Alejandra Ramos upgrades comfort food classics

Just in time for the coziest season of the year, Alejandra Ramos is whipping up her favorite comfort foods — with a twist. While this time of year can be stressful, preparing tasty meals between big holidays shouldn't be. This decadent main dish and easy sides are hearty, flavorful and versatile.

Don't miss Alejandra cooking up each delicious dish in the TODAY All Day kitchen. "Winter Essentials" premieres Monday, Nov. 13 on TODAY All Day and airs throughout the holiday season.

Sponsored by Better Than Bouillon.

Baked Manchego Mac and Cheese with Chorizo by Alejandra Ramos

Mac and cheese is a staple comfort food on many tables for a reason, but sometimes the usual cheese mix and pasta shapes could use a little dash of excitement. Savory manchego and spicy smoked chorizo add grown-up Spanish flair to this cozy baked dish.

Red Wine and Pumpkin Braised Short Ribs by Alejandra Ramos

This is my own seasonal take on braised short ribs with red wine — using pumpkin purèe. The flavorful garlic and herbs in the Better than Bouillon Italian Herb base save on prep time while adding a rich, concentrated flavor. I love serving these short ribs with mashed sweet potatoes, which echo the sweetness of the pumpkin.

Tostones with Mayo-Ketchup by Alejandra Ramos

Tostones are one of the first dishes I ever learned how to cook. These salty, crunchy, twice-fried plantains have always been a staple in my Puerto Rican family’s repertoire, accompanying meals as a side dish, fried up on a whim as a quick snack, or served hot out of the oil in large batches to share with family and friends during parties.

Coquito by Alejandra Ramos

Coquito is essentially a pantry recipe. The star ingredients of coquito are coconut milk and sweet cream of coconut, which thickens the drink and intensifies the tropical flavor. Those who aren't familiar with it may call this drink "Puerto Rican eggnog" (it is rich and creamy), but for those of us who grew up with coquito, the comparison takes away from the fact that coquito is a cherished beverage with rich culture and has passionate admirers of its very own.

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