The Power of Waffles

Today’s guest post is from Anna.

I believe in the power of waffles. Not the big, fluffy kind you get at a restaurant loaded with fruit and whipped cream and heaven knows what all. Real waffles – the kind with little tiny squares that make your butter clump and not spread smoothly. The kind of waffles your mom can make with ingredients she always seems to have on hand – flour and baking power and eggs, not a mix. Waffles made on an iron that likely dates to the Eisenhower administration. The best waffles do not cook evenly or have a uniform shape. They are crisp, brown, warm, melt in your mouth – and if you’re really lucky, like I am, your mom serves ‘em up with peanut butter.

The Vintage Griddle

I believe in the power of waffles because one less than fabulous, perhaps even horrid, day my mom saved the world with waffles. Daughter, then 2-years-old, had been very two that day, my husband was struggling with something in his grad school class, and I was just tired and crabby – something had to be done to turn this around. “Come on over,” Mom said when I called, “bring the little one and we’ll all have some dinner.” I arrived, Daughter in tow, relieved that someone else would entertain my toddler for awhile and I could just sit. Mom made waffles.

Unadorned Perfection

The waffles arrived at the table piping hot, bumpy on the edges, straight from the iron. Butter, maple syrup, lingonberry preserves – I topped waffles with each – but the best were the ones with melty, oozy peanut butter that dripped down my chin. My daughter was calmed and contentedly ate her waffles. I ate mine. All was right with my world again. Those waffles had delivered a mother’s embrace directly to my taste buds – the sort of reassurance generations of moms have cooked up in the kitchen for their children when they need it most. Plain ordinary waffles.

With Lingonberry and Peanut Butter

We spend a lot of time worrying about the big things in our lives: Who won the election? I’m over 40 and I haven’t yet saved the world and I don’t have a book deal – does that mean I’m a failure? Paper or Plastic? We lose sight in all of that of the little things, remarkable and not, that make up our daily lives. Even with the huge motivational-industrial complex out there churning out mugs, magnets, posters, and books chock full of pithy sayings to remind us, we still pay most attention to the big, whiz-bang things and pay little or no attention to the goodness of ordinary things – like waffles.

I believe in the goodness of ordinary things. I believe in the power of waffles.

What is your favorite comfort food?

120 thoughts on “The Power of Waffles”

    1. Having breakfast with friends, their 3-year-old was in tears because he thought we were having “awfuls”…

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    2. I lived without w for a time, due to a splash of water on my keyboard. I tried uu for w, then vv because of the visual. Finally, one of my brothers, the linguist, suggested that I just type in a German accent. Ve had a vonderful time!

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  1. i learnd about peanut butter along with the maple syrup on my waffles and pancakes from my uncle frank but not until i was in about 6th grade. it was life changing. i have recently added a 3rd waffle iron to the mix. it sits up high in the cupboard nxt to the pan we bake ham in and it is indeed from the eisenhauer era maybe roosevelt. it is art deco and ooks like a flying saucer than has landed on te counter. i couldn’t resist. it is sexy, beautiful, functional and was 2 dollars at a garage sale tis summer. i caught hell for another waffle iron but you only live once i say.

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    1. I will see your 3rd waffle iron and raise you the one in the basement (indeed, from the Eisenhower administration) that needs a new thermostat and some coils (which fried due to the thermostat failure). It makes fine, square waffles and belonged to the aged aunt before she had done with such nonsense.

      I currently use a nice round cast iron one on the stove (because the new electrics just don’t seem to last or be made for repairing, which offends my little green heart), but I live in hope of resurrecting the old Sunbeam.

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      1. My dad sold Sunbeam stuff. We had all the products in our kitchen when I was a kid. When I got married I received lots of wonderful Sunbeam appliances. I wore out the first waffle iron and now am using my Nana’s. I like Ike.

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  2. favorite comfort food is fried potato onion garlicgop on sunday morning with whatever else comes to mind. soy sauce tea bags left over wine. olive oil butter hot peppers green peppers kamata olives is the way it ends up if i have all the stuff otherwise mushrooms green onions and lettuce wiill make its way into the mix. 5 or 6 potatoes are usually enought o make it last as finger food through the first couple days of the week and get me on toward next sunday morning with charles osgood and my skillet

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      1. Now tim has gone off and left us with this cryptic J hanging here; I’ll be wondering about the tea bags all day. Are they juiced? Jellied? Julienned? Is it some sort of Japanese technique with the soy sauce incorporated? Can you get jalapeño tea bags?

