Classic Comfort Foods Made Healthy

by Alyssa Bauman, Nourished.ca

Winter is coming and it seems as though this season is going to be an even cozier one as we huddle up and hunker down at home. Grab those blankets, light the fire, have a couple of puzzles on hand, and warm up with these classic comfort foods that you can transform into healthier meals with a few simple swaps.

Comfort Food Recipe 1: Rose Pasta 

penne pasta comfort foods

Topping the list of favourite comfort foods for grownups? Pasta. Love the cheesy flavour, but not so much the cheese? Me too. That’s why I love this dairy-free pasta. It is creamy, rich and luxurious, and packs in a huge nutrient punch. It is easy to make, nutrient rich and can be done pretty quickly using everyday pantry essentials. Cashews blend easily into a velvety sauce adding layers of flavour and satisfaction, not to mention healthy fats. I like this sauce with gluten-free rigatoni or chickpea shell pastas, but really any pasta will work. Serve it with a huge green salad. Sunflower seeds work just as well if there is a food allergy in your home.

 Ingredients:

1 cup olive oil

6-8 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

2 red peppers, sliced thinly

4 cloves garlic (sliced)

1 cup cashews (soaked for at least 15 minutes)

1 cup fresh basil, ripped

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tsp sea salt

2 large roasted red peppers (from a glass jar – different than tomato mixture above)

1/2 cup basil, torn

1 package gluten-free pasta

Directions:

  1. Coat tomatoes and peppers with olive oil, half the garlic and salt. Mix well and sauté 30 or so minutes until tomatoes and peppers are blistering and watering. Set to low.
  2. Drain cashews. Ditch the water.
  3. In a large pot, salt water and boil for pasta. Once boiled, add pasta.
  4. Add cashews, roasted (jarred) red peppers, remaining garlic, nutritional yeast, salt, 1/3 cup water and rest of olive oil to blender and blend until smooth.
  5. Once pasta is done, drain but make sure to reserve a lil bit of pasta water.
  6. Add pasta back to the pot. Add tomatoes and peppers, salt, pepper and pour sauce slowly just to coat, but not too much.  If you want more, you can always add later.
  7. Add basil and mix. Salt and pepper to taste.
  8. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of pasta water until desired consistency.

(Leftover sauce can be easily frozen to use again)

Comfort Food Recipe 2: Chicken Fingers

comfort foods

This is definitely one of the more popular comfort foods for kids, and this gluten-free, high fibre, high protein meal will please the parents too. It makes an easy grab-and-go dinner on nights when you are pressed for time. But when you do have space, do yourself a favour and double the recipe and freeze. These are great basics to have on hand. Serve with cut-up veggies!

Ingredients:

4 organic chicken breasts skinless and boneless, sliced in three-inch long tenders

Salt and pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp paprika

2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled

1/2 cups bread crumbs gluten-free, like Mary’s or brown rice crumbs

1/4 cups ground chia

2 eggs

2 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Spread out the quinoa on a piece of wax paper or aluminum foil. 
  3. Mix chia and gluten-free crumbs together and then spread over the quinoa. Squeeze together until the moisture of the quinoa is absorbed. 
  4. Place the eggs in a shallow bowl. 
  5. Sprinkle chicken with salt, garlic powder, pepper and paprika.
  6. Dip the chicken in the egg and then into the quinoa mixture, turn over and coat. 
  7. Place onto a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and bake at 350 until translucent thru and crispy, about 20 minutes.

Related: Gift Ideas: 6 Cookbooks You Need To Give (And Get) This Year

Comfort Food Recipe 3: Mac and Cheese

macaroni and cheese comfort foods

This cheesy rendition of the mac and cheese comfort foods classic cuts the cheese in half without sacrificing any of the satisfaction. We sub in nutrient-dense nutritional yeast which is high in B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein and it is gluten-free (check specific brands for certification) and contains no added sugars or preservatives. And is it ever tasty, cheesy and savoury. This dish oozes not only in flavour but also in nutrients. Any type of pasta works in this dish.

Ingredients: 

1 package multigrain elbow pasta. 

1 head cauliflower finely chopped

2 cups brown rice crumbs

2 tbsp ground chia

1/2 cups parsley chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cups nutritional yeast (I like Red Star brand)

1 onion chopped

1 cup sharp cheddar grated

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt or plain unsweetened almond milk yogurt

1/2 cups unsweetened plant milk

1 tbsp dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

Directions: 

  1. Heat oven to 400° F.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the package. Add the cauliflower for the last 3 minutes of cooking; drain and set aside.
  3. Mix together brown rice crumbs, chia, parsley, 2 tablespoons of the oil, salt and pepper.
  4. In the same pasta, pot add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the onion, salt and pepper until soft, 3 minutes.
  5. Mix in the pasta and cauliflower. Add the cheese, nutritional yeast, yogurt, milk and mustard.
  6. Transfer to a shallow 3-quart baking dish, sprinkle with the crumb mixture and bake until golden brown, 12 to15 minutes.

Comfort Food Recipe 4: Vegetarian Chili

vegetarian chilli comfort foods

Get the soup pot out. Cold nights heat up with this healthy take on classic comfort foods in a bowl: chilli. With so many textures and its hearty mix of beans, vegetables and protein, no one will even miss the meat.

Serve topped with cilantro, avocado and a squeeze of lime and a side salad—and be sure to add those leafies and a couple of nacho chips. This recipe feeds an army but tastes even better as leftovers. Freeze a batch for next week too.

Ingredients: 

1/2 cups quinoa cooked

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 onion chopped

4 cloves garlic minced

1 jalapeno pepper diced

1 large carrot peeled and chopped

2 stalks celery chopped

1 red bell pepper chopped

1 zucchini chopped

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans 1 can, I like Eden’s brand

1 1/2 cups cooked red kidney beans 1 can, I like Eden’s brand

3 cups tomatoes diced, if using prepped tomatoes use from a glass jar

2 cups tomato sauce

3 tbsp chilli powder

1 tbsp ground cumin

Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat coconut oil over high heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until translucent.
  2. Stir in jalapeño, carrot, celery, peppers and zucchini. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add beans, tomatoes and sauce. Stir in the cooked quinoa. 
  3. Season with chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. 
  4. Simmer on low for about 30 minutes. Serve warm.
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