The C Word, and Other Words I’m Trying to Avoid: Comfort Food, Four Ways

Food. Here’s a silly question or two about it: what is it? Better yet, what’s it’s purpose? I guess there are quite a few answers to this question. First, if we want to get really technical, according to the ever-reliable dictionary, the definition of food is as follows, “any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, in order to maintain life and growth”. For those of us who don’t have a Franklin Electronic Dictionary hanging around (like all of the cool middle schoolers did back in the day), we might just say that food makes us feel good. We use it to energize, socialize, celebrate, be creative, and more. In other words, 99% of the time, food is great thing. In fact, I’ve met exactly zero people in my life who have said that eating food was detrimental.

Having said that, there are a few words I’m trying to eliminate from my vocabulary these days. While there are many that I could get rid of to feed the illusion that I’m a proper lady, I’m focusing on these first: cheating, and eating “clean”.

To explain why, I’ll tell you what these words mean to me. First, eating “clean”.… okay, maybe this was a bad one to start with. Because, really, what does “clean” even mean? Is there such thing as a dirty food? (Other than when it’s been dropped on the floor…)

Better yet, let’s talk about cheating. I understand why we use the word so much. It’s an easy way to communicate that you’ve veered temporarily from the plan. Really, it’s a pretty harmless term for most. But, taken more seriously, cheating implies you’ve done something that’s against the rules. When you apply it to food, it implies that certain foods are against the rules. When foods are all of a sudden right and wrong, nutrition becomes black and white. Black and white leads to the potential for boredom, failure, anxiety, and even restriction in some cases. Sound extreme? I suppose. In fact, some may call me sensitive for having these opinions. They may say that my opinions exemplify a lax attitude toward having a healthy lifestyle – something we should strive to work hard at. Regardless, these days, I call it the opposite. I call it balance.

Does that mean I’m eating donuts on the regular? No. Because it’s called balance for a reason. So, what do I call it then, when I eat something unusual, or different than what I normally fuel my body with? Something one would consider a “cheat”? I call it, “damn that tasted good – maybe I’ll eat broccoli instead tomorrow.” That’s it.

Ironically, that being said, this week is about “comfort food”. I know, you’re thinking, “but wait, according to your intro, shouldn’t all food bring you comfort?” Yes. But, this is the food that has amazing flavors, nostalgia, and memories, all wrapped up in it. It’s that food that symbolizes your childhood, your favorite holiday, or your favorite person. What’s great about comfort food, is that we all have our own versions and reasons behind them. In fact, a person’s comfort food can tell you a lot about them. (If you end up thinking that mine scream “NOSTALGIC OLD LADY ALERT”, I forgive you.) Without further ado, my four most comforting foods.

Chicken Parmesan

You know those foods that you can get just about anywhere, yet insist upon getting everywhere, even when there are plenty more special things on the menu besides just that food? For me, that food is chicken parmesan. Flash back to middle school and high school. Everything is changing, there’s little in life that’s constant. You know what’s tried and true? Chicken parmesan. Literally impossible to mess up. (Ironically, the only place I remember having really mediocre chicken parmesan has been in Little Italy.) My one-tracked high school brain LOVED it.

These days, it’s still impossible to mess up. Simply bake and shred some chicken. Then, make a mound of it on your baking sheet, and top with sauce and a pile of mozzarella cheese. Broil this for about 5-6 minutes in the oven until the cheese turned brown and bubbly. Carefully move the mound to a bowl with pasta, and drizzle with some more sauce! Easy!

Pizza

Dear God, I love pizza. I mean really, who doesn’t? For me, pizza reminds me of college. Late nights with friends, way too much Dominoes, you get the point. These days, even though I tend to stay away from the Dominoes, I’m still a pizza fan. Really, I’m mostly a fan of the crust. If you’re someone who eats middle pieces, we can’t be friends. That’s not a joke.

Here is a super simple breakfast pizza! The base is a pita made by Joseph’s Bakery. While it can be topped with just about anything, my pizza in particular is topped with scrambled eggs, broccoli that’s already been roasted until crispy, mozzarella cheese, and an additional whole egg. Word to the wise, I’ve seen people just crack the egg on top of the uncooked pizza and then have it cook in the oven. For me, the white of the egg never cooked while I was broiling it. I suggest cooking the over easy egg first, then putting it on top before broiling the pizza for about 6 minutes.

Stewgots

I know what you’re thinking…stew what? Stewgots was my grandfather’s signature dish. As a kid, you never asked questions about what was in it, or what it’s name meant. You just got excited about it, and inhaled it. It wasn’t until later in life that I asked about it’s origin. After hearing the story, I wish I would have been able to hear it from my grandfather instead, as I’m sure he would have said it with the same dry sense of humor which he passed on to me: “It’s stew…and you make it with whats you gots….then you got stewgots.” Duh!

Even though this stew is meant to be made of what you gots, he always made it the same way. Ground beef, tomato soup, canned green beans, and canned sliced potatoes. All cooked in a slow cooker, until they were one big family. I’ve changed it up a bit. To make my version, brown some ground turkey, and add it to a slow cooker with a can of crushed tomatoes, and a cup of chicken broth, along with some salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Then, add in about two pounds of cubed sweet potatoes. Cook this on high for 4 hours. In the last hour of cooking, throw some green beans in there as well.

Apple Pie

Listen. Ask anyone I know, and they’ll tell you that I’m a sweet gal. Just kidding. Maybe they won’t. BUT, they’ll tell you that sweet foods are nearer to my heart than savory foods. Instead of a burger and fries, I’d rather reach for a cookie, donut, or piece of cake any day. One of my favorite desserts is pie. I can’t even tell you which is my favorite, because I don’t discriminate. But, apple is up there for sure.

Here, I’m getting the best of both worlds. Apple pie and breakfast, together. For your own apple pie toast, just dice up an apple, sprinkle with cinnamon, and sauté over medium heat until the apple is soft. Then, use a fork to partially mash. Eat it by the spoonful, or spread it over toast and peanut butter like I did here!

There you have it, four of my top comfort foods. Get bready for next week, because we’re getting toasty!

Until then, stay tuned and stay hungry!

Erin 

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