Did you know that December 5 is National Comfort Food day? It’s also International Ninja Day and National Blue Jeans day, but feel free to overlook those crazy little celebrations for a much bigger one that involves food! Should you feel led to wear blue jeans or dress as a Ninja turtle while having your comfort food, go ahead and merge your celebrations. Any reason to celebrate is a good one, right?

As we’ve mentioned before, we here at Bridging the Gap love to eat, and we’re happy share our recipes and indulgences. Don’t expect our healthy, good for you, recipes here. We’ll save those for another day. These recipes and stories are all about the comfort. Enjoy them! And remember, National Comfort Food day only comes once a year. (But feel free to have it more often at your discretion!)

Baked Mac and Cheese

With the  got cold weather brewing outdoors, sometimes you just want some good, classic comfort food.  When my kids were younger I started looking at labels for ingredients and moved from a “box mix” mentality to a “make from scratch” mentality where I was able to control the ingredients my kids were putting in their stomachs. Mac and cheese is one of those recipes that once you find a good one, your search is over. This is not my recipe creation, but it’s been a family favorite of ours for over 10 years, and it’s too good to keep it a secret.  This way, you too can indulge in some cheesy baked goodness as the weather gets colder.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow noodles
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cups butter
  • 1/2 cups flour
  • 1-3/4 cups milk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a large pot, cook noodles according to the package; drain, pour into a 9×13 baking dish, then mix in 1 cup of shredded cheese; set aside.
  3. Add the butter to the pot, melt over medium heat; whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Turn heat to low, gradually whisk in the milk, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and mustard; cook until sauce thickens.
  5. Turn off heat, add remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese, stir sauce into the noodles until well combined, and bake for 1 hour.
  6. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
    Recipe submitted by Kirsten Renee

Ritzy Chicken Casserole

It seems most all my favorite comfort foods involve the creamy goodness of a Campbell’s cream of “something” soup. While recovering from surgery a few years ago, my niece called and asked what would taste good. This is the recipe I asked for. It’s so easy to make I didn’t feel like I was asking for the world, and she willingly brought it to me. It’s probably NOT what the doctor would have ordered, but it sure did hit the spot.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1-1/2 cups crushed Ritz crackers (one sleeve)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Combine first 4 ingredients; spoon into a lightly greased 11 x 7 baking dish. Combine crackers and butter and sprinkle over chicken mixture. Bake uncovered at 350° for 30 minutes.
Recipe submitted by Nancy Holte

Saturday Stracotto (Italian-Style Pot Roast)

There are a few Saturdays during winter when we have nothing planned but to stay home in our warm house with our slippers on, and either reading a book, watching an entire movie series, or work on a 1000-piece puzzle. Start this pot roast right after breakfast, and it will be ready for a mid-afternoon feast. The smell will permeate the house and give you a sense that all is well in the world. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless chuck roast (about 3.5 pounds)
  • Table salt and ground pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 10 oz white mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • ½ dry red wine
  • 1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 to 1-½ cups water
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary

Directions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Thoroughly pat roast dry with paper towels; sprinkle generously with salt and pepper
  2. Heat oil in large heatproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Brown roast thoroughly on all sides, reducing heat if fat begins to smoke, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer roast to large plate; set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, carrot, celery, and mushrooms to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and sugar and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken and beef broths, wine, tomatoes and juice, and thyme, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Return roast and any accumulated juices of roast. Add enough water to come halfway up sides of roast. Bring liquid to simmer over medium heat, then place large piece of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid. Transfer pot to oven. Cook, turning roast every 30 minutes, until fully tender and meat fork or sharp knife easily slips in and out, 3-½ to 4 hours.
  4. Transfer roast to carving board and tent with foil to keep warm. Allow liquid in pot to settle for about 5 minutes, then use wide spoon to skim fat off surface. Add rosemary and boil over high heat until reduced to about 1-½ cups, about 8 minutes. Discard thyme and rosemary sprigs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Pull the meat apart into large pieces. Transfer meat to warmed serving platter and pour sauce and vegetables over it. Serve immediately.

NOTE: We love serving this over creamy mashed potatoes.

This recipe is from a Cook’s Illustrated magazine, December 2009.
Recipe submitted by Becky Meyerson

Dirty Rice

This very common but extremely yummy dish I ate frequently while growing up in Louisiana is called either “Dirty Rice” or “Rice Dressing”.  Dirty rice was a staple in our home. This is true comfort food!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • Seasoning (Tony’s and cayenne pepper to taste)
  • 3 cups long grain rice
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup of diced celery
  • Olive oil
  • Scallions, minced

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, use 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to sauté onion and celery until soft.  
  2. Add ground beef and ground pork to sautéed vegetables and brown.  Stir frequently.  
  3. Add seasoning to taste (preferred seasonings:  Tony Chachere’s  Cajun seasoning and cayenne pepper).
  4. Once the meat is browned, lower the temperature and simmer for at least an hour. Add water as needed to ensure it does not get dry.
  5. While your meat is simmering, cook 3 cups of rice according to the package directions.
  6. Add the rice to your meat mixture 30 minutes prior to serving.  Mix well.

Serve in bowls or plates with scallion as garnish and enjoy!
Recipe submitted by Jayne Poli

BTG Team

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