thin)
Salt and black pepper to taste (Check first, as broth has some salt in it.)
2-4 Tbsp. butter
1 cup grits
In a 3 quart pot heat liquids to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer, and slowly whisk in grits. Stir frequently and cook about 15 minutes until mixture is smooth and thick.
Remove from heat and stir in butter, and thin with more cream if needed. Check seasonings and adjust if needed.
Shrimp:
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, or enough to cover bottom of deep skillet.
1 large onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. spicy Andouille, or smoked sausage of your choice (sliced on diagonal about ¼ inch thick)
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
2-3 bay leaves
2 lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Pinch cayenne, according to taste
1 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped, flat leaf parsley
4 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal (use white parts as well)
1 thinly sliced lemon for garnish, if desired
In deep skillet over medium heat, put in enough olive oil to coat bottom of pan.
Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft, but not brown, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add sliced sausage to pan and brown.
Sprinkle in flour; stir with wooden spoon to create a roux.
Slowly add broth, stirring with spoon to avoid lumps.
Toss in bay leaves.
When liquid comes to a simmer, add shrimp and let poach 2-3 minutes until they turn pink, and the gravy is thick and smooth. If too thick, add a little cream or broth to thin a little.
Add cayenne and lemon juice to taste. Remove bay leaves.
Pour grits into a large serving bowl, and pour shrimp over the grits.
Garnish with chopped parsley and thinly sliced lemon.

 

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