Comfort foods do what they should: fill us up, trigger contentment, and make us feel safe. They satisfy our tummies as well as our hearts. So, why not indulge yourself and your family in a healthy way? Because my husband eats only chicken and fish, I have been creating and adapting many old recipes to retain their heartiness and savor. Despite the avid interest of my entire family in all cuisines Southern, Italian, French, or otherwise delicious, I’m proud to report that we all also have normal, healthy blood levels of cholesterol and sugar.
Food should nourish and sustain us, as well as delight us. As my friend Jane pointed out to me, our food goes into our bodies and becomes a part of us. It fuels us, giving us the energy to live. So, according to Jane, what could be more important than paying attention to what we put inside ourselves and our loved ones?
I’ve used some simple tricks to keep the depth of flavor while increasing the healthfulness of our meals. I switched over to cooking with canola oil or olive oil. Unlike olive oil, canola oil has no flavor of its own, so it’s perfect for scrambling an egg, putting in pancake mix, or using in any recipe that requires a significant quantity of oil. It costs so much less than olive oil, but you get the same health benefits of eating a monosaturated oil. Sometimes, I use it to cut the quantity of butter in a dish in half and substitute canola oil in its place (as in the recipe for roasted cauliflower with curry that follows later in this post.) You get the same buttery flavor, with half the cholesterol.
To save money, I also buy two types of olive oil. Extra Virgin olive oil has a delicate flavor that is ruined by cooking it, so I save it for whipping up a quick vinaigrette salad dressing or drizzling over summer tomatoes. When cooking, I use the much cheaper stuff which is simply marked olive oil (without saying “extra virgin”). I just bought some in a giant, metal, gallon canister, and I decanted some into a smaller cruet I keep on the kitchen counter.
Use plain olive oil to sauté anything, with garlic. My family will demolish entire bowl garlic spinach, which is ridiculously easy to make. Pour the oil in the pan and heat it on a low flame. Meanwhile, peel and chop a few cloves of garlic. Throw them in the pan, and let them warm up for a minute or two, in order to infuse the oil with their flavor. Toss in some spinach (I used the bagged, pre-washed kind from our local Stop and Shop). Use tongs to rotate the leaves of spinach from the bottom to the top of the pan to coat them all with oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt, squeeze the juice from the quarter of a lemon on top (to brighten the flavor), and cover the pan. Let it cook, rotating the leaves occasionally, for about 7-8 minutes or until the spinach is cooked to your preferred tenderness. Then serve. Yes, it’s that quick and easy! You can cook broccoli the same way (but it takes longer), and green beans, too (but I omit the lemon in that case).
The other night, I made us a meatloaf. The whole time, I kept reminiscing about my mother, and how much I enjoyed her meatloaf as a kid. I have taken her recipe and added more seasonings to keep her fantastic level of flavor, while reducing the level of fat and cholesterol, by using turkey instead of beef. I whipped up 2 side dishes to roast in the oven along with the meatloaf: Baked Curry Cauliflower, and Oven Roasted Rosemary Potatoes. Dinner? Done!
Wishing you every blessing,
Savory Turkey Meatloaf
1 pkg ground turkey
1 onion (or half a large, sweet onion) chopped
1 carrot (chopped small)
½ cup ketchup
Tabasco sauce (optional)
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
Grated parmesan cheese
Two slices turkey bacon
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a loaf pan. I use canola oil in a spray can.
- Put the turkey in a large mixing bowl. Make a depression in the center of the meat with your hand and cracked the egg into it. Using a fork lightly beat the egg.
- Add in the onion, carrot, ketchup, and several hearty shakes of Worcestershire sauce. Add 8 to 10 shakes of Tabasco sauce if you desire. Add both the onion and garlic powders. Sprinkle with salt and grind in some pepper to taste.
- Using your hands, mush it all together until it is combined.
- Use the parmesan cheese and bread crumbs, in equal parts, to pull together this wet, sticky mess. First, sprinkle some cheese over the top, then some bread crumbs, and combine with your hands. Repeat this process until the mixture is dry enough to stick together and pull out of the bowl.
- Place it in the loaf pan, and press it down with your fingers until the top is level.
- Cover your loaf with two strips of turkey bacon.
- Bake for 75 minutes until bubbly and juicy and golden.
Baked Curry Cauliflower
One head of cauliflower
Half a stick of butter
At least 2 Tbsp Curry powder (hot or sweet)
- Cut the bottom off of the head of cauliflower. Then using a sharp knife, cut out the core.
- Now cut the entire head into florets no more than 2” across. Place them all in a big mixing bowl.
- Meanwhile place the butter in a small, glass measuring cup. Cover it (so it won’t splatter everywhere), and microwave until just melted.
- Pour an equal amount of canola oil into the measuring cup of melted butter, then swirl the cup around to mix them together.
- Pour this mixture over the bowl of cauliflower florets, and toss with your hands until you have coated the cauliflower evenly.
- Sprinkle generously with curry powder, then toss again with your hands. Add in more curry powder as necessary until the cauliflower looks golden and glistening.
- Pour into an ungreased, 9”x13” roasting pan and bake at 375 degrees for 75 minutes or until the vegetables look shrunken and browned at the edges (which means the sugars have carmelized inside them. Yum!)
Oven Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
Potatoes (Freshly scrubbed)
Rosemary (If fresh, chop into small sprigs. If dried, sprinkle directly on to potatoes.)
- Cube the potatoes. (I leave on the skins, but you can peel them if you prefer.)
- Dump them into an oven safe pan. (The size of the pan depends upon the quantity of potatoes you’d like to have, but make sure it is big enough for the potatoes to have room for air to circulate around them.)
- Swirl the olive oil over them liberally, then toss with your hands or a spoon to coat them.
- Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary to taste. If using fresh rosemary, sprinkle the sprigs around the pan and tuck a few down in a cranny or two to infuse the whole dish with that perfume.
- Bake at 375 for 75 minutes.