5 Comfort Food Recipes from Alana Chernila

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

When The Kitchn told me they wanted to put together a week of dinners from and inspired by The Homemade Kitchen, I couldn’t wait to see what they would choose. It’s one of my favorite parts of the book process to see which recipes call to different people, and which techniques and flavors readers are drawn to try first. The dishes the editors chose are some of my favorites. This is a week of warm and nourishing comfort food, perfect for right now.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Smart Ways to Use Up Leftovers

The three savory dishes all come from a chapter from my book called “Use Your Scraps.” These are all dishes that come out of the need to use up the bits and ends of vegetables, grains, bread, and other scraps in your fridge or pantry. I don’t want you to have to buy lots of new ingredients for these recipes; instead I try to give you a sense of the endless possible variations within each recipe.

I love to stuff my winter squash with millet, chorizo, apples, and leeks, but if you have leftover rice, a few slices of bacon, pear, and an onion, that combination will be just as wonderful. That’s just the beginning. We also have a soup that will make use of all your scraps (and come together to be so much more than the sum of its parts), and a savory bread pudding that is at once deeply comforting and fancy enough for a special meal.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Easy Everyday Desserts

You’ll also get two cakes in this week of meals, because what’s a weekly meal plan without a little dessert mixed in? These two cakes are both what I love to call everyday cakes. They come together quickly, are not too sweet, and stay delicious for a few days on the counter. The pear gingerbread is one of my favorites for right now — it’s spicy and moist and a perfect use for late-season pears. The one-dish chocolate cake is simple and deeply chocolate-y, and it’s a great one for kids who want to jump in and make dessert.

What all these recipes share is simplicity, fall flavors, and an ability to shift and change to include whatever you want to use in your kitchen. They all make great leftovers, so you’re bound to have some pretty great lunches, too.

3 Versatile Comfort Dinners (Plus 2 Easy Desserts)

Meal 3: Minestrone, with crusty bread

Dessert 1: Pear Gingerbread

The Recipes

Your Meal Plan

What to Do on Saturday or Sunday:

If you’d like to get a little ahead of the game for the week, here are a few things you can do:

  • The bread for the bread pudding can be cubed a day or two ahead and stored in an airtight container.
  • If you make a pot of grains at the beginning of the week, those grains can be put to use in both the stuffed winter squash and minestrone.
  • The squash for the stuffed winter squash can be roasted up to three days ahead of time.
  • The entire recipe for stuffed squash can be made up to two days in advance. Simply sprinkle with cheese, cover the dish with foil, and warm the squash bowls in a 375°F oven.
  • The minestrone can be made up to three days ahead and refrigerated or frozen for up to one month.
  • Make the pear gingerbread to have as dessert for the next few nights; it gets better as it sits.

Task List:

Meal 1: Swiss Chard and Sausage Bread Pudding

  • Get the bread soaking in the milk while the oven preheats and you prep the rest of the filling.
  • Cook the sausage and sauté the chard.
  • Layer everything together and bake.

Meal 2: Stuffed Winter Squash

  • While the squash is roasting (it can even be done a few hours ahead), make the filling. To shorten the squash cooking time, you can microwave it instead.

Meal 3: Minestrone and One-Dish Chocolate Cake

  • Mix and bake the chocolate cake. Leave the oven on after the cake’s done.
  • While the cake’s baking, start sautéeing the onion. While it’s cooking, prep the rest of your herbs and vegetables. If you’re planning on adding pasta to the soup, cook it in a separate pot and add it into the soup at the last minute.
  • While the soup is simmering, warm up some crusty bread in the oven if you’re serving it with the soup.
(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Your Shopping List

This list reflects just the ingredients for the main dishes; please see individual recipes for the ingredients for any optional side dishes.

To buy at the store:

  • 1 pound cooked chicken apple sausage
  • 6 ounces chorizo or sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 Bosc pears
  • 1 apple or pear for the stuffed squash
  • 2 acorn, delicata, dumpling, or carnival squash
  • 2 carrots (optional)
  • 2 celery stalks (optional)
  • 8 cups Swiss chard (from 1 to 2 bunches)
  • 2 cups tender greens (like spinach, tatsoi, kale, Swiss chard)
  • Any combination of: diced leek (1 large), hearty greens or cabbage, winter squash (about 1/2 small butternut), zucchini, green or yellow beans (this is for the minestrone)
  • 1 small leek
  • 2 cups roasted tomatoes, 2 cups chopped canned tomatoes, or 2 medium fresh tomatoes, cored and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • Fresh basil (for the minestrone, optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried or small handful chopped fresh herbs, like thyme, rosemary, sage, or marjoram
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Parmesan rind or prosciutto end (optional)
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound light rye bread (rye sourdough is especially nice here)
  • Crusty bread, for serving with minestrone (optional)
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock, or whey

From your pantry (check to make sure you have enough):

  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or honey
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • Enough millet, rice, or quinoa to make 2 cups cooked
  • Cooked beans, pastas or grains (for the minestrone – optional)
  • 3 onions
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup safflower or other neutral-tasting oil
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
(Image credit: Jennifer May)

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