        Or maybe it was mean to be shorthand for Edith went to jail.

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      2. Linda, I reached the conclusion that it was just me that’s too dense. I’m thinking that tim uses tea bags for making tea! I’m also speculating that he doesn’t mix the left-over wine in the potatoes but perhaps sips it separately. From his writings on this blog I’m guessing he has an inner core of wackiness, but having never met him, that’s just a wild guess.

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      3. i just throw them in there and it flavors the water the whole thing stews in. i learned it in china where the roadside foodies make hardboiled eggs but as they are cooking in a soy sauce tea infused water they crack the eggshells a little bit and the soy tea incorporates into the eggwhite and makes a nice flaovor i do it now in rice, potato dishes, soups, even beans and veggies. a little flavor from liptons or a bag of earl gray or somtimes to go the other way and steer it off toward a chamomille or oolong is a pretty good addition vs a straight cup of water.

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      4. the j was left hanging because i was driving down the road and since my daughter and i saw a horrendous accident a couple of weeks ago where a text head drove at 65 miles an hour into the back of a parked car in traffic , i promised my daughter i would back off my texting while driving down the road. the i phone is tough enough but since i have chosen to wear 5 year old glasses rather than replace the ones oi broke i have a tough time seeing those tiny little letters on the screen .i didn’t know i sent it. good news bad news about technology if you cant beat it you cant join it. it just beats you. as to the assertions i drink my wine rather than infuse it into the potato glop. i try to pace myself a bit and there are days when i do start the pacing at 8am on a sunday morning with the breakfast portion of the day carrying over a bit of the port from the bedside portion last night but those can be long days. bloodymary’s at 11:00 before a football game taste so good and seem like such a good idea but the beer chaser and the inevitable second one make for a slow moving 4 oclock and 9 feels like miles into the night unless i can keep it up and party all day. whhooo hoooo. . theh wine in the potatos is left over two inch glass bottoms of non finished wine thrown into my vacume lidded pickle jar and into the fridge for its sunday morning ressurection. i used to love mimosa and now i just think about the hangover. its hell to get old.

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      5. Backtrack a bit. Did you notice that tim’s accidental “J” was a capital? What’s up with that?

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  3. Rise and Comfort Yourselves Baboons!

    What a perfect “day after the wake” blog post, Anna. Thanks.

    Answer to the question: Homemade mashed potatoes and gravy. Pork chop gravy is the best. No boxed mixes, no cans. Only real thing will do for real comfort. Tonight I may make this.

    Homemade biscuits with butter and honey come in at a close second place.

    Wonderful, sad, heartfelt, soulful day on the Trail yesterday. I think today I will have an emotional hangover that only mashed potatoes can address. Thanks to all. A community of sadness helps so much.

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    1. Homemade mashed potatoes with good gravy are high on my list too, and I like the concept of an emotional hangover. Never thought to call it that, but I definitely have one today.

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      1. Look up white sauce in a cookbook–usually with milk and butter but you can substitute oil for the butter. The more liquid you use the thinner and more gravy-like it will be. You can flavor it with any herb or spice.

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  4. thanks, Anna – Clyde may disagree, but i will definitely try waffles with peanut butter. i, too, have a really old waffle iron – was my Mom’s – and it has a little dial on top to show how hot it is. still makes great waffles.
    my favorite memory is of waffles served in Norway, early 70s, when my cousin and i dropped in on relatives unexpectedly. every day we would have SO MUCH FOOD – but our very favorite were the little heart-shaped “vaffler” held in a cone-shape in order to spoon in some cloudberries or lingonberries and then pop the whole thing in your mouth.
    and lovely tributes to Jim Ed yesterday – so good to have the blog, Dale. thank you.

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    1. I was served those little heart-shapes waffles by my cousins in Norway, too. We had them cold with fruit and cheeses for a picnic. Absolutely lovely.

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  5. Good morning to all,

    At one time I would say that pop corn was our favorite comfort food. I haven’t had any for a while so some how it has fallen out of favor. Eggs and toast is a simple meal that we like that we have fairly often when we don’t want to do much cooking. I make oatmeal pancakes for a treat whenever we have family here for breakfast and we do have a waffle iron that gets used from time to time. Do you count cookies and ice cream as comfort food? We always have those two treats around the house and we also always have corn chips.

