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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Potato Leek Gratin makes a super side dish

When I spotted this recipe in the Brys Estate Winery newsletter, I knew we had to give it a try.  I love a good potato leek soup, which made this potato leek gratin recipe sound so good. 

The recipe, created by Patrick Brys, is pretty straight forward. We served it for Christmas dinner with roasted tenderloin. Instead of Gruyere, we used a blend of fresh grated Jarlsberg and Fontina cheeses. 

·         4 lbs russet potatoes, peeled, sliced thin
·         2-3 leeks, well cleaned, white and pale green parts only, sliced into 1/4 inch strips (about 4 cups)
·         8 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
·         1 1/2 cups heavy cream
·         1 tbs butter
·         1 tbs olive oil
·         2 - 2 1/2 tsp kosher salt (to taste)
·         1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, add the sliced potatoes, cream, salt, pepper and about 2 1/2 cups of the Gruyere. Mix well, set aside.

In a medium saute pan, add the butter, olive oil and sliced leeks and saute over medium heat until the leeks begin to soften, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer the leeks to the mixing bowl with the potatoes. Mix well.

Butter the inside of your favorite casserole dish. Add the potato mixture to the dish and use a rubber spatula to smooth out the top. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese on top of the gratin and place it in the oven.

Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes until the top is golden brown and the potatoes are well cooked. Let set for 15-20 minutes before serving to allow it to firm up a bit before slicing.

NOTE: This gratin can be cooked ahead days in advance and simply reheated at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
We really enjoy the wines of Brys Estate, located on Old Mission Peninsula, just a short drive from Traverse City. Their Sauvignon Blanc pairs nicely with fresh seafood.  We served Brys' Pinot Noir with a Smoked Turkey on Thanksgiving. And the Cab Franc and Signature Red both stand up to your favorite meat dish. 

Find this recipe and more here,  on the Brys Estate Winery web page.    

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies with a healthy twist

The fine folks at Cooking Matters Michigan are at it again—asking us to make over traditional holiday fare, into something healthy.  Well, why not?!

What is Cooking Matters

It’s a national program housed locally at Gleaners Community Food Bank. Cooking Matters is part of the Share our Strength program, and offers classes in cooking, nutrition and making healthy choices for low-income adults and teens.  A volunteer corps of chefs, dietitians and everyday people with an interest in giving back take part in this educational program that makes a huge difference for some people who could really use a little extra help. 

The Challenge:

Make over a typically unhealthy/favorite holiday meal using three ‘secret ingredients’. Incorporate healthy cooking/baking techniques and nutritious ingredients while maintaining the essence of the dish.

And the secret ingredients are:

1. Winter Squash  2. Peanut Butter  3. Cinnamon  

OK, so here’s the thing. I didn’t focus on a ‘meal’.  I read too quickly and opted for dessert.  It came out good though, so it’s worth adding to your Christmas cookie list, should you wish to.  Here goes…

The night before, I roasted a halved butternut squash for two hours at 375 degrees. No seasoning, just some cooking spray. I scooped out the insides and refrigerated.

Now get started on the recipe...

Combine the following in a bowl:
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (I used Trader Joe’s natural)
1/4 cup roasted butternut squash
1/4 cup softened butter
7/8 cup dark brown sugar

Cream until smooth.

Add in one egg and continue creaming until all mixed together.

In another bowl, mix dry ingredients:
1/2 cup white flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients.


Add 1/2 cup oats until just combined.

Drop teaspoon size dollops of batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet and place in pre-heated 350 degree oven. Bake 13 minutes and remove to wire rack. Don’t overbake!

These cookies turned out really well. You get the distinct peanut butter flavor and plenty of sweetness from the dark brown sugar.  By replacing half the butter or margarine with cooked squash, you are trimming saturated and/or transfat while adding veggies.  Incorporating whole wheat flour adds a little denseness, and the nutty flavor pairs well with the peanut butter. The oatmeal adds protein, fiber and good taste too.

But what about the kid test?  

Our 12-yr-old son saw them and asked if he could have one.  I didn’t tell him about the secret ingredient. He gobbled one down and asked if he could have another. He then took three and poured a glass of milk.  Win!

For more information on Cooking Matters Michigan, visit their blog, and find them on Facebook and Twitter.