Wintertime Comfort Food

It’s rainy and cold here today – we’ve gone from 60-70 degrees on Tuesday to much cooler temperatures today.  I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes for comfort foods for cold, blustery days like today.  Some of these are crock-pot recipes and some are stovetop, although quite a few of the stovetop ones I’ve done in the crock pot as well.  These are old standby recipes that I turn to again and again for something warm, hearty and filling for my family.  An added bonus is that with most of them I can sneak some veggies in without too much protesting from the troops.

Beef Stew: This recipe originated from one of those little recipe books you pick up at the checkout in the grocery store. I’ve tweaked it and made it my own and we love it.  It’s also great for feeding a crowd. I usually make this in the crock pot but there is no reason why you couldn’t simmer it on the stove if you don’t have a crock pot.

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Pasta Fagioli: This is one of my all-time favorites.  It just screams “Italian comfort food” to me.  It’s super-easy and can be done in the crock pot or on the stovetop.

French Onion Soup: I don’t know about you, but a rainy, cold day is just perfect for a big bowl of French Onion soup.  My girls have not yet learned to appreciate this soup, so we don’t get to eat it around here as frequently as I’d like to.  But it is always something I order when I’m traveling for work. It makes me feel warm and cozy when I eat it and it’s great for sipping while watching TV in a hotel room. I saw this recipe on a recent episode of Cooks Country (one of my all-time favorite cooking shows – they are the real deal when it comes to cooking shows) and I am thinking I might try it soon. Love the fact that it is slow-cooker friendly.

Chili should be on the list, too, and a good white chicken chili is another recipe I love to make in the cool weather.

My hearty beef chili is another family favorite and I usually serve it with elbow noodles on the side so that the Little Bit can have “chili mac” that she loves. (Here’s my veggie chili recipe just to round out the offerings)

And, of course, you always need a good vegetable soup recipe.  This one I call clean out the crisper” soup because I never know what I’m going to throw in there – it just depends on what I have that needs to get cooked in my veggie drawer.  It’s great for using up leftovers and always tastes so good.

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If you are Southern, then you know a comfort food list is not complete without a recipe for Chicken & Dumplings.  As a matter of fact, I’ve got a hankering for these. Might just make some this week.

Finally, my favorite Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe.  I love the chili-chicken-ness of it and the fact that you can eat it with tortilla chips or all by itself.  If you’re not a fan of Velveeta, here’s another tortilla soup recipe (my original one) without the extra cheese.

I hope these recipes help when you’re on the hunt for something warm and tasty for your family. What sorts of comfort foods do you gravitate towards in the wintertime?

 

Comfort Food at it’s Best: Chicken & Dumplings

Y’all, I am really here. I promise.

It’s been one of those weeks (again) – Big Girl is sick – 100+ fevers for three days now. I’ve been sick.  Work is crazy.  Life is nuts.

But we’re surviving, we’re hangin’ in there.  I’m just remembering my priorities and focusing on those and letting the rest slide.  Like cleaning my house. (which is really starting to drive me nuts. I hate dirty floors.)

Tonight I made something that is one of my family’s favorite comfort food dinners.  Chicken & Dumplings.  It started off as a copycat recipe I found for Cracker Barrel chicken & dumplings, but I’ve slowly made it my own and I thought I would share it with you all here.

It’s so good. It is not a quick recipe to make, though.  This one takes me a few hours to do – so plan your time accordingly.  It’s one that you can’t really rush.  You could, however, do it in stages and just finish the last part off on the day you plan to eat it.  Even then, though, you need about an hour for the dumplings to cook properly.  Un-done dumplings = not good.

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I have chicken thighs/legs written in the recipe, but I will tell you that I’ve made this with whatever chicken I’ve had in my freezer.  Thighs, legs, breasts, miscellaneous parts.  It all works out. I think the thighs are the best because they seem to have a better flavor and don’t dry out like the breasts do.  Also, I use bone-in whenever I can. Then you get the goodness in your broth from the bones and deboning a few thighs is not really a big deal – they usually just fall apart anyway.

