Whether it’s a slice of freshly baked bread, your Mom’s best soup or a tub of chocolate ice cream – some foods just give a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Call Them Comfort Foods!
They’re called ‘comfort foods’ – dishes that seem to take away the aches and pains of the day.
There’s no way we can deny that feel good satisfaction – but the question is…is it all in our head?
Are there healthier ways to give us that same ‘food-hug’?
Actually comfort food isn’t really about the particular food – it’s what people associate with the food.
Certainly dietary habits, past experiences and culture play a huge part in what a person grows up feeling is comfort food.
One person may reach for that tub of chocolate ice cream while others may crave mac ’n cheese.
Comfort Foods DO Serve a Purpose...
They actually help to release dopamine (the feel good neuro-transmitter or chemical messenger) in our brain.
There is also a very emotional tie to the choices. Typically we choose foods that remind us of pleasurable moments from the past.
We grow up conditioned to associate certain foods with certain occasions. The food triggers the same sense of comfort any time we eat them.
For instance – Gramma’s chicken soup or jello when someone’s not feeling well – or the luscious chocolate desserts served on special occasions.
Healthier Comfort Foods to Choose...
There are certainly healthier choices of comfort food as well.
Culturally, Indian cuisine, with their vegetable laden meals is a great way to build other choices of comfort food choices into weekly menu planning.
If you find a recipe or two that you really enjoy and have it fairly often, it becomes a dish associated with a pleasant family meal. Once this happens – you can add it to your comfort food choice list!
Try one of these 2 meals at home. If you’re really not into making them yourself in the beginning…
Head to our favorite Indian destination – Tandoori Kingdom on Blake Street.
The chefs there will satisfy your need for comfort for sure!
Dal Chawal with Palida
Ingredients for Dal Chawal
- 2cups basmati rice – washed and soaked for 20 minutes
- 1 cup split pigeon peas/yellow lentils or tuvar dal
- 1 medium onion- slice
- 1 inch cinnamon
- 2-3 cloves
- 3-4 green cardamom
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tbsp coriander leaves – finely chopped
- Few drops of yellow food colour
- Salt to taste
- 3-4 tbsp clarified butter or oil
- 500 grams bottle gourd – peeled and cut into medium sized pieces * Palida can be made using other vegetables too like pumpkin, squash, brinjals/eggplant or even drumsticks.
- 1 small onion – sliced
- 2 medium sized tomatoes – chopped
- 2-3 green chillies chopped
- 5-6 garlic flakes- chopped
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2-3 red chilli flakes
- 3 tbsp gram flour or besan
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 2-3 petals of dried mangosteen/kokum or 2 tsp tamarind pulp or juice of a lime
- 1 tbsp coriander leaves- finely chopped
- Salt to taste
- 3 tbsp clarified butter or oil
- Water in which lentils was boiled
Making Dal Chawal
- Boil rice in enough water with salt, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and 1tbsp of oil till 3/4th done. Drain and keep aside.
- Boil the lentils in 3 cups of water with turmeric powder and salt till they turn soft. Lentils should not become mushy, just cooked till done. Drain and keep aside. Reserve the water in which lentil was boiled. It will be used in making palida or veg gravy.
Heat remaining oil in a pan, add onions and fry till golden.Add rice, cooked lentils, chopped coriander leaves and yellow food color and cook it covered on a slow flame for 5-8 minutes.
- Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, red chilli flakes and garlic. When they crackle add onions and fry till translucent.
- Add gram flour and fry it till it changes color. Add tomatoes, green chillies and coriander powder cook till it turns soft.
- Add bottle gourd, cook for a minute, add kokum/tamarind paste/lemon juice.
- Add the water in which lentils was boiled and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes till the vegetable is cooked through.
Garnish palida with fresh coriander leaves and serve it hot with dal chawal.
Slow Cooker Indian Coconut Vegetarian Curry
5 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
¼ cup curry powder
2 Tbsp. flour
1Tbsp. chili powder
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 large green bell pepper, cut into strips
1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1 14 oz. can unsweetened coconut cream
Water as needed
1 cup green peas
1 ½ cups matchstick cut carrots
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Place the potatoes into the bottom of a slow cooker
Mix the curry powder, flour, chili powder, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper together in a small bowl; sprinkle over the potatoes. Stir the potatoes to coat evenly. Add the red bell pepper, green bell pepper, onion soup mix, and coconut cream; stir to combine.
Cover the slow cooker and cook on Low until the mixture is bubbling, adding water as needed to keep moist, 3 to 4 hours. Add the carrots to the mixture and cook another 30 minutes. Stir the peas into the mixture and cook until the vegetables are tender to your liking, about 30 minutes. Garnish individual portions with cilantro to serve.
Written By: Jane Laker