Sunday Afternoon Comfort Food

I grew up in a family that showed their love through food. My dad was an apple farmer, and mom was resourceful when it came to food. She used to pick out the bird-pecked fruit to cook with because she said the birds knew which apples were sweetest. (I don’t know if that was true but it seemed reasonable.) Mom cooked for everyone – our family, our friends, our apple customers, and the families who harvested the orchard.

Since I developed celiac, mom and I have discovered the secrets of gluten-free cooking together. One myth about a gluten-free diet is that there’s nothing we can eat. And I will admit that it seemed that way initially. The real treat of a gluten-free diet is that it includes almost every natural food on the planet, outside of some grains. While soy sauce contains gluten, that’s added in the processing; even soy beans are naturally gluten-free. Meats, dairy, vegetables, fruits, legumes, rice, fats and oils – they are all gluten-free. (Yes, when it comes to processed foods, things can get tricky.)

One of my favorite (super easy) gluten-free dishes to make on Sundays and eat throughout the week is Debra’s Gluten-free Chicken soup. Here’s what I include:

  • Chicken
  • Chicken broth (At least six cups – I make mine with water and bouillon but boxed is easier)
  • A half head of cabbage shredded
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 2 little clove sections of garlic minced
  • 1 Tablespoon of real butter (not necessary, but everything is better with a hint of butter)
  • Truffle salt (regular will work, but why?)
  • Fresh parsley, rosemary and oregano from my garden (feel free to add whatever you have)

Throughout the week, sometimes I’ll add carrots, potatoes or noodles, but I don’t add them to my base because they don’t hold up. Same with celery. I like food that doesn’t taste like leftovers (unless it’s leftovers from an amazing restaurant, usually involving a rich sauce, or coconut milk, in which case my mouth can water just thinking about that little box of yumminess waiting for me at home.)

The other reason I tend to keep my soup base basic is because life is hard – for a lot of people. And you wouldn’t imagine how much it can make someone’s day to deliver them a container of homemade soup (and sometimes they have allergies). Soup brings comfort, warmth, and as mom knew long before I did – love. Feeding someone something wonderful is like spooning love into their insides. And who doesn’t need an extra cup of love?

Debras chicken soup

Dishing Up Unlikely Comfort Food with Fresh Vegan Recipes

Plant-based diets do not have the reputation for being considered indulgent or achieving that sought-after reference of comfort food among mainstream foodies.  “I could eat a whole bag of raw kale,” says no one ever, in response to a challenging day. Most of us are proud of ourselves when we work healthy ingredients into recipes we already like – recipes that include dairy, fat and meat! In fact, I was once such a dedicated carnivore that I refused to date a really nice man simply because he was a vegetarian. I remember thinking, “He’s cute but what would I feed him?” Times have changed!

A friend invited me to a vegan cooking show last night and what a great show it was. First of all, our host, JL Fields, founder and culinary director of the Colorado Springs Vegan Cooking Academy, is fun, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and gets the audience excited about cooking vegan. Yep! The woman (me) who refused to date the vegetarian is now enthusiastic about vegan cooking.  Obviously, there’s a secret: great recipes plus awesome appliances (an electric pressure cooker and an air fryer) make everything taste better.

My favorite dish was the Kale and Potato Nuggets in the air fryer. First of all, mashed potatoes are nature’s original comfort food, and with the steamed kale mixed in, they are prettier, heartier and taste amazing. (Making them at home – I would top them with butter – but they were delicious without any added dairy or calories.)

Even more than the recipe, I was excited to try something new and expand my horizons when it comes to plant-based diets. While I have no plans to “go vegan” entirely, I’m super excited to have a whole new set of delicious recipes to try at home and take to parties with friends.

It’s easy to create a safe routine and do the things we know we enjoy. But it’s also fun to branch out, try something new and be open to life from a different perspective. Who knows… if the opportunity came up again, I might even date a vegetarian. The recipe referenced in this post is available at www.jlgoesvegan.com.

Vegan balls