Foods That Inspire Coziness and Comfort
Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes, Quick Applesauce, Potato, Ham and Corn Chowder, Indian Butter Tofu and Drop Sugar Cookies
Rhythms are important to kids. They’re important to parents, too!
Kids may not be able to express in words how they feel after all the holiday decorations are boxed up and put in the attic. But they may show you with sulky behavior or tantrums.
The rhythm of the holiday season is, for many families, pretty frenetic. And the let down from it can be hard for us all. But embracing a new rhythm for January can be just what the whole family needs.
For us, that rhythm looks like freeing up our calendars, building Legos in front of the fireplace, taking a break from soccer, staying in our pajamas on Saturdays and having more family dinners at the table.
Kids appreciate hygge as much as adults do. They may not say it, but they like when there are extra blankets set out in the living room, when candles are on the table or when you drape twinkly lights on the mantle. They also appreciate foods that help inspire that coziness and comfort.
And forget the idea that comfort food is synonymous with unhealthy food. A bowl of potato soup, stir-fried tofu with veggies and brown rice, roasted salmon with mashed sweet potatoes, chocolate chip cookies. They all count as comfort foods. Whatever provide nutrition as well as sweet memories with your kids are comfort foods.
Here are some favorite winter foods to help bring warmth and comfort to your home this month. For full coziness, eat them by candlelight.
Place the cubed potatoes in the slow cooker in the morning, and you’ll have mashed potatoes by dinnertime.
Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes
Makes 8 to 10 servings
- 10 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 7 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup half and half or whole milk, warmed
- 1 stick butter, cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Put the peeled and cubed potatoes and chicken stock in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours or on high for about 4 hours or until potatoes are tender.
- With the slow cooker on warm, mash the potatoes with the cream and butter. Add salt and pepper and stir. Add additional chicken broth if needed. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
I’ve been making this old Martha Stewart recipe for many years. It is pure comfort to me.
- 12 tart apples
- 1/2 cup water
- Grated rind of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Core, peel and chop apples. Put apples and water in a saucepan, cover and cook over medium heat until apples are soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Mash apples with a heavy spoon. Stir in the lemon rind, honey and cinnamon. Serve warm.
This recipe, from “The Naptime Chef,” can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the ham. She suggests making it during naptime so that it is ready to be reheated and served in the evening. Or, make it on the weekend and reheat. It keeps well for up to three days.
Potato, Ham and Corn Chowder
Makes 4 to 6 servings
- 3 Yukon Gold potatoes
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 (14-ounce) can creamed corn
- 1 cup cubed, cooked ham
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1 cup whole milk
- Pinch ground black pepper
- Peel and cut potatoes into ½-inch cubes. In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the potatoes, carrots, onion and salt. Pour in enough water to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue boiling until the potatoes are soft when pushed with a fork, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and strain liquid from vegetables.
- Pour the vegetables back into the same pan, and add the butter, creamed corn, chopped ham, cream, milk and pepper. Warm the soup over medium-low until it is heated though and serve.
This take on Indian Butter Chicken, from the New York Times, substitutes tofu for the chicken. If you haven’t introduced Indian food to your kids, give this one a try. They will likely love the aromatic flavors of this classic Indian dish, and will have fun scooping it with naan.
Indian Butter Tofu
Makes 4 to 6 servings
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 heaping tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 (14-ounce) packages firm tofu
- 8 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 2 yellow onions, peeled and diced
- 1 teaspoon ground chile powder, such as cayenne
- 3 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream or full-fat coconut milk
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
Naan, basmati rice, yogurt and quartered cucumbers, for serving
- In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice, cumin and 1 heaping tablespoon turmeric with 1 tablespoon water to make a thin paste. Drain and pat the tofu dry then cut it into 1-inch cubes. Add it to the turmeric marinade, gently stirring to coat. Set aside at room temperature while you prepare the remaining ingredients, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
- In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and chile powder, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat, add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and their juices, gently crushing the tomatoes with your hands as you go. Add the cinnamon stick, paprika and sea salt along with the remaining 1 teaspoon turmeric. Cook until the tomatoes and onions break down and the sauce is the consistency of a thick ragù, about 10 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender and purée until smooth. Return to the pot.
- Gently stir in the cream and the tofu and its marinade. Simmer over low heat, uncovered, until the tofu has taken on the color of the sauce and is flavored all the way through, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally but gently, so the tofu doesn’t fall apart. Transfer the tofu and sauce to a deep platter or large shallow serving bowl and sprinkle with scallions and cilantro. Serve with warm naan, rice, yogurt and cucumbers.
If anyone remembers Catherine’s Tea Room, this comes from her little cookbook, “Catherine’s Cookies.” These sugar cookies are a sweet comfort and make good memories when eaten with little children.
Drop Sugar Cookies
Makes 6 dozen
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 3/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Beat butter, sugar and eggs in large bowl at high speed for 3 minutes. Stir in sour cream and vanilla.
- Sift together flour, soda and salt. Blend into butter mixture. Beat well to make a soft dough.
- Drop by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes.
Natalie Mikles is a mom of three. She writes about food, sharing recipes for busy families and picky eaters. She has been recognized for her food columns as well as features on families and issues affecting local children. She loves pizza and movie nights with her family.