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Resolution solutions

I’m not usually a person who makes New Years’ resolutions but after the unpredictable year 2020 was, I feel compelled to make a plan and stick to it. I’ve resolved to wear zipper jeans at least one full day per week (a painful proposition, I know.) In order to achieve this lofty ambition comfortably, it will be necessary to cut some fat, carbs and calories from the boredom diet I’ve grown accustomed to.

Farewell crunchy snacks and pudding cups topped with mounds of squirty whipped cream from the can. Hello to healthier versions of classic dishes that are both satisfying and flavorful.

On a cold winters’ day nothing beats a bowl of soup. Easy onion soup starts with a slow-simmered beef broth. Homemade broth allows the cook to control the amount of fat and salt. To easily remove the fat from the broth simply chill after cooking. That brings the fat to the top in solid form that can be skimmed off with a spoon and discarded. Add sauteed onions and herbs and voila, it’s soup.

And don’t get me started on casseroles, the ultimate comfort food. Typically, casseroles include canned cream soup, meat or poultry and lots of cheese. That screams fat, salt and calories. The filling for Baked Chili Casserole, on the other hand, combines lean ground beef, onions, tomatoes, corn and zesty spices. The cornbread topping does add carbs, but less fat and calories make up for the splurge.

At 92 calories per serving there’s nothing wrong with seconds of Warm Spinach Salad with Red Potatoes and it sure doesn’t hurt that the salad also includes bacon, eggs, mushrooms and a delicious sweet and sour dressing. It’s perfect for lunch or a light supper.

Onion Soup

(85 calories/5 grams fat/3 grams carbs per 1 cup serving)

5 cups water

4 ounces lean beef cubes or soup bones

2 large onions

2 tsp. vegetable oil

1/4 tsp. pepper

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

Salt, to taste

Grated parmesan cheese, for garnish

Directions: Combine the water and soup bones or beef in saucepan. Cook 4 hours or overnight in a slow cooker. Remove the soup bones or beef, reserving stock.

Slice the onions and saute in skillet in the vegetable oil until brown and tender. Add to the beef stock along with the seasonings. Simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour to blend the flavors. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve topped with a teaspoon of grated cheese. Makes 5 cups.

Baked Chili Casserole

(265 calories, 8 grams fat, 27 grams carbs)

1-pound ground beef

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 T. chili powder

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 T. biscuit mix

3 T. water

1 (14.5 ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained

1 (15.25-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

Cornbread Topping

3/4 cup biscuit mix

1 tsp. salt

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal

2/3 cup milk

1 egg

Directions: Cook beef and onions in 2-quart saucepan, stirring frequently, until beef is brown and onion is tender. Drain.

In small bowl mix chili powder, cumin, 1 tablespoon biscuit mix and 3 tablespoons water. Add to beef and onion. Break up tomatoes and add, along with corn and salt, to the beef mixture. Heat to boiling, stirring frequently. Pour mixture into ungreased 8x8x2-inch square baking dish.

For topping, combine the biscuit mix, salt, yellow cornmeal, milk and egg, stirring till blended. Pour over beef mixture. Bake uncovered 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Serves 6 to 8.

Warm Spinach Salad with Red Potatoes

(92+ calories, 7 grams carbs, 5 grams fat)

1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach, torn

3 small red potatoes, cooked and diced

2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

2 bacon strips, diced

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/2 tsp. cornstarch

1/4 cup apple juice

2 T. cider vinegar

2 tsps. granular no-calorie sweetener or sugar

1/8 tsp. pepper

Directions: In a salad bowl, toss together spinach, potatoes, eggs and mushrooms.

In skillet, cook diced bacon until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. In the drippings, saute onion until tender.

In small bowl, whisk together cornstarch, apple juice, vinegar, sweetener and pepper till smooth; stir into skillet with bacon fat. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until slightly thickened and bubbly. Pour over spinach mixture. Add bacon and toss. Serve immediately. Serves 8.

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