There are certain meals I adore: macaroni casserole, lasagna with bchamel sauce, or eggs benedict. The sad part is that these delectable dishes are so full of fat in the form of butter, milk and cheese. In the past, I laughed at fat. It didn't bother me that I used whole milk and a stick of butter in my mashed potatoes or a cup of heavy cream in my dauphinoise potatoes.
Now, I can no longer manage my weight or my cholesterol while eating this much fat. I have finally taken control of my high cholesterol by changing my diet and I don't intend to let it go back up. Because I am so in love with these different foods and sauces, I will not give up on trying to create them with less saturated fat and little or no cholesterol.
Last weekend we had friends over for dinner. I wanted to make some creamy scalloped potatoes with a rich bchamel sauce as a side dish. I decided I could do it with some substitutions to make these lighter and better for everyone's heart and waistline. Claud had serious doubts.
Lighter scalloped potatoes.
Layering potatoes and onions.
Making the béchamel sauce
Even though there is much less fat in these scalloped potatoes, I would still only make these for special occasions. Although they contain no dairy and have fewer calories, they still contain oil. When you substitute margarine for butter or vegan cheese for regular cow's milk cheese, you still have to watch the oil content. I do believe that for special occasions, when you really want something creamy and delicious, these are a healthier option.
Usually, my bchamel sauce contains real butter, cheese and heavy cream. First I took out the almond milk from the refrigerator. Claud shook his head in disbelief and said, "Are you sure almond milk will work for a bchamel sauce?"
I have read many recipes where almond milk has been used for sauces. Almond milk is made from finely ground almonds mixed together with water. People have been cooking with it since the Middle Ages. Originally, it was used instead of cow's milk because it lasted longer before spoiling. Now, people who have intolerance to lactose consume it. It is also low fat (only 3 grams per 8 ounces), cholesterol and saturated fat free, filled with vitamins, and tastes amazing. 8 ounces of regular whole milk has 5 grams of saturated fat and 25 milligrams of cholesterol.
I replaced the butter with Earth Balance spread. Claud picked it up and looked at the ingredients. He said, "I don't think this is going to turn into a creamy sauce." I ignored him. 1 tablespoon of Earth Balance spread contains 3 grams of saturated fat and no cholesterol. 1 tablespoon of butter has 7 grams of saturated fat and 30 milligrams of cholesterol.
Finally, I had to get the cheese out. I knew this was going to be the hardest part for Claud. He does not believe in cheese replacements. I thought this would be the point when he would just walk away from the whole thing. To my complete amazement, he started making the sauce. He didn't say a word about the fake cheese. I used Daiya mozzarella. It is cholesterol free and trans fat free. Daiya also has no artificial ingredients, preservatives, antibiotics, hormones or preservatives. One cup of regular mozzarella contains 88 milligrams of cholesterol and 15 grams of saturated fat. That's a lot of fat and cholesterol to cut out.
I sliced potatoes and onions, chopped garlic, and brought out the casserole dish. Claud said he was amazed at how it was turning out. I was too. It looked like bchamel . I got a spoon and tasted it. It tasted like it. I layered the ingredients and put it into the oven.
Soon after, Claud peeked and told me they looked too dry. He said this in a kind of I told you so sort of way. I still had faith. As the potatoes cooked, we sat outside and ate fresh guacamole and drank a little wine with our friends. All the while I worried about the fate of my scalloped potatoes.
The time drew near and we headed back to the kitchen to cook the lamb and salmon, make sauces for each, toss the salad in dressing and warm up the vegetables. I pulled out the potatoes and removed the foil. They looked pretty good to me. I tasted them and they were great.
Now, the real test was when I served these dairy free versions of scalloped potatoes to my meat loving friends (those who were eating the lamb). Nobody left a single bite of potato on their plate when they were finished. Actually, nobody left a bite of anything. Some people went back for more. I was satisfied. Later, Claud told me my lighter scalloped potatoes were a hit.