BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Thursday, October 18, 2012
10/18/12 at 3:20 AM
What’s your favorite comfort food?
Suzanne Forsberg's comfort food is ice cream.
"Every time after a concert, as a kid in school, my dad would take us for ice cream," Forsberg said.
Comfort foods are often those that bring us back to our childhoods, "that are nostalgic," said Forsberg, a registered and licensed dietitian with St. John's Healthy Lifestyles program.
These foods aren't necessarily bad for you, they're usually just linked to good times, she said. But those good times, more often than not, tend to have a lot of food - like Thanksgiving, only five weeks away, with its pumpkin and pecan pies, cornbread dressing, turkey and all the traditional fixings.
"Usually, when families get together, they overeat," Forsberg said.
The goal, especially for parents, should be to add healthier recipes to our collection so that kids' comfort foods will be healthier choices, said Toni McGee, corporate market director for the American Heart Association (AHA)'s Go Red for Women program.
This week, McGee invited us to her kitchen to watch her make mashed sweet potatoes - a less starchy, lower-fat version of regular mashed potatoes, which are a popular American comfort food.
Many of the comforting standbys can be modified to include less fat, salt and sugar, McGee said.
The AHA is focusing on making small changes that people can maintain and build on with more changes through the years. In fact, the AHA, in partnership with Walmart, has produced an entire website full of recipes called Simple Cooking with Heart, which teaches step by step with online videos on how to make nutritious, heart-healthy and low-cost dishes.
For example, McGee chose sweet potatoes and used low-fat sour cream, plus spices, instead of salt.
Other popular fall comfort foods include stews, soups and chili, all of which can be made healthier quite easily, Forsberg said.
"Extra vegetables are important," Forsberg said, reminding that Oklahoma is ranked No. 50 in veggie and fruit intake among all states.
For stews, puree squash, like acorn squash, to thicken it up, instead of using flour, she said. Plus, it gives the stew a nice color.
Also, cut your meat into tiny pieces.
"I think we have too big of pieces of meat in our stews," Forsberg said. "You don't have to use as much."
Use herbs in stews, soups and chili, instead of salt. Those herbs, as well as garlic, onion and veggies, can flavor it wonderfully.
"And there's always that little bit of red wine," said Forsberg, who suggested using cheap sherry - and not from the grocery store but the liquor store. If you buy it at the grocery, it will have salt in it.
Teetotaler? Fret not, Forsberg said, as the alcohol will burn off.
In soups, add fresh veggies and spinach, maybe even a can of beans, she said. And use water, not broth, which is high in sodium - even the low-sodium varieties. Again, let the flavor come from the herbs and veggies you add.
For something quick and easy, take a canned steak soup, like Progresso, and add pureed butternut squash to it, she suggested. You can also add peas to it, which will not only add a healthy vegetable but also makes a pretty dish.
When making chili, try a white bean chicken chili with grilled chicken, Forsberg said. Puree the white beans, put in water, add chicken and simmer away. The beans will thicken the chili, so you don't have to add flour.
If you add meat, boil it, then drain and rinse, which is much healthier.
When shopping for meat, remember the word "loin" - it's always lower in fat, so look for sirloin or pork loin to add to your chili.
The American Heart Association's "Holiday Healthy Eating Guide" recommends the following substitutions in baking, cooking and drinking:
- Instead of butter, substitute equal parts cinnamon-flavored applesauce.
- Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.
- Instead of whole or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or skim milk.
- Instead of using only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.
- Instead of adding chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
- Use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor, instead of sugar or butter.
- Use vegetable oils such as olive oil, instead of butter.
- Use herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to flavor dishes, instead of butter and salt.
- Use whole-grain breads and pastas, instead of white.
- Bake, grill or steam vegetables, instead of frying.
- Instead of whole milk or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or fat-free/skim milk.
- Instead of alcohol in mixed drinks, use club soda.
- Instead of adding sugar to mixed drinks, mix 100 percent juice with water or use freshly squeezed juice, like lime.
- Instead of using heavy cream or whole milk in dairy-based drinks, use low-fat or skim milk.
- Instead of using sugar to sweeten cider, use spices and fruit, like cinnamon, cloves and cranberries.
WHITE BEAN CHILI
3-4 grilled chicken breasts (3 oz. each) cut into 1-inch chunks (can be from leftovers)
2 1/2 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
2 (4-ounce) cans of mild green chilies, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, pureed with liquid included
Fat-free plain Greek yogurt mixed with fresh cilantro, chives and garlic powder, optional
1. Grill chicken breasts, and set aside.
2. In a large cooking pot, saute onion, garlic and oil together until onion is translucent. Add 2 1/2 cups of water to the onion mixture; heat until a rolling boil.
3. Puree beans, and add to the water. Add whole beans, drained; then add 2 cans of green chilies. Add salt, white pepper, cumin and oregano. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 30-40 minutes to reduce some of the liquid for a heartier soup.
4. Top with herbed yogurt before serving, if you wish.
Our personal favorite comfort food is macaroni and cheese - not that boxed kind, the real, honest-to-goodness stuff.
Last year, Dr. Oz challenged celebrity chef Paula Deen to transform her favorite dishes by cutting the calories and fat in half, according to DoctorOz.com. For her healthier macaroni and cheese, Deen used low-fat cheese and milk.
PAULA DEEN'S HEALTHIER MAC AND CHEESE
2 cups whole wheat or regular elbow macaroni
2 cups shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
1/2 cup low-fat evaporated milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Coat a 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain well and transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Add the cheddar and stir until the pasta is coated and the cheese has melted.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, eggs, sour cream, mustard, salt and cayenne pepper. Add the milk-egg mixture to the macaroni and cheese and stir well to combine. Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the top. Bake until golden brown and crispy around the edges, 35 to 40 minutes.
- Courtesy "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible" ($29.99, Simon & Schuster)
Here is McGee's sweet potato version of homemade mashed potatoes.
MASHED SWEET POTATOES
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
1/3 cup 100 percent orange juice
1/3 cup low-fat or fat-free sour cream
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cinnamon
1. Peel sweet potatoes with vegetable peeler and rinse. Cut into eighths.
2. Place potatoes in a large pot adding water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes until tender.
3. Drain potatoes and return to pot.
4. Add remaining ingredients and mash with a potato masher or fork.
Tip: In a hurry? Use 2 (16-ounce) cans of yams (in water or light syrup, drained and rinsed), add remaining ingredients, mash, and heat in microwave.
Simple Cooking with Heart
Simple Cooking with Heart
is a partnership between the
American Heart Association
and Walmart to encourage
people to cook at home more.
The website tulsaworld.com/simplecooking has videos showing
step-by-step how to prepare
each recipe, plus tips for selecting
seasonings other than salt,
cutting vegetables, and keeping
fruits and vegetables fresher
longer. There are even tips
for having a successful family
dinner, for those who are not
accustomed to turning off the
TV and eating as a family.
Jason Ashley Wright 918-581-8483
Toni McGee of the American Heart Association prepared these healthy mashed sweet potatoes, which are lower in fat than traditional mashed potatoes. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World