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Comfort meals and heart cookies

Jan 31st, 2015 | Category: Cooking

by Samantha Brown

Soups are on this time of year. It’s the weather, the schedule (work, sports, etc.), the comfort. My crockpot barely moves from the counter and my favorite casserole dish was probably washed last night or sitting in the fridge with the leftovers.

I love onions. I grow too many of them, I buy too many of them, I eat a lot of them. I love French Onion soup and have included our family recipe that is cooked nearly weekly. For some variety, I will add leftover shredded beef to the soup at times and load them onto large hoagies, serving the soup as a dip. This is one of the most comforting winter foods and very satisfying.

French onion soup.

French onion soup.

The tuna noodle casserole is a special treat in our house because we usually have Grandpa’s canned tuna in the winter (but when we have to go with the store-bought route when those cans run out, it is still a fine recipe). Old fashioned biscuits with butter goes great with the casserole.

The chocolate heart jam-filled cookies are fun to make, beautiful, and delicious. I like making these in February for Valentine’s Day. It’s a sweet, simple treat; not too rich or overdone. I have made them as plain chocolate sugar cookies, as well as jam-filled and cream-filled. The jam is a nice addition to the cookie and gently reminds you the summer berries are just months away.

Enjoy the meals gracing your table this month.


Tuna Noodle Casserole



8 ounces egg noodles

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 3/4 cups milk

1/4 cup cream

2 tablespoons dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided

2 cans albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked



Cook noodles and drain. Using a large skillet over medium heat, add oil, then odd onion and carrot. Cook until about tender, stirring from time to time. Sprinkle with flour, cook 1 minute, keep stirring. Gradually add in the milk, stirring constantly with a whisk about 5 minutes, until slightly thick. Stir in the cream, mustard, salt, and pepper, stirring constantly, about two minutes.

Remove pan from heat. Stir in noodles, peas, half of the cheese, and tuna. Transfer to a  greased 2-quart baking dish (preheated and broiler-safe) and top with remaining cheese. Broil for 3-4 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let cool slightly before serving.


French Onion Soup



6 tablespoons butter

4 large yellow onions, sliced into rings

1 tablespoon white sugar

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup cooking sherry

4 1/2 cups beef broth

1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

Slices of French bread

1/2 cup swiss cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 cup shredded beef, cooked (optional)



Heat butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, stirring occasionally, and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle onions with sugar, stir. Reduce heat to medium. Continue stirring until onions are soft and somewhat browned, at least 30 minutes. Add garlic, then sherry, and cook one minute. Transfer the onions into a slow cooker and cover with beef broth. Season to taste with sea salt, and stir in thyme and bay leaf. Cook on high 4 to 6 hours or at the low setting for 8 to 10 hours. (If adding cooked shredded beef, add about 1/2 hour before ready to eat.)

About 10 minutes before serving, preheat the oven’s broiler and set oven rack. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and broil until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Combine cheeses in a bowl. Fill oven-safe bowls or cups about 3/4 full of soup and top with a bread slice and 2 tablespoons of cheese mixture per serving. Place filled bowls onto a baking sheet and broil until cheese is lightly browned and bubbling, about 2 minutes.


Chocolate heart jam-filled cookies



2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa


1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup unsalted butter

1 3/4 cups white sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted (optional)



In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, approx. 3 to 4 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined (and melted chocolate if using). Next add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough you can work with.

Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Place them in the refrigerator for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.

When ready, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (so cookies do not stick).

Roll out one half of the chilled dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. (Do not let the dough stick to the counter; keep turning it.) Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter cut out the cookies and place on the baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to chill the dough (this action helps prevent the cookies from losing their shape while baking).

Bake cookies for about 10 – 12 minutes or until they are firm around the edges. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container until ready to use. Cover cookies with jam of your choice and sandwich them together, or give as plain chocolate hearts.

Published in the February 2015 issue of Grow Northwest

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