I officially packed my shorts away for winter,trading them out with my heaviest sweatpants and long sleeved t’s that were boxed up all summer.
Yup, this stuff just got REAL. “Winter is coming,” and all that.
As I laundered and fluffed my comfort clothes, I pondered the concept of comfort food. After the recent news reports about the study that showed that “comfort food” doesn’t actually give you any lasting comfort. (NPR story here) I don’t expect to see sales of mac and cheese to plummet, do you?
It’s amazing that this was reported as breaking news, but somebody actually studied it. Of course, what we usually think of as comfort food is rich, heavy, and often associated with childhood. Mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, meaty pastas and pizza, ice cream, chocolate cake, creamy pudding are often thought of as comfort food, right?
The popular notion is that we seek comfort from our stress and worry by digging into one of these foods, and probably eat way too much of it. Unfortunately, the momentary bliss of bathing our tastebuds with fat, sugar and salt is fleeting. Afterward, if you really ate alot of it, you do get a sedated feeling, as your body tries to handle the big load.
But in the study, nobody who ate a serving of comfort food reported feeling any better afterward. Maybe they didn’t eat themselves into a sugar coma, since they were being observed?
Where I beg to differ with the reports is their conclusion that food offers no lasting comfort. Granted, you need to put the right stuff in, to make it a healthier form of comfort.
So I emerged from my laundry room and decided to engineer a bowl of breakfast that would comfort me both while I ate it, and after. I went with our favorite Fall flavor, pumpkin spice. Except unlike all the lattes and mixed drinks, I used actual pumpkin and actual spice, not artificial flavor. I wanted a warm bowl of belly-filling oats, not a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
I’m so not interested in the many artificially flavored, sugar bomb iterations of pumpkin spice in the marketplace of late. Bad things happen to good flavors- and pumpkins and a mixture of spices are good flavors, not something to be abused.
And the Pumpkin-Spice Swirl Oat Bowl was born. After a few delicious experiments, I can empirically say that I felt comforted before, during, and after eating this comfort food. Thinking about it as I made it was even a comfort, as I anticipated eating it. Chowing down, super comforting, and of course, working for the rest of the morning with a slow-burning, energizing bowl of oats in my core seemed to shield me from the sadness that sometimes sets in when I put all my summer clothes away.
So, if you want a comfort food that works, give this a try. At least you won’t be flooded with regret after eating the whole thing.
Pumpkin Pie Swirled Oat Bowl
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups water (or use part apple juice)
pinch salt (optional)
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (half a can)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons pie spice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1. Cook the oats in the water with a pinch of salt. Combine in a small pot and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let stand, covered, until time to serve.
2. In a blender or food processor, puree the cashews, adding 1/2 cup water as needed to make a creamy puree. Add the pumpkin, maple, pie spice and vanilla and process.
3. Transfer the puree to a sandwich sized zip top bag and seal, then cut off a corner to make a piping bag.
4. Portion the oats into two bowls and use a spoon to form a trench in the oats in the shape of a swirl. Carefully squeeze the bag to fill the trench with pumpkin. Squeeze it while holding the opening at the bottom of the bowl to get the puree down deep in the oats.
5. Sprinkle with dried cranberries, and cinnamon or pie spice if desired. Serve hot.