Friday, November 1, 2013

What can make you feel better, maybe if #H50 is serving up a little comfort food.

When things have you under the weather and feeling down, there are many types of foods that have been shown to improve happiness, guess that is why they are called comfort foods.  

Comfort foods have a psychological benefit, they can conjurer up memories of days gone by.  For example if your mom's chocolate layer cake cheered you up when you were younger, replicating that recipe will help brighten your spirits on the darkest day.   I know these are for the most part the foods we eat on special occasions and not everyday since they are not healthy (reproducing a healthy version may be a blog for another day) but they do what they are meant to do, provide comfort when needed,  which, in the long run, that is what we are seeking.   

Grandma's  Chicken Soup

When you're not feeling good who doesn't love a nice bowl of
chicken soup.  It really does nourish the heart and soul. The main ingredient to this recipe, besides the chicken, of course is your love.  My grandmother always made soup when ever I felt the least bit ill, and when I did not live at home I took my containers to go so I could freeze them.  

3 cups cooked chicken, cubed 
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
6 large carrots, cubed
4 stalks celery, chopped 
3 small onions, quartered
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp italian seasoning
2 tsp chicken base, optional (to taste)
fresh cracked pepper to taste
12 oz egg noodles, uncooked

  1. In a large pot, add chicken broth, warm chicken broth over medium heat. 
  2. When broth has warmed, add water, vegetables, cubed chicken, seasonings, and chicken base if needed. Bring to a gentle boil for 5 minutes, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. Add 12 ounces egg noodles, stir in. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes, noodles will be just about done. Remove from heat & allow to sit for 5 minutes. This allows the noodles to complete cooking.  Serve with crackers, or fresh bread. This soup freezes well for later use.

Creamy Mac 'n' Cheese with 
Ham and Tomatoes

What screams comfort any better than mac & cheese, well maybe this twist on the classic, creamy macaroni and cheese flavored with diced ham and tomatoes.

1/2 tsp baking soda
2 Cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese 
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1-14.5 oz can  petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup whole milk
non-Stick Cooking Spray
8 oz  elbow macaroni, uncooked
2 Cup fully cooked lean ham, chopped 
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 8x8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Combine tomatoes and baking soda in medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat while pasta is cooking. Stir in flour; gradually add milk, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 
  3. Add cheese; stir until melted. Add tomatoes to cheese mixture; blend well. Drain macaroni; add to saucepan. Stir in ham, salt and pepper. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake, uncovered, 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Chili and Cornbread

This is a rather unique two-in-one dish that is perfect for the family, or if your entertaining a crowd.  Mexican-inspired chili couples with tender golden cornbread laced with jalapeƱos.  This is comfort on so many levels.

1 lb lean ground beef
1 packet taco or chili seasoning mix
2 -8 oz cans tomato sauce
1 -15 1/4 oz can whole-kernel corn, drained
1 -15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1-12 oz  can  evaporated milk, divided
2- 8.5 oz boxes corn muffin mix
2 large eggs
1- 4 oz can  diced green chilies, undrained
1- 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
  2. In large skillet, cook beef over medium-high heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in chili seasoning, tomato sauce, corn, beans and 3/4 cup evaporated milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. 
  3. Combine corn muffin mix, remaining evaporated milk, eggs, chilies and 1 cup shredded cheese in medium bowl; stir until just moistened. Spread mixture over meat filling. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
  4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.  Serve along with chopped avocado, sour cream and salsa.

Beef Stew with Veggies and Potatoes

This dish can warm your soul on any night, it is a warm bowl of goodness.  Make a big batch for the entire family and serve it up throughout the week.  The best part this comfort dish is made in the crockpot so set it and forget it. 

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
3/4 cup Flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
2 lbs lean stew beef
1 onion, quartered
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups beef broth or bouillon
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
2 bay leaves
6 carrots, cut in pieces
6 medium potatoes, cut in pieces
1/3 cup cold water blended with 3 Tbsp flour

  1. Combine flour, paprika and garlic powder in a food storage bag; add stew beef and toss to coat. Brown coated beef in hot oil in a large skillet; transfer to the crockpot. 
  2. Add the remaining ingredients except for water and flour mixture. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, until vegetables are tender. 
  3. About 30 minutes before serving, add flour mixture to the pot. Turn to high and cook until thickened.

Chocolate Layer Cake

Did someone mention chocolate cake, everything you might remember, but with a few well deserved shortcuts.  This recipe is actually originally adapted from Hellmann's Super-Moist Chocolate Mayo Cake. Trust me you will find a lot of comfort and pleasure in this cake.  

1 box devil's food cake mix
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup mayonnaise
3 large eggs
1 cup water
2- 16 oz containers chocolate frosting
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat two 8-inch cake pans with softened butter. Cut two 8-inch circles out of parchment paper and fit them into the bottom of the cake pans. Lightly coat the paper circles with butter. Lightly flour both pans, shake out excess flour and set aside. 
  2. Beat the cake mix, cocoa, mayonnaise, eggs, and water in a large bowl with an electric mixer set on low speed. Increase speed to high and beat for 2 more minutes. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean about 35 minutes. 
  3. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks for 20 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and return to the wire racks until completely cool.
  4. Whisk the frosting, sour cream, and vanilla together in a large bowl. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of frosting to a medium bowl and stir in the almonds and the toasted coconut. Set aside.
  5. Split both layers and brush away any excess crumbs. Place one split layer on a cake plate. Tuck strips of wax paper under the edges of the cake to protect the plate. Spread 1/3 of the filling over the layer. 
  6. Top with the next layer and spread another 1/3 of the filling over the top. Repeat with the third cake layer and remaining filling and top with the final cake layer. 
  7. Spread the frosting over the top of cake smoothing out to the edges. Spread the remaining frosting around the sides and serve or store covered for up to 4 days.

Espresso Martini Cocktail

This is your bonus because a cocktail, can always make you feel a little bit better.

1 oz brewed espresso
1- 1/2 oz vodka
1- 1/2 oz coffee-flavored liqueur
1 oz white creme de cacao
1 cup ice

  1. Combine espresso, vodka, coffee liqueur, creme de cacao, and ice in a cocktail shaker. Cover and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass.

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