Take comfort

I am enjoying the recent chill in the air because it makes me think of good old-fashioned comfort foods. These warming dishes are among the ones I like to cook and eat. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, hearty soups and stews are easy to prepare. The ingredients are easy to find and won’t budge the budget too much.

There are many culinary schools of thought when making meatloaf. Some good home cooks use ground beef. Others toss together a blend of ground beef, veal and pork. For those watching their waistlines, ground turkey is a fine substitute. I prefer to use a mixture of ground beef, veal and pork when making meatloaf. I sometimes find this blend at Pathmark. The mix is 1 pound of ground beef and 1/2 pound each of ground veal and ground pork. I add a 10-ounce box of frozen chopped spinach and Parmesan cheese to the mix because it keeps the meatloaf moist.

I confess I have tried instant mashed potatoes on several occasions. I bought a box at Trader Joe’s at 22nd and Market, Philadelphia’s newest grocery store. They weren’t too bad, but I still prefer to make mashed potatoes from scratch. I especially like garlic mashed potatoes with meatloaf.

Crock-Pots are making a big comeback and I am thinking about buying one. I came across an easy recipe for beef stew by Barbara Kafka, which can be made either in the oven or in a Crock-Pot. This stew is dinner in a pot; all you need to serve is a green salad and a good loaf of bread.

Sugar snap peas are turning up with more regularity in the supermarket. I like to saut� them with a few tablespoons of olive oil and several good-sized cloves of garlic. If I have a shallot or two on hand, I slice them and saut� them in a little olive oil before adding the sugar snap peas and garlic. Sugar snap peas are a good side dish when dinner also includes meat and potatoes.

Chocolate pudding is one of my favorite desserts from childhood. I like to make chocolate pudding pie for dessert because it’s easy and delicious. I always have frozen pie shells in my freezer. All you have to do is cook the chocolate pudding according to the directions on the package and fill the pie shell. Place in the refrigerator to set and chill. Add whipped cream to individual servings.

Here are recipes for meat and potatoes, comfort foods that are sure to please the entire family.



2 pounds ground beef or a mix of ground beef, veal and pork
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 tablespoons dehydrated onion flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
Dash of Tabasco
3/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chili sauce
Sprinkling of Parmesan cheese for topping the meatloaf
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the meatloaf mix in a large bowl. Add the defrosted spinach and onion flakes and mix well. Add the salt, pepper, beaten eggs and Tabasco and mix well. Add the breadcrumbs and cheese and mix to combine thoroughly.

Shape the meat mixture into a loaf in a shallow baking pan or use a glass or metal loaf pan. Mix together the mustard and chili sauce and spread evenly over the top of the meatloaf.

Bake for one hour. Sprinkle the top of the meatloaf with Parmesan cheese and bake for about 15 minutes. Serve with tomato sauce.

Serves six.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes


3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed (about five potatoes, depending on their size)
1 large head garlic
1/2 cup light cream or half and half
1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-high and cook for about 20 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, smash the head of garlic with the bottom of a heavy pot. Peel off the paper covering and separate the garlic into cloves. Put them in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the garlic is very soft, about 15 minutes. Drain and cool completely.

Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Set aside.

Make sure each garlic clove is peeled. Place them along with the cream or half and half in the food processor and process well.

Add the pureed garlic, softened butter and salt and pepper to the potatoes. Using an electric hand-held mixer, beat the potatoes until creamy and smooth. Taste and correct for salt, pepper or butter.

Serves six.

All-Day Beef Stew
From Food for Friends by Barbara Kafka


2 medium tomatoes
2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup finely sliced carrots
1 cup finely sliced peeled potatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup finely sliced fresh mushrooms
1-1/2 cups dry red wine
1 cup beef stock
2 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram


Heat the oven at its lowest setting, usually to warm — below 200 degrees.

Put all the ingredients in a 3-quart casserole. Stir to mix. Cover the casserole. Place in the oven and allow to cook for at least eight hours. The meat should be fork-tender.

Serves four to six.

Note from Phyllis: To make the beef stew in a Crock-Pot, follow the manufacturer’s directions for cooking time.