A home-cooked meal brings comfort

For those of us staying home this year, it’s important to make the season feel just as festive as always. Enjoying a special menu can help do just that. That’s why these recipes call for lightweight and time-saving ingredients that you can stock up on in advance. The best part of these rich and comforting recipes is that they’re also hassle free, so you’ll be able to spend more time relaxing and enjoying company (even the digital kind).

Wild Mushroom and Tarragon Risotto


This lightened-up version of the comforting Italian dish calls for wild mushrooms instead of heaps of cream, butter, and cheese.

3 oz (85 g) dried chanterelles, morels, or other wild mushrooms

6 cups (1.5 L) broth

1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper

Salt, to taste

2 tsp (10 mL) olive oil

1 shallot or small onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 1/2 cups (350 mL) risotto rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano

1/4 cup (60 mL) white wine, dry vermouth, or additional broth

2 Tbsp (30 mL) freshly minced chives, or 2 tsp (10 mL) dried chives

1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh tarragon leaves, or 1 Tbsp (15 mL) dried

1/4 cup (60 mL) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or other aged, firm cheese (optional)

Sautéed fresh mushrooms (optional)

In medium heatproof bowl, pour 4 cups (1 L) boiling water over dried mushrooms. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.

In medium pot, heat broth to just below a simmer. Into pot of broth, strain mushroom soaking liquid through sieve lined with cheesecloth. Reserve drained mushrooms. Add pepper (and possibly salt) to broth. Cover and keep warm.

In heavy-bottomed skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add diced shallot and cook for 4 minutes, until softened. Add rice and stir to coat for 1 minute. Add wine or vermouth and drained soaked mushrooms. Stir for 30 seconds to deglaze pot.

Add 2 ladlefuls of warm stock to rice and stir until absorbed. Add half the chives and tarragon (if using dried herbs, add all the chives and tarragon) and continue adding a ladleful of broth at a time until rice is al dente, about 20 minutes, stirring slowly but continuously after each addition until broth is almost absorbed before adding more. Taste and add salt, if necessary.

Top with remaining fresh chives and tarragon and optional sautéed fresh mushrooms and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Each serving (without cheese) contains: 257 calories; 5 g protein; 2 g total fat (0 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 54 g total carbohydrates (2 g sugars, 3 g fiber); 145 mg sodium

Saffron Chicken with Dried Apricots and Chickpeas


This warm and satisfying dish combines sweet apricots with savory and tender vegetables, legumes, and chicken.

1 tsp (5 mL) olive oil

1 onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, sliced in half lengthwise, or 1/2 tsp (2 mL) garlic powder (optional)

3 cups (750 mL) chopped carrots (about 3 large carrots)

3 cups (750 mL) chopped zucchini (about 2 medium zucchini)

1/4 tsp (1 mL) saffron threads

1 cinnamon stick, or 3/4 tsp (4 mL) ground cinnamon

1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin

1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cardamom

1 Tbsp (15 mL) paprika

1 Tbsp (15 mL) dried parsley

1 Tbsp (15 mL) dried chives (optional)

1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

2 Tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped pitted olives

1 1/2 lbs (750 g) skinless, boneless chicken breast or thigh, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup (125 mL) dried apricot halves, diced

4 cups (1 L) chicken stock

2 – 14 oz (398 mL) cans chickpeas, drained, or 4 cups (1 L) cooked chickpeas

Freshly chopped parsley, to garnish (optional)

In large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add onion, garlic, carrots, and zucchini. Cook for 6 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add spices, olives, chicken, lemon zest (not juice), dried apricots, and stock. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until carrots and chicken are tender.

Add chickpeas and simmer for 5 minutes more. Stir in lemon juice and adjust salt to taste.

Serve with couscous or rice.

Each serving contains: 437 calories; 39 g protein; 7 g total fat (1 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 55 g total carbohydrates (19 g sugars, 13 g fiber); 535 mg sodium

Mixed Berry Cobbler with Crystallized Ginger


The tantalizing bits of crystallized ginger in this dough-topped fruit dessert add a little excitement to a holiday classic.


1 – 21 oz (600 g) bag frozen mixed berries

2 Tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped crystallized ginger

3 Tbsp (45 mL) cane sugar or maple syrup

2 Tbsp (30 mL) vegan margarine or butter

Cobbler topping

1 cup (250 mL) whole grain or gluten-free flour

2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder

1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) salt

2 Tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped crystallized ginger

1 tsp (5 mL) cane sugar or maple syrup

2 Tbsp (30 mL) vegan margarine or butter

1/2 cup (125 mL) milk

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).

For cobbler, in deep-sided 8 in (20 cm) square or round baking or casserole dish, sprinkle crystallized ginger and sugar or maple syrup over berries and dot with margarine or butter. Place in preheated oven, for up to 15 minutes, while preparing topping.

For cobbler topping, in medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, crystallized ginger, and sugar or maple syrup. Cut in margarine or butter. Add milk and stir to combine.

Drop batter by the spoonful over hot berries. Return to oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until batter is golden. Serve with ice cream, if desired.

Each serving contains: 345 calories; 3 g protein; 9 g total fat (2 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 63 g total carbohydrates (20 g sugars, 6 g fiber); 518 mg sodium