Nothing makes hard times a little easier like comfort food

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Well I'm glad it's a new year. I'm ready for a little change and that saying, "out with the old, and in with the new," is sounding better and better to me.

Last year started out pretty good, I lost 20 pounds by June, then my brother Bill died in July without seeing his 60th birthday, complications of a hard life. Our step-grandson, Jonathan, took his young life in the fall for reasons we will never know. On Oct. 1, on a cold and chilly night, Kennedy Meadows, the pack resort where I worked all summer long, burned down to the ground.

I share these stories with you because the one common denominator of these tragedies was food. When we found out my brother was dying and had less than two weeks to live, I called and asked what I could bring him.

He wanted chocolate chip cookies and yeast rolls that my mom use to make. I made the rolls and the cookies. He couldn't eat very much but he dunked them in his coffee and I think it gave him comfort just knowing they were there if he wanted them and being able to share them.

On the weekend Jonathan died, I had two pies to make for the silent auction item that I had donated for the Boys & Girls Club annual barbecue.

At first I thought, "How can I make these pies right now, I'm not in the mood," but then a sense of calm prevailed and I thought what better way to honor Jonathan's memory? Maybe the money raised will help some other troubled kid.

The morning of the fire at Kennedy Meadows I drove home and surprised Ralph at 4 a.m. I was up by 7 a.m., making sandwiches and cookies.

We left to go back up there and also brought some water and fruit with us so everyone who had been up all night fighting the fire could take a break and have a little nourishment. I brought food up twice more that week.

In times of trouble and stress, for me cooking is a good thing. It keeps my hands and my mind busy.

Every Sunday last month I volunteered to cook for Friends in Service Helping. It was a bit of a challenge using the ingredients they have in their kitchen. I usually made a run to the store to get extras that don't ever seem to get donated. Local restaurants like Adele's and Station Grille, friends and family helped me with this endeavor.

Now that the holidays are over, if you want to keep some "Thanksgiving" in your life try this. You can make this a habit without much effort.

When the stores offer buy one, get one free, and you think I don't really need two of those or I won't be able to use them both before they expire, buy it anyway and take it over to the FISH kitchen.

It's open seven days a week and I guarantee you they will use it. They love fresh fruits and vegetables just like the rest of us.

The recipes I'm sharing with you can be filed under comfort food. Not only am I sharing them with you, but I took the soup and the cookies over to the Obama office on Winnie Lane. Whether you're a Democrat or Republican, support your candidate of choice and don't forget those hard working volunteers.

• Linda Marrone has been a Carson City resident since 1973 and together with her husband, Ralph, formerly operated Marrone's Restaurant in Carson City and Somethin's Cookin' Catering.

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Makes about 48

1 cup butter, softened

11Ú2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. baking soda

3 large eggs, room temperature

21Ú4 cups flour

21Ú2 cups bittersweet or dark chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat butter and sugar with mixer until creamy. Add vanilla and soda.

Beat in eggs one at a time until fluffy. Add flour on slow speed until blended.

Stir in nuts and chips. Drop by rounded teaspoon 2 inches apart on baking sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 2 minutes, then remove to rack to finish cooling. Store in airtight container.

Beef Barley Soup with Mushrooms:

Start with whatever size pot you want to make the soup in and we'll go from there.

I make my own beef stock: I use soup bones with meat browned in a high oven for about 45 minutes to one hour, then I put it in a pot and cover with cold water, add celery, carrots, an onion, a couple of bay leaves and some whole peppercorns. Boil until meat is tender, usually a couple of hours.

I add some beef stock to this for flavoring. Strain everything when it's done and put your broth in the refrigerator overnight. Pull out the meat and chop into bite-size pieces. The next day, skim the fat off your broth, put your beef back in, add some shredded carrots and mushrooms that have been sautéed and chopped a little, and some cooked barley. Garnish with fresh minced parsley.

I cook my barley separate and rinse it before adding it to the soup. This keeps your soup nice and clear. Barley freezes well so cook the whole bag, use what you need and freeze the rest. You can simplify this soup by using canned or boxed broth, but it won't be near as good. If you received a slow cooker for Christmas, this would be a great recipe to fix at night before you go to bed or in the morning before work.


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