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  6. I once heard a speaker (a grief “expert”) say that not only should we bring food to grieving relatives but we should bring comfort food in lovely dishes that need to be returned rather than in disposable containers. The meeting to return the dish provides another opportunity to remember the person who died. I am glad we can join together with comfort food.
    Here is Tom’s obituary from the newspaper.

    “Tom” Age 64 Tom was a well-known and beloved Minnesota Public Radio and Prairie Home Companion performer for 40 years. He passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, October 30. Tom grew up in West St. Paul. He joined the Marine Corps in 1965, completed four years of service, then received a degree in Speech and Broadcasting from the University of Minnesota in 1972. His first job was as a broadcast engineer on Garrison Keillor’s new Morning Show. He began doing sound effects for the Morning Show but became a sound effects maestro during his years on the Prairie Home Companion. For 30 years Tom and Dale Connelly created a delightful alternative universe on their MPR Morning Show. He is survived by his loving wife Ri Wei Liu-Keith, his twin sister Terry Keith Green of Woodbury, his brothers Jeffrey (Cari), Wilton, WI, David (Noel), Syracuse, NY and James Green; nieces, Shelly (Dan) Peschel, Rosalind Keith, Katie (Ryan) Kavanaugh; nephews, Fred (Susan), Will Green, Peter (Holly), Joe Green, Douglas (Emily), Peter (Rachel), Gregory (Kelly). He was predeceased by his parents Elizabeth Doig Keith (1998) and James Keith (2000). There will be a private family service and interment at Acacia Cemetery Friday morning. Family and friends are invited to a Private Memorial Service Friday 1pm at the Woodbury Lutheran Church, 7380 Afton Road, Woodbury, with visitation one hour prior. On Saturday, November 12 at 5:00 PM friends and colleagues of Tom Keith will be putting on a Tribute Show at the Fitzgerald Theater. More information will be forthcoming. Memorials may be sent to charities of your preference in memory of Thomas Keith. WULFF WOODBURY 651-738-9615

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      1. I would like to go but would like to carpool. Jim? mn firefly? Could we rural Baboons meet the urban Baboons at a pre-arranged location?

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      2. I would consider doing the drive, if I weren’t already booked into a wedding in Memphis… *sigh* Looking forward to the recordings and photos though.

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      3. iyt starts at 4 it is being promoted as a free garrison show for tom and it holds 1000 so i say arrive about 345. i have a do to attend that starts about 6 ad i can arrive at 7 or so but i will be there for the start anyhow

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  7. I always associated waffles with blizzards, since my mom only had time to make them in the winter when she didn’t have to go to her job as a Grade 3 teacher. Waffles meant staying home in your jammies, laying around reading and watching the snow accumulate while the wind roared. We have a regular waffle iron, and a waffler that makes heart shaped, thinner waffles and that tweets like a bird when the waffles are done. I prefer sugar and butter on mine, sometimes with fresh raspberries and whipped cream,and always with cardomom in the batter. It was a poignant time yesterday reading all the tributes and listening to people share about Tom. I didn’t get much work done.

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    1. A brace of baboons assembled in south Minneapolis – BiR & me – to have lunch and then listen to Midday in BiR’s car. (We discovered a bookstore with a downstairs seating area that would have been a perfect place to sit and listen, but the discovery came after the show was over. Never mind, the car was comfortable too.) The Midday show is archived if anyone missed it. Israel Kamakawiwoʻole at the end was just the right thing.

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      1. p.s. A possible venue for some BBC gathering, the downstairs at True Colors bookstore (formerly Amazon) would work – comfy seating, semi – central location at 48th and Chicago, S. Mpls. Then nobody has to clean house, but the food might have to be finger foods…

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  8. I like oatmeal with brown sugar and peanut butter. Another entry in the melty/oozy category.

    Potatoes are at the top of the list too – usually boiled red potatoes with the skins included, with butter and salt and pepper. I mash them with a fork, but not very thoroughly, so that they resemble potato gravel more than real mashed potatoes.

    Also rice cooked on the stovetop with milk and sugar, then served with more milk and liberal amounts of cinnamon. I think this is some sort of German variation of rømmegrøt.

