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In this weekly series we have been discussing the benefits of a vegetarian diet including: better health, animal rights, public health, food safety, frugal living, global food crisis, and the immense contribution of meat/livestock production to climate change/resource depletion

James Hansen, top world climatologist has been at the forefront of climate change education for over 20 years.  He is now actively involved in the fight to Stop The Keystone XL pipeline.  He has written that if this pipeline is approved it is essentially game over for recovery from rapid climate change(pdf).  I hope you will sign this petition asking President Obama to reject the building of the Canadian Tar Sands pipeline over fragile American ecosystems.   And please pass it along to your family, friends and network as we need everyone to be on board for this historic fight to save the future of our planet

Importantly, Dr. Hansen recognizes that not only do we need to stop the massive dangerous production of fossil fuel energy but that we also need to reduce the demand for that energy.   Here he is stating that the most effective way for an individual to reduce their use of carbon intensive fossil fuels is to eliminate the consumption of meat and meat products.

Macca's Meatless Monday/Meatless Advocates is a solution oriented activist group, with solutions for some of the most pressing issues of our time including: climate change, global food/water insecurity and public health.  Here we don't just talk about the severity of the crisis.  Armed with knowledge about how our actions can contribute we become part of the solution.

I was inspired to create this series by former Beatle and vegetarian advocate Paul McCartney(Macca) who partnered with the Meatless Monday campaign to promote less consumption of meat.  We not only discuss the many advantages of a less meat diet we also do some cooking, share recipes and listen to great Beatle/McCartney music!

There have been a lot of stressful things going on lately.  I've been worried about the courageous environmental activists putting themselves on the line to stop the tar sands pipeline.  And who isn't worried about the economy and all the unemployed and especially the children who are affected by this recession.  Living in the information age is stressful and sometimes it's difficult to not be overwhelmed.  So at times I'm needing to revert back to things that are comforting to me.  One thing that helps me with stress is exercise especially running or swimming which seem to melt stress.  Another is to cook some easy to prepare favorite foods and have a relaxing meal.  Today I'm sharing some of my most comforting foods.  Some of them have been my favorites since I was a kid.  The great thing about my comfort foods is that they are fast, easy and very economical.
      Bittman's Spaghetti with Fried Eggs
I'll start with two of my faves in one dish...and this comes from my childhood.  Most of these dishes will not have formal recipes so I'll just describe how I've been making them for forever.

    1/2 pound thin spaghetti (I usually use whole wheat)
    6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
    4 eggs (organic, free roaming or homegrown)
    Freshly ground black pepper
    Freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, optional

    1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Start the sauce in the next step, and start cooking the pasta when the water boils.
    2. Combine garlic and 4 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic, pressing it into the oil occasionally to release its flavor; it should barely color on both sides. Remove the garlic, and add the remaining oil.
    3. Fry the eggs gently in the oil, until the whites are just about set and the yolks still quite runny. Drain the pasta, and toss with the eggs and oil, breaking up the whites as you do. (The eggs will finish cooking in the heat of the pasta.) Season to taste, and serve immediately, with cheese if you like.
            White Bean and Escarole Soup
This is another from my childhood and makes a fast, complete, comforting one pot meal. Serves 4-6

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 garlic cloves, chopped
    1 pound escarole, chopped (i medium head escarole)
    4 cups vegetable broth
    1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
    1 (1-ounce) piece Parmesan (optional)
    Freshly ground black pepper
    6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the escarole and saute until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add a pinch of salt. Add the broth, beans, and Parmesan cheese. Cover and simmer until the beans are heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Ladle the soup into 4-6 bowls. Drizzle 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil over each. Serve with crusty bread.
       Radish, Leek, Spinach and Hummus Pizza
This also includes two of my faves; pita and hummus.  You can use any veggies you have on hand..I really like these.

