Friday, 13 June 2014

Recipe - easy cheesy veggie bake

I posted a picture of this meal on a Facebook group a few days ago and have have had lots of requests for the recipe for my vegetable pots in the photo. These are nothing fancy, just steamed vegetables in a basic cheese sauce. But, if someone in your family is not a lover of vegetables, or if you are getting sick of steamed vegetables, its another nice way to serve them.

Please note, this is not a really low calorie recipe as it uses milk, cheese and a little butter and flour, but it is a lovely home cooked comfort food and a delicious option. Unless you have specific health reasons not to, you shouldn't be afraid of using ingredients like this occasionally as part of a a balanced diet. Everything in moderation, remember? Just  make sure you keep the rest of your meal light for balance. My meal is the one at the back left, I had it with steamed beans and carrots and 150g of baked fresh salmon. Yum!

First roughly chop your vegetables into small pieces and lightly steam your vegetables of choice. For these pots I used cauliflower (as they were on special at $2.50 for a whole head of cauli last week!) and also sweet potato which is a great low GI carb to include. My husband is not a huge sweet potato fan so his was cauliflower and a little white potato. Really, you can include any vegetables you like - broccoli, beans, zucchini, squash, peas, corn, carrots, asparagus, spinach .. it all works!

I cut the cauliflower into pieces about the size of a golf ball and sliced the sweet potato and potato into thin circular slices (I left the skin on). While you are steaming your vegetables, its time to make the cheese sauce and preheat your oven to around 200 degrees C.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan on low heat. Once its melted, add two tablespoons of flour (wholemeal flour is great- but use whatever plain flour you like to use) and stir until well mixed. You should end up with the flour mixing into the butter so you have a ball of paste a little like cookie dough. If its too runny add a little more flour.

Next add 2 cups of cold milk gently to your mixture and start whisking. This will work perfectly fine with full fat or low fat milk. It will be lumpy to start with, but as the milk warms and the butter dissolves it will become smooth. Keep whisking with the sauce on low heat (don't let it boil) for about 5-10 minutes as the sauce thickens. Don't walk away from it :) I add dried parsley, black pepper and a handful of grated parmesan cheese in the last few minutes for flavour.  You will know when your sauce is ready as it starts to thicken.

**This is an amazingly easy basic white sauce that is so versatile once you've got it mastered. Instead of the cheese, add a teaspoon each of dijon and grain mustard for a beautiful sauce for corned beef. Add a heap of chopped fresh dill for a sauce to serve with fish. I certainly don't recommend you add creamy sauce to every meal, but it's a wonderful alternative from packet sauces with all their salt and added preservatives**

Back to our veggie pots. Take your sauce off the heat.

Choose small oven proof dishes and give them a spray with olive oil spray. Now layer your vegetables. I put sliced orange sweet potato on the bottom and then cauliflower on the top for two pots, and plain potato and cauliflower in the third. Pour your white sauce over the vegetables. Don't panic if it has got a little lumpy in the time you were doing the pots, it does that, just give it another quick whisk and pour it in, it will work out fine, I promise!
Top your pot with a sprinkle of grated cheese and I put one slice of sweet potato on top - just for decoration and so I could tell the different mixtures apart.

Pop it in the oven for 10 minutes or until the top is golden. By steaming your vegetables first the cooking time is really quick. Serve as a side dish with a lean protein and some more vegetables :)

Serves 3 medium sized or 4 small vegetable pots.

Recipe alternatives:
While I made this as a side dish, you could easily use this basic recipe to make a full meal, just don't forget the principles of a balanced plate. Remember it should be half fruit or vegetables, quarter lean protein, quarter low GI carbs and some good fats. Consider making a slightly larger pot with a small can of red salmon or cannellini beans, some sliced sweet potato, a large serve of broccoli or cauliflower, a handful of peas, the mustard or dill sauce and cheese on top. A tasty balanced one pot wonder!! 

Lyndal @ Lean Green and Healthy