Category Archives: Comfort Food

NYC Eats

They say your olfactory memory rules over much else going on in your brain.

So smart! (and so true)

It’s so comforting to know that my childhood foods are only half a day’s travel away. (but so worth it!)

Look on.

Hand-pulled noodles with braised beef. (Niu Rou La Mian) You should see you guy with the enormous forearms pulling that dough. Mesmerizing.

Grilled Squid. (Tie Ban You Yu) The tentacles say it all.

Uh…how do you translate this one? It’s wide strips of rice noodles tossed with cucumber, bean sprouts and tofu curds in a mind bending, sense numbing chili dressing. (Liang pi)

Bubble tea – yes, I am aware that you can barely see the bubbles on the bottom – just have to trust me. (Zhen Zhou Nai Cha)

Pistachio donut. Right, not a childhood food but still pretty darn good!

Macarons! Rows and rows of them! Definitely not a childhood food. And it drives me nuts when everyone in the store referred to them as macarOOns – that’s something completely different. These 2 are lemon strawberry and passionfruit raspberry. The combined price of these 2 babies are equal to that steaming bowl of noodles up the page. That’s it, I’m learning to make my own.

And I apologize for not taking pictures of the rest of the food I ate – a staggering amount – just too lazy (and hungry). You can’t be mad at me – I know how much you like polar bears. 😀

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Chocolate Chip Pancakes

It’s always a treat to have pancakes for breakfast. Soft, fluffy, lightly sweetened and adorned with a smear of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup.

It’s even more of a treat to sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Especially for the kids. Be prepared for a round of “YAY!” Who knows, the little bit of chocolate in these pancakes might just perk up your mood for a bright and cheerful day. 🙂

Chocolate Chip Pancakes
makes 12 4-in pancakes

1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. whole milk with 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. oil, plus more for the pan
Chocolate Chips

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, vinegar, eggs, oil and vanilla until well combined.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the chocolate chips and stir lightly until blended. Do not overmix.
  3. Heat up a large frying pan or griddle on medium heat, drizzle with a bit of oil, and ladle the batter on top. Sprinkle 7-8 chocolate chips on each pancake.
  4. Cook for about a minute on each side until both sides are lightly browned.

Pancakes on FoodistaPancakes

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Filed under Breakfast, Chocolate, Comfort Food

Lady and the Tramp, Anyone?

I love Disney. Even with its subliminal messages and not so subliminal ones.

I love the simpleness of its romances. I cannot see spaghetti and meat balls without thinking of Lady and the Tramp. Of course, no real person, or dog, would slurp a strand of spaghetti without chewing through and breaking it. That makes the scene all more romantic. I like the film even though I honestly can’t remember anything else about it besides that scene, but I thought about it today while I thought, planned, and made dinner.

Simple spaghetti and meatballs.

Okay, maybe not that simple. I did use whole wheat spaghetti and ground flax after all. I know, I can’t leave anything well enough alone. But regardless of all my efforts at health-isizing this dish, it retained its heartiness. A true comfort food through and through.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and dig into the meat with your fingers. This helps to distribute the spices without overworking the meat and produces the most tender meatballs. Be sure to give the meatballs a deep golden brown, this contributes greatly to flavour.

The ground flax is not really noticeable in the meatballs, but you’ll that it’s there to give your meal fibre and Omega 3 fatty acids. I also used prepared pasta sauce to speed up the process, and also because I didn’t have any tomatoes. Feel free to substitute your favorite recipe for tomato sauce.

Cat’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (Be comforted in knowing that this comfort food is somewhat good for you)
makes 4-6 servings

3/4 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
salt
1/2 c. dried bread crumbs
a few dashes Worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 Tbsp. dried parsley
scant 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/3 c. minced onion
2 Tbsp. ground flax, optional
1 tsp. olive oil
1 24-oz jar of prepared pasta sauce (I used garden vegetable)
1 lb. spaghetti, whole wheat

  1. Place the ground meat, Worcestershire, herbs, pepper, onion, garlic powder, flax seed, and bread crumbs in a large bowl. Salt generously.
  2. Plunge all ten fingers into the meat and mix thoroughly. Shape into 24 meatballs. Wash your hands well afterwards.
  3. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan and brown the meatballs in batches, until well browned.
  4. Pour the pasta sauce into the pan and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Toss with the sauce. Serve piping hot and twirl away.

