Saturday, February 6, 2010

Comfort Food

As you know, Thursday was the first anniversary of my Mother's death. It's a milestone, ending the "official" year of mourning. Of course it goes without saying that I will miss her forever, but there is something to be said for marking this day, noting that we have made it through the first, supposedly most difficult, year. Being a person who is greatly affected by dates/times/rituals, I gave this some thought yesterday. How did I spend the past year of my life without her? What impact did her absence have on my day to day existence? So much is obvious: not being able to visit or call her, not having her at holidays and family occasions. But what else? How have I expressed my grief? How have I changed my life, if at all?

Well, a quick glance back at my weight log over the past couple of years revealed quite a lot. Apparently from the time of her cancer diagnosis in June 2008 to her death in February 2009 I comforted myself with food. During those months I gained 16 pounds. Depressing yet true. Some of it I understand - long days & nights in doctors offices and hospitals do not lend themselves to healthy eating; one simply grabs whatever is fast and available. Then there are days after the funeral when you don't eat much or when you do it's, again, whatever is quick because no one feels like cooking at that point. But what about weeks & months after, what happened there? Why didn't I eventually get seriously back on track and do something about my weight? Why didn't I catch the gain when it was only a couple of pounds? Why did I continue to half-heartedly diet and log between glasses of wine and pasta binges?

I don't know the answer, can only imagine that I was simply functioning the best I could, not 100% aware or conscious of what I was doing, or that I just didn't give a damn. My mother is gone. What difference does it make if I'm a size 6 or 8 or 12? Will being thinner bring her back? Because God knows if that's what it takes I'll do it! Of course, there are other "issues" relating to my weight and my mother, ones that I'll write about at a later time when I can think more objectively but for right now, this is enough. It's enough that I have looked at the past year, realize the fact that I was comforting myself with food, and now it's time to move on. Stop the self-defeating behavior, get myself together and get serious about making these changes. Because no amount of chocolate is going to bring her back, there's not enough food on the planet to truly soothe my soul and mend my broken heart. I've got to do it for myself, find comfort and solace someplace other than the bottom of the potato chip bag. Because that feeling isn't real and it isn't permanent, it's just a temporary fix, a distraction from the pain at the moment only to cause more hurt later.

So, speaking of comfort food, here's another recipe redux for you, Macaroni & Cheese. This one was really easy to "clean up" with very good results. I served it along with a huge green salad and fresh whole grain bread to complete the meal. Yummy!

Please note: I am using the Mastercook recipe program to tally nutritional information then plugging those numbers into the online WW calculator to determine POINTS. While I believe it to be accurate, please feel free to do the math yourself in your own way.

This original recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, copyright 1953, 1962.

Macaroni and Cheese

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1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
1/4 cup minced onion -- optional
2 cups processed American cheese -- shredded

Cook macaroni in boiling, salted water till tender; drain.

Melt butter; blend in flour. Add milk. Cook and stir until thick. Add salt, pepper, onion and cheese; stir until cheese is melted.

Mix sauce with macaroni. Turn into a 1-1/2 quart casserole. If you like, sprinkle tomato slices with salt; arrange on top, pushing edge of each slice into macaroni. Bake in moderate oven (350°) about 45 minutes, or till bubbly and browned.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 312 Calories; 21g Fat (59.1% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 62mg Cholesterol; 816mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1/2 Non-Fat Milk; 3 1/2 Fat. Approximately 8 WW POINTS.

And the redux using the same cooking directions:

Macaroni and Cheese Redux

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1 1/2 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons smart Balance Spread
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups skim milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
1/4 cup minced onion -- optional
2 cups lowfat cheddar cheese -- shredded
1 medium tomato -- sliced

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Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 174 Calories; 4g Fat (21.7% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 458mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Non-Fat Milk; 0 Fat. Approximately 3 WW POINTS

The Verdict: Wow! Look at how those few substitutions lowered the fat & calories considerably! While the whole grain pasta does take some getting used to (it's not as pretty as the white stuff, for one thing), the additional fiber and general health benefits are worth it. I did sprinkle a bit of seasoned bread crumbs on the top but I doubt that nominal amount had a substantial impact on the nutritional value so I didn't figure it in.

One interesting observation: the original recipe is intended to serve 6 to 8...what? Mice? As you can see from the picture, this did not make a huge amount of food and no way could it serve as a main dish for my entire family! This makes me think that, as we've all heard, portion sizes have increased two or three-fold over the past 40 years. *shaking head*

Overall, this was a tasty meal and no one noticed the lack of fat or whole wheat substitution. The only thing I'd do differently is serve it as a side dish next time, perhaps to veggie burgers or dogs.

Off to enjoy the beautiful day, have a wonderful weekend!


  1. Thinking of you and hoping you find peace. I cannot imagine my life without my parents. My mother still struggles with the loss of her mother. The Orange Kitteh struggles with the loss her father. *sniff* Consider yourself ((hugged)).

  2. Hey, M ~

    Don't know if you did this for my benefit... or if I really *did* intuit it was our next offering... but thanks so much! - can't wait to make it... tomorrow... :-)

    Good for you for "doing the work" regarding your weight issues (as I still struggle as well) - Oprah lately has been asking: "what are you hungry for? - what pain are you feeding?"... and I am slowly coming to the realization that it's not about satisfying my appetite... but rather an attempt to fill a void...

    It's oh so simple yet very complicated - I wish us continued luck on our journey... <3

  3. I read an article not so long ago that compared "hunger" to "emotional eating". It was very simple and straight forward, but it really opened my eyes. Now every time I crave something or reach for food, I analyze it. If I find it again, I'll link it for you.

    Like Susan said, "Oh so simple yet very complicated."

  4. Jan, I agree, there are so many times when I'm eating to fill a hunger other than physical. Good for you for taking the time to analyze what it is you really want!

  5. Black Kitteh, thank you so much to you and Orange Kitteh. xoxoxo

  6. Susan, I already had the post written and the menu planned, lol! What a coincidence, eh?

    Such words of wisdom from Oprah, and yourself! It's hard to slow down and really think during those moments when I just want to, as you say, fill the void but I know it needs to be done.