Falling in Love with Comfort Foods
Updated: Mar 19, 2020
It certainly is the heart of winter (even though on the East Coast it doesn't feel like it these past few weeks) along with the month that celebrates love! Instead of celebrating Valentines Day with a bunch of heart shaped recipes, I am going to go out on a limb here and fill this blog post with my love of comfort foods....who's with me!? You are?! Great! Let's dig in...
Let's start off with the bubbly goodness of a scrumptiously cheesy Tortellini Bake with Sausage and Spinach. This recipe is so simple and can be made ahead of time to boot (just undercook the pasta by a few minutes).
Start by taking some fresh Italian sausage and remove the casing and set aside. Then in a high-sided sauce pan, add 2 tbsp olive oil over medium- high heat and sauté up your onions and garlic. Add the fresh spinach to the pan in batches, continuing to add more spinach as it starts to wilts. Season the spinach, onion and garlic with a little salt and pepper. When all the spinach is just wilted, take it out of the pan and place in a towel-lined fine mesh strainer over a bowl and let the excess water drain while you start to brown up the sausage.
Give the pan a quick rinse and dry and place it back over medium-high heat and add in the sausage. Break up the sausage into small chunks using a flat sided wooden spoon and cook the sausage until it is nicely browned. Remove the cooked sausage with a slotted spoon (because you don't want all that excess fat in the baking dish because it will make it oily) and place it in a large baking dish. Then head back to you spinach mixture and give it a good squeeze to get any excess juice out, then add it to the baking dish with the sausage, mixing both ingredients together so that it is pretty evenly distributed.
Head back to that pan (I really love using one pan!) keeping it at medium-high heat, add some butter and let it melt. Then add in flour and cook it out for about 1 minute. Then stir in some dijon mustard and slowly stream in your favorite chicken stock (whether homemade or store bought) and keep whisking until the sauce begins to thicken. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes. Then you can add in the cream, give it a good stir and turn off the heat. While the sauce is simmering and you are waiting to add the cream, cook the tortellini in boiling water for two minutes less than package directions. (NOTE: I typically add salt to my pasta water but in the this case I'm careful because the sausage has quite a bit of a salty bite). Scoop the tortellini out and add to the baking dish with the sausage and spinach. Pour the sauce over all the ingredients in the baking dish and stir everything together until it is evenly distributed. Top it off with shredded Pecorino Romano cheese and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top. Yum!
Please note, this can also be equally delicious using chicken sausage as well
Now, if you are not into pasta (I won't judge) or maybe you can't have cheese but you are still looking for some comfort to warm up your inners....how 'bout a Cottage Pie? Yes, I said Cottage Pie. I don't want anyone nailing me to the preverbal food cross because I called a Cottage Pie a Shepherd's Pie when in fact I am not using lamb as the protein.
This is such an awesome dish that can be thrown together ahead of time and it has everything...meat, starch and veggies!! Win... win!
Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees. Then in a high-sided pan, heat some olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté roughly chopped garlic and onions for about 2 minutes until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Next add in chopped carrots and cook them for about 5 minutes until they have softened. Then add in the ground beef and break up the meat with a nice flat sided wooden spoon. Cook the meat stirring occasionally until all the meat is browned.
Then you want to lower the heat to medium and add in the tomato paste and combine it into the meat and veggie mixture until the paste melts and the meat mixture has a reddish
tint to it... Next, you want to add in the dried rosemary and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Stir that into the meat mixture until everything is combined. At this point, you can
add the thawed peas and corn and stir everything together so that the peas and corn are spread throughout the mixture. Add in a little beef stock and sprinkle in the flour (NOTE: you can use cornstarch here if you are going gluten free) and stir into the mixture. Everything in the pan will start to come together and thicken slightly. Shut the heat off and add the meat mixture to the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes and place in the oven for 35-40 minutes. (ANOTHER NOTE: When I make mashed potatoes for another dinner, I typically make a larger batch so that I have some left over for this recipe. I find that leftover mashed potatoes hold nice and firm on top while baking. Of course if you do not have leftover mashed potatoes, you can always make a fresh batch to go along with it.)
The last recipe I want to share with you is one that I made a few years back that I absolutely love. If you are a fan of asian flavor or you like a little kick in your meal you HAVE to try this Chicken Vegetable Miso Soup. It is chockfull of veggies and meat and has this delicious balance of spice and earthiness. It is probably one of the best one pot meals!
Start by heating a dutch oven with some olive oil over medium-high heat. Place the chicken "skinless" side down and cook for about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 5 minutes. The tights won't be cooked fully through, but that is ok. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Keep the heat on medium high and add a little more olive oil to the pan. Add in the leek, carrots, onions, garlic and mushrooms and toss them all together making sure to coat them all in the olive oil. Season with some salt and pepper and then add in the grated ginger, sriracha and soy sauce. Stir everything together and cook until the vegetable are tender, about another 8 minutes. Then add in the chicken stock and place the chicken thighs back into the pot. The liquid should cover all the ingredients in the pot (if not, you can add some water). Bring the soup to a simmer and turn down the heat to low. Cover and cook for about 40 minutes then remove the top and using two forks, break apart the chick thighs into shreds. Add in the chopped cabbage and bok choy and stir into the liquid until the veggies wilt, which is about another 6 minutes or so. (SECRET TIP: sometimes I even toss in some torn nori sheets for a salty punch) Then, feel free to dig right in. This soup is so filling and healthy too! You just can't go wrong with this one.
I hope these recipes bring some comfort into your home as we trek on through these chilly winter months. Enjoy!