Feel-Good Food

Less daylight and colder temps can lead to the winter blues. Beat them (and get a little taste of home) with these unique twists on comfort food classics.
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Yields: 4 servings


  • 2 ¼ lb. beef chuck steak, diced
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour sunflower or olive oil, for cooking
  • 1 14.9 oz. can Guinness stout
  • 1 cup plus 1 Tbs. beef stock
  • 1 red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 parsnips, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1⅓ cups blackberries
  • 3 dried bay leaves sea salt flakes and coarsely ground black pepper to taste

For the relish:

  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1⅓ cups blackberries, halved cup plus 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. superfine sugar


Preheat oven to 325°F.

Put the steak into a bowl and add the flour and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Toss together with your hands until the beef is evenly coated. In a Dutch oven, heat a generous glug of oil. Once the oil is hot (it will shimmer gently), add the beef and cook, turning once, until colored. You’ll need to do this in at least two batches; if you overcrowd the pan, the meat will braise rather than brown and you won’t achieve the desired color or depth of flavor.

Once all of the meat has been browned, return it to the pan with the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then cover with the lid and cook in the oven for 2-3 hours, until the meat is tender and flaking.

Meanwhile, make the relish. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, then let sit at room temperature until needed. Serve the stew with some of the relish spooned over it.

"Blackberries are incredible sources of vitamin C, which bolsters your immune system. They also have a wide range of antioxidant polyphenols that help protect your cells from damage. Berries in general are full of water and fiber to keep you satiated. One caution: Blackberries are high in vitamin K, so they may promote unwanted blood clotting for those taking blood thinners.”—Kelsey Peoples, registered dietitian, nutritionist and owner, The Peoples Plate, Ramsey


Yields: 6 servings


  • 3½ cups dry macaroni
  • 7 Tbs. butter cup plus 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups plus 2 Tbs. milk
  • 2 cups plus 2 Tbs. chicken stock
  • 1⅓ cups finely shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 1⅓ cups finely shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 Tbs. whole grain mustard
  • 6 Tbs. sriracha sauce, plus more to serve
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 10½ oz. lump crabmeat
  • 2 Tbs. chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • scant ½ cup panko bread crumbs fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cook the macaroni according to the package directions, then drain and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium-high heat until it melts, then stir in the flour using a wooden spoon to make a very thick paste. Let the paste cook until browned slightly, 1 minute. Beat in a ladleful of milk—it will get quickly absorbed, so repeat. When you’ve added all the milk, switch to a wire whisk and add the stock, a bit at a time, whisking to avoid any lumps. As soon as the liquids are incorporated, add the cheeses, reserving some to sprinkle on top, along with the mustard, sriracha and cayenne pepper. Reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes, then season to taste, remembering that when you add the pasta the seasoning will be diluted, so overseason.

Add the crabmeat, parsley and macaroni to the sauce and combine well, then transfer to a medium-size roasting dish or pan. Sprinkle over the reserved cheese and the bread crumbs and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbling.

Add protein and fiber to this dish by using Ezekiel bread instead of panko bread crumbs. And since pasta lacks many (key) nutrients, top the dish with yeast, which will add protein and fiber, as well as B vitamins.”—Azi Ahmadi, registered dietitian, nutritionist and certified diabetes educator, Ridgewood


Yields: 2-4 servings



  • 1 French baguette, torn into chunks
  • 1 Tbs. garlic oil (or olive oil, if you prefer)
  • 1 Tbs. caraway seeds 5ó oz. Époisses cheese, chilled 3½ oz. Comté cheese, shredded


  • 1 Tbs. olive oil 7
  • Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 18 oz. pink onions, finely sliced
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 4¼ cups beef stock
  • 1 Tbs. onion chutney or relish (optional, but recommended)
  • fine sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 400°F.


Place the torn baguette onto a baking sheet and toss with the garlic oil and caraway seeds. Bake for 5-10 minutes, or until dry and crispy.


In a large pot, heat the olive oil and butter over high heat. When the butter has melted, add the onions and cook until they are starting to color around the edges, 10 minutes or so. Once they are gently browned, reduce the heat to low and cook slowly for up to 40 minutes. The onions should caramelize deeply, and smell strong and sweet.

When the onions are caramelized, add the flour and stir to coat the onions. Increase the heat to high, wait a minute for the pan to get hot, then pour in the wine and let bubble and evaporate almost entirely. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, partially covered. Stir in the chutney or relish, if using, and salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the broiler.

Divide the soup among serving bowls—make sure they’re heatproof—then scatter the croutons over the top. Slice the Époisses into fairly thin slices (do so quickly before it starts to melt) and lay them on top of the croutons. Scatter over the Comté and broil until the cheese has melted and burned a little at the edges.

Categories: Bergen Health & Life, Homepage Features