What sights and smells come to mind when you hear the words Favorite Comfort Foods? What memories are associated with recipes like fried chicken or meatloaf or macaroni and cheese that put those tasty meals into the comfort category? There might be some mouth-watering happening while we’re chatting about these comfort food recipes, but the goal is to maintain the memories and flavors while lightening up the calorie load. Several tips are included below along with some practical cookbooks and helpful websites. We’re proving you can have the best of both worlds!
I Heart Comfort Foods
If I were to create a list of favorite recipes from my childhood, chicken and noodles (the homemade kind), Mom’s fried chicken with potatoes and gravy, and meatloaf with baked potatoes (and you HAVE to have enough for leftover meatloaf sandwiches!) would be on it. Others would add hamburger gravy, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese to the list. Oh, and most of my Texas friends would add country-fried steak (CFS)! Also throw in some pumpkin or banana bread and a warm batch of oatmeal cookies to the mix while grabbing your book, a cup of hot coffee, and a warm blanket over your lap. Ideally, there would also be a roaring fire in the fireplace.
Here are a couple of ‘lightened-up cookbooks to try if you want the work to be done for you! Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome in hardback or Kindle versions. “A collection of classic Southern comfort food recipes–including seven-layer dip, chicken and gravy, and strawberry shortcake–made lighter, healthier, and completely guilt-free.” Mouth-watering!
Comfort Food Lightened Up (Keep It Simple) is in my cart! “There’s nothing better than getting together with family & friends to enjoy a great meal of heart-warming comfort food, lively conversation, and good memories.” That is so true. Many of my favorites are in this cookbook. There is a section called “All in One Comfort Meals”. Lightened slow-cooker meals. Perfect!
Over at the post called “My 5 Favorite Cookbooks,” you’ll find some of my favorite books on a variety of topics with links to each. Several of them focus on eating light or weight-loss and some are just fun, ‘you’ll want to add them to your collection’, cookbooks.
Memories play a big role in our comfort food choices. Can you smell your favorite childhood dinners cooking? Maybe you can see the colors of the full platters or bowls on the dining room table? Do you remember the taste? Yum! Can you visualize the preparer, (your mom or dad or grandma) stirring, seasoning, serving those happy comfort meals? I can smell my mom’s beef stew bubbling away. It was definitely a stew, not a soup; thick and rich, filling and flavorful with big slices of bread to sop up the juice,
Fond memories and good home-cookin’ flavors go a long way in dealing with the stresses and hurts of life. However, that goodness isn’t always kind to our waistlines or the number on the scale. So, how do you enjoy the special foods and still maintain lower calorie consumption along with a healthier, cleaner focus? Here are a few tips to help.
Tips for Bringing Healthier Comfort into Your Life
#1 Play the Ingredient Switcheroo Game
If you’ve got a good ingredient substitution list and you’re careful you can be successful in decreasing calories without sacrificing flavor. Of course, the substitutions have to be appealing to you and your family. For example, cauliflower is high in substitution popularity, but it might not work in your household. Try the new, healthier ingredient and see how it goes over. Sometimes it’s best not to tell your family what you’ve done beforehand if they’re not really good sports about trying new things.
Here’s a list of 83 Healthy Recipe Substitutions to get you started! I love their suggestion to cut the sugar in half in a recipe while adding more vanilla. Did you know that a corn tortilla is about half the calories of a flour one? It’s not hard to imagine using this list to ‘lighten’ up some of our fall comfort food recipes.
#2 Less of This, More of That
5 Ways to Lighten Up Any Recipe is a helpful article with plenty of doable tips for dealing with comfort food recipes. They suggest using more veggies in savory dishes and cutting back on pasta at the same time. More of the ‘good’ thing and less of the not-so-good ingredients.
Or you could decrease unhealthy ingredients and add more flavor in the form of herbs, spices, or even citrus juices. Having more flavor can trick your mind into not missing all that heavy not-so-goodness.
10 Tips to Lighten up Recipes is another great resource. The article offers excellent tips as well as yummy example recipes. One I’ll be trying soon is the lightened-up Chicken Parmesan (found here). Baking rather than frying and egg whites instead of whole eggs modified this favorite.
