by Sharon Palmer, RD
Having grown up in Seattle, I have somewhat of an attachment to the Pacific Northwest weather; and while I openly embrace the Californian sunshine, I also warmly welcome the cool weather November brings. As the weather in Southern California has slowly shifted from steaming hot to pleasantly brisk, it’s been fun to create some classic comfort food recipes in my kitchen. And while comfort foods are often typically laden with high-fat meats, cheeses, and cream, they also include some wonderfully nutrient dense veggies. For example, stews typically highlight potatoes and carrots, chili features fiber-rich beans, and many pasta dishes emphasize tomatoes. When it comes to eating for both taste and health, the trick is to cut back on the butter, cream and cheese, and pile on the veggies, herbs, and low-sodium seasonings.
Adding tomatoes, in particular, to your comfort food recipes is a good idea. Tomatoes have been linked to protecting against inflammation caused from eating a high-fat meal, such as those creamy soups or cheesy lasagnas. According to a Tomato Products Wellness Council study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research in 2012, eating tomato products with a high-fat meal significantly reduces LDL (“bad cholesterol”) oxidation and inflammatory markers in the blood. Additionally, the antioxidants in tomatoes products seem to work together to protect lipoproteins and vascular cells from oxidation, the most widely accepted theory of atherosclerosis.
So, while most people are eager to include tomato products, such as tomato paste, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, salsa, and ketchup in their recipes for taste reasons, there’s another good excuse to pile on the tomatoes – your health.
Homemade Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons
There is nothing more comforting than a warming bowl of soup on a cool autumn day. Enjoy this lightened-up version of creamy tomato soup with mini grilled cheese croutons for a recipe the whole family will love.
Ingredients for croutons:
4 slices hearty whole grain bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine alternative
2 slices sharp cheddar cheese (or plant-based cheese)
Instructions for croutons:
- Place one slice of cheddar cheese between two slices of bread.
- Heat once tablespoon butter in a cast iron skillet. Place the first sandwich in the skillet and cook until side is golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Flip sandwich and cook on the other side until golden brown and the cheese melts, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Repeat with the remaining two slices of bread, butter, and cheese.
- Cut each sandwich into eight squares.
Makes 16 croutons total.
Nutrition analysis per serving:
- Calories: 59
- Total Fat: 3g
- Saturated Fat: 2 g
- Sodium: 62 mg
- Carbohydrates: 6g
- Fiber: 1g
- Sugar: 1g
- Protein: 2g
Ingredients for soup:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup reduced-fat (2%) milk (or plant-based milk)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
Instructions for soup:
- In a large pot, bring add olive oil and chopped onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown.
- Add garlic cloves and cook for an additional 1 minute.
- Add vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add milk and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
- Top with grilled cheese croutons and serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings
***You may also garnish with sliced avocado for an added boost of heart-healthy fat.
Nutrition analysis per crouton:
- Calories: 116
- Total Fat: 3g
- Saturated Fat: 0 g
- Sodium: 613 mg
- Carbohydrates: 21g
- Fiber: 5g
- Sugar: 3g
- Protein: 4g