After an 8-inch snowstorm hit Yankton in early December, many residents got out their shovels.

Steve and Tracy Huff got out their crock pot and roaster.

The couple spent their snowy Saturday afternoon seeking comfort — how else? — by whipping up some comfort food.

For the uninitiated, comfort food is one of those things you can’t easily describe. You just know it when you see it.

“It pretty much describes any food that looks and smells good and that makes you feel good,” Steve said. “For us, it’s the kind of food that the family makes for the first snowstorm. I think, with it being a snowstorm week, it just begged for comfort food. It just absolutely did.”

The comfort food reflects the mood of the day, Steve said.

“You can roll it out or eat it over a period of time,” he said. “After you’re done eating it, you just want to put your feet up. You may want to loosen your belt, or you can spend the day just sitting around in your (sweat pants).”

A check on Facebook revealed a wide variety of Yankton residents staying indoors and posting about whatever they were cooking or baking. In many cases, people were making chili or some type of casserole.

Steve described an imaginative creation: a lasagna that was half vegetable and cheese with the other half featuring sausage and buffalo.

“You just have to be creative,” he said.

You also need to ensure you have the ingredients before you start any culinary projects. On this particular weekend, the anticipated bad weather created a run on local supermarkets. At one store, the milk coolers were empty and the bread shelves were bare.

“You should plan ahead, especially if you think you’re going to cook or bake,” Steve advised.

Comfort food means different things to different individuals, Steve said. Regardless of your favorite dish, comfort food needs to be savored, he added.

For some people, comfort food means hearty dishes like chili, soup or mashed potatoes. For others, it’s an all-day baking session resembling an assembly line.

For the Huffs, there’s no better place to spend a snow day than in the kitchen. Unlike previous His Voice meals, this creation would end up on the Huffs’ own table and dishes.

“We’re not doing this for any fundraisers or for anybody else. This is all for us,” Steve said.

“We decided to do this (dish) on the spur of the moment,” Tracy added.

Making It Easy

On this particular afternoon, the Huffs made it easy, hearty and practical. They went for a roast, surrounded by cooked vegetables, all simmering in the natural meat juices.

“I looked online for a good roast recipe. I wanted to to emphasize the vegetables,” Steve said. “This fall was a great harvest for produce, and we had the very last of our vegetables from the farmer’s market in Yankton. I had carrots and radishes, and I wanted to make sure those didn’t’ go to waste.”

When it came to preparing the veggies, the Huffs decided less was more.

“For this recipe, Tracy wanted it really hearty. She didn’t even peel the veggies. I peeled off a couple of spots on a couple of carrots,” Steve said. “I left the peeling on the radishes and parsnips. Basically, I took the brownish off the Brussel sprouts and kept the vegetables as plain as they could be.”

The decision wasn’t meant just to avoid work, Steve said. Instead, the hands-off approach was meant to bring out the full snap of the veggies.

“You want to leave the vegetables crispy. Mushy means you’ve gone too far. I want it to have crunch,” he said. “Mushy is fine for mashed

potatoes and sweet potatoes. But mushy isn’t fine in my book for enjoyable vegetables. You can have them bendable for roasting them.”

When it came to the meat, Steve had turned to his favorite local shop earlier in the week and already had the main attraction on hand.

“I went to Steiner’s Market (in Yankton) and got the roast,” he said. “I also got Steiner’s pecan bacon, where they cure the bacon and finish it with pecan smoke.”

Steve remains a fan of using bacon for practically any meal as a main ingredient, as a side or in small bits.

“People love bacon. You can use full slices for the carnivores in the family,” he said. “Tracy doesn’t like the food too heavy, but the kids and I do.”

In this case, the family can choose according to their tastes. Steve and teenagers Nathan and Abby could load up on the roast and bacon. On the other hand, Tracy could go light on the meat itself and enjoy the vegetables flavored by the meat broth and seasonings.

How much meat did the Huffs use for this meal?

