Comfort Foods Without the Calories
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Comfort Foods Without the Calories

Whether you're craving pasta, pizza, or burgers, we've got your quick, healthy fix. Here are five delicious, slimmed-down recipes that are a carb and cheese lover's dream come true.

Macaroni and Cheese

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Makes 5 servings

  • 2 1/2 cups dried radiatore, rotelle, or elbow macaroni (8 ounces)
  • 2 cups reduced-fat (2 percent) milk
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup American cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 cup coarsely crushed seasoned croutons
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded
  • Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pot.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large screw-top jar, combine 1 cup of the milk, flour, mustard, salt and pepper; cover and shake until combined. Pour into a medium saucepan. Stir in remaining 1 cup milk. Cook and stir over medium heat just until bubbly. Reduce heat to low. Add cheddar cheese and American cheese, stirring until melted. Pour sauce over pasta, stirring until combined. Spoon into a 1-1/2-quart casserole.
  3. Bake, covered, for 15 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together croutons and Parmesan cheese; sprinkle over casserole. Bake, uncovered, about 5 minutes more, or until heated through. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Nutrition facts per serving: 346 calories, 16g protein, 44g carbohydrate, 11g fat (7g saturated), 2g fiber

Spicy Chicken Pizza

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 13 minutes

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 teaspoons cooking oil
  • 12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 10-ounce package refrigerated pizza dough
  • 1/2 cup mild picante sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large nonstick skillet, heat cooking oil. Cook chicken strips in the oil over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until no longer pink. Remove from skillet. Add red pepper and onion; cook about 5 minutes, or until tender. Remove from skillet; set aside.
  2. Coat a 15-x-10-x-1-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Unroll pizza dough in pan; press to form a 12-x-8-inch crust. Pinch edges of dough.
  3. Spread crust with picante sauce. Top with chicken and vegetables; sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake for 13 to 18 minutes, or until crust is brown and cheese is melted.

Nutrition facts per serving: 305 calories, 21g protein, 34g carbohydrate, 9g fat (3g saturated), 2g fiber

Thai Turkey Burgers

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 14 minutes

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Thai seasoning
  • 1 pound uncooked ground turkey
  • 4 kaiser rolls or hamburger buns, split and toasted
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons purchased peanut dipping sauce
  • Scallions, sliced on the bias (optional)

  1. Preheat the broiler. In a medium bowl, combine egg, bread crumbs, and Thai seasoning. Add ground turkey and mix well. Shape the turkey mixture into four 3/4-inch patties.
  2. Place patties on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil, turning once, 3 to 4 inches from heat, for 14 to 18 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F. on an instant-read thermometer.
  3. To serve burgers, put some basil on the bottom half of each bun. Add patties and spoon peanut dipping sauce over them. Garnish with scallions if desired. Add bun tops.

Nutrition facts per serving: 389 calories, 31g protein, 36g carbohydrate, 13g fat (3g saturated), 2g fiber

Texas-Style Quesadillas

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 4 to 6 minutes

Makes 6 servings

  • 6 4-inch or four 6-inch white corn tortillas
  • Cooking oil or nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 to 3 medium fresh serrano chili peppers, halved, seeded, and cut into thin
  • 1 roma tomato, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons light sour cream

  1. Lightly brush one side of each tortilla with cooking oil or lightly coat with cooking spray. Divide cheese evenly among unoiled sides of 2 larger or 3 smaller tortillas. Add pepper slices, chopped tomato, and cilantro. Top with remaining tortillas, oiled sides up.
  2. Heat a heavy skillet or griddle over medium heat. Cook quesadillas, one at a time, about 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until cheese melts and tortillas are lightly browned. Cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges. Serve warm with sour cream.

Nutrition facts per serving: 105 calories, 4g protein, 11g carbohydrate, 5g fat (2g saturated), 1g fiber

Slimmed Skillet Lasagna

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 16 minutes

Makes 6 servings

  • 8 ounces uncooked bulk turkey sausage
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 2 cups jarred spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups dried lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese

  1. In a large skillet, cook sausage and onion until meat is brown and onion is tender, breaking up the meat. Drain off fat. Stir in spaghetti sauce and water. Bring to a boil. Stir in uncooked noodles and zucchini. Return to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 12 minutes, or until noodles are tender, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, and parsley. Drop the cheese mixture by the spoonful into 6 mounds over sausage-noodle mixture in the skillet. Sprinkle each mound with mozzarella. Cover and cook over low heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until cheese mixture is heated through. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Nutrition facts per serving: 221 calories, 17g protein, 22g carbohydrate, 8g fat (3g saturated), 3g fiber

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, April 2007.