In search of cozy cuisine

Cozy.
Isn’t that a great word? In two short syllables, it summarizes what we all seek this time of year.
We want to be warm and cozy. We all want to feel cozy.
And we all want to eat cozy.
When I think of cozy meals, my mind generally turns to two categories of food: hot dishes and soups. Those are the things I tend to make when I want comfort foods.
And, since I haven’t had any luck in coaxing any healthy recipes out of you readers yet in this new year, I thought maybe we’d try a new category — cozy. Please, please, please share your favorite hot dish and soup recipes for publication in this forum. They don’t have to be anything fancy — in fact, most of us prefer the simpler the better, right?
I’ll start things off with this Asian-style casserole, which makes use of the meatloaf mixture from the grocery’s meat case.

Asian Wild Rice Bake

Brown 1½ pounds meatloaf mix; drain fat. Add to 3 cups cooked wild rice.
In same skillet, sauté ½ cup chopped onion and ½ cup chopped red bell pepper until tender, about 5 minutes.
Combine 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce, two cans low-sodium cream of chicken soup, 2 teaspoons grated fresh gingerroot, one 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained, and one 14½-ounce can bean sprouts, drained and rinsed. Combine soup mixture with meat mixture and sautéed vegetables. Pour into a greased 3-quart casserole. (At this point, casserole can be refrigerated overnight, if desired.)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with 6 ounces chow mein noodles. Bake 15 to 20 minutes longer, until heated through.

 At this time of year, I’ll often whip up a pot of soup out of whatever I have on hand. Since I can usually find potatoes, carrots, celery and a can of corn in the larder, this recipe fits the bill.

Cheese and Ham Chowder

In a large saucepan, combine 2 cups water, 2 cups peeled and cubed potato, ½ cup sliced carrots, ½ cup sliced celery, ¼ cup chopped onion, ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or just until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat, but do not drain.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt ¼ cup butter or margarine. Stir in ¼ cup flour and cook for about 1 minute. Add 2 cups milk and cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Add 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheese (cheddar, American or other favorite that melts easily) and heat until cheese is melted, stirring constantly. Pour the cheese mixture into the vegetables and mix well. Add one 16-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained, and 1½ cups cooked ham, diced. Continue to cook on low until heated through, stirring occasionally.

With the addition of salad and bread, both hotdishes and soups can become a hearty winter meal. Newsroom colleague Justine Wettschreck recently shared a biscuit recipe that is supposed to be a copycat of the breads served in a well-known seafood chain. Since the original recipe looked to be for a huge quantity and required the weighing of ingredients, I winged it and came up with this satisfactory facsimile, which made 15 small biscuits.

Cheddar Biscuits

Combine 2 cups low-fat baking mix with scant 1 cup water or skim milk to make a sticky dough, just a bit stiffer than a thick batter. Stir in ¾ cup extra sharp cheddar cheese.
Use a medium-size cookie scoop or tablespoon to drop dough onto a parchment-paper lined baking sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes, watching carefully so biscuits don’t burn on the bottom. (At the end of the baking time, I turned on the broiler for a minute to get a bit more color on the top of the biscuits.)
While biscuits bake, combine 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine, ½ of a garlic clove, finely minced, 1/8 teaspoon onion salt and 1/8 teaspoon dried parsley or basil. Brush tops of biscuits with the butter mixture when they come out of the oven.

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327; email brickers@dglobe.com; or mail to Lagniappe, Box 639, Worthington 56187.

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