Comfort food nourishes body, spirit

The leaves have fallen and there is snow on the mountains across the bay; that means I am happy to retreat to our warm kitchen in my comfy slippers and cook.  I want to make comfort food, family favorites and hearty dishes. We had a bumper crop of potatoes and the Other Fisherman got a moose, so I have ingredients for anything hearty at hand. There are so many things that I would love to prepare now that we are done with our summer frenzy — soups and braised dishes and baked goodies especially, moose roasts with our garden mashed potatoes and gravy are a family favorite, creamy braised coq au vin chicken or a molasses spicy cookie are craved on a cold day.  Warning: This is not the time to lose 10 pounds. I did and they promptly found me once I found my way back into the kitchen.

Thanksgiving time makes me want to bake with apples and cook with pumpkin, make caramels and bake tangy sourdough bread. The Other Fisherman loves pumpkin desserts, so this time of year I get constant requests from him for pumpkin pie especially. For those of you who are not real keen on making a pie crust, here is a yummy creamy dessert for your holiday indulgence.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Dessert

A tasty and easy pumpkin dessert that will serve 12-15. 

1 package (16 oz.) pound cake mix

3 eggs, (divided)

2 tablespoons butter, melted

4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, (divided)

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

1 can (16 oz.) solid pack pumpkin 

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped walnuts

Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven 350 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl, combine pound cake mix, 1 egg, butter and 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice. Beat on low speed until mixture is crumbly. Press into bottom of 13-inch-by-9-inch baking pan. 

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add condensed milk, remaining 2 eggs, pumpkin, remaining pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and salt. Mix until blended. Pour over crust; sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until filling is set. Cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, cut into squares and top with whipped cream, if desired. 

A fun recipe to share during this time of the year; a creamy and yummy vanilla pumpkin dip served with graham crackers and apples. This makes quite a bit, so it is a perfect contribution to bring to your next pot luck.

Pumpkin Fluff Dip

1 (16 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

1 (5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 

In a large bowl, mix together instant vanilla pudding mix, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Fold in the thawed frozen whipped topping. Chill in the refrigerator and serve with cinnamon cracker sticks, sliced apples. 

Soup is something I would eat every day if I could, but it has to be really good soup made with wholesome ingredients and lots of love. It is also fast and easy to prepare. When the temperature drops, I get the soup pot out and get busy making many different types of soup over our long winters.

Green chili is a taste I can’t get enough of. It’s flavorful without being hot and spicy and compliments many ingredients such as pork, corn, eggs, beans and chicken.

Here is a satisfying south of the border flavored soup that freezes well. If you wish, add some cooked and crumbled chorizo sausage or diced cooked chicken. 

Roasted Corn and Green Chili Soup

2 cups frozen whole kernel corn, partly thawed

2 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup diced onion

1 small sweet red pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

2 teaspoons flour

½ package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1 (14.5 oz.) can fire roasted tomatoes

1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chilies, drained

1 (14 .5 oz) can vegetable or
chicken broth

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon black pepper

½ to 1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Frank’s)

½ cup milk or cream

For garnishing soup:

2 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

Crushed tortilla chips, optional 

Shredded Monterey jack cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Toss corn with about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl and then spread corn on pan in a single layer. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, melt butter in saucepan. Add onion and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in red pepper, garlic, celery and carrot; cook about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Stir in cream cheese, blending until well combined. Stir in tomatoes, green chilies, broth, cumin, pepper, salt, hot sauce and roasted corn. Adjust seasonings.

If you are freezing the soup, ladle into freezer containers and freeze. Milk or cream will be added when you defrost and reheat. If you are not freezing soup, stir in milk or cream and heat until hot. 

Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with cilantro, chips and shredded cheese prior to serving.

Thanksgiving will be here before you know it and we will be enjoying one of our home-grown birds. This year’s big tom weighs in at 26 pounds. He should do nicely for turkey day and leftovers as we always enjoy having family and friends around our holiday table.

I wish you all a blessed and memorable Thanksgiving. Take time out to be thankful for all your blessings, and being together. Do something fun like playing a board game and don’t forget to help the chef with dishes.

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