When juncos suddenly appear sprinting across frost-covered grass to the bird feeder, we know winter has set in. It may still get to be sunny and sixty at noon, but in early morning hours, cold air penetrates family room windows, chilling our wake-up space as we watch the tiny winter birds come out of forest into yard. Yes, we know winter is here.

When requests for baked chicken or hot casseroles overcome thoughts of grilled pork chops, we know winter has set in. It’s not just outside or inside the house. Our systems seem to know when to switch from lean meat, greens and summertime fare to substantially soothing comfort foods that stave off cold and dark days. Yes, we know winter is here.

When emails come in for lost candy or cookie recipes, we know winter baking has set in. Light fruit salads and ice cream move over for hot, bubbly apple bakes, warm pies and heavenly cakes as short days make longings for ‘heavy sweets’ a priority on the kitchen front. Yes, sweet winter days are here.

Noodle Casserole

  • 1 can condensed cream of broccoli soup
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) wide egg noodles, cooked, drained
  • ½ of 16 oz. pkg. frozen broccoli-cauliflower-carrot mix, thawed
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed

In large mixing bowl, combine soup, milk, half of the cheese, garlic, parsley and pepper. Add prepared noodles, thawed vegetables and mix well. Pour into buttered 2 ½ quart baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Cover, bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Cover may be removed the last 10 minutes of baking to brown top.

Buttered Pasta

  • 4 ounces dry spaghetti
  • 2-4 tablespoons butter
  • Favorite seasonings

Break spaghetti into short lengths. Cook according to package directions. Drain, return to pan with butter. Toss over lowest heat setting until butter in melted. Add seasonings-garlic powder, pepper, salt, parsley, sliced black olives, drained pimentos, or a mixed seasoning such as Trader Joe’s 21*more about that later, or whatever you enjoy with pasta. Toss all together lightly. Serve hot. (Our favorite combination is pasta, butter, garlic, pepper, black olives and Parmesan cheese.

Sausage Cabbage Bake

  • 2 cans low-sodium cream of mushroom soup
  • ¼ cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 pound Polish or smoked sausage

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, having cut the sausage into 1-inch pieces. Pour into 2-quart casserole. Cover, bake for 50 minutes. Dish may be uncovered the last ten minutes and cheese sprinkled on top to brown.

Scalloped Oysters

  • 1 pint oysters
  • 3 cups crushed saltine crackers
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 cups liquid (oyster liquid and milk)

Drain oysters, saving liquid. Add enough milk to it to make the 2 cups. Butter a baking dish. Mix melted butter and crumbs. Alternate layers of crumbs and oysters. Season to taste. Pour liquid over all. Sprinkle with remaining crumbs. If desired, a bit more butter may be melted and drizzled over all. Bake in 375 degree oven about 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

Tuna Pie

  • 2 regular size cans tuna in water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • ½ cup sliced celery
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 can (14 ½ oz.) low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups frozen peas/carrots mix
  • 1 teaspoon crushed thyme
  • One pie pastry-homemade or store bought
  • 1 egg beaten with water
  • Parmesan cheese, optional

Drain tuna, set aside. In skillet, sauté onion, mushrooms, celery in butter. Stir in flour and cook for a minute. Slowly stir in broth, cooking over low until thickened. Add peas/carrots and thyme. Pour into 2 ½ quart casserole dish. Adjust pie pastry round over top, folding edges under. Make several slits in top for vents. Brush with egg/water. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top if using. Bake 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly and brown. Other seasonings may be used according to preference.

This month we’ll take a look back at some popular recipes from winters past. Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to bake and try, ours is but to comfort bring, until all thoughts have turned to spring.

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