So you’ve had a tough day at work/with the kids/ _______ (fill in the blank).  You walk into the door at home, switch to comfy clothes and open the refrigerator.  Ah – there it is _________ (fill in the blank), your favourite comfort food.  That’s better.

What is comfort food?   “Comfort food” refers to simple, familiar food that is usually home-cooked – foods that people associate with their formative years, or with “home”; frequently simple, often rich and soothing.  For me, these are usually  casseroles, soups and stews.  Comfort foods will vary, and are personal. Most will consist of at least one of these 3 major ingredients: lots of carbohydrates, high levels of fat, and plenty of love.

Why? Although the exact reason is still not completely understood, studies show that people have an increased pain tolerance (or read – increased ‘comfort level’) after ingesting a high fat meal. There are also hormones released when eating fatty foods that give a person a feeling of satisfaction. It is these hormones that prevents you from over-eating by making you feel full (read – ‘satisfied’)

Why Carbohydrates? Studies show that carbohydrates may have an effect on mood. Theories about why range from the fact that sugars increase your serotonin levels (the ‘feel good’ hormone), to the fact that they have an analgesic (numbing) effect.

I have my own theory – they taste good! They’re yummy and they help you feel good – whatever the reason. They remind you of home, wherever that may be. Yes they are full of fat and sugar, but we are mammals and are meant to fatten up a little to get through winter – isn’t that when we crave comfort foods most? And I’m guessing that Macaroni and Cheese is on the list for many of us. For that reason, I am sharing two versions of this infamous Comfort Food – one Classic, and one Vegan. Each makes 4-6 servings and can be enjoyed with your choice of pasta.

Vegan Mac & ‘Cheeze’ Sauce

1 Small butternut squash (peeled, chopped and roasted at 425F for about ½ hour until tender)

1 cup unflavoured milk substitute of choice

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (available of most health food stores)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt & ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk together milk substitute and cornstarch in pot on stovetop. Warm to medium-high and whisk out any lumps. Stir in remaining ingredients and stir over low heat until thickened (about 5-7 minutes or so). In a blender, blend this thickened sauce with 1 cup of the roasted squash. Return to pot. Add cooked pasta and toss to coat.


Classic Macaroni and Cheese Sauce

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

1 cup cream

1/2 tsp kosher salt & ground black pepper, to taste

2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded (good quality)

In a large pot, melt butter. Add flour mixed with salt and pepper, using a whisk to stir until well blended. Pour milk and cream in slowly; stirring constantly. Bring to low boil. Reduce heat and cook (stirring constantly) about 10 minutes.   Add shredded cheddar little by little and simmer an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese melts. Add cooked pasta to the saucepan and toss to coat.