Whenever we feel down, cold or sad our mother’s or grandmother’s home cooking can bring us happiness, warmth and joy. It’s a great feeling, knowing that the tasty food and the warm embrace it brings will be there to comfort us.

Comfort food, by definition, is a traditional food that is eaten to provide a sentimental or nostalgic feeling to the person or individual eating it. Traditional comfort food has high levels of carbohydrates and requires simple preparation. The nostalgic element of comfort foods can be specific to the person or to a culture as a whole.

Why Are Comfort Foods Comforting?                 

Science has proven the effects of comfort foods. As many researchers and experts have stated, certain types of foods (specifically natural foods) have many advantages like lowering the risk of depression or dementia. There was a study that divided college students’ comfort food preferences into four groups; nostalgic food, convenience food, indulgence food and physical comfort foods. The study emphasized the deliberate selection of specific foods and their ability to modify the mood of the person. The study found that males preferred warm, hearty comfort foods like steaks, stews and soups, while women prefer snack-related comfort foods like ice cream or chocolate. The researchers also stated that essential fatty acids like Omega-3 fatty acids in comfort foods provide the positive benefits in enhancing mood and brain function.

Healthy Comfort Food Recipes

We know that comfort foods are mostly hearty meals, but for anyone who is conscious about their health, there are healthy versions of the comfort foods that we know and love. Let’s begin!

1. Veggie Mac & Cheese

1 small peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash

1 cup of homemade chicken stock

1 ½ cups of nonfat milk

1lb of elbow macaroni

4 Oz of grated extra sharp cheddar

A pinch of nutmeg

A pinch of cayenne pepper

Ground pepper

½ cup of part-skim ricotta cheese4 tbsn of grated Parmesan cheese

Olive oil cooking spray

1 teaspoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon  of bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375F. Combine the squash, chicken stock, milk in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a boil in medium heat and simmer until the squash is tender. Remove from heat and then mash the contents. Stir the salt, cayenne, nutmeg and black pepper. Stir.

In large pot, bring water to a boil and then add salt. Add the macaroni, cook until al dente or according to the package instructions. Drain the macaroni and transfer to a large bowl. Stir the parmesan, squash mixture,ricotta  and cheddar.

Coat a square baking dish with the cooking spray. Transfer the noodle mixture to eh dish. In a separate small bowl, combine the remaining Parmesan, oil and bread crumbs. Sprinkle it over the mixture

Cover with foil and bake for 20  minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is brown and crispy. Serve while hot. Enjoy.

2. Light Chicken Parmesan

4 boneless  and skinless chicken breast

1 large egg white

2 tbspn of all purpose flour

2 slices of shredded whole wheat bread

1 tbspn of grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon of olive oil

Salt and pepper

¾ cup of mozzarella

1 minced garlic clove

1 can of pureed  whole peeled tomatoes

Preheat oven to 425F with the rack in the third slot. Line a sheet of rimmed baking foil and then set aside. Place the bread, Parmesan, oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse until coarse crumbs are formed, place in a shallow bowl. Place the flour in a second bowl and then season with salt and pepper. Place the egg white in the third bowl and beat using fork until frothy.

Dip the top side of the chicken breast in flour. Shake excess and then dip the same side in the egg white, then in bread crumbs. Repeat steps  with the remaining chicken breast and transfer the breaded chicken to a baking tray. Bake the chicken for 10 minutes or until the breading is crisp and brown. Remove the chicken from the oven and sprinkle with mozzarella. Continue baking until cheese is light brown.

In a separate skillet, break the tomatoes with your fingers. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Cook until the sauce thickened, about 8 minutes. Serve the chicken with the tomato sauce. Enjoy.

3. Chicken With Olives And Lemon

4 skinless and boneless chicken breast halves

2 teaspoons of grated lemon rind

¼ cup of fresh lemon juice

1 ½ of minced garlic

1 tbspn of extra virgin olive oil

Cooking spray

2 teaspoons of chopped fresh oregano

½ teaspoon of chopped rosemary

½ teaspoon of ground pepper

15 pitted and sliced oil cured olives, sliced

1 large shallot

1 thinly sliced lemon

Preheat oven to 400F.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and lemon rind in a zip top plastic bag. Add the chicken breast to the bag and then seal. Shake the chicken to distribute the marinade. Marinate chicken for 15 minutes at room temp. Arrange the chicken mixture in a broiler on a baking dish coated with the cooking spray. Sprinkle oregano on the chicken and the next 4 ingredients. Top with the lemon slices and bake for 2 minutes at 400F

Remove chicken and then preheat the broiler to high. Place the chicken 3 inches from the broiler heating element and broil high for 3 minutes until the chicken is brown. Serve hot.

