By Betsy Bruns
On our last Mother’s Day together, I brought Bunny (my mom) her favorite treats to eat. Bunny’s health had been on the decline for quite a while, but I felt assured things were stable. We had been to the doctor a couple of weeks prior to my visit, and no alarm bells were rung. Little did I know that days later she would be taken from her home by ambulance, never to return.
After several months of inpatient treatment and rehab, my mom became terminal and was released into my care to live out her days. There was great irony in our hospice journey together. Colon cancer and chemotherapy had rendered her with a complete colon blockage. Even though she no longer received nutrition from eating, her oncologist arranged for her to be able to eat for comfort, or as he called it, “pleasure feeding.” This gave me great relief as I knew how much she looked forward to her favorite foods. Denying her a pleasure that soothed her would have made a painful time more difficult for both of us.
So here I am, a certified holistic health coach and plant-based diet activist, feeding my mom a steady stream of hamburgers, pizza, and ice cream, followed by sublingual chasers of morphine, methadone, and hydromorphone all to “keep the comfort.” She would always exclaim, “Oh….to die for!” when eating her favorite treats. Those unhealthy foods (thanks to her doctor) were swiftly removed from her system before digestion via a feeding tube, which had been converted to a stomach pump.
Even though these toxic foods contributed to her many health problems throughout her life and led to a difficult death, I gladly gave them to her because they gave her comfort. And, truly, because I felt that she was at the point of no return.
While this may sound like a somber message, my intention is to inspire more of us to wake up to the awareness that our most comforting foods may play huge roles in our most overwhelming discomforts. That the soda we sip, the chips we dip, and the foods we fry could be “to die for” in more ways than one. They bring us pleasure short-term, but can also bring us pain in the form of anxiety, obesity, achy joints, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. They can also incapacitate our God-given immune system.
With the awareness that greater health, energy, and peace can be birthed from leaning into fresh ways of preparing old favorites, an elevated level of comfort can be born. Back in the day, I shared many burgers and shakes with my mom. Listed below, these healthier-for-you “veganized” recipes are in honor of my mom and inspired by memories of comfort foods from days gone by.
VEGAN CHEESEBURGER PIE*
1 store-bought pie dough or pizza dough (I use Trader Joe’s Garlic and Herb Pizza Dough.)
12 ounces of plant-based meatless crumbles (I use Lightlife Smart Ground Meatless Original Crumbles.)
1 cup of plant-based shredded cheddar cheese (I used Daiya.)
1 to 2 tomatoes
2/3 cup of shredded iceberg lettuce
3 tablespoons of diced dill pickles
“Special Sauce” (3 tablespoons of vegan mayonnaise mixed with 3 tablespoons of ketchup.)
In a skillet, brown the plant crumbles. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Let cool. While it’s cooling, slice the tomatoes into quarter-inch slices. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 14-inch diameter circle and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Next, scoop the plant “meat” into the middle of the crust leaving a two-inch border. Sprinkle the vegan cheese over the plant crumbles, and then layer the sliced tomatoes over the cheese having them overlap. Finally, fold the two-inch border over the filling, leaving some of the filling exposed.
Bake in a 450°F oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake for 10 more minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes before topping with shredded lettuce, diced pickles, and drizzle with the special sauce.
VEGAN CHOCOLATE SHAKE*
Makes 2 servings
3 frozen, sliced bananas
1 cup unsweetened plant-based “milk” of choice
2 tablespoons cacao or cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup or one soft Medjool date, pitted
Top with cacao nibs (optional)
Add all ingredients, except the cacao nibs, to blender and blend. Top with nibs, if using.
Betsy Bruns is a plant-based health coach, “Food for Life” instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM.org), and an Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) practitioner. When she isn’t making healing food taste like comfort food, or helping clients tap away stress and cravings with EFT, she’s soaking up nature and dreaming of ways to make life more delicious for all beings. Visit www.Vegsetter.com.
*Recipe and photo by Betsy Bruns.
**Recipe and photo from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM.org).