January 31, 2016

Recipe: The Best, Foolproof Scalloped Potatoes Au Gratin

This recipe is a favorite of my culinary students.  It is so easy, and makes the perfect, quintessential, creamy, cheesy potato casserole of American comfort-food fame.

True scalloped potatoes consist primarily of thinly cut potatoes in a white cream sauce, whereas potatoes au gratin feature buttery potatoes beneath a cheese and/or breadcrumb crust.  Scalloped Potatoes Au Gratin is a hybrid -- the best of both worlds.  It is what many of us in the U.S. grew up with and knew as Potatoes O' Gratin.

So, without further ado, here is the easiest and most delicious recipe I think you'll find for the creamy, cheesy, golden, bubbly potato dish of legend:

Scalloped Potatoes Au Gratin

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Baking Time: 45-55 minutes 

  • 1 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, washed, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick (approx. 2 large) 
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, plus 1 Tablespoon for buttering the pan 
  • 2 Tablespoons diced sweet yellow onion 
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper 
  • 1 cup lowfat milk 
  • ¾ cup medium cheddar cheese, shredded 
  • An additional 1/4 cup medium cheddar cheese, shredded and set aside 
  • 2 Tablespoons Panko bread crumbs 

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 9x9” glass casserole dish and set aside.

Step 1: Rinse potatoes and peel. Cut into 1/8-inch slices using a mandoline.

Step 2: Make the roux: Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook onion in butter about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender (do not brown). Stir in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly.

Step 3: Slowly whisk in milk until smooth. Stir in salt and pepper.

Step 4: Over medium heat, whisk in the 3/4 cup of cheese. Heat to a gentle boil, whisking constantly till smooth. Boil and stir over medium-high heat for 1 minute until the cheese is completely melted and sauce has thickened. Add the potatoes and simmer, stirring constantly with a rubber scraper for 5 minutes.

Step 5: Pour mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Use scraper to distribute evenly in pan. Season top with a bit of salt and pepper. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes on the middle rack. Remove from oven. Increase oven temperature to 425°F.

Step 6: Mix remaining cheddar cheese and bread crumbs; sprinkle over potatoes. Bake uncovered on the top rack of oven for 10-15 minutes, or until top is golden brown and bubbly.



This recipe can be made Gluten Free by replacing the flour with GF flour and using potato chips in lieu of the bread crumbs.  It is absolutely delicious!

This recipe can be prepared up to two days in advance.  Simply cover with foil after transferring mixture to the casserole dish in step 5.  Refrigerate until ready to bake.  Bring to room temperature before baking to cut down on additional cooking time.

January 9, 2016

Recipe: Spicy Avocado Crab on Wonton Chips

Here's a little recipe I came up with over the holidays while brainstorming quick, easy and delicious appetizers to teach at my Holiday Appetizers Workshop.  I was inspired by classic California Roll Sushi that features crab, avocado and cucumber.  Instead of cucumber, I used fresh chives for just a hint of onion to offset the sweet crab and avocado.

The crab salad comes together in just a few minutes and can be portioned on top of crispy wonton chips or served in a bowl as a self-serve dip.

Spicy Avocado Crab on Wonton Chips

  • 8 oz. package imitation Crab, flake style*
  • 1 small avocado, peeled and cubed 
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil 
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Sriracha mayonnaise**
  • A squeeze of fresh lime 
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped chives, plus more for garnish 
  • 1/2 package round wonton wrappers (or square wrappers trimmed with a circle cookie cutter) 
  • black sesame seeds for garnish 

Step 1: In a food processor, pulse crab until fine (approx. 15 seconds).  Do not process into a paste. 

Step 2: In a medium bowl, combine crab, avocado, sesame oil Sriracha mayo, and chives. Chill till ready to use.

Step 3: Prepare wonton crackers by heating vegetable or other neutral oil in a medium sauce pan. Fry a few wonton wrappers at a time, until golden.

Step 4: Serve crab on the wonton crackers, garnished with sesame seeds and chives

*Of course, you may use real crab if you wish.
**Most stores are selling pre-made Sriracha Mayonnaise these days.  You can make it from scratch by combining regular mayonnaise and Sriracha to taste.

January 5, 2016

Free Kids Superhero Valentines -- Stuck on You

I have four kids,
which, come Valentine's Day,
means bucketloads of candy and junk
find their way home from school.

To help cut down on cavities and landfill,
I decided to come up with a fun, but sneakily practical
valentine for the kids to give to all their classmates last year.

These Marvel superhero bandaids came from the Dollar Tree,
so they were very budget-friendly.

The kids loved them because they're superhero-themed
and they sure beat the icky old skin colored
bandaids that we grew up with.

My parent-friends appreciated them, because they
were one of the few things their kids got
that they didn't toss in the trash
as soon as the novelty of the Valentines Day
haul had worn off (around 10 minutes).
Win * Win

Here's how you can make your own:

Stuck on You Bandaid Valentines

  • FREE hang tag (Download HERE)
  • Cardstock or Photo Paper
  • Plain cellophane treat bags (4x6)**
  • Bandaids (3 per valentine)*
  • Scissors
  • Stapler

Step 1:  Download free hang tag and print on heavy paper.  Cut out hang tags and fold.
Step 2:  Place a strip of 3 bandaids in each cellophane bag. 
Step 3:  Place hang tag over the top of the bag.  Staple in place.

*Bandaids:  I'm not sure if Dollar Tree is still carrying this specific set.  However, I've confirmed that both Walmart and Target presently sell Avengers bandaids.

**Bags:  I've found these at Walmart and Michael's for around $5 for a pack of 100.

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