Subject One is a 32-year-old male, a Type 1 diabetic, who doesn’t eat coconut or bell peppers – or onions for that matter.
Subject Two is a 31-year-old female (aka me) who doesn’t eat mushrooms, raw sushi, or any steak that isn’t considered “well done.”
Subject Three is a 2-year-old female toddler who only wants cheese and fruit.
The dog, a 9-year-old Chihuahua, will generally eat anything off the floor.
How in the world am I supposed to make healthy meals that leave everyone smiling?
Frankly, I don’t.
I am a hardcore advocate of weekly meal planning. Not only does it help us stay within our monetary budget, it answers the question, “What’s for dinner tonight?” I email my husband the menu plan the day before with the note, “If you don’t read this, don’t blame me for what we eat this week.” He responds something like, “I trust you,” and then when we eat something like, oh, black bean and corn salad, he generally asks if we can go grab a pizza or some Chinese food. But at any rate, I digress.
I do enjoy cooking, and I enjoy experimenting with new recipes. Some work – and some definitely don’t. That black bean and corn salad, for instance? Definitely a no. The flourless pizza dough? Nope. Even the blueberry breakfast quesadilla did not make it in our household.
But that’s okay. Everything is a trial and error. The grain-free breakfast cookies that I whipped up one Monday morning won over Alice and Kyle (though Kyle requested his be made without coconut). The (so-called) Mexican salad we had after church two Sundays ago was a hit with the family.
Like I said, trial and error. But that’s what makes meals fun; whether you’re trying something for the first time or a recipe you know by heart, it can always be delightful. A new recipe offers new smells, new blends, new flavors. Sure, you may not like them, but as Daniel Tiger says, “It might taste good!”
With an old recipe that you know backwards and forwards and even have made it your own by adding a few extra ingredients and taking a few out, that’s comfort food, y’all. That’s the food you make when you’re tired, when you’re in transition, when it’s cold outside, when you’ve invited friends over. That’s the food you make because you know you love it.
I had comfort foods growing up that I still remember today: fried fish, cornbread, English pea salad, Johnny’s Pizza, gumbo…
So most of my comforting foods are not really healthy…
Because my husband has Type 1 diabetes and because heart disease runs on my side of the family, we incorporate healthy foods into our comfort food category. Two of our favorite vegetarian meals are sweet potatoes with salsa and black beans and black bean and avocado quesadillas. We also love baked salmon and broiled asparagus at any time of the year.
I’m sure Alice will love unhealthy foods as well as healthy ones (all three of us start drooling at the smell of pizza). But I hope that some of our comfort meals involve fresh, healthy ingredients as well as gathering around the table.
The sweet potato recipe listed below is one I basically know by heart. If some of the times/oven degrees need to be altered for you, feel free! I use the “test and see” method of poking the potatoes with a fork every 10 minutes after 30 minutes. Plus, you may have a bigger potato that needs additional time or a smaller one that needs less time.
My Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food
Sweet potatoes with salsa and black beans
(adapted from my friend Jana’s recipe)
4 sweet potatoes
Can of black beans
Salsa recipe (see below)
Wash the sweet potatoes and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees until soft – will take about an hour. About 10 minutes before the sweet potatoes come out, blend the salsa and heat the black beans in a pot on the stove. Take the sweet potatoes out of the aluminum foil and cover with black beans and salsa. Enjoy!
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomatoes with green chiles
1 tbsp each of cumin, chili powder, cilantro (add more or less, depending on how much flavor you want)
2-3 tbsp honey
Salt and pepper
Optional pinch of cayenne
Optional clove of minced garlic (Note: I use garlic powder)
Optional ¼ red onion (Note: I omit because Kyle also does not eat onions)
Dump all into a food processor (or a blender, like I do) and whirl until mixed.