Tag Archives: comfort food

Stir a Pot, Feed a Soul: Real Comfort Food

Chicken & Dumplings -- click on photo for recipe

When we hear someone say, “comfort food” thoughts drift to dinners from childhood imagining something warm, full of carbs, or sweetly satisfying. We dream of flavors and textures to feed our emotional funk or exhaustive schedule to quench and satisfy.  The focus is inward, self-gratifying.

What if our focus shifted outward instead?

This is not intended to make you feel guilty about surrounding yourself with good food or savoring a favorite meal, simply to think about comfort food differently.  Food not only soothes our moods and maladies, it brings comfort to those hurting, recovering, or overwhelmed. Of course, it fills a practical need, but so do restaurants and pizza delivery. Taking a meal to someone invests in community with a personal touch that goes far beyond the food itself.

When someone notices our need and offers to lift our burden for a moment we feel valued, encouraged, and less alone.

Our family has been the beneficiary of meals arriving at our door after a major car accident, sudden illness, and crisis.  The concern and kindness of friends, as well as others we didn’t even know, created emotional margin and physical relief when doctor appointments, decision-making, and grief consumed daily routine.  They were life-givers, every one, with encouraging words and reassurance they were there to do whatever they could … taking care of one of the basic needs like dinner or groceries was a vital part of the help we needed.

According to 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  When we serve others, it is a blessing no matter how big or small the gesture.  It doesn’t have to be a whole meal, if you bake amazing bread, make an extra loaf to give away.  I believe good food is one of the various forms of God’s grace we can use to meet someone’s need—real comfort food.

So what does that really look like?

You can start by responding to needs in your own sphere of influence at church, school, work, club, or neighborhood. It doesn’t have to be someone in crisis, it can be a single mom with a maxed schedule, a college student missing home, or a co-worker trying to finish a big project who would be grateful to know you care. Yes, it might feel weird to be the first one to do something like this, but caring for others is worth feeling a little awkward.

10 Tips for Stirring a Pot and Feeding a Soul:

1. Simple food is best. Make what you know and do well; this is not the time to try new recipes.  Check for allergies and strong dislikes. For food sensitivities and allergies, think outside the casserole. Casseroles are great comfort food for many, but are more apt to contain common food allergens like corn, wheat, milk, or soy.  Braised meats, steamed vegetables, soups, and salads easily accommodate those with food restrictions or strong dislikes of certain foods.

2. Use disposable containers.  Unless it is a neighbor or someone you see regularly, deliver meals in containers that do not need to be returned.  Keep it as simple as possible for those you are trying to bless.

3. Deliver the meal at dinnertime, if possible. If not, make it as close to ready with clear instructions. If delivering food to a family with a new baby, don’t ring the door bell.  Arrange a specific time and arrive with a gentle knock at the door in case the baby is sleeping.

4. Consider everyone in a family. Crisis, surgery, new babies, grief, affects everyone within a family. Try to include at least one thing everyone will like with the meal. If the family has small children, make sure you show up with ice cream or something specifically for them if you can.

5. Customize the meal for the event/purpose. Bereavement, nursing mothers, recovering from surgery or illness can each pose a different need.
New moms
, especially nursing moms, eat often so snacks and easy breakfast foods are great too.  Avoiding spicy, acidic food is helpful to prevent adverse reactions from the baby.
Surgery
is hard on the body, when someone undergoes general anesthesia the entire digestive system shuts down. Provide a gentle and nourishing meal like chicken soup made from homemade bone broth. Consider foods that are soft, nourishing, and easy to digest. If you know they like smoothies, provide a few pre-packaged frozen smoothies easily assembled at home.

6. Offer to coordinate the meals.  Major crisis, trauma, accidents can be overwhelming and having an infant with the phone constantly ringing is no picnic either.  Having one person collect primary information and receive questions regarding meals is truly helpful.  Organizing a handful of suppers for a friend is pretty straight forward, but when a larger group or longer-term need is part of the equation, there are services to help.

Care Calendar
Meal Baby
Food Tidings
Lotsa Helping Hands
Take Them A Meal

7. Providing a meal is not the time to impose your nutritional agenda on someone else or “teach” them how to eat.  Try to understand what would bring comfort to them, even well-meaning advice can be overwhelming when someone is stressed.

8. Include the recipe. This can be especially helpful for those with food sensitivities or allergies too—they can have a little more confidence when they can review the recipe.

9. Include a note of encouragement, which mentions what you brought. This is helpful when a number of meals are provided. It can be difficult to remember and sort out who brought what when writing thank you cards. (Yes, I know, you didn’t do it to be thanked.)

10. Even if you don’t cook or have time to prepare a meal, you can help. Offer to run errands, clean, babysit, carpool kids, or provide a gift card for take-out.

What is comfort food to you? 

Have you comforted others with food or received this kind of comfort food from someone?  If so, what was your experience?

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
Gallery of Favorites Holiday Edition

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Temp-eramental Spring: From Salads to Chicken & Dumplings

Here in the foothills of Pikes Peak we are used to capricious weather, sometimes 40° swings in a single day. Spring is our most fickle season as ladies schedule their pedicures yet keep their boots close at hand.  Meal planning in the spring is tricky if your food-mood follows the forecast like mine. Comfort foods mixed with lighter fare—grilling one day, digging out the soup pot the next—such is the cooking adventure of spring.

