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In challenging times, we can find comfort in dishes that warm us from the inside out. Because eating favorite dishes from childhood can feel like a beloved grandma’s hug, we gathered recipes that can muster good memories — and, we hope, help you create happy new ones at your table.

If you’ve got stir-crazy kids in the house, have them help you make these. So what if there’s a mess? Maybe some good new traditions will result from these days of uncertainty. Here’s a roundup of recipes from Cowtown.

Pot Roast Pot Pie from Lindsey Lawing, owner-pastry chef at Sweet Lucy's Pies
Pot Roast Pot Pie from Lindsey Lawing, owner-pastry chef at Sweet Lucy’s Pies(Sweet Lucy’s Pies)

Pot Roast Pot Pie

Lindsey Lawing, owner and pastry chef at Sweet Lucy’s Pies, created a loyal following for her salted honey pie, lemon meringue pie and chocolate buttermilk pie. She’s also known to whip up delicious savory creations, too, like this beef pot pie. Fire up your Instant Pot for the pot roast and make mashed potatoes for an extra layer of indulgence.

1 tablespoon olive oil

3- to 5-pound beef chuck roast

1 large onion, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

4 cups beef broth

3 to 4 large carrots, sliced

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

4 to 5 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/2 cup cream cheese

1 egg

Butter Pie Crust (recipe follows)

Turn Instant Pot to saute setting and add oil. Sear the roast on all sides and remove from pot. Add in chopped onion and spices and sauté until soft. Add roast back in with beef broth, carrots and Worcestershire sauce. Turn on pressure cook for one hour. Remove roast and carrots and let it cool down. You will have extra pot roast if you want to make two pies and freeze one.

While pot roast cooks, bring potatoes to boil in pot of salted water. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well. Mash with cream cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat oven to 425 F.

Remove pie crust dough from fridge, and on clean, floured surface roll one disk to fit deep pie pan. Layer first with mashed potatoes and then top with pot roast and carrots. Add in extra sauce from the roast. Roll out second disk of dough, and place it over the top of the filling.

Whisk egg with 1 tablespoon water to create an egg wash. Brush over top of pie and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake pie at 425 F for one hour; reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Butter Pie Crust: Add 2 1/2 cups flour and 2 sticks cold butter together with a pastry blender or food processor until just blended. Slowly add in 1/4 cup water until dough forms. Split into two round disks and refrigerate until ready to roll out.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

SOURCE: Lindsey Lawing, Sweet Lucy’s Pies

Chicken and Dumplings

Sarah Hooton, chef and co-owner at Hot Box Biscuit Club, cooks up a big pot of comfort during these challenging times. Be sure to poach the chicken breasts gently so they’re not tough and stringy. Note that you can freeze dumplings. Make extra for the next time supper calls for this soothing dish.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 stalk celery, chopped

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

6 cup chicken broth

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

3 sprigs thyme

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup cream

Freshly chopped parsley, for serving

To make soup, heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and add onion, carrot and celery and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add broth, chicken and thyme to pot, bringing just to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken and shred with two forks. 

While soup is simmering, make dumplings: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Make a well in the flour and add cream and mix until combined. 

Add shredded chicken back to pot and return to a simmer.

Roll out dough with plenty of flour to ½-inch thickness, cut squares about 2×2-inch in size, but they don’t need to be perfect. Add to simmering soup and stir carefully. They will take about 5 minutes to cook through. You can also make dumplings ahead and freeze. Let thaw before adding to soup. Garnish with parsley before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

SOURCE: Sarah Hooton, Hot Box Biscuit Club

White Cheddar-Green Chile Mac and Cheese from 'Meatless in Cowtown,' the vegetarian cookbook Fort Worth writer Laura Meyn penned in 2015
White Cheddar-Green Chile Mac and Cheese from ‘Meatless in Cowtown,’ the vegetarian cookbook Fort Worth writer Laura Meyn penned in 2015(Meatless in Cowtown)

White Cheddar-Green Chile Mac and Cheese

In Meatless in Cowtown, the vegetarian cookbook Fort Worth writer Laura Meyn penned in 2015, she includes a San Antonio friend’s mac and cheese recipe. “Ridiculously rich,” it goes well with a green salad or anything from the grill, Laura says. Her co-author, wine expert Anthony Head, likes pairing the roussanne from Lubbock’s McPherson Cellars with this dish. “It’s aromatic and loaded with herbaceous and citrus notes to cut through the richness.”

