Writer: PATRICIA WILSON | Photographer: ANDREW D. BROSIG | IN Magazine
On a cool day, nothing satisfies like comfort foods.
You can indulge in a stuffed sweet potato, a delicious appetizer of three-cheese crab dip and the other pleasures below without experiencing the guilt.
These feel-good favorites offer quite a bit of nutritional value. And, for some, with just a bit of tweaking you can increase their nutritional benefits.
Enjoy! The best part of comfort food is the enjoyment of sharing it with loved ones. Simple pleasures are really the best.
ITALIAN MEATBALLS WITH MARINARA SAUCE
2 pounds of ground beef
1 beaten egg
1 tablespoon each: garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, basil, oregano
1 teaspoon of salt
Blend ingredients in a bowl. Shape the meat mixture into about the size of golf balls. Place the balls in a foil pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until done. Immediately remove the meatballs from the pan and place them on a platter. Discard the fat. It makes about 30 balls.
For the tomato sauce, start with prepared organic sauce free of sugar, starches and gluten. Then add splashes of red wine, red wine vinegar, and maple syrup plus garlic powder and salt to taste.
To create a low-carb, grain-free version of this dish, substitute spaghetti squash for the pasta. Noodle squash contains a cornucopia of vitamins and anti-inflammatory properties. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that supports cellular health.
CHICKEN SAUSAGE MEATLOAF
If you love homemade meatloaf but limit the amount of read meat you consume, make this version using chicken sausage instead. By adding vegetables, each little loaf becomes a meal in itself.
2 pounds of ground chicken sausage (I like spicy chicken sausage. Use whatever type of sausage you like best.)
carrots and peas, thawed from frozen
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of honey
1 beaten egg
Place the sausage in a bowl. Add the carrots and peas, or your favorite vegetables. Add the honey, mustard and beaten egg. Mix well. Shape into small loaves, about the size of your palm. Place the loaves in a foil-lined baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 to 45 minutes, or until done. Immediately remove the loaves and place them on a platter. Discard the fat. Serve with spinach salad. Garnish with dried cranberries, if desired. Makes 6 mini-loaves.
STUFFED SWEET POTATOES
Sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, a strong antioxidant, and vitamin A. These nutrients are beneficial for our immune system and skin. The trick is to enjoy it in moderation.
3 sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons of thick, canned coconut cream
1/4 cup of maple syrup
3 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of salt
pecans for garnish
unsweetened shredded coconut for the topping
Bake the potatoes and remove them from the oven. When they are cool, cut each one in half. Scoop out the potato filling and place into a glass bowl. Reserve the skin shells. To the scooped-out potato, add the thick coconut cream, maple syrup, vanilla extract and spices. Whisk this well with a fork. Add the dates and stir.
Spoon the filling back into each potato shell. Place the potatoes in a baking dish and bake on 350 degrees just long enough to reheat. Top with pecans and shredded coconut. If desired, toast the coconut under the broiler. Serves 4 with leftover filling.
PEPPERS STUFFED WITH THREE-CHEESE CRAB FILLING
Cheese gets a bad rap, but genuine cheeses have essential vitamins and minerals including omega-3 fats, which are important for a healthy heart and brain. The trick is to make sure your cheese is real and is made from the milk of grass-fed cows that are not treated with growth hormones.
Crab is an excellent source of protein and is high in vitamin B. Like cheese, make sure you select real crab and not imitation. Fake crab often contains sugars, starches, fillers, and not very much crab.
3 whole peppers
3 6-ounce cans of jumbo lump crab, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce container of whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup each of grated Parmesan and Romano cheese
1 beaten egg
1 teaspoon each of garlic powder and onion powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Core and seed the peppers and set aside. In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir well.
Spoon the mixture into each pepper. Bake on 350°F for about 25 minutes, until the top begins to brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with paprika. Serve hot. Serves 3 to 6.