Mmm...Comfort Food

by Janice Carter and Lee McKenzie

Today, Janice and Lee are teaming up to talk about comfort food. They hope you’ll join in the discussion and share your thoughts on why certain foods bring us comfort.

Janice:
After Lee and I talked about writing about comfort food today, I searched other posts this month and found several related either to food or eating. That made me wonder… why February? January was all about getting back on track, new beginnings and resolutions. But in spite of the surge of interest in romance and love mid-month, February seemed more about making ourselves feel better.

Lee:
This is so true, Janice. I’m sure I’m just one of many who turned over a new leaf and devoted the month of January to clearing out clutter. I think of February as the last month of winter, and all month long I’ve been looking forward to longer days and more sunshine. The best way I’ve found to satisfy that craving is to fill the house with the aromas of homemade soups and stews and other favorite comfort foods.

Janice:
February is the midway point between Christmas and Easter and living in a place where seasons are clearly defined – as in, winter means snow, ice and freezing temperatures – I know that nothing is more seemingly endless and dreary than these 28 days (except once in four!) T. S. Eliot was wrong when he said April was the cruelest month. No way. April means sprouting flowers, buds on trees, balmy breezes and yes, rain. But rain that brings more greenery. The cruelest month by far has to be February. And even if your climate is more congenial than mine, February is still a slow segue into a longed-for spring. Which is why we all need some consolation and what better way to get it than from comfort food like chicken pot pie?

Janice's fresh-from-the-oven chicken pot pie.
Lee:
Janice, that pie looks mouth-wateringly delicious! I’m currently reading The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute. According to Wiking, the Danish word hygge (pronounced hooga) “has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things.” He goes on to say that hygge is “when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends.”

I couldn’t agree more. To me, dining on comfort food with family and friends is synonymous with cosiness of the soul, and never more so than on a cold, dark winter day.

Janice:
When I was a child, I loved winters. Snow forts, tobogganing, skating and making snow angels were fun distractions that made dark winter days fly.


Comfort food in my childhood centered around the kind of sick days where you feel just a tad out of sorts and require some TLC along with, in my case, cream of tomato soup (definitely Campbell’s!), any flavor of Jell-o and soft boiled eggs with toast ‘soldiers.’ When my own children were growing up, comfort food meant pasta carbonara (they were a bit more sophisticated than I was at the same age) and those same soft boiled eggs.

Lee:
My favorite comfort foods growing up were:
• homemade oven-baked macaroni and cheese
• pirraka (creamy rice-filled Finnish pastries), warm from the oven and spread with butter
• butter tarts

As I contemplate that list, I realize those were all things my grandmother used to make for us. These days my tastes have changed. I like to think they’re more sophisticated and that I’ve become a more innovative cook. What about you, Janice?

Janice:
I’ve noticed that comfort food is on the rise with many restaurants, cafes and diners specializing in it! I think my ancestors – many of whom were farm folk - would be amused by this new trend. Funnily enough, I find my own comfort food preferences reverting to childhood these days. Not so much with the tomato soup, but nothing appeals to me more on a bitingly cold, cloudy February day than a bowl of homemade Mac’n’Cheese or a poached egg on toast.

Lee:
With a vegan in the family, I’ve been seeking out ways to make the old classics in a way that is more healthful but without losing any of the comfort factor. And I believe I’ve accomplished that with my take on vegan mac ‘n’ cheese. Here’s my recipe:
Lee’s Vegan Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Ingredients

For the cheesy sauce:
1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water overnight
3 T. fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 clove garlic
pinch of turmeric
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. mustard (Dijon or yellow)

For the casserole:
1 pound of pasta (I prefer penne to elbow macaroni, but it’s your call)
2 cups broccoli florets, steamed for 3 minutes
10 large cremeni mushrooms, thinly sliced and sautéed in olive oil
1 bunch of kale, de-ribbed and coarsely chopped

Directions

Cook the pasta according to the direction on the package.

Sautee the mushrooms.

Put the sauce ingredients in a high-speed blender and process for a minute or so until smooth and creamy. This can also be done in a food processor, but it will take a little longer.
One minute before the pasta is done, toss in the steamed broccoli and chopped kale to heat them up. Drain the pasta and veggies, return them to the pot, add the sautéed mushrooms and stir in the cheese sauce.

At this point, you can put the mac ‘n’ cheese in a casserole dish and bake it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. I find that baking dries it out, so I serve it as soon as it mixed.
Lee's Vegan Mac 'n' Cheese
Even the non-vegans in my family love this dish. The only problem with that is...there are never any leftovers!

And now it’s over to you. What foods bring you comfort?

