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February 3, 2012

Comfort Foods with a Twist


By: Morgan Davis, RD, LDN, Community Dietitian

In the second meeting of this winter cooking class session, warmth and cozy feelings were the focus of our recipes.  We took comfort foods and added a healthy twist.  The class had verbalized the desire to learn how to cook pasta dishes- someone even suggested stuffed shells.  However, we like reaching outside the box to pair tastes, textures and colors that will bring our recipes to the next level- so we didn’t limit ourselves to simple spaghetti, but chose recipes that were loaded with color, taste and nutrition!

This time dessert came first- that is, the preparation of the dessert was the first item on our culinary agenda.  Laura demoed an easy way to cut and core Asian pears using just a paring knife.  Soon, all 15 participants were creating delicate pear slices that were tossed in a bit of maple syrup to bring out the naturally sweet pear goodness.  Tart cranberries were added and then everything was topped with a crumbly topping flavored with spicy, yet soothing ground ginger.  Preparing the Pear-Cranberry Crisp first allowed plenty of time for the pears to tenderize and the topping to become crisp and golden.

Next, I showed the class how to cut an eggplant length-wise to create long thin slices.  Instead of stuffed shells, the class was presented with a recipe for stuffed and roasted eggplants (or aubergine as they are sometimes referred).  While our eggplant slices tenderized, Flora and Joseph created a creamy ricotta-mozzarella filing, flavored with garlic, basil and oregano.  Kimberly and Taloria chopped some spinach for some bright green color.  Then everything was rolled up neatly in the softened eggplants, topped with a freshly-made tomato sauce and popped back in the oven. 


To answer the request for pasta, the next dish was anti-oxidant-packed butternut squash and kale pasta.  Velvety butter beans were added to provide a healthy dose of protein and parmesan cheese gave that extra savory, nutty flavor that helps this pasta qualify as a comfort food! 

To balance out a plate full of hot and creamy foods, Moroccan carrot salad was the last recipe to tackle.  How does a salad qualify as a comfort food you ask?  This particular salad was constructed from hearty carrots and jicama- a bulbous root vegetable that has a light, crisp flavor.  Yasmeen helped whisk together a dressing that included the warming flavor of curry and invigorating, freshly-squeezed lemon juice.  This salad was one of the class favorites and most agreed that though jicama was something they had never tried or even seen before, this vegetable would find a place on their next shopping list!  Hopefully next week’s class will also bring about some firsts and new favorites!


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