Readers' Choice Fall Comfort Foods
Locals spar over whether Skyline or Gold Star makes the better version (and whether the secret ingredients should be cinnamon, cocoa or allspice). Whichever, chili in the Queen City translates as a mild, meaty sauce served over spaghetti noodles and topped with shredded cheese.
Beans and Ham Hocks
Thanks to the ham hocks, the only seasoning needed in these homey beans is a bit of salt.
Lisa Sparks, who owns Lisa's Pie Shop in Atlanta, Indiana (north of Indianapolis), blends tangy Granny Smiths and mellower Jonathans in her double-crust pie seasoned with cinnamon. Tapioca thickens her pale filling, making a lusciously clear sauce that wraps itself around the tender sliced fruit. The trick to tapioca: Soften it in liquid before baking. Lisa says this apple pie recipe brought top honors at both local and national pie competitions.
Bacon and Baked Potato Soup
Salty-smoky crumbled bacon tops our cheesy potato soup. "I made this soup and we loved it! Best potato soup ever!" writes one of our website reviewers. "I put carrots in mine; made it even better."
Fork-Tender Pot Roast
Dan and Nancy Viste specialize in American classics at their Old Feed Mill restaurant in Mazonomie, Wisconsin. Their pot roast slow cooks until the meat turns brown and tender and the flavor mellows to an almost caramel overtone. Browned bits in the pan become the base for the rich red wine gravy.
Sour Cream Pumpkin Bars
These are especially good in fall, but canned pumpkin makes them an any-time treat.
Wild Rice and Turkey Soup
Our quick and easy soup was inspired by the flavors of Minnesota, which leads the nation in turkey production. Smoked turkey mixes with the state grain, wild rice. Meaty shiitake mushrooms add more substance to the bowl.
Cranberry and pumpkin breads
German-Russians settling the Dakotas put Red River Valley potatoes to good use in this creamy-rich potato-filled base with noodle dough cooked. It's white-on-white comfort food.
Butternut Squash, Lentil and Wild Rice Stew
Here's a main-dish soup loaded with veggies. Need to reduce the sodium? Use only one can of French onion soup and replace the other with 1-1/2 cups water.
Amish Apple Dumplings
We often equate Amish food with comfort. Here's our version of a favorite apple dessert you might find at Amish-based restaurants in the Midwest.
Chicken and Noodles
Chicken, noodles, veggies and herbs simmer in a creamy sauce. It's a perfect one-dish meal; just serve with a small salad or dinner rolls.
Applesauce Spice Cake
No granulated sugar is added to this recipe; the sweetness comes from cider, fruit and applesauce.
Fireside Beef Stew with Root Vegetables
Cranberry juice makes a surprise appearance in this slow-cooker main dish. The juice adds a little sweetness to the veggie-packed soup.
Spoon cheese-sauced cabbage and sweet pepper over a crumbled corn bread base for this side dish. Serve with roast pork or ham.
Three Sisters Corn-and-Chili Chowder
This lively chowder uses the three sisters of Native American cooking: corn, beans and squash.
Chicken with Lemon-Thyme Dumplings
This country-style chicken soup with dumplings will remind you of Grandma's recipes--hearty, rich and comforting.
Saturday Night Beef-Vegetable Soup
For retired home-economics teacher Pollie Malone of Ames, Iowa, Saturdays used to be family time, ending with a meal of hearty soup. "Today, my grown children make this soup and serve it to their children," she says. "What great memories of cold Iowa nights enjoying a memory meal!"
Firehouse Beef Roast
This slow-cooked beef makes its own gravy as it roasts in the oven. The recipe comes from Greg Drazkowski of Menomonie, Wisconsin.
Cranberry-Apple Sweet Potatoes
Mix pantry ingredients—canned apple pie filling, canned sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, apricot preserves, orange marmalade and chopped pecans—for a quick and easy side dish with a crunchy nut topping.
Brisket in Onion-Ale BBQ Sauce
Beef, chili sauce and brown sugar flavor tender beef brisket in this slow-cooker recipe.
Ginger-Cinnamon Apple Crisp
"This is a twist on a popular dish and is one of my personal favorites," says April Osburn from the Clabber Girl Bake Shop in Terre Haute, Indiana. Thinly slice the apples for this apple dessert so they get done in the allotted baking time.
Healthy Green Bean Casserole
Bread crumbs combine with tender, sweet onion to top this casserole, while low-sodium soup mixes with yogurt for the green bean sauce.
Three-Bean Beauty Chili
Erica Whitson, Maplewood, Minnesota, mixes black, kidney and garbanzo beans that bubble away in tomatoey brown sugar sauce with ground beef or turkey. Our heat rating: ! (Mild, Not Wild)
Cranberry-Stuffed Pork Chops
Savory sage in the stuffing mix meets cranberries in this easy pork chop recipe.
Chicken Pot Pie
Ina Pinkney, owner of Ina's in Chicago--home of this pot pie recipe--calls this dish creamy, chickeny goodness. The pastry tops can be made a day or two ahead. Bake as directed; cool and then cover loosely with plastic wrap and store at room temperature.
Butternut Squash Bake
This creamy squash casserole calls for mascarpone—a mild, soft, butterlike cheese—as well as Parmesan. You can substitute softened cream cheese for the mascarpone if you prefer. Time-saver: Look for precut squash in your supermarket. (You can also bake the squash in your oven first to make it easier to peel and cut.)
Hearty Minestrone Soup
Susan Corley of New Albany, Ohio, shared her version of the classic Italian soup in New Albany Cooking with Friends, a cooking club project that took regional honors in the 2007 Tabasco Community Cookbook Awards. Susan often slow-cooks a pot of the soup for family meals during the holidays.
Cherry Crisp Pie
"Cherry Crisp Pie is popular because it's not overly sweet and has just the right bite to it. That makes it a true cherry lover's pie," says Kathy McCauley, owner of Kathy's Pies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "The crumb topping is a nice twist on the traditional (double-crust) pie, giving it a shot of sweetness" with every bite.
Mary Lou's Muffins
This tender, moist lemon-blueberry muffin counts on garden-fresh lemon verbena for its essence of herbed citrus. Or, substitute lemon peel. The recipe comes from a community cookbook called Tasteful Garden Treasures, put together by the Taylor Garden Club in Taylor, Michigan.