Saturday, January 23, 2016

Au Gratin Potatoes

My Aunt Kay and I were having a discussion one day about a cabbage casserole my Grandmother used to make that had layers of onions and cabbage and cheese. That conversation turned into a discussion about au gratin potatoes. Well you know I had to fix some that week. Anyone could figure out the basic recipe was layered potatoes and onions, but I wanted to experience a few options on how to make the best homemade cheesy yumminess that makes these so good and tweak it to our taste. I went to www.allrecipes.com and searched for creamy au gratin potatoes and the first picture looked exactly like I pictured perfect au gratin potatoes would look. All I can say is CathyM hit it out of the park. Her recipe for Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes was perfect!

I haven't fixed these since Andy's really been watching his carbs, but now that we have learned to control our portions and not eat the whole dish; I think we will treat ourselves to some this week.

INGREDIENTS:
4 medium-large potatoes
1 medium sweet onion (Vidalia when available)
Salt & pepper to taste
Sauce:
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese (or your preference)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a small casserole dish with cooking spray or softened butter.

Peel potatoes and slice them to an equal thickness so they will cook evenly. (Between 1/8" to 1/4")
Slice onion and break up into rings.
  Make a layer in the casserole dish with half of the potatoes and top with the onion slices.
 Layer the remaining potatoes on top and season with salt & plenty of pepper to suit your taste buds.
Now comes the creamy, cheesy, yummy part. This is just like preparing any sauce or gravy. Melt the butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour and salt. Keep stirring until well blended. Slowly add milk while continually whisking so you don't end up with lumps. As is starts to thicken, add the cheese and blend with a spoon until it's nice and creamy.
Pour that creamy goodness on top of the potatoes and onions. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for about one and a half hours. Carefully check the doneness of the potatoes during the last fifteen minutes. Slowly remove the foil so you don't get burned by the steam. If your potatoes are done, put the dish back in the oven and let it bake so that the cheese sauce can "get a tinge of brown" like Andy says. If you cut your potatoes too thick and they require a lot more time, I'd cover them back up and check again fifteen minutes later.
Dig in!! Just try to pace yourself and don't overdo it.

Low Carb Cheesecake

We are seven months into a healthier lifestyle. I found out this week that once you are used to eating healthy, when you eat out, your body lets you know. A family member was in the hospital and we ended up getting take out for supper several nights. In addition, I was picking up something quick on the way there for lunch. Two strikes a day and I was out! We remedied that with a big pot of white chili Thursday and steamed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots on the side of an oven-baked pork loin last night.

It's Saturday and we are living in a winter wonderland today thanks to Mother Nature! The extreme cold is a great motivator to post a few recipes from the huge list we've tried over the last several months.

When we were planning the dessert portion of our Thanksgiving menu, I wanted to keep with the healthier eating theme. I adjusted the family favorite Banana Pudding by using sugar free ingredients when I could and dropping the sweet condensed milk. Everyone still loved it! This dessert was by no means "sugar free" but the reduction in sugar didn't deter anyone from digging in. I also fixed a sugar free chocolate fudge pudding pie with a pecan crust. For something new, I wanted to find a recipe for a low carb cheesecake. You know I'm not a dessert baker, so I went to Food.com to begin my search.

The first one I saw was "Mackie's Low Carb/Sugar Free Cheesecake." The ingredient list was pretty basic and so were the directions. I made a test pie ahead of the holidays and we loved it. We've eaten it plain, topped with home grown frozen cherries (cooked with a small amount of sugar substitute and a dab of cornstarch) and drizzled with caramel sauce with sea salt.

INGREDIENTS:
3 (8 oz) boxes cream cheese softened to room temperature
1 cup sour cream
2 tsps. vanilla
3 eggs
1-1/4 cup Truvia baking blend

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Have a large baking sheet set to the side. You will need to add water to this pan about half way up the side of your pie pan, so check that your pie pan will fit in it properly.

Spray the pie pan and set to the side.

Beat softened cream cheese, in a large bowl, with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sour cream and mix until smooth. Continuing to mix, add in one egg at a time. Finish up by adding the vanilla and sugar substitute.

Pour the mixture into the pie pan. Center the pie pan in the baking sheet. Slowly add water to the baking sheet--about 1/2 inch or so. Carefully set in preheated oven.

Bake for 38-45 minutes or until pie center is set. (Peek through the oven window to see how it is progressing. Don't open up the oven door!) If the center of the pie is even remotely jiggly, it's not done!

 The pie puffed up like a souffle. The edges turned a pretty golden brown.
Let the cheesecake cool a little and put it in the refrigerator. As it cooled, it deflated.
This cheesecake was a hit. The recipe was a keeper!



Thursday, January 7, 2016

Fake Mashed Potatoes

In our healthy eating journey, we are always on the lookout for a little variety. The mashed cauliflower has been good, but I saw a recipe for "Mock Mashed Potatoes" on the Pickles & Honey blog in my Pinterest feed and had to give it a try. I varied a little to accommodate my pantry. Andy and I agreed that although it required more effort; the texture and taste of this was far better.

INGREDIENTS:
1 head cauliflower
1 can Great Northern Beans, not drained*
Chicken broth (I make my own with water plus Better Than Bouillion) *If needed
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut up the cauliflower into small pieces. Boil in salted water until very tender. Drain the water. In a separate pan, heat the beans.
In a food processor, add the cauliflower in batches. I kept pulsing until I got the whole head mixed well and in very small pieces. Add in the heated white beans. Process the beans and cauliflower until a smooth consistency. Add the chicken broth as needed if the texture is too thick. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to your taste.

*I did not drain the liquid as the can didn't have a lot of liquid, I did add some chicken broth because they were a little too thick.