Posts Tagged 'cheese'

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.


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.

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

Use-Up-the-Tomatoes Salad with Perlini

Yes, it’s potluck time again.  H-N is supposed to bring salads.  I know I have to make something with tomatoes, because I have 6 tomatoes sitting on my counter that will certainly expire before I eat them.  I usually take a chopped salad for lunch – tomato, cucumber, other veggies, some kind of cheese – but I think I had a lot of leftovers to take this week so the tomatoes didn’t get eaten.  Also, I plan to do yard work all morning, so whatever I make has to be something quick and easy.

I decided to make a large version of a chopped salad, dressed up with bread croutons.  I even used a good low fat bottled dressing, which I often use on my lunch salads, rather than home-made.  I had quite a few other vegetables in the house, but I went to the grocery to buy a cucumber and see if there was something interesting I could add.
The vegetables.

And there I found…perlini!

They are not fish eggs or giant tapioca.  They are tiny balls of fresh mozzarella, just waiting to be mixed into a salad.  Let me tell you, they were a sensation in the salad. Great Wow factor. Everyone exclaimed over them.  The salad was pretty much gone by the time I gathered up my bowl to take it home.  This is an imprecise recipe in terms of the veggies.  You can use what you have in the house or what looks good in the store or at the farmers’ market.

Use-Up-the-Tomatoes Salad with Perlini

6 medium tomatoes, cut in 2 inch pieces
1 large cucumber, peeled and mostly seeded, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 sweet pepper (I used yellow), cut in one inch pieces
¼ of a small onion, sliced very thin
about ½ cup broccoli, chopped fine
about 4 ounces of sugar snap peas, sliced in ½ inch pieces
8 ounces of perlini, drained
½ cup light balsamic salad dressing (I use Newman’s Own)
8 slices of oven baked garlic toast, either home-made or from a bag.

Toss together the vegetables, perlini, and salad dressing. Break each of the toasts into 5-6 pieces.  Add to the salad just before serving.  This makes 10 servings, at about 5.8 grams of fat/serving.

I packed the crumbled toast separately in a bag so I could add it after I hauled the salad to the potluck.  That way the bread didn’t get soggy right away.

Cranberry Goat Cheese Log

Someone in my office requested that I bring goat cheese and the famous Jezebel Sauce to the office holiday potluck. Never one to leave well enough alone, I decided that I should fancy up the goat cheese.  Since Jezebel sauce is pretty spicy, I decided that I needed to make the logs either sweet or rather plain.  I rolled one of the logs in chopped, toasted pecans. I wrapped the other in cranberries.

This recipe for cranberry-wrapped goat cheese log appeared in my local paper and is just in time for holiday parties. The recipe called for a one-pound log of goat cheese, but the Costco logs are only 11 ounces. In retrospect, I should have combined 2 logs to create a fatter 16 ounce log, or used less of the cranberry wrap, since the log came out a bit uneven (but delicious).  I also would suggest chopping the cranberries coarsely, since I thought the whole cranberries were harder to wrap nicely.  The log travels well if you wait to unwrap the plastic wrap until you get to your destination.  You can make it ahead and refrigerate it for a day or so.

Cranberry Goat Cheese Log

1/4 ounce package of unsweetened gelatin
1/4 cup water
12 ounce package of fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/4 cup orange or raspberry liqueur (I used Cointreau)
16 ounce log of goat cheese

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water; set aside. Fill a large bowl with ice and water, set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, combine cranberries, sugar, cranberry juice and liqueur. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add gelatin mixture and boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture resembles a very thick jelly. Remove from heat and place the saucepan in the ice to cool.  (I actually poured the cranberry mixture into a medium bowl and set that on the ice, since my pot did not fit into the ice bowl very well.)

Once the cranberry sauce has cooled, lay an 18 inch sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the cranberry sauce on the plastic wrap, making an even rectangle slightly larger than the goat cheese log.

Place the goat cheese on top of the sauce. Spoon the remaining cranberry sauce mixture over the log, coating it evenly. Gently roll the log up in the wrap, using the plastic to mold the sauce around the cheese. Twist each end closed.

Note – I had trouble molding the sauce evenly. Note the misshapen wrapped log. This is why I think chopping the berries slightly might help.

