Comfort food classics

Even though we’re not exactly bundling up against freezing temperatures here, we still feel the seasons change and the days get darker before Mike gets home from work. So by dinnertime we’re ready to cozy up with something comforting for dinner.

Magical noodle-y casserole awaits.

I thought I’d give you a couple of recipes that we’ve been enjoying this fall. The first is a beef stew that slow cooks on the stovetop without too much effort. (Maybe you could even do it in the crock pot.) I thought about adding potatoes to it, but ended up just sticking with carrots. We opted for toasted garlic bread slices on the side.

Beef Stew
adapted from Paula Deen

2 pounds stew beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups water
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 carrots, cut in 1/2 inch chunks
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Heat the oil in a big soup pot over medium-high heat. Drop in the meat and let it brown on all sides. Reduce heat to medium and add all the ingredients except for the carrots and celery. Cover the pot and simmer for an hour and a half.

Remove the bay leaf and garlic cloves and add the carrots and celery. Simmer for another 30 minutes. If you feel like you want the meat a little more tender and falling apart you can raise the heat and let it bubble a little higher.

Before you serve, take out 2 cups of liquid. In a separate bowl mix up 1/4 cup of water with the cornstarch and add it to the liquid. Then return it to the pot and mix it up. When the stew is thick and bubbly it’s ready.

**And by the way, if I haven’t mentioned it before, I learned the best way to make garlic bread from Rachael Ray. Just toast bread slices, slice a garlic clove in half and rub it all over the bread, then spread on a little butter. It’s so much better than the pre-packaged stuff!

The next recipe is my version of the tuna casserole I grew up with. We always made it with biscuits on top, but I decided I like it better with noodles instead. I remember I had a roommate in college who thought it was hilarious that I put peas in the casserole, but I think that’s fairly normal. Right?

Tuna noodle casserole

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons AP flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
10 3/4-ounce can cream of celery soup
2 cups milk (whole milk recommended)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6 ounces tuna, drained
2 cups peas
3 cups dry egg noodles
salt and pepper to taste
About 1/2 cup bread crumbs to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a big soup pot over medium and melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and garlic powder. Then add the milk and soup and keep whisking. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly, about 5 minutes.

*Edited to add: I’m normally an advocate of buying 1 or 2 % milk to save on calories, but when I made this once with whole milk it was so much better that I will make it that way from now on. It makes the perfect creamy sauce. 

Stir in the cheese and turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the tuna, noodles, and peas.

Pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. Bake, uncovered, for 15 more minutes.