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Comfort food

In Part II of our comfort food series, vegetables take center stage. Just because we’re focusing on vegetables this week doesn’t mean these meals are boring. With the right seasonings and cooking techniques, vegetables can be just as flavorful—sometimes more so—than meat. Get ready to cook some comfort food for the mind, body, and soul!

Vegetable-Based Dishes


Variation of “Mushroom Soup with Winter Vegetables”

A meal can’t get any more flavorful than this hearty winter soup from Country Living. If you’re pressed for time, skip making your own vegetable stock and use good-quality store bought instead. You can also use pre-cut butternut squash too although it’s usually more expensive than buying the whole squash.

2 heads garlic
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large onions
1 1/2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms
8 carrots
2 ribs celery
8 sprig fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1 butternut squash, cut into chunks
1 cup light red wine
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut about 1 inch off the top of both heads of garlic, dot each with 1 tablespoon butter, wrap in foil, and roast at 400 until soft (about 45 minutes). Let cool and squeeze to release the roasted meat. Discard the skins and set meat aside.

To make the vegetable stock, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan. Add half the onions and cook over low heat until caramelized about 25 minutes. Add the mushroom stems, half the carrots, and the celery and cook until soft about 10 minutes. Add 8 cups water, parsley sprigs, and bay leaf; increase heat to high; and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and discard the solids. Add enough water to bring stock to 6 cups. Set aside. (Note: You can substitute this homemade stock with store-bought vegetable stock.)

To make the soup, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the mushrooms in thirds, adding an additional 1 tablespoon butter with each batch, until golden about 3 minutes per batch. Add the remaining onion and cook until softened about 3 minutes. Add the squash and remaining carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Add the red wine, salt, pepper, roasted garlic, and reserved vegetable stock; stir to combine; and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until vegetables are tender about 25 minutes. Stir in chopped parsley and lemon juice and serve immediately.

“15-Minute Creamy Tomato Soup (Vegan) Recipe”

No time? No problem! You can still whip up a nutritious and delicious homemade soup in 15 minutes with this recipe from Serious Eats.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 small onion, finely sliced (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 slices bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes packed in juice
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Minced chives, basil, or parsley as garnish

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add garlic, onions, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently until onions are softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add bread and tomatoes. Roughly mash tomatoes with a whisk or potato masher. Add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.

Transfer half of soup to a blender or use an immersion blender. Blend soup, starting at low speed and gradually increasing to high (be careful initially—the soup can shoot out the top of the blender so open the vent and hold a kitchen towel over the lid to prevent blowout). With blender running on high, gradually trickle in half of remaining olive oil. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with remaining half of soup and olive oil. Ladle into individual serving bowls, top with minced herbs, and drizzle with more olive oil if desired.

Variation of “Roasted Sweet Potato Soup with Pistachio, Orange, and Mint Salsa”

This soup recipe is another one from Serious Eats. If you prefer a plainer soup, skip the salsa in the last step.

4 pounds sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch
6 tablespoons vegetable, canola, or grapeseed oil, divided
Kosher salt
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs sage (optional)
2 quarts homemade or store-bought low-sodium vegetable stock
1/4 cup orange juice and 1 tablespoon freshly grated zest from 1 medium orange, divided
3/4 cup shelled roasted pistachios, crushed
2 scallions white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons very thinly sliced fresh mint leaves (from about 5 sprigs)
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Toss sweet potatoes with 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil and salt. Spread sweet potato on 2 rimmed baking sheets and bake for 1 hour, rotating pans front to back and top to bottom halfway through cooking. Increase oven temperature to 375 and cook until sweet potatoes are tender and lightly browned around the edges, about 25 minutes.

In a large pot, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add carrot, onion, garlic, sage (if using), and a generous pinch of salt. Cook until vegetables are just tender.

Add sweet potatoes and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes until vegetables are very tender. Discard sage, if using. Add orange juice. Blend soup until smooth using an immersion blender or standing blender. Season with salt.

In a mixing bowl, stir together pistachios, orange zest, scallions, mint, and cayenne pepper. Fold in olive oil and season with salt.

Serve soup, spooning pistachio salsa on top.


"Zucchini-and-Spinach Lasagna"

Moving on to those winter staples, casseroles, here is a satisfying spinach and zucchini lasagna sure to please your family. This vegetable-based dish is so easy because you use no-boil lasagna noodles, which you can find at most supermarkets.

1 (8-ounce) container whipped chive-and-onion cream cheese
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
5 medium zucchini, thinly sliced (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach
2 garlic cloves, pressed
6 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 (7-ounce) package shredded mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Stir together first 4 ingredients in a bowl.

Sauté zucchini in hot olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Add spinach; gently toss until wilted. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.

Spoon 1/3 of vegetables into a lightly greased 9-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 noodles and 1/3 of ricotta mixture. Repeat twice. Sprinkle with mozzarella.

Cover dish with lightly greased aluminum foil. Bake at 425 for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and noodles are tender. Uncover and bake for 5 to 10 minutes until golden. Let stand 10 minutes. Garnish, if desired.

Variation of “Easy Cauliflower Gratin”

It does not get any easier or healthier than this simple cauliflower casserole from Martha Stewart.

1 cup homemade or store-bought Italian breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cored and cut into small florets
Salt and ground pepper
4 ounces Gruyere and/or sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large saucepan with a lid, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk constantly for 1 minute. Whisk in milk.

Add cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; gradually stir in cheese.

Pour mixture into a 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until cauliflower is easily pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake until breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes more.

“Hatch Chile Corn Pudding”

Again from Martha Stewart, this savory dish will be the highlight at your holiday festivities.

4 cups (24 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained, at room temperature, divided
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 can (4 ounces) Hatch green chiles, diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese (6 ounces), divided
5 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Puree 3 cups of corn in a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in remaining cup of corn, the salt, scallions, chiles, flour, and 1/3 cup of cheese.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and cream just until combined. Stir into corn mixture.

Place butter in an 8-inch square baking dish and bake in oven until butter is melted, about 10 minutes. Pour batter into hot baking dish and sprinkle top with remaining 1 2/3 cups cheese. Place a baking sheet on lower rack to catch any drips. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until puffed and bubbling and cheese is golden brown. Let cool 30 minutes before serving.

Other Vegetable Dishes 

“Oven Risotto with Kale Pesto”

Want a meal that looks gourmet but doesn’t require much work? Then check out this risotto recipe from Bon Appétit.

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups very hot water
1 small garlic clove
1 cup (packed) fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 cups torn Tuscan (“dinosaur”) kale leaves, divided
1/4 cup cold water
3/4 cup very hot water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about 2 cups)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, for 8–10 minutes until golden brown. Let cool.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, for 5–8 minutes until softened and translucent. Stir in rice; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes until some grains are translucent.

Add wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until pan is almost dry, about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of hot water; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and bake in oven until liquid is mostly absorbed but rice is still starchy in the center, which should be 15–18 minutes (it should be undercooked).

Pulse garlic and half of toasted walnuts in a food processor until very finely ground. Add parsley, chives, half of kale, remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, and 1/4 cup cold water. Process until smooth and then season pesto with salt and pepper.

In a saucepan over medium heat, add 3/4 cup of very hot water and cook rice, stirring constantly, until it is tender but still has some bite and sauce is creamy, about 3 minutes. Stir in pesto, butter, most of Parmesan (1 1/2 cups), and remaining kale. Adjust consistency with water and salt and pepper, if needed. Top with remaining walnuts and cheese and serve.

A few other recipes…
Do you prefer vegetable-based recipes or meat-based recipes? Let us know below or share on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Don’t forget to check out Part I!


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