Celebs’ Favorite Comfort Foods—Slimmed Down!

12/23/2013 at 11:40 AM ET
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Johnny Autry; Bottom right: Becky Luigart-Staynor
EAT UP TO SLIM DOWN!

It’s been a solid two months of indulging in comfort food, from creamy corn pudding to Mom’s apple pie.

But just because you want to fit into your favorite jeans again doesn’t mean you have to subsist on a diet of celery sticks. Whether your favorite food is buttery, cheesy or carby (or all three!), there’s a sneaky way to lighten up nearly everything you cook.

To prove it, we asked five celebs to dish on the fatty foods they love to eat and wish were healthier for them. Then—with help from our friends at Cooking Light—we created a low-fat, low-cal recipe for each dish. The best part: These alternatives truly taste so good that you’ll never know they’re better for you.

Becky Luigart-Staynor
LISA KUDROW: FRIED CHICKEN

Lisa Kudrow may have played staunch vegetarian Phoebe Buffay on Friends, but her real-life ultimate guilty pleasure? “Fried chicken,” she tells PEOPLE. “But it’s got a lot of calories.”

Normally, yes. But by pan-frying the bird, you get the same satisfying crisp using only a fraction of the oil. The trick: Maintaining a steady oil temperature of 300°–325° while cooking. If the oil is not hot enough, the chicken will absorb too much of it. (Oh, and if the oil gets too hot, the chicken will brown too quickly before fully cooking.)

Using this recipe, fried chicken fanatics like Kudrow can indulge in a thigh and a drumstick—typically two of the fattiest pieces—for just 245 calories and 10g fat.

Pan-Fried Chicken
Serves 4

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ tsp. hot paprika
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
½ tsp. fine sea salt
2 bone-in chicken breast halves, skinned
2 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
2 chicken drumsticks, skinned
¼ cup peanut oil

1. In a small bowl, sift together first 6 ingredients; place mixture in a large zip-top plastic bag.

2. Sprinkle salt evenly over chicken and add chicken, one piece at a time, to bag; seal. Shake bag to coat chicken. Remove chicken from bag, shaking off excess flour. Place chicken on a cooling rack; place rack in a jelly-roll pan. Reserve remaining flour mixture.

3. Loosely cover chicken; chill 1½ hours. Let chicken stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Return chicken, one piece at a time, to flour mixture, shaking bag to coat chicken. Discard excess flour mixture.

4. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat peanut oil. Add chicken to pan. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 25 minutes, carefully turning every 5 minutes.

5. Line a clean cooling rack with brown paper bags; arrange chicken in a single layer on bags. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Johnny Autry
TRISHA YEARWOOD: CHEESE AND BACON—IN ANYTHING!

Trisha Yearwood is a whiz in the kitchen (she’s even taught Kelly Clarkson a few of her cooking secrets) and we’re pretty much obsessed with all of her recipes, including this pecan pie. During a recent visit to the PEOPLE offices, the country star confessed that cheese is one of her weaknesses. “With bacon as a very close second runner up,” she added.

Happy holidays, Trisha—we found you these mini cheese-and-bacon quiches. By using 2% milk instead of cream and loading up on veggies, each weighs in at just 142 calories and 7g fat without skimping on the most important part: the cheese. Extraordi-dairy, indeed.

Bacon and Cheese Custards
Serves 6

4 slices center-cut bacon
⅓ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup thinly sliced green onions
1½ oz. (about ⅓ cup) shredded reduced-fat Swiss cheese
Cooking spray
2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 oz. (about ¼ cup) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
¼ tsp. kosher salt
⅛ tsp. ground red pepper
3 large eggs
2 large egg whites

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble.

3. Reserve 1 tbsp. drippings in pan; increase heat to medium-high. Add bell pepper and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add green onions; sauté 1 minute.

4. Remove from heat; stir in crumbled bacon and Swiss cheese. Divide the bacon mixture evenly among 6 (6-oz.) ramekins or custard cups coated with cooking spray.

5. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat 2 cups milk to 180 degrees or until tiny bubbles form around the edge (do not boil).

6. In a large bowl, place Parmigiano-Reggiano and the remaining ingredients; stir with a whisk. Gradually add the hot milk to egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Divide egg mixture evenly among ramekins.

7. Place the ramekins in a roasting pan, and add hot water to pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake at 350 degrees for 32 minutes or until the center barely moves when the ramekin is touched. Remove ramekins from pan; let stand 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Iain Bagwell
JACK OSBOURNE: PIZZA

Pizza is decidedly not Paleo-approved, a diet that Jack Osbourne identified with in 2012. That doesn’t mean the star doesn’t love a slice; he tells PEOPLE he wishes pizza were better for him. Thick crust or thin? Doesn’t matter—Osbourne’s an equal-opportunity pizza lover.

