Coping: With Holiday Comfort Food

Food:  We have arrived at the most calorie-laden of yearly events, at last.  So this morning I wanted to share some things that will make you drool and wonder why is it Elaine still weighs what see did in high school.

We can divide this into four parts:  Breakfasts, Lunches, Cocktails, and Dinners.  Sized for two and a half.  Elaine is one and…we’ll you know I’m the 1-1/2, I suppose.

I’ve taken three steps to prevent overeating this season:  1) I have scheduled a fasting/cholesterol check in mid January.  2) I am not stopping work.  If anything, I will be working more than ever.  And 3) I have a new “memorial” ham radio station that should be up in time to use overs the holidays.  A replica of the station my “Elmer” (ham radio coach) used to run phone patches in the wake of the Good Friday quake back in 1964.

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Comfort Breakfasts

Our first choice for breakfast (when not counting calories) is to make French toast.  Only, instead of using milk, we use either Bailey’s Irish Crème (or the half-price knock-off) and slather on a good bit of nutmeg.

There isn’t any alcohol left after cooking (alcohol burns off about 170F).  But the taste?  It’s like having a warm fresh pastry of the sweet sort.  Douse with enough butter to worry a cardiologist and enough fresh maple syrup to rebalance Canada’s external debt.

The second breakfast treat is genuine sourdough pancakes.

This, of course, requires a starter.  There are two schools of thought on where to get your “starter.”  One school suggests taking a cut of flour (high protein is good) and a cup of water.  Mix ’em up with a wooden spoon and leave it out in the woods for 8-hours.  Then, bring it into the house and let it sit on a warm counter for 3-4 days.

Theory is, if you’ve caught some good “bugs” they will turn into a bubbling start that is ideal (and in harmony with) your local environment.  It’s a cute notion.  (Go ahead, ring the Buddhist temple bells and give me an “Oooommm…”)

If, on the other hand, it’s hunting season and you don’t want to go out in the woods without a swat team or a combat platoon to cover your six, then try a Alaskan Sourdough Starter ” Made in Alaska “.  Yes, it’s $9-bucks.

The idea is you get a couple of Mason jars, of similar.  Elaine uses Bormioli Rocco Fido Square Jar’s With Blue Lid, 67-3/4-ounce (set of 2) which you can probably source locally.

The main “deal points” of the sourdough project are  1) sterilize the jars for your first start, b) use wooden or plastic utensils but absolutely NO METAL and c) don’t put the white gaskets on the jars.  Sourdough starter is not an exercise is pressurizing.  We’re making food, not beer, although beer is a food but it doesn’t make very good pancakes, at least in comparison.

Still, after that big holiday party if you have any leftover beer, there really are beer pancake recipes to be found on the web.  Like this one.

Last, but not least, I’ve rambled-on endlessly about my cottage cheese pancakes.  Just mix up any pancake batter, through in about 1/3rd as much by volume as the batter, and enjoy.  Done with a Krusteaz mix and some strawberry jam, it’s like a hassle-free blinz.  Feel free to add as much Philly cream cheese as you want.  Just set aside 15-minutes after to pray that there’s no link between dietary fat and arterial deposits.  (While you’re at it, work on a winning lotto number, too.)


The simplest lunch is a can of cream of mushroom soup and a fried cheese sandwich.  Amazingly, there are a couple of small tweaks to improve both.

On the sandwich, years of having Velveeta as a child changed when my dad made lunch.  He decided to use Mozzarella instead and it changed my world.  Today, we keep Moz around for sandwiches, adding to the occasional pizza, and to toss into salads on meat-free nights.

Once you have had a cheese sandwich with a good stringy cheese (Provolone works great, too) and on Extra Thick Texas Toast bread, you will wonder why anyone would ever have anything else.

How can you improve on cream of mushroom?  Adding half a can of whole milk gives it a better taste.  But, several shakes of nutmeg will also kick things up.  Toss a pinch of pepper in, too, and you’re all set.

If you had the good sense to make some small lunch rolls out of sourdough and flour the day before, and you tossed them in the oven around 10:30 (to be done by 11 AM) and then let them cool, a selection of lunch meats on Hot-from-the-Oven bread is hard to beat.

One caution:  We’re very picky about the mayo.  A good ones like Dukes is better than the over-vinegary tasting brands called “sandwich spreads.”

Lunch is also pickle time.  Sweet Gherkins work with most everything, but we also like Claussen’s dills because the leftover  pickle juice works nicely in a Bloody Caesar.  We’ve tried some of the bottled pickle juices, but they are far too watered-down for bar applications.


Rum-soaked chicken breasts are amazing.  Start with a couple of chicken breasts and soak them overnight in rum.  Don’t chintz on the pour.

Then get out the chicken and pan-fry quickly after dusting with some panko bread crumbs.  When lightly browned, set aside.  Use the drippings to make a pan gravy (butter, flour, adding milk slowly while stirring like a crazy person).

Set the chicken breasts atop of bed of linguini noodles, drizzle with sauce (oops!  Spilled a bit of rum in the gravy, oh damn).  Top with a handful of grated Parmesan and broil until it’s all bubbly.

Another night, try a REAL corned beef.

Not every city has a corned beef emporium, though.  In Seattle, we’d have to suggest picking up a 15-pound (or larger if available) from Market House Meats.  Memory blurs, it’s been so long.  But, a review in the Stranger echoes the flavor of the place.

I don’t know if they pack for shipping, but another great comfort food is clam chowder.

One of our agenda items (day isn’t set yet) is to fly in an order from Pike Place Fish in Seattle.  We only do it every few years, but sometimes the hunger for fresh clams (instead of canned) and for halibut cheeks (which can be cooked to taste almost exactly like lobster meat – a recipe one of my sisters found decades back), can only be appeased one way.

Just look up “Poor Man’s Lobster” and you’ll find versions of the recipe like this one.

The nice thing about the recipe is that people with different religious hang-ups on eating shellfish can get very close to the same taste.  And those who might go anaphylactic on shellfish, are not as likely to do so on halibut.  (Our legal department insists we point out this is not medical advice, no warranty is implied, your results may vary, brush after every meal, and so forth.)   Tastes damn good and I can easily convince the guy in the mirror this is health food.

A Couple of Anytime Eats

Not so healthy is a Monte Cristo Sandwich.  There are recipes for them all over the web; here’s a typical offering.

Another dandy is our “fire house one-potter” which is chicken & noodles or tuna & noodles, depending on what’s in your cupboard.

Boil a large pot of water…eight quarts is good.  You want noodle to roll around while cooking, not become a glutinous mass.  When the water is boiling hard, toss in 12-16 ounces of noodles.

Cook 12-minutes.  You don’t want to go al dente because if you do, the final results will be too dry.  This isn’t like a spaghetti where you want juices absorbed.  This is a “all things in the pot together” recipe. 10-minutes if using a flat egg noodle. Rose Chinese Egg Noodles, 16 Ounce (Pack of 12) are our choice, though.  Normally, we would recommend Amazon, but you can get the price per pound down a LOT by calling and ordering 50 pounds at a whack from the factory.   We always get the fresh egg noodles because they have the highest egg content.  the 5-pound commercial pack is fine if you like ’em.

Once cooked and drained, a can of cream of mushroom soup and whatever you want (canned shrimp, tuna, chicken, clams..) and then spiced with tarragon, a dash of cayenne, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and a tablespoon or two of Duke’s mayo.

One of our qualifications for “comfort food” is it’s warm, wet, filling, and enough carbs to lay you out for a good nap.

That’s why turkey dinners work so well, too.

Holiday Bar Specials

Back in our sailing days we drank a fair bit more than nowadays.  Approach 70 (from one side or the other), a single shot of booze if fine, two a luxury, and three’s an invite to Tums.

Still, a good hot spiced wine is dandy:  Just remember the 170F rule for losing alcohol…and it’s not even worth considering without the cinnamon sticks.

Under-rated is sake.  I get a case maybe once a year.  I can’t tell if it was growing up in a predominantly Asian community or just the wheat allergies when young, but sake (rice wine) consumed quite warm, is as good as the more conventional hot spiced wines or hot buttered rums, when come to a winter warm-up.

Even on holidays, a cup of hot chicken broth works up until 3 PM, or so.

Use the Dishwasher, Pamper Self

I’m sure someday, there will come a time to watch every watthour of energy.

But until that happens, we plan to run the dishwasher daily even though it’s only the two of us.

Splurge!  It’s the seasonable thing to do.

Write when you get rich,

27 thoughts on “Coping: With Holiday Comfort Food”

  1. Merciful Heavens, George, your holiday comfort food selections contain a bazillion carbohydrates. Is the protein from fish only? I do like the way you lovingly describe your many special recipes, though. The SST “sammich” that you spoke about some time ago sounds like something my husband might enjoy. Elaine must have a sky-high metabolism. Thank you for all that and for relating your great stories and memories.

  2. I’ve got a couple (or three) of ‘guilty pleasure’ meals that involve old fashioned ingredients –

    The first involves buckwheat pancakes – slathered with butter and good sausage patties. (People are now focused on ‘regular flour’ and seem to forget there are other flours.)

    I, too, like mushroom soup made with whole milk, but then I fry up a can of sliced mushrooms with butter – add them to the soup – and pour that on white rice. (I season with garlic salt and pepper.)

    Finally I’d like to mention what I do to bolongia (okay I really messed that spelling.) – Use good sourdough bread, mayo, the aforementioned lunch meat and the best of all, green olives with pimentoes, sliced. (I know that one ‘could’ get ‘olive loaf’ but it never had enough olives, and lately I haven’t seen it at all.)

    Good solid ingredients make for good solid meals.

  3. G –

    Your slow cooker is the optimum tool for producing your very own fresh corned beef – recipes abound, and you can adjust the flavoring any way you like. Personally, I added some mesquite smoke to my own and enjoy it.

    We have found that steering clear of carbs seems to help immensely during the holidays. Simple things, like using mostly steamed cauliflower with a few potatoes to make ‘mashed taters’. Staying away from cornbread stuffing and using flax seed to roll your own stuffing (with oysters and shrimp).

    Instead of sugary snacks, we roast pecans after swimming them in a solution of Worcester sauce and butter; we make tenderloin jerky but only half-dry it so it stays tender; honey glazed nuts are also pretty dang good, and it doesn’t take much to make them.

    There are lots of ways to have your comfort foods and eat them without paying an exorbitant penalty.

    • Naw…think we’ll stay the course (borrowing the potato cauliflower blen d maybe). What’s Christmas without cholesterol?

      • How about half cornbread, half regular stuffing mix with wild rice – mushrooms, pecans, celery, onions, real butter, and season to taste – oh, and perfect reason to use the heart and gizzard!

        I always used to make extra and freeze – with turkey gravy it was fantastic!

  4. Here’s one you might enjoy: Burbon Marinade,
    2 1/2 lb pork tenderloin
    3/4 cup soy sauce
    1/4 cup Worcestershire
    1/4 cup water
    1/4 cup canola oil
    4 minced garlic cloves
    3 tablespoons brown sugar
    2 tablespoons black pepper
    1 teaspoon white pepper
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    1 teaspoon salt
    combine every thing, marinate for 12 hrs. grill until it reaches 155 degrees in center take off grill cover with foil for ten min. serve (I like to use the marinade to baste with during cooking) ENJOY!

    this one is one you start about now for next christmas..
    3 lbs honey

    1 gallon apple cider

    1 teastpoon acid blend

    1 teaspoon pectic enzyme

    1 package champagne yeast

    1 teaspoon yeast nutrient


    In a large pot, boil the honey (1 part honey 2 parts water)
    Let mixture cool down, and transfer it to a 2 gallon plastic container
    Add cider, acid and pectic enzyme.
    Rehydrate yeast and add nutrient to mixture
    Once yeast starts bubbling add to must
    Put on air lock and lid, let it ferment
    After 7 days, rack into another fermenter
    Refill with water if needed.
    Rack after 3 months
    Rack again after 6 months
    Then bottle
    Don’t drink for 1 year

  6. All that wheat is not good (re: ‘Wheat Belly’ book). I have to avoid it as much as possible. Fats are ok if they are natural ones which your body can digest, and their satiety rate is such that you won’t eat that much, i.e., butter, lard, coconut oil, seed and nut oils. Avoid vegetable oils and margarine and Crisco (diesel engine lube, look it up).

  7. And for after all that comfort food, you might want to consider a good read before you fall asleep from all the elevated glucose in the ole blood stream

    The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting Paperback – October 18, 2016

    It’s available on Amazon and should get your girlish figure back. We are, after all as humans, designed for a feast or famine lifestyle and not this 3 to 6 meal a day diet we have now. As a bonus, one can cure ones type 2 as a bonus.
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

  8. Those looking for a hearty ‘pre-prep’ breakfast, my wife and I have taken to making what’s become an old reliable . . . particularly when company stays over for the night – a classic sausage, egg and cheese strata.

    The sausage part can be replaced by your favorite chopped veggies, and those worried about whole eggs can use egg substitute, e.g. Egg Beaters or similar:
    – use turkey or pork sausage (1 lb, cooked, drained and crumbled when cool) NOTE: Diced and pan browned ham can also be used instead of sausage.
    – 6 or so slices of medium thickness white or sourdough bread, cubed. Alternately, try left over waffles or pancakes cubed for a really special treat.
    – 6-8 eggs (size dependent) or egg substitute equivalent
    – Approx. 1-2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (or your favorite cheese you like to use with eggs). Some folks like lots-o-cheese, some just prefer a sprinkle.

    Spray or wipe light oil on the bottom and sides of a 7″X11″ baking pan. Layer the bread/waffle/pancake cubes into the bottom of the pan, covering the bottom with approx. a 1/2″ to 3/4″ depth of cubes.

    Beat the eggs (or the substitute) and mix in the veggies and/or sausage with the eggs. Pour the mix slowly and evenly over the cubes into the baking pan.

    Cover the pan with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (6-8 hours). Remove from the refrigerator 1/2 hour before baking. Remove foil/plastic wrap covering and let stand at room temp.

    Preheat over to 350F/175C. Bake for 40 minutes. Open the oven, pull out the rack supporting the strata baking pan and sprinkle the shredded cheese liberally over the top of the egg/sausage mix. Bake for another 10-15 minutes (until no egg is on your baking tester probe and the cheese melts and starts to brown).

    Remove the strata from the oven and let stand for appox. 10 minutes. Cut with a small to medium spatula into six 3.5″ squares and serve with fresh fruit.

    Salt/pepper to individual taste – also goes well with Franks Red Hot or Tabasco sauce.

    Recommend also serving with Mimosas (OJ and sparkling white wine/champagne mixed to personal preference). Bon appetit!

  9. George,

    I generally read every word of yours, but I absolutely can’t stomach the idea of reading about food. I’ve not read a word of this column. To me, it’s just fat, and reading about or smelling food will make me fat. Enjoy yourself, and I’m sure other readers will appreciate your words too.

    Happy eating.

  10. I can really taste it by just reading the list of ingredients; But for me it’s just steak & eggs, because I’d never watched my (late) wife’s cooking, to my regret. ‘-(
    She was an excellent cook, also.

    • Same with my Stan and his ‘rue’ for gravy . . . my ‘attempt’ is crap, and his was very good – memories . . .

  11. My husband grandmother was from Finland. Here is recipe for roopsoo? 3 eggs 1.5 cup whole milk. 1. 5 tsp vanilla I like Mexican vanilla. 1 tsp salt 1 tbsp sugar. Mix on high in blender and add enough flour so you can see the flour in the mix about 8 -12 heaping tbsp. Should be runny fry like crepe in pan with butter. My spin for syrup. 1 cup whole real maple syrup 1 lemon squeezed 1 half stick unsalted butter. Meltin microwave and at last min add 1/3 cup. Lemincello

  12. Sourdough – you need a warm place for it. May I suggest:

    A poor man’s biological hot plate.
    Go to the local thrift store and get an Aluminium or stainless steel fry pan. Place a temp probe on the pan or in the water you place in the pan. If this is for growing yeast for bread/fermenting get a scrap stepper motor (or other) DC motor and attach a rare earth bar magnet on a plate to the shaft that goes underneath. Buy a teflon coated stir bar that goes in the mason jar which sits in the water bath inside the Al/SS unit and make sure it rotates with the plate. To keep out “bad” stuff and let in O2 for growth – tyvek house sheeting for the top of the jar. Voltage control or stepper control is regulated with a PLC, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, PADI ($2 1 core 32 bit machine from pine64) depending on what work you want to do or control over the process.

    For keeping the bigger samples warm – a stainless steel dishwasher (salvaged from junk) has the heating element and water vapor control already in in.

  13. George, Why not throw in a few strips of thick sliced bacon or country ham with the french toast? When I want and need breakfast, the primary ingredient is protein and more protein; to start the day.

    BTW Merry Christmas to you and Elaine.

    Jim – W6GH

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