Monday, December 7, 2009

Homemade Christmas -Scrumptious Comfort Food

There was a time was cooking was a labor of love and I spent hours shopping for and preparing delicious home made meals. But with kids and schedules and dishes...dinner has become less about the flavors and aromas and more about serving something that everyone will eat that includes at least three of the four food groups, that doesn't take too long to prepare and even less time to clean up.

But there is something about December that brings out that culinary spirit in me. I feel this urge to make yummy meals to show my family how much I love them. With all the months in the year for this impulse to surface, why in the heck does it happen in December when time, cash and effort are scarce? What can you do - there is nothing more powerful than a mother's love...

This is my solution- I make those wonderful meals with savory comfort foods but I use recipes that are quick, easy and inexpensive. Here are a few of my favorites...

Chicken Tortilla soup:
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 medium green pepper (I use a red or yellow bell pepper)
  • 4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups frozen corn (I get Trader Joe's roasted corn)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or water (I use more Chicken Broth)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional- to taste- go light if you are serving kids)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional- to taste- go light if you are serving kids)
  • 4 (14 ounce) cans chicken broth (I use the organic free range broth in cartons)
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup non-fat tortilla chips (optional)
  • 2 chopped avocados
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Sauté onion, garlic, jalapeño and green pepper with olive oil in a large pot until soft.
  2. Add all the rest of the ingredients to the large pot and bring to a boil.
  3. After about 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts and shred. (Two forks work well to pull the chicken apart!).
  4. Return shredded chicken to the pot and simmer an additional 45 minutes.
  5. Serve, topped with crushed tortilla chips, avocado and cheese

Cioppino over Pasta
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (28 oz) tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry red or white wine (or chicken broth)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • ½ tsp dry oregano leaves
  • 1 package of Trader Joe's Seafood Medley
  • ½ cup butter
In 6-8 quart pan over medium heat, combine oil, onion, garlic and parsley; cook, stirring often, until onion is soft. Stir in tomato sauce, tomatoes (break up with spoon) and their liquid, wine or broth, bay leaf, basil, and oregano. Cover and simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.
To broth, add defrosted seafood. Cover and simmer gently about 10 minutes. Ladle hot broth and some of each fish over pasta. Serve with warm sourdough bread.

  • 4 or 5 potatoes
  • 3 or 4 carrots
  • 1 pkg. frozen string beans (use 1/2 of package)
  • 1 pkg. frozen peas (use 1/2 of package)
  • 8 good sized mushrooms
  • 2 cans Campbell cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 pkg. Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust
  1. Cook chicken breasts until tender or buy a Costco chicken and use the breast meat. Pull apart or cut into decent size chunks.
  2. Remove pie crust from wrapper to soften, while preparing other ingredients, or roll out 2 pie crusts.
  3. Peel cut up potatoes and carrots. Steam or par boil both in same pot or steamer until slightly tender. The veggies will continue to cook when baked in pie.
  4. Put crust in pan; prick with fork. Add mixture of chicken, potatoes, peas, carrots and string beans, mushrooms,; spread them around, so that everyone gets some chicken, veggies, etc.
  5. Add pepper (soup and crust has plenty of salt; don't add extra).
  6. Add can of cream of chicken or mushroom soup. Spread over top of ingredients. Add 1/3 cup milk to moisten, just pour around edges of pie (use your judgment, if you think you need more liquid, add part of other can of soup, or more milk.
  7. Put on top crust, sealing edges tightly to prevent dripping. Poke crust with fork or make design with toothpick to let steam escape.
  8. Set oven at 375 degrees. Bake approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Put piece of tinfoil under pan to catch drippings.

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