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The best comfort food recipes. (Credit: Marge Perry)

The best comfort food recipes.

Comfort food recipes that warm up a cold day

From starchy pasta to a hunk of beef, comfort food is meant to warm you up and feel like home. These recipes fit the bill.

Balsamic apricot glazed pork chops

WHAT YOU'LL NEED: 1 teaspoon plus 1
(Credit: Marge Perry)


WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
¼ cup chopped red onion
¾ cup balsamic vinegar
? cup dried apricots (about 10) chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
4 (4-ounce) boneless pork chops (about ½-inch thick)
½ teaspoon salt
? teaspoon black pepper

HOW TO:

1. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, 3 minutes until translucent. Add the balsamic and apricots and boil gently 5 minutes, until the liquid is syrupy. Stir in the rosemary and remove from heat.

2. Season the pork with the salt and pepper. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high. Add pork and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the center reads 140 to 145 degrees, about another 4 minutes. Add the balsamic sauce to the pan, turning the chops once to glaze both sides. Serve with the apricots spooned over the pork. Makes 4 servings.

Mac and cheese with bacon and peas

WHAT YOU'LL NEED: 16 ounces elbow pasta
(Credit: Marge Perry)


WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
16 ounces elbow pasta
6 slices center cut bacon
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk, divided
1 cup frozen peas
3 cups shredded light Cheddar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

HOW TO:

1. Coat a 9-by-12-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Prepare oven for broiling.

2. Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain but do not rinse.

3. Cook bacon in a large saucepan and drain on paper towels.

4. Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan. With the pan off the heat, add the flour and ¼ cup of the milk to the pan and whisk until smooth. Stir in the remaining milk and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is near the thickness of heavy cream, about 7 minutes.

5. Add the peas, remove from heat and stir in the cheese until the sauce is smooth. Crumble the cooled bacon into the sauce and toss with the pasta. Transfer to the prepared pan.

6. Combine the melted butter, bread crumbs and grated Parmesan; sprinkle over the macaroni and cheese. Place under the broiler until the topping is golden, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.

Green vegetable lasagna

WHAT YOU'LL NEED: 2 medium zucchini (1
(Credit: Marge Perry)


WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
2 medium zucchini (1 pound) cut lengthwise into ¼-inch- thick pieces
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 cups chopped onion
10 ounces baby kale (or kale, torn into 3-inch pieces)
¼ teaspoon salt
? teaspoon black pepper
15 ounces part-skim ricotta
1 cup crumbled feta (4 ounces)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
Pinch nutmeg
1¼ cups basil tomato sauce
6 (7-by-3-inch) no boil lasagna noodles

HOW TO:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a shallow baking sheet and an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Place the zucchini strips on the baking sheet and brush the tops with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Bake 15 minutes, until tender; remove from oven and let cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes, or until softened. Add the kale in batches, tossing constantly, until it is wilted and bright green, about 2 minutes. Add the salt and pepper; toss and set aside.

4. Stir the ricotta, feta, sage and nutmeg together. Set aside ¼ cup of the mixture.

5. Spread ¼ cup of the sauce in the bottom of the 8-by-8-inch pan. Top with one layer of noodles; top the noodles with half the cheese mixture remaining in the bowl (about 1 cup). Top with an even layer of kale, followed by ¼ cup of the sauce. Build the next layer, starting with the noodles, followed by the ricotta remaining in the bowl. Lay the zucchini strips over the cheese, top with ¼ cup of the sauce and follow with the final layer of noodles. Spoon the remaining ½ cup sauce over the noodles and top with dollops of reserved ¼ cup of cheese mixture.

6. Bake until the lasagna is fork-tender and bubbly at the sides, about 35 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

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Roast rack of lamb

WHAT YOU'LL NEED: 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive
(Credit: Marge Perry)


WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 (1¾-pound) racks of lamb, 8 chops each
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

HOW TO:

1. Combine oil, mustard, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Pat evenly over meaty part of chops. Allow racks to stand 30 minutes at room temperature. Season evenly with salt and pepper.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a shallow baking pan with cooking spray. Place one rack with bones facing up and meaty part of chop facing outward on pan. Lean second rack on first, again with meatiest part of chops facing outward. Alternate the bones from each rack to interlace them.

3. Roast 22 to 26 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted through center of chops (parallel to counter) registers 125 (for medium-rare). Wait 5 minutes before cutting into chops. (Temperature will rise another 5 degrees.) Makes 8 servings.

Slow-roasted tomato pizza

WHAT YOU'LL NEED: 8 plum tomatoes, halved
(Credit: Marge Perry)


WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
8 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
? teaspoon pepper
1 pound pizza dough
1½ cups shredded reduced-fat mozzarella
¼ cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves (optional)

HOW TO:

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Place tomatoes cut-side up on pan, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil; season with the dried oregano, sugar, salt and pepper. Roast 2 hours, remove from oven and raise temperature to 425 degrees.

