comfort food

KN, p. 290 “Portuguese Food Adventure”

The best part of any trip for a food enthusiast is the wonderful taste treats encountered along the way. The beach might be fun, the mountains may be spectacular, but if we can share the views with friends over a great meal, the memories will stay with us for a very long time.


We spent our recent trip to Portugal in Porto and Braga, (in the northern region, about four/ five hours north of Lisbon). We discovered that northern inland Portugal eateries focused on cod, the national fish of Portugal, as a menu choice. Fried, poached, grilled, broiled, mashed – with different sauces everywhere. The coastal towns have a larger sampling of the seas, but the islands of the Azores deliver the greatest variety I have ever eaten – including fish I had never heard of before. Dourado (a type of bream) and robalo (a type of sea bass) can be found in more expensive restaurants, as well as at lunch counters near the ocean.


Since the bigger Portuguese cities are tourist destinations for an international crowd, small restaurants and specialty lunch places are tucked around the edges of central plazas. They offer freshly cooked food – a big departure from American chains.


Enjoyed as a ‘fast-food’ all over the EuroZone, Doner Kebab is basically shaved meat (lamb, veal, or chicken) served on a hamburger roll or in a takeout box on top of fresh vegetables. The meat is stacked and cooked on a metal rod and often displayed in the front window of the restaurant. A large shaver is used to slice the meat quite thin.








The Doner Kebab lunch in a Porto sandwich shop near the train station was made with chicken. Beneath the chicken in the photo is shredded lettuce and tomato. The sauce is a garlicky, mayo type sauce similar to Tzatziki.


Lots of lunch menus include beef, chicken, or fish served with an egg on top. We ate this dish (steak and peppers with fries under the egg) at a diner-type place in Porto frequented by the locals – a great venue for comfort food served quickly to people from the neighborhood businesses on their lunch hour.

One welcome change we found on this trip to northern Portugal was that almost all the restaurants now have some version of a tossed salad on the menu, as well as vegetables listed as side dishes. The vegetables are well-seasoned to complement the main dishes. We have yet to eat at a place with bland food, so bring your taste buds.


Part of the foreign travel adventure is that our American stand-by favorites are frequently reimagined (or deconstructed) to reflect the local chef’s interpretation. The dinner menu at a lovely restaurant in Braga promised a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. This is what was served – layers of Canadian style bacon, bread, and sliced tomato, all sitting in a tomato soup with an egg on top. Delicious, spicy, and oh so filling, but not at all what a traveler from the U.S. would expect for a BLT.

Another night, we wandered into a vegetarian restaurant that advertised all-you-can-eat with a price tag of about $12.00 for each of us. We doubted that we could stuff ourselves on ‘just veggies,’ but wow, were we wrong. Large platters filled the banquet tables with beautifully arranged appetizer sized vegetable concoctions. One notable item we might try to make at home was sliced, grilled sweet potato rounds, with a dollop of zesty hummus on top. Another platter held small stuffed mushroom caps filled with a pesto mixture. Yum!


As travel opens up around the world, be prepared to be surprised and delighted by the many new choices of cuisine. There are tourist traps out there that charge too much for the food you are served, but many are quite reasonably priced. Most places have menus near the doorway so you can be prepared before walking in (or away). We have found gems tucked behind the famous spots, and lousy food when a renowned chef has a bad day, but we’ve had tons more great food than ‘eh.’


It’s all an adventure and you’ll come back with great stories to share. Plus, some of the places we visited were perfect settings for murder mysteries, with subdued lighting and centuries-old architecture, so what’s not to like?


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KNR, p. 202 “The Kerrians’ Famous Mac & Cheese”


The temperatures are cooling off and comfort food takes center stage at our house. We fend off the chill with body warming soup and hearty sandwiches, but every once in a while, we like mac & cheese for lunch or dinner.

I like to taste test the new versions with different goodies added to the mix, but there is a basic recipe that Sheila uses (and even I can make) that is fail-safe. We sometimes prepare it ahead and serve it as a side dish if we’re expecting a crowd.

