Another great recipe from a food blog I just started to read, there is some great stuff on this blog and it practically screams comfort and family…great blog!
A great recipe and comments around one of my most comforting foods: peanut butter (Enjoy!)
This one is my Mom’s original recipes and I have adapted it with just a few small tweaks. I am looking at (as I type) at the original recipe, with side notes, as printed and distributed to the five kids and families in a collection of family recipes compiled into what we all affectionately call “The Red Book”. It’s been around, and heavily used for what I think is close to fifteen years, if not longer.
This one is a real keeper. It was made as the Christmas Eve dinner for many years and it’s the first thing that I ever made for Michele; it was on our first date, a few moons ago. It’s elegant and creamy, and the sherry addition just about puts it over the top. Mom used to trim the crusts from white bread slices, butter them on one side and sort of push them down into muffin/cupcake tins and slow bake them at about 275° F until they are golden brown on the points and warm and moist in the middle: toast cups! Frozen puff-pastry shells work real well, too!
Any combination of about three pounds of assorted seafood: Medium shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined, fresh scallops (sea or bay), white fish, lobster meat, or lump crab meat
2 cups water
2 cups of white wine
1 jar of clam juice
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 bay leaf
1 TBSP fresh dill, chopped, or 1 tsp dry dill
A pinch of salt
4 TBSPS flour
4 TBSPS butter
½ pint of half-and-half, or heavy, cream
½ cup of cooking sherry
Fresh grated nutmeg, just a couple of pinches
Salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste
Toast cups, or puff-pastry shells
Make a stock with the water, wine, clam juice, onion, peppercorns, bay, dill, and salt in a large saucepan over medium to low heat. Bring just to a simmer, and poach your various seafoods according to the length of time it takes to cook each type. A general rule of thumb would be the firmer cooking first and the more tender-fleshed last. Shrimp take longer than fish, depending on the thickness of the cut of fish, and scallops cook really fast. They are usually tender cooked in about two minutes. The general idea, give or take a couple of minutes, is that you want all of your seafoods to be done at about the same time and you want to treat them all as gently as possible. When done, strain the stock to separate the fish from the liquid, leaving only the liquid. Reserve the stock liquid and pick the bay leaf, onion, and peppercorns from the fish. Cover the fish to keep it warm.
In another large saucepan, melt the butter over medium to low heat, being careful not to burn it. Sprinkle the flour into the melted butter and whisk together. Let the mixture foam and cook until it just begins to turn a light golden brown. Add the cream and the sherry, stirring after each addition to make sure there are no lumps. Slowly add some of the fish stock to your white sauce until it reaches a creamy, gravy-like, consistency. Season the sauce with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. (If you use black pepper here, the small black specks will show in your sauce, which can be visually misleading.) Add the seafood to the sauce and gently stir in to avoid breaking up the seafood into a whole mess of tiny fish flakes. Stir from the bottom of the pot, with a spatula, to fold the sauce into the seafood. Simmer for a few minutes more to make sure that it is heated through. Serve hot in toast cups or puff-pastry shells. Enjoy!
This is one of my Mom’s favorite recipes. She adapted it from a recipe she got from her friend Carol, “who lives just down the street”. If you like any kind of pickle, then this one’s for you. Even if you’re somewhat fussy about your pickles (I’m feeling you, right now, because that’s me, too…) you will be blown away by these. Mom says: Don’t mess around here with generic stuff. Make sure the pickles have a picture of a stork on them and don’t scrimp on the vinegar. Like Mom says, “there is a difference”.
Carol’s Gourmet Pickles
1 80-oz. jar of whole kosher dill pickles (drained, the stems trimmed from the ends of the pickles, and cut into slices about pinky thick)
3 cups of white sugar
½ cup of good quality apple cider vinegar
1 TSP of celery seed
If you scale down the size of the jar of pickles, i.e. you may need these smaller proportions for only your first batch, here are the scaled-down measurements (Directions are the same):
For every 1 ½ quart sized jar of pickles, you’ll need:
2 cups of sugar
5 TBSPS of good quality apple cider vinegar
1 TSP of celery seed
Drain the pickles well, and after trimming and slicing, place them back into the original pickle jar. Stir the other ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined. Add the sugar mixture to the sliced pickles and shake well to distribute evenly. Put in the refrigerator for 10-14 days, shaking well every two days, or so. Serve chilled. (I recently saw a similar recipe that had the same ingredients as above and included sliced onion, garlic cloves and several broken cinnamon sticks. I’m going to have to try it and I’ll let you know how it turns out!) Enjoy!
