Comfort food not only tastes good, but it often has a physical impact on our bodies, making us happier. Not only does food that tastes good release endorphins that lift your mood, but often comfort food also has a nostalgic aspect that also makes us feel good, reminding us of childhood, a favorite grandparent, or a special occasion. Peas and carrots for a creamy chicken pot pie, buttery mashed potatoes, hamburgers topped with vine-ripened tomatoes; all of these can be made with your own organic garden harvest.
Ingredients You’re Already Growing
Though many comfort foods aren’t the healthiest choices, a surprising amount of them do require produce that can be grown organically in a home garden. Even the ones that don’t need fresh fruits or veggies can be improved upon with them. Some things, like a hearty chili, can even be made vegetarian and turn out just as good.
Many of the fruits and veggies that are ingredients in traditional comfort foods can be grown here in North Carolina. Whether you have an in-ground garden, raised beds, or a container garden, you can grow comfort food ingredients here during the year. While you are planning your garden and thinking about your favorite dishes, plant what you’ll use most frequently and be creative when it comes to incorporating a favorite veggie into a recipe you love.
Comfort Foods with Veggie Ingredients
Many people list soups as a comfort food: tomato soup, chicken noodle soup, and French onion soup, to name a few. A good, hearty soup on a cold day can do wonders for the soul, and as a bonus, you can make many of them with minimal effort. Whether you set aside an entire day devoted to food prep and cooking or you’re more of a push-a-button-on-your-way-
Pizza is another popular comfort food, and not only do you need tomatoes and basil for fresh pizza sauce, many people enjoy veggies on their pizza. Be experimental! Use corn, okra, and peppers for a delicious summer pizza, and in the colder months, try roasted Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions. You can even try different vegetables in your macaroni and cheese recipes to add some nutritional value and create something unique.
A New Twist
It should come as no surprise that ice cream is toward the top of everyone’s comfort food list. You may not think that a love of ice cream would overlap with your organic gardening, but it sure can! Use melons to make a sweet, summery flavor, or use pumpkin with cinnamon to make a sweet fall treat. If you’re really adventurous, you can try your hand at a savory ice cream with any number of vegetables.
Don’t be afraid to make substitutions with veggies that are reminiscent of one another. Substitute spinach for another leafy green like beetroot and make a creamed version with all the creamy goodness you crave. Turnips make a wonderful, starchy addition to or replacement of potatoes in a potato soup, or even in stews alongside carrots, celery, and onion. Or you can use pumpkin in place of butternut squash or sweet potatoes in a recipe that calls for pureeing. If something grows well for you, don’t limit yourself to recipes you find. Get creative and make those plants work for you.
Whether you are showcasing the fruits of your gardening labors in a beautiful, healthy salad, or using fresh-grown tomatoes to make a spaghetti sauce filled with flavor, organic gardening can yield the perfect ingredients. Base your recipes off of what you’re growing, but also add vegetables to traditionally veggie-free dishes, and think outside the box when making desserts or substitutions. You don’t have to make healthy meals all the time when you’re feeding your family homegrown organic foods.
Author: Jenny Holt
Jennifer Holt is a freelance writer and mother of two, who loves nothing more than to play, “where has the cat hidden itself now.”