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How to enjoy comfort food you won’t regret later

August 1, 2013

It has been a little hectic on the work front recently, so when Lisa Dent asked to do a guest blog and then happened to mention my new favourite buddies, nori and brown rice, I felt like I had met a kindred spirit. Lisa is a nutritionist who I actually like! She is now a freelance writer promoting wonderful brands like EcoStore that she believes in, and is going to rock your comfort eating world for the betterment of humanity…take it away Lisa (but…at home).

For many people, the most reassuring foods (in an eat-our-feelings kind of way) are childhood favorites full of butter, cream, cheese, and carbs. Yet it’s actually really easy to revamp these heavy dishes into delicious, healthy meals that can be deployed whenever a bad mood strikes.

Perking Up Pasta Bakes

Cheesy, oozy, gooey – pasta bakes are a quintessential comfort food. Yet pasta bakes can also be pretty bland, which makes them a pretty poor indulgence investment. With a few tweaks, it’s possible to make a pasta bake which satisfies you for more reasons than just nostalgia. The key is to start with a healthier pasta (try soba noodles, or pasta made from spelt, quinoa, or rice), add complementary vegetables, and finish with a flavoursome sauce.

For the vegetables, consider what you love and what’s in season. Heavier vegetables like squash are best roasted first, but many can simply be washed, roughly chopped, and added in with the cooked pasta before baking. For cheesy sauces, one option is to use your favorite tomato-based sauce, but stir in up to 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast and top with a thin layer of Parmesan and more nutritional yeast, plus some lightly buttered crumbs.

Cheating With Chinese 

Seventy-three percent of Australians say that Chinese is their favourite international cuisine, but it doesn’t always have to be a greasy affair. Chinese inspired dishes can be super easy to revamp, making takeaway seem much less appealing. Instantly boost flavour in your homemade fried rice by using leftover brown rice instead of white. Brown fried rice is also absolutely delicious topped with crumbled nori or seaweed, which adds an extra crispy texture and subtle saltiness to the dish. Seaweed is also ridiculously healthy – depending on the variety and where it was harvested, it contains the minerals, amino acids, vitamins, and trace nutrients missing from vegetables grown in overworked soil.

nori on rice-1

Other Chinese takeaway standards can also be duplicated at home but with fewer mystery ingredients, greasy regret and more actual flavour. Try the sauces below on your next stir fry to get all the comforting qualities of Chinese takeaway, while saving your indulgence points for something a little more life-affirming.

Takeaway Lemon Sauce

  • 150ml water or stock
  • Zest and juice from two lemons
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp finely minced garlic
  • 2-4T honey, to taste
  • 1T cornstarch

Combine the first four ingredients, then slowly drizzle in the honey, tasting regularly to decide when to stop (this is the best bit). When it’s still a little tart, you can usually stop. Whisk in the cornstarch, then pour over your stir-fry and cook until bubbling and thickened.

Takeaway Kung Pao Sauce

  • 100ml water or stock
  • 1T hoisin or teriyaki sauce
  • 1-2T honey
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp chili paste, to taste
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp freshly ground Szechuan pepper
  • 2 tsp finely minced garlic
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1T cornstarch

Combine all the ingredients except the cornstarch, then whisk that in slowly. Pour over your stir-fry and cook until bubbling and thickened.

Thanks Lisa! We’d love to hear your sneaky little tweaks too, so comment away! 
10 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2013 11:17 pm

    These sauces look so good! I’m a big fan of Chinese food!

  2. August 2, 2013 1:31 am

    You are absolutely right – comfort food *can* be healthy… and guilt-free. Veggies over pasta is delicious – we like to roast ours over the BBQ for rich, deep flavors. Your Kung Pao Sauce looks great – I’ll be trying that!

  3. August 2, 2013 3:30 pm

    That fried rice looks so filling and wholesome and full of flavour!

  4. August 4, 2013 2:03 am

    Yum, great ideas!

  5. August 4, 2013 7:57 pm

    I’m absolutely rubbish at thinking up my own Chinese inspired sauces. Excited to try this one!

  6. August 9, 2013 1:11 am

    It’s truly all about moderation…and retraining the palate. Enjoyed your post!

  7. August 11, 2013 4:36 pm

    Love these sauces!

  8. August 12, 2013 10:32 am

    I have to admit, I often find that Chinese takeaways are too greasy. One of the reasons why I never order fried rice or fried noodles. I opted for noodle soups instead. Noodle soups are a great non-greasy comfort food.

  9. August 12, 2013 5:15 pm

    “Chinese takeaway standards can also be duplicated at home but with fewer mystery ingredients, greasy regret and more actual flavour” … love these lines! And love the recipes for the sauces !

  10. ohfudgemonkey permalink
    September 26, 2013 4:35 am

    Reblogged this on Fudge Monkey Recipes and commented:
    Stir Fry Tonight!

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