Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tantalizing Thursdays

This weekend the clocks spring ahead, another indication that Spring is on its way in short order. In northwestern New Jersey, where I live, the precipitation we get is rain instead of snow. A lot of rain, in fact, that has plagued the low lying areas of my region. Flooding is an acute and devastating problem afflicting many areas. It is cold, wet, raw, and gray. The earth is saturated and so is the collective moods of those around. To combat this pervading melancholy, I'm focusing on comfort foods today!

Comfort foods are the ones that bring you back to a time when life was simpler; meals that evoke peaceful, happy memories, fill your tummy and your soul, and satisfy hunger as well as emotion. One should eat to live, not live to eat, but food is an art and comfort food is the stuff you want in your home to cheer and satisfy. The list of what is considered comfort food is completely subjective, yet many of the same items would probably appear on myriad lists. I won't presume to offer recipes for the food mentioned in this article, only remind about the type of foods that may fall into the list and, in some cases, the way I do things.

Chicken pot pie. I was at the grocery store for my weekly big visit. I saw that a rotisserie chicken breast was on sale and smelled scrumptious. Adding it to my cart I knew that with the ingredients I had at home (refrigerated pie crust, frozen mixed vegetables, and chicken gravy) I had the perfect "comfort meal" to serve my family. I added a can of whole berry cranberry sauce and remembered I also had some fine quality instant mashed potatoes (mashed potatoes = comfort food) at home and the meal was set. This meal, of course, can be made from a chicken one roasted, homemade gravy, and whatever fresh vegetables on hand with a homemade prepared pie crust from scratch, or purchased by a reputable frozen foods brand, but the version I outlined above is easy, delicious, pseudo-homemade, and highly satisfying. Whatever route you go, just put some chicken pot pie on your menu and watch the smiles.

Spaghetti and Meatballs. Pasta is a mainstay in our diet. I love to experiment with different sauces, different shaped pasta; I add a salad and bread, and dinner is served. I've made everything from homemade pesto to a mock alfredo sauce with shrimp (recipe in previously published Tantalizing Thursday). Recently my children discovered they enjoy meatballs. I found this so interesting as they have never enjoyed the homemade bolognese (meat) sauce my husband and I concocted. So, at the store yesterday, I found a bag of frozen meatballs made from Angus beef. My middle boy is hooked on frozen Angus beef cheeseburgers his father buys from Costco. When I told him about the Angus beef meatballs I found, his face lit up. So, tonight's dinner in the 187 household is spaghetti (or penne) with a tomato basil jarred sauce and the Angus beef meatballs. Simply start the pasta water (I always use whole wheat or whole grain pasta for added flavor and nutrition), and, in a separate pan, heat the meatballs through in the sauce (about 25 minutes). I'm serving a salad (I use bagged) and some garlic bread. A comforting dinner two nights in a row! For those of you who prefer making your own sauce (gravy), make your own meatballs by combining three different ground meats, etc. that's wonderful. For the rest of us, this works, too.

Brownies. Rarely does anything smell as good and comforting as a pan of brownies baking in the oven. Whether from scratch or 'from a box', brownies are consistent dessert winners. Moist, chewy, fudgy, and sweet, brownies are rectangles (or squares) of joy. I prefer to "doctor up" a boxed mix, saving time and energy measuring out dry ingredients. I do so many different combinations of add-ins that my brownies need never taste the same, but my family has a definitive favorite - chocolate, marshmallow, peanut butter chip. Upon the last stroke to mix the brownie batter, I add a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Nestles'), a handful of mini marshmallows, (I use the grocery store brand) and a handful of peanut butter chips (I use Reese's). I incorporate the ingredients, bake at recommended times (or a bit longer if the toothpick comes out too wet) and cut to serve once cooled. I'm convinced this is yet another reason my husband is so loyal to me and my children always tell me my brownies are best.

Grilled cheese and tomato soup. Rainy days often make me think of hot lunches (or dinners) of the classic pairing of grilled cheese and tomato soup. For the soup I am brand loyal to Campbell's, but I am sure the other soup makers put a quality product on the shelf, I'm just a creature of habit. Grilled cheese can be as simple as American cheese between two pieces of white bread slathered in butter grilled to a golden perfection or as different as artisan bread and cheddar, rye and swiss cheese, or any other combination. The duo is warm, richly pleasing, and uncomplicated. Treat yourself soon.

Other comfort foods may include meatloaf, tuna melt, macaroni and cheese (the new Kraft Homestyle recipe is quite good), and stew. Whether homemade, prepared with help from the store, or bought entirely in the frozen foods section, comfort foods offer a respite from a hectic day, a stressful situation, or dire hunger pangs in the stomach and the soul. Food shouldn't be used to self-medicate, but perhaps, as long as it is time to eat, it is okay to nurture your mind and soul along with your body.

I hope you enjoyed, were inspired, and are anxious to resurrect some of these comfort foods. Drop a comment to let me know what your comfort foods are and how you prepare them! Thanks for spending part of your day with me and checking out today's edition of Tantalizing Thursday. Please join me tomorrow for the Friday Music Blog as we wing our way into the weekend.


  1. Spaghetti and meatballs sounds great Sweden is also keen on meatballs if IIRC from my last trip to IKEA some years ago :-)

  2. I am not a big eater. I'm not really fond of food and I certainly eat to live, not live to eat. However, I notice that when I know I'm coming up on a big moment in my life, my last meal tends to be turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.

    When the doctor said to "go to the hospital at 5 p.m., get a good last meal and take a good nap" before I had my oldest son, my mother and I went to Denny's. I selected the Turkey Dinner.

    The evening prior to doing those AWBC's, the meal has the mashed potatoes and gravy and a yeast roll... and some other type of protein, not turkey though.

    I think this is something I'm drawn to because I love Thanksgiving so much. Even when we go to a buffet. I will selected something that will resemble Thanksgiving Dinner, unless I'm feeling saucy and go for stuff I don't normally eat.

    Maybe I should be eating more of these foods if they "relax" me. ;)