Review Your Choices: A Guide to Healthy Comfort Foods

January is considered a month of reflection and change. It is a time to review pocketbooks and waistlines and make the necessary adjustments to regain control after the holiday season. There are so many different schools of thought when it comes to healthy eating these days, including hundreds of volumes written about specialty diets; eating paleo, eliminating glutens, deleting dairy. It can be confusing and difficult to find a specialized diet that works.  In the grand scheme of things, I feel it is a safer bet to eat whole foods, cook from scratch, and to know where the food comes from. Cooking from scratch allows us control over the levels of sugar, salt and fat that we consume.

The biggest issue I have always had with dieting is that I love comfort foods and I don’t want to give up the gravy. There are some very simple ways to replace high fat foods and still have a delicious comforting meal any night of the week. Making healthy choices doesn’t have to be difficult and there is no reason to sacrifice big flavor in order to feel better. It doesn’t require any special equipment to prepare. There is no need to purchase a $500 blender or juicer. It may require a little more thoughtfulness beforehand to find proper replacements for our favorite foods.

Let’s take a classic comfort meal and replace a few components to make it a healthier meal. Hamburger steak with mashed potatoes and gravy is one of my favorites. I instinctually buy ground beef that is has an 80-20 meat to fat ratio, because fat equals more flavor. A leaner, grass finished ground beef will cut down the fat considerably. Trading out potatoes for cauliflower will cut down on carbohydrates and calories considerably. Cauliflower also has a much lower glycemic index than potatoes, which means it will have little affect to the blood sugar levels. As for the gravy, the best way to trim fat is to cut out the roux, which will also cut out the unnecessary carbs as well. We can use caramelized onion and the mushroom stems to thicken the gravy. This step will require a blender to ensure a smooth texture for the gravy. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a sharp blade and a fast motor.

It really is that easy to make better choices for our wellbeing without sacrificing all of the flavor. Here are some recipes to get your food replacement program started out on the right foot.

Enjoy with friends and family. Good company makes every meal taste better.

Hamburger Steak with Onion and Mushroom Gravy

4 6oz hamburger patties, made from 1 pound ground beef

1 medium yellow onion, julienned

8 oz cremini mushrooms, caps and stems separated

2-4 cups beef stock or water

1 sprig of thyme

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper to taste

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium high.
  2. Season the hamburger steaks liberally with salt and pepper and sear for about 3 minutes on both sides in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Take the mushroom caps and tear them into pieces. Add them to the cast iron and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender.
  4. Remove from the skillet and season with salt and pepper. If the skillet is dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil and cook the onion until it begins to caramelize.
  5. While the onion is cooking, finely chop the mushroom stems by hand or in a food processor. Once the onions have a good brown color, add the chopped stems and cook for a few minutes longer.
  6. Add half of the beef stock or water and stir to incorporate all the ingredients. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes and then carefully blend the sauce until it is smooth. When blending hot ingredients it is best to work in small batches and start on a very low blend setting. Hot contents can pressurize quickly and “explode” everywhere.
  7. Once the sauce is smooth, return it to the skillet. Adjust the thickness to your preference using the other half of the stock.
  8. Return the hamburger steaks to the sauce along with the herbs and roasted mushroom caps and simmer until the steaks are cooked through. Adjust the salt and pepper and enjoy!

 

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mash

1 Head cauliflower, about 8 cups, roughly chopped

2-3 cloves roasted garlic

1/3 cup whole milk

salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a large pot, cover the cauliflower with water by an inch.
  2. Cook on medium heat until it is tender.
  3. Drain and process in a food processor or blender with the milk and roasted garlic until it is smooth.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy.