Recipe Roundup :: Comfort Foods

Before long, it'll be rainy day, gray skies and cooler weather. There's just something about curling up on the couch with a good book and a bowl mac and cheese. Comfort foods are called so for a reason, but I'm always on the hunt for an interesting twist. Here's a few of my recent finds.

I recently learned about a new trend "waffling," essentially putting unexpected foods into a waffle iron to see what happens. I'll admit I was skeptical at first, but then the idea actually intrigued me. However while waffles are a brunch staple, I'll order in a restaurant, a waffle iron is one of the few gadgets missing from my kitchen. I've never really been able to justify it, knowing it would probably gather more dust than oil. But this recipe from FWx has me wanting to run to the store right now. It throws some of my favorite flavors into the same dish, ones I might never have put together. Cheddar and beer are perfect compliments, I don't know why I never considered using them together in a biscuit batter or waffles as FWx did. And the honey and sriracha, perhaps unexpected, sound like a great spicy-sweet glaze for fried chicken.

My breakfast staple. I could eat eggs over easy day in day out, even with all the talk that eggs can lead to bad cholesterol. I loved this roundup from Food 52 because it speaks to one of my favorite aspects of cooking. No two cooks are the same, give them the same recipe and every person will put their own spin. Even with a simple fried egg, there are endless ways to make it. My preferred technique is similar to Emily Vikre's -- a frying pan on medium-high heat and a pad of butter, and I remove the pan from the heat when I flip my egg. It's been fun trying these other methodologies to see how the end result differs.

Mac and cheese, I've been known to make lists of restaurants to try based on hearing they have a great macaroni and cheese, I've got one entire cookbook devoted entirely to the dish, and I will constantly experiment with different cheeses and mix-ins. I made these macaroni and cheese muffins for a going-away potluck a while back, and they're much easier to eat while mingling carrying around a bowl and spoon. What's great about this recipe is the addition of the Dijon mustard and butternut squash puree.

I immediately cut out the recipe card for this from the back of this past month's Real Simple magazine. Of course, it's got bourbon, apple and vanilla, an absolutely delightful combination of flavors. But what really intrigued me was the use of grits in the cake batter. This is definitely on my "Must Bake" list, and I can't wait to share with you how it turns out. 

Bourbon has been my spirit of choice now for a while. While I usually drink it neat or with one or two ice cubes, I do enjoy finding creative cocktails that utilize it. The bourbon brulé from NY Times Cooking combines some flavors I wouldn't have imagined trying together all at once -- bourbon, orange, ginger and sherry. If it tastes as good as it looks in the picture, it'll make a worthy drink for holiday celebrations.

I love sweet potato fries. What I really need to find is a place that serves endless baskets. But let's be serious, they're really not that difficult to make at home, I've just never tried. I found this great recipe on NY Times Cooking, just six ingredients and barely any time at all. What took me so long?

Cranberry Chicken Caesar

This salad is a great use for leftover grilled chicken. Even if you don't have leftovers lying around, it's still a quick recipe taking about 10 minutes to prepare. And, for a salad with only five ingredients, it's got an amazing range of flavor with peppery arugula, the sweetness of the cranberry and the slight saltiness of the cheese. 

Ingredients
2 boneless chicken breasts
3 cups arugula
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup feta cheese
4-5 tbsp caesar vinaigrette or salad dressing (I used a store-bought one, so I could prepare the salad quickly)

Steps
1. If not using leftovers, dice and season chicken breasts with pepper. In a skillet, grill chicken in 1 tbsp olive oil until no longer pink. Set aside to cool.
2. Wash arugula, drain and pat dry. 
3. Combine arugula, cranberries, feta and chicken. Toss well. 
4. Add salad dressing and toss again until salad is lightly coated.

Serves 2

Southwest Chicken Soup

Ingredients

1 chicken breast
16 oz. chicken broth
1 cup water
1 can black beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup green salsa
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp cilantro
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground pepper
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp olive oil

Steps
1. In a saute pan, cook chicken in olive oil until lightly browned and no longer pink. Let cool, then cut into small chunks and set aside.
2. In a large stock pot, combine all ingredients except chicken and sour cream. Bring soup to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes.
3. Add chicken and sour cream and simmer for additional 3-5 minutes.

Serves 4-6