Quiz Item #1: Which of the following do you consider comfort food?

  • 1) Grilled cheese & fries
  • 2) Meatloaf & mashed potatoes
  • 3) Pizza
  • 4) All of the above.

Quiz Item #2: Why does comfort food typically = unhealthy, not-great-for-us food?

This week I needed comfort. My husband, dog Becca, and I arrived home in Vermont, after six months on the road. Last November, we took off in our Honda CRV, down the southeast coast, across to Arizona, up and down the California coast, and landed in Berkeley for two months.

Favorite restaurants:

The drive home was brutal. Zero-visibility white-out, wind gusts of 70+ mph through the Salt Flats of Utah. Snowstorm at 8,000 ft. approaching Vail. Trump 2024 signs plastered on barns across Missouri.

Ten days of  breathing the stale air of I-70 highway motels; lunches of peanut-butter-on-a-rice-cake-with-a-side-of-vending-machine-pretzels; salt-infused restaurant dinners (insert any entree here) everywhere.

I hungered for my own food: clean soups, fresh salads, pasta with crisp vegetables, tossed lightly — not drowning — in sauce. I missed my Boos cutting board, (alphabetized!) spice drawer, the condiments inside the door of my refrigerator.

Cooking our first meal back home, I had an epiphany: Preparing a healthy meal comforts me as much as eating it. Measuring, chopping, and stirring, knowing the end result will make me (and Max) hum with delight, is my Comfort Place.

These are the first 3 meals I made. Try one, two, or all three. My hope is they’ll bring you comfort, too.

  • Pesto pasta with broccolini. Last summer I experimented with pesto recipes that did not use parmesan. It is with informed confidence I proclaim:
    • The secret to dairy-free pesto that sings: Follow Your Heart dairy-free parmesan. No one has been able to tell it’s not the “real thing.” Not even my dear friend Marjorie, who refers to my pesto as Green Gold.

Save clean-up time by dropping the broccolini into the boiling pasta during the last minute. Close your eyes while eating, and imagine yourself on a sidewalk cafe in Genoa.

  • Wonton Soup: Go to Trader Joe’s (or a supermarket, but TJ’s are the best) and buy two bags of frozen veggie dumplings. Ignore the recipe step that instructs how to make your own. If you do, this soup is ridiculously easy; 15 minutes to put together.
    • Use any veggies you have on hand (bok choy rocks this)
    • Chinese cooking wine is a must. Buy it here. You’ll use it again and again, I promise.
    • Substitute veggie stock for chicken stock; go for No Chicken Broth if your store has it.

BONUS: Considering a road trip this summer? Don’t leave home without these phone apps:

Happy Cow: Like Yelp, but for vegetarian, vegetarian-friendly, and vegan restaurants. The easiest way to find a healthy meal when you are in the middle of friggin’ nowhere. I became a believer when it led us to a coffee shop in the basement of a lightly-trafficked book store a few miles outside of Pigeon Forge, TN, that served a TLT sandwich – tempeh, lettuce and tomato. (No, we did not stop at Dollywood).

iExit: Who among us has never found themselves on a highway with an urgent need to pee, buy gas, or caffeine-up with a Diet Dr. Pepper? This app takes the guesswork out of exiting; it identifies gas prices, hotels, and restaurants at every exit. Don’t leave home without it.

Alltrails: The research is in: Forest bathing (a.k.a. walking or hiking in the woods) is good for us. It’s just about the only activity that keeps me sane on the road (the others are chugging Dr. Diet Pepper, eating sourdough pretzel nuggets, and Zoom pilates).

Vivino: Admit it: Deep in your dark past you have bought a bottle of wine because the label was pretty. Download this app and you’ll have no excuse to do that anymore.