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Comfort Food Reinvented: Chicken and Kale Risotto

Comfort food is my jam, y’all. But like many health-conscious women in their thirties, I also like to take a close look at what I’m putting into my body on a regular basis. It’s important to me to know that my nutritional intake is consistent with and supportive of my health and wellness goals.
That’s not to say that I’ve got anything against going for the full-blown indulgence that many of my favorite comfort foods in their original, nutritionally-void forms provide now and again! But let’s be real here — “going for it” consistently isn’t balance. I do have to reign it in from time to time.
So I love to have healthier stand-ins as well — ways to get that same warm and fuzzy feeling while also knowing that I’m doing something good for my body.
Nothing says cold-weather comfort like a hearty one-pot meal of goodness. But many of these meals (especially soups and stews) tend to be high in sodium — which is something I’m trying to be much more cognizant of.
So I grabbed a few of my favorite comfort food recipes and experimented with mixing them up in new ways to take the protein content up and the sodium content down. Also, I had to account for the fact that I’m dairy-free and, oh yeah, my husband is gluten-free.
It took a few tries to get the recipe right but here it is — comfort food at its finest … and reinvented to be something you’ll feel really good about putting in your body.

Chicken and Kale Risotto

2 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons sunflower oil (can substitute olive oil)
2 small onions, halved and sliced
2 cups arborio rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups kale, sliced into thin ribbons
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
Salt and pepper (optional and to taste)


  1. Combine the cumin and thyme in a small bowl. Sprinkle half the spice mixture on both sides of the chicken thighs.
  2. Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy (like cast-iron) pot over high heat.
  3. Cook the chicken until both sides are golden brown. Transfer the cooked chicken to a bowl and set it to the side.
  4. Add the remaining oil to the pot and toss in the onion. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook until the onion starts to soften — about 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic to the pot and stir. Then, add the kale and the remaining spice mixture and stir it all up until the kale starts to wilt — about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the arborio rice and chicken stock. Then nestle the chicken thighs in and pour any accumulated juices from the bowl into the pot.
  7. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 28 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the arborio rice is tender.

Which comfort foods have you reinvented for yourself? —Alison

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