This post is part of a blog collaboration on healthy comfort foods and recipes, as well as thoughts on comforts beyond the kitchen. Links to the other participants’ articles are at the end of this article.
The New Year; it can be motivating and exciting, but if you’re like me, you might also feel anxious returning to the reality of normal routine after a period of relaxed, indulgent days. It feels like there’s no choice but to leave the comforts of the season behind in order to be productive and balanced again – as if we can’t have both at once. But this all-or-nothing mentality is not fair logic. Enjoying comfort does not have to mean excessive indulgence. Remember the holiday tip #3: Discern, Don’t Deny? This applies to finding everyday comforts throughout the year as well.
While I’m not suggesting we continue eating holiday cookies every day ;-), I am suggesting we recognize this tendency to respond harshly when anxiety creeps up on us post-holiday. I’m also suggesting that we try adopting a more reasonable approach to regaining moderation and balance in the kitchen and beyond – one that emphasizes kindness and allows for those everyday comforts. Why? Because whether you’d like to lose weight, eat more plant-based whole foods, move your body more, or simply create more peace and calm in your days this year, these goals are all more easily accomplished when we’re kind to ourselves. As Geneen Roth wisely says, “When you don't want to be where you are, you create suffering for yourself. Change happens through acceptance, kindness and relaxation--not resistance, not warfare, not fights.”
I think of anxiety as our mind fearing what is or what could be. But when we prioritize kindness we send a message that we are OK, dampening that voice of anxiety and allowing us to act from a place of intuitive calm rather than fear. This turns out to be a much more reliable solution for lasting change.
My secret to reinforce this kindness is to reframe how I think about comfort food. Comfort food to me is not only the food on my plate but also the non-food aspects of daily life that nourish me all the same. Why is this reframe important? Food is easy to turn to when we need comfort. It provides immediate, albeit temporary, gratification. Sometimes that’s what we need. In fact, real comfort food can reduce stress, boost mood, and strengthen immunity. But what about the times when food does not provide the comfort we need; when it only serves as a bandage to conceal a greater need, whether that be for activity, connection, kindness, or something else? What do we do then?
I’m willing to bet most of us already know what to do in these situations. We simply need the encouragement and game plan to get started. That’s why I’m kicking off a brand-new Comfort Food series that not only reminds you (and me!) comfort food exists beyond the kitchen but also helps us recognize and tend to these “other” areas of our life, so that we can live with more comfort.
A good place to start is with the four most common ways we interact with food on a daily basis: in our body, mind, home environment, and community. Take the first area for example: our body. What’s more comforting than finding the foods we love and that love us back? When we’re focused on eating what’s best for our own body and the bloating, fatigue, brain fog, and skin issues disappear as a result, we’ll enjoy our life more, have more energy and enthusiasm to give, and literally feel more comfortable each day. When we shape these four areas according to our needs, we extend comfort food beyond the kitchen which naturally creates more comfort in our days and harmony in our relationship with food.
I’ve found that the more broadly I define comfort food the more it shows up in my every day and the easier it makes the transition from holidays back to reality or even just simply getting through an average Wednesday. Right now, comfort food for me is cozying up in the corner of my couch writing this post in a calm, quiet house. My legs are folded up underneath me, a blanket my mother-in-law knitted is over top, a large cinnamon candle is glowing on the coffee table, and the low, dense fog is looming just outside the window dimming the last of the day’s winter light.
But this is just one take on comfort. Over the next few weeks I’ll share ideas for creating comfort in the four areas I mentioned above. And in the meantime, I’ve partnered with a few of my favorite food blogger friends - real women who live real lives and happen to share wonderful insights about food and life on their blogs - who will offer a greater range of perspectives and inspiration. I'm quite selective when it comes to the food blogs I choose to follow. So believe me when I say that reading these women's posts and cooking their recipes is truly a source of comfort for me. And I would be honored if you took time to head over to their blogs at the links below to read the ways in which they seek comfort in their everyday lives and to get the comfort food recipes that keep them and their families happy.
Comfort food perspectives - A collaboration
Thai Red Curry with Tofu |Orchard Street Kitchen
Self-Saucing Cheese & Roasted Vegetable Pasta Bake | Food to Glow
Vegetarian Pho | Highgate Hill Kitchen
MCT Hummus | Sarah Bellum
Cinnamon Hot Chocolate
Notes: I don't know about you but warm, creamy, rich hot chocolate is definitely comfort food material for me. Here it's whole nourishment as well because I like to use hazelnut milk, raw cacao, and coconut sugar. But another plant-based milk, such as almond or rice, or cows milk also work. I like using raw cacao because it gives a richer chocolate flavor and since I'm not cooking it, all its antioxidants remain intact. But regular cocoa powder also works in a pinch, as does brown sugar or Muscovado (unrefined cane sugar) instead of coconut sugar.
- 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) unsweetened milk of choice
- 1 Tbsp. raw cacao
- 3 tsp. coconut sugar
- Heaping 1/4 tsp. arrowroot (or cornstarch)
- Pinch salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 square (~10 gr) dark chocolate (70%)
- Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. I like to cover the pan so it heats faster.
- In the meantime grab your favorite mug and add cacao, sugar, arrowroot, salt, and cinnamon to it. Once milk is heated to your liking pour a splash into the mug and whisk with a fork or mini whisk to break up any lumps. Add a few more splashes and keep whisking until everything is dissolved. Add the remaining milk along with the broken pieces of chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted. It should be smooth, creamy, and slightly thickened by now. Taste and adjust for sweetness.
- At this point you can enjoy as is or add in additional flavorings. I enjoy a tiny splash of almond extract and extra cinnamon. An almond or hazelnut liquor would be a very nice addition if serving as an after-dinner adult drink.
*Optional flavor add-ins: Almond extract, vanilla extract/paste, extra dusting of cinnamon, or a splash of almond (Amaretto), hazelnut (Frangelico), or coffee liquor