This posting is in honour of a number of my friends and family who had a rotten day today. I wish I could have them all over for dinner in my cozy house, because tonight I'm serving comfort food with a twist.
There are so many good reasons for comfort food in the wintery greyness of January: it's cold, it's dark, it's rainy and/or snowy, there are pot holes everywhere, cold and flu viruses run amok (GW) at work and/or at daycare, it's tax season, the stock market is nutters, commuting sucks out your soul, or you just had a rotten day.
(I should say that I can list an equal if not larger number of things that are awesome about winter, but that's another post entirely.)
The thing about comfort food is that it usually involves serious caloric intake: macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, beef stew, grilled cheese, shepherd's pie, and lasagne, for example. And in January most of us are trying hard to "be good" and get back to healthy eating habits after the gluttonous sins of December.
And so I bring to you my January-friendly Comfort Food. Delicious, nutritious, and sure to make you feel warm, cozy, and wrapped up in a big hug.
- Real Cream of Tomato Soup
- Sesame Grain Bread
Total calories for this meal? 315. It also has 10g of protein and 6g of fibre, not to mention Vit A, Vit C, calcium, and iron. And it is REALLY good.
With that kind of low calorie count you can add some butter (although fresh bread doesn't need it), or a nice piece of cheese. I'd say you should add a green salad, but that goes against the principle of comfort food, really. As for dessert? Well, there you're on your own - I think that dessert-y comfort food can not and should not be healthy.
Whether or not you had a rotten day and are in need of some healthy comfort food, I hope you enjoy these two recipes. They are guaranteed to be heart-warming, and heart-healthy.
Real Cream of Tomato Soup
This recipe comes from "50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker". I'm experimenting with my slow cooker more and more these days, as I find I'm inspired to cook early in the day, and not so much in the evening. It's important to practice, because slow cooker meals can end up mushy and resembling dog food, but if you pay strict attention to the directions then it can be a real life save at dinner time.
This recipe is ridiculously easy.
- Put 2 to 3 lbs of tomatoes (quartered) in the slow cooker, along with a half a chopped sweet onion (like Vidalia), and 2 or 3 cloves of garlic.
- Cook on low for 4 hours until the tomatoes are soft and falling apart.
- Using a handheld immersion blender, puree the mixture until the desired texture is achieved, Stir in one cup of cream (I used milk) and add salt to taste. You can also add chile flakes for some kick.
- Garnish with fresh basil leaves or fresh ground pepper.
Sesame Grain Bread
If you're a regular reader then you know I love to make bread. I've posted about it here and here. More often than not I turn to the book "Great Breads", by Martha Rose Shulman, and I always have success. The recipe is pretty straightforward, and slightly adapted to my own bread-making methods which are not quite as picky as Martha Rose Shulman's (in other words, I don't do everything by hand, I use my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook).
When I made this one today I was out of sesame seeds, so I used flax seeds - just as delish! Each slice has about 262 calories (based on cutting each loaf into 10 slices). It's very dense and very hearty, and chock full of nutrients.
- In the mixing bowl, combine 1 T yeast, 3 C lukewarm water, 2 T honey, 2 T molasses, 2 C white flour, and 2 C whole wheat flour.
- Blend using mixing paddle, cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place to bubble (about an hour).
- Using mixing paddle, add in 1/4 C canola oil, 3/4 C sesame seeds (which you should either pound with a mortar and pestle, or do what I did and pop them in the blender for a few seconds - not too long), 1 T salt, 3/4 C rolled oats, and 1 C cornmeal.
- Switch to the dough hook and add 2-2 1/2 C whole wheat flour, and let the dough hook do it's thing until the dough forms a ball and is slightly tacky to the touch.
- Turn out on to lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 mins until the dough softens. Form a ball and return to the mixing bowl. Cover with the tea towel, and set aside to allow it to rise double in size.
- Turn out onto the floured surface again and divide the dough into two. Knead each part for several minutes and shape into loaves.
- Put loaves into oiled loaf pans (I spray with Pam, and I use glass pans so I can see whether the bottoms are cooked), cover with tea towel, and let rise one last time.
- When the loaves have risen above the edges of the pan and look like bread, pop into a 350F oven for 40 mins.
- At 40 mins, check the bread - if the tops are browning too much, cover loosely with tinfoil.
- Leave in the oven for another 10 mins. Loaves are done when they sound hollow.
- Turn out and cool on racks.