Comfort Food Makes Chilly Weather Better – Lighten Up Your Favorites!

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Chilly fall nights do not have to leave you searching for your stretchy pants. Tap into the season’s best fall flavors with these recipes you can feel good about! Sadly, often our favorite warm creamy comfort foods are loaded with calories and fat. Here are some traditional yummy recipes, made just a little lighter so they will be a little better on the waistline!

Baked Mac & Cheese with Spinach

3 tablespoons Panko
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 16-ounce or 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed (I use fresh whenever I can)
1 3/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 ounces (2 cups) whole-wheat elbow macaroni, or penne
Put a large pot of water on to boil. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat an 8-inch-square (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.
Mix panko, oil and paprika in a small bowl. Place spinach in a fine-mesh strainer and press out excess moisture.
Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup milk and flour in a small bowl until smooth; add to the hot milk and cook, whisking constantly until the sauce simmers and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Cheddar until melted. Stir in cottage cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Cook pasta for 4 minutes, or until not quite tender. (It will continue to cook during baking.) Drain and add to the cheese sauce; mix well. Spread half the pasta mixture in the prepared baking dish.
Spoon the spinach on top. Top with the remaining pasta; sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture.
Bake the casserole until bubbly and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
If you want to make ahead; Prepare through Step 4. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, if necessary, then bake for 35 to 45 minutes.
Serves 4, each serving contains: Calories 576, Fat 22 g, Cholesterol 69 mg, Carbohydrates 63 g,
Protein 37 g, Fiber 9 g, Sodium 917 mg, Potassium 403 mg.

Crock Pot Tuscan Chicken

(one of my favorites)
1 ½ pounds chicken breast, about three large chicken breasts
Salt and Pepper to taste

1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
3 cups baby spinach
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
Season the meat with salt, pepper and oregano. Drop in butter, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes.
Cook on low for two to three hours or until an instant read thermometer reads 165F. Remove
chicken to a side dish and tent with foil. Allow meat to rest.
Mix spinach, cheese and heavy cream into the sauce. If desired, cook zoodles or pasta noodles to
serve with sauce. Mix cooked zoodles/noodles into sauce and top with sliced chicken.
Serves 6, each serving contains: Calories 262, Fat 17 g, Carbohydrates 4 g, Protein 27 g.

Low Carb Cheesy Chicken Pumpkin Casserole

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, whichever you prefer
½ medium onion
3 cups broccoli florets
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese, sometimes I switch up to sharp cheddar or pepper jack
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Add the olive oil to a skillet over medium-high heat on the stove.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until cooked through. Remove and set aside.
Add the onion and broccoli to the same skillet in the left over oil. Sauté until softened a bit.
Mix the chicken and vegetables together in a well-greased 9×13 baking dish. Remove the excess oil from the skillet.
Add the butter and garlic to the skillet, and reduce the heat to medium. Sauté for 30 seconds.
Whisk in the heavy whipping cream and the pumpkin puree. Sauté until the sauce begins to thicken.

Mix in the parmesan cheese and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Mix until melted. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables in the baking dish, and stir to combine.
Top with the remaining mozzarella, and bake for 20 minutes.
Serves 6, each serving contains: Calories 425, Net Carbohydrates 6 g, Protein 37 g,

Ranch Veggie Chicken Casserole

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 tablespoon canola oil
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium red or green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour, if you are counting carbs, leave this out
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 7-ounce can or two 4-ounce cans diced green chilies, drained
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 6-inch corn tortillas, cut in half, divided, I use the Keto Tortillas sometimes
1 cup shredded Colby-Jack cheese, divided
1/4 cup sliced ripe black olives, divided, optional
Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat two 8-inch-square baking dishes with cooking spray.
Place chicken in a large saucepan and add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until just cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a clean cutting board. Dice when cool. (Here’s what I do, I bake a bag of chicken breast or chicken tenders at 350 degrees for about an hour to an hour and a half, that way I can use the chicken in more than just one recipe in
a week).
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the mushroom liquid has evaporated, 7 to 9 minutes. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring, until just tender, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and chili powder; stir for 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add broth and cook, stirring, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in tomatoes, sour cream, chilies, salt and the chicken.
To assemble: Spread 1 cup filling in each prepared baking dish. Layer on 4 tortilla halves and top with 1 cup filling. Repeat 2 more layers of tortillas and filling, ending with the rest of the filling.
Sprinkle cheese and olives on top.
To serve: Bake until hot and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. To freeze: Let unbaked casserole(s) cool to room temperature. Tightly wrap with heavy-duty and freeze. To prevent foil from sticking to the cheese, coat with cooking spray first.) This recipe can be frozen prior to baking, thaw before baking.

Serves 4, each serving contains: Calories 356, Fat 13 g, Cholesterol 81 mg, Carbohydrates 29 g,
Added Sugars 0 g, Protein 33 g, Fiber 5 g, Sodium 698 mg, Potassium 662.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 14-ounce cans vegetable broth, or reduced-sodium chicken broth
8 ounces broccoli (or broccoli) crowns, cut into 1-inch pieces, stems and florets separated
1 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery; cook, stirring often, until the onion and celery soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add potato and garlic; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in flour, dry mustard and cayenne; cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
Add broth and broccoli stems; bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in florets; simmer, covered, until the broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes more. Transfer 2 cups of the chowder to a bowl and mash; return to the pan.
Stir in Cheddar and sour cream; cook over medium heat, stirring, until the cheese is melted and the chowder is heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.
Alternate method; for those of you that know me, I am a big fan of the crock-pot. If you are too, throw all of the ingredients (except the cheese and sour cream) in a crock-pot, turn to high for about 4 hours (it is just easier), add cheese and sour cream a little before serving.
Serves 6, each serving contains: Calories 205, Fat 9 g, Cholesterol 21 mg, Carbohydrates 23 g,
Protein 9 g, Fiber 4 g, Sodium 508 mg, Potassium 436 mg.