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Comfort food is different for everyone, but it usually has one thing in common. It’s rich, decadent and high in calories.
Comfort food does what it sounds like. It comforts us when we are tired, when we’re under the weather, or when we’re feeling down. It’s associated with memories of being taken care of and has an actual calming effect.
My go-to comfort food is a dish my mother made for us when we didn’t feel well. It’s kneff, a simple gnocchi-type dish that is commonly prepared in the Alsace area of France.
Flour, eggs, and water are mixed into a thick dough, then dropped by small spoonfuls into rapidly boiling water. Once firm and drained, my mother would brown the dumplings in butter and sprinkle them with Parmesan cheese just before serving. My sisters and I devoured them and asked for more.
Recently, when I caught the family flu, I wanted kneff.
Kneff is a dish that my mother used to prepare for us whenever we were under the weather, or sad. I now know that it was also a very quick and cheap dish to put together.
Kneff is French but by no means a dish you’ll find in a fancy restaurant on your next visit to France. In fact, I doubt you’d be able to ever find it in a restaurant anywhere ever! It’s prepared in homes by mothers who want to make their kids (and themselves) feel better. In digging around for the source of the recipe, the furthest back I could go was a reference to it being a dish from the Alsace region. How it came to be prepared in Algeria (then a French protectorate), I will never know.
Stumbling around my kitchen, I decided to play with the ingredients to make the dish vegan. I substituted aquafaba for the eggs, adding some red pepper flakes for flavor. I used a little Earth Balance butter to brown them and skipped the cheese (though I could have used vegan parmesan) entirely. To read more about aquafaba and it’s magical properties, go to The Magic of Aquafaba and How to Learn its Spells!
It was delicious, virtually the same as I remembered it, and by skipping the eggs and deliberately preparing only a small serving, I dropped the calories to an acceptable level.
You don’t have to give up comfort food when you embark on a plan to become healthier. you just have to learn how to tweak that food so that you will feel good about the dish and about yourself.
Think about your favorite comfort food for a minute.
Let’s say it’s pasta. What about it feels comforting to you? Is it the soft chewiness of the noodles? The sweet and acid bite of the tomato sauce? The gooey, stretchy rich cheese? Is it the combination of flavors and textures? Does one reasonable serving, eaten slowly and luxuriously, give you the comfort you are looking for? Or does that one plate turn into eating the whole pot, leaving you sick afterward?
How can you reproduce that same comforting experience but without the calorie hit and nausea of overeating?
How about pizza?
Vegan pizzas are getting better all the time but, in my opinion, there is nothing better than a homemade version.
Bring home a ball of ready to bake pizza dough from Trader Joe’s or the grocery store in your freezer. Portion it out into individual serving sizes and freeze them when you bring it home from the store. No having to figure out the calories and worrying about waste when you have the entire 4-serving dough to deal with. Top it with a little pasta sauce, Miyoko’s Kitchen wonderful vegan mozzarella and you have freshly baked gooey, cheesy pizza. Perfectly reasonable calorie count, no reason to feel guilt and the comfort food is yours!
Is ice cream your go-to after a breakup?
That’s so classic that we’ve all seen that scene in romantic comedies. Grab some ice cream and your phone and cry to your best friend while you scoop directly from the tub.
In romantic movies, it’s always a given that the ice cream is already in the freezer, just waiting for when it’s needed. But in real life, you will probably have to go out to get it, all red-eyed and sniffly-nosed. Shuffling through the frozen aisle, you look through the frosted doors to find Ben & Jerry’s latest dairy free offering.
Here’s a plus for the vegans. Ben & Jerry’s don’t make the standard 1.5 quart tubs, at least for the dairy free ice creams. Your only option is to get the 14 ounce container, which says it contains four 1/2 cup servings at 200 calories each serving. By just bringing home a smaller container, you are going to consume less. If you eat half the container, you really won’t do yourself any harm with a one-time comfort food of 400 calories. Heck, even if you DO polish off the whole container, it will have a negligible effect if you are sticking to your eating plan the rest of the time.
You could lower your calories even more (since you have to go out anyway) if you stopped at Pinkberry and had a small dairy-free coconut frozen yogurt and piled it high with fresh fruit toppings. About 150 calories before the fruit.
You can make a delicious vegan mac n cheese (or buy Daiya’s – 300 calories a serving) and one serving will nourish your soul and tummy on a cold and sad day. Eating the whole tray would be the furthest thing from comforting and leave you sick and disappointed in yourself.
What is a perfect comfort food?
It’s food that actually COMFORTS, without PUNISHING, us for whatever gave us the need for comfort food in the first place.Find comfort food will truly help you heal, not make you feel worse! Give yourself the gift of TLC and a bowl of the comfort food of your choice. When you decide to nurture yourself with food, and not punish yourself, you will find that comfort food will truly help you heal.Click To Tweet
You never know when the sky will drop on you, when you need to hibernate with a nasty cold, or get over a fight that bruised your feelings.
Find comfort food will truly help you heal, not make you feel worse! Give yourself the gift of TLC and a bowl of the comfort food of your choice. When you decide to nurture yourself with food, and not punish yourself, you will find that comfort food will truly help you heal.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Can it be made healthier, either by changing the ingredients or by controlling serving size? Do you have a comfort food that’s actually good for you? Share!
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