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Gratin Dauphinois (French Scalloped Potatoes)

This is a lovely side dish, and it was good reheated. It is an adaptation of Julia Child’s classic scalloped potato recipe. I further adapted it to make it even lower in fat by eliminating one tablespoon of butter (you don’t really need to butter the pan) and using Jarlsburg light cheese and non-fat milk. This is a quick dish to make with no fuss. No fussy sauce – just layer thinly sliced potatoes and cheese, drizzle with hot milk and bake. Mind you, this is the dish I made during which I sliced the tip of my finger off using a mandoline to slice the potatoes.  This made the dish a bit more fussy. But if you’re careful, it’s a great dish. Use any kind of low fat sharp cheese and milk you have on hand. I’m going to try it with cheddar in the near future.

Gratin Dauphinois (French Scalloped Potatoes)

Cooking spray
2 tablespoons melted butter, divided

6 peeled russet potatoes (about 2 pounds), cut into 1/8-inch slices

1 garlic clove, minced

3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Jarlsburg Light  Swiss cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup non-fat milk, heated

Preheat oven to 425F. Spray an 11-by-7-inch baking dish or gratin dish with cooking spray.  Arrange half the potatoes in dish, sprinkle with half the garlic, drizzle with half the butter, half the cheese, and half the salt and pepper. Repeat layers. Pour hot milk over potatoes.


Bake 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender, milk is absorbed and top is browned. My potatoes took about an hour.  Serves 6 at about 6 grams of fat/serving.

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Hotel Potluck Adventure

Only a crazy person makes goodies for a potluck in her hotel room.  I have been traveling, and I wanted to check out a possible congregation to join when I move to Baltimore later this year. Online, it said that their service was to be preceded by a potluck. Taking this as a good sign (naturally I want lots of potlucks), I decided to attend. But I was staying in a hotel, seriously limiting my gourmet cooking capacity. And of course, I would NEVER just go out and buy a pre-made dish. Shame!

The hotel had a refrigerator, meaning something cold was in order. These stuffed peppers were more assembling than cooking. I bought a bag of those assorted multi-colored little sweet peppers, and three cheese spreads: artichoke garlic, sundried tomato, and cream cheese with chives. I also picked up some nice deli olives.  In my suitcase, I brought a small sharp knife, plastic spoons, and a few paper plates to use as cutting boards. I cut and cleaned the peppers in the bathroom sink, spread a bath towel on the coffee table and let the assembling begin.

I cut up bits of olive, and some thin bits of the peppers for decoration. I needed a sturdy tray, so I borrowed the square tray from under the hotel ice bucket – less than elegant, but utilitarian.

These probably have about 3 grams of fat/piece – I used lighter cheeses.

But then the fun began.  I looked up the address of the event, which was in a building called the Interfaith Center. I plugged the address into Helga, my GPS. Appropriately dressed and with a “home-made” offering, I sailed out into the dark and rainy night. Helga took me to a shopping center. When I roamed around trying to find anything that resembled an interfaith center, she shrieked “recalculating” in her stern and disapproving tone. For 40 minutes I roamed up and down Cradlerock Road, where said building was supposed to be. I was getting madder and madder. Finally, I grabbed my cell phone and called up Google to save me. Sure enough, it identified my position and pointed to a spot behind the shopping center and above a gas station and a McDonald’s. I honed in on my object.

There were several things going on in the building. I saw a room with people eating – Jews! Of course, by the time I got there, people were finishing off the remains of what had been there (it smelled good, though). They ate quite a few of the peppers leaving me with the remains for breakfast.

Slow-Cooker Shiitake-Buffalo Stew

In the bottom of my pantry I have one and a half huge Costco bags of dried shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake, native to Korea, China and Japan, have been grown in all three countries since prehistoric times. They have been cultivated for over 1,000 years. They were believed to be medicinal, a remedy for upper respiratory diseases, poor blood circulation, liver trouble, exhaustion and weakness. Dried shiitake must be rehydrated by soaking in water before using. Many people prefer dried shiitake to fresh, considering that the sun-drying process brings out the umami flavor from the dried mushrooms.

History aside, I find shiitake mushrooms to be quite versatile, throwing a handful into various dishes to increase their “meatiness” without increasing fat. They have a nice, chewy texture and flavor that adds substance to a dish.  But one and a half very big bags is simply too much! I need to reduce their bulk by using a large number at once. And that’s when I discovered recipes on the back of the bags.

Beside switching from beef to buffalo to lower fat, I varied the recipe a bit to match up with things I had in the house. It was too snowy to go out to get new ingredients. So for the new potatoes, I used a pound of cut up regular potatoes, and for the recommended canned whole tomatoes I used diced, because that is what I had in the pantry.

This recipe is super easy – everything goes in the slow cooker and then you come home to a great dinner.

The flour in the recipe means you have a good, thick gravy at the end. It also reheated well, with a little water added, so it made good leftovers the next day. It was a perfect winter dish when the temperatures were hovering in the 20’s and I wanted something warm and filling.

Slow-Cooker Shiitake-Buffalo Stew

3 cups dried, sliced shiitake mushrooms
12 new potatoes cut into quarters, or 1 lb. regular potatoes cut in 2 inch chunks
½ cup coarsely chopped onion
8 oz baby carrots
14½  oz can chopped tomatoes, undrained
14½ oz can beef broth
½ cup flour
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 lb buffalo, cut in 2 inch cubes (I used buffalo chuck roast, but any roast would do)

In a medium bowl, cover the shiitake mushroom with water and soak for at least 15 minutes. Drain shiitake mushrooms. Combine mushrooms and all ingredients except buffalo in a slow-cooker. Stir a bit to mix the flour in. Add buffalo.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours (mine slow-cooker runs hot, so 7 hours was enough). Makes 4 hearty servings at about 2.5 grams of fat/serving.

Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus with Cheese

This recipe originally called for the asparagus to be wrapped in prosciutto before being wrapped in phyllo. But I was taking it to a Chanukah party, and prosciutto just won’t work for Jews. So I used a bit of Gruyere cheese in each one instead (I know, not anything like prosciutto, but it worked.)

The asparagus gets cooked, but stays crispy. I recommend not using very thick asparagus, since it might not cook enough. Also, once I snapped off the tough bottoms of the asparagus, some of them were kind of short, and didn’t stick out of the phyllo rolls very far. I suppose you could cut the sheets in quarters instead of thirds to remedy this, but I think they were quite nice as is.

This looks like much more work than it is, and has the well-known Wow factor for potlucks. It would be a great appetizer for New Years Eve or any other festive occasion. 60 of these disappeared in less than ½ hour to rave reviews.

Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus with Cheese

3 ounces grated gruyere cheese
30 asparagus spears, trimmed (be sure to snap off tough ends)
10 (14 x 9-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450°. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Place 1 phyllo sheet on a work surface (cover remaining phyllo to prevent drying); [See Note]. Coat phyllo with cooking spray. Cut crosswise into thirds to form 3 (4 1/2 x 9–inch) rectangles.

Put a large pinch of cheese near the bottom of each phyllo strip. Put it primarily in the middle, so that it won’t ooze out when it is rolled. Note that I put it a little way up and not at the very bottom because I wanted to avoid cheese leakage.

Arrange 1 asparagus spear across short end of each rectangle on top of the cheese.

Roll up phyllo dough jelly-roll fashion. Arrange rolls on baking sheet; coat rolls with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining phyllo, cheese, asparagus, and cooking spray.

Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until phyllo is golden and crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 30 rolls, at about 1 gram of fat/roll.

NOTE: My secret technique for working with phyllo: Recipes always tell you to cover the remaining dough with a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out. I haven’t had much luck with this. My remaining dough gets soggy and tears. So I unroll the phyllo sheets completely and, when I take the first sheet off, I spray the next one down with cooking spray. Then I spray the first sheet I am working with. Repeat each time you remove a sheet of dough – it will stay moist enough, and you won’t have to spray it again when you are working with it.

