Friday, April 14, 2017

Healthier Potatoes Au Gratin

When you think of Au Gratin, you think of savory cheese right? Traditionally made with heavy cream and cheese this is not a “healthy” choice, but today I’m showing you how this can be changed with a few swaps.

No way was I sacrificing taste on this dish!  When I started cooking this I was tired, it was 8pm and I had not posted a recipe in at least 2 weeks, so I felt pressure to make this Potatoes Au Gratin extra special. I had planned this recipe out strategically and felt good about how it would turn out. Well there was nothing good about it on the first try. Potatoes were soggy, sauce was tasteless and my original idea of adding in other vegetables went out the window. We are not all perfect and even some good cooks make mistakes. So, I got different ingredients and made some tweaks, hit the reset button and made it! A lot like life sometimes, we have ups and downs, we fail sometimes, but when the going gets tough the tough get going, right!

Here is a tasty recipe that substitutes almond for regular milk and whole wheat for white flour. Also swap out white potatoes with sweet potatoes for added health benefits. This recipe uses both types to cater to everyone’s taste buds (and looks pretty).

Skill level wise, a novice can tackle this recipe. The sauce is simple when following the instructions. Start with cool almond milk and add in all the flour before turning on the heat, then stir constantly or it will be lumpy.

Time wise you need a solid hour and a half to make this because of the bake time. It’s easy to prep, but to cook the potatoes takes a while, and it’s important to note the sweet potatoes take a little longer to bake.

Price: Almond milk is usually $2-2.50 a carton at Aldi, Giant or ShopRite. This recipe can be super thrifty or primo-gourmet depending on the cheese you use. I tried Gruyere because that’s what I’ve seen recommended by other chefs, but because it’s expensive, I mixed in White Cheddar. You could use just about any cheese you want, I’ve seen Cheddar and Gouda used. Colby Jack might be good too.

Look at that cheesy crust!!! Yum!

The cool thing about this recipe is that it won’t leave you in a cheese coma! The almond milk really lightens up the richness – in a positive way. Let food be your energy, not your weakness. Enjoy!

Healthier Potatoes Au Gratin Recipe
Cook time: 1hr 30 mins
Serving Size:4-5 (can easily double for holidays)

2 Cups Almond Milk (I prefer Pacific Brand but used Almond Breeze here)
3 Tbsp. Whole Wheat Flour
1 Tbsp. Butter
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
½ tsp Nutmeg
3 Large Potatoes (mix of Sweet and Russet)
1 ½ Cups Gruyère and White Cheddar Cheese (or your favorite cheese – I mixed these two since Gruyère is pricy)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ Onion, Chopped
2/3 Cup Whole Wheat Herbed Bread Crumbs (see recipe below)

Directions: Preheat oven to 375. In a medium saucepan, with stove off, add almond milk, flour, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Turn heat to medium and stir constantly until it comes to a slow simmer. Next add ¾ cup of grated cheese and stir until well blended and you don’t feel any pieces. In a skillet, add olive oil and chopped onions. Cook onions on medium for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until clear and almost brown. Add onions to almond milk mixture and stir. Chop potatoes into round slices, or use a mandolin. In a baking pan/dish fan or layer potato slices. Pour almond milk mixture over potatoes. Use a spatula to make sure it covers all the potatoes. Place dish, uncovered, in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes. Add remaining cheese and breadcrumbs to the top and bake another 7-8 minutes until melted and begins to get crispy on the edges. Use a fork to make sure sweet potatoes are soft, and add more time in the oven if needed.

Bread Crumbs Recipe 
(Note: this will make more than needed for this recipe)
4-5 slices of whole wheat bread or a half of a baguette loaf
1 tsp Rosemary
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Garlic
(can use more of spices to taste)

Directions: Break bread into pieces and leave out in open air overnight (at least 12 hours but up to 24).  Place pieces into a food process. Pulse for a couple seconds, not too much, just enough to make the pieces smaller, but not a “sand” texture. Add crumbs to a bowl and add all spices. Mix with a wooden spoon.

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