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What I Ate For Dinner Last Night: Comfort Food From the Gym Buddies [What is your comfort food??]

Posted Nov 22 2013 4:26pm


I enlisted my eldest to help make the soup! He learned how to chop an onion. I learned how to stifle my giggles while tried to cry from said onion.

Season’s first snow! Yesterday, blanketed in white, ended up being kind of a strange day. At first the kidlets were super excited to see all the flakes coming down but as the snow piled up – but just a little bit, since this is Colorado now – they got pensive. Then sad.

“I miss Minnesota,” Son #2 sighed.

“I want all my old fwiends,” Jelly Bean added.

“Can we go back home now?” Son #3 said, “To Minnesota?”

Sigh, indeed.

Snow always makes me a little broody (in both senses of the word) anyhow so I decided to keep going down memory lane and cook up some Minnesota comfort food. And of course for me comfort food means Gym Buddy food. All the gym buddies are amazing cooks in their own way.

Megan is the traditionalist, whipping up a risotto and steaks as if it ain’t no thing. She also loves talking about her close family growing up and the food they ate, passing on family recipes like the one she brought me when Jelly Bean was born. I still remember having a new baby with three other little ones running circles around me and answering the door and seeing Megan, on the doorstep, holding a pot of salvation, er, soup. As I ate it, I was touched that she knew just what to bring me with all my food issues at the time. It was simple and delicious and I think I ate 5 bowls of it.

Allison is the experimenter, always trying out new recipes and then building them, tweaking them, healthifying them to make them better. She’s the one who first tried out that craze a few years ago for making Butterfinger bars out of candy corn. She’s the one who every year would cook up the most elaborate Christmas gifts, big bags filled with cake balls and pressed cookies and bars and homemade fudge. And she’d always show up at the gym with little baggies full of little treats for us. “Try this one and then that one and tell me which you like better,” she’d say, playing taste tester with us. One of the more recent (and highly successful) ones was her version of coconut banana bread of which her healthier version tasted way better than the original. It was my last taste test with her before we moved and when we got to the hotel here in Colorado, I found a piece of it stuck in the cup holder of Jelly Bean’s car seat. I ate it.

Krista is the baker, known for her cookies and bread but also for her Pakistani cuisine which she learned to cook to honor her husband’s nationality. Not many people can say they’ve been treated to an amazing exotic chicken korma followed by a down-home peanut butter cookie – but I can! I still have some spices in my cupboard that she gave me after trying to teach me to cook some decent Pakistani food. And I can’t count how many times we showed up to her house to the smell of her favorite peanut butter cookies. “Oh I shouldn’t have made them,” she always says, “but they’re just so darn good!” And they are that good: the type of good where you only want to make them when you know you have guests coming over to share them with!

Daria is the frugal one, managing to cook for her five children and also surprising her many friends with warm loaves of homemade bread or cookies or even, once, frozen bags of cooked beans. She knows so many little tricks for finding the best deals and then for storing it all when you do decide to buy 50 pounds of carrots on sale. I remember once telling her I was having a bad day and she showed up that afternoon with fresh bread, a jar of peanut butter and a tub of jam. “This is what I feed my kids when I’m having one of those days!” she said. I laughed so hard – first because she brought me PB&J fixings and then because it was so perfect. My kids were delighted with the homemade bread and “real” peanut butter (a.k.a. not the natural slimy kind I always get) and the freezer jam. And I didn’t have to make dinner that night.

When people talk about the power of food to give life, they also mean the power of food to give so much more than life. People use food to show love, to show care, to show thoughtfulness and of course to heal and comfort. So many beautiful memories associated with the sight, smell and taste of good food. Food can be comforting and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using it that way sometimes.

And I was comforted.

Do you have a beautiful memory attached to a certain food? Or a dish that reminds you of someone you love? What’s your comfort food?

Here are the recipes in case you need a little comfort food today too! And in honor of Daria I made a triple batch of everything – one to freeze and another I took to a new friend here for dinner, because she was having bad day:)

Gym Buddy Megan’s Turkey Sausage and Black Bean Soup (from her mama!)

1 1/2 lbs (or more) turkey Italian sausage
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, chopped

Remove sausage from casing & brown.  Add veggies and cook for 10 min.

Add 1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you want more spice)
1/4 tsp rubbed sage
1 can petite diced tomatoes, including juice
5-8 cups chicken broth
1 can drained black beans

Cook 20-30 minutes
Add 1 cup elbow macaroni and cook until pasta is to your liking

Megan’s notes: I use 2 trays of the Jennie-O hot Italian turkey sausage. If you want to make it and freeze it, I would recommend adding the pasta when you are going to eat it, not before you freeze it.

Charlotte’s notes: I skip the pasta and double the beans and instead add some chopped zucchini/yellow squash. Kale is good in it too!

Gym Buddy Allison’s Coconut Banana Bread


1/2 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup honey
2 T milled flaxseed + 6 T water, mix and let sit for 5 min (vegan equivalent of 2 eggs)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 cups whole wheat white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 medium overripe bananas, mashed
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut (or shredded coconut)


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the oil and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and almond extract. Stir together the mashed banana and the coconut milk and add.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Gradually mix in the dry ingredients into the wet. Add in the flaked coconut.

Pour the batter into a prepared baking pan. You can also use mini loaf pans or muffin tins.

Bake for 1 hour – 1 hour and 15 minutes, when a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Allison’s notes: This is a healthier (and I think YUMMIER) version of lots of coconut bread recipes out there.

Charlotte’s notes: I’ve had both kinds and I agree- Allison’s healthed up version is way better (moister) than the original. Love the honey in it instead of sugar. I added chopped pecans.

Gym Buddy Krista’s Peanut Butter Cookies (from a user submitted recipe to Rachel Ray’s site)



Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Cream together the butter, brown and white sugars until smooth; add eggs and vanilla and fully combine.

Stir in the peanut butter.  Add flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix  thoroughly but don’t overmix.

Roll into walnut-sized balls and press flat with tines of fork to make a pretty design.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until fork comes clean.

Krista’s note: DON’T SMASH THEM FLAT. Just leave them in balls to cook!

Charlotte’s note: Original recipe calls for shortening, I use butter.

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