This time of year the cold temps, gray skies and slushy roads can make us long to curl up with a warm fire and a generous portion of our favorite comfort food.
What’s more welcome after an arduous and chilling commute than a warm crockpot or casserole dish filled with wonderfully aromatic meats and vegetables? The right recipe can immediately improve our moods, not only satisfying our hunger but reminding us of happy memories from the past.
“We tend to associate certain foods with members of our family, social gatherings and people taking care of us,” notes Professor Shahram Heshmat in Psychology Today. “Because odor-evoked memories tend to be positive, the smell improves the mood and produces feelings of social connectedness.”
While the meaning of “comfort food” is different for everyone, those traditional to the colder months often feature the root vegetables so rich in carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals. This time of year, you may wish to try these satisfying root vegetable-based recipes that are just like Mom used to make.
1. Pot roast with root vegetables. Salt and pepper a 3-pound boneless beef chuck roast before browning it in a skillet over high heat. In a crockpot, cover the roast with a mixture of 1 3/4 cup beef-flavored broth, 1 cup dry red wine, 1/4 cup tomato paste, 4 chopped garlic cloves and 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme. Add in 1- to 2-inch slices of onions, rutabaga, parsnips, turnips and carrots to taste, mixing the vegetables with the broth. Cook the savory mixture on low for 8 to 10 hours before serving.
2. Rich and flavorful carrot cake. Blend 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Add to that a mixture of 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 4 large eggs. Mix in 2 cups grated peeled carrots, 1 cup chopped pecans and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour the batter into two greased-and-floured 9-inch round cake pans and bake them at 350 F for 35 to 45 minutes. Top to perfection with cream cheese icing after cooling.
3. Roasted root vegetables. Cut carrots, parsnips, celeriac, potatoes and turnips (peeled or unpeeled) into 1- to 2-inch slices. Place them on a baking pan, adding chopped shallots, chopped garlic gloves, salt, pepper and olive oil to taste. Roast at 425 F for 20 minutes, turning the slices and adding more olive oil before baking another 20 minutes. Sprinkle on rosemary, thyme and/or parsley, then finish roasting for 20 to 40 minutes until the slices are caramelized, crisp and delicious. Enjoy with ranch dressing or plain yogurt dip.
4. Honey-baked sweet potatoes. Bring four medium-sized potatoes to a boil on the stove, then reduce the heat, add a lid and simmer for 20 minutes. On a baking sheet, roast them at 350 F for another 10 minutes. Enjoy them topped with butter and honey.
5. Beet and goat cheese tarts. De-stem one red beet and one golden beet, rubbing them with olive oil, wrapping them with foil and roasting them at 425 F for 1 hour. Remove the skins and cut them into 1/4-inch slices. Brush a flattened piece of puff pastry with beaten egg, layer on 4 ounces of goat cheese, add the beet slices then spread on another 2 ounces of goat cheese. Bake for 25 minutes until puffy and golden. Serve with drizzled honey and fresh basil leaves.
The cold-weather months are a perfect time to enjoy the comfort foods that bring us back great memories of home and hearth. Check out the produce section at your local Meijer store for more tasty comfort food ideas.