March has finally arrived, but we're still a couple weeks away from winter turning into spring.
So, to combat these continuing cool temperatures, we are sharing readers' recipes for their favorite comfort foods.
These dishes are honest-to-goodness home cooking. And while it might not be common to find homemade meals in many households these days, when you do have time to cook something warm and comforting, it will make a lasting impression.
Here are the recipes and stories we received from our readers:
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It doesn't come in a can
Shortly after Nancy Garriott of Richmond and her husband (the late Louis Garriott Jr.) were married in 1953, her mother-in-law asked Nancy Garriott if she knew how to make homemade tomato soup.
"I grew up with a career-woman mother who didn't cook anything 'homemade.' If it didn't come in a can, we didn't have it," Garriott said. "Mystified I replied, 'No, I don't.'"
As it turns out, her mother-in-law asked about the soup because Louis Garriott Jr. had mentioned that he wanted to marry a woman who knew how to make homemade tomato soup.
"My husband loved tomato soup, preferring to accompany it with day-old biscuits, but would settle for day-old bread heels. That was what he wanted if he had a cold or flu."
Here is the Garriott family recipe.
Homemade tomato soup
1 quart milk (whole, 2 percent, skim or lactose free)
1 stick margarine or butter
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 can (28 ounces) peeled tomatoes, chopped
1⁄3 teaspoon baking soda
In a saucepan, heat milk, margarine, salt and pepper until hot, but not boiling, just below scalding. In a separate pan, cook tomatoes until no longer lumpy. Add baking soda to tomatoes and stir until baking soda cooks down.
Gradually add tomatoes to milk mixture one ladle at a time, stirring after each addition. If it starts to curdle, beat with a rotary beater.
Mildred Maupin of Richmond said upside down cake, buttermilk fried chicken and crackling bread "were staples on our table" growing up in North Carolina.
Cornflake pudding also was a favorite. And when neighbors gathered for hog killings, they left the event with a supply of cracklings — pieces of pork fat and skin deep fried so they turn crispy and golden — to enjoy later, Maupin said in a handwritten letter.
"Hand-churned butter added so much to the making of the cakes and of course, the buttermilk was used with the chicken, biscuits, corn bread, as well as a favorite beverage," Maupin said. "One of my five sisters still churns her own buttermilk and makes beautiful molds of butter which she shares with me when we visit each other."
Maupin's meatloaf recipe came from the side of a box of oatmeal.
"Mom used what we had on the farm — eggs, onions, canned tomatoes, however no Worcestershire sauce. Over the last 50 years the following recipe has become my family's favorite."
Mildred Maupin's meatloaf
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground sirloin or round
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 cup oatmeal
1½ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon chipotle pepper
½ cup finely diced fresh cilantro
½ cup sharp Cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well. Pour into a foil-lined 10- by 14-inch Pyrex dish or metal pan. Bake about 45 minutes. If in season, a fresh salsa of tomatoes, peppers, onion and chipotle makes a great garnish.
Linda Rogers of Lexington shares this recipe for one of her favorite comfort foods — Swedish pineapple cake.
"Years ago my mom and her sister (Aunt Mildred) would come down for the weekend. We usually would go camping or to a bluegrass festival. She would always bring this along. Everyone would request this at their senior citizens' get-togethers, or even friends at our campsite would ask for her 'special cake.' They have both passed on now, and when I fix it, fond memories follow," Rogers said.
Swedish pineapple cake
1½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 small can crushed pineapple, juice included
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup black walnuts
½ stick margarine
Small container of softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups confectioners sugar
To make cake: In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar, salt, vanilla and pineapple, and combine. Add flour and soda. Mix, then stir in walnuts. Pour into a greased and floured oblong pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
To make icing: In a medium bowl, mix together margarine, cream cheese, and vanilla. Blend in confectioners sugar. Spread on cake.
Wendy Alger of South Barre, Vt.. said she has her grandmother's old books, which include many handwritten notes.
"There are lots of hints such as how to choose a goose by squeezing the neck to see if it is soft or brittle. Or how to save the blood to make gravy. I don't think I would be doing either of those, but I thought I would send you my baked beans recipe."
Wendy Alger's baked beans
1 pound dry soldier beans (see note)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 pound bacon (may be deleted for vegetarian beans)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup dark maple syrup (grade B)
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Soak beans in water overnight. Parboil beans on stovetop until skins crack when blown on. (If you add a teaspoon of baking soda during this step, you won't have "bean trouble" later.)
Drain beans. Put beans in a Crock-Pot or black cast-iron Lodge style pot. Add 1 pint boiling water. Add remaining ingredients.
If using a Crock-Pot, turn on high until hot, then reduce to low for about 8 hours, covered.
If cooking in a cast iron pot, place on top of a wood stove, covered. Adjust heat with different locations or using a trivet, adjust as needed; stir occasionally. "And enjoy not using electricity," Alger said.
Note: This medium-size white kidney bean gets its name from the red-brown figure of a soldier on its eye.
Judy Baumann of Lexington said chicken with rice "was a Shabbat (Friday night) favorite when I was growing up, and it remains so today, not only for me, but at the homes of my three adult children."
The recipe is easy to make, filling and flavorful with a cut-up chicken, a couple onions and rice, she said, adding this recipe is about the only time she still uses white rice, although brown rice probably could be substituted because the rice simmers for a while.
"I've altered the seasonings a bit over the years, but the recipe lends itself to adding whatever herbs and spices your family enjoys," Baumann said. Serve with matzo ball soup and a green salad.
Chicken with rice
1 to 2 onions, chopped
1 chicken fryer, cut in 8 pieces and skin removed
Ground pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Za'atar (Middle Eastern herb blend), optional
1 to 11/2 cups long grain white rice
In a Dutch oven or large pot, place chopped onions and then chicken pieces. Add 1 cup water, season with pepper and paprika to taste, cover pot and cook over medium heat for 45 to 60 minutes, until chicken is almost thoroughly cooked. Add water to pot until the chicken is almost entirely covered; bring water to a boil.
Add garlic, salt, za'atar (if desired) and rice. Stir rice so it's mixed in among the chicken pieces and chopped onions, and is covered by the water. Cover pot and simmer for about 30 minutes, until rice is thoroughly cooked. Most of the water will be absorbed, al though the mixture will contain some liquid. The chicken should be very tender, possibly falling off the bone.
Connie Saunders of Hillsboro said banana pudding is a favorite comfort food for her family.
She started making this recipe when she was a young farm wife.
"I often made it when I cooked 'dinner,' as we used to call the noon meal, for the many men who were helping my husband harvest our tobacco crop," she said. "These meals were not considered complete without a dessert, and this is one that I often made."
She has made the recipe for family reunions and "considered it high praise when one of my husband's aunts complimented me by saying, 'I have heard that you are a good cook, and it is true.'"
Connie's comforting banana pudding
3 eggs, separated (see note)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour or cornstarch
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 to 4 ripe bananas, sliced
In a small bowl, beat egg yolks and set aside. In a saucepan, add sugar, salt, flour, butter and milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cook until this mixture begins to thicken. Remove about ½ cup of liquid, add the egg yolks to it and stir together before adding this mixture back into the pudding. Continue to stir pudding until thickened to your satisfaction. Remove from heat; add vanilla and mix well.
In a serving bowl, layer the vanilla wafers, bananas and pudding; repeat the layers again.
Note: Egg whites may be saved and used for another recipe.