Yes, I was in the Boy Scouts of America for eleven years. I spent a lot of time hiking and camping. One of the many outcomes of that experience, whose direct roots are unknown, is the following recipe. When we were growing up, this trail mix that was a trail mix before people used the term trail mix was, seemingly, with us all the time. A little bit of research details that the name stands for the original description: “good ol’ raisins and peanuts”.
GORP can be easily made and easily tweaked. My preference is the original recipe (below) but there are some seriously crazy and seriously good eating versions of other successful combination recipes. Here a just a few different combos: pretzels instead of peanuts, peanuts and pretzels, butterscotch chips, sunflower seeds, almonds, or cashews; dried fruit like cranberries, pineapple, mango, apple chips…spice it down like a cinnamon roll or spice it up with some savory spices and some heat…this Chex and that Chex…Cheerios…my rules of thumb are: try not to combine more than 5, 6 max, of any combination of ingredients. It gets to cumbersome and your tongue gets really confused. And, the basic mix below has some wonderful shelf life; months and months. If you get too crazy with a bunch of other ingredients, particularly the ones of the moister variety, you will diminish any tangible shelf-life you may have had with a simpler recipe.
A tall jar of roasted peanuts, salted, trust me
A large bag of candy-coated chocolate pieces
A regular container of raisins (don’t go generic here)
With a 1 cup measuring device, add equal amounts of each ingredient into a regular mixing bowl. You should have enough for at least two cups of each. You can add more, but try to keep the proportions the same. Mix well with your hands to combine. Portion the mix into quart-sized zipper-type freezer bags. Take on any excursion that takes longer than thirty minutes to get to by car, or is a minimum of twenty miles distant. (Actually, it’s pretty good stuffed into a lunchbox, put out for the bridge club or when friends gather. Make some up ahead of time and you’ll always have it on hand) Enjoy!
My wife Michele is the consummate family menu keeper, meal planner and, smart shopper of groceries. When she last wrote this down on a weekly dinner list, and she knew I was planning on making it, she simply wrote down, “Pasta Fa”…
It’s a great Italian soup! It’s made with pasta and beans. This one has Italian Sausage in it, too! Whenever I make it, I always have the tendency to put too much macaroni in it. You can easily turn this from a soup into a juicy goulash in a heartbeat. The pasta (ditalini is preferred, short tubes, like the ends of the elbow macaronis) can puff up and take over your soup completely. Start with a cup and see how it does for your needs. You can always add a little more water because the broth stands on its own and the soup simmers well.
Pasta e Fagioli
1 lb. sweet/mild bulk Italian Sausage (if all you can find is in casings, that’s OK, too. You can always cut them out of the casings, or fry them up, slice into bite size pieces and add to the soup that way) fired crispy and golden, crumbled and drained
1 large sweet onion, chopped fine
1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSPS minced garlic
½ cup of granulated sugar
1 level TBSP of Italian seasoning mix (or 2 level TSPS oregano and 2 level TSPS thyme)
½ TSP salt
1 TSP fresh ground black pepper
1 large can (28 ozs.) diced tomatoes
2 cans (15 ½ oz.) cannellini beans (or white canned navy beans), un-drained
1 large box (32 oz. total) low sodium chicken stock
1 cup uncooked ditalini pasta
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, to taste, for sprinkling on top of the soup before serving
(Flexibility options include: some crushed red pepper flakes (about ½ TSP) or some red-hot sauce (about 1 TBSP) stirred in, the spicier version of Italian sausage or no sausage at all, vegetable stock instead of chicken stock (You could maybe even get away with water if you put a bullion cube or two into it), carrots or peas would work as additions as long as you recognize their cook-times, chopped celery and/or diced green pepper added with the onion and cooked down…as mentioned above, it simmers well with a nice rich broth, but if you see it getting too stout, you can always add some water. I use the empty tomato can and go with about ½ can of water at a time and usually don’t put in more than two half-cans.)
In the bottom of a medium stock pot over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the butter and olive oil for about 10 minutes. Onions should be transparent and just starting to caramelize. Be careful not to burn your garlic. Add the sugar and other dry spices and stir to distribute evenly. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the pasta and grated cheese. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for about an hour, stirring regularly. You will want it to slowly and mildly bubble. If it starts to boil then reduce the heat until you get a nice simmer. About 20 minutes before serving add the pasta and cook until tender. As mentioned above, you can adjust thickness and flavor of the broth as needed by adding water, if necessary. Serve hot with grated cheese sprinkled on top, Enjoy!
In my small circle of family, friends, and acquaintances, it’s hard to think of any single person who says that they don’t like Rice Krispy Squares. Maybe it’s the same for your circle…
These darn things have been around for a while. When I was growing up, they were a real treat when they were made by Mom. When you see them, or make them from time to time, they have that same kind of initial “fresh-out-of-the-oven-chocolate-chip-cookies” type of appeal that has nothing to do with taste. If warm nostalgic feelings can’t be considered a component of what comfort foods are based on, then I don’t know what would be.