A couple of thoughts: It looks like a lot of instructions, but you’re boiling noodles, grating cheese, making a sauce, and putting it together in layers – like lasagna. No bodies were found while making the latest batch. Promise.  🙂

Here’s our famous Mac & Cheese recipe:


The Kerrians' Famous Mac & Cheese

Sheila Kerrian
tasty comfort food
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4


  • 2 quart baking dish
  • 3 quart pot



  • 1 8 oz box small elbow noodles
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon butter or margarine for boiling water, to keep noodles from clumping
  • 1 teaspoon butter for tossing noodles

White Sauce

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 5 Tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper

Additional Ingredients

  • 12 oz sharp cheddar, grated
  • 2 cups croutons, seasoned  (we use the garlic & herb variety)
  • 1 cup bacon, crisp, crumbled   *optional
  • 1 whole tomato *optional



  • Bring 1 and 1/2 quarts water to boil in a 3 quart pot, add 2 teaspoons sea salt and stir.
  • Add dry noodles and 1 teaspoon margarine to boiling salted water and stir.
  • Boil noodles until fork tender, stirring frequently (about 20 mins).
  • (While noodles are boiling, prepare the White Sauce.)
  • Thoroughly drain the noodles, toss with 1 teaspoon butter, and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 375.

White Sauce

  • In one quart pot, melt 4 Tablespoons butter on medium heat, being careful not to burn it.
  • Add 1 Tablespoon flour, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and stir until well blended.
  • Add 4 more Tablespoons flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time, stirring each until well-blended and the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pot.
  • Remove from heat. Add 1 cup milk (1/4  cup at a time) stirring until smooth, without clumps.
  • Return to heat and gradually add 3 more cups milk, while stirring. As the sauce thickens, stir to keep it from sticking to the pot and/or clumping. It is ready when it is the consistency of creamy gravy.
  • Add pinch of black pepper. Remove from heat and set aside. It will thicken a bit more while sitting.

Cheese and Assembly

  • Grate all of the cheese and set aside.
  • Use a 2-quart baking dish. You will be assembling the mac & cheese in layers (like lasagna).
  • Spread 1/4 cup of sauce on bottom of baking dish.
  • Spread 1/3 of the noodles in the bottom.
  • Spread 1/3 of the remaining white sauce on the noodles.
  • Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese on top of the sauce.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the croutons on top of the cheese.
  • Repeat the layers twice more, but with the top layer, crumble the remaining croutons and spread evenly on top.
  • Bake at 375 until heated through and cheese is bubbly, about 20 minutes, no lid.
  • Serve with salad.


Options: Create a well in the center of a whole tomato and serve mac & cheese in it.
Sprinkle crumbled bacon on top of mac & cheese as a garnish.





















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KNR, p. 201 “Black Bean Lentil Soup”


This year our football and baseball playoff parties may be at home, but it’s still time for great food, easy to make for a group of ten.


We both like black beans in several dishes, so we decided to make black bean soup, but added diced tomatoes and lentils for texture and color. This soup is so thick that it can be used as a topping for rice or pasta.


I ate it like chili, in a bowl, and there was very little soupy liquid. Don’t want it that thick? Just add water.


"Black Bean Lentil Soup"
Recipe type: soup
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10 servings
  • 4 cups water (add another cup for a thinner consistency)
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Vegi-soup Mix – dry (or 1 cup uncooked lentils)
  • 6 15 oz. cans black beans (not soy)
  • 1 15 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic
  • 1 4 oz. can chopped green chilies
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  1. Spray large soup pot with canola pan spray (for easier clean up).
  2. Add water, sea salt, and dry vegi-soup mix.
  3. Cover pot and bring to boil. Boil for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Add black beans, diced tomatoes, chilies, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and stir until well mixed, then return to heat.
  6. Cover pot and cook on medium for about an hour, until lentils are tender.
  7. Stir frequently to keep beans from sticking.


We made so much while testing the recipe, that I gave some to the neighbors to try. They lived. Promise!  🙂


This one bubbles and pops, so keep the lid on.


Optional garnish: sprinkle shredded cheese on top.


Add meat and/or serve over rice/pasta for a delicious, filling, main dish.
A scoop on top of a baked potato would be delish!


Watch the game, and enjoy!  🙂









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