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Tim Grahek

Tim Grahek's Cheesy Potatoes

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Crystal Alvarez

Jim Darling

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Crystal Alvarez

Beef Burgundy by Jim Darling with green salad with balsamic and blue cheese prepared.

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Beth Hoffman's Heavenly Hash

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Beth Hoffman's mother, pictured here with Beth, passed down the recipe for Heavenly Hash.

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Beth Hoffman

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Lauren's Red Soup prepared by Cecilia Quebral

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Crystal Alvarez

Lauren's Red Soup prepared by Cecilia Quebral

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Crystal Alvarez

Cecilia Quebral

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Pumpkin Squares prepared by Pat Mount

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Steve Roach and his daughter Sara

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Crystal Alvarez

Pumpkin Squares prepared by Pat Mount

Winter months, holidays and comfort foods go hand-in-hand-in-hand with family get-togethers, home cooking and spending quality time indoors -- cozy and warm.

But true comfort foods don't just fill you up and keep you warm, they play an emotional role. They bring about feelings of togetherness, nostalgia and fond memories with loved ones.

Food plays an important role in family history, too, including here in Bakersfield, where these traditions have laid a strong foundation. Here are some local family recipes from members of our community. Give them a try and they may become part of your tradition.

Lauren's red soup

Contributed by Cecilia Quebral, RDAEF, Capital Dental Group -- capitaldentalgroup.com

The recipe was inspired by Olive Garden's pasta e fagioli soup. When my daughter, Lauren, was little and couldn't pronounce the name, she always called it "the red soup." I've been making it for about 10 years, and Lauren is now a freshman in high school. Around the holidays, my nephews start requesting the soup, and it makes me feel good they enjoy it so much. Since our office is open seven days a week and everyone has the same lunch hour, we frequently enjoy family-style lunches in our bistro kitchen. This recipe is a favorite among the staff during the winter months.

I've eliminated the pasta from my first attempts -- it soaks up too much of the broth -- and continued to add different vegetables throughout the years. I usually serve this soup along with garlic and olive oil toasted French bread.


Olive oil

1 pound ground beef

3 cloves of garlic (smashed)

1 small onion, diced

3 stalks of celery

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1 small bag of green beans (frozen)

1/4 bag corn (frozen)

1 small zucchini, diced

1 can diced tomatoes (plain 14 ounce)

1 can diced tomatoes (Italian spices 14 ounce)

1 can tomato sauce (6 ounce)

1 can kidney beans, rinsed

1 cube of beef bouillon

1 cube chicken bouillon

Salt to taste

Directions: Saute garlic and half of the onion in olive oil for about one minute. Add beef and beef bouillon, and brown for about five minutes. Set aside.

Heat the oil and saute onions, carrots, celery and zucchini in a stock pot for about five minutes. Add green beans, corn and kidney beans with a little chicken bouillon. Cook for another five minutes. Add all tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add meat and water (water is twice the amount of vegetables), salt and bouillon to taste. Bring it to a boil then simmer for about 10 to 20 minutes.

Braised short ribs

Contributed by Steve Roach, president and CEO of Quantum Data Systems, Inc. -- qds-inc.com

The primary inspiration for this recipe comes from the Balthazar Restaurant in New York. Shorts ribs are served there every Saturday night, and I've been making this dish or variations of it for nearly 10 years. I usually make it when all my kids come back to town.

This kind of comfort food really needs cold weather, so I usually make it in the fall or winter. Everyone loves it. The aroma it produces is half of the appeal, and friends swear you can gain weight just by inhaling the fumes. I also like to mix up the root vegetables using parsnips and turnips, or substitute brandy for the sherry to tweak the flavor a little bit. I usually serve the shorts ribs with the braised carrots, a white bean puree and some really crusty artisan bread for sopping up the gravy.


3 pounds short ribs

6 carrots, peeled and sliced into 2-inch segments

2 onions, roughly chopped

3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 celery rib, halved

1 sprig each of rosemary, thyme and bay leaf

6 cups veal or beef stock (preferably homemade)

1 bottle cabernet sauvignon

1-1/2 cups Madeira sherry

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

salt and pepper

Directions: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bind the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf between the two celery halves using kitchen twine. On high heat, bring the oil to temperature in a large, oven proof pan. Season the short ribs on all sides with salt and pepper. Sear the ribs until brown on all sides (three to five minutes per side). Using a slotted spoon, remove the ribs to a plate and set aside.

Reduce the heat on the Dutch oven to medium and saute the onions, garlic and carrots. Once the onions are golden brown, add the flour and stir until dissolved. Add the tomato paste and stir until fully incorporated. Deglaze the pot with the cabernet. Add the herb bundle and reduce the wine by 2/3. Add the stock and reduce by half. Return the short ribs to pot, add the sherry, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the oven and braise for 2.5 hours, turning the ribs at least once.

Return the Dutch oven to the stove top and reserve the short ribs and carrots. Discard the herb bundle. Strain the remaining liquid and return it to the Dutch oven. Reduce until thick enough to coat a spoon (30 minutes). Return the short ribs to the Dutch oven and heat through.

Beef Burgundy (JD's version)

Contributed by Jim Darling, owner of Jim Darling Public Relations -- jimdarlingpr.com

After I graduated from college, I was not making much money, so I had to get creative with my meals. I could buy chuck steak inexpensively and slow cook it until tender. I did a lot of free wine-tasting while attending Sonoma State, and I always had Charles Krug Burgundy in the house, so one day I decided to cook the beef stew in wine. My roommates and I loved it, and I have been enjoying this version of beef Burgundy ever since. Now my wife and kids ask me to make it for them. I have yet to find anybody that didn't thoroughly enjoy this recipe, unless, of course, they were a vegetarian.


2 pounds lean, blade-cut beef chuck, cubed

1 large red onion, quartered

1 bottle of house red wine

6 red potatoes, quartered

1 tablespoon powdered garlic

1 tablespoon pepper

1 tablespoon table salt

Dash of Tabasco

Directions: Pour a bottle of red wine in a two-quart pot. Add meat, onion and spices. Bring to a boil and cover, simmer for 90 minutes. Add six quartered red potatoes. Cook for another 30 minutes. Serves six hungry people. Do not shorten the cooking time. Add a nice green salad and enjoy with a glass of red wine.

Mom's party potatoes

Contributed by Tim Grahek, account executive for Lamar Advertising Company

The recipe originally came from my mother-in-law, but I've been making it for more than 12 years for all types of occasions. It goes great with tri-tip, turkey, ham, burgers and deep pit. I make this dish for everyone, and they typically ask me for the recipe. I have made a deal with neighbor who makes the best ribs. We exchange at most get-togethers -- he brings the ribs and I bring the potatoes.

I usually follow the recipe to the letter, but you can use onion powder as a replacement for those picky sister-in-laws who hate real onions.


32-ounce bag of frozen hash browns

16 ounces sour cream

2 cans cream of chicken soup

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1/3 cup butter

1 medium onion or 1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon marjoram

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter. Mix all ingredients except for the hash browns. Then stir in the hash browns. Spread in a 9-by-12 inch greased pan. Bake for 1.5 to 2 hours. Enjoy!

Heavenly hash

Contributed by Beth Hoffmann, director of operations and cofounder of Hoffman Hospice -- hoffmannhospice.org

This is a recipe my mother fixed only at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. When I was growing up, I would help my mom prepare the holiday meals and Heavenly Hash was always on the menu. While it is deliciously rich in flavor, the main reason I consider it comfort food now, is from the memories of those special times with my mom. I have continued the tradition of only fixing this dish at the holidays, and now my daughter, Tori, helps me in the kitchen.

The Heavenly Hash is always requested by family members; it's one of those dishes that everyone enjoys and looks forward to each year.


1 can Eagle Brand condensed milk

1 small can black cherries

2 lemons, juiced

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup pecans

1 box vanilla wafers

Directions: Mix Eagle Brand milk and lemon juice, and let stand until firm. Drain the cherries and cut into halves. Chop the pecans. Whip cream. Fold into the milk and lemon mixture with the chopped pecans and cherries. Line a Pyrex dish with crushed vanilla wafers, and pour the mixture over the top. Sprinkle with more vanilla wafer crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pumpkin squares

Contributed by Pat Mount of Jane's Jewelers -- janesjewelers.com

Ingredients for squares:

4 eggs

1-1/3 cups white sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups pumpkin

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for frosting:

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup softened butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Directions for pumpkin squares: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin in medium bowl with mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt until thoroughly combined. Spread batter evenly into an ungreased, 10-by-15 inch jelly roll pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until done. Cool before frosting. Note: You can also sprinkle chopped pecans or walnuts on top.

Directions for frosting: Combine all ingredients and beat until fluffy.