In autumn, many people look forward to “comfort foods” for dinner or dessert. The cooler months tend to change our tastes to heavier foods than the summer recipes. Here are a few of my favorite comfort food dishes.


In autumn, many people look forward to “comfort foods” for dinner or dessert. The cooler months tend to change our tastes to heavier foods than the summer recipes. Here are a few of my favorite comfort food dishes.



Low fat ingredients may be substituted for the recipes, if desired. The flavor will remain the same but the texture will not be as creamy.



Enjoy!



 



Spinach, Mozzarella and Italian Sausage Pizza



1   pound fresh pizza dough



2/3  cup pizza sauce or plain spaghetti sauce



2   sweet Italian sausage links, slightly frozen, then cut into coins



2   cups fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped



1   small sweet onion, cut into ¼ inch thin slices crosswise



¾   cup mozzarella cheese, shredded



¼   cup feta cheese, crumbled



½  teaspoon dried basil



 



Preheat oven to 450 degrees.



Shape pizza dough to fit an ungreased rimmed cookie sheet, making sure to come up the rimmed edge to form a crust. Spread tomato sauce evenly over curst.



Freeze sausage links for about 30 minutes, then slice into ¼ inch coins. Sauté sausage pieces in a skillet until lightly browned.



Sprinkle chopped spinach over tomato sauce on pizza dough, top with onion rings, then sprinkle evenly the feta cheese and the shredded mozzarella over the top of the spinach, and sprinkle with sweet basil. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 8-12 minutes until cooked through and crust is lightly browned. Let sit for about 8 minutes, then slice into squares.



 



Baked Cheese and Macaroni



Serves 10 to 12. Recipe may be cut in half



1   pound elbow macaroni or penne pasta



4   tablespoons butter



4   tablespoons all-purpose flour



2   cups milk



1   teaspoon onion powder



Pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper



1   8-ounce package Swiss cheese, shredded



1   8-ounce package cheddar cheese, shredded



4   ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded



¼   cup grated Parmesan cheese



Preheat oven to 350 degrees/



Non-stick vegetable spray a 13 x 15 inch baking dish.



Cook macaroni or penne according to package directions. Drain. Set aside.



Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in milk, onion powder, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower heat and simmer, whisking for another 3-4 minutes until it thickens. Remove from heat.



In a bowl toss cheeses together. Whisk 2 ½ cups of cheese into milk mixture in large saucepan until smooth. Stir sauce into macaroni or penne. Spoon half of the mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with half the remaining cheese mixture. Repeat layering, ending with cheese mixture topping macaroni.



Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-24 minutes until cheese is melted and top is a light golden brown. Increase heat to broil and broil 3 to 4 minutes until bubbly and browned. Remove from oven and let sit for about 8-10 minutes then serve.



Helpful Hint: For an added treat some chopped cooked ham may be added to the layering of the cheese mixture.



 



Chicken and Noodles with Broccoli



This serves 8. The recipe may be cut in half.



6   ounces noodles, uncooked



2   cups fresh broccoli florets



8   ounce package cheddar cheese, shredded



1   tablespoon canola oil



1   pound skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch cubes, breasts may also be used



1   teaspoon garlic powder



2   cups chicken broth



In a large 5-quart saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Sprinkle chicken cubes with garlic powder, sauté in oil until no longer raw, about 4-5 minutes, turning occasionally.



Stir in broth and heat to boiling. Add uncooked noodles, stirring to coat noodles with liquid. Heat to boiling, lower heat, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes until noodles are tender, stirring occasionally. In the last 5 minutes stir in broccoli florets, continue to cook. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted. Serve hot.



 



Onion Pie



This recipe may also be made without the cracker crust, just butter the baking dish beforehand.



1 ½  cups Ritz crackers, crumbled



5   tablespoons butter



2   large sweet onions, thinly sliced into rings then cut crosswise in half, about 3 - cups



2   cloves garlic, minced then smashed



2   large eggs



¾   cup milk



Pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper



¾   cup cheddar cheese, shredded



½  cup Pepper Jack cheese, shredded



1   tablespoon parsley flakes



4   slices Swiss cheese cut into fourths



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.



In a bowl stir together crumbled Ritz crackers and 2 - tablespoons melted butter until well blended. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie dish to form a shell. Refrigerate until needed.



Melt remaining 3-tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic slowly until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Let it sit aside for about 10-15 minutes to cool, then evenly spread over cracker crust.



In a bowl whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour mixture over onions. Sprinkle cheeses over mixture. Top with Swiss cheese quarters.



Bake in a 350 degree oven 30 – 35 minutes until puffy and fully set, or until a knife comes out clean when inserted in the center. Serve hot or at room temperature.



 



Zucchini Cheese and Onion Pie



¼   cup butter



4   cups thinly sliced zucchini, about 2 medium zucchini



Pinch salt and fresh ground black pepper



1   large sweet onion thinly sliced, then cut in half crosswise



2   cloves garlic, minced then smashed



½  teaspoon



2   large eggs, well beaten



1   8-ounce package mozzarella cheese, shredded



1   teaspoon ground dried sweet basil



1   tablespoon parsley flakes



1   8-ounce refrigerated tube crescent rolls



4   ounces cheddar cheese, shredded



¼   cup Parmesan cheese, grated



6   slices smoked bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled



Preheat oven to 375 degrees.



In a skillet heat butter over medium heat. Stir in onion slices and garlic, sauté for 3-minutes then add zucchini slices and sauté another 6-7 minutes until tender. Add basil, parsley flakes, salt, and pepper, mix well. Set aside for 10-15 minutes to cool down.



In a large bowl whisk together eggs and mozzarella cheese. Stir cooled zucchini mixture into egg mixture.



Separate crescent rolls into 2-rectangles and place in a buttered 9 x 13 inch baking dish; press dough into bottom and slightly up sides of dish to form a crust. Pour egg mixture into crust. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese over top, then sprinkle Parmesan cheese over this.



Bake in a 375 degree oven until set in the middle and slightly browned about 18-20 minutes. Sprinkle with crispy, crumbled bacon. Cool for about 20 minutes before slicing. May be eaten warm or cold.



 



Pumpkin-Raisin Bread Pudding with Bourbon



Serves 6. May be made the day before. Bourbon is optional, but it gives it a nice flavor.



10  slices cinnamon raisin bread, try whole wheat, cut slices into 4-triangles for each slice



1 ½  cups milk or half –and- half



6   large eggs, room temperature and beaten



½  cup light brown sugar



¼   cup bourbon



2   teaspoons vanilla extract



3   tablespoons granulated sugar



¼   cup pure, mashed pumpkin puree



½  teaspoon ground cinnamon



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.



In a buttered 13 x 9 inch pan layer the raisin bread triangles in rows, overlapping edges.



In a bowl whisk together milk, eggs, half -and -half, pumpkin, cinnamon, brown sugar, bourbon, and vanilla extract until well blended. Pour this mixture over rows of bread slices. Let stand for about 20-25 minutes, pushing down triangle slices occasionally to absorb the custard mixture.



Place baking dish into a larger pan and fill with boiling water from a kettle until it reaches halfway up sides of custard dish. Bake until custard over bread is just set, about 45 minutes. Remove pans from oven and remove dish with custard from the larger pan, set aside and sprinkle top with granulated sugar; broil for about 2 minutes until golden. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped topping.



Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival, winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012, and placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing; and has won various other contest awards for her blueberry cheesecake, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.