Column6 foods that comfort in the cold months.
Six degrees Fahrenheit. The kind of weather that necessitates two puffy jackets. The time change means it’s easier to motivate in the morning routine, but come dusk all I want to do is crawl under a blanket on the couch and read a book. No more balmy, late evenings with a group of friends and a plate of hors d’oeuvres and a bottle of wine; it’s hibernation time. Dark days, cold nights; the winter fueled mindset is upon us.
In front of me sits a steaming mug of Lavender Earl Grey (thank you Banff Tea Co.). On a winter morning like this, it’s a needed infusion of energy. The large cup turns into a hand warmer and the lavender gives a sense of calm that fits the season. I’m slowing down, off the late summer and early fall craze, falling more in tune with the shorter days. Which gets me thinking about comfort food: the edibles we gravitate towards when we hit our hibernation months.
There’s a reason why we want heavy, starchy, fatty foods: they make us happy. These foods boost our serotonin levels, which are much needed throughout the colder months. Centuries ago we could have blamed it on needing extra energy for winter, but in our modern days we certainly don’t need extra fat for winter, we just eat to feel, well, comforted. Which is why, all of a sudden, we’re craving things like hot chocolate milkshakes and macaroni and cheese, even though they go against our better judgement.
If you’re feeling like you need to crawl into a cave, away from people and hunker down, you’re not alone. There are comfort food restaurants, food trucks – Ms. Cheezious grilled cheese sandwich anyone? – and even diets. Yes, comfort food diets. If anyone out there manages to eat a diet rich in cheese and carbohydrates and still stay healthy, please let me know, I’m dying to hear about it.
All jokes aside, might as well give your body what it needs, and when salads just aren’t cutting it, it’s time to start getting creative in the kitchen, not just to make you feel emotionally better, but to keep you healthy. Here’s your foodie guide to comfort food bliss, keeping you happy without the culinary sacrifice.
- 1/2 liter water
- 1-2 carrots, chopped
- 1/2 leek, chopped
- 1-2 potatoes, cut into small pieces
- 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
- 1 sausage, sliced
The Classy Comfort Food
Bored with the standard macaroni and cheese and need to cook up a more high end meal? Try Heidi Swanson’s Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash, a seasonal favorite. Or test out our very own Vanessa Barrington’s Spicy Crab and Polenta. You can’t go wrong.
The Comfort Food You Drink
Fireplace, book and a mug of mulled wine, what more do you want? Go for my Swedish favorite glögg, which packs the kind of punch your winter nights need.
The Morning Comfort Food
A dark winter morning necessitates a little indulgence, this time in the form of plenty of butter. This recipe is adapted from Sheila Lutkins’ Dorset Scones in All Around the World.
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled + cut into cubes
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3/4 cup dried currants
- 1/2 cup sliced, toasted almonds
1. Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and nutmeg. Add cold butter and mix together until it resembles a coarse meal. [Easiest way to do this is in a food processor, but using your hands to do the job works just fine!]
2. Whisk egg in a small bowl and mix together with milk. Add to flour mixture and mix until dough forms large curds.
3. Knead in currants and almonds.
4. Make two round balls and flatten on greased pan. Cut each round into eighths.
5. Preheat over to 450F, bake for 15 min.
The Impress Your Friends Comfort Food
It’s winter, not only are you craving comfort food, but you’re exhausted, so cooking up a storm for the neighbors isn’t at the top of your list. Keep it simple with this delicious appetizer that only requires three ingredients:
- Goat cheese
Put cheese in a oven friendly dish and cover with walnuts and honey. Put in oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes, until cheese is soft. Serve with a crusty loaf of hearty bread.
The You Just Want to Be Alone Comfort Food
You’re hibernating, remember? Saying no to friends is perfectly acceptable, and it’s the perfect time to indulge. You can buy a round of raclette cheese, melt it and attack the entire dish with apple slices. There’s no one around to comment on your questionable serving sizes. If you’re craving something sweeter, whip up a coffee cake or Mexican Bread Pudding, make a cup of tea and retreat. If you go overboard and eat the whole thing, just be sure to wash out the baking dish to get rid of any evidence before any housemates, partners or significant others return home.
And that Lavender Earl Grey? Head to your local spice store, buy a handful of lavender buds and mix it in with loose leaf Earl Grey. It will keep your favorite tea mug happy all winter long.
Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s weekly column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground, discovering what’s new and different in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to the culinary avant garde.
Images: Anna Brones