Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday December 19th 2018


Staff Favorites

Obviously the IN staff has a fondness for comfort foods or we wouldn’t have dedicated an entire issue to the topic.

All the planning, brainstorming, writing and, of course, “researching” that went into this issue got us hungry and nostalgic for the comfort food dishes that we love—to eat and to make. We decide to include some personal favorites, recipes included. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Rick’s Favorite:  Faux Twice-Baked Potatoes

In my everlasting quest to keep my belly smaller than my head, I stumbled across this recipe that substitutes cauliflower for potatoes. Your taste buds won’t know the difference.

16 ounces frozen cauliflower
1/2 cup sour cream
2 ounces cream cheese (cut up)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup cheddar cheese, divided
6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place the frozen cauliflower in a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Add 1/2 cup water. Cover and microwave on high for seven minutes. Stir and cook another four minutes. Let stand two minutes. Place in a colander to drain and blot with paper towels to absorb as much moisture as possible.
3. Place the cauliflower in a food processor. Add the sour cream, cream cheese, butter, half the cheese, half the bacon, salt and pepper to processor. Process until contents have the smooth consistency of mashed potatoes.
4. Grease the same casserole used for cooking the cauliflower and pour in the cauliflower mixture.
5. Top with the remaining cheese and crumbled bacon.
6. Bake uncovered 20 minutes at 400 degrees or until lightly browned.

Yield: 6 servings

(Recipe found on

Sarah’s Favorite: Old-Fashioned [Vegan] Chocolate Pudding Pie

Hand over those good tidings and give me that pudding pie!

It’s like your grandma’s, only it’s better—it’s vegan. Not only is this pudding pie great for the holidays (or any day you can warrant working in an extra indulgent treat), it’s a girls’ night go-to comfort staple. Plus it’s super quick and easy to make. Added bonus.

Let’s be real—a store bought crust is simple and no one will be the wiser. So grab a 9-inch ready-to-eat vegan crust of your choice. Keebler offers several ready crusts including graham cracker.

3 cups almond milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Big pinch of salt
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (keeping in mind more chips equates with more chocolate flavor)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a small (2-quart) saucepan off the heat, combine 1 cup of the almond milk with the cornstarch. Whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved. Stir in the remaining almond milk, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Don’t fret if the cocoa is a bit clumpy at first, it will dissolve eventually.

2. Bring mixture to a boil, whisking occasionally. Once boiling, lower the heat and bring down to a slow boil. Whisk consistently until the mixture has thickened (about seven minutes). Add in the chocolate chips and mix to melt. Stir in the vanilla extract.

3. As a peanut butter fanatic, no pie would be complete without a generous layer of your favorite peanut butter. Spread directly onto the crust prior to adding the filling.

4. After your crust has been amply covered in peanut butter, pour the pudding into the crust and let cool for about 30 minutes on the counter. After cooling, refrigerate and let set 12 hours (or overnight).

5. When ready to serve, top with a scoop of peanut butter, berries, dairy-free whip, festive sprinkles—you name it!

(Original recipe from “Vegan Pie in the Sky,” adapted from Well’s Vegetarian Thanksgiving 2011, a New York Times Interactive Feature.)

Joani’s Favorite: Salted Caramel Apple Pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn

To be honest, I never really got the concept of comfort food. I like cheese as much as the next girl, but it doesn’t make me feel things.

Then I walked into Four and Twenty Blackbirds in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn on a cold November day. The smell of butter knocked me down, the warmth from the ovens took over my whole body, the pie was so good I ordered a second slice without even hesitating and I walked way saying, “So, that’s why they call it comfort food!”

Not a week goes by that I don’t dream about being back there—eating that pie, smelling those smells, feeling that comfort. It really is that good. I haven’t mastered this recipe yet, but even when I screw it up it’s pretty good.

Pie Crust:
1 recipe for your favorite (2-crust) butter pie crust
Salted Caramel
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 stick (1/2 cup) fresh unsalted butter
1/2 cup fresh heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes
Apple Filling 4 to 6 lemons
5 to 6 medium to large apples (best to use a mixture of Crispin, Granny Smith, and Cortland if you can)

Apple Filling:
1/3 cup raw sugar (castor, unrefined, large granule sugar)
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters

1 egg beaten
Raw sugar, for sprinkling on top
1 teaspoon sea salt (flake)

Special equipment: Mandolin for slicing, and a pastry brush

1. To make the pie crust:
Prepare one 2-crust batch of your favorite all butter pie crust. Roll the bottom crust to fit a 9-inch pan, and cut the top crust as a lattice, approximately one-inch in width or as desired. Chill the rolled crust while you prepare the salted caramel and apple filling.

2. To make the salted caramel:
Cook the sugar and water together over low heat until just dissolved. Add the butter and bring to a slow boil. Continue cooking at a low boil until the mixture turns a deep, golden brown color, almost copper.
Cook’s Note: This process can take awhile depending on the heat source. Keep an eye on it, if the caramel begins to smoke, you’ve burned it and you’ll have to start over.

Once the mixture has turned a copper color, remove it from the heat and immediately add the heavy cream—the mixture will bubble rapidly and steam—be cautious as the sugar will be very hot.

Whisk the final mixture together well over low heat and sprinkle in the sea salt. Set the caramel aside while you prepare the apple filling.

