"Comfort" Food....Healthy Yet Actually Comforting
Bring On the Food!
Let's face it we all love comfort food. That is that type of food when we've had a bad day we come home or go out and eat and the day melts away. However, too much of this stuff definitely adds to the waistline. Believe me I speak from personal experience. I did not get fat by eating salads that is for sure. There have been plenty of times I would read the Hungry Girl books and think omg comfort food! I thought you couldn't make it healthy, until I went on a little journey of my own. This week certainly has been rough and so these four dishes definitely made it into my diet...which is the 21 day fix by the way. Trust me another bright side of these dishes is that for a mom of 4 month old this stuff is fast and easy.
Excuse me while I load my potatoes....
Everyone who is anyone at some point has had loaded fries at a bar. It's the best thing in the world after a long day. Grabbing a beer, sitting down at the bar watching the game and ordering a plate of fries loaded with bacon, jalapenos, and served with ranch. Having been a cook in a restaurant/bar making these was definitely a staple. Not to mention a staple of eating in the back when you want something guilt and delicious to eat while sneaking a peek at the game through the window.
So for these I went with a healthy route. Birdseye steamfresh has all new flavors and of course one of the new flavors of steamed potatoes is jalapeno cheddar. The first time I saw these a light bulb went off in my head. You know like when Gru from Despicable Me says light bulb in his thick accent...well light bulb. So I cooked the potatoes according to the package direction. For being on the 21 day fix I used two of the carb containers and placed the cooked potatoes on the plate. Then I melted my serving of cheese on top, because even though they say cheddar in the flavoring who doesn't want more cheese?
Finally the topping...you know bacon. Ah yes bacon so fatting and crispy. That salty, crunchy sound of it hitting your lips and teeth. Mmmm mmmm mmm. Well instead of the usual pork bacon I went with turkey bacon. Turkey bacon kind of sucks to chopped after the fact of cooking it, so I chopped it before and cooked it up in a pan. Then of course when it got that crispiness factor I loved it when on as the amazing topping to my potatoes.
But wait!!!! What about the ranch that is served with loaded fries? You can't live without ranch. I mean some people practically drink it they love it so much. For instance, at the restaurant I work at now I am the main prep cook and on the weekend I easily can make 12 gallons of ranch. You got think OMG! 12 gallons! Yes 12 gallons if people could bathe in ranch I am sure they would. However, ranch dressing has a lot of fat and calories (oh no curse word there)! So in my recent grocery discoveries over the past few months Hidden Valley Greek Yogurt Ranch has found it's way into my fridge. Now I was leary about this product. I mean I have tried to make Greek Yogurt ranch before and it didn't taste anywhere like this and I am a cook. Whatever they have done they cut out on the gritty after taste. So believe it or not that orange container contained a lot of ranch to pour over the potatoes. Needless to say comfort food experiment number one was a success.
Lady and the Tramp Had it Right
Who doesn't love spaghetti and meatballs? Ever since watching Lady and the Tramp as a kid and watching the two dogs gobble on a single spaghetti noodle to meet in the middle who hasn't loved spaghetti and meatballs? I love pasta, but pasta loves my stomach and booty. Though pasta is amazing it easily finds itself at my waistline. When I was 10 years old and my mom was really trying to eat healthy she brought home a spaghetti squash. She said let's try it! The rest was history. Over the years I have used this lovely winter squash to substitute out in pasta dishes and I even use it in stir fries instead of rice or udon noodles.
Cutting these things though can be a bitch. They are hard and you have to sometimes be forceful with them, but they are definitely worth the work because the spaghetti squash can absorb the flavors it has. The best way to cook this though is with a little sea salt on them in a pan of water so it can really start in absorbing the flavors later on.
Of course while the spaghetti squash is cooking since it takes about 45 minutes to an hour this is the time to work on the sauce and the meatballs. Now for my sauce I used a recipe out of Hungry Girl Clean Eating. I loved this sauce from the get go and I am a spaghetti/pizza sauce feind. Now the only thing I would have done more to this recipe was add fresh basil. I love love love basil. It is that sweet, but not to sweet of an ingredient. It compliments tomatoes really well. This sauce though is very rich in flavor, of course when I bought my tomato paste for it I got tomato paste flavored with garlic, oregano, and basil. (The holy trinity I believe when it comes to Italian flavors!) Then once my sauce was set I started working my balls. Ha ha ha working my balls. (Well what's cooking without a little pervy fun!) So I wound up lucking out that Sysco in our area had ground beef on sale for 1.49lb and that is a steal. So instead of adding egg and bread crumbs and everything else all I did to the meatballs was add Italian herbs, salt, pepper, and chopped onions. Once I worked the meatballs I wound up cooking them at 350 for 15 minutes and they came out flavorful.
To me building flavors in a dish is key. When you listen to a song you're not listening to one note you are listening to layers of notes, rhythms, and chords piled on top of each other to make your ears go nuts, well what about food with your taste buds? So when the spaghetti squash was done I used a fork to scrap my servings in the bowl. Then I topped it off with the amazing sauce! (Still thinking about licking the bowl afterwards!) Then of course the meatballs. Now I finished mine off with grated parmesan cheese, because of course what's spaghetti and meatballs without parmesan cheese.
In college I was a pizza girl. Nothing said welcome home after a hard day like hot pizza. It had to be pepperoni or chicken bacon ranch though. I believe at a certain point the pizza delivery guy and I got on a first name basis I would see him so often.
So I was craving pizza and of course I needed it to be healthy. So I picked up some portabella slider mushrooms from ACME. Then of course I used some more of my amazing sauce from Hungry Girl. This sauce was nice and thick so it served as both a pasta sauce and pizza sauce. I placed my portabellas on a pizza pan, removing the stems and topped it with sauce and cheese. Now I was lucky to find these mini turkey pepperonis because if I used the normal size ones I would have gotten maybe 2 and I love pepperonis on my pizza. Once I built my lovely portabella pizzas they wound up in the oven at 375 for 10 minutes until the cheese was melted. Needless to say I was super stoked that they turned out amazing and will definitely be using them in the future.
So All in All
At the end of the day comfort food is what is it is. It's comforting. So why not actually make it a little healthier so it doesn't make us feel guilty either? I mean I worked hard to get my weight off and I definitely want to keep it there, so finding ways around it definitely makes a difference.