    I’ve never put peanut butter on waffles but it sounds brilliant. Don’t know why I never thought of it. My waffle iron came from a garage sale too – it’s a boxy white Oster and probably doesn’t date to the Eisenhower administration, but maybe Nixon or thereabouts.

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  9. I would add buttered toast (same as “Mercy Watson” for those of you who are kid lit fans) to my list as well as chocolate ice cream. If it’s chocolate chocolate chip, so much the better. Also cheese – cut straight off the block with nothing else, just the cheese.

    I just had waffles on Sunday (had to “stage” the photos above – which was really just an excuse to make wafles for dinner)…if I thought Husband would put up with it, I might crack out the iron again tonight. I think the current iron might only date from the Nixon administration, but it works grand.

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  10. Greetings! Nicely done, Anna — and oh, so true. There’s something special about waffles. My mom never made them; just her crappy Bisquick pancakes on weekends (my beloved mother who couldn’t cook). We only got waffles if we went out to eat which was exceedingly rare with 7 kids. I do have a waffle iron and a wonderful whole-grain waffle recipe that I like. I’ll make a big batch and freeze them so the kids can have “real” food for weekday breakfasts.

    My favorite comfort food — hard to decide. I made Krista’s chili yesterday in crockpot (with ground turkey) and I just love that with all the vegetables — that comes to mind. Mashed potatoes w/gravy, of course. But STUFFING is just the best. I only have it a couple times a year, so it’s special. Peanut butter and bananas on toast — and it has to be on toast.to count. Tortilla chips w/melted cheese and fresh salsa. A bowl of good crispy cereal.with almond milk. These are a few of my favorite things …

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  11. For me comfort food is associated with weather. Blustery, overcast days have me scurrying to the kitchen to cook up a large pot of yellow split pea soup. On cold but sunny days it’s more likely to be a pot of beef borscht served with a chunk of good, chewy bread or a good homemade French onion soup with lots of melty/oozy cheese on top.

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    1. My mother always always used yellow split peas for soup too. Is there something about the yellow ones that are better than the green?

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      1. For me it’s just a traditional thing and I like the color of the soup better, but I can’t really taste much of a difference.

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      2. Sometimes there’s a batch of green splits that seem to never get done. I never have that problem with the yellow ones.

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  12. The cookies that my wife made and Clyde said he liked on the blog yesterday are oatmeal cookies. The recipe can be found on the inside of the lids of Quaker Oats boxes. My wife didn’t add any raisins, but she did include chopped pecans and some chocolate covered peanutbutter flavored chips.

    Krista and I were given a tour of Clyde’s apartment which includes some very good looking wooden furniture that he made, many of his paintings and photographs, and numberous wood carvings. I especially liked a painting of a small old cabin in a field by some woodland on the North Shore.

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    1. Clyde is very humble. You would have to see all the works of art to understand just how incredibly talented he is!

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      1. agreed he is aleaf detail guy. nice work but ill bet it is frustrating to have you hands and fingers knot up on you as you are trying to draw veins on the leaves. beutiful composition and feel in his work. cmon clyde post a few.send em to dale

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      2. Gorgeous use of color and a great sensitivity to landscapes. You can tell he has loved the places he has painted.

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  13. Hm…my Mom is definitely a comfort food cook and I’ve done my best to learn from her. Have to say two favorites for comfort food: rice hotdish and soppins. (‘Soppins’ was our family name for chicken gravy with lots of chicken over baking powder biscuits.) My folks are also big fans of what we call ‘zabree,’ which is a large ‘porcupine meatball’ (meatball with white rice in it), wrapped in cabbage leaves and stewed in tomato juice. Personally, that one is not my favorite.

    For waffley goodness, check out these clips from Mystery Science Theater 3000:

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  14. Morning all… I’ve missed you all. It was too hard to think about everything the last few days, so I stayed away and after reading through all your comments, I realized that here was where I would have been most comforted after all. Shoot, hindsight sucks!

    My mother is a terrible cook. She never learned from her mother (I think I’ve mentioned my grandfather’s OCD and the resultant 7 approved meals) and she never wanted to learn either. Looking back, I can’t think of anything that I would call comfort food growing up, except maybe Orange Crush, which only came into the house if someone was sick. (And I can’t even drink Orange Crush anymore… too too sweet.)