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Filed under Comfort Food, Dinner, Meat

Mini Banana Muffins

Finally. We stop devouring bananas long enough to have three bananas go brown. Seriously, my family consumes a fantastic amount of bananas, at least a good couple bunches a week. Rarely do we have brown bananas. For eating, I prefer the beautifully rich yellow ones that still have green ends. Then when I peel it open, there is no sign of bruising on the pale creamy flesh, which still resists a little before yielding. Just a hint of tartness before the sweetness settles in. Yes, I can be picky like that, but I would take a sub-par banana anyway. 😉

So I’ve got these three large squishy, sorry looking fruits sitting on the dinner table. Time to make muffins.

Mini ones are just so darn cute. It’s impossible to eat just one. I stopped looking up banana bread recipes a long time ago. These days I just use what I have and make it up along the way. They always come out differently, just like my chocolate chip cookies.

This particular batch packs a powerful banana punch and is super moist. For banana bread lovers!

Super Banana Muffins, Mini-ed
makes 24 mini muffins plus 6 regular ones

3 large bananas, mashed to make about 1 1/2 cups
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 c. oil
1/4 c. whole milk
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4. tsp. salt

  1. Mash the bananas in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar.
  2. Mix in the rest of the ingredients until smooth, take care not to over mix.
  3. Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray and fill with batter. Spoon the rest of the batter into sprayed regular muffin tins.
  4. Bake in a preheat oven at 350 degrees. 20 minutes for mini muffins, 25-30 for regular muffins.

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Filed under Banana, Comfort Food, Muffins, Snacks

“Best of 2000” Cinnamon Buns – End of July NaBloPoMo

First of all, thank you Ms. Kanis! You were always a wonderful, attentive, fair teacher who knew what she was doing!

This recipe came from a cooking class I took back in high school. No other cinnamon bun recipe, prior to, or post, this one, has impressed me as much. To me, these are truly the BEST. Not just from the year 2000 either.

Very few foods offer me the pleasure of wiping my brain clean, then flooding with the very taste and texture of it. I don’t often go, “WOW, this is GOOD.” Once was a pizza I ate in junior high, it tasted vaguely of butter. Don’t ask. Another time was during eighth period Culinary Arts, a single bite of cinnamon sugar encrusted brioche-tasting dough.

After I lost the recipe last year, I have searched up and down, in and out, for it. Finally, when I went back to Jersey earlier this summer I visited Ms. Kanis at my high school to get a copy. So so happy I have it again. It’s gem.

I think I can justify eating one for breakfast if it wasn’t glazed. Save the glazed ones for dessert, although the glazed ones are definitely better than the non-glazed. The taste of butter dominates in the glaze and adds an extra “oomph” to the bun. These are sticky, chewy, gooey. Everything you need in a cinnamon bun.

This remains one of the only recipes that I do not alter.

“Best of 2000” Cinnamon Buns
adapted from Ms. Kanis, WWPHSS, with much love and gratitude
makes 12 large buns

Dough:
1 package active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp.
1/2 c. warm water
1/3 c. plus 1/2 tsp. sugar, divided
1/2 c. warm milk
1/3 c. butter, unsalted, softened
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 1/2 c. to 4 c. all-purpose flour or bread flour

Filling:
1/2 c. melted butter, unsalted, divided
3/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. sugar, divided
1 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
3/4 c. chopped walnuts, I toasted mine first
3/4 c. raisins, optional, we didn’t use it in class, and I’ve never used it

Glaze:
1/3 c. melted butter, unsalted
2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-4 Tbsp. hot water

To make the dough:

  1. Combine yeast, warm water, and 1/2 tsp. sugar in a measuring cup and stir, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix warmed milk, remaining 1/3 c. sugar, butter, salt, and egg; stir well and add yeast mixture.
  3. Add half the flour and beat until smooth. Work in enough of the remaining flour to make a slightly stiff dough, it will be sticky.
  4. Turn out onto a well-floured counter. Knead 5-10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour to the work surface as needed to keep it from sticking. As Ms. Kanis used to say, “As smooth as a baby’s bottom, or as smooth as my grandmother’s cheek.”
  5. Place in a well-buttered bowl, cover and let ruse until doubled in bulk. You can place it in the fridge overnight.

To make the filling:

  1. Punch down the dough and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll out on floured counter into a 15 by 20 inch rectangle.
  2. Spread dough with 1/4 c. melted butter.
  3. Mix together 3/4 c. sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over buttered dough. Sprinkle walnuts and raisins, if using.
  4. Roll up jelly-roll fashion, starting from the short side, so you end up with a 15 inch. log. Pinch edges to seal and cut into 12 slices
  5. Coat the bottom of a 9 by 13 baking pan (I used two 9 inch round pans) with remaining 1/4 c. melted butter. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar. Place slices close together in pans. Cover and let rise until doubled. Once again, you can refridgerate overnight. For a treat in the morning!
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 23-30 minutes, or until nicely browned. Let cool slightly, then spread with glaze.

