Food for the soul

It’s called comfort food for a reason. Food has the power to evoke memories that take us back in time, or ignite appetites that have us hungry with anticipation.

Comfort food nourishes and soothes, serving as a physical, emotional and spiritual balm. What it is can be as personal and unique as your finger print.

I have three go-to comfort foods, each filling a separate niche.

Banana-spice muffins have been a staple in our house for more than two decades, shared like a warm hug on a cold winter morning, or when friends are feeling low.

Chicken-and-lime soup is a given when anyone in our family comes down with a cold. A blend of protein with vitamin-rich vegetables and herbs and energy-packed carbs is the perfect pick-me-up when you’re sick.

And in the depths of Canadian winter, when it feels like I’m frozen through to my soul, there’s nothing more satisfying that a pan of lasagna, with homemade noodles, spicy sausage, rich red sauce and cheese.

Spicy banana muffins

muffins

(Adapted from an ancient Kinettes cookbook my mom received as a gift when we moved away from Owen Sound in 1980.)

Sift together:

  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. fresh-grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. cloves

Mix together:

  • 2/3 cup butter milk (or – put 2 tbsp. vinegar in a measuring cup, then fill to 2/3 cup with milk)
  • 2/3 cup softened butter
  • 3 medium bananas, well mashed

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix at medium speed for two minutes.

Add:

  • 2 eggs

Mix for one minute longer.

Add:

  • Chocolate chips, chopped pecans, or toffee bits, as desired

Scoop batter into muffin tins. Top with a light sprinkled of sugar. Bake at 350F for 20 to 30 minutes until dark brown.

 

Chicken-lime soup

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. crush garlic
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 4 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • ½ cup fresh herbs, chopped (any combination of basil, rosemary, parsley, tarragon)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • Zest and juice of 1 small lime
  • 1 cup egg noodles

Directions:

In a large soup pot, heat two tbsp. olive oil. Add crushed garlic and cube chicken thighs. As chicken browns, add shallot, carrots, celery, pepper, herbs. Stir constantly. Add chicken broth and lime. Bring to a boil. Add noodles and simmer until tender. If more spice is desired, stir in 1 tbsp. of your favourite hot sauce.

Hearty beef and pork lasagna

Ingredients:

  • Fresh lasagna noodles, enough for four layers (Don’t have a Phillips Pasta Maker yet? Get one – it will change your life!)
  • 6 cups meaty red sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 container ricotta cheese (454 g)
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella

Directions:

Cover bottom of pan with a thin layer of sauce. (An enameled cast-iron Dutch oven works great, but a 9×13 will do fine)

Starting from the bottom up, layer in this order:

  • Sauce
  • Noodles – Sauce – Ricotta
  • Noodles – Sauce – Mozzarella
  • Noodles – Sauce – Ricotta
  • Noodles – Sauce – Mozzarella

Cover and bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Remove cover and bake 15 minutes longer.

Meaty red sauce

  • Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large sauce pan
  • Add 2 tbsp. garlic
  • Brown 1 lb. ground beef and 1 lb. spicy Italian sausage meat

Add:

  • 1 carrot (grated)
  • 2 celery stalks (grated)
  • 1 onion (grated or minced)
  • Fresh oregano, basil and parsley

Cook 10 minutes until softened.

Add:

  • Two cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • ½ cup red wine
  • Tomato paste as needed to thicken

Simmer for 30 minutes

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