8 ounces elbow macaroni noodles (ridged if you can find them)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups whole milk or half-and-half

1/2 cup chopped freshly roasted green chiles or 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles

10 ounces mixed cheeses (sharp white cheddar and Monterey Jack), grated (4 cups total), divided use

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta in a large, heavy pot of boiling salted water until tender but slightly on the al dente side. Drain and set aside.

In same pot, melt butter over medium heat, whisk in flour and cook until roux is bubbling and light in color, about 2 minutes. Add milk, whisking constantly. Increase heat to medium high and whisk until sauce thickens and just begins to bubble around the edges. Whisk in chiles and cook until heated through and mixture just begins to bubble again. Remove from heat.

Add all but ½ cup of cheese to sauce, a handful at a time, whisking until melted. Add pasta and stir to coast. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange oven rack in middle of oven and preheat broiler. Transfer mac and cheese to buttered 2-quart ceramic baking dish and sprinkle with reserved cheese. Broil until cheese melts and just begins to brown in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

SOURCE: Meatless in Cowtown: A Vegetarian Guide to Food and Wine, Texas-Style (Running Press, $22).

Beef Fajitas from Lanny Lancarte II, great-grandson of Joe T. Garcia
Beef Fajitas from Lanny Lancarte II, great-grandson of Joe T. Garcia(June Naylor)

Beef Fajitas

Lanny Lancarte II, great-grandson of Joe T. Garcia, knows a thing or two about comforting Mexican food. He’s developed his own recipe for beef fajitas, perfect for those evenings when cooking on the grill beckons. His own dry rub recipe and guacamole recipe are included, too. Get these fajitas to-go with margaritas (pick up curbside or have delivered) from Righteous Foods, eatrighteously.com.

2 pounds beef skirt or flank steak

1/2 to 3/4 cup Dry Rub (see recipe below)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 yellow onion, sliced

1 bell pepper, seeded and sliced

6 tablespoons butter

1 lime, zested

4 sprigs cilantro leaves, sliced fine

Guacamole, for serving (see recipe below)

On an outdoor grill, add mesquite wood or charcoal; allow fire to lower until and charcoal or mesquite are glowing. Meanwhile, coat steak with dry rub. Let stand while preparing onions, pepper and guacamole.

In a saute pan over medium heat, add olive oil and saute onions and pepper about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

In a small pan, add butter and lime zest. Keep at side of fire on the grill to allow to melt slowly. When fire is ready, sear each side of steak. Depending on thickness of steak, cook to your liking. Add cilantro to melted butter and, with pastry brush, brush steak liberally on both sides with the butter and lime mixture while cooking. With a meat thermometer, check temperature and remove from fire at 130 F for medium rare, 145 for medium, and 155 for medium well.

Let meat rest on cutting board for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice meat against the grain and top with onion and pepper mixture. Serve with warm flour or corn tortillas, guacamole, and with sour cream and grated cheese, if you desire.

Dry Rub: In a bowl, combine 1 tablespoon each paprika, chipotle powder and ground black pepper with 1 teaspoon each ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and 4 tablespoons kosher salt. Keeps covered in an airtight jar for one month.

Guacamole: Remove pits from 3 ripe avocados and scoop into bowl. Add juice of two limes (reserving zest for butter, above), 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano, 1/2 seeded, chopped jalapeño and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Mash with a fork to desired consistency (Lanny likes his chunky).

Makes 6 servings.

SOURCE: Lanny Lancarte

Four Fort Worth chefs share their favorite comfort food recipes
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