Monday, January 4, 2010

Guilt Free Au Gratin

With the New Year under way, I've made a resolution to embrace a healthier lifestyle this year. This will be a difficult transition for my family who's southern upbringing is firmly rooted in fried foods filled with either butter or sugar. We love rich flavors and comfort style foods. To avoid mutiny in the house, I've decided to discreetly and covertly make the transition to a healthier lifestyle. I am on the hunt for healthier versions of the foods we already eat. Simply strategies and recipe alterations to reduce the fat and calories we consume while maintaining great flavor. Slowly, one dish at a time, the conversion will occur.

We love Au Gratin potatoes. The creamy sauce, the ooey gooey cheese, the starchy potatoes. What's NOT to love. Earlier this week, I took the plunge and make a few alterations to one of our favorite dishes. No one was the wiser so this resolution may very well stick - but not to our waistline!

Making a healthy Au Gratin style dish is easier than you might think. Here are a few basic strategies to a full flavor Au Gratin that's friendly to your waistline!

  1. Substituting 2% milk for the cream cuts tons of fat and doesn't affect the flavor.
  2. Want a calcium boost. Mix in some powdered milk.
  3. Use margarine in place of butter to further reduce fat and calories.
  4. To increase flavor, use garlic, onions, peppers, and other flavorful spices in the rue.
  5. Cheese is also a large source of fat and in many recipes the second largest ingredient. Using full flavor cheese like cheddars and parmesean allows you to use less cheese while maintaining great flavor. Using reduced fat cheese is also a great way to lower the fat content in your Au Gratin. Cheeses like mozzarella, farmer's cheese, and goat cheese are naturally lower in fat and calories.

I adapted the Au Gratin Cauliflower recipe in the recent Taste of Home Healthy Cooking magazine by using half frozen cauliflower and the other half diced potatoes. It's yummy and better for me than my normal recipe!

Guilt Free Au Gratin
  • 3 tbs butter or margarine
  • 3 tbs flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs garlic
  • 3 tbs minced onion
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat mozzarella
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 3 cups (half bag) frozen cauliflower


Preheat oven to 375. Dice potatoes to similar size as the cauliflower. Simmer potatoes and cauliflower for five to ten minutes depending on size of dice and flourets. Potatoes should be just tender. Drain and place in greased 8x8 casserole dish. Melt butter or margarine over medium heat. Mix in top five ingredients to form a rue. Stir well. Cook the rue a few minutes to avoid the raw flour taste in the final dish. Slowly add milk to form a thick creamy mixture. The consistency should be similar to pancake batter. Remove from heat, add cheese and mix till melted. Pour over cauliflower and potatoes. Optionally, you can top with bread crumbs but I skipped it. Bake 30 minutes.

Jenn also blogs about crafts, recipes, and raising kids on a budget at Frugal Front Porch.

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