3 Super Healthy Dishes That Conquer Comfort Food Cravings

Photo: Eating in the Middle


Life is all about balance—balancing sweat-dripping HIIT workouts with restorative yoga, balancing long hours at work with quality BFF time—and food is no different. "I love kale, green juices, and hemp seeds, and I believe in eating a giant salad once a day, but I don't want to be deprived of the rest of the food in the world," writes Andie Mitchell, author of Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook.

eating_in_the_middle_coverMitchell has always loved food. "The photos of me from childhood are full of me and brownies, me and pasta, me and cake," she writes. But when, at age 20, she realized she was overeating and overweight, Mitchell set off to heal her relationship with food. In the process, she lost 135 pounds and learned a whole lot about moderation.

"There's a middle ground," she proclaims, "where most of the time I'm making my own meals with an abundance of wholesome, good-for-me ingredients, and other times I'm springing for the loaded chorizo nachos with my friends because it's Friday and we're nothing if not celebratory."

Her sweet potato curries or black bean burgers will satisfy stomachs all afternoon long, while coconut oatmeal cookies and skillet apple crisp please the occasional sweet tooth without causing crazy sugar crashes. It's all about the ingredients—fresh and wholesome, filling and tasty. Instead of diets and deprivation, Mitchell fills her life (and the pages of her cookbook) with nourishing, tasty foods.

Keep reading for three of Mitchell's favorite dinner recipes to keep cravings at bay.



Photo: Eating in the Middle
Photo: Eating in the Middle

Creamy Farro with White Beans & Kale 

"Farro has a pleasing chewiness that you don’t always get with other grains—perhaps with the exception of wheat berries. It’s hearty; it sticks to your ribs," Mitchell says.

Serves 4

1 cup dry farro
3 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
4 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces portobello mushroom caps, stems and gills removed, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small bunch kale, leaves chopped (about 4 cups chopped)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring the farro, broth, and bay leaf to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the grains are tender but still chewy, about 30 minutes.

Stir the beans into the hot grains. Add the Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses and stir until melted. Cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the mushrooms and cook until browned on one side, 3 to 4 minutes, then stir and cook until browned and tender on the other side, 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer the mushrooms to a warm plate.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the skillet along with the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the kale and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper.

Stir the kale, mushrooms, and parsley into the farro and beans and serve immediately.

Photo: Eating in the Middle
Photo: Eating in the Middle

Cashew & Basil Chicken Lettuce Wraps

"These wraps manage to strike a delicate balance between sweet and salty, crunchy and tender, rich and refreshing," Mitchell says.

Serves 4

1/2 cup unsalted cashews
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 Tbsp hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground chicken breast
2 scallions, white and light-green parts, chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the cashews on a baking sheet and toast until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then chop the cashews and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the broth, hoisin, soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch.

3. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4. Add the chicken and cook, breaking up the meat with a spatula, until browned, 4 to 6 minutes.

5. Add the scallions and the hoisin sauce mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in the basil and cashews.

6. To serve, divide the lettuce leaves among 4 plates and spoon the chicken mixture into each of the leaves.

Photo: Eating in the Middle
Photo: Eating in the Middle

Brown Sugar & Chili-Rubbed Salmon with Avocado Crema

Serves 4

Avocado Crema
1/2 avocado, peeled and pitted
2 Tbsp sour cream
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pinch of salt

1 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 5-ounce salmon filets
4 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lime, thinly sliced into rounds

1. For the avocado crema, in a blender or food processor, combine the avocado, sour cream, lime juice, garlic, parsley, and salt, and pulse until smooth. The consistency should be similar to sour cream—thick yet spreadable. To thin it, add a tablespoon or two of water and pulse to incorporate. Cover and set aside until ready to serve. The crema will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 day.

2. For the salmon, in a small bowl, combine the sugar, chili powder, salt, and cayenne pepper. Lay the salmon filets on a clean work surface and sprinkle the brown sugar mixture evenly over each filet, rubbing it into the flesh on all sides.

3. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil. Add 2 of the salmon filets (skin side up, if they have skin on) and cook, undisturbed, until their undersides are crisp and just beginning to blacken, about 4 minutes. Flip the filets and cook until the fish feels firm to the touch, 4 minutes more. Transfer to a warm plate. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Repeat the cooking process with the remaining 2 filets of salmon. Set the salmon aside.

4. Add the lime slices to the skillet and cook just until they begin to caramelize, about 30 seconds. Flip and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

5. To serve, divide the salmon filets among 4 plates and spoon 2 tablespoons of crema over each. Press a caramelized lime slice into the crema to garnish.

For more information on Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook, click here.

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