#3 Google It ?
I love “The Pioneer Woman” and “Trisha Yearwood’s Southern Cooking” on HGTV. They both regularly feature lightened-up versions of their country-cooking yumminess. (However, they do make up for the lightness with most of their regular recipes. I’ve found they both like butter and cream a lot!) You can also search for recipes on each of their websites.
Here’s a great article called “Meatloaf Lightened Up” which attempts to retain the warm, filling, tasty nature of meatloaf while going for a healthier, less caloric version. I’ll report back after trying this take on my favorite comfort food. It sounds yummy though.
When you’re Googling, look for words like ‘lightened’, ‘healthy’, and ‘makeover’ for your comfort food recipes. Change up the ones you’ve got or maybe find a totally new one.
#4 Discover Other Forms of Comfort
There’s always a time or for Mom’s Fried Chicken. Additionally, a trip to Cracker Barrel (and a few other of our favorite restaurants) can solve many a problem. But, finding other forms of comfort can be the healthiest tip of all when it comes to lightening up things around the dining room table. We mention a couple of them below: Self-Care and your Faith. ]
Self Care for Comfort
Treating yourself to a candle-lit bubble bath soaker is a sure-fire stress reliever and comfort bringer. A well-timed massage can have long-term positive physical effects as well as being a welcome treat in the middle of a challenging time. ONE glass of wine in the evening can calm and relax (proceed with caution here!) Or snuggling up with an extended book-reading or journal-writing time can take the edge off. Even binge-watching your current Netflix series can be considered self-care. Add a lightly salted bowl of popcorn and we’ve reached a comfort recipe near perfection!
Faith Roots for Comfort
Getting back to my faith through prayer or a helpful Bible verse can remind me that I have a loving Father who wants only the best for me (and you too!). And that He is walking alongside me during any hard time I might be going through. I know He’s there in the good times too! Actually, that’s the most comforting of all. Some of my most effective calming prayers are darn short. “Help” is a classic for me!
Plus, I’ve heard and learned the calming effects of reading or praying scripture. Out loud is best. Then your brain and heart hear it too. 🙂 I LOVE Psalm 23. It’s definitely an oldie but goodie. Other comforting favorites include John 14:27 NIV “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”, and II Corinthians 1:4 NLT “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
Let’s Wrap This Up!
Sometimes you just want to enjoy a memorable comfort food recipe in its delicious, beautiful, original form. Nothing wrong with providing your belly with that warm goodness occasionally! But, if you’re wanting to consistently lighten and clean up you’re recipes, try a couple of the suggestions here. “How to Easily Cook for One or Two“, is a popular Quiet Hollow post with suggestions for meal size modification. You can do both at the same time, make your recipes smaller and cleaner! So, try switching out some ingredients or searching for the lightened version of some of your favorite recipes. Alternatives to comfort food recipes are worth a try! Self-care, fun activities, encouraging Bible verses, or even Netflix with light popcorn. Which is the one I’m doing tonight. 🙂
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Finding a new purpose in living and joy in the day-to-day was the goal when author Kathy Rowland and her entire family (adult kids and grandkids) moved from the PNW to Texas several years ago. The focus of Quiet Hollow is to encourage ‘next chapter women’ – those who are retired, empty-nesters, or have found themselves without a spouse to jump back into life. And, she shares multiple tips, ideas, and possibilities toward that end. Kathy completed her almost 30 years as an elementary teacher and hopped into over a decade of volunteer work, side hustle-type businesses, and grandchild care before discovering her unique and fulfilling purpose for the next chapter of life. What you read on Quiet Hollow is a large part of that calling. Another part is the happy life she’s leading in Central Texas in the same neighborhood as the 3 big kids and her 5 grandkids. She and her college sweetheart husband made sure to add a pool to their new Texas home, so there are lots of noisy, splashy days in their little oasis of a backyard. Come join her on Quiet Hollow in a conversation about finding and living the life you were created to live in this later stage. The chats will be full of laughter, support, faith, and inspiration to create.