The easiest way for me to veer conversation towards a non-corona topic is to ask “what’s for dinner.” Everyone has to eat and what they’re feeding themselves tells me a lot about their current mindset. There are tons of phenomenal culinary projects that we can undertake, and I’ll focus on those in a subsequent post, but many friends I’ve spoken to have stocked up on white bread and Kraft singles since nothing says “the world is a safe place” like comfort food. A taste of childhood combined with the knowledge of consuming something naughty makes it all the more pleasurable.
Today is about comfort foods and ways to make them a little healthier. There are definitely times when only ice cream or KD will do, but we’re likely going to be in this situation for the next few months, and there’s a fine line between caring for yourself and causing yourself harm. I get it, I really do. Food = comfort, but we nurture ourselves by balancing comfort and health, especially during stressful times.
Grilled cheese – while it’s great to have (what my mom calls) Kleenex bread with Kraft singles (too good), this isn’t filling (at all). Instead use high quality bread and real cheese (literally everything is higher quality than those two ingredients)
Serve with Tomato soup: roast onions, garlic, and canned tomatoes in a big baking dish with salt & pepper, spices, olive oil, and a little balsamic and sugar. Once the liquid is reduced and the tomatoes are lightly browned, put this into a pot with vegetable stock, simmer on the stove for 10-15 minutes. Blend and finish with a swirl of cream and fresh basil (if you magically have that in your fridge).
Oven fries – are the best. Potatoes cut into strips and baked at a high heat (425F for 30-35ish mins – flip after around 25 mins), seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper.
– My roommate and I eat them with lemon garlic mayo, fake meat or veggie burgers and salad (with tomatoes, cucumber, and scallions, or chopped apples and toasted pumpkin seeds – with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette)
– These make a great meal or snack with hummus or baba ganoush
Crepes – My roommate loves crepes, I dated a young lady who adores crepes, and I’ve worked at two creperies.
– Sweet crepes: stuff with fruit (thawed frozen berries if your fridge is a little naked), a small amount of maple syrup/nutella/chocolate chips, and then natural peanut or almond butter to round out the meal.
– Savory crepes: cook until just set on the first side, then flip, lower the heat, crack an egg on top, break the yolk with a fork and smush the egg all around the crepe. Top this with frozen spinach sautéed with garlic, and once the egg is mostly set, fold the crepe in half and cook on each side for another minute or two (quesadilla style) until the egg is cooked through.
– Egg crepes are also great with pesto and other sautéed veg like mushrooms, onions, and peppers.
Dumplings + Perogies – are at the top of the list of culinary projects we want to undertake, but when it comes to buying them frozen (like a normal person):
– Bring salted water to a gentle boil – if the water is bubbling too ferociously, the filling will explode out of its casing.
– Cook according to package directions (usually for like 3-4 minutes or until floating)
– Drain and toss with sesame oil for dumplings and vegetable oil for the perogies
– Pan fry mushrooms and onions, and add the perogies to get them a little crispy. Eat this with yogurt (lighter than the traditional sour cream), dill, and sauerkraut (if you have).
– Dumplings are great covered in peanut sauce or dipped into a mix of soy, rice wine vinegar, chili oil, and scallions. You can pan fry them if you’d like. Regardless, I love a spicy cucumber salad or some sautéed veggies like broccoli/zucchini/green beans as a side dish.
– Watch the Ugly Delicious episode on stuffed pasta as you eat dinner.
Pasta & Noodles – one of the ultimate comfort foods, there’s very little that’s more satisfying than pasta (Italian noodles) and noodles (Asian pasta). Versatile, delicious, and inexpensive. What more could you ask for?
– Soba or rice noodles – cook broccoli in the same water at the same time as the noodles, drain and rinse well and then mix with spicy peanut/tahini sauce and crispy tofu.
– Sauté green pepper, cabbage, and onion (do this quickly over high heat so they stay crisp) with udon noodles or Chinese egg noodles and teriyaki style sauce. Top with sesame seeds and scallions for cccrunch.
– Mac & cheese: I do a vegan version (because my digestive system is not happy when I eat dairy). Blend together: sautéed onion and garlic, a little boiled sweet potato, tomato paste, soaked cashews, non-dairy milk, olive oil, paprika, oregano, nutritional yeast and salt and pepper. This doesn’t taste like cheese – but it’s delicious and creamy and satisfying and really really good on scooby doo pasta (cavatelli) or macaroni noodles.
– Aglio olio: the simplest of Italian “sauces” – garlic (sliced, diced, or crushed) and chili flakes cooked over low heat in a generous amount of olive oil. Go non-tradish and add: thinly sliced zucchini, diced tomatoes, chopped mushrooms, strips of pepper, baby spinach, etc. Parsley, olives, sun dried tomatoes, and capers are also a very good addition and continued delicious divergence from the classic dish.
-”Mushroom lentil Bolognese”: sauté onion, carrot, celery, and mushrooms in olive oil. Add chopped garlic, dried oregano, thyme, and basil, red wine, tomato paste, cooked brown lentils, canned tomatoes, and lots of salt and pepper. Simmer for at least 20 minutes and enjoy this hearty sauce with rigatoni.
It’s normal to turn to food for comfort (I definitely do), but try to make your meals more sustainable by eating a more moderate portion of the indulgences and having a generous side of veggies. Add chopped fruit or toasted nuts to salad for texture, roast vegetables on high heat (with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper – adding a splash of balsamic vinegar toward the end) so that they’re crispy and enticing, or add vegetables to the dish itself. Eat well and be happy.
What I’ve cooked since the last blog post:
– Leftover eggplant chickpea curry – reheated with crispy potatoes, rice, and cilantro
– Homemade pita and homemade hummus with domales and salad
– Asian style tacos with sesame slaw, peanut sauce, and marinated tempeh
– Vegan fish with oven fries, lemon garlic mayo, and greens with apple and toasted pumpkin seeds
– Lots of (juicy) sliced oranges and grapefruit and crisp empire apples (fruit is more satisfying to eat when sliced with the core discarded)
– Fried rice (brown rice, soft tofu, egg, broccoli stems, frozen peas, carrot, onion, celery, black sesame seeds)
– Leftovers sandwich: pita, marinated tempeh, peanut sauce, Asian slaw
Let me know what you thought of this post in the comments down below and if there’s a specific ingredient or topic you’d like me to cover. Don’t forget to like my Facebook page, follow me on Instagram and on this site in order to receive a notification for the by-weekly content I’m posting here during the quarantine here. If you subscribe to my YouTube channel as well, I will love you forever.