5 comfort foods for contemplation

What a year it’s been!

Comfort foods and contemplation go great together. When the days are short and it’s cold outside, we crave the rich foods our bodies need.

So you curl up with a steaming bowl of soup, or a savory casserole, or a piece of your favorite fruit. And you start to relax. And you think to yourself: What a day it’s been… what a month… what a year…

We all know that we can’t control what comes at us but we can control how we react to it. Yes, of course that makes sense. Sometimes a little comfort food goes a long way to help us slow down (a smidge) and savor.

This post shares some of our favorite winter comfort foods as we reflect on 2021 and look ahead with joy to 2022.

local kale

#1: The be-sweet leafy greens

Dark leafy greens like kale may be bitter in summer, but a nip of frost sweetens them right up. That makes any leafy green comfort food an excellent role model. So if you’re bitterly beating yourself up over something, be like kale and switch to being sweet to yourself!

And it’s not just kale. Chard, arugula, collards, escarole, mustard greens – they all thrive in the chill of winter when the rest of the local produce section may look bare. They’re extra rich in vitamins A, C, and K. Collards, escarole, and mustard greens are also excellent sources of folate, which is important for women of childbearing age.

So add greens to smoothies – raw or steamed. (Pro tip: freeze steamed greens to give your smoothie some frosty fun.) Toss greens into a salad. Stir them into soups. Bake up some kale chips. Or serve them as a side! For a helpful how-to on sauteed kale, watch our own Chef Nikk on the Seasonal Roots YouTube Channel.

While you’re treating yourself to a leafy green comfort food, ask yourself:

  • What have I done to be sweet to myself this year?
  • How will I be sweet to myself next year?

local apples

#2: The beloved apple

Apples are good for your heart, so naturally they’re a good excuse for thinking about love.

Studies show that apples help lower harmful LDL cholesterol and improve blood vessel health, thanks to their bounty of fiber and polyphenols. So an apple or two each day really can keep the doctor away by reducing your risk of heart disease.

And there are so many ways to eat this comfort food! Apples are the perfect snack, side, and salad topper. Bake them in a pie or turn them into apple sauce. They’re also a scrumptious addition to savory dishes. Try any of these pork and apple recipes, or use a meat substitute.

While you’re savoring all that apple-ish goodness, look into your heart and ask yourself:

  • Looking back, what am I most grateful for this year?
  • Looking ahead, what extra joy can I bring to others in the coming year?

local potatoes

#3: The fearless potato

Potatoes may not look like much, but they don’t let that stop them. They’re so much more than just a white starch and they know it. They’re a self-confident whole food packed with immunity boosters – a whole 25% of the vitamin C you need each day and 29% of the B6.

They’re also a good source of folate, which, as we mentioned, is especially important for women of childbearing age. Plus fiber! Most of that’s in the skin, along with iron. The skin’s not much to look at, yet so delish!

So enjoy your skin-on potatoes baked or mashed. Slice or cube them, then toss them in olive oil for an oven-fry. Add them to stews and soups. Here’s an easy recipe for traditional German potato soup.

For this and other recipes (even mashed!) don’t bother peeling the potatoes, just scrub them. It’s quicker and you won’t lose the fiber benefits.

A few other tips: When you’re making any potato soup, if you’re not into cream (or if cream and other dairy products aren’t into you) you can just mash some of the cooked, softened potato chunks right there in the pot until the soup reaches the consistency you like. Add a dash of white pepper to give the soup a little nip. Or substitute a meatless alternative for the sausage.

While you slurp up the fortifying results of this comfort food, ask yourself:

  • What is one thing I wish I’d done this year but didn’t because I doubted myself?
  • Next year, what can I make more time for that leaves me feeling energized and confident, like Yeah, I got this!

#4: The hardworking winter squash

Winter squash are the workhorses of the season. We’re talking butternut, acorn, delicata, spaghetti, and any number of others. They’ve all got staying power for a long shelf life, so you can count on them to always be there when you need them. (Squash keep best in a dark area like your pantry.)

They’re high in both vitamin A and vitamin C, and a good source of vitamins B6 and K, potassium and folate, yet one cup of cooked winter squash has only about 80 calories. And they’re so flexible! Sweet, savory, main dish or side.

Speaking of sides, here’s a squash apple gratin recipe that’ll really rev you up.

While you’re scarfing down a yummy squash comfort food, ask yourself:

  • Looking back, what was the best part about the work I did each day?
  • What can I learn next year that would be a new and exciting challenge?

#5: The happy citrus

Eating citrus fruits is like eating sunshine. They’re the edible version of a bright, happy day. Best of all, lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit are at their juiciest in the wintertime – when daylight’s in short supply and you’re most likely to really, really need a little boost of sunshine.

Happily, winter is the time of year when Seasonal Roots partners with our regional farmer friends to bring the closest citrus harvest up the road to us here in the mid-Atlantic.

In addition to brightening the tastebuds, a single orange delivers more than 100 percent of your daily dose of vitamin C. Citrus is also full of flavonoids, which can boost good HDL cholesterol and lower bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

So snack on oranges or cut them up to top a salad. Drizzle your grapefruit with honey. Use lemons and limes in marinades, dressings, and beverages. Or try this savory orange chicken recipe.

While you’re blissing out on the taste of edible sunshine, ask yourself:

  • What was one (or maybe 5) thing(s) that made me happy this year?
  • What things I can do to make me and those around me happy next year?

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.