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5 healthier comfort food dishes

chicken-pot-pie

Comfort food is a necessity to get us all through the winter days. There’s little more satisfying than a belly-filling dish. During the icy temperatures, it can be tempting to abandon clean-eating habits and take the easy route by ordering a takeaway to satisfy our comfort food needs.

DW Fitness Clubs tells us how to make comforting and yummy dishes without compromising a healthy diet while keep you feeling full and warm.

Zucchini Lasagna

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One of everyone’s favourite comfort foods, lasagna just makes all of life’s problems better. Unless one of life’s problems is calorie intake. We’re not saying ‘never eat any pasta’ – research has shown that as part of a balanced diet it can be an effective weight-loss tool – but we do want to show that there are alternatives to the carb-heavy meal if you are conscious about your calorie intake.

Ingredients (serves 4)
• 30 ml of olive oil
• 250g of reduced-fat cream cheese
• 450g of part-skim ricotta cheese
• 1 tablespoon of coarse salt
• 1 tablespoon of ground pepper
• 2 zucchini, halved lengthwise
• 1 minced garlic clove
• 30g of dried oregano
• 500g of vegetarian mince (frozen)
• 250 ml of hot water
• 1 diced green pepper
• 1 diced onion
• 1 can of tomatoes
• 1 egg
• 500g of chopped spinach – frozen, thawed and drained, or lightly steamed from fresh
• 500g of mushrooms, sliced
• 250g of grated parmesan cheese
• 2 tablespoons of chopped basil

Instructions
1) Preheat your oven to 165°C. You’ll need an oven tray – grease it using the olive oil.
2) Slice the zucchini lengthwise into thin slices, sprinkle some salt over them and drain them in a colander.
3) Add your vegetarian mince to a pan, adding canned tomatoes once the mince is thawed. Now it’s time to add the oregano and basil. Don’t be scared to add a small amount of hot water if the sauce is too thick.
4) Stir the egg, ricotta and parsley in a bowl until it’s well combined.
5) To assemble the lasagna, place half the mince mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Layer half the zucchini strips, half the ricotta mixture, all the spinach, all the mushrooms, and finally half the mozzarella cheese.
6) Repeat with the remaining mixtures in the same order.
7) Once that’s done, spread parmesan evenly over the mozzarella, and cover with foil.
8) Now that your tray is ready, pop it in the oven for 45 minutes, and raise the oven temperature to 175°C for another 15 minutes.
9) Once ready, remove from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Health benefits
Aside from the dish containing egg, which is an underrated nutritional marvel, this vegetarian meal is low-carb, gluten-free and filling. By removing the pasta sheets, and replacing the staple mincemeat with a vegetarian alternative, you’re eliminating a large source of carbohydrates and saturated fats from the meal!

Chicken skewers with tzatziki

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The Mediterranean diet is well-known for being good for your heart, with research published in the journal BMC Medicine revealing that Britons could benefit from eating like the Mediterraneans.  That’s why we’ve prepared this super-easy and tasty Mediterranean-inspired dish for you.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Chicken skewers:
• 4 skewers
• 500g of chicken breast, chopped into squares
• 2 zucchini, cut into halves
• 1 teaspoon of oregano
• 1 teaspoon of thyme
• 30 ml of extra virgin olive oil
Tzatziki:
• 250 ml of Greek yoghurt
• ½ a fresh cucumber
• 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
• 2 chopped garlic cloves
• 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
• ½ teaspoon of paprika
• 3 fresh mint leaves
• Salt and pepper (optional)

Instructions
For the tzatziki:
1) Grate the ½ cucumber. Dice a few mint leaves.
2) Pour the Greek yoghurt into a serving bowl, adding the grated cucumber. Stir in the chopped garlic and the paprika. Pour in a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, and add the diced mint leaves.
3) Add a little extra flavour with a small amount of salt and pepper if you feel it needs it.
For the chicken skewers:
1) Coat the chicken with a thin layer of olive oil. Grill chicken pieces separately on low heat for 15 minutes (or until cooked through). Add some salt, oregano and thyme for flavour.
2) While the chicken is cooking, cut the zucchini into thin strips.
3) Once the chicken is ready, remove it from the heat. Do not turn grill off yet.
4) Roll zucchini strips and place each slice on a skewer with a piece of chicken breast. Repeat until skewer is full.
5) Place the skewer on the heat for two minutes for zucchini to brown slightly. Add any more oregano and thyme to flavour the zucchini.
6) Remove and serve with tzatziki.

