Family mealtimes are more than just food. They are also about relationships and feelings. Since family mealtimes are such an imortant part of your family’s lives, your children will remember when they get older how important family meals can be, learning to make the recipes and passing on that tradition for years to come. I thought I’d share with you some of my comfort foods that I remember as a child eating with my family.
Growing up in my grandmother’s Romanian household I was always able to feel that comfort with a home cooked meal. One of the meals she cooked a lot was Mamaliga Cu Branza. A mixture of hot cormeal with different cheeses and sometimes adding in yogurt. It can be a meal in itself or added as a side dish.
Another favorite meal was Stuffed Cabbage or “Samales.” This was a traditional comfort food my grandmother made at Christmas time or on a special Sunday dinner when all of the family was coming for dinner. (If your kids don’t approve of cabbage, this might be a way of introducing cabbage to them.) I’ll list the recipes below, give them a try one day, they might become one of your favorite childhood comfort foods.
Mamaliga Cu Branza
8 cups water
2 cups Polenta
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cream cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan over medium-high heat bring water and salt to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and gradually add Polenta top boiling, salted water, stirring constantly until thickened , approximately 25 minutes. Blend in butter. In a 9×12 baking pan, pour half of the Polenta, spread evenly. Crumble cream cheese with your fingers, spreading over Polenta. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over entire dish. Spread the remaining Polenta over the top. Add freshly ground pepper. Cook for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and creamy and top of Polenta is a golden brown. Serve with a salad or as a side dish, or a meal in itself.
2 large heads green cabbage
1 pound cooked ground beef, drained
2 white onions, shredded
1 cup cooked rice
1 large container of Sauerkraut (about 28 ounces)
1/4 cup ketchup
3-4 slices bacon
3 Tablespoon vegetable bouillon base
2 Tablespoons sweet Hungarian Paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Brown meats in dutch oven or large cooking pot until fully cooked, breaking up the meat into crumbs while cooking. Add grated onion, rice and spices; continue cooking for another 10 minutes until rice starts to turn opaque, it will not be fully cooked. Remove filling from burner and allow to cool a bit so you don’t burn your fingers trying to handle it.
Scoop heaping spoonfuls onto individual cabbage leaves and roll. To roll properly start at the vein side, wrap vein side over the top of the filling, then fold sides over onto filling lump, then continue rolling to edge of leaf and lay edge side down into a large roasting pan. Tuck the cabbage rolls tightly into the pan in a single layer and then add a second layer if needed starting in the middle of the pan so the second layer doesn’t get scorched against the outside edge of the pan.
Once you have finished with all your cabbage rolls, pour sauerkraut (juice and all) over the top of the rolls. Distribute the sauerkraut evenly over the top, it not only gives flavor but insulates the rolls from the drying heat of the oven. Spread ketchup over the top, place strips of bacon down the middle and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour, 45 minutes or until cabbage is cooked.
These two meals were usually served together in my house. Very simple and tasty comfort foods from our home to yours. Feel free to share your comfort foods that you remember as a child.