Now we all need some comfort in the form of food every now and then (or more now than then). One thing I have learnt, as an avid comfort eater, is that comfort food doesn’t automatically have to equate to bad food. It’s about making choices, just like everything in life, especially when it comes to what is beneficial or harmful to our minds and bodies.
I have comfort eaten for as long as I can remember. My childhood was unsettled, I moved around a lot, moved from parent to parent, friend to friend, boyfriend to boyfriend all before I was even 15. The one constant in my life was food.
Then, I was blessed, I was very slim, probably from days of hunger versus binge days when food was there. I was stressed. I walked miles every day, hanging around the streets so as not to be home. I could eat what I wanted, to no consequence. My friends were jealous that I’d stuff my face and have a big, bloated tummy, go to bed and wake up with my flat, beach ready belly again!
My mum was a foodie and a comfort eater too and she has struggled with her weight her whole life. I learnt a lot from her, as we do our ‘role models’. I watched my mum go from a slender size 8 (US 4) to a size 22 (US 18) and back again many times. As I write she has maintained a healthy weight for the longest I’ve ever seen. My mum’s yo-yo weight was something I would soon experience as I reached 16.
Thankfully, I always got a grip before I got dangerously overweight, my biggest being a size 14 (US 10), before I started to count calories and lose the pounds. Last time I did this, I became so obsessed, I became tiny, a size 6 (US 2), I was clinically depressed, and generally frail, probably deficient in many things and too scared to stop counting calories in fear I’d put all the weight back on.
Somewhere in this process, I saw sense, saw that I now had to increase my calories and find my body’s balance and exercise more to keep a healthy weight and balanced mind. This soon, turned on it’s head and the comfort eating then took over, a year later I was back up to a size 12 (US 8) and wondering how I got there. Despite my blog full of cakes and sweet treats, it wasn’t that that was my downfall, it was huge servings of macaroni and cheese (pre-vegan) and pizza and enough mashed potato to serve 2 hungry adults.
After the events of my last weight loss journey which a. wasn’t long-lasting and b. was not healthy, I took some time to understand my body, my mind and my relationship with food before I took any steps to get back to my healthy weight. I learnt that I can indulge, but healthily; I can have my treats, but in a controlled fashion; I can eat normal, delicious meals without any crazy food or calorie restrictions and lose the weight slower but without the added negatives of short lived skinniness, raging depression and black eyes.
What I love to do when I feel in need of comfort food, is make dishes that satisfy the desire (creamy, filling, warm, spicy, soft etc) but without the fat, excess or empty calories. This dish I share with you today is a prime example, my most calorie laden temptation is creamy pastas. Even vegan versions can be loaded – margarine, soya creams, large servings of pasta.
This version gets its creaminess from white beans, soy milk and potato flakes. It is rich and soothing and flavourful and all the things I need from an alfredo pasta but it’s actually nourishing my body. I don’t even need to fool my taste buds that they are eating a fat and cream burdened meal, they are more than satisfied knowing there is not a trace of added fat in sight.
Cupboard to plate in 20 minutes, 2 pans and 1 blender or food processor. No need to reach for the take away menu.
Ingredients: Serves 4
- 1 tsp olive oil, optional
- 250g/3 cups chestnut mushrooms, sliced
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 bunch (30g) flat leaf parsley
- 400g/14oz tagliatelle or other pasta
- 1 x 400g/14oz can butter beans in plain water, drained and rinsed
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 4 tbsp plain, unsweetened soya yoghurt
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 35g/2/3 cup dehydrated potato flakes (plain instant mashed potatoes, make sure they are vegan, some contain milk!)
- 325ml/1 1/3 cups plain, unsweetened soya milk
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 4 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp fresh black pepper
- Sea salt, to taste
- Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil, when at a fast boil add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions.
- Meanwhile heat a large frying pan over a high heat and add the teaspoon of oil if using. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute over a high heat, stirring occasionally until they are golden and fragrant and have reabsorbed any of their juices, off the heat stir in the lemon zest.
- Whilst the mushrooms are frying, add all of the sauce ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy then add half of the parsley and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Add enough of the sauce to coat the drained pasta to your liking, serve in bowls topped with the mushrooms and the remaining chopped parsley scattered over.
Store any remaining sauce in the fridge for a few days and use as a sauce for vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower or add different flavourings for a different take on alfredo pasta sauce.
Inspired and adapted from Lunch Box Bunch