Since times are tough and the economy isn't looking so good, the effects of the deteriorating economic situation can be seen everywhere, including in the kitchen! To save money, people are dining in rather than going out, buying their groceries in bulk, and looking for ways to maximize more expensive ingredients such as meat and seafood. In times like these, comfort foods play a dual role - they help stretch the food dollar and they have a tendency to lift spirits. When it comes to making these time-honored and comforting food classics - having the essential kitchenware helps by cooking your dish properly and even cooking your dinner for you while you are at work! Crockpots and casserole dishes allow you to make and store larger quantities of food, helping you save money and time by making food for a few days at a time. Just about any stew, soup, chili or pasta dish can be made as a casserole or in a crockpot. You can start with some simple dishes, and then get more adventurous as you become comfortable. Here are some of our favorites:
Macaroni & Cheese
Jamie and I agreed that regardless of whether we're talking about the orange stuff (for kids, not foodies) or the homemade variety - mac & cheese is a quintessential comfort food. The is nothing to make your mouth water more than a delicious homemade macaroni & cheese with a breadcrumb topping. I have to say that mac and cheese is a dish that my kids agree is best made by my mother! The best thing about mac & cheese is how customizable it is. The ingredients are so basic that they leave plenty of room for individuality and personality. Throw in some bacon, sausage, veggies, and use gourmet cheeses - whatever you want! You can keep it simple and purist, or make it a gourmet delight. Bake it up in a big glass casserole dish and you've got a nice hot meal for the entire family! (Just watch out for the "cheese hogs" in your family who try to take more than their share of the cheesy top!)
These are just three universal examples of comfort foods that Jamie and I had in common. In our family, turkey pot pie made from our holiday turkey is comfort food, as is shepherd's pie with its mashed potato crust, and slow-cooked pot roast. Casseroles and slow cookers are great tools for home cooks who are short both time and money. Start with a few core basic ingredients that your family likes, and don't be afraid to try something new or experiment a bit with a recipe to make your own comfort food favorites. By using a crockpot or casserole to make your favorite comfort food, you can even cook once and eat twice (or more). Some newer crockpots offer features such as a delayed timer, removable crocks and even locking lids that let you take your comfort food to share. For meals that save you both time and money, you just can’t beat that!
What about family's favorite casseroles or comfort foods? Is there a family soup or stew recipe, or a casserole that everyone always asks you to bring to the office potluck? Is there a special casserole dish that holds not only food, but memories for you? Let us know what equals comfort food to you.