To make the glaze:

  1. Mix melted butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add hot water 1 Tbsp. at a time until glaze is of desired consistency.
  2. Stir again before using.

If there is anything that makes me happy, even when I’m down, it’s these cinnamon buns. It fills your house with the comforting scent of cinnamon and sugar and your heart with happiness. Enjoy. 🙂

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Filed under Breads, Breakfast, Comfort Food, Pastries

Not My Usual Biscuits

Before, if you mentioned the word biscuits to me, my mind immediately goes to the cut-in-butter, mix-in-milk, roll-out-three-quarters-inch-thick, cut-with-round-cutter-or-sharp-knife, kind. In other words, a rather cohesive, stiff dough, that produces layers, are good to eat, but dries out quickly. What is going on with my run-on sentences today? I thought my junior year teacher has done her best to stamp that out of me.

But back to the biscuits.

Today I tried something a little different. Having read Bakewise, by Shirley O. Corriher. Fantastic read, by the way. I love baking. I love science. I love her book.

She offers a recipe for Touch of Grace Biscuits that are feather light and tender. She claims that it is the steam produced during baking of the biscuits that makes them rise so well and become beautifully fluffy. Where does the steam come from? The excess moisture in the dough, of course. Except in this case it is almost more of a stiff batter than a dough. She says the dough has to be the consistency of cottage cheese and rolled in flour for easier handling.

I didn’t exactly use her recipe. I took her principle and made my own. Not quite cottage cheese consistency, because I was afraid to have a goopy mess on my hands, but it is a very loose dough. And the results are light and tender, just as she promised. With a touch of grace.

Cat’s Not Usual Biscuits
makes about 10-12 medium sized biscuits

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. unsalted butter, cold
1 c. plus 2 Tbsp. milk, with 1 Tbsp. vinegar added
1/2 c. flour, for shaping

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray an 8 inch round cake pan with cooking spray, set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk together well. Rub the butter in with your finger tips until it resembles crumbs and rolled oats. Add the soured milk gradually while tossing with a spoon, until the dough comes loosely together. It will be more like a very viscous batter than a dough.

Place a small pile of flour on your work surface. Scoop up a mound of dough the size of an apricot and drop it onto the pile of flour. Sprinkle the top with flour and pick up carefully with your hands. Shape it into a rough round and place in the pan. Repeat with all the dough, placing the rounds right next to each other so that the biscuits won’t spread but rise up instead.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Eat as hot as you can, with generous pats of butter.

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Filed under Comfort Food, Scones and Biscuits

Penne with Sausage and Tomato Sauce

We had this for lunch yesterday. It was very easy, relatively quick, and pretty darn tasty. Italian sausage is simmered with crushed tomatoes with basil, onion, and a bit of butter. Then tossed with whole wheat penne. Good stuff.

One thing about tomato sauces. I used to be a super herby kind of girl. I tossed herbs of every kind into my tomato sauces. Of course everything do not always taste good together. That saying something along the lines of “if you use a lot of good tasting ingredients, you can’t end up with something other than good tasting food,” unfortunately, isn’t always true.

Since then I’ve abandoned the herbs approach when it comes to tomato sauces. I became more of a purist. I tried the three-ingredient tomato sauce from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking. I became a believer. That simple sauce is unbelievably good for something that takes next to zero effort to put together. Heck, my kitchen un-savvy boyfriend can make it. All it takes is butter, onion, and tomatoes! You don’t even need to chop the onion! Seriously, if you’ve never tried it, you simply have to.

One 28 oz can tomatoes.

Half a stick of unsalted butter.

Half an onion.

Don’t chop anything. Don’t brown anything. Toss everything in a large sauce pan. Simmer for about half an hour, or until the tomatoes break down and your kitchen smells heavenly. I eat the sauce with spoon. And the onion with my fingers.

This recipe is inspired from that. With a couple of changes.

Penne with Sausage and Tomato Sauce
serves about 4 for lunch

1/2 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes with basil (don’t worry about the basil part, use plain crushed tomatoes if you like)
2 Italian sausages (I used sweet, but use hot if you like the heat)
1 Tbsp. butter, unsalted
1/4 medium onion
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz. whole wheat penne, cooked al dente

Remove the sausages from their casings. Heat a medium saucepan on medium high heat. Brown the sausage, breaking them up into small pieces. Do this until the meat is no longer pink. Drain the pan. Add the onion, unchopped, the butter, and the half can of tomatoes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for half an hour. Stir and check every 10 minutes or so.

Toss the pasta into the sauces, season to taste. Serve with a tossed salad and some good bread.

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Filed under Comfort Food, Dinner, Lunch, Meat