Healthy Alternatives for Comfort Foods
Katelyn Sander

Healthy Alternatives for Comfort Foods

Spice of Life

Winter is all about comfort foods for us! So, as we kick off December, we’re sharing some of our favourite recipes. But most of these have a twist – they’re healthier alternatives to classic dishes that you know and love. You don’t have to sacrifice on taste and flavour just to cut carbs, fat, or calories.

And to top it all off, we’re featuring a few of our favourite neighbourhood gems that are open for pick-up and/or delivery. Help us in supporting local businesses this holiday season!

Top Choice Awards

2020 hasn’t been the year we thought it would be, but we’re still feeling the love, even during these challenging times!

 Stratus has been nominated for the Top Choice Awards again this year! After being named Top Choice’s Best Fine Dining restaurant last year, we’re looking to once again win the crown.

 Voting is open until December 20th. Cast your ballot today, and help us secure the award for the second straight year!

Homemade Vegetable Barley Soup

Loaded with colourful vegetables and filling, pearled barley, this Vegetable Barley Soup is a healthy staple recipe for winter! The best part? Prep can be done in just 5 minutes, and you can be serving in just under an hour!

  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lb carrots (about 4)
  • 1 – 28oz can diced tomatoes (optional)
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 potato (about 3/4 lb)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn (1 can)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas (1 can)
  • Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add the onion, garlic, and olive oil to a large soup pot and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent.
  • Meanwhile, peel and dice the carrots. Once the onions are soft, add the carrots to the soup pot, along with the canned diced tomatoes (with juices), barley, oregano, some freshly cracked pepper, and vegetable broth.
  • Stir the contents of the pot to combine, place a lid on top, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring the broth to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low, and let the soup simmer, with the lid in place, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
  • While the soup simmers, peel and dice the potato into 1/2-inch cubes. After the soup has simmered and the barley is mostly tender, add the diced potatoes and continue to simmer for 10 minutes more, or just until the potatoes are tender.
  • Once the potatoes are tender, add corn and peas. Stir to combine, and heat through (about 5 minutes in the simmering soup).
  • Taste the soup and adjust the salt or pepper to your liking. Serve hot, with fresh chopped parsley on top as a garnish, if desired.

Healthy Chicken Alfredo

Enjoy this 30-minute healthy chicken alfredo with less calories and fat, but packed with flavour! Whole wheat noodles, veggies, and a delectable cream sauce give the perfect spin to this classic comfort food.

  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts or thighs cubed
  • 11 oz whole wheat or gluten free fettuccine linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup stock low sodium
  • 2 cups cold 2% or 3.25% milk
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 3 cups frozen peas, broccoli, or chopped spinach
  • 2 tbsp parsley, for garnish
  • Start making healthy chicken alfredo pasta by cooking pasta and chicken at same time. Fill large pot with water and bring it to a boil.
  • Make the slurry. In a medium bowl, add cold stock, milk, cornstarch, 1/2 tsp salt and whisk with a fork. Set aside. It’s important that liquids are cold to prevent cornstarch from clumping.
  • Cook chicken. While water is heating up, preheat large deep ceramic non-stick skillet on medium heat and swirl oil to coat. Sprinkle chicken with a bit of salt and pepper, add to the skillet and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Going back to pasta while chicken is cooking. Add 1 tsp of salt and pasta to boiling water. Cook for 7 minutes until pasta is al dente, stirring a few times to make sure noodles do not stick.
  • Make sauce. Now your chicken should be cooked. Give that cornstarch mixture a whisk (cornstarch settles fast) and add it to the skillet. Stir, bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes or until bubbly and thickened. Add Parmesan cheese, garlic and stir until cheese has melted. This is what makes the best healthy chicken alfredo sauce!
  • Combine. Using tongs, transfer noodles directly from the pot to the skillet. No need to drain in a colander. Grab a bunch at a time, hold right above the pot for a few seconds and add to the skillet. Stir everything and add peas, broccoli, or spinach.
  • Let chicken alfredo warm through for a minute. Turn off the heat and garnish with parsley and black pepper. That’s it!

Vegan Burrito Bowl

This is one of our new favourites! Eaten warm or cold, this simple burrito bowl is a tasty, satisfying treat! You can easily add any protein to this recipe, if you wish.

  • Tortilla chips – store bought or make your own chips from soft corn tortillas: Cut them into wedges, spritz with water, and bake at 300F until crisp.
  • 2-4 cups cooked grains, rice, quinoa, buckwheat feel free to experiment
  • 2-4 cups canned beans, we like black beans, chickpeas or medley
  • 2-4 cups chopped romaine lettuce or steamed kale
  • 2-4 chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 chopped green onions
  • 1-2 cups canned corn
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • Fresh salsa
  • Salt, pepper, olive oil
  • Break a handful of the chips into pieces in the bottom of each serving bowl.
  • Spoon some of the cooked grains over the chips, followed by some of the beans, then layer on the rest of the toppings: lettuce or kale, tomatoes, onions, corn, and avocado. Drizzle with olive oil. Top with the salsa. (Use more or less of all these ingredients, as desired.)
  • All canned products can be substituted for fresh or frozen, cooking time will vary by the product.

Peanut Butter Protein Balls

When you need a little extra energy, these peanut butter bits will give you that boost you’re looking for. And bonus? They’re SO easy!

  • 1 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir oats, chocolate chips, coconut, chia, flax, cinnamon, and salt until combined. Stir in peanut butter, honey, and vanilla. Mixture should be slightly crumbly. If it’s too dry, gradually stir in milk. 
  • Roll mixture into balls then place on prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Neighbourhood Gems

Rowe Farms: At Rowe Farms, their approach to eating is simple. They believe the best approach to healthy eating is to consume sustainably raised, locally grown, minimally processed, organic foods. Butcher shop and produce but it’s great for the organic grass-fed meat selection, sausages, and beef are incredible.

Soul Chocolate: Soul Chocolate uses fair trade organic beans from all over the world and make the chocolate right behind the counter in the shop. This place makes you reassess what you thought chocolate is and they are offering amazing Advent Calendars.

Descendant: If you’re looking for Detroit style deep dish pizza, you’ve found the right place! Descendant Pizza is in unchartered territory as the city's first Detroit-style pizzeria. A former chef at Pizzeria Libretto and Danforth Pizza House, Christopher Getchell brought the concept to Toronto, which has already garnered an overwhelmingly positive response. Since the grand opening, pies have sold out almost daily.

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