    These days Malt-o-Meal is a big comfort food around here, loaded with butter and brown sugar. Also my Baked Potato Soup, although when you read the ingredients you shouldn’t really be comforted by the artery-clogging content!

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  15. Morning–

    Mmmmm….waffles….
    Mom had that big old silver waffle iron with changable griddles; you could swap them out for flat pans to make pancakes or the waffle plate.
    Ours now is just a plain white plastic thing that only makes waffles. But they have to be square; can’t be the round.
    For many years it was a Sunday tradition: either waffles or pancakes w/ either bacon or Little Sizzlers. After daughter was diagnosed w/ Celiac Disease (allergy to wheat gluten) it took a while to find a gluten free waffle mix but now we use a gluten free Bisquick.
    And I love how cold and good milk tastes with waffles!

    Not sure I’m going to do the peanut butter Anna…

    All the memories of Tom were nice. So many voices that gave me so much laughter. I remember one skit – I can’t remember if it was PHC or TLGMS where he sort of made fun of people using pseudonyms… Thanks Tom!

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    1. If you are a peanut butter fan of any stripe, peanut butter on waffles is a thing of beauty (with or without the lingonberries – you could substitute most any preserves, really, or syrup or chocolate chips or bananas or…). Added bonus: you can use the excuse that it’s not about comfort food, it’s about the protein. 😉

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      1. One of the great things about moving away from home and beginning to buy my own food and do my own thing in the kitchen. That’s when peanut butter expanded from its jelly-only companion roll that I grew up with. PB on toast, on waffles, on apples, on cheddar cheese, on chocolate bars, on a spoon straight in my mouth!

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    2. peanut butter by it self is ok but with the maple syrup it is a wonderful experience. did you know real maple syrup is not as sweet as the store bought jugs. a taste at the arboratum of each let me know why i like the real thing better but i cant get the kids to do moderation and our house is the boys breakfast house where we do pancakes in mass quantities for the football team and go through sticks of butter and inches of maple syrup per minute so the 6 dollar a gallon from cub food mega size syrup is what we burn through. not proud of it but if they liked cavier i wouldnt be buying them that either.

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      1. Yeah, I used to squirrel away a little bottle of pure maple for the adults, and let the kids eat the HFCS stuff…

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      2. BinR, you would never get away with that in my house. I taught the s&h early on to appreciate REAL maple syrup (we like it accompanying homemade raspberrry sauce from the yard bushes-something about the combo of those flavors) on our waffles.

        We skimp and save on a lot of things, but insist on real maple syrup (but only at home, it would be rude to insist elsewhere).

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  16. It was important to my mom to serve healthful, low-fat foods. I was raised on vegetable-beef or tomato soup, lettuce and jello salads, required servings of cooked spinach or carrots, apples, prunes, doses of cod liver oil, lots of red meat (including a weekly serving of liver covered in stewed tomatoes 😦 ) and very few starchy foods. One dish I really loved was fried panfish for breakfast. That was a real delicacy and she can’t tell me now how she made it. But no waffles. Pancakes were rare. Cakes were only for birthdays and usually tended to be fruit desserts rather than actual cakes. It was important to my dad (a dentist) that we not eat candy. Ever. Not even for Halloween.

    Now my mom enjoys breaking tradition. This year she insists that we’ll be having Swedish meatballs for Thanksgiving. I thought maybe this was because a turkey might be too heavy for her to handle so I offered to do a turkey and promptly regretted my offer. We will have Swedish meatballs. That is final.

    But to answer the question, my favorite comfort food is soup. I love homemade chicken soup with lots of veggies and either wild rice, egg noodles or lentils. My veggie chili recipe is my staple food (posted last year, I think, in Kitchen Congress). I don’t eat much red meat – never buy it. My mom knows that but has always ignored it completely. Swedish meatballs it is.

    Another favorite comfort food is pizza. If you put a pizza in front of me, I will eat it. You’d better grab some of it – quick!

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    1. pizza at my house is like ritz crackers. put it out and it will be gone. i make them 3 4 5 at a time and they are never there past noon the next day.

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      1. Cook 1 1/2 cups of cut up leeks in 2 tbs. of butter, add 3 cups of broth and 2 cups of peeled and cut up potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are soft, blend, add 1/2 cup of half and half or milk and a little peppert. We serve it warm. If served cold it is called vichyssoise.

