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January 2
Creamy Tomato Soup with Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

After the elegance and extravagance of the holidays, January is a good time for getting back to basics, especially in the foods we eat. Here are some comfort food recipes your family is sure to enjoy in the coming weeks. In the first recipe, mini grilled cheese squares float atop a creamy tomato soup like dumplings for a new take on this classic comfort food combo.

10 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 slices of American cheese
12 slices of white bread
2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Chopped chives or basil for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the plum tomatoes in a large baking dish. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Roast until the tomatoes are soft, 25 to 30 minutes.

In a large stockpot set over medium heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the roasted tomatoes and their juices, the canned tomatoes and their juices, and the stock to the stockpot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stir in the cream, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer the soup for 10 minutes; do not bring to boil.

Remove the pot from the heat and use a handheld blender to puree the soup until it’s as smooth or as chunky as you prefer (If you don’t have a handheld blender, you can use a potato masher to break up the tomatoes, or you can crush them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.)

Make six sandwiches with 1 slice of cheese between slices of the white bread. Cut off the crusts and cut each sandwich into quarters. Crimp the edges of the bread together with a fork to make little packets that enclose the cheese. You should have 24 cheese dumplings.

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, melt a tablespoon of the butter. Working in batches and adding more butter as needed, grill the cheese dumplings until they are lightly browned and toasted like little grilled-cheese sandwiches.

Ladle the soup into six bowls and top with four dumplings each. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped chives or basil, if desired.

January 9
Lettuce Wedges with Blue Cheese Dressing

This wedge salad is a steakhouse classic, but you can serve it up in your home at any time. The recipe below is for 2 heads of iceberg lettuce and 8 servings, but you can use only half the dressing for one head of lettuce and store the remaining dressing for up to a week in your refrigerator.

Juice of 1 large lemon
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 heads iceberg lettuce
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 tomatoes, finely diced
Freshly ground pepper

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice, mayonnaise, buttermilk, sour cream, garlic powder and onion powder. Whisk the mixture together until smooth. 
Add the cheese and mix just until blended. Chill in an airtight container in the refrigerator at least 2 hours before serving.

Core and quarter each head of lettuce. Serve a generous dollop of dressing over each lettuce wedge and top with the bacon and tomato. Season with pepper.

January 16
Classic Pot Roast

Pot roast usually calls for a lower-cost cut of meat like chuck, which makes this a good value as well a tasty choice for a family dinner. Cooking the meat long and slow in red wine and beef stock, along with lots of vegetables, makes the roast very tender and flavorful. Serve with the horseradish-chive mashed potatoes recipe below.

3 pound boneless beef chuck roast
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons butter
2 medium red onions, cut into quarters
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 12 to 16 pieces, about a pound
8 cremini mushrooms, halved
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 head garlic, top cut off to expose cloves
3/4 cup tomato paste
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs rosemary
2 cups red wine, preferably cabernet
4 cups beef broth

Preheat oven to 340 degrees. Season meat generously with salt and pepper. On the stove top, heat oil in a large Dutch oven, or other heavy roasting pan with a lid, over medium-high heat. Sear the meat until a dark crust forms, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove meat to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium and add butter to the pan. Melt the butter and add the whole head of garlic and vegetables, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot, until the vegetables start to color, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until it darkens slightly, about 5 minutes.

Add bay leaves, rosemary, and wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to a thick gravy consistency, 5 to 7 minutes. 

Return meat to the pot. Add broth, then cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Let roast sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes. Remove meat to a cutting board to slice. Discard bay leaves and rosemary stems. Squeeze any garlic cloves remaining in their skins into the stew and discard the skins. Serve slices of meat in shallow bowls along with the vegetables and a generous amount of cooking liquid ladled over top.

January 23
Horseradish-Chive Mashed Potatoes

Nothing is more comforting than creamy mashed potatoes, especially if served with a meat dish that has lots of gravy or sauce, like the pot roast recipe above. This recipe adds horseradish and chives to the potatoes for extra layers of flavor.

2 pounds whole russet or Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 to 1 stick butter
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup horseradish
1/3 cup chopped chives

Cover the potatoes with cold salted water; simmer 45 minutes. Drain, peel, and mash with 1/2 to 1 stick butter. Add sour cream, horseradish, chives, and salt and pepper; mash until smooth and fluffy. 

January 30
Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Everyone loves muffins! They are ideal for breakfast, lunch, or served with your afternoon tea or coffee. Lemon and poppyseed muffins are a classic combo and we offer the recipe below as the final entry in our list of January comfort foods. Enjoy!

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus up to 1 tablespoon for topping the muffins, if desired
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly brush a 12-cup muffin tin with butter and set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with an electric hand-held mixer in a large bowl, cream the butter, zest, lemon juice, and 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Stir in the poppy seeds.

Fold the flour in 3 parts into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk in 2 parts, until just combined. Take care not to overmix the batter. Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tin and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool muffins in the pan on a rack. Serve warm.



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