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Cozy Comfort —
The WEBB Cooks by Robyn Webb, MS, LN
After all the fancy holiday food is over, it's time to return to the simple pleasures of cozy and comforting foods. As the winter deeply sets in, the nights grow dim and dark, there is much pleasure to be found in homestyle foods.
When we typically think of comfort food, the foods groups of salt, sugar and fat are what come to mind. No need to give up your guilty pleasures; the trick is to make them a little less guilty!
So many of the typical comforting foods can be transformed into much healthier versions. Here's how.
Make Proportions Healthier: Try for Less Animal Fats
For each pound of animal protein you use in burgers and loaves, subtract 1/4 pound and substitute 2/3 cup cooked brown rice, quinoa or barley.
Eliminate the meat entirely in tacos and burritos. Instead, lightly mash red kidney bean or black beans and combine with salsa, chili powder and cumin. Top with fresh chopped tomatoes and shredded romaine lettuce.
Shred 2 carrots or 1 medium zucchini per pound of animal protein and add while preparing a burger or loaf.
Mash any bean of choice and prepare meatballs of 2/3 beans and 1/3 ground beef, chicken or turkey.
Instead of ground meat sauce with pasta, try a bean sauce. Puree 1 1/2 cups white beans in a blender with vegetable broth. Add a blend of fresh or dried herbs such as basil, chives and oregano. Mix with chopped fresh diced tomatoes, heat and toss with pasta.
Add twice the volume of beans called for chilis. Add half the amount of meat.
Add diced portobello mushrooms to pasta sauce, stews and chilis for a texture that simulates meat. Decrease the meat to 1/2 the amount.
Use meat as a "condiment" in stir fries just like the Asian cultures do. Use twice as many vegetables and serve it with whole wheat angel hair pasta or brown rice.
Make an all vegetable sauce for lasagne or other baked pasta dishes. Eliminate the meat from the recipe and begin by sautéing in 1 tsp. of olive oil, 1 cup chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves, minced and 2 carrots, diced. Add in 1/2 cup diced zucchini and 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms. Add in 2 cups crushed tomatoes, 1 Tbsp. tomato paste, 1 Tbsp. minced fresh basil, 2 tsp minced fresh oregano, pinch sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Instead of meatballs, prepare them with rice and ground nuts. Combine 1 cup cooked brown rice, 1 egg, beaten, 1/2 cup ground almonds, 1/3 cup wheat germ, 2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Combine into meatballs and place in a casserole dish to bake at 375 for 30 minutes.
Add white beans to chicken noodle soup, add twice the amount of barley to beef and barley soup.
Make a meatless stroganoff. Eliminate the meat from the recipe and substitute, 1/2 inch thick slices of portobello mushrooms. Use 4 large portobello mushrooms per pound of meat.
Make a meatless gumbo. Sauté 2 onions, 4 celery stalks, 2 red bell peppers, 2 green bell peppers in 2 tsp. of canola oil. Add 28 ounces of canned tomatoes, 1/2 pound okra, 10 ounces chopped spinach, 1 small head cabbage, shredded. Add in 2 ounces file powder, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Add in a quart of vegetable broth and cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Stir in 2 cups cooked brown rice and cook for 5 minutes.
Decrease the amount of meat in stuffed peppers. Use 1/2 pound ground meat and 2 cups cooked brown rice, barley or quinoa per four peppers.
Slash the fat, Not the Flavor
Instead of sour cream, replace with low fat plain yogurt or 1/2 cup cottage cheese blended with 1 1/2 tsp. of lemon juice or use light or fat free sour cream. For tacos and other Mexican fare, use lots of salsa and reduce the amount of sour cream used.
No need to skip the whipped cream. Place electric beaters and a bowl in the freezer for 30 minutes. Add very well chilled evaporated skim milk and a touch of sugar to the bowl and beat. Use immediately.
No need to drown vegetables in fat. For sautéing, use defatted broth or wine in a covered, nonstick pan. Puree mashed white or sweet potatoes or other vegetables with fat free milk, defatted broth or the liquid left from cooking them.
Sprinkle an intense full flavored hard cheese like Parmesan or Romano on vegetables instead of butter.
Coat vegetables with olive oil cooking spray and roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes for a low fat way to bring out the natural flavors.
Serve any breads, rolls, and muffins with low sugar fruit jams, jellies and butter, nonfat cream cheese, flavored mustards or chutney instead of butter.
Consider adding any of these condiments that have little or no fat per tablespoon: barbeque sauce, chutney, low sodium soy sauce, chili sauce, horseradish, Dijon mustard or seafood cocktail sauce.
Instead of cream cheese, try yogurt cheese you make yourself. Line a strainer with a coffee filter or a double thickness of paper towel. Place 2 cups of plain yogurt into the strainer and place over a bowl. Set the strainer and bowl in the refrigerator overnight. The next day remove the yogurt which is now drained from its liquid and is ready for a variety of uses.
Yes, you can almost have your cake and eat it too by tweaking your recipes and choosing wisely. And with spring not too far behind, altering your favorites will have you swim suit ready.
6 servings/ serving size: 1 cup
preparation time: 25 minutes
cook time: 1 hour
exchanges: 1 starch, 1 vegetable, 1/2 monounsaturated fat
calories from fat: 33
total fat: 4 g
saturated fat: 1 g
cholesterol: 0 mg
sodium: 488 mg
carbohydrate: 21 g
dietary fiber: 6 g
sugars: 8 g
protein: 6 g
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped green cabbage
1 32 ounce can tomatoes, coarsely chopped with liquid
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. hot chili powder
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the cabbage and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer on low for 1 hour until thick. Add water if necessary to desired consistency.
Books by Robyn Webb, MS, LN
Her latest cookbook, Robyn Webb's Italian Diabetic Meals in 30 Minutes — Or Less!, is published by the American Diabetes Association and may be ordered in ADA's online bookstore or by calling 1-800-ADA-ORDER.
One of her previous cookbooks, Diabetic Meals in 30 Minutes - Or Less!, is also available from the Association. Ms. Webb is a regular contributor to the American Diabetes Association's magazine Diabetes Forecast.
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