Comfort foods to enjoy in autumn season

What happened in Las Vegas this past week is beyond understanding. Of course, terrorism is a concept that is always hard to understand, and especially when it happens in our own country by our own people. What happens to people who want to destroy others even when it is destroying them, too? That is the question that baffles all of us. All we, as a people, can do is to pray for all concerned and try to live our lives the best we can by doing what is best for our families, friends and neighbors. It reminds us that we are not “promised tomorrow.”

On a lighter note, October is a beautiful month — the favorite of many folks. The weather has been sunny and warm in the daytime with cool evenings for good sleeping. The trees in our area are starting to show their beautiful colors and are inviting folks from other places to come and explore our valley. There is still time for a Saturday mini vacation before the snow flies, so load up the car with your family and a picnic basket and visit the covered bridges and valleys of the MOV area. Don’t let the tourists out-do us when it comes to enjoying our own area. The fairs may be over, but the festivals aren’t, and they are fun, too, so do take one or two in during your drives around the area.

The local school sports teams are having a great year. The students appreciate your coming to the local games and supporting them. The bands are the best one could find anywhere, too. These are good young people that live in our area and we should show them that we do care about them and think they are the “good kids.” The troubled ones are the ones that show up in the news too often and the good kids are often overlooked. Young people have a hard time these days; it isn’t the less complicated life that we old folks knew when we were young.

Here is a history lesson from this old teacher. The Electoral College was established to allow all states to have a say in the election of the highest government leader. If it was to be strictly by the majority vote, places like New York City would be electing the official and places with less population, like states with rural areas, would not have any say in who ran the country. It was to even up all areas so everyone could have some say in who held the highest government office, the President.

With all the troubling news we have heard lately, comfort foods may be appreciated. The recipes today include some of my family’s favorites. Serve them with a couple of hugs for everyone in your family. Keep our protectors, those who have suffered distress lately and all your family in your prayers. Count your blessings and think good thoughts as you are what you think. God Bless.

***

EGG CUSTARD

1 cup milk

1 cup Half-and-Half

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine milk, Half-and-Half, eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla extract with a whisk. Pour into baking dish and sprinkle with the nutmeg. Place a large pan in the heated oven, place baking dish in this pan and pour hot water around the baking dish in the pan up to the level of the custard. Bake in the preheated 350-degrees oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. If ramekins are used, take about 10 to 15 minutes off the time needed.

NOTE: This works just as well with whole milk, but isn’t quite as creamy. Cure for all anxious or unhappy moments.

***

ORANGE TAPIOCA PUDDING

2 1/2 cups milk

1 large egg or 2 small ones

1/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons pie tapioca

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1/2 teaspoon orange zest — optional

Whisk together milk and eggs in a medium saucepan. Stir in sugar and tapioca and let set for a few minutes. Stirring constantly, bring to a full boil. Take off heat and add vanilla, orange extract, and zest (if using). Pour into serving dish or individual dessert dishes. Serve warm or cover with plastic wrap and cool completely.

***

FISH EYE PUDDING

(Pearl

Tapioca Pudding)

1/2 cup pearl tapioca

2 quarts milk

1 1/2 cups sugar — divided

3 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

Soak tapioca in water to cover overnight. The next day, mix 2 quarts milk and § cup sugar together and bring to a boil. Add the tapioca. Cook gently, stirring very often — or use a double boiler (less stirring) — until the balls are clear, at least 30 minutes. (They will still have a small white spot in the center.) Combine the 3 beaten eggs, § cup sugar, and vanilla. Add to the above mixture (add a little of the hot mixture to the eggs, then add all back into the hot mixture — keeps the eggs from curdling). Bring to a full boil. Remove from heat and pour into serving bowl or individual dessert dishes and cool. (Do not yell at your kids if they spit the balls at each other. I remember it as being great fun — when the adults weren’t around.)

***

COUNTRY POTATO SOUP

6 large potatoes, peeled and diced

1 carrot, shredded

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 lb. sausage

1 stalk celery, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Water and milk

1/4 to 1/2 stick butter

Brown sausage. Put into soup pot with vegetables and seasonings — everything except butter and milk. Cover with water. Cook slowly until potatoes are done. Add butter and allow to melt. Mash with potato masher until half of vegetables are coarsely mashed. Add milk to the consistency you want. Heat, but do not allow to boil after milk has been added.

HINT: For a more creamy texture, use Half-and-Half instead of regular milk if calories don’t matter.

***

LAZY DAY CHILI

2 tablespoons bacon drippings or olive oil

1 lb. ground chuck

1 large onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced — or ™ teaspoon ground garlic

1 bell pepper, chopped — optional

2 cans (15 oz.) dark red kidney beans, including juice

1 quart tomatoes, mashed

3/4 to 1 tablespoon chili powder

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red (hot) pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (brown is best)

1/2 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Chop onion and brown slightly in bacon drippings or olive oil. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Move to a soup pot. Add other ingredients, except kidney beans, cover and simmer at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add a little tomato juice or water if mixture starts to get too thick. Add kidney beans and heat. NOTE: There are hundreds of ways to make chili and I seldom follow the same recipe twice. Keep tasting and adding whatever seasonings you like to get the taste you like. The above is only a basic guide but can be ordered over the Internet. It goes with everything. If you like it hotter, add more hot pepper. I like to use Everglades Seasoning (when I have it) and/or a little dry mustard. Just open the spice cupboard door and have fun. Everglades Seasoning is a Florida product, originally called Monkey Dust) and hard to find here,

***

Patty Christopher is a longtime food columnist for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

COMMENTS