“I used about 4 ½ pounds of chuck roast,” he said. “You can serve 4-6 people easily, and with the veggies, I would say you’ve got enough food for six people.”

The roast, with potatoes and other vegetables, has origins going back to the days before statehood, Steve said.

“I found this in the ‘Pioneer Woman’ publication,” he said. “The early settlers had their canned vegetables, bacon and sides of beef. This dish would be popular this time of the year, right after harvest.”

Making Plans

During the week of the December blizzard, the Huffs were already pondering a day in the kitchen making their favorite comfort food.

“We were watching (pro) football at Charlie’s (pizza restaurant in Yankton), the Dallas and New Orleans game. It was in the third quarter, and it looked like the game was coming down to the wire,” Steve explained. “I said, ‘Why don’t we make a grocery run? We’ll beat the crowd and still get home in time to see the end of the game.’”

For the record, Steve remains a big fan of Saints quarterback Drew Brees. And yes, the Huffs made it home from the store in time for the fourth quarter.

Once the snowstorm arrived the following Saturday, the Huffs went to work in the warm and inviting kitchen.

“The recipe calls for cooking the vegetables in the pan to get some color on them. If there is a bruise on the carrot, we just cut it away and use the rest of the carrot,” he said. “I use a sauce made of vermouth and low sodium beef stock. There are plenty of opportunities to build a beautiful sauce with the meat and vegetables. You’re stewing together and enhancing the wine and stock.”

The meat was cooked for four hours. The Huffs used a Greek seasoning, salt, pepper, thyme and chives. In particular, they like Cavender’s Greek season because it’s organic and low sodium.

The vegetables were added to the roaster. Steve used a wide gamut of produce, including red onions, radishes, carrots, parsnips and Brussel sprouts with a dusting of dehydrated mushroom for the sauce.

He seared the veggies in a pan with bacon, bacon fat and olive oil. He seared the parsnips and radishes first, followed by the other vegetables.

“You put those things together for significant flavor,” he said. “A lot of people dislike Brussel sprouts. I tell you, that’s just wrong.”

Looking For New Ways

Regardless of the dish, Tracy looks for healthy alternatives for the products or the preparation.

For this meal, she made quinoa, which is similar to couscous or rice. Quinoa has been touted as gluten free, high in protein and containing all nine essential amino acids.

She also uses Sucanat sugar, which she described as an unrefined whole can sugar that’s better for diabetics.

For this meal, Tracy made cornbread as a treat for their daughter.

“Abby loves cornbread, and I thought it would be a nice addition to the meal. Sometimes I make it homemade, and sometimes I make it out of the box,” Tracy said. “We treat cornbread as a side, but you could have it for breakfast or as a dessert.”

Stacy has used yogurt as a base for the cornbread. She also likes to make a sweet and spicy cornbread, using cayenne pepper or other spice.

January usually marks a time for New Year’s resolutions, and Steve said healthy eating can become part of a daily lifestyle. He’s trying to improve his diet to the same level as Tracy, and he said a healthy diet doesn’t’ mean a bland one.

Regardless of what’s cooking, Tracy said one of the couple’s favorite activities is teaming up in the kitchen.

“We’ve been together 23 years and married for 20,” she said. “Out of that time, some of our most enjoyable moments have come from the time that we’re together cooking. It’s usually those things like today (during the snowstorm) where it’s on a whim and we’re putting it together and saying, ‘Let’s just make it fun.’”

Steve agreed, adding that the couple wants to pass along their love of food to their children. Steve noted one of his proudest moments was when, at a younger age, Nathan and Abby prepared tuna steaks on their own.

“It fun only to have our kids here at home, Nathan is 17 and a junior at Yankton High School,” he said. “We’ve only got him for two years where we know he’s going to be here. Abby is younger, but she won’t be here that much longer, either.

“We want to create great memories for them. And I want to make sure those memories include things like a great-smelling house filled with great food.”