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Article updated: 4/12/2011 1:45 PM

Comfort food can be lean

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By Don Mauer

A low-fat, lower-calorie cookbook gets my heart beating a little faster when it includes complete nutritional information, teaches me new ways of making recipes healthier, showcases meals I'd make without requiring hard-to-find ingredients and includes loads of pictures.

Cooking Light magazine's newest cookbook: "Comfort Food: Home-Cooked, Delicious Classics Made Light", definitely got my heart racing.

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Eating just because I'm hungry isn't a good enough reason to eat. Every meal should also make me feel good about what I'm eating; if not, why eat it?

Comfort food, by virtue of its name, is supposed to meet the "feel-good" criterion. But because comfort food comes packed with calories (usually from sugars or highly-refined carbohydrates, like flour or both) and fat (butter comes to mind) I usually feel not-so-comfortable afterward.

When I first thumbing through Cooking Light's new cookbook, I found myself stopping every couple of pages to gaze at the pictures and mumbling "This can't be healthy." Yet a read of the nutritional analysis confirmed that each recipe I checked got 30 percent or fewer of its calories from fat.

The book starts with breakfast and ends with dessert so, of course, the first recipe that brought me to an abrupt halt was a sausage and cheese breakfast casserole. Really? At 184 calories and 6.8 grams of fat, yes, really.

Then there's make-ahead, ooey-gooey sticky buns (188 calories, 4 g fat), maple-glazed sour cream doughnut holes (178 calories, 5.9 g fat) or something less refined, carb-driven and more substantial, like sweet potato and Canadian bacon hash (207 calories, 68 g fat).

Soups come next with makeovers for beer cheese soup (363 calories, 12.3 g fat), chicken and dumplings (366 calories, 9.3 g fat), and Mexican black bean sausage chili (395 calories, 11 g fat). Want a sandwich to go with your soup? Lobster salad rolls with shaved fennel and citrus clock in at 238 calories and 6.2 g fat while an egg salad BLT hits 371 calories and 11.7 g fat.

Not sufficiently comfortable yet? How about a Chicago deep-dish pizza (390 calories, 9.2 g fat) or three-cheese macaroni and cheese (321 calories, 9.9 g fat)?

Looking for healthy yet comforting side dishes? The oven-baked garlic fries yield 256 calories and 7.7 g fat, and these are made with real butter. The bourbon baked beans with real bacon (199 calories, 3.1 g fat) got my mouth watering, as did the sweet potato casserole (258 calories, 9.2 g fat).

Desserts stay true to the theme with Key Lime pie (288 calories, 5.9 g fat), a classic pecan pie (288 calories, 9.2 g fat) and New York cheesecake (291 calories, 9.8 g fat) among the recipes.

Cooking Light's book also shares loads of tips and tricks on how they perform their culinary magic with over 200 pictures to guide you to great-looking results. All that for just $25.

Try this recipe: Here's a sample of what you'll find between the covers of "Comfort Food: Home-Cooked, Delicious Classics Made Light."

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe make-over requests. Write him at don@theleanwizard.com.

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