by Elizabeth Cancade, Culinary Nutrition Guide, 2021 (originally published by EC for Brown Sugar Produce Culinary Corner)
I've noticed comfort foods kind of get a bad rap. It's a term so often used for foods that seem indulgent, that we "shouldn't be eating" aka 'cheat foods', that we believe aren't good for us and yet we still have a strong desire to eat.
The thing is: comfort foods can give us comfort. Sometimes they have a deep cultural or traditional connection, or remind us of something meaningful. Or it's something we were looking forward to and brings us delight. Perhaps it's the occasion of sitting and enjoying that brings rest and relief after a long day. Often, they may just need a second look - many "comfort foods" made from scratch actually have some good base ingredients. They may need a bit of updating or swapping to make them a little better, but are totally worth hanging on to. To me, in creating a healthy relationship with food (all food) and our bodies, it's really important to notice what it is that is giving us comfort and embracing it.
However, sometimes said 'comfort foods' - particularly those that are highly processed - are laden with added, highly refined ingredients and void of nutrition, which doesn't actually comfort our physical bodies - in fact, foods like that cause a stress response in the body, increasing inflammation and the release of stress hormones while putting a serious damper on healthy body functions like immunity and digestion. That doesn't sound very comforting, does it?
Sit with that for a moment. At this time of year, when the Pumpkin Spice everything is beckoning - what if we created comfort foods from scratch that were deeply enjoyable and satisfying, while also nourishing our bodies with rich vitamins and minerals? Now that's a comfort food!
So today I'm offering a cozy pumpkin-based latte that will give you so much comfort on these cool autumn days, rather than reaching for the usual cafe version that is loaded with flavoured syrup and other additives. This version is nutrient rich, made with real local pumpkin, Canadian maple syrup and the milk of your choosing.
What does it mean for you? This whole foods latte has a balance of fat and carbohydrate, including fiber and less sugar. Thanks to real pumpkin, it also has much of the daily RDI of Vitamin A which will boost your immune system and soothe tired eyes, along with a host of other nutrients.
And it supports local. Making your PSL from a local pumpkin, using good quality Canadian maple syrup, birch syrup or even raw local honey, and dairy milk or oat milk are all ways to step up your investment in local food.
What it doesn't have is: refined sugar, condensed skim milk, 'natural flavours', colouring agents, potassium sorbate, carrageenan, more syrup, added citric acid and sulfiting agents for preservation and to prevent spoilage.
...what sounds more comforting to you? Check out my recipe below.
RECIPE: Real Pumpkin Spice Latte
My favourite way to create this latte is to first roast a real pumpkin from a local grower like Brown Sugar Produce. Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds (save & clean to roast another tasty treat!). Place the pumpkin cut side down on a baking sheet and bake at 400F for 30-40 minutes, until the flesh feels soft when you push the skin with your finger. Remove from the oven and let it cool until you can handle it. Scoop out the flesh. Reserve 1/4 cup for your latte and freeze the rest. I like to freeze it in 1/2 cup or 1 cup portions.
NOTE ON PUMPKIN: By all means, if it means you're more likely to make this and enjoy making it, buy a can of PURE pumpkin puree at the grocery store. Same goes - freeze the rest for pumpkin muffins and other great recipes.
Storage: Make 2-3 servings of the spiced milk (reserve the coffee for later) and store in the fridge for a few days. Stir well before reheating.
What is Dandy Blend Coffee Alternative?
Dandy Blend is a caffeine-free instant herbal beverage made of four ingredients: roasted barley extracts, roasted rye extracts, roasted dandelion root extracts, and roasted chicory root extracts. Take it from this coffee drinker... this is a fairly good substitute and gives you many added herbal benefits. You can read more about that here: Dandy Blend Fast Facts. It's available at many health food stores in Brandon, MB.