2 whole wheat pita rounds
2 leeks, sliced thin
small bunch of radishes, sliced thin
2 cups torn spinach leaves
roasted red pepper hummus (buy or make your own)
1 avocado, diced
small bunch cilantro (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
herbs de provence

. Preheat the oven to 375. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute the leeks and radishes together until the leeks begin to brown and the radishes soften. Add the spinach and saute, stirring, until the spinach is wilted and soft. This goes very fast.  Set aside.
2. Place the pitas on a foil lined baking sheet. In a small bowl combine several soup-spoonfuls of hummus, 1 tsp of olive oil and a 1/4 teaspoon or so of herbs de provence. Spread the mixture evenly on the pitas. Top the hummus with the sauteed veggies.
3. Bake the pizzas for 7-8 minutes or until the sides of the pita are golden. Top each pizza with avocado and serve with cilantro.
      savory baked eggs in a bun
Eggs are real comfort food for me.

I buy a small round sour dough bread (1/2 pound) at my super's bakery.  Preheat oven to 350F.   Cut out a hole in bread large enough to fit 2 raw eggs.   Crack the 2 eggs into the bread bowl and salt & pepper..can add about 1 tablespoon of cream if you like.
Then place in oven until egg whites are set and yolks are the way you like them..bread will be browned. can add some herbs to dress.
         Black quinoa
Quinoa is another of my comfort foods and it's awesome with in-season peaches! I used black quinoa in this recipe because a friend had given me some and I wanted to try it out.  Tastes the same as white quinoa but very beautiful!   But use the white as it's lots less expensive.  Had fun playing with the black color by adding black beans and some currants.

2  peaches, diced (mango would work here too)
1 cup chopped spring onions
about 1/4 cup of shelled pistachios (or pecans, sliced almonds)
about 1/4 cup of currants or use raisins
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled (prepare by package instructions)
1 1/2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed (a 15-ounce can)
a few leaves of lettuce for plating (optional)

1. Mix together everything in a bowl -- except for the quinoa and black beans -- to evenly coat and salt the veggies and fruit with oil.
2. Mix in the quinoa and then fold in the black beans.
3. Plate over lettuce, spritz with lime and serve at room temp or chill overnight for lunch/dinner the next day.

For a more filling meal and an added salty crunch, serve with tortilla chips and a sliver of avocado.
            Lentil soup
My all-time fave comfort food is lentil soup.  I have hundreds of lentil soup recipes.  Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups diced carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon minced garlic
8 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups dried lentils
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup acini di pepe, cooked to directions (or other small pasta)
2 cups chopped greens, like kale, spinach, bok choy
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook acini di pepe according to package directions.
Sweat onions, carrots, celery, and garlic in the oil in a soup pot over medium heat until vegetables are soft.
Add broth; heat to boiling. Add lentils and stir, return to a boil. Add tomatoes. Lower heat to low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, 45 minutes to about an hour.
In the last ten minutes of cooking, add the greens and parsley, and cook until greens are soft.
Turn off heat, add pasta, stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Parmesan cheese..if using.
          Stone fruit cobbler
What could be more comforting and delicious than some warm cobbler utilizing all those in-season peaches!

    8 fresh peaches - peeled, pitted and sliced into thin wedges (can also use 1/2 peaches 1/2 plums or use all plums)
    1/4 cup white sugar (can use another sweetener here such as honey or agave in place of white & brown sugar---just use less to taste)
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
    2 teaspoons cornstarch

    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup white sugar
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces or use vegan butter
    1/4 cup boiling water

    3 tablespoons white sugar
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
    In a large bowl, combine peaches, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Toss to coat evenly, and pour into a 2 quart baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
    Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips, or a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in water until just combined.
    Remove peaches from oven, and drop spoonfuls of topping over them. Sprinkle entire cobbler with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake until topping is golden, about 30 minutes.

"Comfort Of Love"  Paul McCartney

"Stand By Me"  John Lennon cover of song by Jerry Leiber who died yesterday

What have you all been cooking?  What are some of your comfort foods?  Please share your recipes and fave Beatle/McCartney/Lennon/Harrison/Starr music here!

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