After asking readers to share recipes from their favorite meals, Pat Tate of Huntington sent me several favorite recipes for comfort foods. I have found myself craving comfort foods lately, especially my sister’s macaroni and cheese, to which I have begun adding tomatoes.
Tate includes a crockpot mac and cheese recipe, which I can’t wait to try.
She said this menu is her favorite comfort food meal and it originated when she prepared it for friends in need of a great deal of comfort.
“Good friends and good food help to make the bumps of the world a bit more bearable,” she said, and isn’t it the truth.
“I love to cook when I have the time off from teaching. My mother, grandmother and many great church cooks helped to shape my love of tasty recipes and joy of cooking,” she said. “To me, a cookbook reads like a novel!”
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 sleeve crushed saltine crackers
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons salt
1 onion, chopped
pepper to taste
1⁄2 cup barbecue sauce
Combine all ingredients except for barbecue sauce. Knead mixture with hands until well blended. Pack into loaf pan. Top with barbecue sauce. Bake at 350 for 2 hours. Serves 8.
CROCKPOT MACARONI AND CHEESE
4 cups cooked macaroni, drained
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 pound processed cheese, (cubed Velveeta or sliced American)
2 sticks margarine
1 large can evaporated milk
Combine hot, drained macaroni with cheeses (reserving 1 cup of cheddar) and butter. Stir until cheese begins to melt. Slightly beat eggs; add to mixture. Stir in milk. Pour into crock pot. Sprinkle with remaining cup of cheese. Cook on low for 3 hours.
SEVEN LAYER SALAD
Shred enough lettuce to cover the bottom (1 inch or so) of a 9 by 12 dish. Sprinkle with 1 cup cooked, drained and cooled frozen peas. Chop 1⁄3 cup green onion and sprinkle over the peas. Carefully spread 11⁄2 to 2 cups mayonnaise over lettuce layer. Do not mix. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over mayo. Top with enough shredded cheese to cover mayo. Cover cheese with cooked, crumbled bacon. Cover salad and refrigerate. This is best when refrigerated overnight before serving.
TIP: Adjust the amount of peas, onion, bacon and cheese to your taste. This recipe can be may with low fat or no fat mayo and cheese that still produces a tasty result.
DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE CAKE
1 cup oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1⁄2 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon soda
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
Bake in 9 by 12 pan or 3 round pans at 325 for an hour.
Ice with favorite chocolate icing recipe or serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of chopped nuts. (This cake is also very delicious without icing.)
It’s difficult to enjoy fresh, healthy food without breaking your budget and it’s going to get more difficult.
Figures from the USDA Economic Research Service show the average cost of fresh fruits and vegetables will increase between 3.5 and 4 percent this year, more of a rise than the estimated increase for sugar and sweets.
Here are a few guidelines from Andrea Woroch, a nationally recognized consumer and money-saving expert, to help consumers save money and still eat healthy.
‰Read the circulars for sale items and plan meals according to what’s on sale.
‰Berries offer a number of health benefits: They’re low in calories, high in fiber and contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which promote optimum health and wellness. When not in season, however, fresh berries are expensive. As a cheap alternative, choose bags of frozen berries.
‰The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week, ideally those that contain omega-3 fatty acid like sole, tuna and salmon. Frozen salmon and canned tuna (in water) boast the same health benefits as fresh fish at a lower cost. Look for deals on these alternatives and stock up.
‰From bruised produce to meat nearing the recommended sell-by date, grocery stores typically feature an entire section devoted to discounted food — also known as manager markdowns. These items are perfectly safe for you to consume as long as you eat or freeze them immediately.
‰When shopping for produce, always choose the whole fruit and vegetable. Bags of shredded carrots, cubed melon and sliced mushrooms are convenient, but ultimately costly. Any food that has been diced, chopped, sliced, minced, peeled or bagged is more expensive.
‰Lean beef is a good source of protein and other nutrients when eaten in moderation. Thanks to last year’s drought, however, rising feed costs are transferring to consumers in the form of higher prices. That’s why going in on a side of grass-fed beef with a few other families is a good idea. Though you'll need storage space, you’ll pay the same price for tenderloin as ground beef ($3 to $5 per pound on average) and get healthier, tastier meat.
‰Being picky about what you put in your body is a good thing, but not all organic produce is created equal. Many fruits and veggies with tough or inedible peels — like pineapples, bananas, and avocados — are a waste of money when purchased organic.
‰The organic movement has become so popular, many supermarkets have started selling their own organic food. Buying generic will save you up to 30 percent, so review store shelves for these private-label alternatives the next time you shop.
‰Buying perishable items in bulk may not make sense for your family, but certain healthy staples represent the best value when purchased en masse. For example, olive oil is a healthy fat that may help lower your risk of heart disease.
‰“Meatless Mondays” is a movement started by mom bloggers who wanted to find healthy meat alternatives while cutting monthly grocery bills. Take a cue from their collective wisdom and cut meat from your menu at least once per week. You may go meatless more often once you see the health and budget benefits.
‰Most assume coupons are reserved for processed and otherwise bad-for-you foods. That’s a myth, as deals are available for most foods when you know where to look. Whole Foods, Brown Cow and Nature Made all have coupons available on their websites. Kashi includes coupons on cereal and granola bar product boxes. It’s best to check store or brand websites, social media profiles and email newsletters for coupons.
‰Those with space for a small garden can benefit both their pocketbook and waistline by growing their own veggies. Tomatoes, bell peppers and various herbs are easy to grow and can reduce the amount you spend on produce.
February is National Canned Food Month. Here are two recipes I rely on that feature canned foods.
SAUCY CHICKEN AND ASPARAGUS
2 cans asparagus spears
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1⁄2 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Place asparagus in lightly greased baking dish. Heat oil in skillet. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown in oil. Place chicken over asparagus.
In bowl, mix soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and curry powder. Pour over chicken, cover and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
1 21-ounce can cherry pie filling
1 161⁄2 ounce can pitted dark cherries, drained
3⁄4 cup Bisquick
1⁄2 cup chopped nuts
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄4 cup firm margarine
Mix pie filling and cherries in ungreased square baking dish, 8 by 8 by 2, and spread evenly. Mix baking mix, nuts, sugar and cinnamon. Cut in margarine until crumbly. Sprinkle over cherry mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes.