Wednesday, May 23, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio



Comfort food to the rescue

Winter is still here, so dig in and enjoy some good eats

  • Best-Ever-Potato-Soup

    The 'Best-Ever' Potato Soup

  • French-Toast-Cupcakes-with-Maple-Buttercream-Frosting

    French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting


French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting


No, no, and no.

Spring is most assuredly not just around the corner.

Winter white continues, on and on, as the seasonal color statement.

Sweat pants, a cozy shirt, slippers or heavy socks are creature comfort must-haves for after-work winter activities: crashing on the couch, picking up the clicker, avoiding the weather channel. Later in the evening, after you tip the pizza deliverer, you bust out the cocoa, buttered popcorn, and perhaps hot-fudge sauce atop ice cream. Oh, so comfy and comforting.

Stop the woe-is-me madness. Throttle your wintertime to-do list up a notch or two: create comfort foods that include vegetables plentiful at this time of the year.

At the Toledo Farmers’ Market — yes, it is open, year-round — hundreds of customers, many who visit weekly, stop by the market, open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday during the winter, and they pick up some potatoes, select a few carrots or parsnips, and perhaps a couple of onions, and lots of squash, such as for soups and stews, said market manager Liz Bergman of Genoa.

When asked about whether customers visit the market to purchase produce that inspire comfort foods, she said “Oh, definitely.”

Vendors, say 20-30 during the winter, offer “homey stuff,” as Miss Bergman puts it.

Soups and stews cry out for bread, she said, and artisan bread sold at the market is a seasonal bonus, not just served with comfort foods, but freshly toasted and slathered with some good butter.

Slow and low is how Miss Bergman described winter-time comfort foods, foods that take hours to cook. Foods that require roasting and braising.


The 'Best-Ever' Potato Soup


During the winter, market vendors take turns bringing crock-pot foods, such as soups, to share with other vendors. “Even for us, we bring our own comfort food,” said Miss Bergman who is also a vendor (Sage Organics) at the market, 525 Market St.

Beyond ingredients for many main dishes, the market features produce for down-to-earth desserts. Witt’s Orchard, Oak Harbor, offers at least a dozen different varieties of apples as well as cider, she said. Hot-mulled cider, with or without the bourbon, is good comfort food, she said. Too: apple crisp, baked apples, apples with pork chops.

Other produce plentiful at the market includes cabbage. Red cabbage, sliced thin with a sprinkling of fresh, julienned carrots and turnips, topped with bleu cheese dressing, makes a fast, and frugal, winter salad. “Winter food is very frugal food,” Miss Bergman said.

Frugal shouldn’t conjure a mental photo of families hunkered down, clasping bowls of soup, curtains closed to keep people from peering in and knocking on the door.

It’s about what we learned in kindergarten: it is good to share. Much of the attraction of comfort food is “all about bringing people together,” Ms. Bergman said. After spending hours making a hearty stew or a pot brimming with the goodness of soup, you want to share. In comparison, if you saute a chicken breast for dinner, “there is not as much to share,” she noted.

Homemade soups and stews can be accompanied by market-purchased pies, tarts, cookies, coffees, and chocolates. Also available at the market are salsas and Italian peppers.

And with the back-to-basics movement, the farmers’ market is the perfect place to learn about locally grown food and about locally produced food products, such as honey, a long-time comfort food. Think honey buns, oatmeal honey bread, honey shmeared on toast, honey stirred into fresh-brewed tea. Honey is a must-have-component in the comforting Hot Toddy, a cold-and-flu season drink to soothe the savage beast.

Comfort food memories are filling and lasting.

Wines Bee Yard, a Toledo Farmers’ market vendor for several years, makes a buzz with customers with organic honey harvested by the bee yard owners, Debbie and Jim Wines of Palmyra in Michigan’s Lenawee County.

Particularly popular are cut combs, available in July and August. The popularity could be linked to the hankering for comfort connected to old-fashioned traditions, she said, noting, too, that she used to think nostalgia played a key role as well. But now, it seems more about people wanting to get back to as close to nature as they can, she said. “They want honey on the comb. They know it isn’t filtered.”

She does filter honey extracted from combs. She doesn’t want customers to purchase honey with bee parts. “I don’t want them to see little heads, arms, legs, or wings,” she said, noting that some people don’t mind such a find. “But they are not going to get honey with bee parts from me.”

Honey and other products at the farmers’ market are a “good natural way to keep your family healthy and happy,” Mrs. Wines said.

The honey business used to be called Wines Apiary. An apiary (also known as a bee yard) is a place where beehives of honey bees are kept. Youngsters who would visit the “ape-e-airee” would be super excited, but then would be puzzled. “They would wonder where the monkeys are,” said Mrs. Wines. Thus, the name change to Wines Bee Yard.



  • 3 tablespoons oil (such as canola, corn, safflower, or soybean oil)
  • 1 lb. boneless beef chuck, tip, or round roast, cut into 1-inch cubes (or 1 lb. stew meat)
  • 4 cups beef broth, homemade with soup bones, if possible; adjust amount of broth, depending on how many vegetables you use
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper, fresh-ground if possible
  • 4-5 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3-4 large potatoes (peeled or unpeeled), cut into 1 ½-inch pieces (Red potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes hold their shape well when cooked in a stew.)
  • 2-3 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour

Classic Beef Stew

OPTIONAL: Bump up the flavor by adding parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, or other vegetables

In large skillet heat oil over medium-high until hot and shimmering. As oil heats, dredge beef in flour; place in hot oil, cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown on all sides. Don't crowd the meat, and don't leave too much space between the browning pieces. You want to brown the meat, not steam it. Add broth, salt, and pepper, scraping off bits of brown.

Transfer liquid to large heavy pot. Add meat, and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer 2 hours to 2 hours 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until beef is almost tender.

Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover; cook about 30 minutes or until vegetables and meat are tender. Remove bay leaf. If stew "gravy" is thin, thicken with cornstarch and water (mix cornstarch with water; stir until no lumps remain. Slowly add to bubbling stew, whisking until smooth and thickened).

Serve piping hot with dumplings or with homemade bread and good-quality butter. Fresh-made artisan breads, such as available at the Toledo Farmers' Market, are delicious with stew and other February comfort foods.

Cook's note: Mom always added frozen peas to the stew near end of cooking time. And, she topped the stew with dumplings. After waiting patiently for the stew to be done, it seemed as though it took the dumplings FOREVER to cook, but oh, my, the wait was worth it.

Adapted through the years, likely from a Betty Crocker cookbook eons ago. 



French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting

For the Streusel
  • 1/ 2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/ 2 cup flour
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/ 4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, sliced into chunks
For the cupcakes
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/ 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/ 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Cook’s note: With breakfast foods trending as supper meals, we figure it's a comforting idea to transform a breakfast food into a dessert. This recipe serves nearly 30 people.

For streusel:

In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients and add in cold butter, using your hands to crumble mixture. Place in the freezer until ready to top on the batter.

For the cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; set aside.

In electric mixer bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and whisk on low speed until just mixed together. Add butter, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla, mixing well until combined and smooth, about 45 seconds. Place 3 tablespoons of batter into each baking cup. Top each with about 1 spoonful of streusel.

Bake for 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from tins and place cupcakes on wire racks to cool completely. 





Maple Buttercream

  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/ 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/ 3 cup real maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

With electric mixer, beat butter on high speed until light and fluffy. Be patient. This takes several minutes. Beat in the powdered sugar 1/ 4 cup at a time. Use low speed to avoid skiffs of sugar billowing out of the mixing bowl. Add the vanilla, salt, and syrup. Mix until combined. Beat in the heavy cream and whisk on high for 4 minutes.

Frost cooled cupcakes and dust with powdered sugar.

Adapted from Bakingdom



Strawberry Vinaigrette

In a nice big bowl, put:
  • 7 sliced strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg yolk
  • a splash and a half cider vinegar
  • juice of two blood oranges
  • a dollop of honey
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 toe of garlic, chopped
  • 1 finely sliced scallion

Abuse this mixture with the back of a large wooden spoon. Further coax it into submission with a wire whip. Taste it. Need salt and pepper? Need vinegar? Need honey? OK.

Cook’s note: This shouts "spring" — and that sounds very comforting right about now. We're including this recipe for that reason. An added plus: this recipe is written with such a wonderful, whimsical touch, we just had to share. It's borrowed from the Web site of Toledo Farmers' Market. Recipe author unknown. As a safety asterisk: recipe calls for an egg yolk. Use a pasteurized egg.

Wash and spin some fresh lettuce and chill in fridge under a damp towel.

Fit the bowl into a rolled towel formed into a loose donut.

Slowly drizzle good vegetable oil into the bowl while whisking vigorously. Keep it moving. You are incorporating air, so your strokes should find noisy purchase on the sides of the bowl. This makes bubbles. Good thing.

Periodically stop drizzling but don't stop whisking. Whisk. Whisk. Need more oil? Add it. Taste it... Look for a velvety sheen. Toss with lettuce and any other vegetables you might have. Eat dat.


 Best-Ever Potato Soup

  • 4-5 large (but not monster-sized) baking potatoes, such as Russet potatoes
  • 2 cups Kraft shredded sharp cheddar, plus half-cup for garnish
  • 1 cup Daisy sour cream
  • 2/​3 cup all-purpose flour<
  • 7 cups 2 percent milk
  • 1 cup good-quality butter
  • Handful of chopped green onions, saving some for garnish
  • 4 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 1 pound bacon, snipped with kitchen scissors into small pieces and fried til crispy; reserve some pieces as garnish (Um, bacon; it is called "meat candy" for a reason)

Bake potatoes only until fork tender. Do not overbake or potato pieces will tend to fall apart in soup. (Baking time, temp varies depending on size of potatoes and how fast you want them done. Bake in oven, not the microwave). Cool, cube, set side (use skins for another purpose).

Melt butter, add flour, stir/​whisk until smooth and mixture has a hint of a nutty smell (keeps soup from having a flour-y taste)

Whisk in milk, stir until soup has thickened.

Gently stir in potatoes, onions, grated cheese, bacon, sour cream, and cream cheese.

Simmer on low, stirring often, but gently, for 20 minutes.

Add salt, pepper to taste; sprinkle in dash or two of chili powder.

Serve piping hot with garnish: a sprinkle of cheese, a few green onion slices, a few bacon pieces, and a hint of chili powder sprinkled on top.

Cook’s note: You can serve soup with crackers or bread and a side salad. However, this is rich and satisfying, meaning a cup of the soup is enough for a filling supper. This recipe makes plenty of soup to share with neighbors, such as when they finish shoveling snow from their driveway and sidewalk. Soup (not the weather) warms up nicely the next day.

Source: Jessica L. Romaker Quinn (that's my girl, a gifted cook and baker).


Roasted Potatoes, Carrots and Parsnips

  • 1 lb. potatoes
  • 6 parsnips
  • 6 carrots
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Peel the vegetables and halve any larger ones lengthways

Put the potatoes and carrots into a large pan – you may need to use two – of salted, boiling water on a high heat and bring back to the boil

Allow to boil for 5 minutes, then add the parsnips and cook for another 4 minutes

Put a large roasting tray over a medium heat and either add a few generous lugs of olive oil or carefully spoon a little of the fat from the meat you’re cooking

Add the garlic and rosemary leaves

Put the vegetables into the tray with a good pinch of salt and pepper and stir them around to coat them in the flavors

Spread them out evenly into one layer – this is important, as you want them to roast, not steam as they will if you have them all on top of each other

Roast until they are tender and start to brown on the edges (about a half hour to 45 minutes)

This entry is related to the following products: garlic, carrot, parsnip, potato, rosemary

Source: Toledo Farmers' Market

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