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Just stew it! A healthy approach to comfort food

When the air turns frosty and you tend to pull on your oversized sweaters, reaching for high-fat comfort foods is all too tempting. However, there are healthier - and equally sumptuous - alternatives. A steaming hot bowl of winter stew is food for the cold and wintered soul and a delectable alternative to heavy, high-calorie casseroles and meatloaf.

Even better, stews are easy to make and, since they only use one pot, they are generally quick to clean up. They can also be a painless way to start incorporating more vegetarian foods into your diet. Try nixing the meat, using vegetable broth or water as a base and chocking up on veggies. Another advantage in stirring up a stew is versatility. You can follow a recipe or just mix and match your favorite ingredients.

  1. First grab a large pot and sauté some of the basics in olive oil — onions or garlic if you like.
  2. Then, pour in a base — broths work best. Choose chicken or vegetable — about one cup per serving.
  3. It is a good idea to initially add the veggies that take the longest to cook, such as potatoes and carrots. Test them for tenderness before moving on to the other ingredients.
  4. Season to taste by adding sherry or wine to the broth, and sprinkling in some spices.
  5. If you like things creamy, stir in sour cream at the last minute (about a tablespoon per serving). You can also throw in some grilled chicken or ground beef if vegan is not your style.
  6. Finally, spoon your stew into nice ceramic bowls and top it off with crumbled corn chips or grated cheese. Serve your creation with a crusty loaf of bread and a smile.

Sunny Artichoke And Garbanzo Bean Stew
Serves 10Here is a basic recipe just waiting for you to modify to your own tastes.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
6 medium red or white potatoes cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon ground dried)
3 celery stalks, sliced
6 cups chicken stock
1 (15-ounce) can corn
2 (15-ounces each) cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 (14-ounce) can drained, halved or quartered artichoke hearts
Salt and pepper to taste
10 cups couscous, cooked per package directions
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Sour cream (optional)DirectionsBring the chicken stock to a simmer in a large saucepan. In a larger pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat, add the onions and garlic, and sauté until soft and translucent, 7 to 9 minutes. Sprinkle the turmeric and paprika into the onions and sauté for 1 minute. Add potatoes, rosemary, celery and chicken stock. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Stir the drained corn, chickpeas, mushrooms and artichoke hearts into the stew. Remove the rosemary sprig, add salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Dish the couscous into bowls, then spoon the stew over the cous cous. Top with a dollop of sour cream or grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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