It’s Black Friday, the day after Food Coma Thursday (aka Thanksgiving) and apparently America began its holiday shopping frenzy hours ago. Rachel and I aren’t fans of this craziness. We actually believe the world would be a better place if people took an entire day off periodically to be in the moment and celebrate a holiday surrounded by family, friends and good food. So the whole get up in the middle of the night thing or — worse yet — require employees to start working on Thanksgiving itself, well we’re not fans.
So you won’t find us out shopping today. I’m planning on doing a hike with my husband, followed by dinner in front of a roaring fire. Rachel is hopping in the car with John and Miss M and heading to some of California’s wonderful wilderness to hang out with her cousin. In other words, we are extending the family time. Crazy I know.
If you’d like a break but also want to feel as if you’re making a little progress on your holiday shopping, this post is to let you know we’ve got your backs. Starting today, we’ll be giving away a cookbook a week every Friday until the end of December. The contests will be short and sweet: Leave a comment sometime between Friday’s post and Sunday at noon; Monday we announce that week’s winner. No waiting and wondering … and we will get that cookbook in the mail ASAP. That way you can use it as a gift for someone else (our secret that you didn’t pay for it) or wrap it up for yourself under the tree (guaranteeing you will get at least one gift you love.) It’s a win-win all around.
First up is — perfect for our theme I might add — Saveur magazine’s The New Comfort Food, Home Cooking from Around the World, from the ever-wonderful Chronicle Books.
My go-to comfort food is Mexican or at least the Americanized version of it because I’ve never actually been to Mexico so I would never presume to suggest I actually know “Mexican” food. But when I’m in the dumps, Mexican is what I want. Burritos, tacos, enchiladas — any and all of the above would work just find thank you very much.
The casserole I’m sharing today may be six or nine degrees of separation from “real” Mexican food, but I can guarantee you will find it A) tasty and B) comforting. The recipe is inspired by The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, one of my two most-thumbed, splattered cookbooks from the famous Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY. In the cookbook the recipe is called Frijoles Con Cueso Etc Casserole. I made their recipe regularly BK (Before Kids) and completely gave up on it AK (After Kids) because it contained beans (not happening) and stuff mixed together (and I had one child who did not like when any of his food groups touched).
I had some leftover rice and was flipping through the cookbook because I remembered (or I thought I did anyway) a recipe for using up leftover rice. I didn’t find that recipe but the flipping was a walk down memory lane to a time when the only person I had to cook for (and please) was Peter (who is probably the easiest person to cook for ever because he loves everything). So many recipes we had eaten together when dinner was just about when we were hungry and what would I make. Flipping through that cookbook instantly transported me to that time. I decided to forget the rice issue and make my version of this casserole. As Peter and I ate, we were transported back to our 20s. Yeah, it was that good.
I really miss my mother. And I’m surprised. She’s been dead, after all, for 11 years, and our relationship was a complicated one for sure. So I’ve been touching this rediscovered scab, thinking about how it feel when I scratch certain parts, and I think I’ve figured out where it’s coming from: This is the first Christmas where Peter and I will not see two of our three children. At all. And for the first time, I understand and feel in my very core my mother. I get why she was so (often annoyingly to me) needy at different points — “What do you mean you’re not going to spend Mother’s Day with me, Janet?” — and why she seemed so desperate at others. She saw the clock ticking and like that Salvador Dali clock knew her time was melting, ever so quickly.
I know I may seem just a little bit like a stalker of Faith Durand’s new cookbook Not Your Mother’s Cassroles. But I have to tell you that if I was going to buy one cookbook this year for someone I love, this would be the cookbook. I have now made about 9 recipes from this book and they’ve all been complete, total hits AND easy to make. Could you ask for a better combination?
Anyway, part of the love fest I have for this particular recipe is that you can make it ahead and then enjoy your company…which is precisely what I did on Friday night when we invited over some of our favorite people, Karen and Pete, for dinner. We haven’t seen them in a while and I wanted to be able to enjoy the visit as opposed to spend most of it in the kitchen while everyone else was talking and having fun.
Mission accomplished: I spent with our friends and we had a good diner. The proverbial win-win…..What I did not do was take a photo. Actually I thought I had taken a photo but I can’t find it on my phone. I suspect the gin and tonics have something to do with my memory here — another reason to make the meal ahead
Turkey Enchiladas with Spinach and Cheese
8 cloves of garlic, sliced in half
1 1/4 pounds fresh baby spinach
1 cup chicken or turkey broth
1 bunch scallions, sliced
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced
juice of one lime
salt and pepper to taste
for the enchilads
12 6-inch corn tortillas
4 cups choppped roasted turkey
2 cups shredded cheese
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease the baking pan with olive oil.
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cooks just until wilted. Then added the broth and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and then add the scallions, cilantro, and jalapeno. Cool slightly. then blend in a food processor until smooth. Add the lime juice and season to taste.
Overlap half the tortillas in the baking pan. Sprinkle half of the turkey over the tortillas. Then pour in half of hte spinach mixture
Clearly winter is getting to me. I am craving comfort food and have been on a baking and bacon binge — although so far not in the same moment, which is probably good. If, however, you see a post here about a bacon chocolate chip cookie some day soon, you will know I have officially gone off the deep end.
While I gave up eating red meat over 30 years ago, I remain a bacon freak and often suggest that my children order bacon when we’re at a restaurant so I can snag a piece. It’s a weakness I know, but there it is. Anyway, to appease my conscience, I made this dish with turkey bacon. You obviously can use the other kind and all will likely be well.
