Guest-Elizabeth Penney

Jessie: Enjoying the post holiday season and all the promise of a new year!

I have corresponded with Liz Penney off and on for some time through social media, email and as a frequent commenter on this blog. But, as so often happens in our world today, hadn’t met her in person until she surprised the Wickeds by attending an event we appeared at White Birch Books in North Conway, NH. It was lovely to get to do so and is at least as nice to have her here as a guest today! Take it away, Liz!

Cozy Winter Comfort Food

Here we are in the heart of winter, with temps dipping into single digits while snow drifts deep and wind whistles around the eaves.

At least that’s the weather where I live, in the heart of the White Mountains, in close proximity to some of the world’s worst weather. On top of nearby Mount Washington, a wind record of 234 miles per hour was set back in 1934. Even on a clear, calm day, which is rare, conditions on this tallest peak in the Northeast can kill an unwary hiker. Yikes.

In my fictional world of Blueberry Cove, Maine, winter has also set in, with ice creeping across the harbor and snow frosting the pine trees along the shore. It’s the perfect time of year to make a big pot of something comforting and curl up with a book by the fire while it simmers.

Comfort food is a key ingredient in the Apron Shop Mysteries, no matter the time of year. In my view, delicious food and drink and a lot of it, is one of the best aspects of the genre. What fun would a cozy mystery be if the characters were on a diet or were picky eaters?

For my book menus, I’m drawing inspiration from a classic cookbook, Cooking Down Eastby Marjorie Standish, published in 1969. Margery gathered this collection from cooks all around Maine for her column in the Maine Sunday Telegram. As a result, she preserved Maine food traditions and culture dated back generations. Along with classic seafood dishes, baked beans, and chowders, she included recipes for fiddlehead ferns, dandelion greens, venison, and pheasant.

Many dishes she features are thrifty, hearty meals that don’t cost a lot to prepare. For this post, I prepared one of those, a corn chowder inspired by Marjorie’s recipe. I made a few changes to suit my taste and you can do the same.

Corn Chowder

3 slices bacon

½ cup diced onion

¼ cup diced red pepper

2 cups diced potato

1 14.75 oz. can of creamed corn

1 teas. salt

¼ teas. pepper

2 cups water

2 cups milk (I used whole)

Dice the bacon into small pieces and cook slowly in a large heavy pan. Once the bacon is browned, remove from the pan and place on a paper towel to drain. 

Sauté the onion and pepper in the bacon fat until softened. Add the potato, two cups of water, and salt and pepper and cover. Simmer until potatoes are soft. 

Add the creamed corn, milk, and bacon pieces and heat slowly over low heat. Serve in a big bowl accompanied with hot bread and butter. Tastes even better the next day.

Readers, now it’s your turn. Tell us about your favorite winter comfort food. If it’s a family favorite or a traditional dish, even better.

About Elizabeth Penney

Elizabeth lives in New Hampshire’s frozen north where she pens mysteries and tries to grow things. She’s the author of the Apron Shop Series, with book one, Hems and Homicide, available now, as well as numerous titles for Annie’s Fiction and Guideposts. 

33 Thoughts

  1. Before I could respond, I had to copy and print the corn chowder recipe. Sounds yummy!

    Winter for me requires a soup/stew that I grew up with. Although the recipe comes from my mother’s family, my father was the only one I remember making it as a child. We called it Manast – most likely a corruption of minestra – and it’s basically an escarole stew with white beans and sausage. Very filling, and the broth is made for mopping up with crusty bread.

  2. That sounds delish, Elizabeth. Congratulations on the new book in the new series! I like to bake sourdough bread in the winter – in fact, this post reminded me to get the starter out of the fridge so it can warm up. A slice of warm bread, thick with butter, and a bowl of hot chili or chicken soup spells comfort to me.

    1. Baking bread is another go to pleasure for me in winter. Haven’t done sourdough but I have a simple flour, water, sugar, salt, and yeast recipe that makes the best rolls.

  3. My go-to cold-weather comfort food is my potato soup. Boil six potatoes, six celery stalks, and a couple of carrots (all chunked of course) for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid, and set aside. In the same pot, saute a diced onion in six tablespoons of melted butter until the onion is clear, then add six tablespoons of flour, a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper, stirring into a paste. Add 1 1/2 cups of milk and stir until thickened, then return the veggies to the pot and start ladling the reserved cooking water back in until reaching your desired consistency, stirring and stirring and stirring. I use a potato masher to stir AND to mash up the veggies at the same time. It’s my husband’s and grandnephew’s favorite.

  4. Elizabeth, what great news about your new series. It ticks all my boxes: cozy mystery, set in Maine, and about aprons. In our family we have lots of apron wearing relatives. I have your book in my Wishlist on Amazon and will buy, read it and share it with others in the family. I think you are going to have built-in readers in no time. As far as soups go, my gold standard is chicken soup and I have some almost every day.

