Now that it’s finally comfort food weather, everyone’s thoughts are turning to indulgent favorites like pot pies and creamy soups. This is out of nostalgia, or just because it’s cold outside. But eating fewer lean meats and fruits could spell trouble just as we’re spending less time outside.

The compromise? Upgrading ingredients like the white flour in pie crusts to quinoa flour and making swaps like roasted eggplant or zucchini in place of bread to add fiber and vitamins to dishes. Vegetarian Comfort Foodsis full of ideas like these so you can still feel the satisfaction of a hearty meal, while making sure your gut is getting some love, too.

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These recipes will also help with the other side effect of all the rich foods that fill our plates this time of year: digestive issues. Author Jennifer Browne’s first book, Happy Healthy Gut, detailed her journey to heal her decade-long struggle with irritable bowel syndrome through changing her diet, specifically by cutting out meat.


The recipes in her new book are vegetarian, but there’s flexibility in either direction, whether you eat eggs or need ideas for making them vegan.

Recipes reprinted with permission fromVegetarian Comfort Foods: The Happy Healthy Gut Guide to Delicious Plant-Based Cookingby Jennifer Browne (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015.)

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

This recipe is perfect for football season to improve the greasy food bomb that is stuffed (and usually, fried) mushrooms.Filling and robust, it’s a hearty veggie extra that your omnivorous friends will want to make themselves. This also makes a great entree if you want to double your portion.

Ingredients (4 servings)
4 portobellomushrooms
1 small fennel bulb
1⁄2 yellow onion
1⁄2 cup shredded zucchini
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. sundried tomatoes
2 tbsp. goat cheese or feta
1 tbsp. avocado oil
1 tbsp. olive oil
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
1⁄4 cup raw pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash mushrooms and pull off stems. Dice mushroom stems, fennel and onion; shred zucchini; and mince garlic.

Place avocado oil in frying pan and heat. Add garlic and onion and sautee for about 30 seconds. Add the fennel and mushroom stems, and cook until they are just softened.

Remove from heat, and add sundried tomatoes, zucchini and cheese. Pull the rosemary off its stem and rub between fingers to release flavors. Rip apart and add to mixture.

Stir well. Scoop one quarter of the mixture into cavity of each mushroom. Brush the sides with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Remove from baking sheet, garnish with seeds, parsley and additional rosemary, and serve alongside a salad or some sprouted brown rice.

Garbanzo Quinoa Salad

This salad is perfect to make for dinner and then bring to work for lunch the next day. It’s super high in plant-based protein and deliciousness! Garbanzo beans are better known as chickpeas, but I like saying the word “garbanzo,” hence the name of this dish. Eliminate the feta to make vegan.

Ingredients(6 servings)
1 cup quinoa
1⁄2 cucumber
12 grape tomatoes
6 basil leaves
16-oz. can garbanzo beans
1 tbsp. fresh pressed garlic
1⁄2 cup feta cheese
1⁄4 cup balsamic vinaigrette

Cook quinoa according to package directions, then set aside to cool. Dice cucumber, slice tomatoes in half, and cut basil leaves into thin strips. Drain and rinse beans.

In large bowl, combine cooled quinoa, garbanzo beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, basiland garlic. Add crumbled feta cheese if using. Add balsamic vinaigrette, mix together well, and serve. Will keep nicely for a couple of days in the fridge.

Chunky Monkey Cookies

These cookies are soft and fabulous and entirely flourless. They’re nutritious enough to eat for breakfast, and I’m not just saying that to make myself feel better.To make vegan, substitute the chocolate chips for cacao nibs.

Ingredients (2 dozen)
3 ripe bananas
2 1⁄2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1⁄4 cup almond butter
1⁄4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3cup unsweetened applesauce
1⁄2 cup dark chocolate chips
1⁄4 cup chia seeds
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash bananas in a large bowl and then stir in remaining ingredients. Let batter stand for about 10 minutes (this is important—it’s how the batter thickens up). Drop by small spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet and flatten slightly with a fork. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool completely, then enjoy!

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