Foods for your Mood Part Four: Ten Comforting Foods.

Finishing up my "Foods for your Mood" series, I've covered Energizing, Purifying and Calming foods. Now it's time to chat vegan comfort foods. Just in time as the brisk fall air creeps in...

Vegan Comfort Foods.
Can you finish this sentence?...

"It's a chilly fall evening and all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a warm fuzzy blanket, and a big dish of _______"

If you want a few yummy ways to fill in the blank,
keep reading...

"Comfort Foods" has become a term which many of us know and love. It's a myth that all 'comfort foods' have to be high in calories and guilt. Healthy, nutrient-dense vegan foods can comfort you like mainstream comfort foods can't. They warmly wrap you in shabby-chic deliciousness, giving your mind, body and spirit a boost.

What is a Comfort Food? Unlike my previous "Foods for your Mood" lists which relied greatly on measurable qualities of foods like calories, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, percentage of fat/carbs/protein and even fiber. My comfort foods list is a bit less scientific. Here are four qualities I seek in a healthy vegan comfort food:

1. Warmth.
Comforting foods should be warm. Hot works too. Comfort foods are usually eaten at night, inside and when you have 'wound down' for the day. Warm as opposed to cold foods are a bit 'gentler' on a tired body because they are already warmed up to your body temperature-one of the steps in proper digestion. Your body has to use valuable energy to warm up icy drinks and foods. And for all you raw foodies out there, I've had plenty of 'lightly cooked' raw foods warmed up to a delicious 115 degrees. So yes, you can eat the 'warmer' raw foods as your comfort food' menu.

2. Higher Carbohydrates.
The ratio of carbs should be higher than the healthy fats and protein. And make sure those carbs are complex. Carbs, as I mentioned in my calming foods post, make your feel 'calm, happy and comforted'. Happy Carb keyword: Serotonin, among others.

3. Easy to Make.
You're trying to chill out right, so a complex recipe just won't cut it.

4. Super Delicious, Not Super Fancy.
You don't need the pretty garnish of radish roses and that side accent of pomegranate drizzle to make your comfort food recipes a success. Simple flavorful recipes are key.

Top Ten Comforting "Vegan Comfort Foods"

1. Potatoes - Five Ways!
Complex carb and fiber-rich potatoes are my ultimate comfort food. Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin A. No boredom here. I prepare my comfort-inducing potatoes five different ways: mashed, scalloped, baked, roasted or stuffed. My fave flavor ideas: Mashed sweet potatoes with parsley and garlic hummus. Scalloped saffron chive potatoes sauce - layers of thinly sliced Yukons meet layers of delicate sweet saffron-soy cream sauce. A Simple baked potato filled with chunky tomato salsa, black beans and a dollop of soy sour cream. Roasted cinnamon-ginger sweet potatoes or olive oil wasabi red potatoes. And my vegan Mozzarella cheese, diced Vidalia onion, sun dried-tomato mashed twice-baked potatoes. Melted, bubbly cheese crusted on top. Recipe link: Kathy's Famous Sweet Potato Mash. Recipe Link: Sweet Potato Tofu Hash.



2. Muffins, warm from the oven
Warm, moist muffins remind us that total satisfaction can come in one tiny perfect food item. Seasonal or exotic ingredients are always a treat. (Think summertime strawberries or exotic goji berry muffins!) And complex grains like quinoa, bran and spelt make the traditional 'muffin' a healthy more sophisticated gourmet bite. With a cozy afternoon tea or as a breakfast on the go, muffins indeed add some easy comfort to your belly. Link: Vegan Baking Secret.

3. Steamed Greens
Once in a while I'll sip my cravable giant raw salad and replace it with some steamed greens. I adore Kale with olive oil and citrus - a dash of apple cider vinegar too. Or black pepper spinach with a touch of vegan butter. Steamed, wilted or sauteed greens offer you all the leafy green nutrition you want without the high energy crunch crunch crunch, you could easily do without on a comfort-foods day. Recipe Link: Tender Kale with Kumquats.