Freeze for about 30 minutes to allow the cherry mixture to set.  Remove from the freezer and gently remove the plastic wrapper from the log placing the log on your serving platter

This makes 11-16 one ounce servings, at about 5 grams of fat/serving.

Thisis actually the leftover log I brought home.

I set the platter out with crackers and knives for serving.  The recipe suggested using unflavored dental floss to cut the log into one ounce pieces to serve it…but I liked the do-it-yourself log approach

Savory Cheddar Bread Pudding

It’s been hot – in the 90’s and I don’t mean the lower 90’s – for at least a month.  I don’t appreciate the 90’s.  And I have been working 10-15 hour days to finish a project.  I haven’t been cooking.  I’ve been coming home, eating, and falling asleep in the recliner. Dinner has been:

A large bowl of Nutty Buddy ice cream
Corn on the cob
Chips and salsa
A large bowl of Nutty Buddy ice cream with chocolate syrup
Crackers and fresh mozzarella

Now this hasn’t been so bad in the fat gram department: the ice cream is reduced fat, the chips and crackers are low fat, the corn was basted with light butter. I really don’t keep anything in the house that will derail the fat grams completely.  But nutritionally, I can’t say that I’ve been great – OK, the fruit is good nutrition.  I finally microwaved a haunch of buffalo so I had some real protein.

The abysmally hot weather has finally broken (Oh please don’t fix it.  I need the respite.) I decided it was safe to turn on the oven.

When I was cleaning the freezer, I noticed that I had accumulated a great deal of leftover French bread – the remains of the bread I used for the various stuffed French toast experiments I posted earlier. I didn’t want to throw the bread out, but leftover French bread is bulky and takes up a lot of valuable freezer real estate. Bread pudding came to mind; it’s a great way to use up leftover bread in general. But this bread pudding is different than most. It’s not a dessert; it’s either a side dish, or even a main dish, which would work well with a nice salad.  I ate it as a main dish a couple of times, and then took it for lunch where it  reheated nicely (I will shamelessly say I even scarfed it down cold one day.) Made with vegetable broth, this makes a vegetarian meal.

Savory Cheddar Bread Pudding

1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cups finely chopped fennel bulb (about 1 large bulb)
3 cups finely chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces French bread or other firm white bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
4 ounces shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray a 9” X 13” baking dish with cooking spray

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chopped fennel, onion, and garlic cloves; cook until golden brown (about 20 minutes), stirring frequently. Add 1/4 cup broth; cook until liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add remaining broth; bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

Combine bread and fennel mixture. Stir in cheese. Spoon mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Makes 8 servings at 3 grams of fat/serving.

savory bread pudding1

Au Gratin Anything

I love cheesy things – no, not that kind of cheesy.  Cheese is one of the best things that can happen to a vegetable.  So when I see the word au gratin or gratin, count me in. Technically, a gratin is a food that consists of thinly sliced potatoes or another ingredient in a cream sauce, usually topped with breadcrumbs and cheese.  Au gratin actually refers to the technique of cooking in a cheesy sauce.

The problem with most au gratin preparations, much as I love them, is that they are quite high in fat – butter, cheese, cream, and other ingredients that up the fat gram count far beyond my desire to eat cheesy vegetables with some frequency.  This preparation, derived from trial and error (oh yes, lots of error – curdled milk, mushy veggies – ugh), combines a number of techniques that make it possible to have a lovely, creamy dish that is still low in fat.  Even better, you can make it in one pan for serving at an everyday meal, or dress it up for only a few fat grams more by spooning it into a baking dish and topping it with a bit more cheese, and putting it under the broiler for a minute or two. I have made this with potatoes (naturally), cauliflower, broccoli, and green beans, and I think you could try other vegetables as well.

Speaking of cheese, you really need a good sharp cheddar to make this dish.  Most low fat cheddar doesn’t have the flavor to carry this dish without getting lost in the sauce.  I recommend Kerrygold Reduced Fat Irish cheddar.  This cheese has only 4 grams of fat/ounce and a sharp cheddary flavor that makes it great for cooking and a good snack (maybe with a nice apple), too.


Basic Au Gratin Recipe

4 cups of vegetables cut in 1 to 2 inch pieces (or ½ inch slices for potatoes)
1 ½ cups non-fat milk, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ounces shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour (potatoes only need 1 Tablespoon of flour)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon white pepper (or to taste)

For the dressed up version, 2 additional ounces of shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese. You can also sprinkle it with a little paprika for color.

