Low-Fat Potatoes Au Gratin Recipe

Low-fat potatoes au gratin? Okay, let’s say lower-fat instead.

One of my favorite parts of Easter dinner is ham with potatoes au gratin. My (former) usual potatoes au gratin came out to over 500 calories and 25 grams of fat per serving, though! And I’m too close to 30 pounds lost since my diagnosis on December 8 — and I really want to reach that milestone. Well, I want it, but not enough to forego au gratin potatoes altogether!

Luckily, I had stuff on hand to try to come up with a lower-fat version, and they were absolutely delicious at only 300 calories and 7.6 grams a serving. Okay, that’s a lot for a side dish in my world, but not so bad that I can’t have it for a treat. And since my boys don’t like potatoes, I’ve got two servings in the freezer for next time I want a bit of a splurge.

3 medium potatoes, sliced thinly
1 shallots, diced
2  tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 can evaporated milk
3/4 cup low-fat cheese

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray 4 ramekins with nonstick spray. Layer the potatoes and shallots in the ramekins, with a pinch of salt and pepper.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and then stir in the flour. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add the evaporated milk and stir constantly until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the cheese and stir until melted.

Pour the sauce over the potatoes and shallots in the ramekins.  Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender.

Servings: 4

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving, according to Living Cookbook): 300 calories, 67 calories from fat, 7.6g total fat, 23.5mg cholesterol, 250.3mg sodium, 1013.9mg potassium, 42.3g carbohydrates, 3.6g fiber, 12.2g sugar, 16.1g protein.

Goulash Recipe

This is a family staple – my mom used to make it (a little differently) when I was a kid, I make it for my kids, and my grown daughter makes it for herself and her boyfriend. I think we each put our own touch to it.

This is absolutely an Americanized version of goulash – it’s nothing like the Hungarian kind. I’m not even sure why we call it goulash, except for the paprika.  It does make a great budget-stretcher, though – I’ve made with as little as a quarter pound of meat and no one complained.

This also freezes well and makes terrific leftovers.

1 lb extra lean ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 Tbs paprika
1 tsp oregano
15 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 lb bite-sized pasta (I usually use shells or macaroni)

Brown the ground beef over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon while it cooks. Remove any grease with a spoon and blot the meat with a paper towel, or rinse the meat under hot water in a fine mesh strainer.  Return the meat to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic,  onion, paprika and oregano, and cook and stir until the vegetables are translucent.  Add both cans of tomatoes, stir, and reduce to a simmer.

While the sauce simmers, boil the pasta until done. Drain and mix with the sauce.

Servings: 8

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 225 calories, 95 calories from fat, 10.4g total fat, 39.1mg cholesterol, 179.6mg sodium, 559.2mg potassium, 19.6g carbohydrates, 3.3g fiber, <1g sugar, 14.5g protein.

Oh, and for a laugh: After dinner, the kids asked if they could have dessert, and I told them they could each have 3 small chocolates. And then I said, facetiously, “There’s more broccoli, if anyone wants that for dessert instead.”Both of my boys started to put their chocolate back! I let them have both.

Freezing Banana Slices

I use bananas in a lot of recipes — banana muffins, smoothies, banana bread, empanadas, more muffins, fruit salsa, and more. It can be a problem having bananas of the right ripeness around, though. It seems like there are a whole bunch of almost-ripe bananas, and then, as if by magic, there are one or two overripe bananas. The minute they get ripe, the boys want to eat them, but the second they start to turn brown (which is when they start gettingreally good, in my opinion), none of the kids want them anymore. And one or two bananas isn’t enough for a lot of recipes.

For years, I’ve thrown them in the freezer when they get too brown for the kids to eat them.  I’ve found, though, that it can be very difficult to peel a frozen banana. I’ve tried thawing them and then peeling them, but the banana is so mushy after freezing that it’s also really hard to peel (although the mushy texture is perfect for banana bread).