Image courtesy of http://www.myrecipes.com/

Image courtesy of http://www.myrecipes.com/

4. Healthy Meatloaf

1 cup of dried mushrooms (shiitake, porcini or Chanterelle)

1 cup of bulgur

1 cup boiling water

1 stalk of chopped celery

1 chopped small onion

1 minced garlic cloves

1 tbspn of Worcestershire sauce1 15oz can of dice tomatoes, drained

½ cup of nonfat evap milk

1 large egg

½ cup of ketchup

2 large egg whites

1 ½ lbs of lean ground beef

1 cup of fine breadcrumbs

½ teaspoon salt

14 cups of parsley

2 teaspoons of dried thyme

Place the mushroom in a small bowl and then cover with warm water to soften for 30 minutes. Once soft, remove the mushroom from the liquid and then trim the stems. Chop the caps coarsely.

Preheat the oven to 350F and coat the baking  tray of baking sheet with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stew the garlic, onion and celery. Stir occasionally until the vegetables are soft. Add the Worcestershire and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, ketchup and the evaporated milk – stir to combine well and until the mixture is thick. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool

Whisk the egg whites and the eggs in a large bowl. The the bread crumbs, beef, the soaked bulgur, tomato mixture and the mushrooms. Stir in salt, thyme and parsley. Mix gently using your hands.

Mold the mixture into a free-form loaf on the baking  tray or baking sheet. Bake until the loaf’s internal temperature is 165F, or about 60 minutes. After cooking, let the meatloaf cool down for 10 minutes. Slicing the meatloaf when hot will not hold the shape and crumble. Once cool, slice and serve.

Image courtesy of http://www.eatingwell.com/

Image courtesy of http://www.eatingwell.com/

5. Wallumbilla Crustless Quiche

4 eggs

1 cup milk

½ cup of self-rising flour

½ cream

1 ½ cup of grated cheese

3 tbspn of melted butter

For The Filling

3 cups of mushroom or 3 cups of ham or 3 cups of asparagus or 3 cups of bacon

Preheat oven to 180C

Combine and whisk the first 5 ingredients

Stir the filling and cheese

Pour the mixture into a greased quiche plate

Bake for an hour at 180C. Serve hot.

Image courtesy of australian.food.com

Image courtesy of australian.food.com

6. Sirloin Steak With Chive-garlic, tomatoes in Mushroom Sauce

4 packs of 4 Oz  trimmed boneless sirloin steaks

3/8 teaspoon of black pepper

1 tbspn of olive oil

¼ teaspoon of salt

1 8oz package of cremini mushrooms

½ cup of dry red wine

1 24 Oz of packed mashed potato

1/3 cup of chopped chives

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

Sprinkle the sirloin with a ¼ teaspoon of pepper and 1/8 teaspoon of salt evenly. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, reduce heat to medium and then put steaks into the pan. Cook for 2 minutes on each side or until your preferred doneness. Remove the steaks from the pan and keep it warm.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or  until it begins to brown. Stir frequently and then combine the red wine, flour, ½ cup of water and the remaining pepper and salt. Bring to a boil and stir well. Cook until sauce is thick and remove from heat.

Prepare the pre-packed mashed potatoes according to pack instructions. Stir in the garlic powder and the chives. Place about ¾ cups of ashed potatoes on each plate. Top it with 1 steak and pour about ¼ cup of the mushroom sauce. Enjoy.

Image courtesy of http://www.myrecipes.com/

Image courtesy of http://www.myrecipes.com/

Bon Apetit!

About Author

Jon specialises in research and content creation for content marketing campaigns. He’s worked on campaigns for some of Australia's largest brands including across Technology, Cloud Computing, Renewable energy and Corporate event management. He’s an avid scooterist and musician.