In a large pan bring vegetable, salt, and 1 ¼ cups milk to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 5-10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  The time will vary depending on the vegetable.  Be sure to check the vegetable while they are simmering – you don’t want mush.  In a small bowl, whisk remaining ¼ cup milk and flour.  Stir the flour mixture into the vegetables, stirring constantly until it  thickens, about 1 minute. Stir in the 2 ounces of cheese, mustard, and pepper, stirring until the cheese melts.  This makes 4 servings at about 2 grams of fat/serving.  This is cauliflower au gratin.


Variation: For the dressed up version, spoon the vegetable mixture into an oven proof pan. Sprinkle with an additional 2 ounces of shredded cheese, and paprika if you want Broil for 1-2 minutes until cheese melts (or if you’re lazy like me, stick the pan in the microwave for a minute to melt the cheese.)  This makes 4 deliciously cheesy servings at about 4 grams of fat/serving.  This is potatoes au gratin.


Double Cheese Twice-Baked Potato

Twice-baked potatoes are a nice side dish.  They dress up a plain piece of chicken or meat, and make it seem a little more festive.  They also can be a meal in themselves, hearty enough to be eaten with a salad or a bowl of soup.  I confess that I primarily made these twice-baked potatoes as something to freeze and take for lunch, reheating them in the office microwave. I’m not much of a sandwich eater, and these potatoes and a piece of fruit will make a nice lunch variation.  I originally planned to make the twice-baked potatoes without the cheddar cheese topping, so here they are with a dusting of paprika ready for their second baking.


But when I tasted my first one, I thought it needed a little something extra, so I added cheese on top.  I froze them without the extra cheese, since I might want to vary things or use a different cheese (like the reduced fat havarti I just bought), but the recipe is for the potatoes with cheddar.  If you don’t use the cheese, you can reduce the overall fat gram count by 2 grams/potato half.

Double Cheese Twice Baked Potato

5 large baking potatoes (about 4 pounds of potatoes)
½ cup non-fat sour cream
½ cup non-fat milk
2 Tablespoons light butter
½ cup reduced fat blue cheese, crumbled
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions or chives
4 ounces of reduced fat cheddar cheese

Paprika to sprinkle (optional – it’s only for looks)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Scrub the potatoes and pierce several times with a fork. Bake in the oven until they are tender, about an hour and 15 minutes.  Do not microwave them – microwaved potatoes will have skins too thin to easily withstand scooping and stuffing.  Remove from oven (leave oven on) and allow to cool for about 10 minutes so you can handle them. Cut 4 of the potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop the insides into a large bowl, leaving about ¼ inch of potato attached to the skin to create a shell. Try to keep the skins intact.  Peel the fifth potato, cut it up, and add it to the bowl. The extra potato will give your potatoes a generous stuffing that will mound above the level of the shell.  Add the remaining ingredients except for the cheddar cheese to the bowl and beat with a mixer until it is the texture that you like.  Some people like their twice-baked potatoes to be very creamy – I prefer a bit of texture.  Stuff the potato shells evenly with the potato cheese mixture, mounding it gently above the shell.  Return to the oven to bake for 20 minutes at 350.  Place ½ ounce of cheddar cheese (shredded or thinly sliced) on top of each potato and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Makes 8 servings with about 4 grams of fat/ half-potato serving (with cheddar).


Variation: if you really want these to be blue-cheesy, use a full cup of reduced fat blue cheese.  This will make the potatoes have 5 rams of fat/serving

Note: Light butter is a handy ingredient, when what you want is the taste of real butter without all the fat.  It is real butter mixed with canola oil, buttermilk, water, etc.  Light butter has 5 grams of fat/tablespoon unlike 11 grams of fat in a tablespoon of butter.  You can’t really use it for baking or sautéing, but it’s good as a spread on a baked potato, and I often use it as a flavoring in place of regular butter.


By the way, it is STILL snowing.   The truck is now completely invisible. There must be at least 4 feet on the ground, and I have been snowblowing twice a day. There is no place left to stack the snow. This is not my idea of exercise.  If anyone sings “Let It Snow” or “White Christmas”, I’m going to throttle them.


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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