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  17. The Answer Is a Waffle
    by Gregory K.

    What’s my favorite breakfast food?
    That’s easy to decide.
    It’s eggs cooked over easy with some bacon on the side.

    Although, it might be cereal.
    Or maybe jam and toast.
    Actually, it’s cream of wheat that I enjoy the most.

    Or maybe, come to think of it,
    It’s bagels with some lox.
    Or maybe pancakes. No, it’s fruit, cut up in bite size blocks.

    Or wait a second. Let me think:
    A restaurant buffet!
    Or maybe it’s, well, I don’t know…
    I guess I just can’t say.

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  18. Thanks, Anna – perfect for today.

    From childhood: popcorn, certainly; cocoa with a piece of buttered bread folded over and dunked, jello pudding.
    Now: the homemade soups, many mentioned above, incl. a good beef stew. Bread pudding, and homemade bread. My dad’s homemade macaroni and cheese with bologna. And yes, homemade waffles.

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  19. The only way I used to eat peanut butter was on toast, with a few slices of banana, and honey drizzled on top.
    Now I eat peanut butter on toasted WAFFLES, with a few slices of banana, and honey drizzled on top.

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      1. Peanut butter works well too, if it’s a good quality peanut butter. Add some coconut milk and lime juice and a little hot sauce. Don’t use Jif, it has too much sugar.

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    1. Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. (Which, I understand, is not an actual quote from Ben Franklin, but still gets attributed to him none-the-less.)

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  20. Tom Yam (Thai spicy lemongrass soup) ramen is comfort food du jour at my house.
    http://bit.ly/u51xrJ
    Hard to find in Sudbury, but Mr. MNiS likes it so much he now remembers to add it to the Asian market grocery list when we run out.

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    1. is that SPAM Tom Yam, that i see??
      i love that soup also – in Duluth it is sometimes terrific at local Thai restaurant, but depends on who is cooking on that day, for sure. i’ve never seen slices of Spam on it, though 🙂 and theirs has more broth. is this brand that you show a good product, do you think, MN iS??

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      1. Asians frequently put all kinds of stuff in their instant noodles to bulk it up, ranging from a poached egg to all kinds of meat and veggies. It doesn’t have the “college kid diet” connotation, since soup noodles are a Asian diet staple — and it does save time since it’s the broth that makes the difference in soup-noodle-making. I’ve never put Spam in mine though – I like cilantro and tomatoes and frozen seafood in my Tom Yam instant noodles, similar to the actual soup dish you’d find in a Thai kitchen.

        Maggi instant noodles are a Malaysian brand that I am partial to. Since Tom Yam is a Thai dish, the Thai “Mama” brand is another good one: http://importfood.com/nrmm2108.html

        The rule of thumb that I’ve taught Mr. MNiS is, the less English on the label and the more seasoning packets/sauces there are in the package, the better (or more authentic) the product will be.

        Broth volume depends on the individual instant-noodle eater’s preference (easy to dilute with boiling water after all).

        Good luck!

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  21. Whenever my adult children come over they always ask for egg and cheese sandwiches. They tell me they can’t make it like I can. Hard to believe but anything cooked in butter tastes great to me so I guess that is the secret. Nice to know here is something that brings back home.

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    1. Is there a recipe, Laurie or is it just bread egg cheese and butter? Grilled? Sounds like comfort food to me…

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  22. Let’s see, potatoes have already been mentioned (baked, mashed, oven fried, made into vodka, it matters not), as has French Onion soup and peanut butter on toast.

    I shall add to the menu of coziness and well-being with warm gingerbread. Virtually impossible to order out, it really is best when made at home. (lemon sauce AND real whipped cream if you have had a especially bad day-or great triumph)

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  23. these are things we almost never have, but are very comforting. since i am retired, i don’t need much comforting. 🙂
    has anyone said grilled cheese and tomato soup?
    tuna casserole with potato chips
    i also LOVE mac and cheese (homemade, not boxed) with catsup on it
    and “cracker mush” – made with milk and graham crax or saltines
    i am partial to Summit EPA also – having one as we speak. was a busy day – made soap, bred Dreamy to T (not that last one was that was much work for me )
    cheers

