Cozy up to January with Comfort Food!

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Christmas has come and gone and a New Year is upon us! Most of us spend the first weeks of January trying to keep our New Year’s resolutions—and if you’re like me, most of those resolutions are related to food. Instead of focusing on our resolutions this year, I propose that we focus on our relationships instead and cozy up to January with some good old-fashioned comfort food! This New Year is a chance to grow closer to the Lord, our families, friends and coworkers. Food really does bring us closer together; it puts love on a plate. Sharing a meal gives us the opportunity to talk, tell stories and laugh. The last thing Jesus did with His disciples was sit around a table and share a meal together at The Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30). When we sit down to eat together, we’re not only getting to enjoy fellowship with our family. When we pray over a meal, we invite Jesus to be a part of that fellowship as well. Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

When I think of January, it’s still chilly outside and all you want to do is come home and have a meal that makes you feel warm and toasty. These recipes scream comfort! They are easy to make, they are more than delicious, and this a great way to dive into 2016!

Warm Spinach Salad

I know what you’re thinking. How is salad comfort food? Well, this is not an ordinary, run of the mill salad. It’s the ultimate comfort salad. It’s filled with bacon, Craisins and a warm dressing drizzled over the top. Needless to say, it’s amazing! Ingredients:

Two 8-ounce bags of spinach One pound bacon slices, cooked and crushed into small bits 10 ounces sliced mushrooms Eight ounces mung bean sprouts Eight ounces Craisins Six eggs, hard-boiled and sliced Dressing Ingredients:

One cup vegetable oil ½ cup ketchup ¼ cup apple cider vinegar Three tablespoons sugar 2 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon pepper 1/8 teaspoon paprika

In a small, microwavable bowl, whisk all of the dressing ingredients together until combined and set aside. In a very large bowl, pour in one bag of spinach, bacon bits, mushrooms, mung bean sprouts, Craisins, and egg slices. Heat the dressing in the microwave until warm, not hot, about 15 seconds or more, depending on your microwave. Pour half of the dressing on top, and toss with salad tongs or spoons to combine. Pour in the other bag of spinach and toss to combine. I like to put the spinach in one bag at a time because it’s easier to mix. From there, you can add more dressing to taste.

Tips:

I always cook my bacon in the oven. It’s so much easier than on the stove or the microwave. Just put a cooling rack on top of a sheet pan and the bacon slices on top of the cooling rack. Put it in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Smokey Havarti Mac and Cheese

My sister loves mac and cheese. She craved it throughout her entire pregnancy. So, the week she, her husband and her new baby girl came home from the hospital, I made this recipe for them. She was so happy. It is creamy, gooey, melt-in-your-mouth good and has the perfect crunch on top.

Ingredients: 1 lb. elbow macaroni 1 quart whole milk 8 tablespoons butter ½ cup flour 8 ounces extra sharp white cheddar cheese, grated 8 ounces Havarti Cheese, grated 4 ounces Hickory Smoked Gruyere Cheese, grated 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon black pepper ½ teaspoon nutmeg 30 Ritz crackers Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large pot, bring four quarts of water, seasoned with a sprinkle of salt and about a tablespoon of olive oil, to a boil. Pour in the macaroni and cook it 8 to 10 minutes, or according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside (see tip).

Heat the milk in a small saucepan until hot, but not boiling. In a larger saucepan, melt six tablespoons of butter. Stir in the flour until smooth. Pour the hot milk into the flour/butter mixture and stir until it’s combined and starts to thicken. Off the heat, pour in the cheeses, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir until smooth. Mix in the elbow macaroni and pour into a greased 9 x13 dish.

In a separate small bowl, melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter and crush in the Ritz crackers. Stir to combine. Sprinkle the crushed crackers on top of the macaroni, bake for 15 minutes then cover with foil and bake another 15 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Tips:

When draining the macaroni after it cooks, make sure not to pour out all of the water. Leave just a little bit to keep the macaroni from sticking together. When you’re ready to use it, just drain the remaining water out.

Mom’s Bread Pudding

This is my mom’s recipe! She makes such a delicious bread pudding, and people go crazy over it! Ingredients:

3 tablespoons butter, unsalted 2 loaves French bread, cubed into 1” squares (should equal 8 to 9 cups) 1 quart milk 3 eggs, beaten 2 cups sugar 2 tablespoons vanilla extract 1 teaspoon cinnamon ¼ teaspoon Allspice

Sauce:

8 tablespoons butter 1 cup sugar 1 cup whipping cream, not heavy 1 egg yolk 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 tablespoon flour Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9 x 13 dish with the unsalted butter, and set aside. Cube the French bread, and put them into the prepared dish. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and Allspice until fully combined. Pour the milk mixture over the bread cubes, making sure to hit each piece of bread. Bake for 45 minutes, making sure to check it periodically so that the top doesn’t get too brown. If it does, put a piece of foil loosely on top.

While the bread pudding is baking, make the sauce. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Once that is melted, stir in the sugar, until dissolved. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and vanilla extract into the one cup of whipping cream and pour it into the saucepan, whisking rapidly so that the egg doesn’t cook. Finally, put in the flour and mix until the sauce starts to thicken.

Once the bread pudding comes out, pour the sauce evenly over the top and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.