Yup.  We’re still waiting for Spring.

No, it’s not that I’m surprised (as a friend’s astute daughter said, “Of COURSE the groundhog thinks there are six more weeks of winter — the first day of Spring is March 21!”); it’s just that some years, it feels like a longer slog than others.  This year, what with Polar Vortexes (vortices?) and continual inconvenient snow storms — with their attendant continual inconvenient snow DAYS — Spring in Rhode Island cannot come soon enough.

Until it does, however, we’re going to have to continue getting through the cold and the late-winter produce selections as best we can.  At this time of year, as much as we may be tired of soups, stews, braises, and baking…it’s almost inevitable that we’ll continue to turn to soups, stews, braises, and baking.  This week in our house is no exception; in fact, since I’ve got a busy few days ahead of me with rehearsals and performances on top of the usual work and family commitments, I’m churning out the late-winter comfort foods in full force, trying to keep the fridge and pantry stocked with big batches of ready-to-go items that will get everybody fed with minimal hassle all week long.

First came the six pounds of meatballs, which are safely stashed in the freezer; then the big batch of pita bread, which I made using my go-to recipe, adapted for the use of my sourdough starter.  I threw in a giant sourdough boule for good measure before turning my attention to a batch of granola and two roast chickens.  Then I finished out the weekend with a loaf of spelt banana bread — our second in as many weeks.

This banana bread recipe is adapted from what I consider to be the definitive sort of source for any kind of old-school comfort baking recipe: A Ladies’ League Church Cookbook.  The dog-eared spiral-bound paperback from a 1970s fundraiser sat on a shelf in my mom’s kitchen the entire time I was growing up, and my sister D. and I referred to it whenever we needed to figure out how to bake anything that didn’t come in a Duncan Hines box mix from Mom’s cupboards.  My mom is an excellent cook, but not much for baking; when we were still pretty young, no more than maybe 10 years old, she let us know in no uncertain terms that barring the occasional birthday cake or batch of box-mix cookies, if we wanted a homemade dessert, we’d have to find our way around the kitchen.

Spelt banana bread

We both cut our teeth, so to speak, on recipes like the church cookbook banana bread.  It’s a simple recipe and is frankly some of the best banana bread I’ve ever tasted, anywhere; not too greasy, not too dense, and great with a smear of peanut butter.  Now that I’m baking the banana bread for my own family, I haven’t made many changes to it, but I have adapted the sweetener (and cut the amount); I also prefer, these days, to make our banana bread with whole spelt flour.  The spelt is light and slightly nutty, and doesn’t appreciably alter the texture of the banana bread.  I like to substitute it for regular wheat flours in lots of baked goods, just as an easy way of diversifying the grains we eat.

Breads and baked goods safely stowed, I’ve rounded out my preparations for the week with tonight’s dinner: a big pot of loaded potato soup.  This probably would have been a better thing to eat during one of the really bitterly cold days of the winter, but it’s a stick-to-your-ribs kind of creamy, comforting thing to eat no matter when you make it.  It’s got all the best flavors that I associate with a loaded potato — cheese, bacon, sour cream, and even broccoli — but made with a mixture of good bone broth and grass-fed dairy, it’s the kind of rich comfort food I don’t feel too bad about serving to the family.

Loaded potato soup

It’s still cold outside, and will be colder than I want it to be for longer than I would like; but with late-winter comfort foods like these to get us through the next few weeks, I think we might just make it until Spring.