Comfort Foods We Crave -- And Why

Who doesn't love comfort food, especially in the dead of winter?

We all have a few whose smells and textures evoke a cozy, safe, nesting feel. When we walk in a room and smell a meatloaf cooking or apple pie in the oven, they bring back childhood memories.

On The Early Show Tuesday, lifestyle expert Sissy Biggers, of PBS' "Victory Gardens," discussed the psychology of comfort food, and picked five in particular to talk about from a recent survey about peoples' faves.

  • Cinnamon buns, fresh from the oven: Their smell transports you to that secure, familiar place. Biggers is big on the Pillsbury ones you can buy from the grocery store. She just loves the way the smell fills her home. She says the smell of cinnamon and sugar takes her back to her childhood.
  • Tuna noodle casserole -- half with bread crumb topping: The texture of comfort foods is at work here, along with satisfying the expectation of having something soft and mushy, with a crunch on top.
  • Mac 'n Cheese: Twenty years ago, we never would have imagined finding this on the menu at a fine restaurant, but comfort sells! Now, some of these recipes feature delicious, high-end cheeses, so it's not the same old cheap cheese you used to find.
  • Meat loaf and mashed potatoes and peas: The best of comfort food is also derived from leftovers. Sissy says this dish is the perfect comfort food: It has the aroma,is easy to make, and is soft and flavorful.
  • Shepherd's pie: A classic English comfort food, easy to make, and Biggers' personal favorite.

    Biggers' Shepherd's Pie Recipe

    1 1/2 pd. ground lamb
    3 garlic cloves crushed and chopped
    1/2 cup chopped onions
    1/2 cup chopped celery
    1/2 cup chopped carrots
    1/3 cup frozen peas
    1/3 cup frozen corn
    1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
    1/3 cup currants
    1 egg
    two or three squeezes of ketchup
    salt and pepper
    olive oil
    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
    Mashed potatoes (from the prepared food aisle!!) approx two cups
    Shredded cheddar or other cheese for extra richness

    Brown lamb in skillet with a teaspoon of olive oil until cooked through and slightly brown. It will produce fat and liquid which should be drained off after the meat is done.

    In second pan heat olive oil and chopped onions, celery and carrots and garlic and saute until translucent.

    Add cooked, drained, ground lamb to the vegetables and combine.

    Add 1/4 cup frozen peas

    Add 1/4 cup frozen corn

    Add 1/3 cup TOASTED pine nuts

    Add 1/3 cup currants

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Sprinkling with two teaspoons ground cinnamon and a grating or two of whole nutmeg.

    Whisk one egg and add to meat and vegetable mixture and squeeze several tablespoons ketchup to bind the ingredients.

    When cool lay the meat mixture in the bottom of a 9" Pyrex and drop dollops of mashed potatoes on top and spread a think layer of potatoes over meat mixture.

    Top with shredded cheese.

    Baked in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is heated through.

    Add mashed potatoes on top (cut a corner and buy them in the prepared food section.) Can also be topped with cheese.