Comfort Foods with a Twist

There’s reason why comfort food is called comfort food. It comforts your soul after a bad day and it feeds your belly on a cold, rainy day. Unfortunately, it’s not always the healthiest food to eat. But we’re here to tell you that you can have your comfort food and eat it too! Believe it or not, you don’t have to give up certain foods entirely when you’re looking to make the change to healthier eating. While moderation is key, learning to substitute unhealthy ingredients for more fresh, nutritious ones is an important tool you can use. This article features recipes for comfort foods with a twist. We’ve chosen two of America’s favorite comfort foods: pizza and macaroni and cheese.

You’ll see that by adding fresh vegetables or reducing fat content to these traditional comfort foods you can keep that warm, cozy feeling on the inside minus the guilt.


The Works Pizza

The first recipe we spotlight is The Works Pizza by Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters. Using fresh vegetables and sauteing them before baking your pizza is a great way to add flavor and reduce fat and calories. You don’t even have to give up meat. Add some turkey pepperoni to your pie for extra protein. At 200 calories a slice and only 8 grams of fat, this pizza is a winner all around.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 medium green bell pepper
  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 (6-ounce) block mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 frozen or refrigerated whole wheat pizza dough, defrosted
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce, no salt added
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley and 15 turkey pepperoni slices
  • Baking sheet
  • Box grater
  • Can opener
  • Colander
  • Cutting board
  • Large skillet
  • Measuring spoons
  • Sharp knife

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Rinse and peel onion. Rinse peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes. Dice onion, peppers and tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces. Slice mushrooms 1/4-inch thick.

3. Grate cheese.

4. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add onions, mushrooms and peppers. Cook for 3 minutes.

5. Transfer vegetables to a colander. Stir in tomatoes. Let sit 3–5 minutes to drain excess liquid.

6. While veggies are draining, shape dough into a 12-inch pizza round. Use your fingers to stretch and spread the dough.

7. Coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Place pizza dough in center of sheet.

8. Mix dried basil and dried oregano into tomato sauce. If using dried parsley, add now. Spread a layer of sauce across dough.

9. Sprinkle cheese evenly across dough. If using turkey pepperoni, add a layer of slices now.

10. Bake pizza until cheese is melted and crust is browned on the sides and bottom (about 10 minutes). Remove from oven.

11. Add vegetable mixture. Put the pizza back in the oven and bake it until it’s cooked through (5–10 minutes more). Remove from oven.

12. Let rest for 2 minutes. Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 pieces.


Low-Fat Mac & Cheese

Our next recipe comes from the Cabot dairy company. This Low-Fat Mac and Cheese recipe uses low-fat milk and only two ounces of cream cheese to keep all the creaminess while reducing fat and calories. You can add vegetables like broccoli to this bake as well for extra nutrients.

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

  • 2 cups small dry elbow macaroni
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups lowfat (1%) milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 ounces Cabot Cream Cheese
  • 8 ounces Cabot Sharp Light Cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain well.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

3. Place flour in a large saucepan over medium heat, gradually whisking in milk. Add mustard, garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, black pepper, red pepper and Worcestershire. Continue cooking until sauce thickens, stirring constantly.

4. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cream cheese until well blended; add the shredded cheese and stir until melted. Add macaroni, stirring until well coated. Pour into prepared baking dish.

5. Stir breadcrumbs, paprika, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, garlic powder in a small bowl. Add olive oil and stir until evenly moistened. Spread over top of macaroni.

6. Bake until the topping is golden and the macaroni is bubbling along the edges (about 20 minutes).

Check out more recipes from Cooking Matters and GoHealthy in our blog today! Just type the word “recipe” in the search box or visit this link.

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