Ah, January. So difficult. Weeks of feasting end in….this. In northern climes, we’re snowbound and cranky. In southern ones, it’s often gray and icky. These 15 comfort meals for January can help you survive the month with cozy goodwill. And if you’ve chosen to go dry this January—well done, you!—comfort food can be extra necessary. Unless, of course, you’re one of those zealots who’s going all Whole 30, in which case you may want to check out this excellent list. I have no intention of going Whole 30, so someone else wrote it.
All of the below can be easily made double, so you can freeze half (or more). Stock up for those nights when you just want to unwrap something, heat it up, and snuggle into a cozy, comfy evening.
1. The Chili of Your Choice
There are gazillions of chili recipes. For something traditional, give this slow cooker version from Clean Eating a shot. Ground meat, black beans, and dark spices like cocoa and (of course) chili powder combine in a robust bowl of goodness. The photo also proves that chili, even in the hands of an excellent photographer, is not so easy to make pretty. Vegans, check out this smoky squash quinoa and pinto bean iteration from The First Mess.
2. Jambalaya or Paella (they’re a lot alike)
In the savory rice with lots of other stuff category, Jambalaya and Paella rule from two continents. They tend to have a lot of steps, but sometimes in winter, I just like to stand in the kitchen and chop and throw things into a pot. Here’s a fine Jambalaya recipe. Play zydeco. If flamenco is more your thang, give this easy paella a shot. Not so different, right?
3. Shepherd’s Pie
Any kind of savory pie rules this time of year, as do mounds of potatoes or cauliflower mash or….whatever atop something stew-ish. In this month’s (December 2019) Rachael Ray magazine—the last monthly issue before she goes quarterly in 2020—I was inspired by the way she adds blue cheese to the potatoes in her shepherd’s pie recipe. Replace the lamb with turkey if you like, which makes it a pie for whatever you call a turkey shepherd.
Vegans who don’t want to sub lentils for ground meat (what seems to be the standard go-to), try this really lovely mushroom version from Loving It Vegan, a great source for vegan recipes.
You can make lasagna pretty much however you like. But for full-on decadence, make it with Bechamel sauce, a super easy white sauce that adds fluffy goodness to your layers of pasta and filling. This pumpkin lasagna recipe from Clean Eating has been my go-to for a while; it’s super easy, especially when you use the no-bake noodles. And you don’t need to follow the ingredients too closely.
In this recent version, I used leftover turkey from Thanksgiving in lieu of the ground, and leftover kale and Brussels sprouts that I mixed with some freshly sauteed mushrooms for the vegetables. I skipped the pumpkin. And I added some leftover gravy to the Bechamel. It turned out quite fine.
Also, you only need half the recommended amount of Bechamel. Looks like I should document that in a recipe, because at this point I’m departing a long way. But for now, I’ve found the Clean Eating one to be a great blueprint open to improv.
I would be remiss not to include my pastitsio, a Greek version of lasagna that is oh so yummy, particularly if you do like tomatoes and Meditteranean flavors. The same recipe works if you skip the noodles and use eggplant instead, thus making moussaka. Opa!
5. Biscuit-topped Stew
It’s a biscuity version of pot pie. The biscuits are the easy drop version, no kneading or rolling. The filling in this Clean Eating chicken cobbler recipe is, obviously, chicken-based. But you can swap out the meat for cauliflower and/or Brussels sprouts, which I roast about 20 minutes ahead of time for more flavor. Not being a lima bean fan myself, I just skip them altogether with impunity.
As for the biscuits, feel free to simply rub very cold butter into very cold flour as quickly as possible; skip the pastry cutter. And in addition to or instead of chives, use any chopped herbs you have on hand for a lovely flavor boost.
6. Grilled something with vegetable soup
I used to order a half grilled turkey and artichoke from Panera with a cup of tomato soup. But it’s so easy to make, especially if you’ve managed to keep some spinach artichoke dip from a December party. Case in point: this version from Kelly Williams featured at Just a Pinch. Dip it in your favorite soup. Looking for a new one? Try my pumpkin/winter squash one. It’s easy and super tasty.
7. Breakfast for dinner
I love my quinoa crust quiche. So do a lot of people. It’s a super easy, super healthy breakfast for dinner dish (or portable breakfast or lunch, for that matter). Of course, any breakfast for dinner is pretty awesome, because hash browns, scrambled eggs, and maybe a little sausage, or a biscuit, or both, are my idea of wallowing, decadent nighttime heaven.
8. Meatloaf, double Beetloaf
I make great meatloaf. But I haven’t bothered to document the process in photos yet, partly because meatloaf, like chili, is very, very difficult to pretty up. Until the joyful day comes when I release my recipe, I direct you to this very nice one from Natasha and her kitchen. Natasha, by the way, shows that she does have the secret of making meatloaf look pretty.
9. Meatballs on top of pretty much anything
That same meatloaf mix can be portioned into meatballs. In the December issue of Eating Well, there’s a swell feature called “On the Ball,” featuring 6 different ways to use 12 oz of frozen meatballs, among them lasagna, with gnocchi, in heroes, and in soup. Try as I have, I’ve been unable to turn up the page online. The magazine is really nice, though, if you still do print.
Meanwhile, while I wanted to feature as many different bloggers as possible, I have to throw Tieghan at Half Baked Harvest yet another link. Her Coq au Vin Meatballs are a truly genius concept. Yum.
Growing up in California, Mexican food in general and enchiladas in particular mean awesome comfort. I just discovered Mely Martinez’ blog, Mexico in my Kitchen, and this delightful, easy, and authentic tasting recipe. Sign up for Mely’s updates for other great recipes.
11. Mac and Cheese
There are so many folks smashing mac and cheese out there that I’ll leave you to your own devices. Whether you make this one by heart or have a fave, Mac & Cheese is THE glorious comfiest food of them all. Chocolate Covered Katie is your girl for 7-ingredient bliss, which you can make completely dairy and gluten-free if you like.
12. Slow Cooker or Instant Pot Curry
Tieghan, in my opinion, makes the best curries this side of New Delhi. Actually, my friend Sangheeta makes the best ones, but she doesn’t have a food blog. For winter, I’m partial to Tieghan’s super easy Thai Butternut Squash version. But if that doesn’t strike your fancy, just search “curry” on her site, Half Baked Harvest. Curry heaven.
13. French Onion Soup
My mom used to buy frozen French Onion soup from Costco, and it was great. French Onion Soup is easy to make, but it will perfume your house with sauteed onions, which for some folks is a bit much. If, however, the smell of carmelized onions makes you very happy indeed, Lisa isn’t kidding when she says this is a super easy F.O. soup recipe. And the cognac gives it a great flavor right out of the old Les Halles market, where, apparently, they invented the stuff. Do get Gruyere if you can; Monterey Jack is not, to my mind, a satisfactory sub.
14. Pad Thai
I’m not even gonna try to compete on the Make Your Own Take Out Pad Thai from Lindsay at Pinch of Yum. It takes 10 minutes, it’s vegetarian, and it’s awesome, as are so many of Lindsay’s recipes. Sign up for the newsletter! Pinch of Yum rocks.
15. Stuffing with Gravy
I can live without Thanksgiving turkey, but do not mess with my stuffing. Every year, I make a ton of it. I can’t get enough, especially with a good gravy on it. This year, I used two recipes pretty much verbatim from Bon Appetit, and they were INSANE. First, the recipe for Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage and Corn Nuts. Consider adding a bunch of chopped greens and mushrooms to the recipe, but don’t consider leaving out the corn nuts, because they make this extra special.
Next, the recipe for Why-Is-It-So-Good Gravy. The best thing about the gravy—and who, ever, anywhere, has had enough gravy?—is that you don’t need a whole bird to make it. You can, however, skip the vinegar and MSG at the end. (Who’da thought MSG would make a comeback? So crazy.) Completely unnecessary.
Yeah, it’s a carby dinner. To which I say, Yes. I do like my carbs. So be it.