Comfort foods can be good for you

By Holly Clegg

There is something so delicious about a hot, hearty meal on a crisp day. But don’t think that your favorite comfort foods can’t be good for you as well! No gimmicky diet needed. Eating healthy is not about eating less, but about enhancing our foods with more of the good stuff—fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I’ve trimmed some favorite recipes in calories while keeping the tastes terrific through great ingredients. These are easy, full-flavored, homemade meals you can trust to nourish and please your family.

For the ultimate in comfort food, Chicken and Dumplings hits the spot. And talk about a cinch to prepare. It is made with some of my very favorite convenience foods—rotisserie chicken and biscuit baking mix. With the addition of veggies and low-fat ingredients, you will be amazed at how delectable “health food” can be!

And what could be better than a warm creamy helping of Baked Potato Casserole? My version is stuffed with veggies and has plenty of calcium to boot. There should be no guilt in eating this dish. It’s a plate full of nutrition, as low-fat dairy gives it creaminess while garlic, green onions and bell peppers give it a full-flavored kick. Use extra baked potatoes (and a little leftover crumbled bacon goes a long way).

And hot-out-of-the-oven Best Banana Bread will have your house smelling scrumptious. No intimidation with this simple but superb anytime snack, as all you need is overripe bananas and a few ingredients you probably store in your pantry—brown sugar, cinnamon and biscuit baking mix. I always keep peeled overripe bananas in the freezer to pull out and whip up this quick bread fast!

I know that January has everyone talking about their New Year’s Resolutions, but diet can be a four-letter word! To me, my go-to trim&TERRIFIC “D.I.E.T.” goes back to portion control—Don’t Ingest Everything Today. If you want delicious, good-for-you food fast, my diet philosophy will keep you trim and terrific in 2013!

 Chicken and Dumplings

With rotisserie chicken, canned broth and drop dumplings, this favorite comfort food becomes an effortless one-dish meal.

1 onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups baby carrots

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups fat-free chicken broth, divided

1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves

2 cups chopped skinless rotisserie chicken breast

2 cups biscuit baking mix

2/3 cup skim milk

Salt and pepper to taste

In large nonstick pot coated with nonstick cooking spray, sauté onion, carrots and garlic over medium heat until tender. In small bowl, stir flour and 1/3 cup chicken broth, mixing until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture and remaining broth to pot; bring to boil. Add thyme and chicken. In medium bowl, stir together biscuit baking mix and milk. Drop the mixture by spoonfuls into boiling broth. Return to boil, reduce heat, and cook covered, carefully stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes or until dumplings are done. Season to taste. If soup is too thick, add more chicken broth. Makes 8 1-cup servings.

Holly’s hint: A shortcut for dumplings: Cut flaky biscuits into fourths and drop into boiling broth, or you can even use flour tortillas cut into fourths. You can slice carrots, but I use baby carrots as a time-saver.

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 218 | Calories from fat 23% | Fat 6g | Saturated fat 1g | Cholesterol 32mg | Sodium 1207mg | Carbohydrates 28g | Dietary fiber 2g | Sugars 4g | Protein 15g | Dietary exchanges: 1 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 1/2 lean meat

Baked Potato Casserole10FIBER

Baked Potato Casserole

Turn those leftover baked or mashed potatoes into a delectable, easy side. It’s a cross between mashed, au gratin and baked potato.

6 medium potatoes, baked

1/3 cup skim milk

1 1/4 cups nonfat sour cream, divided

Season to taste

1 onion, sliced

1 green bell pepper, cored and sliced

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup chopped green onion stems

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 9x9x2-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Mash potatoes with milk and 3/4 cup sour cream until creamy. Season to taste. Spread mashed potatoes in bottom of dish. Cover with remaining 1/2 cup sour cream. In nonstick skillet, sauté onion, green pepper and garlic until tender, 5-7 minutes. Season to taste. Layer onion mixture over sour cream. Sprinkle with cheese and green onions. Bake 25-30 minutes or until well-heated. Makes 8 servings.

Holly’s hint: Add crumbled bacon, if desired.

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 217 | Calories from fat 11% | Fat 3g | Saturated fat 2g | Cholesterol 14mg | Sodium 136mg Carbohydrates 38g | Dietary fiber 3g | Sugars 6g Protein 11g | Dietary exchanges: 2 1/2 starch, 1/2 very lean meat

Best Banana Bread

Best Banana Bread

Biscuit baking mix keeps the recipe simple, cream cheese gives this quick bread a rich flavor, and ripe bananas make it moist. Of course, I always include nuts!

4 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese

3/4 cup light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas

1 3/4 cups biscuit baking mix

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. In large mixing bowl, mix together cream cheese and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and bananas. Stir in biscuit mix, cinnamon and nuts (if using) until just blended. Transfer to prepared pan. Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Makes 16 slices.

Holly’s hint: Have overripe bananas? Freeze them in plastic freezer bags to pull out and make banana bread at any time. Freeze them with or without peeling.

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 138 | Calories from fat 25% | Fat 4g Saturated fat 2g | Cholesterol 28mg | Sodium 205mg | Carbohydrates 24g | Dietary fiber 1g | Sugars 13g Protein 3g | Dietary exchanges: 1 starch, 1/2 fruit, 1/2 fat

Holly Clegg is the author of the best-selling trim&TERRIFIC cookbooks, Eating Well Through Cancer and Too Hot in the Kitchen: Secrets to Sizzle at Any Age. For more information, visit or