Many people make decisions when the new year rolls around. Eat greener. Eat fresher. Eat something other than the whole cookie diet that takes over during the holidays. But more than anything else, we will begin the year with meals that bring us joy in long winter days. We talk about food that is delicious without being picky, and food that feels therapeutic to make and eat. In 2022, we will remember how much we enjoy our time in the kitchen – and the dinners we make there.
So this year we end with a preview of not one but three comfort food meal plans that lean towards a more sustainable way of eating: this vegetarian version plus an option for vegans and one for people who want to add some seafood to the mixture. These plans are filled with newer recipes from Epi contributors, our favorite dishes from the archives, and new dinner ideas from the cookbooks we can not get enough of.
We’ve made the planning so you do not need it, but if you want to change days or ad lib with some of the ingredients, it’s totally okay. In fact, we encourage it! These plans are all about getting back in the swing of making everyday dinners on top of the new year with comforting recipes without stress – meaning you have to cook what feels right for you. Whichever way you go, we will be right here cooking with you.
January 1: A make-ahead breakfast and bright mushroom pozole
Recipes: French Onion Breakfast Strata and Green Pozole with mushrooms
Get well into the new year with this breakfast layer from cookbook author Heidi Swanson. You can cook it a day in advance and it’s the perfect use for any stale bread left over from holiday cooking. Make Swanson’s tasty French onion salt, or look for a mix of French onion dip in your grocery store. You will whip this spice along with milk (dairy or an alternative), olive oil and eggs. Soak the bread with the milk mixture, sprinkle with grated Gruyère, and then bake until the eggs have hardened and the layers are swollen.
After all the holiday talk, we’ve felt like something green. Which is exactly the color of this bright pozole from Epi contributor (and cookbook author) Pati Jinich. You will simmer tomatillos and garlic and then mix with a fragrant mixture of poblano chili, pumpkin seeds, herbs, garlic and vegetable broth. Solid mushrooms and hominy make this a comforting meal without being heavy. Top bowls with crispy radishes, fresh herbs and a squeeze of lime juice for even more flavor.
January 2: A bottle of wine and some chocolate cakes
Recipes: The winter stew and Chocolate Dynamite Cookies
Winter is the time for hot bubbling stews, like this red wine-based issue from Rachel Ama’s One Pot: Three ways. Open a bottle and maybe pour a glass for yourself – to simmer with oyster mushrooms, caramelized vegetables, chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock. Before eating, reserve half of the casserole for tomorrow’s pie. Enjoy the stew alone, or serve it with oven-baked polenta, our favorite mashed potatoes or crispy pan-fried toast.
If your vacations were similar to ours, they were probably filled with many, many cookies. But who says the cookie season ends with the holidays? To this deeply flavorful number from Roxana Jullapat, cocoa powder and semi-sweet chocolate contribute with a rich, sticky interior, while rye flour adds a earthy, malty flavor. They are nicely simple to make, but require an hour of cooling after the dough is cooked. Pro tip: Make the dough earlier in the day so you can just get them in the oven after dinner. After all, there is nothing that beats a freshly baked cookie for dessert.
January 3: A nice vegetable pie
Recipe: Winter pie with garlic green beans
Transform yesterday’s rich vegetable stew into this comforting pie. If you feel like it, you can make your own crust, but we choose to streamline things with store-bought crust, making assembling and baking the pie a breeze. Bake it until golden brown and bubbly, and serve it with quick sautéed garlic green beans, our simplest kale salad or these lightly roasted Brussels sprouts.
January 4: Pasta with one pan, stove only
Recipe: Vegetarian frying pan stuffed shells
In many of our favorite recipes, all the magic happens in one pot. Filled shells may feel like a project, but this version with only a stove makes it simple. To make your filling, fold the creamy whole milk ricotta into a mixture of sautéed mushrooms and spinach, and then fill the pasta shells that have been cooked until just al dente. Put them in a store-bought marinara sauce that has been quickly jazzed up with some garlic fried in butter and crushed red pepper flakes, and cook until thoroughly warmed.
January 5: A hug in a bowl
Recipe: Khara Huggi or Pongal
Sometimes we all need a hug, and khara huggi – known as pongal in South India – is a hug in a bowl. This recipe comes from Chitra Agrawal, author of Living India. Start by rinsing and soaking your rice for 30 minutes before cooking, then shake your lentils. You will simmer rice and lentils with turmeric and ginger until velvety, then temper cashews, cumin, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of tasty asafetida in nutty ghee. When the huggie is tender and you are ready to serve, top your bowl with this fragrant spice mixture. Agrawal likes to pair his huggi with sour accessories, such as raita or chutney. No moong valley at hand? Red lenses work just as well.
January 6: Our favorite combination
Recipes: Grilled cheese and 3-ingredient tomato soup
It’s almost Friday, and tonight’s dinner is one of the best combinations of all time: grilled cheese and tomato soup. The beauty of grilled cheese is that it can be anything you want it to be. Add a touch of warmth with gochujang, go open with these cauliflower melts, or stick to classic cheddar melted between two slices of Pullman bread. Dip it into a bowl of this delicious tomato soup, which starts with shallots and fennel in slices that have been sautéed until soft. Canned tomatoes and a handful of spices then come into the pot while simmering until the tomatoes fall apart and become completely delicious. Put it all in a blender with a little water and butter, and blend until smooth. It is rich, sour and the perfect accompaniment to melted grilled cheese.
January 7: A tasty crumble
Recipe: Creamy parsnip, leek and white bean crumbs
You have reached the end of the first week of the new year! Finish it off with this festive salty crumble that comes from Anna Jones’ latest cookbook En: Pot, Pan, Planet. Here, sweet and earthy parsnips are prepared in two ways. You start by grating half of the parsnips and then chopping the rest to fry with leeks until sweet and soft. Mix them with crème fraîche, chopped garlic, lemon zest, cider vinegar, broth and some navy beans before topping it all with a buttery oatmeal and pumpkin seed crumble. A touch of vegetarian parmesan and thyme helps to highlight the natural sweetness of the parsnip. Serve it with a simple refreshing salad or warm bread.
Want more ideas to help you start the new year on the right track? Check out ours pescatarian and vegan meal plans for extra inspiration.
Originally appeared on Epicurious