So for awhile, I’ve peeled the bananas before freezing them, and that works pretty well, but sometimes I just needed half a banana for a smoothie or one of the other snacks I like to make with bananas.

Finally, I figured out to cut the bananas into coins and lay them out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and freeze them for a couple hours. Then I throw them into a zip-top bag, and I can get as much or as little banana as I want.

I can even just grab one little banana “coin” for a snack when I’m hankering for something sweet and cool.

 

Split Pea Soup Recipe

A couple weeks ago, spiral hams were on a ridiculous sale, so I bought one and we had a lovely, decadent dinner, with ham and mashed potatoes and rolls and applesauce. We also had enough ham left over for a second dinner, plus meat for lots of sandwiches, and a ham bone to freeze for soup. I made our favorite, split pea soup.

1 pound of split peas
2 quarts water
Ham bone
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, smashed
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme

Rinse peas and pick through and remove any stones.

Put all ingredients in a large stock pot or dutch oven. Simmer for 2 hours, adding water if necessary.

Remove the ham bone and allow to cool enough to  handle. Pick the meat off and return the meat to the soup. Discard the bone.

Add salt and pepper to taste, but be sure to actually taste it – the ham can add a lot of salt.

And THAT made such a large pot of soup, that I still have some in the freezer for yet another meal or two.  And the moral of this story is: Never pass up a fantastic sale on ham.

Menu Plan for April 11-17 and Tuscan Soup Recipe

Dinners

Sunday Tuscan Soup (Recipe below)

Monday Black Bean Burritos

Tuesday Breakfast for Dinner

Wednesday Chicken breasts with balsamic pan sauce

Thursday Leftovers

Friday Farfalle with Tuna and Capers in White Wine Sauce (from Simply Recipes)

Saturday Fish, brown rice, and brussel sprouts

Breakfasts: Oatmeal pancakes with blueberry sauce, oatmeal with fruit, cold cereal

Lunches: Quesadillas, leftovers, smoothies, sandwiches

I am madly in love with the Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden. I think that it and the tiramisu are the only reasons to eat at Olive Garden.

This week is “make the most of what you’ve got” week for us (meaning it’s not strictly “eat from the pantry and freezer”, but the less I can buy to round out what I’ve got, the better). I have been meaning to try my hand at a soup inspired by, but not entirely copied from (that’s no fun!) the Olive Garden soup. I had Italian sausage in the freezer, and I had spinach — I had planned kale in this, but spinach was what I had. And that worked out just fine.

This is what I came up with, and MAN was it yummy.

1 lb bulk Italian sausage
2 Tbs shallots, diced
3 clove garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
3 15oz. cans chicken broth (fat free)
2 cup water
1 potato, diced
1 cup spinach, chopped
3 Tbs basil, chopped
1 cup fat-free evaporated milk

Fry sausage in a large sauce pan, breaking it up as it cooks. Drain on paper towels. In the same pan, cook shallot and garlic until translucent. Add wine and deglaze pan. Add broth and water and turn heat to medium. Add sausage back to pan and add potato. Cook until potato is done, then add the spinach. Finish with the evaporated milk and serve.

Servings: 12

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving, according to Living Cookbook): 180 calories, 109 calories from fat, 12.1g total fat, 29.6mg cholesterol, 741.1mg sodium, 304.4mg potassium, 6.2g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 2.8g sugar, 8g protein.

And now we have 2 more meals’ worth of this tasty soup in the freezer!

I also served homemade bread sticks. I used Lynn’s 40-minute Rolls recipe, but I cut it in half — I used a whole egg, and added a little extra flour to compensate for the extra liquid in the egg. I shaped them into snake-shapes by rolling balls of dough between my palms, like you would with play dough, and then baked them. After they were done, I sprayed them lightly with butter-flavor nonstick spray, and sprinkled them with a little bit of garlic salt. They were fantastic!

Everyone except my pickiest eater loved this soup (and that pickiest eater doesn’t like ANY soup). We will definitely be having this again!