Monday, July 30, 2012

Back online...with Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes and Hamburger Skillet to share

I left for awhile...I thought that I needed a new name on the blog and a new site to work with.  But they didn't help me to post more often.  In fact, I posted far, far less often because I just didn't get over to wordpress (all the blogs that I follow are saved on my blogger dashboard).  So, I decided to make a "come back" once again.  I guess if it fails this time, then I'm out. better time to start something new than two weeks before school starts and four weeks before the birth of my third kiddo.  Perhaps this is doomed.  Or perhaps there will be all sorts of new baby food things on here in about 6 months.
So, there were two dishes that made it on the other blog that didn't make it here.  And because it is so easy, I thought I'd start with them.   First up: a healthy, completely homemade version of a scalloped potato and hamburger skillet meal.  I’ll preface it with saying that it has cheese in it…but, as far as I’m concerned, if consumed in relative moderation, cheese isn’t that bad.  Especially if you make the sauce with pureed cauliflower instead of cream.
Substituting cauliflower for cream in savory sauces has been one of the greatest discoveries in my cooking life.  I think it was around New Year’s 2011, I found it as one of about 25 tips for healthy eating on some website, and thought I would have to give it a try.  Amazing discovery.   I will readily admit that I don’t have the most refined palate out there, but I can’t tell any difference in a sauce made with this or made with actual, real cream.  No fat, and lots of vegetable goodness.  Here’s what I do:  Every couple of months I buy a bunch of cauliflower (if it is in season, I get fresh…if not, I opt for frozen since when its frozen it is picked at the optimal time and then flash frozen, instead of picked early and left to ripen on a truck or store shelf), cook it until very soft, drain (but keep the water), then I use my immersion blender to puree, using the retained cooking water to thin.  Then I store it in freezer bags in about 2 cup portions and freeze until I’m ready to use.
If you want to make this, I have one word of advice: get a mandolin slicer if you don’t already.  I wouldn’t have made it if I didn’t – who on earth can actually cut 1/8 in thick slices of potato with one?  Perhaps if you have mad knife skills you can make it happen.  If not, get one of these.  I got mine at Target.
Here’s how to do this thing:
Cheesy Scalloped Potato and Hamburger Skillet
*This has lots of steps, but isn’t really that scary; nor does it take that long to put together.
1 lb ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic
1-1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1-1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1-1/4 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (or 1/4 tsp. store-bought, pre-ground black pepper)
1-1/2 C. puree’d cauliflower
1-1/2 C. skim milk
1 bay leaf
3 lb potatoes, sliced 1/8-inch thick
1-1/2 C. each: loosely packed Monteray Jack and Sharp Cheddar cheese
Step One: The meat
In a large skillet, brown the beef, onion and garlic. Drain off fat and set aside (I let it side on a plate lined with three or four paper towels to absorb and residual grease.
Step Two: Potato Prep
While the meat is browning, slice the potatoes.
Step Three: Sauce
In the large skillet used for the meat, begin with sauteing the other half of the chopped onion in the butter until translucent (around 3 – 5 minutes), during the last minute or two, add the garlic (it cooks faster and might burn) over medium-high heat.  Add the flour, thyme, salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and skim milk and stir until smooth and beginning to thicken.
Step Four: Cooking Potatoes
Add the potatoes and the bay leaf.  Stir gently so that potatoes are immersed in the sauce.  Cover and cook until potatoes are tender, around 15 mintues.
Step Five: Finishing touches
When potatoes are almost tender, add the meat and cook for a few mintues more.  Then, add the cheese and gently fold in to combine until cheese is completely melted.
Let stand about five mintues to thicken and set.

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