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As winter gives way to spring, I’m actually feeling the blues hit pretty hard.  Is anyone else experiencing this phenomenon?

One of the ways I combat this feeling is by cooking myself comfort food.  The best comfort foods give you a sense of being full, warm and cozy (without being over-full and bloated).  When I was a kid, macaroni and cheese was one of the best comfort foods around.  The dish is simple enough and is a good nutritional balance when paired with something like tomato soup.  An article re-posted in a recent newsletter by Cook’s Illustrated reminded me of how to cook the perfect pasta.

I also like to mix things up when making mac ‘n cheese, depending on the particular cheese, cream or spices that I might have on hand.  Basically, any soft cheese (especially cheese spreads) are ideal for melting with your pasta.  Personally, I like to add a bit of spice to most of my dishes.  Sometimes that means sprinkling or drizzling a bit of cayenne, diced green pepper, or chipotle blended with mole sauce.  Other times, I feel adventurous and add cumin or berbere for different international tastes and colors.

While I might cut corners by warming up a serving of Trader Joe’s boxed tomato soup or opening a can of diced tomatoes to blend with other ingredients like onions, broth (veggie, chicken or otherwise), cream, or on-hand spices like basil or cloves, basic tomato soup is easily achievable.  A protein-based twist that I learned from one of my Norwegian host sisters was to add a boiled egg to the soup.

For a final splash of color and nutrition, I like to make a side of greens.  Start with whatever green you have on hand: turnip, collard, mustard, radish, green bean, or even basil.  Add a splash of your tomato soup or some of your soup ingredients, depending on the stage you’ve reached in your soup-making process: you’ll want the juice from the tomato and broth, plus a bit of spice.  Cover and cook on low heat for about 15-20 minutes.  Uncover, stir and taste.  Serve or continue cooking to taste, but be careful of overcooking because some greens are bitter when overcooked.  Crumbled feta or other soft cheese on top can cut some of the bitterness if you can’t avoid it.  Heck, you might even want to combine the greens with your mac ‘n cheese.

What is your favorite comfort food, and how do you make it with your on-hand ingredients?

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