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From the kitchen

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By Elli Rarick

The chilly January days make most of us want to cook or bake and eat foods we refer to as comfort foods; something that one might say makes you feel "warm and fuzzy" all over. These are dishes that will evoke a memory from childhood or of a special person or past event which helps to create that "warm and fuzzy" feeling.

In addition, meals that warm us inside on cold days and nights are always welcome and are sometimes referred to as, "stick to your ribs" type of foods or dishes. The window of opportunity for such cooking and baking in our area is somewhat limited as we do not experience the cold weather found in the northern part of the country that can last for several weeks or even months.

We enjoyed bowls of steaming hot chili (which I had made earlier and frozen) and freshly made cornbread (biscuits go well also) as we watched the football playoff games this past Sunday. It was plenty cold here, but nothing like it was in New England or in Green Bay, Wisconsin where temperatures dipped to -4s during the game.

Being a Packer fan, I really get into the mood and spirit of the cold temperatures when I get to see them playing at home in cold and snowy weather. Our own cold temperatures provided a bonus as the aroma of the traditional comfort foods were prepared and served at halftime.

These comfort foods are also nourishing and can be good choices for the budget conscious cook.

With the rising cost of going to the grocery store, today's cooks are always looking for ways to feed their families tasty and nutritious foods and still stay within their financial means.

The so-called comfort foods will always be good choices to accomplish this.

Whether you are cooking for a large family or just "the two of you"; some choices are always winners because they can be made in a large quantity that will provide leftovers to be frozen for a later dinner or to be warmed-up in a day or so for another meal.

The Easy Shepherd's Pie recipe came from Kraft food & family, winter 2008 and is an easy and delicious main dish that can be paired with any type of salad such as my own Waldorf Salad recipe if you are looking to satisfy a "sweet tooth" or the Tangy Broccoli Salad, also taken from the winter 2008 Kraft food & family magazine, providing a vegetable rich in antioxidant vitamins.

Easy Shepherd's Pie

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total: 30 minutes

1 lb. ground beef

2 cups hot mashed potatoes

4 oz. (1e,,2 of 8-oz. pkg.) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, cubed

1 cup Kraft Shredded Cheddar Cheese, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

1 cup beef gravy

Preheat oven to 375sF. Brown meat in large skillet. Drain.

Mix potatoes, cream cheese, one-half cup of the shredded cheese and the garlic until well blended. Stir vegetables and gravy into meat. Spoon into 9-inch square baking dish. Cover with potato mixture. Don't worry about it being perfectly even; the more rustic it looks, the better. Sprinkle with remaining one-half cup shredded cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Instant mashed potatoes may be used. Prepare as directed on package, omitting the milk. When you add the cream cheese, the potatoes will stay fluffy.

You can trim 70 calories and 9 grams of fat from this recipe by substituting lean ground beef for regular; one-third less fat cream cheese for regular; and 2% milk shredded reduced fat Cheddar cheese for regular.

Waldorf Salad

3-4 apples (yellow and red delicious are good choices)

1e,,2 cup chopped celery

1e,,2 cup chopped walnuts

one cup seedless red grapes, sliced in half; or raisins

one cup real mayonnaise

1e,,4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Core and cut up apples into small chunks; do not peel. Place in a large mixing bowl with celery, walnuts and grapes (or raisins).

In a smaller bowl; mix mayonnaise, sugar and lemon juice together. Add to apple mixture and mix together. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Serves 6-8.

Tangy Broccoli Salad

Prep: 20 minutes

Total: 1 hour 20 minutes, includes refrigerating

3e,,4 cup Miracle Whip Light Dressing

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets (6 cups)

6 slices Oscar Mayer Bacon, crisply cooked, drained and crumbled

1 small red onion, chopped

Mix dressing, sugar and vinegar in large bowl. Add remaining ingredients; mix lightly. Cover. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Makes 12 servings, one-half cup each.

CAL 100; FAT 8g (sat 1.5 g); CHOL 10 mg; SODIUM 190mg; CARB 7g; FIBER 1g; SUGARS 4g; PROTEIN 2g; VIT A 20%DV; VIT C 60%DV; CALCIUM 2%DV; IRON 2%DV