Ellie Krieger’s new cookbook Weeknight Wonders offers 150 healthy and delicious recipes that take 30 minutes or less to get on the table. The registered dietician, author, and Food Network host advises on time management and how to eat healthy foods happily.
Let's talk comfort food.
I think comfort food causes emotional and physical reactions. It’s something that gives you the warm fuzzies in terms of your emotional reaction to the food—and that can be different for everyone. For me it can be a healthy food like chicken soup, but it can also be shrimp and grits. And physically I think comfort food fills your belly with warm goodness. I really feel a strong connection to comfort foods.
Give us an example of a surprisingly healthy comfort dish?
I have so many that I love, but my meatballs and marinara is the one I’d choose. There are certain foods people think they shouldn’t have because they are “unhealthy.” Secondly, they think it will take forever to cook, and that it’s a Sunday project. Meatballs and marinara are a perfect example; you can make them in half an hour. A Sunday sauce is one thing. But this sauce is packed with flavor and is better for you. I use 90 percent lean beef, and I use oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs, and I grate carrot in there, garlic, tomatoes and it’s done!
What is the easiest step to eliminate when cooking with limited time?
If I’m making soups, I’ll heat the broth while I’m sautéing vegetables. Also I always have pre-washed greens in my refrigerator, like baby spinach or kale. I also take advantage of the freezer, I always have frozen fruit. My daughter loves frozen mango chunks as a snack, and the nutrients are locked in
How do you make a comfort food recipe healthy?
First, I amp up the vegetables. I have a number of pasta dishes in the book where I incorporate whole grains, and keep portions modest but get a big bowl by adding vegetables. I use lean protein, lots of veggies and whole grain pasta. Grate carrots in my meatballs. I try to eliminate white flour--but if it interferes with the texture or the experience of the food, I wont go there.
When you crave high fat/high sugar foods, do you indulge? Or do you adjust your recipes?
At home, I aim for an oasis of healthful eating. So if I’m craving pizza, which I do almost every day of my life, I make salad pizza using whole grain crust and a smart amount of cheese. So I adjust ingredients at home while still eating what I crave. So yes, I create an environment of usually healthy foods in my home, but I throw in some butter and breadcrumbs. I also go out to eat a lot and I enjoy it and then I celebrate it and I eat real, authentic New York pizza and Belgian fries. I try not to do that too often, but I do do it. My food philosophy is “sometimes, and rarely.”