When I need comfort, I cook. There’s nothing like chopping garlic and onions and starting them to saute in a pan with olive oil to make me feel a little more grounded. Today, I added carrots, celery, green pepper, yellow squash, zucchini squash, and fresh mushrooms, then sautéed them until they were coated with the spices that I had added to the garlic and onion: basil, salt, and pepper. From there, I added a large can of diced tomatoes, and several cups of rich chicken broth. I brought this big vegetable stew up to a boil, then let is simmer for about an hour. Then I added fresh kale from my garden (cut into strips) and let that get nice and warm.
In the meantime, I made homemade cornbread with kernels of corn, sweetened with honey.
When I dished up the vegetable stew, I added fresh parsley from my garden, plus grated Parmesan cheese.
So, for dinner tonight Ray and I had bowls of steaming vegetable stew and hunks of cornbread with butter.
This is real comfort food for me. I feel as if I am sitting on the porch of a farmhouse with cows out in the pasture and a big moon rising over the oak trees. In other words, I feel safe, settled and at home. That was a good feeling tonight after a busy week.
For dessert, I made the best chocolate cake I have ever made. I took the recipe right off the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa box and modified it (along with the frosting recipe) to suit our non-refined white sugar sensibilities.
Below is the original recipe with my changes in parentheses. I am not certain that anybody would even suspect that my version was not made with regular sugar. The cake was moist and delicious and the frosting was the best (and richest) I’ve ever made. If you are striving to exclude refined white sugar from your diet, you’ll never miss it with this cake. I guarantee it!
Here’s the Hershey’s recipe with my honey-sweetened modifications.
Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar (or 1 1/2 cups honey)
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk (I used reconstituted nonfat dry milk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or coconut oil, which is what I used)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water (1/2 cup boiling water if using honey since the honey is liquid.
“PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” CHOCOLATE FROSTING (recipe follows)
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. (I used a large sheet cake pan.)
2. Stir together sugar (or honey), flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with “PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.
ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.
THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.
BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.
CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.
“PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” CHOCOLATE FROSTING
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine (or 1/2 cup coconut oil, which is what I used)
2/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar (or 1 1/2 cup honey)
1/3 cup milk (if using honey then add an additional box of cream cheese)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt butter (or coconut oil). Stir in cocoa. Use mixer to alternately add powdered sugar (or honey) and milk, (plus chunks of cream cheese if using honey) beating to spreading consistency.
Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.
Let chill for 30 minutes to an hour (if using honey)
About 2 cups frosting.
If you are in need of serious comfort food, then the vegetable stew, homemade cornbread and this chocolate cake will do the trick. Each is delicious and has a depth of flavor that will take you wherever “home” is for you. What a comfort that truly can be.