Recipes Men Love: Healthy Comfort Food


Not to sound sexist, but most men I know really enjoy sitting down to a nice, home-cooked meal — all the more so when it contains some of their all-time favorite dishes. And who can blame them? It probably goes back to when they were boys, and their mothers or grandmothers would cook up something special just for them.

When you make a man’s favorite foods, it sends the message, “You are special” or “I love you” because you took the time to make a dish that you know he loves. Sounds simple, but this premeditated act of kindness can be very powerful.

So what exactly are these recipes that men love? Only each particular man knows the true answer to that question. It probably depends on what types of foods and dishes he was exposed to as a child.

For example, my guess would be that a man who was lucky enough to have an Italian grandmother would probably have a soft spot for all things pasta. My husband? His mother was part of a large family that lived on a farm in Idaho, so he tends to enjoy Midwestern casseroles and country-style desserts. I can work with that!

Some new research has borne out what many women already know: While men often prefer warm, hearty, meat-related comfort foods, such as steak, casseroles, and soup, women tend to prefer snack-related foods like chocolate or ice cream, according to a recent University of Illinois study.

That said, in this article on recipes men love, we will focus on lighter, healthier versions of just that — steak, casseroles, and soup. I’m even going to throw in a healthier version of apple pie for good measure.

Dad’s Favorite Flank Steak

Journal as: 1 serving of lean meat and moderate-fat meat with 1 teaspoon fat.

There’s something about marinated flank steak — it just looks, smells, and tastes spectacular. We have trimmed the sodium, fat, and calories in this recipe. There’s a health bonus, too: a lower-fat marinade also helps decrease the amount of HCAs (heterocyclic amines, which are thought to work with fat in foods to promote cancer growth) that could form and deposit on the meat.

2 tablespoons canola oil
6 tablespoons concentrated chicken broth (lower sodium if available)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup lower-sodium soy sauce
4 green onions (the white and part of the green) cut into thin, diagonal slices
1 teaspoon ground ginger (or 2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger)
1 teaspoon garlic powder (or 2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 medium-large flank steak (about 1 1/2 pounds)

  • Combine canola oil, chicken broth, honey, soy sauce, green onions, ginger, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce in a medium bowl with a whisk; set aside.
  • Remove any visible fat from the flank. Lightly score the meat with a serrated knife, cutting about 1/4-inch into the meat in a crisscross pattern (leave about an inch between cuts) on the top and bottom of the flank.
  • Put the flank in a rectangular plastic container, add the marinade, and coat the steak well all over. Cover and marinate the flank steak all day or overnight, turning occasionally.
  • Grill 10-15 minutes on each side or until cooked to desired doneness. Use a carving knife to cut diagonally across the grain of the meat into slices of your desired thickness.

Yield: Six servings (3 ounces of cooked steak per serving if using a 1.5 pound flank steak.)

Per serving: 232 calories, 24 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 9 g fat (3.8 g saturated fat, 3.7 g monounsaturated fat, 0.5 g polyunsaturated fat), 57 mg cholesterol, 0.2 g fiber, 488 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 35%

Light Irish Lamb Stew

Journal as: 2 cups hearty stew/chili/starchy soup

My husband loves lamb, and I’m figuring he’s not alone. Here’s an easy recipe for lamb stew that actually tastes better the next day! Just whip up a batch, refrigerate it overnight, and reheat the next day.

8 slices Louis Rich turkey bacon
3 pounds boneless lamb , trimmed of visible fat and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup water
2 cups lower-sodium beef broth (or use regular)
1 teaspoon white sugar
4 cups diced carrots (about 4 carrots)
1 large onion, cut into bite-size pieces
2 medium potatoes with
skin, diced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup white wine

  • Sauté turkey bacon slices in large nonstick skillet or frying pan until cooked, then crumble into small pieces.
  • Put lamb, salt, pepper, and flour in large mixing bowl and toss to coat meat evenly. Coat bottom of large, nonstick skillet or frying pan with 1 tablespoon canola oil, and brown meat over medium-high heat on all sides (5-7 minutes). If you want to fry the meat in two batches, coat the pan each time with 1/2 tablespoon of the oil.
  • Put browned meat into a stockpot. Add another tablespoon of canola oil to the frying pan and sauté the garlic and yellow onion until onion begins to become golden.
  • Deglaze frying pan with 1/2 cup water. Add the garlic-onion mixture to the stockpot with bacon pieces, beef broth, and sugar. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until tender.
  • Add remaining ingredients to pot and simmer covered for 30-35 minutes (until vegetables are tender.)

Yield: Eight servings.

Per serving: 450 calories, 38 g protein, 26 g carbohydrate, 19 g fat (6.4 g , 9 g monounsaturated fat, 3.1 g polyunsaturated fat), 123 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 378 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 38%.

Apple Pie Crisp

Journal as: 1 medium piece of fresh fruit + 1/4 cup of granola/muesli cereal

Most men LOVE apple pie. This is the lower-calorie version. With the wonderful crumb topping, they’ll hardly notice there isn’t any crust.

Crisp Topping:
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground
3 tablespoons no-trans-fat margarine with 8 grams fat per tablespoon, melted (melt in microwave or small saucepan)
3 tablespoons maple syrup, pancake syrup, or light pancake syrup

4 cups cored and thinly sliced apples (pippin and Granny Smith work well), firmly packed
1/4 cup sugar (or substitute 2 tablespoons Splenda)
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
2 tablespoons unbleached flour

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9×9-inch baking dish, 9-inch cake pan, or deep-dish pie plate with canola cooking spray.
  • Toast the walnuts by spreading on a pie plate and heating in oven until fragrant (about 7 minutes). Chop the nuts medium-fine.
  • Combine the flours, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the melted margarine and maple syrup over the top and blend on LOW speed until crumbly. Add the chopped nuts and mix well. (The topping can be prepared up to a week ahead and refrigerated.)
  • Put the sliced apples in a large bowl. Add the sugar and apple pie spice to a 1-cup measure, then pour over the apples and toss. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons flour over the apples and mix gently. Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish.
  • Spoon the topping over the apples, pressing down lightly. Place the dish on a baking sheet (if necessary) to catch any overflow. Bake on the center rack of oven until the topping is golden brown and the juices have thickened slightly, about 35-45 minutes.
  • Serve warm with light vanilla ice cream!

Yield: Eight servings

Per serving (using Take Control margarine): 227 calories, 4 g protein, 37 g carbohydrate, 7.5 g fat (0.7 g saturated fat, 2.7 g monounsaturated fat, 3.8 g polyunsaturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 35 mg sodium, omega-3 fatty acids = 1 g, 0mega-6 fatty acids = 4 g. Calories from fat: 35%.