Mac and cheese is the consummate comfort food to me but for years was — sadly — off limits in our family meal cycle because Rachel got sick once after having this for dinner and basically even the mention of mac and cheese elicited a gag reflex on her part.
Almost the day she left the house, though, I brought it back. This particular version is made not just with grated cheddar but with blue cheese as well. And, then, because I clearly had not added enough calories yet, I added bacon … lots of it. (I also made a chili with bacon the same week but more on that another time.) The reviews were raves all around. I dare you to feel differently.
Ridiculously Cheesy Mac and Cheese
serves 4 or fewer if you have teenage or older boys in the house
3/4 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar
3/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
5-6 pieces of bacon, cooked and broken into bits
3-4 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk (or you could do half-and-half if you felt really decadent)
salt and pepper to taste
about 1/2 cup bread crumbs
Fill a large pot with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Remove from heat and drain out the water.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter. When it’s melted, add the flour and stir to make a roux. Add the milk and stir so there are no floury blobs and until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the cheddar. Stir until the cheddar is melted in. Add the blue cheese and stir until melted.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta in a casserole dish. Add the bacon pieces and stir it all together. Taste for salt and pepper needs (likely not much salt due to the bacon and the cheeses). Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until the top is brown and the whole delicious concoction is bubbling.
My go-to comfort food is Mexican, and with the Northeast looking as if it’s going to be blasted this week with its third snowstorm in as many weeks, I just might have to make this tasty meal. Oh, wait, no I can’t because I’m still on my detoxing food plan. Argh. Somehow stir-fried veggies with wild rice is just not going to cut it.
But I digress. This Tex Mex dish is an easy weeknight meal and includes, if you’re feeling very pressed for time or lazy, a rotisserie chicken if you want. It will be our little secret.
I’m not sure why Tex Mex is so comforting to me. I’m sure it has something to do with the carbs and cheese. Now that’s a combination I can get behind.
Anyway, do me a favor and make it this week and send vicarious warm, cozy thoughts from CA, where it is, as you annoyingly like to remind me, 60 degrees and mostly sunny.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear from some readers. Do you have favorite comfort food when the weather outside is frightful? If so, what is it? Do you go for sweets? Carbs? Salt? And why does the weather make some of us (I can’t be the only one can I???) feel like eating certain kinds of food?
1 10 ounce can of green or red enchilada sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 8-inch tortillas
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, plus extra for the top
1 3-4 pound rotisserie chicken shredded OR (for the ambitious) 3 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 zucchini, quartered and thinly sliced
1 cup salsa
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
If you’re not using a rotisserie chicken, saute the chicken slices in a skillet with a little olive oil and some chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.
In a small bowl combine the enchilada sauce and cream. Spoon 1/4 cup of the sauce mixture into the bottom of a shallow 2-quart caserole. Top with 1 tortilla and a third of the cheese, chicken, onion and zucchini. Place a tortilla on top and repeat twice more to form a total of 3 layers. Top with the remaining tortilla, sauce and cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 minutes more. Slice into wedges and enjoy!
As the weather gets colder, Mexican inspired food is one of my go-to comfort foods. This recipe is adapted from something my friend, Arianne, served one night. She’s an outstanding cook and as soon as I had it, I wanted to know how to recreate it. It takes a little time to create, but it is totally worth the wait.
Tex Mex Lasagne
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 red pepper, diced
4 skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup oil
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
12 ounces beer
16 ounces refried beans–I prefer black
16 ounces salsa
12 small tortillas
2 cups grated cheese
cilantro to taste
In a skillet saute the onion, pepper and garlic. Add the chicken and spices. Add the vinegar and 1 1/4 cups beer. Save the rest of the beer rather than drinking it . Simmer.
In another pan, heat the beans with the rest of the beer and about 1/2 cup salsa until spreadable.
Heat the oil. Quickly cook the tortillas, about 5-10 seconds a side. Put on paper towels to get rid of excess oil.
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
In a 9 X 13 inch pan create your tortilla towers. Place 4 tortillas in the pan. Spread the 1/2 the bean mixture on all four, followed by 1/2 the chicken mixture and 1/3 the cheese and some salsa. Then place 4 tortillas on top of those and repeat. Then top with the remaining 4 tortillas. Place remaining salsa and cheese on top. Bake for 35 minutes.
Your post about going out for breakfast as a treat to yourself certainly rang true with me. For some reason eating breakfast out is more special to me than eating dinner at a restaurant (although don’t get me wrong, I enjoy that as well). I think part of the reason is because I love breakfast food — omelets, , bacon, pancakes, bacon, eggs Benedict, waffles, bacon (oh oops did I say that already?) — but I NEVER make anything like that for myself for breakfast. Ever. And I hardly ever partake of those goodies even when I make them for other people in my very own kitchen.
What is up with THAT?
Not only that but, as you very well know, I have eaten the very same breakfast for just about every day of my adult life: Dannon coffee yogurt and granola. As a committed Weight Watcher, I now only allow myself coffee yogurt a few times a week and instead eat Stonyfield organic non-fat yogurt with granola the other mornings.
While having habits isn’t a bad thing per se, I suspect that a counselor might smile a bit and nod her head knowingly if I told her this little scenario and ask something like, “Why don’t you allow yourself to eat something you enjoy and that, by the way, is good for you?”
Or something like that.
Food for thought….