I also use whole wheat flour for my dumplings, but you can use whatever you would normally use. I have used white flour before, but I don’t stock that in my pantry anymore, so I make it with whole wheat. The family doesn’t know the difference.

And, one other thing – when you pour the milk into the dumplings, don’t just dump it all in there at once. As I’ve said before, doughs (like breads and dumplings) are humidity sensitive. You may need more or less depending on how humid it is in your house that day.  I pour a measuring cup and then just add a little at a time until it is the right consistency.

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What is the right consistency?  Well, it’s a good, cohesive dough, that is a little bit tacky to the fingers but not super-sticky.  If you get too much milk in there, just add a little more flour until you get it right. It’s not rocket science. It’s easy.  And once you make your own dumplings you won’t ever want to buy store-bought ones again. They are so good.

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So, while we are battling our bugs and surviving the myriad crises, we’ll comfort ourselves with a little bowl of this – and maybe again tomorrow for lunch. It’s even better warmed over.

Please do let me know if you try it – and how you like it. I always wonder if people actually try the recipes I share or if I’m just slowly building an online cookbook for my own reference…

Chicken & Dumplings


2 pounds of chicken thighs/legs (bone in, skin on is fine)
2-3 stalks of celery (with the leaves on the top)
~1/2 – 3/4 cup of carrots, chopped finely
3-4 chicken bouillon cubes
Houston House Seasoning
1 tsp minced garlic
water
salt/pepper

For the Dumplings:

1 – 1 1/2 cups milk
2 cups flour (all purpose)
1 heaping tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

  1. Fill a large stock pot with water.  Add the bouillon, about 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp pepper, and start to bring to a simmer.
  2. Chop your celery and carrots. Add to water.
  3. Generously season the chicken with the house seasoning (onion powder, garlic powder, salt & pepper)
  4. Add chicken to water.
  5. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 2-3 hours or until chicken is falling off of the bone.
  6. Remove chicken from broth and debone, discarding the fat, gristle and any skin. Cut into bite-sized pieces and add back to the broth.
  7. To make the dumplings, put the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.  Gradually add milk until you have a slightly tacky (not sticky) dough.
  8. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, bring your broth to a rolling boil.
  9. Roll out the dumplings. I usually do two batches (half of the dough at one time) and generously flour my counter.  I roll them pretty thin and then use a pizza cutter to make dumplings about 1/2 inch wide by about 1 inch long.
  10. As the broth is boiling, drop the dumplings in.  Continue dropping them in, stirring as needed to get them submerged, until all of the dumplings are in the pot.
  11. Reduce to medium or medium-low heat and let simmer for about an hour. I leave the lid on the pot, but at an angle so that it does not boil over.

Serve with biscuits, saltine crackers or just in a bowl and devour!

Note: If you make this in stages, you could do your chicken, save the broth and deboned chicken and then re-assemble & bring to a boil while you make your dumplings at a later date.

I also have a crock-pot chicken & dumplings recipe you could try if you are not going to be home during the day and want some goodness when you get home.

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Cast Iron Skillet “Shepherd’s Pie”

My girls love “shepherd’s pie.”  Well, they love the shepherd’s pie that I make for them which has no vegetables in it.  Which, to me, is not really shepherd’s pie.  No matter what they say.

However, the “shepherd’s pie” that I make for them is an adaptation of one of my favorite things my mom would cook for us when we were growing up.  I’ve taken her base recipe and melded it with a shepherd’s pie recipe to create something of a hybrid of the two.

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Mom’s was mostly ground beef and mashed potatoes – with a lot of seasonings, of course.  I took that, along with the shepherd’s pie recipe that I learned from an old work chum who was from Britain and made something that my girls would eat.