Health benefits
Combining the zucchini with the chicken breasts creates a protein meal that is light on saturated fats and high in nutrition. Also, as we only gently sear the zucchini, we can ensure that the nutrients within the vegetable are not denatured. We also love Greek yoghurt, as it is richer in protein than regular yoghurt.

Turkey goulash with cauliflower mash

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There’s nothing like a hot, spicy stew to make you forget about winter’s icy chills, and this variation on a traditional Hungarian delicacy will keep you warm during this winter’s freezing weather.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Mash:
• 1 Cauliflower, chopped
• Canned cannellini beans
• 100 ml (half a cup) of chicken broth.
• 2 tablespoons of chives
• 1 teaspoon of oregano
• 30 ml of olive oil
• 1 grated garlic clove
• 30g of parmesan cheese
• 60 ml of skimmed milk
• Salt and pepper to season
Goulash:
• 500g diced leftover turkey breasts
• 1 chopped onion
• 2 grated garlic cloves
• 2 chopped carrots
• 250 ml of peas
• 1 can of chopped tomatoes
• 75 ml of tomato puree
• 900 ml of chicken broth
• 250 ml of Greek yoghurt
• 30 ml of olive oil
• 50g of whole-wheat flour
• Parsley
• Paprika
• Cayenne pepper
• Chilli powder

Instructions
For the mash:
1) Boil the cauliflower for around 7 minutes (or until it’s tender) in a large boiling pot of water at medium-high heat.
2) Pour the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic cloves and your herbs – cook on a low to medium heat until slightly brown.
3) Rinse and strain the cannellini beans in a sieve.
4) Place the cauliflower, cannellini beans and garlic and herb-infused olive oil into a food processor. Add that delectable parmesan for some extra taste, as well as the skimmed milk to help provide the texture. Blend!
For the goulash:
1) Sauté the onions and garlic on a light heat for 5 minutes. Add in the flour and paprika, cayenne and chilli powder.
2) Stir in the chicken broth and add the canned tomatoes and tomato puree to this, followed by the carrots and peas. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally before lowering the heat. Simmer for 40 mins.
3) Add your turkey (which should have been cooked separately by this point) and stir in the Greek yoghurt before serving.
4) Serve with a generous helping of cauliflower mash!

Health benefits
Substituting the potato with cauliflower and cannellini beans makes for a lighter mash so you won’t feel as bloated. The danger in mash potato comes from adding the butter and the milk. Calorie count estimates that 100g of mash has 4.2g of fat and 11mg cholesterol.
To combat this, we’ve replaced the butter with olive oil, and to keep the texture and taste authentic, swapped out the whole milk for skimmed, going instead for small amounts of rich, fat-light parmesan for the kick that your mash needs.

Chicken pot pie

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During the cold weather, a warm, filling pot pie is irreplaceable as one of the best chicken recipes out there.

Ingredients (serves 4)
Crust:
• 250 ml of whole-wheat flour
• 3 tablespoons of ice water
• 1 teaspoon of cider vinegar
• A quarter of a teaspoon of salt
• 65 ml of vegetable shortening
Filling:
• 750 ml of chicken stock (separated into 3 cups)
• 350g of cubed sweet potato
• 150g of sliced carrots
• 2 teaspoons of butter or margarine
• 125 ml of chopped onions
• ½ a cup whole-wheat flour
• 500g diced chicken breasts
• 100g of peas (frozen is fine)
• A handful of chopped mushrooms
• ¾ of a teaspoon of salt
• 1 teaspoon of black pepper
• Olive oil
• 2 teaspoons of low-fat milk (1%)

