From pork chops to peppermint sugar cookies, food columnist offers up a few recipes that you'll want to try during the cold-weather months, when you're looking for some comfort food.

Due to an early deadline this week, all thoughts of pre-planning and organization have flown out of my head and I'm frantically checking to see what recipes I might have already tested that I can share with you.

Fortunately three recipes were at the top of my "tested and tasty" pile and I think you'll enjoy each of them. When I wake up "too early" in the morning, I frequently head for the kitchen to make some muffins so that enticing smells will greet Spicer when he awakes. Our most recent muffin success came with Cinnamon and Sugar Muffins. As I've mentioned before, the cinnamon chips that this calls for can be found at Byler's or – if you are very lucky – Hershey's Cinnamon Chips may be available at your supermarket. (I rely on Byler's.)

IF you have any candy canes leftover after the holidays, your family and friends definitely will enjoy an Internet recipe (credited to Gourmet Magazine). I am currently waiting to test a "made-from-scratch" recipe for Fake Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix but meanwhile you can test this using the "real" Betty Crocker pouch of cookie mix. You'll be amazed at how quickly you can make this. The writer of this recipe includes casual but very helpful instructions for placing the dough into the pan and I would urge you to follow these directions. Just be sure to check the weight on the sugar cookie mix because Betty Crocker is now offering her mix in a smaller size pouch than what you'll need.

I was looking for a new recipe for pork chops when I came upon's Parmesan Sage Pork Chops. The recipe as written called for two boneless pork chops but there is enough breading mixture to cover four and you'll definitely want that many – even if you are only cooking for two. These are delicious and leftovers re-heat well (if you have any).
When you read the instructions this sounds like a lot of work but it really isn't and the moist and tasty results make it well worth following each step carefully. I think this would work equally well with boneless chicken breasts.

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Cinnamon and Sugar Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk or sour cream

1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil

1 egg

1/2 cup cinnamon chips

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (mini chips work well in this recipe)

Cinnamon-sugar mix

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line 16 regular size muffin tins with paper muffin cups and set aside. In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and stir to blend well. Combine milk, oil and eggs in a larger mixing bowl and blend. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and fold in with a spatula or whisk just to incorporate and blend ingredients. Do NOT over mix! Stir in both flavor chips. Divide dough among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin generously with cinnamon sugar. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. (NOTE: You can probably make 12 larger muffins and bake for 15 to 18 minutes but I tested this recipe using 16 muffin cups.)

Simple Peppermint Bark Sugar Cookies


1 (1 pound 1.5 ounces) Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix

1/2 cup butter, softened (NOT MELTED)*

1 egg

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

5 or 6 peppermint candy canes, crushed into small-ish pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray then line the bottom of the pan with a 9-inch wide strip of parchment paper, leaving paper overhang on both of the 9-inch ends of the pan. (Using the paper overhang allows you to just lift the baked and chocolate topped cookies right out of the pan.) Combine cookie mix, softened butter and egg; mix just until blended. You will have a fairly thick "dough-like" consistency. Take small handfuls of dough, flatten in your hands and space evenly in the prepared pan. Using your fingertips, press dough to form an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Pierce dough all over with fork. Bake this cookie base until light golden brown and slightly puffed up. Edges will begin to come away from the sides of the pan – bake for about 15 to 18 minutes. Place pan on a metal cooling rack and IMMEDIATELY sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the hot dough. Place a cookie sheet over the top of the pan to soften the chips and allow to sit for just 3 minutes until you can spread the melted chocolate over the top of the cookie base into an even layer. Immediately sprinkle the crushed candy canes evenly over the top. Allow to cool to set chocolate then cut into small squares. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper of parchment paper.

(*) "Softened" butter is just soft enough to allow you to gently press your fingers across the top and leave an indented impression. Melted butter, or butter that is too soft, will affect the texture of these – and most – cookies. Trying to "soften" butter in the microwave does not generally produce good results.

Parmesan Sage Pork Chops

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pinch ground black pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 to 4 boneless pork chops

1 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a shallow baking dish of the size to hold your pork chops and set aside. Mix flour, salt and black pepper in a shallow dish. Place beaten egg in another shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, sage and lemon peel in another shallow dish. Gently press each chop into the flour mixture to coat on both sides and shake off excess flour. Immediately dip into the flour-coated chop into the beaten egg and then into the bread crumb mixture on both sides. Gently toss between your hands so any bread crumbs that haven't stuck can fall away. Place breaded chop onto a plate and continue with other chops. Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Brown pork chops on each side – about 4 minutes per side – and then transfer to prepared baking dish. Bake in preheated oven until juices run clear – about 10 to 15 minutes. (Meat thermometer should register 160 degrees).