basket of soft pretzels, comfort foods

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a beach girl at heart, constantly counting down the days and months until the warmer weather arrives. So it should come as no surprise that the longest few months of the year for me are during the winter. I love some good comfort foods to help make the days more tolerable until summer’s arrival. 

There is nothing quite like warming up by the fire with some amazing mac and cheese and a warm chocolate chip cookie. Spoiler alert: recipes for both of these are part of this comfort food favorites piece. The following recipes are easy, delicious, and as a bonus, your littlest chef(s) can definitely help out!

Mac and Cheese

homemade mac and cheese, comfort food

First up on our comfort food favorites is baked mac and cheese. I’ve spent years perfecting this recipe with many tweaks along the way. The completed recipe is creamy and cheesy with a perfect crunch on top that hits the right spot on those cold days. The secret ingredient is minced garlic, which adds just the right twist and flavor to make the perfect mac and cheese.

The Ingredients

  • 1 Stick Unsalted Butter
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 Cups Whole Milk (you can also use heavy cream if you want a richer taste)
  • 2 Tablespoons Minced Garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon Paprika
  • ½ Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • ¼ Teaspoon Garlic Salt
  • 2 Cups Shredded Cheeses (using different varieties of cheeses is critical)
  • 1 Box Pasta (I prefer medium shells but have experimented with elbows, penne, and rigatoni)
  • Ritz Crackers
  • Olive Oil

The Recipe

Cooking mac and cheese

  1. Start boiling a large pot of water for the pasta, and once the water is boiling, cook pasta according to box instructions
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. In a different saucepan (use a medium saucepan), melt the 1 stick of butter 
  4. Mix the 3 tablespoons of flour into the butter to make a paste-like substance
  5. Add the 2 cups of Whole Milk
  6. Stir up the mixture under medium heat and allow it to thicken. You can add more flour by the tablespoon at a time if you need to thicken the mixture even more
  7. Mix in the minced garlic and seasonings. Note that these seasonings can all be tweaked to your personal taste preference, either adding others or substituting for my suggestions.
  8. Add the cheese. As I referenced above, it is important to use multiple shredded cheeses so you have good flavor. We typically use a mix of cheddar, mozzarella, Mexican, an Italian blend, and a mac and cheese blend.
  9. Remove the cheese sauce from heat once cheese is fully melted and combined
  10. Add a quarter cup of pasta water to the cheese sauce
  11. Strain pasta and pour pasta into saucepan with cheese mix
  12. Pour mac and cheese mixture into greased baking pan
  13. Crush up Ritz Crackers in a separate bowl and moisten with olive oil or butter (you can also use other buttery crackers or breadcrumbs)
  14. Top pasta with the cracker mixture
  15. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 Fahrenheit
  16. Enjoy it hot!

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Soft pretzels

Next up on our comfort food favorites is a huge favorite of my kids: homemade soft pretzels. While these pretzels may look complicated, they are very easy to make. The recipes we use are not my own, but we swear by them.  

The first is from one of my most favorite chefs, Tieghan Gerard. Her recipe for Pumpkin Beer Pretzels is linked hereWe have tried it with all different types of beer, not just pumpkin, and it is equally delicious each time. I most recently made these pretzels for the Super Bowl, and this was one of everyone’s favorite appetizers. And my kids love to help with this recipe. They have so much fun folding the pretzels into the right shapes. 

The second recipe is from Sally McKenney, another chef who I regularly use for inspiration. This recipe is easy, and most importantly if you are baking with kids, it has a lot less wait time in between steps than the previous option.

For both of these pretzels, I always make a cheese dip to pair as a side. For that I combine butter, flour, milk or extra beer (if making the first recipe), shredded cheese, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt and pepper into a medium saucepan. Stir the mixture until it gets to a thick, creamy consistency and serve it hot along with the pretzels. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

cookies, comfort foodWho doesn’t love a good chocolate chip cookie recipe? There are so many out there that it can be overwhelming. We’re always trying different recipes because chocolate chip cookies are one of my husband’s most favorite desserts.

During a recent snow day, we made Tieghan Gerard’s giant chocolate chip cookies, and I can’t recommend these highly enough.

sprinkle chocolate chip cookie

We added one tweak per the suggestion of my 5-year-old. She really wanted rainbow sprinkle chocolate chip cookies, so before baking I rolled some of the cookie dough balls in rainbow sprinkles. They were quite the hit with my kids and our neighbors!

Do you have a favorite comfort food recipe? If so we’d love for you to share it with us! Please tag me @snfenlon or @CapeCodMoms with your own ideas.

Samantha Fenlon
Samantha is a Massachusetts native with a love for Cape Cod. Growing up, she spent summers in Hyannisport and now feels incredibly fortunate to take her two children and husband back as often as she can. Samantha, her husband Matt and their two girls - Charlotte age 5 and Addison age 2 - love to go to the beach and are always up for exploring new spots throughout the Cape. Samantha spent nearly a decade working in TV news as a general assignment reporter in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She is a passionate storyteller with a background in on-camera reporting, content generation, video editing and social media. For the past five years Samantha has been a freelance media consultant while raising her two children. Samantha graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and Psychology.

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