Quick White Cheese Sauce

One of the most well-traveled and well-known dishes is definitely pasta. Its versatility and simplicity has made it popular in almost all countries. Pizzas and pastas have become something that you know you can always depend on. They can be modified to your taste and are always fresh. I love how pasta is interpreted in so many ways. Every city I go to, it has a different taste. In the US, pasta is a rich, creamy dish that is almost like a staple in every household. The pasta is usually cooked al-dente and the sauces have beautiful flavors coming through it. In the UK, the flavors are lighter and I often feel the need to add a dash of pepper on the table and as most Indians need, the spice element. In India, depending on the city and the restaurant, you have so much variety. In the Little Italy chain of restaurants across India, you have somewhat authentic pasta. After trying some other Italian restaurants, I have come to realize that the food served in their restaurants definitely have a strong Indian influence.  Dario’s in Pune makes more authentic Italian food with fresh ingredients. It has definitely become my favorite place if I am ever craving some nice pasta! I may have been to the wrong restaurant but in Ahmedabad, India, their understanding of pasta is a dish filled with cheese. Honestly, not my favorite kind of meal!

 

Making a white cheese sauce was one of the first recipes I ever adapted and learnt. I used to make a giant mess while making a white sauce from flour and butter and milk. It would always be lumpy or burnt. What trick I did learn later was to take the melted butter and flour mixture off the heat and gradually add milk. I started whisking the milk in instead of trying to mix it in with a wooden spoon. I also learnt that if it does lump up, take a hand beater to it or put it in a blender, after its cooled, to get rid of the lumps.

 

This white-cheese sauce is a take on a traditional Alfredo sauce, though it is not at all technically like an Alfredo sauce. I am confident this sauce has a lower fat content but probably the same calories as an Alfredo. This sauce requires 2 separate pans for the two sauces.

 

Sauce 1: The basic white sauce

 

Ingredients:

 

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil

3 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1 – 1.5 cups milk

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

salt and pepper to taste

 

Method:

  • Heat the butter or oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat. Once hot, add the whole-wheat flour and stir constantly using a wooden spoon for about 1 minute.
  • Once the flour has browned slightly, take the pan off the heat and pour 1 cup of the milk in. Whisk briskly to make sure there are no lumps. If the mixture seems to thick, slowly add the rest of the milk, while whisking constantly.
  • Return the mixture to the heat. Allow it to boil for 3-4 minutes while stirring constantly.
  • Add the crushed garlic, salt and pepper and reduce the flame to low. Allow it to cook for another 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow the mixture to cool slightly.

 

Sauce 2: Cheese-Herb Sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons plain cheese spread
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried chilly flakes
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon pepper powder
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil

 

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a non-stick pan on a medium flame. Add all the dried herbs and pepper and allow the oil to become flavorsome for just under a minute.
  • Reduce the flame to low. Add the cheese spread and allow it to melt. Be sure to constantly stir it and mix all the herbs in the cheese.
  • Once the cheese has melted, add all the milk and stir. Make sure there are no lumps.

 

Proceed:

  • Once the 2nd mixture is ready, add the white sauce mix to the cheese-herb sauce and mix well.
  • Allow the mixture to come to a boil.

 

Your quick sauce is ready! Toss your favorite pasta in this mix!

 

I spice it up by adding some tobacco or peri-peri sauce once it’s cooked. Alternately, substitute the ½ cup of milk in the cheese-herb sauce with ½ cup of white wine to give a different flavor. Feel free to add more herbs or change the herbs based on your taste!

 

Some variations:

  • Add some corn to this mixture and allow it to thicken a little more and fill in canapés.
  • Use only the cheese-herb sauce and throw in some finely chopped button mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to sweat and then for the mixture to thicken. Once thick, spread over toast and you have mushrooms on toast ready!
  • I use the cheese-herb sauce in risotto recipes as well.

Happy cooking!

Lower fat Chocolate chocolate Chip Mint Brownies

I love brownies.. They are always so rich, gooey, warm and full of goodness. Like cookies, they can be so versatile. You can add in a whole bunch of mix-ins and make them as rich or as basic as you would like.  They’re always a hit, if they’re baked perfectly. My last brownie recipe was absolutely gooey and oh so rich and had a tonne of calories! But, they were fantastic, maybe a tad too full of chocolate. In my quest to constantly try to find healthier recipes, I came across this recipe, which has a beautiful, rich flavor but has less fat. The butter has been reduced by half and the sugar has also been reduced. I have never experimented with a sugar substitute like Splenda because I don’t believe in adding more chemicals in your body if possible. My mantra is simple, if I’m going to be indulging myself; I want to make sure I’m enjoying a completely ‘bad’ treat. I rather eat my treat once in a month with sugar and all the butter than eat the treat once a week filled with sugar and butter substitutes.

 

I have tried this recipe twice and the first time, I baked them exactly according to the recipe and they turned out beautifully. I made them plain, without any add-ins and I did feel like they were missing a little something. The next time I made them, I didn’t watch the time properly and I over baked them by about 5-7 minutes.  The top in the center was browner than what I would have liked and the brownies had become dry and hard. They were still edible but the texture was just not right. In either case, they flavors came across beautifully and I absolutely will make these again with a close eye on the watch!

 

I added some amazing peppermint extract along with the vanilla extract and oh boy!!! I was in heaven! I also added a good ¾ cups of chocolate chips and the flavors worked beautifully together! I can’t wait to bake it to perfection the next time.

 

 Lower Fat Chocolate Chip Mint Brownies

Adapted from a recipe from the Food Network

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral tasting oil
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1 tablespoon cold brewed coffee
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit or 175 degrees Celsius
  • Line an 8″ x 8″ pan with parchment paper
  • Create a bain-marie and in a heat proof bowl, melt the butter, coarsely chopped chocolate and the oil. Once the chocolate has completely melted, take the bowl off the heat.
  • Stir the brown and white sugars, vanilla, peppermint and salt into the chocolate mixture with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and coffee and beat vigorously until fully incorporated and the batter is thick and glossy. Add the cocoa,chocolate chips, flour and baking soda and stir just until it disappears.
  • Pour the batter into a pan and bake until the top is crispy and glossy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs, about 30-40 minutes.
  • Cool the brownies in the pan on the counter. Lift brownies out of the pan by the paper, if needed. Peel off the paper and cut into 2-inch squares. Serve. Store extra brownies in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

I served these by sprinkling a little water on them and microwaved them for a few seconds to soften them since I had over baked mine.. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or with a dash of vanilla custard and they’re perfect! We ate some plain with our tea and coffee and they tasted wonderful!

Happy baking!