Comfort Food

10 Oct

Fall is the time of year when our cravings for grilled veggies, hydrating melon, and crisp salads disappear and we long for something richer, heartier, and more decadent. Think creamy soups, buttery mashed potatoes, and dense desserts. It’s the time of year when we trade our bikinis and shorts for oversized sweaters. We hide beneath the layers while we curl up on the couch and tuck in to a big bowl of comfort food.

What is comfort food?

It’s food that reminds you of home, of your childhood, or of your current family. It’s food that warms your body and soul. It provokes happy memories.

It’s food that is associated with: butter, fat, calories, and food comas.

It’s food that is not associated with: health, fitness, and wellness.

Guess what? Comfort food can be healthy! Comfort food can make you feel good about yourself, it can fuel for active life, and it can help you maintain or lose weight. Pureed veggies and beans and thick greek yogurt can replace heavy cream, baking with olive oil can replace deep-frying, and loading comfort food recipes full of veggies will cut calories and raise nutritional value in a snap.

A few of my favorite comfort food makeovers

  • Soups: Instead of adding heavy cream to thicken your soups, simply ladle half the soup into your blender, pulse until thick and smooth, and stir it back in to the pot. I love to puree roasted butternut squash, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and any kind of beans to add a thick and creamy texture to my soups without adding the fat of heavy cream.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • Fries: There’s something about crispy, starchy fries that provoke a feeling of happiness, but traditional french fries are loaded with unhealthy fat. Instead of deep-frying, bake your fries in the oven and get the happy feeling whenever you want! Slice regular or sweet potatoes (or even carrots and winter squash) into strips, toss in a drizzle of olive oil and seasonings, arrange on a lightly greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet, and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 min. or until brown and crispy. Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce (mine is hummus).

  • Casseroles: Casseroles are usually full of fat sources like cheese and butter. One way to lighten casseroles is to cut the fat by using less cheese. Top cheesy casseroles with a little bit of a more pungent cheese (parmesan, gorgonzola, feta). A little sprinkling of these cheeses packs much more flavor than dowsing your casserole with a low-fat cheese. Another strategy is to load your casserole with veggies. This leaves less room for meats, cheeses, and creamed soups.

This casserole is hearty, comforting, and topped with a layer of mashed potatoes (another comfort food)

Shepherd’s Pie

Prepare 1 cup of brown lentils. Set aside. (If you prefer meat, add lean ground turkey instead)

Boil diced potatoes until tender.

Puree 1 cup of garbanzo beans, 1 cup milk (I use soy milk), and a few spoonfuls of nonfat greek yogurt. Add pureed mixture to potatoes and smash or whip until smooth (I Like em a little chunky). Add 1-2 tablespoons butter (I use Earth Balance) and paprika, salt, and pepper to taste. The beans add creaminess and extra nutrition to the potatoes.

Meanwhile, add a tablespoon of olive oil to a pan and sauté about 1/3 cup diced onion, 1 diced bell pepper, 2 diced carrots, and 2 diced celery stalks until tender. Add 1 can diced or crushed tomatoes, prepared lentils, 1 cup green beans, and 1 cup corn kernels. Simmer until the mixture thickens. Pour veggie mixture into a casserole dish, top with mashed potatoes, and sprinkle with a small amount of your favorite cheese (I used goat cheese). Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

When dipping in to a casserole, it’s very easy to over-serve yourself. Bake the casserole in bell peppers and you’ll have perfect portion-controlled servings. (Bake at 400 degrees for 20 min with a splash of water in the bottom of the baking dish)

Another healthy mashed potato recipe courtesy of Oh She Glows

  • Calorie-free comfort: Grabbing your favorite mug and curling up with a seasonal hot tea can do the trick. My favorite cold weather tea is Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice. It’s so flavorful makes me feel warm and fuzzy without extra calories.

As I was planning this post I realized I have A LOT of comfort food recipes to share, so there’s going to be a sequel. See you soon with more healthy comfort food and don’t forget to bring your sweet tooth 🙂

Thanks for reading 🙂


2 Responses to “Comfort Food”

  1. Mom October 11, 2010 at 2:54 am #

    Fixed the Shepherd’s pie tonight. Very yummy! I also made extra so that I could stuff peppers for a quick lunch this week. Enjoyed our time this weekend! Love you, MOM

  2. emily October 11, 2010 at 6:42 pm #

    I completely agree with you! Comfort food can be healthful; we just have to redefine our view of comfort. I love your idea to bake an individual shepherd’s pie in a bell pepper.

    I can’t wait to read more comfort food recipes!

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