5 Soul Satisfying Comfort Food Dinners for Hunkering Down

When the weather shifts and the light is limited, it’s time for comfort food! Get cozy and hunker down with these easy-to-make weeknight dinners. Slow cookers and skillet dinners make up most of this week’s meal plan.

"What's For Dinner?" with a photo of Butternut Squash and Black Bean Skillet Dinner in a skillet with topping around it.

This month welcome Sara Bir. Sara Bir is the author of two cookbooks, Tasting Ohio and the IACP award-winning The Fruit Forager's Companion. She also moderates and replies to your comments here on Simply Recipes. Follow her @sausagetarian.

Once the weather got nice, I initiated my rituals of being outside as much as possible, from setting up a desk on the front porch to pretending mowing our tiny lawn is a workout.

As the nights get cold and Daylight Savings Time prepares to rear its hateful head, the inevitable shift indoors meets with less resistance. I mean, it’s going to happen anyway, so why not lean in?

When it starts to get frosty, I want dinners that are simmered and soul-satisfying. Besides, I need extra energy to fuel all the strategic layering it takes to comfortably walk the dog.

These dinners make me feel warm from the inside giving me, and hopefully you too, the strength to embrace the seasonal shifts of the weeks to come.

One last thing: Looking for dinner ideas? You're in the right spot! We just launched our new paid meal plan service. We have delicious meal plans to suit every taste and lifestyle — Healthy Eating, Family Favorites, and Vegetarian just to name a few. These one-week plans are $1.95 and, with them, you get a dessert and weekend prep recipe and a shopping list. They're beautifully designed and perfect to print and save or simply load and cook right from your computer!

  • Swiss Steak

    Swiss Steak
    Elise Bauer

    Swiss steak is not Swiss. A process supposedly once known as “Swissing” pounds the meat to tenderize it. The recipe itself is a throwback to the 1950s, and though some of us may have negative associations from lunchroom cafeterias, it’s a tasty braise you can toss potatoes, carrots, or green beans in to make a one-pot meal. It takes at least two hours to cook, but make it on a Sunday to serve on a Monday and it’ll feel like it’s an instant dinner.

  • Baked Lingcod with Lemon-Garlic Butter Sauce

    Baked Lingcod
    Elise Bauer

    Lingcod is a fish that’s not related to cod, despite its name. Catfish, haddock, pollock, or cod would work just as well in this dish. As this fish bakes, make the creamy sauce (use white wine if you don’t have dry sherry). This recipe makes plenty of sauce, which you can serve over potatoes and steamed vegetables.

  • Butternut Squash and Black Bean Skillet Dinner

    Horizontal view of a large cast iron skillet filled with a butternut squash skillet dinner. Cilantro, quinoa, butternut squash and cotija cheese are visible in the pan. To the left is a yellow napkin with three forks on it. Above the forks are three small bowls. One small bowl of rice, a ramiken of roasted pumpkin seeds and a small platter of cilantro.
    Sally Vargas

    This gets a pleasing crunch from toasted pepitas and a creamy, salty finish from feta. For more flavor layers, roast the squash as the quinoa simmers. If you don’t like wrangling a whole butternut squash, buy it pre-cubed (don’t use frozen, though, which will turn mushy in the oven).

  • Tuscan Chicken Pasta Skillet

    Side view of a plate of one pot chicken pasta dinner. A large skillet is behind the plate of pasta and grape tomatoes, basil and seasoning are in the upper right.
    Jessica Gavin

    Dirty pans are the hidden cost of recipes that claim to be quick and easy. But lucky us—this pasta dinner cooks all in one skillet, so you save time on both the front and back ends. Long, slender noodles like spaghetti or linguine work best for this recipe.

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  • Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos

    Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Elise Bauer

    This bonanza of succulent pork filling is mostly hands-off. There’s a dry rub that needs to sit on the pork at least an hour (and up to overnight). Then you brown the pork, though lots of people skip that part and are still utterly delighted with the result. It cooks in its own juices for hours in the slow cooker. Serve with basic taco fixings. Leftovers freeze great!