5 healthier recipes for funeral potatoes and other comfort foods

Mormon funeral potatoes

Mormon funeral potatoes combine potatoes, cheese and a crunchy topping. (Photo: Fanfo/Shutterstock)

A recent NPR story about Mormon funeral potatoes described the dish and how it came to be. It's a casserole that's served at funeral luncheons but also at other times casseroles are called for like holidays, potlucks and Sunday dinner — whenever there's going to be a crowd.

This casserole falls squarely in the category of comfort food that can temporarily make you feel better during difficult times. Of course, comfort foods are also the stuff of celebrations. New baby? Bring that family a casserole. New neighbors? Bring them a pie. Celebrating retirement? Bring out the trays of baked ziti.

These dishes are usually not the healthiest, but there are ways to cut some of the fat and calories while adding some more nutritious ingredients. These five recipes are for traditional comfort foods, but they've all been tweaked to be a little more nutritious.

baked-ziti Ziti to feed a crowd. (Photo: Annie/flickr)

Baked ziti: Easier to assemble and less expensive to make than a lasagna, this pasta casserole achieves the same purpose. It comforts with pasta, cheese and sauce (with optional meat) while feeding a crowd. This simple recipe uses whole wheat ziti and organic ingredients. It also has suggestions for adding veggies like spinach, broccoli rabe, mushrooms or peas.

mormon funeral potatoes, casserole At funerals or celebrations, Mormon Funeral Pototoes are a favorite to dig into. (Photo: fanfo/Shutterstock)

Funeral potatoes: The Mormons followed all the comfort food rules when they created this dish. Potatoes, cheese, butter, creamy soups and a crunchy topping of cornflakes or potato chips are the common ingredients. This particular recipe gives suggestions for substituting some of the ingredients like using a homemade canned cream soup substitute or lower fat cheeses and sour cream. The healthier options add a little time to the preparation.

Meatballs in a big pot Meatless meatballs can by very convincing in both their appearance and their taste. (Photo: Robyn Mackenzie/Shutterstock

Meatless Meatballs: A large pot of meatballs is a comforting way to feed a crowd. Include some long, sliced rolls and provolone cheese, and they can be made into sandwiches. This particular meatball recipe uses finely chopped mushrooms instead of beef, combined with traditional meatball ingredients. You'll want to inform everyone there are mushrooms in these, though, in case anyone has a mushroom allergy.

Lentil and Orzo Pasta Salad Give guests a pasta salad that's full of nutrition, not bottled Italian dressing. (Photo:Enrique Gili)

Lentil and Orzo Pasta Salad: Cold pasta salad is another common dish when crowds are gathered, but often it's simply cooked pasta drowned in bottled Italian dressing. This pasta salad is nutritious and filling, with powerhouse lentils, delicate orzo, thinly sliced veggies, feta and a homemade dressing. The recipe makes eight servings, but it can be doubled or tripled easily.

apple pie Apple pie covers all occasions, including funerals, potlucks, new babies and new neighbors. (Photo: Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock)

Apple pie: Less sugar and homemade crust (instead of store-bought with preservatives and other unnecessary ingredients) is what makes this pie recipe a little healthier. Choosing the right apples is also key, so no one will notice a little less added sugar.

Related on On Events:

Does comfort food comfort?

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