Christmas Asparagus

This was fast and a big hit. Preheat oven to 425. Roasted 2 pounds of asparagus tossed with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and a bit of sea salt for 10 minutes.

Be sure to snap off the tough ends of the asparagus before you roast them.

Sauteed 8 thinly sliced roasted  chestnuts, 5-6 thinly sliced small colored peppers and the zest from two small lemons in 1 teaspoon of olive oil until the peppers were slightly wilted, then added the juice of one lemon.

Removed the asparagus from the oven, sprinkled with the juice of the other lemon, and assembled artistically. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings at about 2 grams of fat/serving.

I neglected to take a picture until after it had been half eaten.

Pickled Cranberries

I am making pickled cranberries to take to my neighbor’s for Christmas dinner tomorrow. I was trying to think of something interesting to bring, along with a loaf of cranberry bread and roasted asparagus.  This recipe, from Cooking Light, seemed like an interesting and not too difficult idea, a little different than the usual cranberry sauce. The berries stay almost whole, and are kind of sweet and sour.

Pickled Cranberries

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons pickling spice
3 cups fresh cranberries (about one bag of cranberries)

Combine sugar, water, vinegar, and pickling spice in a nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and cook until reduced by half. This takes quite a while, so start early.

While the vinegar mixture is cooking, wash and pick over the cranberries to eliminate any spoiled berries. Strain vinegar mixture through a sieve into a measuring cup or bowl. Add fresh cranberries to original pot and pour strained mixture over them. Place pan over medium heat. Bring mixture to a simmer, and cook just until the cranberries begin to pop (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool. Chill at least 24 hours.  Makes about 8 servings with 0 grams of fat/serving.

Savory Cheese Bread Pudding

Whilst cleaning out my freezer to make room for the many containers of winter soups I am planning, I discovered half a loaf of sliced organic honey whole wheat bread. It was that nice firm, dense sort of bread, although I expect any whole wheat or multi grain bread would work for this recipe.  This bread had 0 fat grams/slice, but if your bread has 1 gram of fat/slice, it would only increase the overall number of fat grams/serving slightly. Since I didn’t wan to try to use all of it for morning toast, but I did want to get it out of the freezer where it was taking up precious space, I decided to make bread pudding.

Now I am a great fan of bread pudding of the cinnamon-sweet kind, with raisins and perhaps bourbon, but this bread seemed to suggest a more savory treatment that could be used as a side dish (or even a main dish with a nice salad on the side) and taken for lunch. The original recipe came from Cooking Light, but I changed it quite a bit, because I wanted more cheese and I didn’t want ham in it. I also wanted to cook it in a single pan, instead of in individual ramekins.

Savory Cheese Bread Pudding

8 ounces of multigrain or whole wheat bread
Cooking spray
4 ounces of reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded, divided (see note)
¼ cup chopped green onions, divided
¾ cup fat-free milk
¼ cup fat-free lower sodium chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup egg substitute

Preheat oven to 375. Cut the bread into ¾ inch cubes. Place bread cubes on a cookie sheet; coat with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted, turning once. Remove from oven and let cool.

Combine bread, 3 ounces of the cheese, 3 tablespoons of the onions, milk, chicken broth, pepper and egg substitute. Spoon mixture into an 8 inch square pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese and onions evenly over the mixture. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes or until lightly browned and firm. Makes 4 servings at 4 grams of fat/serving.

NOTE: I use Kerrigold Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese which has terrific flavor, and only 4 grams of fat/ounce. I typically buy a few chunks, and shred them, freezing them in 1 ounce packages to be ready when I am.  That way they are as convenient as pre-shredded cheddar, which often has up to 6 grams of fat/ounce


ABOUT KAREN

I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

More about me.

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