Last week’s weather inspired Spinach-Strawberry Salad, the overcast skies today call for Chicken & Dumplings (with a slight twist).  This recipe is a compilation from various sources; I suppose everyone has their own version.  We prefer flavorful boneless chicken thighs, just a touch of cayenne for its flavor dimension, and white whole wheat flour to make the dumplings.  As spring flip-flops from sunshine to snow or rain, this American classic with stewed chicken and fluffy dumplings is like the warm blanket we reach for as we await the steady sunbeams of summer.

Chicken & Dumplings

Serves: 8
Dredging mixture:
1         cup  flour
3         teaspoons  sea salt
3/4   teaspoon  cayenne pepper
1         tsp  black pepper

Stew Ingredients:
3        lbs  boneless, skinless chicken thighs — trimmed of fat; cut into 2-3″ pieces
1/8     cup  dry sherry
6          cups  chicken stock — or 2 bouillon cubes added to chicken broth
1/4      cup  flour
1/4      cup  fresh parsley — finely chopped
1           whole  bay leaf
1           large  onion — chopped
2           cup  celery — coarsely chopped
3          cups  mushrooms — sliced
3          cups  carrots — sliced into rounds
3          cloves  garlic — minced
1           tsp  dried thyme
1/3      cup  heavy cream
coconut oil — for browning chicken

For the Dumplings:
1 1/2    cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour
1/2       cup  parmesan cheese — grated
2 1/2   tsp  baking powder
1            tsp unrefined sugar
1/2       tsp  sea salt
1/2       tsp  black pepper
2/3      cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk
3           tbsp  unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375°.

FOR THE STEW:
Cut chicken into 2-3 inch pieces.  Combine dredging ingredients in a resealable bag.  Shake chicken in bag to coat with flour, shaking off excess as it is added to the pot.  In a deep ovenproof pot, heat enough oil to cover the pan over med heat.  Brown the chicken on each side and remove to a paper towel lined platter.  Pour off all put a couple tablespoons of the oil.

Place vegetables, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf in pan with an additional tablespoon of oil, if needed.  Stir to mix well and allow to caramelize, about 8-10 minutes.  Deglaze the pan of vegetables with the sherry; simmer until nearly evaporated.  Stir in 1/4 c flour to coat vegetables and stir so flour is absorbed.  Gradually add broth.  Return chicken to pot, add cream and parsley, and bring to a low simmer.  While stew is simmering on low, make dumplings.

FOR THE DUMPLINGS:
Blend dry ingredients for dumplings.  Heat milk and butter until butter melts; blend into dry ingredients.  The hot milk sets the starch so the dumpling does not fall apart.  Shape dough into golf ball sized balls making sure to not over mix or over handle the dough.

Once the stew has a gentle bubble, add the dumplings, resting them on top of the stew.  Cover with the lid and put the pot into the oven for 20 minutes.  It is important to not lift the lid during these 20 minutes; you want the steam to remain inside, as that is what cooks the dumplings.

Serve with French green beans on the side.

NOTE: If using all-purpose flour for the dumplings, decrease milk by two tablespoons.

Also posted on the following Blog Hops:
The Healthy Home Economist Monday Mania
The Nourishing Gourmet Pennywise Platter Thursdays

EKat’s Kitchen: Friday Potluck

Inside Out Turkey Pot Pie

Turkey Pot Pie was scheduled for dinner, but since life did not go as planned, I ended up with less time than I needed to prepare it.  Since the filling is cooked on top of the stove anyway, I decided to save the oven time by skipping the pastry and used biscuits instead.  There was plenty of time to mix the biscuits while the vegetables caramelized and finish the remainder of the filling while the biscuits baked.

Downside: My family loves pastry crust; it took some navigating to get past that. (Ultimately, they were grateful to have a warm dinner so fast.)

Upside: It was good over biscuits and the quality of the leftovers was far better since there wasn’t a crust getting soggy from sitting in gravy.  Portions were easier to control, we could choose to have more filling (meat & vegetables) and less bread.

Inside Out Turkey Pot Pie is one more way to have a great home cooked meal even when tight on time.  Leftover baked or rotisserie chicken works well in this recipe too.

Inside Out Turkey Pot Pie

3            cups  cooked turkey — cubed
3/4       cup  frozen peas — defrosted
1/2        medium  onion — minced
1             cup  carrots — sliced thin
1 3/4    cups  chicken or turkey broth
2/3        cup  milk
1/4        cup  flour
1/3         cup  butter
1/2         teaspoon  salt
1/2         teaspoon pepper

Mix and prepare biscuits as directed in the recipe below.

Peel and cut carrots into thin slices.  Rinse peas to separate.  Melt butter on med-low heat, stir in onion and carrot, and cook until onion is soft and beginning to caramelize. Stir in salt, pepper, and flour.  Stir constantly until mixture is bubbly.

Stir in broth and milk, heat to boiling stirring constantly.  Mix in turkey and peas; simmer for 3-5 minutes.  Cover until ready to serve.

Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups flour (for whole wheat, use King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 450°. Cut butter into flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt with a pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs—a food processor does a great job if you have one. Stir in honey and buttermilk until dough leaves side of bowl (dough will be soft and sticky).

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 8-10 times. Roll the dough to 1 inch thick. Cut into 2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

For Turkey Pot Pie:
Prepare 9-Inch Two-Crust pastry dough.  Roll out 2/3 of the crust for the bottom and press into 9x9x2 pan.  Pierce with a fork to prevent bubbles and pre-bake the bottom crust at 425° for 5-8 minutes to set well, but not brown.

Pour mixture into pre-baked crust.  Cover with crust, pierce crust with a fork or knife to allow filling to vent.  Bake at 425° for 35 min.

Beef Pot Roast a.k.a. Comfort Food

Beef Pot Roast

Pot Roast, Beef Burgundy, Beef Bourguignon, and Sunday Roast are different names for the same thing—comfort food. Tender beef resting in rich beef gravy that tops potatoes like none other. What began as a French peasant dish became a dinnertime staple in America, welcoming cooler weather with aroma that promises a hearty meal.

The movie Julie & Julia brought new attention to mastering technique as an investment in everyday meals. Home cooks have tried to simplify this classic with soup mix or the throw-it-all-in-a-pot approach that does not compare in flavor or texture. A crock pot or an oven is suitable for slow roasting; just don’t skip browning the meat properly. Browning the meat is the key to developing its deep, beefy flavor necessary for sumptuous gravy. In this recipe the meat is trimmed and cut into 2-3 inch chunks, allowing for more browned surface area and efficient cooking time.

Choice variations including mushrooms, pearl onions, wine selection, or cut of meat are easily substituted based on personal preference. Our family prefers sweet yellow onions, crimini mushrooms, hearty red wine, fingerling potatoes and a well-marbled chuck roast. Timing the vegetables is also important to ensure the potatoes and carrots are fork-tender, not mushy.

Some eat pot roast for the tender meat it renders others say it’s for the gravy. This recipe is sure to satisfy either opinion.

Beef Pot Roast
Serves: 5
Start to Finish time: 4 hours

3-4 lb boneless chuck roast, cut in 2-3 inch pieces
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow sweet onion, chopped or sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled, coarsely chopped
3 large carrot, peeled and cut lengthwise
5 medium potatoes, cubed or 12-15 fingerling potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced thick
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef bouillon, 3 cubes in 2 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 whole bay leaf
1 tablespoon Paul Prudhomme Meat Magic


saute the onion, celery

Preheat oven to 325°. Prepare vegetables first by coarsely chopping onion, celery, and garlic. Carrots can be cut into 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ pieces and potatoes into 1 1/2″ cubes in order to cook more quickly. Cut meat into 2-3 inch pieces and dry all sides with paper towels. Meat will not brown well if it is damp. Mix salt, pepper, thyme, and Meat Magic in a small bowl.


browned beef on top of the caramelized onions and garlic

Use an oven safe covered pot, such as a Dutch oven, just large enough to hold roast and vegetables. Heat 2 tbsp of oil over med-high heat (hot enough to sear the meat). Brown roast pieces several minutes on each side until well browned. Set browned meat aside on a platter and sprinkle with spice mix.

Add celery and chopped onion to the pan to soften and caramelize, about 5 minutes or until light golden brown (additional oil can be added if the pan is too dry), add the garlic at the end of the caramelizing process.


ready for the oven

Return the roast to the pot, including any juices that accumulated on the platter; let rest on top of the onions.

Add the bay leaf, tomato paste, wine, and enough of the beef stock to barely cover the meat.  Cover and bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Once simmering, remove from the stove and place the pot in the lower third of a preheated oven. Cook for 3 hours, or until meat is tender and a fork pierces it easily.


adding the carrots and potatoes

During the last hour of cooking time, add the carrots and potatoes. Cover and return to the oven to cook until tender, about 45 minutes. While the potatoes and carrots are cooking, prepare and sauté mushrooms in a large skillet in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until browned. Work in small batches if needed to be sure the mushrooms brown well. Return all mushrooms to skillet and set aside until roast is done.


adding the meat to the skillet with the mushrooms

Once done, remove potatoes and carrots from the pot to a serving bowl, add butter to the top and cover with a lid. Place roasted meat in the skillet with mushrooms.

Strain the remaining contents of the pot to capture the liquid for gravy. Once strained, skim the top to remove fat or use a fat separator. If the juices are too thin, reduce in a sauce pan, boiling rapidly, until it lightly coats a spoon. If desired, gravy can be thickened with a teaspoon of cornstarch. Once the desired thickness is reached, add gravy to the skillet with the meat and mushrooms; let simmer uncovered 2-3 minutes while basting the meat. Salt and pepper as needed.

gravy is added to the meat and mushrooms; ready to serve

Serve the buttered potatoes and carrots on the side or arrange them on a large platter with the meat for family-style dining.

Serving Ideas: Serve with French green beans and hot dinner rolls.

Judy Purcell on Foodista