Manic Monday ~ Comfort Food Swap

It's that time of year again...FALL! The days are cooler, the sun sets faster, and rain adds to the need for warmth. With the need for warmth comes comfort. On cold days we feel the need to warm the body up with warm or hot foods. And generally warm prepared foods tend to be more dense. Some of my favorite comfort foods are pizza, robust chili, thick soups, lasagna, and fresh baked goods. It always seems that (besides pizza) those items I just mentioned are rarely eaten in the hot summer months but rather in the fall and winter months. And for some reason, I feel like I have to sit down at the table longer because I can't just scarf down a hot meal. I have to cautiously eat each bite as it begins to cool down. And by golly, I'm going EAT every bite because I can't get it down fast enough. I NEED to get warm and full! I sometimes feel like I'm preparing for hibernation. And by the way, there's no activities outside begging for my attention this time of year....so I can sit longer. But, put those two points I mentioned (warm dense foods and more sitting) together and it's a recipe for a little weight gain.....at least for me. Not this year though! I carefully and methodically planned out my cold month menus and physical activities.

To prove my plan, this past week had been wet and cold. My normal self would be quick to fix lasagna or a loaded chili. I found alternatives! Wednesday night I fixed spaghetti squash. I unthawed a special healthy marinara sauce I made in late summer from my brother's garden tomatoes. I spiced up some lean ground turkey breast with cayenne, pepper, oregano and sea salt. I steam up come frozen veggies as a side. Presto! I meal that fulfilled our warming and comfort needs! My husband even enjoyed it! I fixed the kids a whole grain pasta dish with the same sauce. It was easy to have their meals tweaked along side ours. Later, I sliced up fresh apples we had grabbed from the orchard. I made a healthy dip using Greek plain yogurt, almond butter, and a smudge of agave nectar (add a dash of cinnamon). It was divine!

The next night I baked chicken breast with veggies (get the large frozen bag of squash and asparagus) laid on top of my seasoned chicken. I threw it all in a covered baking dish in my oven at 400* for 1 hour. I had wild rice as a side dish. For our sweet snack later, I put a can of pure pumpkin in a microwaveable dish. I mixed in pumpkin spice and agave nectar and a dash of cinnamon. I warmed it up until it was "bubbling." I let it set a few minutes and dished it up in little dessert cups. For the kids I added a small scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt.

So, even though these are just a few swaps, I feel confident that I can continue this healthier version of comfort foods. My next goal will be preparing for holiday events. Thanksgiving and Christmas is just around the corner. That will be a whole separate plan. Until then, I'm excited about finding new swapping foods that will give me the same warming effect as my previous comfort foods did. Share in the comments section how you "swap" comfort foods! I would love to hear more ideas!

Have a GREAT week!

~Rachel Zimmerman

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