We’d join him any day for a slice of this sausage pie, which manages to load up on the meat while keeping a satisfying two-slice serving to under 350 calories and 10g fat. The secret? Turkey sausage is lower in fat than traditional Italian sausage, and this pizza isn’t drowning in cheese—a few hefty chunks of ricotta on each slice is all you need. 

Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta Pizza
Serves 4

12 oz. refrigerated fresh pizza dough
1 (4-oz.) link Italian turkey sausage
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
1 tbsp. cornmeal
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup part-skim ricotta
1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
⅓ cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tsp. fennel seeds
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
⅛  tsp. kosher salt

1. Place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet in oven. Preheat oven to 500 degrees (keep pizza stone or baking sheet in oven as it preheats). Let pizza dough stand at room temperature, covered, while oven preheats.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove casing from sausage. Add sausage to pan; cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes, stirring to crumble. Add fennel bulb; cook until tender, about 4 minutes.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll pizza dough into a 16-inch oval. Carefully remove pizza stone from oven. Sprinkle cornmeal over pizza stone; place dough on pizza stone. Brush dough evenly with oil. Sprinkle sausage mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1-inch border.

4. In a small bowl, combine ricotta and garlic; top pizza with teaspoonfuls of ricotta mixture. Sprinkle red onion and remaining ingredients evenly over pizza.

5. Bake at 500 degrees for 11 minutes or until golden. Cut into 8 slices.

Becky Luigart-Staynor
CHRISSY TEIGEN: SCALLOPED POTATOES

Sports Illustrated model Chrissy Teigen is our model for how to indulge. “Fried chicken definitely is what I think of when I think guilty pleasure,” she tells PEOPLE. (Do we smell a dinner party with Kudrow brewing?) “Another one is scalloped potatoes. My mom’s scalloped potatoes with bacon [are] pretty insane.”

For Teigen’s stocking: These scalloped taters, rich with two types of cheeses but kept in calorie check—just 233 in a serving!—by using skim milk and omitting the butter. (Just don’t actually put these in anyone’s stocking.)

Two-Cheese Scalloped Potatoes
Serves 8

1½ cups fat-free milk
1½ cups (6 oz.) shredded reduced-fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, divided
¼ cup ketchup
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. black pepper
2½ lbs. peeled baking potatoes, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
2 cups vertically sliced onion
Cooking spray
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, combine milk, ¾ cup cheddar, ½ cup Monterey Jack, ketchup, Worcestershire and pepper; set aside.

3. In the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray, arrange half of potatoes and half of onion. Top with half of milk mixture. Repeat layers; top with ¾ cup cheddar, ½ cup Monterey Jack, and parsley.

4. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 75 minutes. Uncover; bake until potatoes are tender and cheese is browned, about 20 minutes.

Johnny Autry
PATTI STANGER: TRUFFLED MAC 'N' CHEESE

The Millionaire Matchmaker‘s perfect food match? The truffled macaroni and cheese from the Waverly Inn in N.Y.C, Patti Stanger tells PEOPLE.

Let us suggest a healthier match: this truffled mac and cheese, which only has 418 calories per serving. With three types of cheese, the recipe seems to good to be true. But thanks to some smart swap-ins (l0w-fat milk, olive oil), it’s legit. We think this may be love.

Truffled Mac and Cheese
Serves 6

2¼ cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
2 cups sliced onion (about 1 medium)
1 bay leaf
12 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni
2 tbsp. flour
¾ tsp. kosher salt
¾ cup (3 oz.) shredded fontina cheese
½ cup (2 oz.) shredded Comte or Gruyere cheese
1½ tsp. white truffle oil
2 oz. French bread baguette, torn
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp. olive oil

1. In a large saucepan, heat 1¾ cups milk, onion, and bay leaf to 180 degrees or until tiny bubbles form around edges (do not boil). Cover and remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

3. Strain milk mixture through a colander over a bowl; discard solids. Return milk to saucepan over medium heat.

4. In a small bowl, combine remaining ½ cup milk and flour, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Gradually stir flour mixture and salt into warm milk, stirring constantly with a whisk.

5. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; let stand 6 minutes or until mixture cools to 155 degrees.Gradually add fontina and Comté cheeses, stirring until cheeses melt. Stir in pasta and truffle oil.

6. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart broiler-safe glass or ceramic baking dish. Preheat broiler.

7. Place bread, Parmesan cheese, and garlic in a food processor; process until coarse crumbs form. Drizzle with olive oil; pulse until fine crumbs form. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over pasta. Place dish on middle rack in oven; broil until golden brown, about 2 minutes.

—Marissa Conrad, with additional reporting by Ana Calderone, Caryn Midler and Matthew Cole Weiss

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