Healthy Comfort Meals for the New Year

2020 has passed. The new year is upon us

Last month, I ate chocolate pecan pies and sugar cookies. I scarfed creamy macaroni and cheese, and slurped rich beef bourguignon. I baked homemade bread and the fluffiest cinnamon rolls ever

In short, my stomach is exhausted. I cannot take the decadence anymore. 

And if your social media feed is anything like mine, you can’t even casually scroll through your feeds without stumbling across an ad for this diet or that supplement. This workout or that procedure. Live your best life! Get your bikini body!

10 years ago me would have felt bad looking at those ads. I was caught up in the {often toxic} world of diet culture. Ugh, my jeans do not fit like they did pre-holidays. I should probably start a diet. No sweets or alcohol. Exercise everyday. And I would berate myself anytime I fell off the wagon.  

Today me doesn’t have time for that negative self talk, especially in the year of our Lord 2021. I have two children, and I want to demonstrate to them healthy, sustainable eating habits. I want my daughter to see that her dignity and worth comes from more than just her pants size. And also, I want to eat homemade bread occasionally, and not feel bad about it. 

That being said, I do see the new year as an opportunity to reset after indulging all of my holiday favorites. In my meal prep for this week, I’ve planned for meals full of whole foods:: lean protein, whole grains, and lots of veggies. Because we’re all busy mamas and also because we’re still in a global pandemic, I prefer meals that are quick, healthy{ish}, comforting, and full of flavor. Below, I’m sharing some of my favorite “reset” dinners to help us get back on track. 

Sesame Ginger Steak Salad

Serves 2 {I stretch it to feed 2 adults, a 4 year old and 9 month old}

This salad is a family favorite, from the husband to the 9 month old {I just serve each component separately for the kids}. It is incredibly simple to throw together, perfect for the weeknight when you don’t have a lot of time. And it would be perfect for meal prep. Chop the veggies and marinate the steak ahead of time, and assemble the salad while the steak is searing and noodles are cooking. 

Ingredients::

Marinade
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt

Salad
3/4 lb sirloin steak
1 tablespoon butter
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 cucumber, chopped
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 bell pepper, sliced
8 oz brown rice noodles
Chopped herbs, such as basil, mint, and/or cilantro
Roasted, salted peanuts

  1. Make the dressing. Combine all ingredients in a small mason jar. Shake to combine. 
  2. Marinate the steak. In a bowl or zip top bag, pour 1/2 of the marinade over the steak. Marinate at room temperature for at least 10 minutes or in the refrigerator overnight. 
  3. Heat the butter over high heat in a large skillet. Add the steak, sear on both sides until desired doneness. I prefer medium rare, so I go for about 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on the steak thickness. Remove from heat and allow to sit while assembling salad.
  4. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain. 
  5. Chop lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, and herbs. Slice steak.
  6. Assemble the salads:: chopped vegetables, sliced steak, rice noodles, herbs. Pour remaining 1/2 of dressing over the salads. Toss to combine. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. 

Recipe adapted from Gingered Thai Steak and Pepper Salad in Half Baked Harvest Super Simple by Tieghan Gerard.

Orzo Vegetable Soup

Serves 4-6

This soup comes together in about 30 minutes, and it is so soothing and satisfying. You can make it with whatever veggies you have on hand {frozen works great!}, or you can throw in some chicken or beans for added protein. And you must serve it with a steaming slice of bread. I don’t make the rules. 

Ingredients::

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1 sweet onion, diced
2-3 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups green beans, cut into bite size pieces
1 14 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup whole wheat orzo
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs {or a mix of oregano, thyme, and rosemary}
Salt and Pepper
Lemon Juice
Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat olive oil on medium high heat in a large 6 quart pot or Dutch oven. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Saute for 5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add green beans, tomatoes, chicken stock, orzo, and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Bring soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the orzo is al dente and green beans are soft. 
  2. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Be sure to dip the aforementioned required bread in the amazing broth. 

Layered Enchilada Casserole

Serves 4-6

This dish is all the things a casserole should be:: simple, hearty, easy to prepare ahead of time, cooked all in one dish, and deliciously comforting. Plus, it doesn’t skimp on the cheese. 

Ingredients::

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 zucchini, sliced into half moons
1 4oz can diced green chiles
3 cups of shredded chicken 
3 cups enchilada sauce, store bought or homemade {I recommend this one.}
12 corn tortillas
2 15 oz cans black or pinto beans {or really any type of bean}
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Suggested toppings:: chopped cilantro, diced red onion, diced avocado, sliced scallions. 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 9×13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil on medium high heat in a large skillet. Add onion and pepper. Saute until softened. Stir in green chiles, chicken, beans, zucchini, and 2 cups of enchilada sauce. Stir to combine. Remove from heat. 
  3. Assemble. Pour 1/2 cup of remaining enchilada sauce in the bottom of your casserole dish. Layer:: tortillas {cut into halves to fit across the bottom of the dish}, 1/3 chicken and veggie mixture, 1/3 cheese. Repeat with another layer of tortillas, 1/3 chicken and veggie mixture, 1/3 cheese. Finish with final layer of tortillas, chicken and veggie mixture, the remaining 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce, and remaining cheese. 
  4. Cover dish with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until cheese is melted.
  5. Serve, topped with preferred toppings. 

What healthy comfort meals do you serve your family?


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Rebecca S. is a born and raised Houstonian; she grew up in Katy, graduated with a BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Houston {go Coogs!}, and made a home in West Houston with her native Houstonian husband. She quickly realized that the chaotic lifestyle of the hospitality industry was not for her and soon found her calling in education. She taught while earning her masters in Library Science from the University of North Texas. Currently, she is staying home with her son, Thomas {2016} and daughter Charlie {2020}. In her free time, she loves to read, write, run, and roam the world. While her roots are firmly planted in H-town, she takes every available opportunity to go on an adventure and explore historic cities, hike and run new trails, and, of course, try beers from every country.

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