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Welcome home cooks!

It’s February…kind of a “blah” month in my opinion, especially if you live in this upper chilly half of North America. Winter has settled in, and we live under our comfy blankets and wait for the dreary weather to disappear and warmer weather to come. I know spring is lingering in the shadows, but I still wish I could skip ahead to the next season and brighten up the skies -- and our souls.

How do you survive the “blah” month of February?  

My suggestion is to cook comfort foods.

One must never underestimate how much food can cheer us up. It soothes us, gives us solace and creates a secure, solid sense of well-being.

So here are five ways to find comfort in food.

1.  Make soup

It’s always satisfying to cuddle up with a big bowl of hot soup; nothing warms the soul more. The doldrums of winter slide away with each gulp of warm broth. Whether it’s a homemade tomato soup or a thick chowder filled with fresh veggies, protein and legumes. Soup will always get you through the blue funk of February.

2.  Cook like mom

That’s right, everyone love’s mom’s home cooking.

So find one of those oldies-but-goodies, such as a tuna casserole, and delight your family with a little nostalgia from your childhood.They may not feel emotionally attached to the dish like you do, but I’m sure they’ll have the same cozy, caring feeling you had as a child.

3.  Create a comforting experience

Create a warm feeling of happiness in your home by generating an inviting and special atmosphere at mealtime.

Set the table with colourful place mats and table napkins. Perhaps add some pretty flowers. Turn down any bright lamps and light some candles. These small details will snuff out any winter blues.

4.  Cook for aroma

When you walk into a home with the comforting smells of a home-cooked meal, you’ll forget about the snowbanks and frozen ponds. Instead, you’ll feel like a happy, hungry bear waking up from hibernation in their cozy cave.

Some foods that create satisfying aromas include stews, casseroles, meatloaf and potpies. I’ve included a couple of recipes in this newsletter that are guaranteed to raise the aroma meter.

5. Indulge yourself with sweet or savoury baking

When I’m feeling the gloominess of winter, a gooey slice of fresh cheddar jalapeño bread always perks me up.

Other baking ideas are a sumptuous piece of chocolate brownie or maybe a classic banana muffin. Whatever screams comfort for you, don’t be afraid to treat yourself once in a while.

6.  Share meals with friends

Invite friends or family over for a good old-fashioned Sunday night dinner. It certainly doesn’t have to be fancy, perhaps it’s spaghetti and meatballs. Sharing this simple meal with a loaf of fresh bread and a green salad is the perfect antidote for getting through the lethargic month of February.  

I hope these simple ideas tie you over until spring!

To help you get there, I’ve also got three new recipes to try this month.

There’s a meatloaf with ground beef and Italian sausage, topped with a ketchup glaze and bacon. Plus, a vegetarian shepherd’s pie made with green lentils and mashed potatoes. Finally, there are some yummy banana muffins jazzed up with raisins, sunflower seeds and spices.

Thank you  for reading the newsletter! If you have any comments, please hit reply - I’m always happy to hear from readers.

Thanks also to those who recently purchased our meal planning notepads and greeting cards from the Recipes To The Rescue shop.

Happy Cooking and I’ll see you in the spring.

Meatloaf With Italian Sausage and Bacon

Meatloaf is the ultimate comfort food.There are many variations and ways to cook this unassuming, but delicious dish.

This recipe has ground beef and hot Italian pork sausage in it. It’s topped with a ketchup glaze, as well as bacon. 

My family gave this meatloaf two thumbs up and I hope yours will too. I recommend serving it with a green salad and boiled potatoes.

Serves 6

For the meatloaf:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1  cooking onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 eggs
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup milk
1 pound extra-lean ground beef
3/4 pounds hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 to 4 slices of bacon (the amount will very, depending on how big the loaf is)

1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until soft. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, add the eggs, Dijon, spices, Worcestershire, milk, ground beef, sausage meat, breadcrumbs and parsley. I used my hands to mix everything well.

Spoon mixture into the prepared loaf pan.

In a small bowl, prepare the glaze by adding the ketchup, brown sugar and cider vinegar together.

Spoon glaze on top of meatloaf.

Add 2 or 3 pieces of bacon on top of glaze.

Cook in oven for about 60 to 80 minutes, or until cooked through and the meat thermometer registers 170°F/75°C.

Drain off fat from pan. Remove loaf and cut into slices to serve.

Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd's Pie

This is a recipe that I've wanted to make for many years. 

I'm not sure about you, but recipe ideas sometimes lay dormant in my mind for years (yes, years!) and then finally they pop to life and I have to cook them.

This is one of those recipes. It's made with green lentils which take a little longer to cook than the red ones. It's flavoured with fresh thyme, bay leaf, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. 

This pleasant dish will definitely comfort you any day.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks. diced
10 white mushrooms, sliced
1 cup green lentils, picked clean and rinsed well
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh thyme stems
1 cup frozen green peas
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Mashed Potatoes:

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 350° F.

Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven. When oil is hot, add onions and sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. 

Add carrots, celery, and mushrooms and sauté 5 more minutes. Stir in green lentils.

Sprinkle flour on top, and mix in with tomato paste, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. 

Then, stir in vegetable broth, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add frozen peas and season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and thyme stems.

While the lentil mixture is stewing, bring a big bowl of water to a boil.

Add potatoes and cook until soft. Remove from heat and drain.

Pour the cooked potatoes back into the pot and mash, adding butter and milk. Add Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Spoon mashed potatoes on top of cooked lentils and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Banana Sunflower Seed Muffins  

I was all set to make pumpkin muffins for the family the other day, but then I realized I had no canned pumpkin! Dang it.

Hunting around for Plan B I found some black frozen bananas in the freezer. Bingo!

My husband hates to throw out black bananas, which is why there are bags and bags of them in the freezer. I’m not sure why he saves them. It’s not like he’s planning on baking pans of banana bread, because he certainly doesn’t bake…but I digress.

I exchanged the pumpkin in the recipe for bananas, lowered the amount of sugar and added raisins. Here’s what I got!

Makes 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sultan raisins
1/2 sunflower seeds
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 cups ripe black bananas (about 4) skins removed, mashed
1 egg
2/3 cup vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 350° F.

Line a muffin tin with paper or silicone muffin liners.

Combine the first 11 ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix together the banana, egg and vegetable oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix to blend.

Spoon evenly into muffin cups and bake 20-25 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
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