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ANDREA YEAGER: Make moussaka in only a few minutes

Sometimes favorite recipes become lost recipes.

For instance, I have my late husband's grandmother's gumbo recipe, which she hand wrote. Of course, I treasure that recipe. Guess what turned up missing when I started to make gumbo for my father-in-law for Christmas?

I faithfully kept it in an old-time recipe box that has many of my favorites. Box and all disappeared. My daughter and I had been cleaning and packing some dishes, cookbooks and items we didn't think we needed. We wrecked what we had cleaned trying to find the recipe box, only to discover that my daughter put one of the boxes in the attic. Yes, it contained the missing box.

Judy Ownbey has a similar problem.

"I have prepared your recipe for moussaka several times, and it is a real favorite of ours," she said. "It takes little time to prepare and is absolutely delicious.

"After losing your recipe, I tried one online that seemed similar to yours, but it was not even close to being as good as yours," Ownbey said. "Would you please print it in your column?"

This recipe is one that I played with until I got the desired flavor. The original recipe was one I found in a cookbook, "Desperation Dinners."

I use low-fat and low-carb products in this recipe. I use no-fat Alfredo sauce instead of the regular. Walden Farms makes a great no-fat Alfredo that is low in carbohydrates, too. This company produces a whole line of no-fat sauces and dressings that are so flavorful that you do not miss any of the calories. This brand does a low-sugar ketchup, too, that is good.

This moussaka is not as cheesy or labor intensive as the Greek one, but it can be done in less than 30 minutes on the stovetop and a few minutes in the broiler.

MOUSSAKA IN A HURRY

2 cups (12 ounces) orzo pasta

1-1/4 to 1- 1/2 pounds extra-lean ground beef, fresh or frozen

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 large onion (for 1 cup chopped)

1 large eggplant (12 to 16 ounces; for 4 cups cubed)

1 small can (8 ounces) tomato sauce

1/4 cup ketchup (Walden Farms low-sugar)

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 container (10 ounces) reduced-fat Alfredo sauce (I use Walden Farms)

1/4 cup already-grated or already-shredded Parmesan cheese

Turn on broiler.

Bring 2- 1/2 quarts of unsalted water to a boil in a covered 4- 1/2 quart or larger pot. When the water reaches a rapid boil, add the orzo and cook 7 minutes.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a 12-inch cast iron or heat-proof skillet. Peel and coarsely chop the onion, adding it to the skillet as you chop. Peel eggplant. Begin cutting the eggplant into 1-inch squares. Set aside.

Add the beef to the skillet. Cook, turning and breaking up the meat, until most of the meat is crumbled and browned, about 3 minutes. Finish cutting the eggplant while the meat cooks.

Add the eggplant, tomato sauce and ketchup to the skillet and stir to mix. Cover, and boil until all the meat is no longer pink and the eggplant is soft, about 6 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent sticking, taking care not to make the eggplant mushy.

Meanwhile, add the nutmeg and cinnamon to the Alfredo sauce. Stir well. Drizzle the sauce evenly over the skillet. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the meat mixture and place under the broiler until the top is bubbly and just begins to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the orzo and serve the meat over the orzo. Serves 6.

After I found the above recipe, I came across an oven-baked eggplant recipe that makes a good meatless main dish when served with a tossed salad of dark greens.

OVEN-BAKED EGGPLANT

1 medium eggplant

1/2 cup cottage cheese (I use low-fat)

2 tablespoons onion, chopped

1 teaspoon bay leaf, ground

1 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon oregano

3 to 4 tablespoons tomato sauce

3 ounces of Provolone cheese

Cut eggplant in half, lengthwise and cook in microwave for about 5 minutes. Scoop out the insides, leaving a half-inch shell. Mash eggplant with cottage cheese, onion, bay leaf, basil, oregano and tomato sauce.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stuff eggplant halves, place in casserole dish. Add a little water to bottom of dish to keep eggplant moist. Bake covered for 15 minutes. Top with Provolone cheese. Bake 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serves 2 to 3 as main dish or 4-5 as side dish.

Eating lighter

Like some families, we catch as catch can at mealtimes. Sometimes we eat together; other times it is my granddaughter and me. She is not really keen on eating, so sometimes it is me rummaging around the kitchen for something to quickly fix. My daughter's work hours change almost daily; sometimes we eat lunch together and not dinner and then vice versa.

My daughter and I do not need any extra calories, so I have been trying to change up meals, especially breakfast, and make it healthier. My granddaughter does like eggs. This is an omelet that uses flavors that the three of us like and is a quick fix.

Do not be afraid to make an omelet; the worst that can happen is scrambled eggs.

CINNAMON OMELET

2 eggs

Splash of fat-free half-n-half

Splash of reduced-sugar vanilla syrup (can use coffee syrup)

2 tablespoons sucralose-based sweetener or stevia, whatever you prefer

1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 tablespoons or1/4 block cream cheese

Heat small frying pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Mix ingredients together and pour into frying pan as if you're making an omelet. Cover and let cook about 5 minutes (until no longer runny in the center) over medium heat.

Remove from heat and flip to finish cooking. Flip onto plate and put cream cheese on 1 side; flip the rest of omelet over the cream cheese side and top with sugar-free syrup if desired.

For a quick and low-fat dessert, I make ricotta pudding. It is so simple that a recipe really isn't necessary, but here goes anyway.

RICOTTA PUDDING

8 ounces low-fat ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 to 1/2 cup sucralose-based sweetener or equivalent amount of stevia

Cinnamon and nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon each

Mix together and chill. Makes 4 servings.

Sweet potato bread pudding

Nothing about sweet potato bread pudding is low-fat. It can be made that way, but Pam Taylor's friend asked for a good sweet potato bread pudding similar to the one served at Lookout Steakhouse in Gulfport.

One of the best ones is Emeril Lagasse's in one of his cookbooks. He prepared this on his former TV show "Essence of Emeril."

SWEET POTATO BREAD PUDDING

4 tablespoons butter

4 eggs

1 cup light brown sugar

3 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups tender-roasted sweet potatoes, pureed

1 cup pecans

6 cups cubed day-old bread (such as French bread)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a large baking dish (10 x 14 inches) with 2 tablespoons of butter.

In a large bowl whisk together eggs, brown sugar, cream and milk. Stir in vanilla, spices, sweet potato purée, pecans and bread, blending thoroughly. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter and pour into baking dish. Bake until just firm, 1 hour. Cool pudding in dish on a baking rack until just warm, then cut into squares to serve.

-- From the "Essence of Emeril"

Sausage recipe, please

Norma Shiero of Parrish, Fla., needs a recipe for breakfast sausage that uses poultry seasoning. She wants to make her own like she used to make in the school cafeteria for students.

Readers, if you have a recipe, please send it to me.

Andrea Yeager, can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

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