When Michele and I are cooking we like to see what impact last minute inspirations or ingredient twists would have on whatever we were preparing. We’re rarely disappointed, and sometimes more than pleasantly surprised by the outcome. Such is the case with the recipe below. Michele was inspired by some leftover frozen candy “bits” and all she had to make rice krispy squares with was chocolate flavored puffed rice cereal. The end result was a wonderful surprise and in somewhat constant demand around here…
Michele’s Toffee Bits Cocoa Treats
3 TBSPS of butter, or margarine
1 10 oz. package of regular marshmallows (or 4 cups of minis)
6 cups of chocolate flavored puffed-rice cereal
Some chocolate covered English Toffee candy bar “bits”*
*This is what really makes this recipe a treat! They can be found in most supermarkets, in the same section in the “Baking” aisle where they keep the chocolate chips. The quantity of how much you mix in is entirely up to you. Don’t be too frugal here. The last batch that Michele made had ¾ of a bag of these bits mixed in. There is a textural issue here too that is a lot of fun. When you get done chewing up some of the cereal and marshmallows, you start to come across some of those little nuggets of chocolate covered toffee candy…oh my!
Melt the butter or margarine in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove the sauce pan from the heat. Mix in the cereal and candy bits and stir well until everything is consistently distributed and well coated. Spread the mixture evenly into a 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan that has been lightly greased with butter, margarine, or cooking spray. It will be a little warm and a little sticky, so you can smooth out and work your mixture with a buttered (or sprayed) spatula, or with waxed paper. It holds up pretty well to being compacted and manipulated to whatever is your preferred density. After it has cooled you can cut it into whatever sized squares you would like to serve and eat. They have a tendency to be cut fairly big in our house.
As I’m sure aware by now that I like to suggest variations for most of the recipes on this blog, here’s just a handful of suggestions for these treats. You are truly limited only by your imagination here; create your own family tradition!
- I would be tempted to add about a ½ cup of smooth peanut butter into the melted marshmallow mix, stirring well to combine, before I add the cereal and candy
- No marshmallows? In a pinch a regular sized jar (8-10 ozs.) of marshmallow cream, like Fluf, can be substituted
- Different flavored candy bits, bought or made or crushed…red and white hard candy mints at Christmas time, gumdrops that have had a knife run through them for a rough chop and then lightly dusted with powered sugar to help keep them separated for stirring in. Mini sized jellybeans? What about chocolate chips or minis, peanut butter or butterscotch flavored morsels?
- Cereal is OK to eat if it’s in a dessert treat right? It’s got to be better for me than eating, like, a regular toll-house cookie, right? Right!? Ok, so go the other way. What about stirring peanuts, or almond slivers, or dried cranberries or raisins, or any other kind of dried fruit like pineapple or mango? Sunflower seeds? You get the picture.
Have fun with this. They are a safe bet to disappear soon after you have made them. At least they are around here. Enjoy!
I used to have to travel a lot for work and on a fairly regular basis my travels would take me to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Right across the street from the hotel where I stayed was this jewel of a BBQ joint called Rudy’s. They started in Leon Springs, Texas and they have several locations scattered here and there. I have two sons that live in and near Tyler, Texas and they tell me there is a Rudy’s there, too. At their Rudy’s you can get a breakfast burrito that my son Justin says is unequalled. If you ever come across one of their locations, it would be close to criminal if you didn’t stop.
Nothing fancy; your queue up alongside a long trough filled with all kinds of cold beverages on ice, take a turn by the selection of cold sides (great slaw, three bean salad, and banana pudding) and step up to the counter and order your meat(s) by the pound. Your selection is wrapped up in white butcher paper and you’re asked: “White or wheat?” Their warm sides are back there too, and if you like creamed corn or pinto-style BBQ beans, don’t forget to ask for those either. You get your stack of bread with your selection, pay the nice server and head over to the picnic tables. This BBQ is so good…I particularly like how they do their brisket and they have a jalapeno sausage that will knock your socks off.
Now, about their sauce…you know how it is, a really good piece of BBQ can be made not so good with a mediocre, or mass produced sauce. Rudy’s, basically, has two kinds of sauce. The regular one, which has a little bit of bite to it, and the other one, which they call the “Sissy Sauce”… My BBQ sauce is a tribute to Rudy’s “Sissy Sauce”, only because if I were making it just for me, I would heat it up a bit. You can do the same with my tame version below by adding any kind of hot sauce to it, and/or chopping up some peppers real fine and slowing cooking them into the sauce, making it not so tame, kind of “un-tame”. I’ll leave that part up to you.
