I do a monthly clean eating workshop for a co-working office Enerspace in West Loop. When I asked what people waned to see this month, and there was a general grumbling that January is a tough month of the year. It's super cold and you are in a post holiday slump. They wanted warming comfort food. No, they needed comfort food. When one or two people mentioned macaroni and cheese, I said, "Oh...have I told you guys that I won $10,000 for an original mac and cheese recipe?"
The decision was obviously unanimous. Mac and cheese in January! (If you want the full story and recipe, you can check out my old food blog here. It uses 3 kinds of cheese and zucchini instead of pasta.)
While the bitter cold of January in Chicago calls for comfort food, it's definitely not a style that I specialize in, despite what that one prize might make you think. Although I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, because of my multicultural family, I often don't have much childhood experience with the "classic" American comfort foods. (My boyfriend teases me about this. Him as me: "What is this--how you say--Apple-bees?") Our home staples were saffron rice, kebobs, mangoes...no chicken pot pie, casseroles or chicken noodle soup to found. I'm not sure mashed potatoes were ever made at home. Maybe from a box, like once. Tops.
Which is perhaps why I'm so open to playing around with ingredients when I cook. I'm not too attached to the icons. This month I'm enjoying my take on mashed potatoes in my recipe for Mashed Cauliflower. Steamed cauliflower gets blended to a silky puree in the food processor and a touch of garlic, salt and nutritional yeast keeps it interesting, yet lightly seasoned. It's all about the texture when it comes to comfort food: warmth and creaminess to rule them all! If cauliflower only gets roasted at your house (or gasp! not made at all), try this simple puree for another comforting, crowd-pleasing way to enjoy this cruciferous veggie.
You can find another comfort food recipe at my Very Vegetable cooking classes this spring at The Chopping Block. I'll be tackling macaroni and cheese again...but this time with no cheese! Look at open classes and sign up here.
Want me to treat your office to some good food and nutrition education? Learn more about my workshops and corporate events here.