3. Stretch pizza dough out to 16-inch round. Place on a clean baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Top dough with the mozzarella; arrange the tomatoes in a spoke pattern. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, fresh oregano if using and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake 16 to 18 minutes, or until cheese is melted and dough sounds hollow when tapped. Makes 8 servings (one slice per serving).

Cheesy penne and beef casserole

WHAT YOU'LL NEED: 8 ounces penne pasta
(Credit: Marge Perry)


WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
8 ounces penne pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound 93-percent-lean ground beef
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
½ cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs

HOW TO:

1. Preheat oven to 475. Coat a medium-size (6-cup or 9-inch- square) baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium high in a large, nonstick skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes until they start to soften. Add the beef, oregano, basil and thyme; cook, stirring to break up the crumbles, until the beef is no longer pink, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer 5 minutes.

4. Combine the beef and pasta; stir in the mozzarella and transfer to prepared baking dish. Combine Parmesan and bread crumbs in a small bowl; sprinkle evenly over the casserole.

5. Bake 5 to 7 minutes until top is golden. Makes 6 servings.

Savory bread pudding

WHAT YOU'LL NEED: 1 large (12-ounce) baguette
(Credit: Eve Bishop)


WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
1 large (12-ounce) baguette
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 leeks, white and light green parts, washed and finely chopped
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
Salt, divided
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
4 large eggs
1 quart half-and-half
Ground black pepper
12 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese

HOW TO:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven. Slice baguette crosswise into ¾-inch slices. Place on a baking sheet and toast until dry and just beginning to color around the edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Brush some butter on one side of each bread slice. Add leeks to skillet with remaining butter and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release their liquid, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in spinach and set aside.

3. Whisk eggs, half-and-half, ½ teaspoon salt and ground black pepper to taste together in a large bowl. Add bread slices and gently toss to coat. Layer bread slices in overlapping rows in a shallow, 3-quart baking dish. Pour remaining liquid over bread and let stand 10 minutes.

4. Tuck mushroom and spinach mixture in between bread slices. Sprinkle cheese over pudding. Bake until puffed, golden and set, 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand 20 minutes and serve warm. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Spaghetti pie

WHAT YOU'LL NEED: 6 ounces sweet Italian sausage
(Credit: Marge Perry)

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
6 ounces sweet Italian sausage (usually 2 links)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon salt
? teaspoon black pepper
½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
½ cup (4 ounces) goat cheese
¼ cup chopped scallions
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
6 ounces spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

HOW TO:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a deep-dish 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray.

2. Squeeze the sausage out of its casings into a skillet, place over medium heat and cook, breaking the meat up into crumbles as it cooks. Cook until no longer pink, 6 to 7 minutes.

3. Combine egg, salt, pepper, ricotta and goat cheese, stirring until smooth. Add scallions, tomato, spaghetti and sausage; transfer to prepared pie plate and bake in center of oven 25 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in center comes out clean. Cut into wedges to serve. Makes 6 servings.

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Apple and bacon grilled cheese

WHAT YOU'LL NEED: 2 slices center-cut bacon
(Credit: Marge Perry)


WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
2 slices center-cut bacon
1½ ounces Irish Cheddar cheese, cut into thin slices
2 slices whole-wheat bread
½ apple, cut into ¼-inch wedges

HOW TO:

1. Cook bacon in medium skillet; remove and drain on a plate lined with paper towel.

2. While bacon cooks, place the cheese on one slice of bread.

3. Add the apple slices to the pan with the bacon drippings and cook until lightly browned on each side (a total of about 4 minutes). Place the apples on the cheese and top with the bacon slices. Close the sandwich with the second slice of bread and place in the hot skillet. Cook until browned on the underside, about 2 minutes; flip and cook until browned on the underside again and the cheese is melted.

Penne, cheese and bacon casserole

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:1 pound penne6 slices center-cut bacon1/3
(Credit: Marge Perry)

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
1 pound penne
6 slices center-cut bacon
1/3 cup flour
2 cups skim milk
3 cups light shredded Cheddar
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

HOW TO:

1. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Cook the penne in plenty of lightly salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large saucepan or deep skillet. Remove from pan and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

4. Stir together flour and 1/3 cup of the milk until smooth. Add to the pan and stir; immediately add remaining milk and cook, stirring, 8 to 10 minutes, until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream. Remove from the heat and stir in the Cheddar until smooth. Stir in the tomatoes and toss with the penne. Crumble or chop the bacon and stir it into the pasta before transferring to the baking dish.

5. Combine the melted butter, bread crumbs and Parmesan and sprinkle evenly over the top of the pasta.

6. Place in the oven until the topping is golden, about 8 minutes.

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