Social media represent a double-edged sword. Every year when December rolls around, I like to post idyllic photos of our picturesque Minnesota winter wonderland. I do this so my friends and family living in warmer climates can pine over our enviable white Christmases. It’s a fun pastime, until January comes around and they start posting revenge photos of themselves lounging on the warm sands of a San Diego beach. Not so fun.

Yes, we’re entering the time of year when even the hardiest Minnesota soul begins to lose good humor in the face of yet another day of subzero temperatures. While we may get a bit weary of the cold, we’re lucky in a culinary sense, as this is the time of year when some of our favorite comfort foods come back to our dinner tables on a regular basis.

When we think of comfort food, we think heavy and fattening. That can often be the case, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be. I find most comfort foods can be easily lightened without too much sacrifice in terms of taste.

Such is the case with one of my favorites — chicken and dumplings. Most recipes call for stewing a whole chicken, skin and all, to make the broth, then adding copious amounts of fat and flour to thicken it, sometimes to the point of being gloppy.

I make a quicker, easier and healthier version by adding defatted homemade stock, or even store-bought low-sodium chicken broth, and leftover or rotisserie chicken to sautéed vegetables and herbs. This cuts out a considerable amount of time, as well as fat, that, trust me, you won’t miss. A little flour gives it just a bit of body, while fresh herbs and a splash of cream make it taste decadent, even though it’s not.

Go ahead and put a pot of this warm and comforting stew on the stove. It’ll put a smile on your face, and while you’re at it, take a picture and post it to Facebook. Even your warm-weather pals will be jealous.


Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.