Instructions
For the crust:
1) Preheat the oven to 200°C. Measure out your flour.
2) Mix together ¼ cup flour, ice water and vinegar into a small bowl. Separate to this, mix ¾ cup of flour into a larger bowl. Mix these bowls with the vegetable shortening in a pastry blender, or use two knives to mix if you don’t have a blender. Stir until the mixture becomes moist.
3) Press dough mixture into a 5-inch circle on cling film.
4) Cover this with more cling film. Chill this for 5 minutes.
5) Roll the dough, still covered, into a 13×10 inch oval. Place the dough into the freezer for about 5 minutes, or until the cling film is removable.
For the filling:
1) Cook the diced chicken in a pan – use olive oil to prevent sticking.
2) Bring 2½ cups of chicken stock to the boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add in the potatoes and carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Drain mixture in a colander over a bowl to save the liquid.
3) Melt the butter into a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add in your onions and mushrooms and cook these for 3 minutes.
4) Mix together ½ cup of flour and the remaining chicken stock, stirring with a whisk. Add these to your frying pan. Add in your potato mixture and reserved cooking liquid, your cooked chicken, mushrooms, peas, and salt and pepper. Cook for around 10 minutes to allow the mixture to thicken.
5) Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. While it’s cooling, spread some olive oil around the inside of a casserole dish.
6) To add the crust – remove one layer of cling film from your dough, and position it over the chicken mixture. Press it against the edge of the dish and then you can remove the final layer of cling wrap from the dough.
7) Finally, pierce some slits to allow air to escape and brush the crust with milk. It’s now ready for the oven!
8) Bake at 200°C for around 45 minutes or until golden. When it’s ready, let it stand for 15 minutes. Dig in!

Health benefits

Not only is it filling, but chicken pot pie has the nutrients of all the veggies you add to it, as well as the protein-rich chicken. Since we’re using chicken breasts, we’re not eating the fatty chicken skin. To lighten the pie, we substituted the heavy cream in the filling with chicken stock, and opted for whole-wheat flour as opposed to all-purpose because it is less refined. All-purpose flour, while delicious, loses more than 50% of its nutrients. With whole-wheat flour, none of those nutrients are lost.

Chinese mixed vegetables and rice noodle stir fry

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We all love a good Chinese takeaway or an Asian stir fry, but they’re not always the healthiest option here’s a scrumptious Chinese-inspired stir fry, and it’s really simple to make.

Ingredients (serves 4)

• A handful of snow peas
• 500g of prawns, peeled and deveined
• Red peppers
• Yellow peppers
• Orange peppers
• Red cabbage
• 100g of bamboo shoots
• Spring onions
• 100 ml of soy sauce
• 1 teaspoon of honey
• ½ teaspoon of chilli powder
• 250g of rice noodles
• 2 tablespoons of canola oil

Instructions
1) Place the rice noodles in a bowl of warm water and soak until soft (around 20 minutes). Drain in a colander, and keep close at hand.
2) In a separate bowl, stir together soy sauce and honey. Keep this near to hand.
3) Place a large wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two. Pour the canola oil into the wok and spread it around evenly.
4) Add the garlic and stir fry it for a few seconds, before adding the peppers, red cabbage, snow peas, spring onions and bamboo shoots, and stir fry for one minute.
5) Add the shrimp and the sauce, and stir fry for a further three minutes, or until the shrimp is bright pink. Now the drained rice noodles can go in. Fry for another minute.
6) Remove from the heat and serve!

Health benefits

Prawns are a low-fat source of protein, and delicious to boot. According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, prawns have a high content of Omega-3 fatty acids with 114g providing about 325 -375mg of Omega-3 fatty acids. Meanwhile, adding the snow peas means you are benefiting from nutrient-rich legumes in your meal. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) bamboo shoots have zero fat and are loaded with potassium – over 500mg per 100g.
We’ve also gone with rice noodles, which are a light alternative to traditional noodles.

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