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ANN BAILEY: Comfort food for cold, wintry days

For me, cold, wintry days are made for cooking and baking. Comfort food isn't just about eating tasty, familiar food, it's about making it. Just as I crave cool, light salads during the dog days of summer, in the winter my thoughts turn to hearty, stick-to-your ribs meals. Creating a meal and then eating it with my family is satisfying for me from start to finish. Chopping and mixing together the ingredients is a mini-workout and smelling the delicious aromas wafting from the slow cooker or oven gives me a mental boost. Three of my favorite comfort foods are Texican Chili, my sister Bonnie's cornbread and Toffee Bars.

Here are the recipes and happy cold-weather cooking!

Texican Chili

8 bacon strips, diced

2½ pounds beef stew meat, cut into ½-inch cubes

2 cans (one 28-ounce and one 14½ ounces) stewed tomatoes

2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce

1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups sliced carrots

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped green pepper

¼ cup minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chili powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon pepper

In a skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towel and drain. Brown beef in the drippings, transfer to a 5-quart slow cooker; add bacon and remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 9 to 10 hours or until the meal is tender, stirring occasionally. Yield: 16 to 18 servings.

Boninie's Corn Bread

¼ cup butter, melted

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup flour

1 cup corn meal

1 cup sour cream or buttermilk

Mix melted butter, sugar and add eggs. In a separate bowl, sift together salt, baking soda, baking powder, flour and corn meal. Add dry ingredients to butter, sugar and eggs mixture, then add sour cream or buttermilk and mix. Place in a greased 9-by-9-inch pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

Toffee Bars

2¼ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter or margarine

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1¾ cup toffee bits

1 cup chocolate chips

Sift dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat margarine or butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, vanilla and milk and mix. Stir in flour mixture. Add 1¼ cups toffee bits and chocolate chips. Mix well and spread in greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle on remaining toffee bits while still warm.

Reach Bailey at