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7 Lightened-Up Comfort Food Recipes

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When it's gross, rainy day, or you're just feeling a bit down, it's easy to want to grab the nearest comfort food, like greasy French fries, pasta and cornbread. But eating these often carb- and fat-heavy foods comes at a price, especially in a season when it's harder to stay fit.

These recipes help you get the best of both worlds! With health-conscious substitutions and twists on old classics, stay cozy in the winter without forgoing comfort food.

1. Vegan Buffalo Chickpea Mac and Cheese

This vegan recipe is a great, meat-free way to stay healthy with a favorite cheesy treat. Chickpeas are a great source of amino acids, and along with yogurt, non-dairy milk and nuts, are a powerful source of protein. To make this recipe even better for your body, use vegetable or whole-wheat pasta!

Recipe fromVegan Yack Attack

Ingredients

Roasted chickpeas

  • 15-ounce can of cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup of buffalo sauce plus a few tablespoons

Ranch sauce

  • 3 tablespoons vegan mayo
  • 2 tablespoons plain vegan yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons raw cashews, soaked for more than 30 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 tablespoon dried parsley
  • Pinch dried dill
  • Pinch black pepper

Pasta

  • 2 and 1/2 cups dry pasta and boiling water
  • 1 tube cheddar vegan cheese
  • 3/4 cup non-dairy milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix the chickpeas with the buffalo sauce so that it is evenly spread.
  3. Take parchment paper to line your pan and pour your chickpeas in it.
  4. Bake the chickpeas for 12 minutes.
  5. Turn them over occasionally until they’re all crispy, and then bake for another 12-15 minutes.

For the ranch sauce

  1. Blend all your ingredients until they're smooth.
  2. Add more non-dairy milk until you've reached your desired texture.
  3. Pour your sauce into a cup and set aside.

For the pasta

  1. Cook the pasta until done.
  2. Set your noodles back into the pot, setting the stove to a low-medium heat.
  3. Add the cheddar cheese, non-dairy milk and salt into your pot; stir until it has an even consistency.
  4. Pour everything into a bowl and enjoy!

2. Super Simple Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Greek Yogurt

Sweet potatoes have high amounts of vitamins A, C and D, and they help maintain healthy skin.

Recipe fromFood & Wine

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Instructions

  1. Put the sweet potatoes in a pot filled with water, completely covering the potatoes.
  2. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat, allowing the potatoes to simmer for a little more than 10 minutes.  
  3. Use a colander to drain the sweet potatoes, and then place them in a large bowl.
  4. Add the brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon and Greek yogurt.
  5. Mash until the potatoes are the desired consistency and serve warm.

3. Super Easy Fry-Free French Fries

The recipe allows you to enjoy French fries without all the fryer oil! Baking the potatoes as opposed to frying them allows you to get more of the nutrients within the potatoes themselves, as well as avoid damage to your arteries.

Recipe from Food Network

Ingredients

  • 2 large baking potatoes cut into ¼-inch pieces (think matchsticks)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Salt
  • Cooking spray

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a bowl, turn the potatoes in the oil and add salt.
  3. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray, then spread the potatoes so that they form a single layer.
  4. Bake your potatoes until crisp, about 35 minutes.
  5. Remove the fries and season with salt.

4. Healthy Garden Lasagna

If you're craving pasta and cheese, but you don't want excessive carbs and fat, try out this garden lasagna. By using low-fat dairy products, you can help reduce risk your of heart disease.

Recipe from Health.com

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups (1 pound) chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels or frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups 1-percent milk
  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Cooking spray
  • 9 (about 5 ounces) no-boil lasagna noodles (such as Barilla)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) pre-shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat oil in a nonstick pan on high heat. Sauté the zucchini, onion and carrot until they're lightly cooked. Once you're done, mix in the corn, basil, salt and pepper.
  2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup. Even out the flour with a knife. Add in milk and stir it with a whisk. Cook the flour and milk until they come to a boil and continue to stir.  Once they're hot, stir in the salt, Parmesan, nutmeg, pepper and cottage cheese.
  3. Spread 1/2 cup of the white sauce in bottom of a baking dish. Place three noodles over the sauce, top them with half of your vegetable mixture and layer some of your white sauce on top. Then, place another three noodles over the white sauce and cover them with your remaining vegetable mixture. Add more white sauce and lay three more noodles on top. Drizzle your remaining white sauce over the noodles.
  4. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
  5. Uncover, sprinkle with mozzarella and bake until your lasagna is golden brown.

5. Healthy Cornbread

Using whole-wheat flour and whole-grain cornmeal allows you to keep this classic treat healthy.

Recipe from Eating Well

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal, preferably whole grain
  • 3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen, thawed
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey or sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Mix your cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  3. Blend the corn and egg in a food processor until you have a smooth mixture.
  4. Add milk, oil and honey, mixing them they're until combined.
  5. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and pour the batter into the pan.
  6. Bake the cornbread for 25-30 minutes. After letting the cornbread cool for 10 minutes, it's ready to be enjoyed!

 6. Vanilla-Lemon Berry Parfait

This dessert has only 176 calories and one gram of saturated fat per serving. Low-fat yogurt and fat-free vanilla pudding are low in harmful fats, so you can eat this dessert guilt-free!

Recipe from Health.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 3.5-ounce containers fat-free vanilla pudding
  • 2 tablespoons bottled lemon curd (such as Dickinson's)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups mixed berries (such as blueberries, strawberries and raspberries)
  • Fresh mint leaf

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix your yogurt, lemon curd and vanilla extract; set aside.
  2. In another bowl, mix the honey, lemon zest and lemon juice until they're thoroughly mixed. Use a spatula to stir in your mixed berries.
  3. Layer your berries and yogurt how you’d like and top with the mint leaf.

7. Easy and Healthy Chocolate Cake

This chocolate cake is low-calorie and easy to make, and it uses whole-wheat pastry flour.

Recipe from Eating Well

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot strong black coffee
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Instruction

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line your pan with wax paper.
  2. Mix flour, granulated sugar, cocoa and salt with whisk.
  3. Add buttermilk, brown sugar, egg, oil and vanilla.
  4. Use an electric mixer for 2 minutes and add hot coffee.
  5. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes and let cool for 10 minutes. Before serving, dust your cake with confectioner's sugar.

Staying health-conscious in the winter doesn't have to be miserable. Enjoy these delicious comfort foods with a healthy twist!


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