    1. Oh, Judy, that is music to my ears! Aprons hold association of family and home for many. Thank you.

  5. My favorite comfort food is my Grandmother’s recipe of chicken and dumplings! She has passed but this recipe still lives in this household. My Grandparents owned a small restaurant when my mother was a teenager and this recipe was on the menu.

  6. Hi, Liz! I’m so excited to see that Hems and Homicide has been released into the world. I’m off to Vermont in a couple of days to spend an extra long weekend on retreat and I’m headed out to B&N this afternoon to pick up H&H, which I know will be the perfect accompaniment (along with my plot notes and my knitting, of course!). As for comfort food, nothing beats a grilled cheese sandwich cut into triangles and dipped into tomato soup. I know you are an extremely disciplined and prolific writer–I’d love to hear some of your tips and secrets about how you get so much done.

    1. Jane, great to see you here and thanks for the H&H love! I adore tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches–and so do the littles I entertain frequently. Your writing retreat sounds wonderful, would love to attend one someday.

      And how do I get so much done? I write almost every single day (small increments of 1K on a project usually), outline ahead (not natural for me but I now embrace it), and in between I noodle plot ideas. It helps to be a bit of a workaholic, only now it’s for books instead of business.

      1. I go with a group of 5 or 6 other authors, one of whom has a beautiful (large!) ski house in VT, two or three times a year. We all contribute food, wine, and cooking and cleanup chores, and work together to plot each other’s next books, and because we’ve been working together so long we are super efficient and can usually plot most (sometimes all) of a book in an hour or two. (We use Trello–a free, project-planning/sharing site–to put up our initial plot notes in advance, so everyone can read and think about them ahead of time) That leaves time to talk shop, take a walk up and down the mountain, work on our own projects, and take a trip into town to the Northshire Bookstore (an AMAZING indie bookstore in Manchester VT). It’s a pretty perfect setup, and yes, I’m super lucky 🙂

  7. It was so nice to meet you in New Hampshire. I don’t think we have a go to comfort meal in the winter. Love the concept of your series and I thought of you when I bought a cute vintage apron at a Christmas sale.

    1. It was great to meet you and the others too! Loved the discussion about author life. One thing I love about aprons is how personalized they are. Many were home-sewn and made to suit the wearer. I love that.

  8. Congratulations on the new series, Elizabeth. Can I say that I love, love your cover?

    Your recipe reminds me of a family favorite–Corn and Turkey chowder. Nowadays we usually make it after Thanksgiving, but I was brought with tales about how lucky I was to be eating it with big chunks of turkey in it, because during the Depression the carcass that went to the pot had been picked completely clean before it became soup.

    1. That’s an interesting twist on corn chowder! I think I’ll try it that way. And thanks for the book love, they did do a wonderful job on the cover!

  9. I’m looking forward to reading H&H. I love books set in New England, having lived in Boston for 18 years.

    My favorite comfort soup is chili. My recipe is very simple and quick, but so good. Just brown a pound of good ground beef and a lot of chopped onion. Dump in a package of chili mix, a can of tomatoes ( I can my own), a can of whatever your favorite beans are (we prefer black beans), cover, and simmer for about half an hour. I have a big old iron skillet with a domed lid that I feel really “makes” it all work.

    1. Chili is great Thanks for sharing your recipe! The home-canned tomatoes must be wonderful.

  10. Any recipe that starts with bacon is okay by me.

    I made a hearty fajita chicken mac-and-cheese earlier this week (you use taco seasoning on the chicken, and both pepper jack and cheddar cheese in the sauce). Tonight is pasta and meatballs, of course with thick, crusty bread. And a good stew or chili on a cold day is always a winner.

    1. Love that variation on such a comfort classic! My daughter had mac and cheese at her wedding, which was a sit-down prime rib dinner. Oh and poutine for the midnight snack, which is french fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy.

  11. Now I’m hungry. Can I curl up with some soup and a grilled cheese instead of working the rest of the day?

  12. Looks delicious! I LOVE New Hampshire. We used to vacation there as a kid, along with VT. I remember taking the cog railway up to the top of Mt. Washington. I was little and it was so windy, even in summer, that I almost got blown off the mountain. No joke. I remember a sailor who was visiting grabbing my arm and pulling me to safety!

    1. Ellen, what a scary memory! Glad the sailor was there to rescue you. Years ago, I was hiking up Mt. Adams and it was so windy we had to stop ascending and go over to Madison and go down. Literally pushing us off our feet.

  13. My favorite winter foods are chili, hot chocolate, cinnamon toast, and a corn soup recipe I got from my neighbor.

    1. Cinnamon toast is delicious! I have a jar of pre-mixed sugar and cinnamon in my spice cabinet. Saves time during toast emergencies.

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