Last week, I caught a NPR article on food trends in 2009.  The major trend forecast was that comfort food and casual dining would be king this year.  Their reasoning? With the economic downturn, eating at home and casual restaurants were becoming more popular. Cooking at home is typically cheaper, and bistros serve lower cost meals that are familiar and easy to eat. After hearing this, I started paying attention to magazine covers. A quick survey confirmed this theory as not just a few, but every cover had comfort, soul, money saving, leftovers, hearty, home, etc. or some derivation of this idea. Comfort and saving money is in. Luxury is out. Never one to buck the trend, and as a great lover of comfort foods in general, here are a few of my favorite go-to comfort foods:

Image via Gourmet.

Grilled Cheese

I might as well call this “old faithful.”  You don’t have to be an expert to make a grilled cheese.  It’s actually easier than making ramen.  Start with two buttered pieces of bread, your favorite cheese, and a grill pan heated to medium.  Slow heat is the best way to go with this standby.  Pair it with your favorite tomato soup, and you’re ready for a night of comfort.  Get fancy with Gruyere and crusty bread.  The variations are endless, and it is hard to make this taste bad.

Image via Bell’alimento.

Macaroni and Cheese

I have to admit, this is one of my weaknesses. I’m a mac and cheese purist; no meat, chives or tomatoes.  Minced onion can be used in moderation. It must be creamy with a crispy crust. In an emergency situation, I will stoop to something out of a box. But only in an emergency.

Image by Simply Recipes.

Pesto Pasta

Pesto has quickly become a staple in most pantries over the last five years.  Known for its abundance of flavor and ease of use, pesto pasta night tops my list.  Toast pine nuts, shred mozzarella and chop sun dried tomatoes for an easy and quick meal.  Add sliced grilled chicken for protein and you are good to go!

Image via Sweet Fine Day.

Blueberry Cobbler

My obsession with berry pies and cobblers started with a jumbleberry pie from Frontier Pies. Purchased several times a year for major holidays, I refused food just to have enough room for this delicacy.  Worth every minute you’ll spend putting this together, blueberry cobbler is never ever ever a bad idea.  Hate blueberries?  Make it peach.  Or raspberry.

Image via Confections of a Foodie Bride.

Wedge Salad

Introduced to wedge salad at Brio (the very place where this pictures was taken) it is almost too easy to put on the list.  Perfect on those nights that don’t require a full meal.  Soak your iceberg in ice cold water during the day to make it much crisper.  Bolthouse Farms makes a lovely yogurt based bleu cheese dressing that tastes better than the real thing.  Go over budget on the cheese, every penny will be worth it.

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