Comfort food: To each her own

Susie Droessler's Grandma Bread. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Vicki Bechen made this pan of okra and tomatoes during Thanksgiving, with a pan of cornbread next to it. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Mantea Schmid, of Dubuque. PHOTO CREDIT: Telegraph Herald

Vicki Bechen, of Dubuque. PHOTO CREDIT: By Jim Swenson

Foods can be very comforting at times, both for their deliciousness and sentimentality.

We asked readers for examples of their favorite comfort foods and received three special submissions.

Grandma Bread

If you have ever been to the Galena (Ill.) farmers market, you would find “Susie breads.“

This rising bread story started more than 25 years ago, when my dear friend gave me a bread starter. I have kept it alive that long.

I started out just making bread for our family, then bake sales for our church and school. Next, I was making it to travel to track, cross country meets and wrestling meets at Dubuque Wahlert Catholic High School.

Our children grew up and said, “Mom, you should market your bread.” I’m in my ninth year of selling my bread at the Galena farmers market. Then, grandkids started to show up, and they have changed the name in their eyes to Grandma Bread.

That’s a honor I have experienced and loved. I also love the joy people get from getting homemade bread.

It takes me back to when I was a child, when Mom made bread twice a week. We would get home from school and have a warm piece, dripping with butter or her homemade jam.

So yes, it’s my comfort food.

— Susie Droessler, Menominee, Ill.

From grits to okra

My go-to comfort food, if I am not feeling well or recovering from a migraine, is grits mixed with eggs, butter and pepper. We grew up in southwest Missouri and grits and eggs were pretty much a staple.

My favorite breakfast is still grits and eggs with biscuits and gravy. I do not indulge myself anymore very often but other than homemade, Cracker Barrel has the very best. I would prefer fried venison with it like we used to have once in a while but I settle for the turkey sausage at Cracker Barrel.

Another family favorite is okra and tomatoes over rice and we have it at holiday meals because my whole family still enjoys it. I do make that more often but I have eliminated the rice; but you could also put it over riced cauliflower.

My mother always grew okra and tomatoes in her garden. Our favorite Sunday dinner was okra and tomatoes, beets, green beans and sometimes fried green tomatoes all fresh from the garden in the summer with fried chicken.

Another favorite at Thanksgiving was oyster dressing and it still is for my family.

— Vicki Bechen, Dubuque

Enjoyable lasagna

Greek lasagna is called Pastisio. It takes every pan in the kitchen to make but it’s so worth it.

It’s not a red sauce like Italian lasagna but topped with a béchamel sauce. It’s so delicious and enjoyable. I say enjoyable because Greeks don’t just eat, we enjoy our food!

I got the recipe from one of my food mentors, a little Greek lady named Bessie Mihal. She taught so many of us Greek American gals in our church how to cook well.

She’s gone now but many of her recipes are still being used by those who knew and cooked with Bessie. We have a little notebook with her recipes and those of her friends where she hand recorded all the recipes.

The baklava recipe we make and serve each month for our Gyro Sale at St. Elias also came from Bessie’s little notebook.

Bessie’s Pastisio (Greek Lasagna)

Pastisio is a popular Greek dish. The creamy bechamel sauce on top gives this dish its uniqueness. It requires almost every pan in the kitchen to make but it is so worth it!

2 lbs gr. Sirloin

Olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 tbsp parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

One 8 oz can tomato sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

1 lb. thick macaroni/pasta

4 tbsp. butter

3 eggs, beaten


8 tbsp. butter

6 tbsp. flour

4 c. milk

2 cups parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, sauté onions in olive oil until tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add meat and brown well. Drain off fat.

Cook pasta for 10-11 minutes. Mix drained pasta with butter. Add beaten eggs.

Make bechamel sauce in pan on stove with butter, flour, and milk until thickened. Add parmesan cheese. Spread half pasta on the bottom of greased pan. Add a few ladles of bechamel sauce. Top with all the meat. Put the rest of pasta on top of meat. Ladle the rest of bechamel sauce on top. Sprinkle with paprika.

Cook at 350 for 1 hour. Cool at least 45 minutes so that cut pieces don’t collapse when cut.

— Mantea Schmid, Dubuque

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