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What's for Dinner? Comfort Meals for Cold Nights


During the winter months, I find myself huddled around the stovetop, preparing home-cooked meals, cranking up the oven’s heat. The cold temperatures and bare trees leave me longing for the satisfying meals that I grew up with, like gooey mac-n-cheese, hearty pot pies, and Mom’s meatloaf.

Comfort meals should not just be tasty and nurturing, but they also should be easy to whip up. After all, what is more comforting than a delicious, do-able recipe? I find myself gravitating toward these dishes when I need something satisfying and warm. The following recipes are classic comfort dishes, but feel free to tinker with the ingredients, customizing each dish to your palette.

Turkey Pot Pie

With frozen crusts, pot pie can be whipped up in a jiff. For this recipe, I use ground turkey, but any poultry or red meat will do. If you have leftover rotisserie chicken or ground beef from the night before, you can always incorporate that into a pot pie. And, if you are pressed for time, instead of sautéing vegetables, feel free to use a bag of frozen veggies. The combinations of meat and veggies are limitless. Serves 6.

2 minced garlic cloves

1/2 diced yellow onion

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced carrots

16 ounces ground turkey

Salt and pepper, to taste

Oregano, to taste

1/2 cup frozen peas

2 10.75-ounce cans cream of potato soup

1/4 cup milk

2 frozen pie crusts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a dollop of oil in a sauce pan, and sauté minced garlic for one minute, then adding the onions, celery and carrots to the sauce pan, sautéing for 5 minutes until softened. Set aside the veggies in a large mixing bowl.

In the same saucepan, heat a dollop of oil and brown ground turkey for 5 minutes, seasoning with salt, pepper and oregano. Add the cooked meat to bowl of sautéd veggies, and mix in the frozen peas.

In a separate bowl, combine the milk and cream of potato soup, mixing well. Add the milk and potato soup mixture to the large mixing bowl with the meat and veggies, mixing well. Prick the bottom pie crust with a fork, and slit the top crust with a knife. Add the meat and veggie mixture into the pie crust and then top with another pie crust, pinching the edges of the pies together, and leaving the tins on. Place the pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 60 minutes, removing the top pie tin after 45 minutes to brown the crust. After crust is golden, remove the pie and let sit for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

dinner2Decadent Baked Mac-N-Cheese

Classic baked macaroni and cheese is a promising go-to when you need something to warm your soul and fill your belly. For a creamy texture and decadent taste, I use egg and heavy whipping cream. Feel free to experiment with different kinds of cheese, or add in other ingredients for your own twist on the classic—diced jalapeño for “South of the Border” mac-n- cheese, or bacon for “Southern Comfort” mac-n-cheese. Serves 10.

16 ounces of shell pasta

1 cup of heavy whipping cream

3 cups milk

2 cups shredded mild cheddar

2 cups shredded Colby jack cheese

12 ounces Velveeta

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon onion powder (or to taste)

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder (or to taste)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or to taste)

4 eggs

1 to 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar (for topping)

1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and boil noodles until al dente. Drain pasta and put aside in a large mixing bowl.

Combine the heavy whipping cream, milk, mild cheddar, Colby jack and Velveeta, stirring to combine. Season mixture with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and mustard powder to taste. Add eggs and whisk until well mixed. Pour the mixture over the pasta and stir until well combined.

Grease a 9-inch by 13-inch casserole dish and pour the gooey mixture into the pan. Sprinkle the top of the mac and cheese with sharp cheddar cheese and bread crumbs. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until crusty on the top. Remove the casserole from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

dinner3Mom’s Classic Meatloaf 2.0

Growing up my mom made this meatloaf recipe weekly, as it is easy, quick, and there aren’t many ingredients that go into it. For my meatloaf, I typically use ground bison, because of its rich flavor. Bison is also leaner than beef, but ground chuck or even ground turkey work well, too. Feel free to substitute ketchup with barbecue sauce or add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, if you are looking for more flavor. Serves 6.

1 to 1 1/4 pounds of ground bison

1 egg

2 slices bread, cubed

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 cup ketchup (plus more for topping)

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and squish together with your hands. Form the meaty mass into an oblong log and slide into an oiled loaf pan. Spread additional ketchup on top of meatloaf.

Bake the meatloaf for 60 minutes, or until it is done in the middle. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let it set for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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