Personally, I love shepherd’s pie. I love the amalgamation of meat, veggies and a hearty broth topped with mashed potatoes.  Comfort food at the very best.  But the girls would turn their noses up at the veggies and I would never get my shepherd’s pie.  So, I compromise – make this hybrid that they love and everyone is happy.

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This one I made in my cast iron skillet. It was genius – one less pot to wash – and I think it turned out really well.  You can certainly add some frozen mixed veggies to this to make it more of a true shepherd’s pie. If I was making it for grownups, I’d do that for sure.

Cast Iron Skillet “Shepherd’s Pie”

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2-3 cups beef broth
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup finely diced onion
1-2 tsp minced garlic (about 1-2 cloves)
1 packet brown gravy mix
5-10 large potatoes
Worcestershire sauce
milk, butter, sour cream for mashed potatoes
salt & pepper
bay leaf

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Peel, cut, & boil potatoes
  3. In a large cast-iron skillet, add some oil (about 1 tsp) and sauté the carrots & onions until the onion is translucent.
  4. Add the ground beef, seasoning with salt & pepper and garlic.
  5. When the beef is browned, sprinkle about 1-2 tsp of Worchestershire sauce over the mixture.
  6. In a separate small bowl, mix beef broth, gravy packet, to make a gravy.
  7. Pour the gravy mixture in the beef.
  8. Put one bay leaf in the mixture (remember to pull it out when you’re serving or someone will get a surprise)
  9. Mash potatoes, using butter, sour cream and milk. Season with salt & pepper.
  10. Top beef mixture with mashed potato.
  11. If you want, layer some cheddar or American cheese slices on top.
  12. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted & bubbly. (about 15-20 min)

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A few notes: you want your mashed potatoes a little dry as they will absorb some of the gravy while cooking in the oven. If they are too most to begin with they get runny.

I snuck the carrots in on the girls (they had no clue) and would probably even try some other finely diced veggies if I thought I could get away with it in the future.

I hope you enjoy!!
Linking up here:

A little Pinning going on

 

I admit it – I’m a Pinterest addict. I love it.  I love the visual stimulation. I love the myriad ideas. I love the variety.

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I thought I’d share some of my recent pins with you – some of the projects/recipes I’ve got on my “to do” list for the near future.

Recipes to try:

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Fall things to do/try:

  • I love this fall wreath.
  • and these pumpkins are just beautiful. May have to steal SuperMan’s drill…
  • this table-topper is simple and beautiful.
  • and this fall trail mix looks really good. May make some of these for the kids to share with friends.

Do you Pinterest?  Have any projects you have pinned that you are planning to do (or have done)?  Share!!

Follow Me on Pinterest

 

Menu Plan Monday ~ 11 Oct

Happy Monday!!

I am so loving this fall weather. Makes me feel so alive and so much like baking and creating. 

Busy week in our house this week – the girls had a break from dance classes last week, but we’re back on the normal schedule this week so we will be busy. I’ve got some comfort foods planned and hoping to find time to do a little baking as well, but we will see.

menu plan monday

Here’s what’s on the menu for us this week:

  • Country Fried Steak & Gravy
    I use cubed steaks for this and cook them low & slow on the stove for about an hour. Makes a really tender steak. I’ll serve with some mashed potatoes and veggies.
  • Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo
    This is one of Big Girl’s favorite meals and comfort food for me. I make it the easy way – I use Paul Newman’s Garlic Alfredo sauce (I watch for it when it’s on sale and stock up) and whole wheat noodles.
  • Sesame chicken bites
    One of my go-to easy recipes that the kids love. I’ll serve it with some baked french fries and fruit.
  • Salmon Croquettes
    SuperMan loves the leftovers for breakfast sandwiches.

And, well, I don’t know what else.  I’ll see where the week takes me, I guess, but this gets me started. I’ll probably toss in some chili or a crock-pot meal in the mix but I will wait to see where the week’s agenda goes.

I hope you have a great week! Check out other menu plans over at orgjunkie.com.

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