2 TBSPS Butter
2 TBSPS Olive Oil
1 large sweet onion (like a Vidalia, or Spanish White) chopped fine
3 big TBSPS garlic, chopped fine
1 TBSP dry mustard
½ TSP ground clove
1 TSP salt
1 TSP fresh ground black pepper
1 32 oz. bottle of catsup (or ketchup, whichever you prefer)
2 cups of brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup of dark rum
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
3 TBSPS of liquid smoke (I like the mesquite version)
Add the butter and oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them until almost transparent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to incorporate for a few minutes longer, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add your other dry ingredients; the mustard, clove, and salt and pepper and stir to incorporate. Add all the rest of the ingredients and stir well to combine. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer and stir every 10-15 minutes or so, for about an hour. It’s a little “fumey” at first due to the rum and vinegar, so don’t go sticking your nose right in it at first. You will know when it’s ready…
You can absolutely play with this sauce, too! Experiment! Please! Whiskey instead of rum. More tomato, less sugar. Honey. Molasses. Hot sauce. Chopped peppers. I promise you, it will be hard to wreck this sauce, unless you make it so hot nobody can eat it, so if you’re looking for hot, ramp it up a little bit at a time, but don’t let the heat steal the flavor…put it on some meat and, Enjoy!
Just because I write a blog about comfort food, it does not mean that my food life is all about meat and potatoes! It truly is about food that makes me happy and I love to share my thoughts (and recipes) with you.
If your first reaction to sushi is “Eeewww…raw fish”, then I apologize, however, I would still advocate that if you have the least bit of adventure regarding your palette and your willingness to try new foods, you should go for it. My wife Michele, a full-blooded Italian (Mangia! Mangia!), who once wrinkled her nose at sushi, is coming around to the point where, last night, she participated fully and did not have to fall back on any cooked items from the menu to supplement her dinner. (I’m so proud of her!)
Try it; you might just like it. Some items such as the eel (unagi) and one of the shrimps (ebi) are cooked, and sweet, and quite tasty. Some of the tunas are exquisitely tender and literally melt in your mouth. There is a cooked egg sushi called “tomago” which is also slightly sweet and often eaten as the last pieces of a sushi meal; a dessert, if you will. Most sushi meals are visually stunning, too. There are rich, deep colors, flower garnished boats, and beautifully decorated plates and sauce dishes. Sushi combines custom and tradition as well, mixed with simplicity and latitude, which IMHO, are important components of comfort food.
After a fairly stressful work week, I was craving some sushi. Interestingly enough, in a state where there are over 1200 miles of coastline and over 660 beaches, a good sushi place is not always that easy to find. We are located in East Central Florida and have been in this area of Florida for close to two years. And some good sushi (at reasonable prices) is a rare jewel in this neck of the palms…so, last night we decided to try The Sakura Steak House in Palm Coast, Florida. What a pleasant surprise it was!
They played soft jazz that you could hear before you even got inside (they play it on their website, also), and, yes, there was the obligatory waving cat on the counter when we walked it, but the decorating was tasteful and not overdone. We were quickly taken to our booth that had woven bamboo seats that were surprisingly comfort-able. And then our new friend, Yukey, introduced herself…
She was awesome! Not so good English, but just enough to help us with our edamame (slippery little devils, but tasty) and ebi shumai starters, both of which were prepared perfectly. Next was the Seafood Soup for Two; shrimp, scallops, and clams in a light tomato broth that was heavenly. After the soup, Yukey had told us that the sushi/sashimi combination platter could be ordered with a tuna roll to substitute for the shrimp tempura, so we did, and it came to the table beautifully prepared, with wasabi and ginger. Each piece was elegantly cut, wonderfully fresh and clean, and we had a lot of fun sharing the dish.
If you are ever in the neighborhood, please look them up! I know you won’t be disappointed. Yukey had suggested some imported green tea ice cream (OK, if you insist), which we split. I had a small sized sake and Michele had some iced tea and we got out of there for just around $50.00, which I thought was reasonable. If you get to go there, say “Hi” to Yukey for us and don’t forget to honor the sushi chef with a slight bow and a “domo arigato” on your way out…Enjoy!
For additional recipes and stories about Comfort Foods and foods that have the tendency to give us that “warm hug” kind of comfort, feel free to browse, and/or contribute to The Comfort (Able) Food Carnival at the Blog Carnival site.
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Posts can contain: What are your favorite comfort foods?/Recipes of your favorite Comfort Foods/What makes a comfort food be a comfort food?/Your favorite stories about family gatherings, or parties, and the foods that made them great!