Today we’re going to chat about some good ol’ comfort foods. These are the meals you might have grown up with that make you feel good inside. These might be recipes you grew up eating or even things you make that just make you feel warm inside. Recently my husband and I attended an event in San Francisco that celebrated the New Comfort Food and discussed how comfort foods have changed and evolved over the years. It was a fascinating look into culinary trends and I found myself nodding in agreement based on my own tastes and preferences and what I see in search results for people that find their way to my recipes. This conversational lunch was hosted by Foster Farms, and I’ll be sharing the details on that lunch and what I learned. For this sponsored post I’ll be using the Foster Farms Simply Raised boneless skinless chicken thigh fillets for my Sheet Pan Dinner with Chicken, Asparagus, Mushroom and Tomatoes recipe.
So, what does comfort food mean to you? For me, it’s food that brings me great memories like my mom’s chile relleno casserole or my dad’s many different soups. It might even be a simple memory like how every time I would go to my aunt’s house, I would always go straight to her kitchen table to eat a bowl full of strawberries that were freshly picked locally so they were huge and deliciously sweet. Or how my mom and I would always enjoy half an avocado to ourselves in the kitchen with a spoon, happily devouring it. Of course, it may not just be childhood memories. My husband’s grandmother would make a delicious cherry cobbler and my mother-in-law makes a great potato salad that I covet.
I have created my own dishes that have become my own family’s comfort food. For instance, my oldest son spent a lot of his summer in Southern California and he was so homesick for my food. My husband travels sometimes for work and on one of his most recent trips he was having trouble finding restaurants that serve meals similar to mine. So, to me, comfort food feels like home. Comfort food is love too, it’s food that’s made by loved ones for loved ones. Often times through our lives we experience hard times, and making a meal we grew up eating can just make us feel better. This is evident in my comment section for some of my most popular recipes, like my chicken pot pie or my 7-Up cake. Folks want to recreate those warm and safe feelings.
My traditional views of comfort food usually involve cheese, carbs, creaminess – and tend to be heavy and filling. This would be dishes that have a lot of noodles, like chicken noodle soup, or even a good pan-full of homemade macaroni and cheese or some mashed potatoes and gravy. For me though, I also like to incorporate fresh ingredients and seasonal vegetables as well as locally sourced ingredients. This is what makes the new comfort food. I enjoy knowing where my food has come from so I love to go to the Farmer’s Markets or regional grocery stores that get their produce locally. As my kids have gotten older and my family has grown, I’ve tried to incorporate healthier options into their meals. Lots of colorful, fresh ingredients are important to me, and I like a lot of flavor.
This is all in line with how comfort food has evolved. The New Comfort Food has evolved from those traditionally heavy and rich foods to a more healthy, mindful way of eating. The feel-good meats of today feature local, fresh and premium quality ingredients that are produced with no antibiotics ever. Comfort food is now an everyday occasion instead of an indulgence. Foster Farms has seen that preferences and tastes of the consumer are changing, which is why they now offer Simply Raised chicken. Foster Farms Simply Raised is locally grown right here on the West Coast with no antibiotics ever, and is 100% vegetarian fed. Their meats are a premium ingredient that you can feel great about feeding your family and are the perfect base for your New Comfort Food meals.
For this San Francisco event, lunch was prepared by Chef Dean Rucker who specializes in West Coast cuisine with fresh ingredients. Many of the recipes prepared that day can be found on the Foster Farms New Comfort Food page, along with many other creative and beautiful recipe ideas. I have to say that my favorites for the day were definitely the Chicken and Mushroom Risotto with Swiss Chard and the Roasted Apple Chicken Salad with Hazelnuts. The flavors and texture on both dishes was exceptional without trying too hard, and both dishes were filling and light at the same time. My kind of meals!
Between all of the delicious food that was served and everything we’d discussed, I was so inspired that I wanted to share my own version of the New Comfort Food using Foster Farms Simply Raised chicken. I have this delicious spice blend rub that I came up with and love to use on meats. I instantly knew I had to use that on some boneless skinless chicken thigh fillets. This recipe is fairly easy, as I just trim any fat off the chicken and brush it lightly with some extra virgin olive oil and then rub with the spice blend. I then cover and bake it, removing the cover about halfway through. It’s always moist and delicious with a great kick of flavor from the spices. To offset the bit of heat from the spices I like to serve it with a creamy garlic lemon sauce over rice. This will have your taste buds dancing, but instead of making the sauce with heavy cream I use fat free half & half and then serve over brown rice.
I was able to turn this into a sheet pan dinner by using a large baking sheet and lining it with parchment paper. Then I put fresh seasonal vegetables on one side and the chicken on the other. This makes for a great weeknight dinner with minimal cleanup! Since asparagus takes a bit longer to cook than mushrooms and tomatoes, I just added them first and then added the mushrooms and tomatoes halfway through.
This meal definitely has all of the makings of a hearty comfort food meal, but with a few changes like brown rice, fat free half & half and lots of brightly colored seasonal veggies, it turns into a lighter meal that’s not as heavy.
Ingredients for Seasoned Chicken Thighs:
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 – 2 lb Foster Farms Simply Raised Boneless Skinless Chicken Thigh Fillets
Ingredients for Oven Roasted Asparagus, Mushrooms and Tomatoes:
- 1 lb asparagus, ends broken off, then cut into half
- 3 oz baby bella sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
Ingredients for Creamy Garlic Lemon Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup fat free Half & Half
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
- zest + juice of one medium lemon
- salt and pepper
Begin by combining all the seasonings for the chicken spice rub. Set aside, then trim the chicken thighs into similar sizes, removing any fat if needed. Brush each piece of chicken with olive oil, then rub each side thoroughly with the spice rub. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Carefully place all of the chicken on one half of the paper, then toss the asparagus in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and place those on the other side of the sheet. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 12-15 minutes.
While the chicken and asparagus are baking toss the mushroom and tomatoes in a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Once the chicken and asparagus are almost done, add the mushrooms and tomatoes to the pan on top of the asparagus and bake uncovered for another 12-15 minutes.
While the chicken is baking, melt the butter for the sauce in a medium saucepan. Once melted, slowly whisk in the flour. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, whisking together, then slowly stir in the chicken broth. Add the half and half, Parmesan, basil, lemon zest and lemon juice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce to simmer until sauce thickens and reduces just a bit. Remove from heat.
What’s your favorite comfort food?
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Foster Farms Simply Raised Chicken.