3. To make the apple filling:
Juice the lemons into a large mixing bowl. Core, peel, and thinly slice the whole apples. Cook’s Note: A mandolin works great for producing very thin slices.

Dredge all the apple slices in the freshly squeezed lemon juice to prevent browning and to add flavor. Set the prepared apples aside.

4. To make the apple filling seasoning:
In a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and Angostura bitters. Sprinkle this mixture over the apples in the mixing bowl. Use your hands to gently mix and coat the apple slices.

5. To assemble the pie:
Preheat the oven to 375 to 400 degrees (depending on the hotness of your oven).

Gather your rolled pie crust, salted caramel, and apple mixture. Begin by layering 1/3 of the apples in the bottom of the crust so that there are minimal gaps. Pour 1/3 of the caramel over the apples. Add 1/3 of the apples and caramel for a second layer, and then add a third layer of apples, and then the caramel again. Cook’s Note: Save a small portion of the caramel to pour on top once the lattice is assembled.

Assemble the lattice crust and flute the edges of the crust. Pour the last bit of caramel on top. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and lightly sprinkle with raw sugar and sea salt.

Bake the pie on a baking sheet larger than the pie pan for 20 minutes (otherwise the caramel will bubble over and burn on the bottom of your oven). Reduce the oven temperature to 325 to 350 and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. You can test the apples for doneness with a long toothpick or small knife. The apples should be just soft.

(This recipe is straight from the source—Emily and Melissa Elsen, the sisters who own Four and Twenty Blackbirds. I spotted it on The Cooking Channel’s website.)

Jessica’s Favorite: Vegetarian Transylvanian Goulash

Thankfully, this dish tastes much, much better than its name sounds! In recent years, this recipe has become a favorite throw-everything-in-a-pan-and-let-it-go meal for fall and winter dinners. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike enjoy this dish, and it can be made vegan with a few small adjustments.

2 lb. fresh sliced mushrooms (white ‘shrooms are good, Baby Portobellas are even better)
1 lb. Sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons butter (vegan butter and/or olive oil works well, too)
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 cup minced garlic
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup tomato puree/paste
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)

1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add chopped onions and green pepper. Cook until onion is transparent, then add garlic and cook for a minute or two longer.

2. Stir in the paprika until the onions are well coated.  Add 1/2 cup of vegetable stock and bring to a boil; then add mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to soften a bit.

3. Spread the drained sauerkraut over the mushrooms. Mix the tomato puree and remainder of veggie stock in a separate bowl, then pour the mixture over the sauerkraut. Bring to a boil again, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to one hour. Add small amounts of additional stock, if needed.

4. Once everything is tender, add sour cream to the mix and/or on top. Serve over brown rice or egg noodles if you want or need the carbs.

Yield: four to six adult-size servings.

(Original recipe from Time-Life International Cookbook (1977), adapted with several vegetarian goulash recipes found online.)

Hana’s Favorite: Whoopie Pies

The Whoopie Pie is the secret comfort food of the North, and is actually more like a cake sandwich than a pie.

These round chocolate cakes remind me of summers spent in Vermont, running around with cats through gardens, dirt and crumbs dusting my face, my clothes, and probably my glasses.

Regardless of how often you troll through neighbor’s yards or befriend stray animals, you can get in on the goodness and simplicity of a whoopie pie. It’s traditional, yet unrefined. Dig in and don’t be afraid to get a little messy with it.

Chocolate Cakes with a Maple Crème Filling

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. In a bowl, sift together, flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
4. In another bowl, beat butter, shortening and sugar until just combined. Stir briskly or use mixer on medium for three minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat for two more minutes. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk and stir until incorporated. Repeat with remaining flour and milk and beat until combined.
5. Using a tablespoon, drop batter on baking sheet two inches apart. Bake for about six to eight minutes each or until pies spring back when pressed gently.
6. Remove from oven and cool for about five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

1 tablespoon of batter should make about 48 two-inch cakes or 24 pies.
2 tablespoon of batter should make about 30 four-inch cakes or 15 pies.

1 cup marshmallow fluff
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark grade maple syrup

1. Mix fluff and sugar together in bowl
2. Add butter, vanilla and maple syrup.
3. Place a dollop of crème filling on the flat side of the whoopie cake. Place second cake on top and sandwich together the crème.

(This is a variation of a secret Frenette family recipe.)

Samantha’s Favorite: Pumpkin Chai Smoothie

Pumpkin for breakfast? Yes please!

Sneaking some leftover pumpkin pie isn’t the only way to satisfy your fall pumpkin fix. Skip that messy crust and time consuming baking process and whip this recipe up. It’s healthy too—vegan and gluten free—so when people start giving you weird looks for drinking “that pumpkin milkshake thing” yet again, you can totally justify it.

Pumpkin Chai Smoothie

1 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I use vanilla almond milk)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 frozen banana
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 medjool dates, pitted
1 knob of fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon homemade chai spice (recipe following)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ice cubes

1.Place all ingredients in your blender in the order listed, then blend for 30 seconds or until smooth.

Homemade Chai Spice:
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
pinch of salt

1. Combine all ingredients in an air-tight container. Shake and use as a replacement for cinnamon and other spices in your favorite baked goods.

(Original recipe from

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