4. Southern Foods.
Ask Paula Deen, she'll remind you that there's no style of cooking that nails 'comfort food' better than Southern style cooking. Cornbread, mashed potatoes, pot pies, black-eyed peas, gravy, biscuits, Cajun rice and mac n cheese, Don't forget the homemade cherry or sweet potato pie for dessert. And if you've been paying attention, you know all these foods can easily be eaten in veganized healthier versions... Recipe Link: Sweet Fresh Corn Cake: Scoop or Loaf.



5. Breakfast Eats
It's ironic how comfort foods like buckwheat blueberry pancakes, oatmeal, scrambled tofu, almond butter bagels and warm baked goods are usually served at breakfast as get-up-and-go foods. Now I'm not saying you should have cinnamon buns for dinner, but scrambled tofu and pasta dinner? Worth a try... Recipe Link: Tofu Scramble Good Morning Pasta.

6. Tea or Hot Cocoa
Sip a cup 'o cocoa (marshmallows optional) or a steamy cup of green or herbal tea. Comforting? Oh yes. Warm your core. Its kinda like an inside out hot bubble bath. All those 'warm milk at bedtime' relaxation-inducing claims are still true for soy, from my experience anyways? Link: Ice Skating and Cocoa Day.

7. One-Pot Meals, aka Stew, Soup and Chili.
I don't own a crock-pot. But my mom did. And for a busy person seeking a comforting, super-easy meal at the end of the day, there is nothing so simple, healthy and divine as a crock pot stew. Ingredients? Try lentils, couscous, quinoa, carrots, celery, soaked beans, tofu, spinach, mushrooms, parsley, bay leaves, pepper, sea salt, fennel, kale, cabbage, potatoes, whole grain pasta, olive oil, veggie broth, herbs, spicy peppers, onions, tomatoes,peas and squash just to name a few possibilities. Recipe Link: Mexican Couscous Power Bowl.



8. Pudding Parfait
Chocolate marshmallow, banana vanilla cream, lemon vanilla or butterscotch maple almond. Photo below shows my Cinna-Vanilla and Spicy Chocolate flavors. Vegan puddings have some amazing flavor opportunities just out there waiting to be experimented with. Warmer than ice cream for dessert, though twice as soft and comfortingly creamy. Want to get crazy gourmet? How about sea salted vanilla passion fruit pudding with an olive oil drizzle and pistachio crumble on top. 'Chocolate pudding' just got boring. Oh and rice pudding (warmed with cinnamon and maple) is a classic comfort sweet for any taste. Recipe Link: Tofu-chino Parfaits.



9. Italian Eats
It's no secret that pasta can be comfort food central. Thus, the may diverse Italian preparations of pasta make it an easy interesting comfort food. Tricks for a healthier pasta: use whole wheat, quinoa, spelt or rice pasta. Limit the amount of olive oil you use by tossing the pasta in a light drizzle before adding all the other ingredients. Fresh veggies and low fat marinara sauce are both delicious and low-calorie if you use more veggies and sauce than you do pasta! Instead of a 80:20 ratio of pasta:sauce/veggies, try a 40:60 ratio. More veggies, less pasta, more nutrients, happier body. A pasta-coma might feel 'comfy' at first, but it loses its charm the next morning. Recipe Link: Squash 'n Spirals Summer Pasta.

10. Cheesiness! Vegan Cheese.
Everything is better with (vegan) cheese. You can turn just about any dish into a comfort food style dish by adding cheese. And vegan cheese can be amazing!!! Melts and all. My two fave brands: Follow Your Heart and the harder to find Daiya Cheese. Recipe Link: Cheesy Dill Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts.



Comforting Meals doesn't end here. Since I'm in a cozy mood, I'll be posting a super duper comforting recipe in the next day. You don't want to miss it. (Insert mmmmm sounds here.)




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