A Better Approach to Comfort Food – Getting Comfort and Quality! by Cari Culp, RD

As we whiz into fall and chillier weather approaches, most people find themselves wanting more warm, comforting foods. I especially like comfort foods when it is a little chilly and rainy outside. With all the rain we will be getting this week and most people hunkering down indoors, I thought I would share some of my favorite recipes that take comfort foods to a new level making them healthier for you. There are many comfort foods but these are a few of my go-to’s when I want something super satisfying.
Mac ‘n’ Cheese (with veggies)
*This is great for kids (or adults) who do not like many veggies because you can hide them!
1 bag of frozen cauliflower
1 bag of frozen butternut squash
1/2-1 cup of baby carrots
16 oz of pasta (I use this pasta but you can use any)
1-2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
4 oz of cream cheese
1/4 cup 2% milk
1 tablespoon of grass-fed butter (like Kerry Gold)
1/2 cup of water saved from cooking the veggies
Sea salt and pepper to taste
*Optional add-ins
-2 cups cooked broccoli
-1 cup chopped tomatoes
1. Cook carrots, butternut squash and cauliflower until soft. Save 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
2. Cook pasta to al dente
3. While veggies and pasta are cooking, add cheese, butter, milk, cream cheese, salt and pepper to a large sauce pan and melt on medium-low heat stirring frequently.
4. When veggies are done, add them along with the saved cooking water to a blender and purée. (Note: you may not need the entire 1/2 cup of cooking water to purée veggies so use half first)
5. Mix cooked pasta with melted cheese mixture and puréed veggies. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add broccoli and tomatoes if desired.
Chicken Nuggets
1 to 1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Avocado oil, for cooking
2 Large eggs, whisked
1 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
1 teaspoon Herbamare (this is my favorite seasoned salt and can be found at Earth Fare, Whole Foods or on Amazon of course)
freshly ground black pepper
1. Cut the chicken breasts into 1 ½-inch cubes.
2. Place eggs in a large container with a tight fitting lid.
3. Place chickpea flour, Herbamare and pepper in separate large container with a tight fitting lid and mix well.
4. Add chicken to egg container, cover with lid and shake to coat
5. Using tongs, remove chicken from egg container and place it in the container with the flour mixture. Cover and shake well to coat.
6. Heat a large 11-or 12-inch skillet over medium heat, then add about ¼ cup avocado oil to the hot pan. Add the nuggets, being careful not to crowd the skillet, and cook them in batches if needed. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side; the timing will depend on the size of the nuggets and the heat of your skillet. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towels. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve later (these are even delicious right out of the fridge!).
*Recipe courtesy of Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook
Southern Biscuits
1 Box Simple Mills Artisan Bread Mix (Can be found at many grocery stores including Publix, Food Lion, Lowes, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Earth Fare and Target)
1/2 cup plain kefir
2 eggs
1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Combine wet ingredients in a bowl, and then mix in the dry ingredients
3. Drop by large spoonfuls onto a greased pan and bake for 20 minutes
*Recipe found here
Chicken and Swiss Chard Chili 
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely diced
2 boneless chicken breasts, chopped into small pieces
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon mild chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
2 cups tomato sauce
3 cups water
5 to 6 cups cooked pinto or red beans (canned is fine)
2 teaspoons Herbamare or sea salt
1 bunch chopped swiss chard
Heat a 6-quart pot over medium. Add the olive oil, then add the onion and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it is soft and beginning to change color. Add the garlic, jalapeño, and chicken; sauté for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the cumin, chili powder, and paprika (if using); sauté a minute more. Add the tomato sauce, water, beans, and Herbamare. Stir, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. When the chicken is tender and the flavors have melded, add the chard and simmer for 5 minutes more. Turn off the heat, taste, and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.
*Recipe courtesy of The Nourishing Meals Cookbook
I hope you enjoy these recipes as much, if not more, than your traditional comfort foods! Happy cooking!

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