Who doesn’t love comfort food……..It is quite delicious! My husband and I are so disciplined with meals during the week making sure we are eating the most nutritious whole foods every day with greens, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds and fruits, making sure our bodies are being nourished with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and a balance of macros to keep us strong, happy, energetic, and healthy for running, lifting and simply being alive. I cook and prep delicious meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week. However, a couple times a month take a break from cooking and tracking macros and nutrition and head to our regular vegan restaurant for our favorite “cheat” meal and comfort food… Nachos! Crunchy tortilla salty chips loaded with black beans, melted vegan cheese hot out of the oven and topped with sour cream, salsa and guacamole this is usually followed by a vegan pizza and salad that we split. Sometimes we stop at the vegan bakery for a peanut butter brownie or some sort of sweet cupcake.
Comfort food, what exactly is it anyway? It’s heard in all sorts of circles, seen on restaurant menus, advertised on TV, and usually being told to limit eating too much of it. This is the type of food that is not so healthy, the processed foods that are high calories, sugars, carbs, fats, sodium and is simple to make or order that sends your taste buds dancing and singing. The curled up on the sofa with fuzzy slippers on eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Rocky Road ice cream and a bag of Lay’s Salt and Vinegar chips while watching an Officer and a Gentleman after a break up (maybe this actually happened in my lifetime or maybe not). The make us feel better happy food with often a feeling of guilt and regret that often follows. Oh why did I eat that slice of blueberry pie at 2 am? We have all been there at one time. I can hear it now, I know I shouldn’t eat those Christmas cookies they are not healthy but, they are so good. I will just run an extra 10 miles tomorrow (I may have said this in the past).
Comfort foods by definition according to Wikipedia, “the term has been tracked back to 1966 when the Palm Beach Post used it in a story: "Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’—food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup. They are believed to be a great coping mechanism for rapidly soothing negative feelings.” These foods can be anything that relates to that individual to bring a sense of comfort for them. According to the Food Network, some of America’s favorite comfort foods are pizza, French fries, pasta, southern fried chicken, tacos, ice cream chocolate, gravy, any types of pies, pastries or other treats, burgers, bread and biscuits, Mac N Cheese and well you get the picture the list is endless.
However, can you have your cake and eat it to? Can you have a delicious flavorful comfort food dish and have it be healthy? The term healthy often has a negative stigma with it, healthy is boring, bland and has not flavor, it’s eating salads or celery sticks, expensive and takes too long to cook (I have heard it all). Every comfort food listed above can be made healthy, vegan and has tons of mouthwatering flavor with no feeling of guilt after and is easy to make with simple ingredients that is inexpensive. By using whole food ingredients, herb and spices these dishes can taste even better than the high calorie, fat, sugar and sodium foods.
One of my favorite foods as a kid and my kid’s favorite foods was Mac N’ Cheese! We always had the boxed Kraft kind with the powered cheese packet that needed added milk and butter. It was a special treat to have the kind with the can of cheese already made in the box (I know all of you can relate!) We always had it with a side of tater tots or frozen fries with loads of ketchup and a canned veggie of some sort. I think back now and cringe just a little (sorry mom, but my kids grew up on this to). But, for the past 10 years I have learned to make bad and unhealthy foods good. This version of Mac N’ Cheese is super healthy. The cheese sauce is made with butternut squash, sweet potato, cashews, a bit of soy milk, onion, nutritional yeast and other seasonings. The pasta is made from lentils making it high in protein with added broccoli and mushrooms in the mix. The sauce is so creamy with an explosion of flavor! Also the sauce is not only great for Mac N’ Cheese but also great on:
So, as far as our cheat night well sometimes it is nice to sit back and have someone cook for you and serve you and have that one bad for you meal. Bad comfort foods are ok once in a while we all need that sweet gooey chocolate brownie, cheese covered nachos with loads of toppings or even a pint of Ben and Jerry’s which now has vegan flavors (Just what I need). But, there are also thousands of ways to make our favorite comfort foods just a bit healthier therefore, yes you can have your cake and eat it to! So here is the recipe for this amazingly creamy Mac N’ Cheese which I have made several times!
Creamy Mac N' Cheese
Yields: medium size casserole dish.
Time: 1 hour