Cold weather comfort foods

Freezing days call for warm comfort and these dishes from Foodland Ontario represent the tastiest, most soothing foods for frigid days. None are difficult to prepare and any leftovers can be carried in a lunch the next day ready to re-heat and put a smile on your face.

Country Chicken Casserole
The ultimate comfort food, this creamy dish is an ideal way to use up leftover chicken or turkey stashed in your freezer.
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, carefully cleaned and sliced
1 cup (250 mL) each, parsnips and carrots, sliced
1 cup (250 mL) mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1 1/4 tsp (6 mL) dried thyme
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each, salt and fresh black pepper
1 1/2  tbsp (22  mL) cornstarch
1 cup (250 mL) 1% milk
1 cup (250 mL) sodium reduced chicken stock
2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard
2 cups (500 mL) cooked, shredded chicken or turkey
1/2 cup (125 mL) frozen peas
2 cups (500 mL) torn whole wheat bread pieces or freshly made breadcrumbs
1 tbsp (15 mL)    olive oil
Preheat oven to 425˚F (220˚C). Spray 8 cup (2 L) baking dish with baking spray set aside. In large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Cook garlic, leek, carrots, parsnips and mushroom with half the thyme covered for about six minutes or until vegetables are tender crisp. TIP: To keep vegetables moist and free from burning, add a little water if necessary. Meanwhile, whisk a little milk into cornstarch to make a smooth paste then whisk in remaining milk, chicken broth and mustard. Cook, stirring for five minutes or until bubbling and thickened. Remove from heat. Place peas in sieve; pour very hot water over frozen peas to partially defrost. Combine peas and chicken or turkey with sauce and spoon mixture into prepared casserole. In mixing bowl, stir together bread pieces or crumbs with oil and remaining thyme. Sprinkle bread evenly over casserole. Bake 12-15 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and topping is browned. Serve immediately with a salad. Makes four servings.

Pork and Vegetable Stir-Fry
Ready in minutes, this colourful dish may be served over noodles or rice. You could also vary the vegetables depending on those in your refrigerator.
1/3 cup (75 ml) sodium-reduced chicken broth
3 tbsp (45 mL) oyster sauce
2 tbsp (25 ml) soya sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp (7 ml) Asian chili garlic sauce
4 tsp (20 ml) vegetable oil
12 oz (375 mL) pork tenderloin, cut into thin strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tsp (10 mL) finely minced fresh gingerroot
3 carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 cups (10 mL) thinly sliced cabbage
2 cups (10 mL) quartered mushrooms
2 cups (10 mL)    beansprouts
2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Start rice or noodles cooking while preparing the main dish. In mixing bowl, stir together broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, cornstarch and chili garlic sauce. Set aside. In large deep nonstick skillet, heat half of the oil over medium-high heat. Stir-fry pork for two minutes or until browned but still pink inside. Transfer to plate. Add remaining oil to pan; stir fry garlic, onion, and ginger for one minute. Add carrots, cabbage, mushrooms and 2 tbsp (25 mL) water; cover and cook for three minutes or until tender-crisp, stirring halfway through. Return pork and accumulated juices and bean sprouts to skillet. Stir sauce mixture and add to skillet; stir-fry until boiling and slightly thickened, about two minutes. Sprinkle with green onions. Serve over noodles or rice immediately. Serves four.

Fluffy Potato Pancakes
Enjoy these hearty pancakes served with applesauce for breakfast or as an accompaniment to ham for dinner. It is an ideal way to use up leftover mashed potato.
1 cup (250 mL) whole wheat flour
1 cup (250 mL) all purpose flour
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 ml) baking soda
1/4 tsp (1 ml) salt
1 egg
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) milk
1 cup (250 mL) mashed potato
2 tbsp (25 mL) maple syrup
1 1/2 tbsp (22 ml) vegetable oil
1 tbsp (15 ml) white vinegar
vegetable cooking spray
In mixing bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In separate mixing bowl, whisk together egg, milk, potatoes, maple syrup, oil and vinegar. Stir into flour mixture to combine. Heat large non-stick skillet over medium heat; spray lightly with cooking spray. Ladle about 1/4 cup (50 mL ) batter per pancake into skillet. Cook for two minutes or until bottoms are golden and edges look dry; turn and cook for two minutes longer or until golden and puffed. Repeat with remaining batter, spraying skillet and adjusting heat as necessary to prevent burning.

Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer

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