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World’s Favorite Comfort Foods…with a Twist

We’ve all heard the term “comfort food” and there’s no doubt that most of us have indulged in some as well. Comfort Food is a term that refers to foods that bring us a sense of satisfaction when we eat them or perhaps even bring back memories of days gone by, including those foods Mom used to make when we were children. Indeed, comfort foods provide just what is indicated in its name…as well as a sense of well-being, peace of mind, and a taste of nostalgia. It’s probably safe to say, as a matter of fact, that comfort food not only fills the stomach but also fills the soul, quenching some emotional need we have for something that will make us happy.

Of course, comfort foods aren’t necessarily good for you. As a matter of fact, most of them probably aren’t very healthy. A lot of them are high in fat and sugars. Some of them are fried. But the ingredients and the way they’re cooked probably have a lot to do with the fact that they are viewed as “comfort” foods. Most of these foods are filling and satisfy quickly and that satisfaction sticks around for awhile, providing that satisfied feeling.

Everyone has different comfort foods. Some might be ethnic specialties that are indicative of a person’s background or upbringing. Others are childhood favorites and some are simply favorite dishes you’ve grown to love through the years. However, there are many comfort foods that consistently appear on lists of the “Top 10” in their category. Many are great American favorites. The beauty of most of these foods, however, is that you can enjoy them in their conventional form or make some additions that will add a little extra pizzazz to your meal and perhaps create a new kind of comfort food.

o Macaroni and Cheese – This is one of the dishes most often listed by comfort food-lovers everywhere. Some people enjoy the packaged variety but many who like this food opt to make their own. If you’re creating a mac and cheese dish, try combining several varieties of cheese for a different taste or add other foods like chunks of ham or cooked sausage, broccoli, mushrooms, or other favorite vegetables. This will make your macaroni and cheese a full meal that includes both meat and veggies as well as starches.

o Chicken Noodle Soup – This soup has a strong link to comfort. Every Jewish mom, it’s said, knows how to make a good pot of chicken soup and is eager to feed it to anyone under the weather. While the standard chicken noodle soup has chicken, noodles, broth, and maybe a few carrots and onions, try adding some bulk to it by including additional vegetables like squash, corn, or spinach.

o Meat Loaf – This is truly one of those favorites from long ago that will remind you of Mom’s kitchen. Many people avoid it because they feel red meat is unhealthy. However, if you use 93% to 96% lean ground beef, the calories and fat go way down. There are so many ways to spruce up this recipe as well. Add onions or chopped peppers to the ground beef, top it with tomato or cream of mushroom soup, or lay bacon strips on top. And serve it with another favorite comfort food…

o Mashed Potatoes – The ideal complement to any meat dish, mashed potatoes are warm, soft, and delicious! Most people enjoy these potatoes simply mixed with milk, butter, salt, and pepper, but for a twist, add some cream cheese or sour cream, include chives or another favorite seasoning, or top them with shredded cheddar.

o Fried Chicken – A real Southern favorite but popular throughout the nation, fried chicken is perfect year round. If you don’t mind the fat, cook it the traditional way in vegetable oil or shortening. If you’re trying to reduce the calories and fat, bread it as you normally would, coat a pan with olive oil, place the chicken on the pan and bake it in the oven. You could take the skin off too, but that just wouldn’t be right!

o Pot Roast – Nothing’s better on a cold winter night than a hearty beef dish, and pot roast fits the bill. Cook it with potatoes and lots of vegetables and perhaps nice thick beef gravy. Using a chuck roast? Be sure to braise it rather than oven roasting it so that it turns out tender and juicy.

o Grilled Cheese – This simple sandwich is almost always near the top of the list of comfort foods. Grilled cheese isn’t only easy but it’s also extremely versatile. You can use must about any kind of cheese or combination of cheeses and the add-on possibilities are endless. Try including ham, tomatoes, or bacon. And, of course, you’ll want to serve it with tomato soup, another favorite comfort food.