Fall Comfort Food Done Right
Posted by Anna Leer - November 23, 2016
Wholesome comfort food is on everyone’s mind as the seasons change. While comfort food undoubtedly means different things to different people, it is often synonymous with unhealthy food you gorge yourself on after a bad day. And fair—sometimes a greasy cheeseburger is the only thing that will comfort me, but I also must argue that comfort food is not inherently unhealthy. To comfort is to ease grief and to strengthen, which actually bolsters my argument that actual comfort food does not mean to indulging yourself with reckless abandon.
So if I just debunked the working definition of comfort food for the majority of the country, then what does comfort food actually mean? I would assert that comfort food should fortify one’s body with the nutrients and fuel to foster optimal brain function so that grief and trouble can be properly confronted. I would also assert that comfort food should leave you feeling stronger, more alert, and better about yourself after you eat it. Finally, I have to insist that it be delicious, warm, and somewhat easy to make. Those are my three rules for true comfort food. Now to completely shatter everyone’s preconceived notions, the comfort food recipe featured today is not only vegetarian, but can easily be vegan. It is filled with warm, fall spices and flavors and is a quick and easy weeknight meal everyone can feel great about eating.
This vegetarian butternut squash curry will make all those curry naysayers reconsider. It is sweet and spicy, warm and creamy, and is also incredibly nutritious. When put up against my three rules for comfort food, it passes with flying colors.
- Fortify your body with nutrients and fuel to foster optimal brain function.
- The garbanzo beans, as with any legume, help to stabilize blood sugar and provide a steady stream of glucose (energy) to the brain without any crazy spikes from sugary foods. The brown basmati rice, served as an accompaniment to this dish, promotes cardiovascular health, which is vital to moving oxygen-rich blood to that noggin’ of yours and keeping it functioning at its best. The turmeric in the curry is a nutritional powerhouse—it has been shown to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, keep your brain sharp, and reduce inflamation, which is beneficial for optimal blood flow. Finally, the cayenne pepper can cure migraines and headaches, and has been shown to increase serotonin in your brain, which leads to the release of endorphins, the ultimate comforting ingredient1!
- Leave you feeling stronger, more alert, and better about yourself after you eat it.
- The nutrition packed in this dish will definitely leave you feeling like Popeye after a can of spinach! Both the garbanzo beans and the coconut milk have an abundance of protein to help your muscles repair themselves. The butternut squash is packed with nutritional benefits, from improving eyesight to boosting immunity, to assisting in weight loss. As for alertness, both the kale and the ginger are full of vitamins and minerals to give you an extra skip in your step2. And finally, with the overwhelming list of nutrients in this dish, how could anyone NOT feel good about themselves after eating it? It’s also relatively low in calories, so having seconds shouldn’t spoil that self-love either!
- Be delicious, warm, and easy to make.
- This dish is delicious. It expertly straddles the four corners of sweet/salt/spicy/sour, and it gets better the longer it sits (especially the next day). It is very easy to whip up in fifteen minutes or so, and then just let the pot simmer for as long as you want to let the flavors come together. No fancy cooking skills necessary!
Seriously, try this dish and see how your definition of comfort food just got turned on its head!
1 Butternut Squash OR 1 package frozen butternut squash
Drizzle olive oil or coconut oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, rinsed and finely chopped
1 Tbsp. good quality curry powder
1 tsp. turmeric
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. ground clove
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. organic honey—local, if possible
2 Tbsp. organic tomato paste
1-15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup organic, free-range chicken stock (swap vegetable stock here to make it vegan)
1-15 oz. can organic coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime
If using a whole butternut squash — which I highly recommend because they are in season right now and extremely affordable — preheat your oven to 350 F. Cut off the stem of the squash as well as the bottom of the squash to make an even surface on the top and bottom. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off of the entire squash. Cut squash in half vertically and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Chop squash into ½ inch pieces, toss in olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast on a sheet pan in the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown and tender. Set aside. If using frozen squash, place squash in microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes, or until thawed. Set aside.
In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, sauté onions over medium heat in the oil until they become translucent. Add garlic and continue to sauté until the onions begin to brown. Add kale and cook for 3-4 more minutes, until leaves begin to wilt. Turn heat down to low, add spices and salt, and stir for 1 minute, allowing the spices to toast in order to extract their maximum flavor. Add honey and tomato paste and continue to stir for another minute. Add garbanzo beans and let cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally to combine all ingredients.
If using frozen butternut squash, add it now and continue cooking for a few minutes to incorporate. Add stock slowly, scraping the bottom of the pot as you pour, to collect all of the flavorful brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in coconut milk. If using fresh roasted butternut squash, add it to the pot now. Add lime juice and let simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve over organic sprouted brown basmati rice and sprinkle with cilantro. Enjoy your comfort in a bowl.
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