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  24. Comfort Food in a Diner Car
    We had left San Jose at 4 p.m. in a rush, needing to get through the Donner Pass before it was going to be closed. We must get home to deal with the impending quick sale of our house (thank goodness) and the very pressing need to find a place to live. We hit Reno at 9, checked into our hotels.com-reserved room and found a place to eat a stale lousy Valentine’s Day dinner. The trip had been good, which I had told to you Babooners. I never told, and will not tell, that the trip had some deep deep downside aspects.
    The next day we headed across the long emptiness of Nevada and then Utah. My wife quickly scared me badly (no details to be given). If we had been near a hospital (we were not near anything), I would have gone there, which would have been very much against her objections. By the time we got near one, she was better. Then she was worse, but we were not near a hospital. Then we were by a hospital, but she was better. Then she worse, no hospital. Better, hospital. By then we were in Salt Lake City, and then Green River, WY for our booked motel. The next day she slept all the way across Wyoming, recovering I was hoping, worried, hoping.
    She came alert about the time we got to our motel in Platte, NE. We ate in one of those interchangeable Applebee’s sort of restaurants. I was the very tired one now. The motel gave us a coupon for a free breakfast the next day at the restaurant they owned next door. I dismissed it as not applying to us. But next morning, she wanted to a full breakfast.
    It was one of those aluminum dining car dinners. We walked in. The cook told us he was alone at the moment and it would be best to sit on the stools so he could wait on us and the few booths were taken or would be taken by local regulars, if they could. We sat down and handed him the coupons. He said what do you want? We said, Menu? He said not really just what did we want. My wife said waffles. He looked carefully at her, assessing her state of health I assume, and said, leave it to him to do it up right for her. I said some sort of full breakfast. He said, leave it to him. Drinks he asked. We said decaf(her) and tea (me), which quickly appeared.
    He had a standard flattop grill, waffle iron, and a toaster. Not much else. He did not have to step more than a foot or two in each direction to do anything he was doing. He was the standard time-, life-, and weather-worn fifty-year-old short order cook, pencil thin, battered gimme cap on his head, long braid down his back, tattoos down his forearms covering needle tracks, scraggly beard, guarded eyes, sunken cheeks, hawk nose. His name was Sparks, as per the greeting he got from everyone else, to whom he nodded but did not talk. They shouted out their orders, usually, the usual. He worked about a dozen orders of all sorts. Never looking over his shoulder, he asked, east or west. I said, east. After a pause he asked, good trip. I said, yeah, my wife said very good except the last two days. He said, I can see. After a pause, he said, Minnesota. I said, see our license plate. He nodded. After a pause, but I can tell.
    He turned with plates of food. “Wonderful basic dinner food. Hers waffles with two kinds of meat, warm syrup, hand-made whipped cream, two eggs on the side. Mine two kinds of meat, eggs, (over-easy, poached, and scrambled) two kinds of potatoes, thick home-made toast. He was off delivering to others and came back taking orders from two new booths full. Over his shoulder, okay. Perfect we said. Always is he said. Now he turned and smiled at my wife and winked. Back to his magic.
    In came the missing waitress. Kids she said, shaking her head. Least you got them he said. She asked us if we wanted to hear about it. He said that no we did not. We savored the food. When we were done, she started to write a ticket. He said, they’re on the coupon. She looked at our plates. Really, she said. And added, so no charge. He turned to us, shook our hands and said, give here the tip, she can use it. Good weather to the east he said as he turned back.

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  25. Did anyone say goulash? Crumble 1 # hamburger and brown in a dutch oven with chopped onion and celery. Add some garlic and fresh sliced mushrooms and cook it a bit longer. Dump in a large can of stewed tomatoes or better yet a quart jar of home-canned ones. Pour in some tomato juice and a little beef or vegetable broth. Fold in cooked elbow macaroni – 1 # box. Taste it and see what it needs. Maybe a little salt or sugar or both. Stick it in the oven at 350 for about an hour. Top with shredded mozzarella the last 10 minutes – or any kind of cheese that melts nicely. It’s kind of a soupy goulash so serve with a large slotted spoon the first night. The soupiness goes away on its own by the next day for left overs. This dish goes equally well with wine or beer. Trust me.

    Nice waffle work, Anna. Bet they’d be good with cajeta too. BTW, I took your advice and put play dough back in my classroom. My students thank you.

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    1. Nice improvement on what my mom taught me, Donna. What a great day on the blog – this is about the 4th impromptu recipe…

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