Comfort-able foods

  • Vegetarian Kale and White Bean Soup
  • BBQ Lentil Loaf
  • Potato, Cauliflower, and Spinach Mash
  • Applesauce

Cooler weather has me thinking of heartier fare but there is no reason your favorite comfort foods can’t also be lighter in calories. Here are some highly satisfying recipes I’ve tried recently.

Vegetarian Kale and White Bean Soup

Raw kale can take some getting used to but I have always enjoyed it in soups.  I started with this recipe for Vegetarian Kale Soup, from Allrecipes.com that packs a lot of nutrition into every bite.

Winter vegetables are still plentiful at our local farmer’s market.  I bought kale, carrots, turnips, and brussels sprouts there this week.  I used both the kale and the greens from the turnips in my soup.  That’s a lot of greens but as you can see here in my before and after shots they wilt down to almost nothing. The second picture was taken after only 2-3 minutes of cooking with lid on.

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I made a few substitutions and alterations to the original recipe in addition to the turnip greens. I substituted fresh chopped tomatoes for the canned and chopped bell pepper for the jarred roasted pepper. I also made my own vegetable broth for the first time using this recipe.  I am looking forward to eating this soup for supper for a few days!

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BBQ Lentil Loaf

There are few foods more comforting than meat loaf. I make a pretty darn good one but I wanted to try a plant based version.  I know, I know, lentil loaf sounds like a total vegan cliche but trust me, you will be surprised by this recipe from one of my favorite sources; Brandi Doming’s “The Vegan 8”.

Her blog and website feature recipes with only 8 ingredients or less and she achieves tons of flavor with a minimum of ingredients. Her BBQ Lentil Loaf did not disappoint. I really like the barbecue flavor and the use of cornmeal and corn.  Lentils are one of the easiest legumes for cook from scratch because they do not require soaking but I think you could use canned lentils if you wanted to skip that step.

Speaking of skipping steps have I mentioned that I hate doing dishes?  Here is one trick I use that minimizes clean up.  After sauteeing the onion and garlic I just added all the remaining ingredients to the saute pan to mix. Brandi’s advice about lining the loaf pan with parchment paper also make clean up a little easier!

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Here’s the finished product served with the potato, cauliflower, and spinach mash recipe that follows.

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Potato, Cauliflower, and Spinach Mash

I will sometimes make a quick meal of mashed potatoes with wilted spinach.  It’s not much of a recipe.  I just wash and cube a potato and steam the cubes for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes I throw a couple of handfuls of baby spinach on top, cover and steam for an additional 5 minutes.  Drain the mixture and remove the steamer insert.  At this point you can mash with a little milk and add salt and pepper to taste. You can add or substitute cauliflower – just steam the florets along with the potato. Sometime I will also add some feta cheese or nutritional yeast.

To take this to the next level you can use this recipe for Kale and Cauliflower Casserole from Paula Dean’s son Jamie.  I tried it a couple of weeks ago, using green onion in place of the leeks.  I skipped the oil, sauteed the onion and kale in water, and used soy milk. My husband didn’t know the difference and said I could make it again.

Crockpot Applesauce

Apples were on sale this week so I grabbed a couple of bags to make homemade applesauce.  This is so easy to do especially if you leave the skin on the apples as I do.  They add fiber and nutrition.

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I don’t add any sugar to my applesauce. My “recipe” consisted of one 3 lb. bag of Honeycrisp apples cut into cubes, 1/2 cup of water, and the juice of one lemon. Combine everything in the slow cooker and cook on high for about 4 hours.  Then use a potato masher (I like this handy tool that I bought from Pampered Chef) to mash to the consistency you desire.

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The cooked applesauce will keep for about a week in the refrigerator or you can freeze up to several months. You can add cinnamon or other flavoring if you like but I left mine plain because I may use it for baking later – applesauce makes a great substitute for oil in muffins and quickbreads.

Hope you enjoyed these recipes.  Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

 

Are You “Sugar Sensitive”?

I recently read about a woman who drop kicked a birthday cake in the grocery store because she was unhappy with the way it was decorated.  She was already in trouble for a separate incident; she slapped the clerk at an ice cream establishment because they ran out of her favorite flavor.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both occasions involved sugary desserts.

Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons, author of “Potatoes Not Prozac” and “The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program”, studied brain chemistry and discovered that some people are born with low levels of the mood regulating chemicals serotonin and dopamine. Low serotonin levels are tied to depression, aggression, poor attention, and poor impulse control. Low levels of dopamine are linked to addiction, low self-esteem, violence, and anger.

The foods we eat change the level of serotonin and dopamine in our brain. Sugar and refined carbohydrates (highly processed foods and things made with white flour) change the levels quickly because they are quickly digested.

Of course what goes up must come down. Dr. DesMaisons found that people with low levels of serotonin and dopamine experience extremes of this cycle. She says these extreme lows and highs manifest as diabetes, fatigue, moodiness, feeble concentration, and emotional outbursts.

Whether they realize it or not, these people use foods containing sugar, simple carbs, and caffeine to regulate their mood.  Dr. DesMaisons was once an addictions counselor and recognized the same patterns that she had seen with other substance abusers. She coined the term “sugar sensitive” to describe it and developed a step by step approach to help people to heal from their addiction.

Dr. DesMaison doesn’t suggest going “cold turkey”. As with any addictive substance sugar withdrawal symptoms can be fierce. She focuses first on behaviors that help to normalize blood sugar levels. The first step in her approach is simply to get in the habit of having breakfast every morning.  She also offers an online support network and weekly newsletter called Radiant Recovery for people who are working through the steps.

Anyone can become “hangry”; a term that describes crankiness resulting from low blood sugar. But if you experience mood swings, turn to sweets and junk food when you are upset, or if you can’t control your consumption of these foods it might be worth investigating further.

I can say from personal experience that you will be surprised by how good you feel with less sugar in your diet.