Until next time, wishing you lots of comfort and a quick end to winter,

Janice and Lee

Comments

  1. I love this! Chicken and noodles and chili are my winter-time favorites. I agree about which month is the cruelest, too, although I imagine it has to do with when your heart is broken. Happy Almost March!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All favs of mine, too, Liz! The cruelest month and a broken heart could be a C&W song ;)

      Delete
  2. Ah Liz, so true about the cruelest being when your heart is broken. Sounds like the start of a romance! Hmmm, chicken and noodles. That sounds yummy. And yes to March.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good morning, ladies! Oooh, snow forts. That brought back so many good memories from childhood. And yes, mac and cheese, rice pudding, peanut butter cookies--all comfort foods my mother made. Your chicken pot pie looks so yummy! February here in TN looks like spring today. The Bradford Pears are already blooming. Which doesn't mean winter couldn't return tomorrow. 😊

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the list of comfort foods is a long one, Leigh. I still make my mother’s peanut butter cookie recipe. But right now, I’m craving blossoms on trees. Lucky you! I assume the pears are edible? We have Bartlett’s here in Ontario, much later in the season. Yummy.

      Delete
    2. Liz, you've reminded me that my grandmother's peanut butter cookies would literally melt in your mouth. So good. It's being to look like springtime here on the west coast, too. My snowdrops and crocuses have already bloomed and the cherry blossoms are out. So pretty.

      Delete
  4. I had to laugh about the cruelest month. This is a quote from the Heartwarming I have coming out in May:

    The poet who claimed April was the cruelest month hadn’t lived through February in Toronto.

    I guess it's not just me thinking this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So funny Kim and so true! But my husband heard a redwing blackbird the other day so....

      Delete
    2. Vancouver had a huge dump of snow on Friday, Kim. Very strange weather for this time of year. We were spared here on Vancouver Island, thank goodness.

      Delete
  5. Where's the chicken pot pie recipe? LOL, I love chicken pot pie!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too Pam! Just your standard chicken stew recipe, put ina baking dish and topped with (store-bought) puff pastry to bake till golden brown and bubbling. Hmmm....now I can’t stop thinking about it!

      Delete
    2. There's a solution for that, Janice!

      Delete
  6. Oh my gosh! Comfort food! Of course, all of my favorite comfort foods involve lots of carbs, which I try to keep to a minimum, but still, when I'm stressed or not feeling well, I want potato soup, shephard's pie or chicken and dumplings. although, that chicken pot pie looks like it could be on my list too, yum.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LeAnne, I’m with you as to carb-a-licious every time. And sadly, I have to cut back these days. Which means I need even more comforting which means...you get the picture. I once read a leisurely bubble bath could be comforting too. Never worked for me. Happy Spring!

      Delete
    2. Nothing like a carb overload to keep us going through a long, cold winter day!

      Delete
  7. Possibly even better than the sight of Janice's baked-to-perfection chicken pot pie was your yellow kitchen counter, Lee! It is the exact same one in the farm house I grew up in and is still there. One more week and we'll have this cruellest month licked.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. M.K., those counters would have been installed in 1942. I love all things retro, and I worry we'll lose that vibe if we ever reno our kitchen.

      Delete
  8. I like the look of your chicken pot pie, one of my comfort foods. Loaded back potato soup is another. And winter is a time, I unfortunately pack in too many calories because those calorie-laden foods make me feel warmer. Love the post ladies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sheesh, that was supposed to be baked potato soup.

      Delete
    2. Had to smile at your typo Roz, as it reminded me of me of my own here a few days ago. Now I’m intrigued by ‘baked’ potato soup and ‘loaded’? Does it come with green onion, sour cream and grated cheese? If so, my mouth is watering already. I think the carb laden foods are needed in cold or damp weather. Salads are great for summer and spring but give me starch right now!

      Delete
    3. I've never had baked potato soup but I'm guessing there's bacon...and now I really, really want some!

      Delete
  9. Mmm, that pot pie looks so good. I haven't made one in a while. I love to make vegetable beef soup in the slow cooker and let it fill the house with the aroma for hours.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like to make soup, too, Beth, throughout the winter. Best thing about it? There’s always enough left for the next day or two. Not so with the chicken pot pie sadly.

      Delete
    2. A big pot of homemade soup is pretty much a winter staple at my house, with enough leftover lunches all week. Happiness in a bowl.

      Delete
  10. That pot pie looks amazing!! Definitely a comfort food. Mac and cheese is another one, creamy soups and casseroles. All comforting in wintertime.
    February here in NC is strange sometimes. Jackets in the morning, shorts in the afternoon. Trees blooming EVERYWHERE!! The weather here never ceases to amaze me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laurie, our February blossoms here in the Pacific Northwest got off to a slow start this year, due to unseasonably low temperatures and even...gah!...snow. Now that March has brought a few warm, sunny days, everyone's gardens are finally looking like spring.

      Delete
  11. Wow, Laurie, I’m yearning for some of that greenery tho we’ve had a warm spell the last few days and I’ve even seen one person wearing shorts. Since I was in a winter coat and scarf at the time, it was a bit disconcerting! :)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment