(Dec. 4, 2020) My inner voice is a constant monologue that beckons me to embrace healthy choices.
I diligently obey and proceeded to the grocery store in a “Stepford Wife” fashion. My discerning palate resists the temptations that lurk among the isles before me.
As I check out, I smile with pride that my grocery cart is filled with nothing but fat-free foods. I am the envy of every shopper and leave the store with an immense feeling of satisfaction.
But when it comes time to prepare a meal, my taste buds are not thrilled with these nutritious options and I find myself obsessed with the thought of naughty possibilities.
Could my best intentions be nullified by something more than willpower? According to “The Enteric Nervous System – Your Body’s Second Brain,” there may be a physiological explanation of why comfort food is so appealing.
It takes an enormous amount of coordination for the body to transform food into fuel. Therefore, it is fitting that the brain is designed to delegate digestion direction to the ENS.
If you are not familiar with the enteric nervous system (ENS), it is defined as the arrangement of neurons and supporting cells throughout the gastrointestinal tract.
The article states, “the intestinal wall is lined with specialized cells that act as chemical detectors, or taste receptors, identifying chemicals present in the food we eat.
This data helps the ENS enlist the right digestive enzymes to break down the food into particles that the body can absorb.
The ENS also supervises safety functions.
The food you swallow is likely to contain potentially harmful bacteria. If you ingest high levels of harmful organisms, the ENS protects the body by triggering powerful contractions that expel most of the toxic matter through vomiting or diarrhea.
Scientists have suspected that there is a communication link between your digestive tract and your brain.
We have all experienced those moments when we are in the mood for something greasy and loaded with carbs.
Research suggests that this happens when your ENS have sent happy signals to your brain, starting a chain reaction that makes you feel better.
This may explain why people tend to eat comfort food when felling stressed.
In fact, scientists are exploring the possibility of artificially stimulating the ENS as a treatment for depression.
Another example of communication between the brain and the digestive system is what we refer to as having butterflies in our stomachs.
The feeling may be the result of the ENS diverting blood away from the stomach when the brain experiences tension or stress. This factor can also initiate the cravings for something comforting.In closing, sometimes willpower may be overshadowed by physiological circumstances. So, if one has the urge to occasionally indulge in comfort foods, take pleasure and do not feel guilty.
While we are on the subject of comfort food, how about sinking your teeth into some cheesy, gooey seafood boats.
These babies are packed with shrimp, scallops and lobster that are folded into a delectable sauce and garnished with sour cream scallions and bacon.
The choice of seafood can be adjusted to coincide with one’s personal taste and budget.
I highly recommend using frozen seafood for this dish. It is perfectly acceptable because the seafood will be blended with other ingredients.
If your budget allows for jumbo lump crabmeat, this addition will certainly upscale the dish for special occasions.
The following recipe can also be adapted to incorporate baby potatoes that can be used for larger gatherings.
If seafood, bacon and a velvety, cheesy sauce encased in a potato shell tickle your fancy, you must give seafood boats a try. Enjoy!
4 Russet baking potatoes
3 ounces lobster meat, coarsely chopped
2 cups cooked shrimp, very coarsely chopped
2 cups cooked bay scallops
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ sweet onion, minced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and stem removed, finely chopped
1 (12-ounce) container whipped cream cheese
½ cup good quality mayonnaise
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3 to 4 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded Mexican style four cheese blend
kosher salt to taste
sour cream as a garnish
2 scallions, chopped, as a garnish
½ pound cooked bacon, chopped, as a garnish
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine seafood in a small bowl.
3. Rinse baking potatoes and dry them thoroughly. Cook until potatoes are fork tender, approximately 1 hour.
Once the potatoes are cooked, place them on a cooling rack.
4. Once the potatoes are cooled, slice each lengthwise. Using a spoon, gently scoop out the center of the potato so only the shell remains. Set aside.
5. In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add garlic, onions, celery and red bell pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes.
Place cooked vegetables in a small mesh strainer to remove any excess liquid. Set aside.
6. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay and salt. Using a hand-held blender, blend ingredients until thoroughly combined.
7. Add shredded Pepper Jack, mozzarella and Mexican cheeses to the cream cheese mixture and combine with a large spoon. Add strained vegetables and seafood and again combine until all of the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.
8. Fill each potato with seafood mixture and bake for 30 minutes. Then, place under the broiler to get a golden-brown color.
9. Garnish with sour cream, chopped bacon and chopped scallions. Serve immediately.
Secret Ingredient – Comfort Food. “Sometimes a little comfort food can go a long way.”
– Benjamin Bratt