I have an issue with the term “comfort food”.
I am not sure how it began but it started to develop after I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Perhaps it was because I was spiteful at the stone cold fact that I would never ever be able to enjoy the wheat laden “comfort foods” of my childhood-macaroni and cheese, lasagna, cookies, cake, warm chocolate saucy pudding, pie, pizza, fettuccine alfredo, or grilled cheese. Sure, I could have had the wheat-free alternatives made with rice flour but really, who are they trying to kid? It does not and will not ever taste the same!
The more I think about it the more it’s starts to bug me. What makes it comfort food? The fact that we stuff our faces full of carbs until we are uncomfortably full? These so called “comfort foods” spike our insulin levels and cause us to crash an hour after eating. They make us feel bloated, tired, and cause weight gain. There is no comfort in that.
Food should comfort us but it should also nourish us and make our bodies perform to the best of their ability. How our bodies perform has a direct correlation to what we put in to them. My outlook on comfort foods has changed drastically since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I still get the cravings for “cozy” foods but I choose to make ones that not only satisfy that urge but also fill me up and fuel my body.
The other night that craving hit -it was freezing outside and I just wanted to curl up in a ball and do nothing. Oftentimes I crave tomato sauce when I want comfort food so I decided to make meatballs. Not just any meatballs…giant ones! Like the ones Rosie feeds Robbie Heart in the Wedding Singer as payment for singing lessons. I wanted some mean meatballs and that is exactly what I made!
Mean Sicilian Meatballs with Spicy Marinara
1 large egg (preferably free range)
2 T ground flaxseed
1 T water
1/4 C ketchup (homemade or organic)
2 T fresh chopped parsley
1 t finely chopped fresh oregano
1 t finely chopped fresh thyme
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb ground beef (preferably free-range)
3/4 lb ground pork (preferably free-range)
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 T fresh chopped basil
2 T chili flakes
- Put a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 375ºF. Line a large rimmed baking pan with parchment or nonstick liner and set aside
- Put the ground flaxseed and water in a large mixing bowl, stir to blend and leave for 5 minutes
- Add the egg, and whisk and then add the ketchup, parsley, oregano, thyme, half the onion, half the garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 t ground black pepper.
- With your hands, break the beef and pork into small chunks and add to the bowl. Mix gently but thoroughly; do not overmix or the meatballs will be dry. When all the ingredients are evenly combined, shape the mixture in to 8 balls, arrange on the baking sheet.
- Bake until an instant-read thermometer reads 165ºF at the centre of a meatball-40-45 minutes
- While the meatballs are baking make the sauce.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining half onion, a teaspoon of salt and turn up the heat to medium-high. Cook until translucent
- Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook for one minute, add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, and lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a thick sauce, about 10-15 minutes. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper, stir in basil.
- Spoon the sauce generously over the meatballs and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes to blend flavours.
- Dig in.