Old Tradition Meets New: Ginger Cutout Cookies
Oct28

Old Tradition Meets New: Ginger Cutout Cookies

I didn’t grown up with Halloween, so even after living in the US for 21 years (how did that happen?!), it doesn’t have the same meaning for me as the die-hards around me. (I’m sure if I had grown up collecting pails of candy with my friends, and dressing up in lavish costumes, it would be my fayyyvorite holiday!)  But I did grow up with a tradition of ginger cookies. My love for ginger “biscuits”—as we called them in South Africa—began with these very gingersnaps that my step-mom, Pam, used to make. They’re characteristically crunchy, but if you prefer a chewy cookie, just bake for less time. I like them perfectly crispy around the edges with just a little chew in the middle. Yum! If you’re not gonna frost them, painting them with egg gives them a glossy sheen, but if you forget this step (like I did) they will still be delish!   My favorite taster said they’re just right! (She’s munching on a ghost cookie—in case you’re wondering.)   I found the cute jack-o-lantern cookie stamp set at Sur La Table. Would you believe I FORGOT to use them and just managed to scrape three together with the last offcuts of dough!     And even after being rolled and re-rolled they were still pretty yummy! Though I did leave these in the oven for about 30 seconds too long so they’re crrrrrispy! Make sure to keep an eye on them because every minute counts!   In my recent trip to South Africa, I poured over Pam’s recipe book, taking snaps of all my childhood favs. (I sure wish I would’ve been more interested when I lived there.) How cool is this? The original recipe from her mom, Nan, who was a fabulous baker.   You know I just couldn’t stop there though, right? I modified the recipe (after my usual hours of research and testing) which called for creaming the eggs and sugar. (Yes, you read that correctly) There are so few recipes that require this step, that I decided to go with the simpler method of whisking and stirring—from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book (fabulous book) . I mean, why bring out the mixer unless absolutely necessary, right? And this way my daughter can be involved in the mixing too—not just the cutting and frosting. You might be wondering why they call for such a large amount of baking soda (2 teaspoons). This is so that they rise dramatically and then collapse, leaving the cute crackles on the surface. It also allows for better browning and the cracks in the dough allow more moisture to escape, making them crispier. Refrigerating the dough deepens...

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Asian Cole Slaw
Apr07

Asian Cole Slaw

This versatile slaw is light, crunchy, and refreshing—fab for summer entertaining. (And waaaaay better for you than traditional Coleslaw!) Only 5 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per serving. It pairs wonderfully with brisket or steak. (Perfect for Passover!) Goes great with Chinese Take-Out too. (Mix it with Lo Mein to bulk it up and reduce the calories.)   When I was in South Africa last November for my dad’s 80th, I helped my sweet Auntie Angie—visiting from Israel—make her popular, five-ingredient slaw for shabbat dinner. Auntie Angie’s Super Simple Slaw one green cabbage, shredded 1 cup white vinegar 1 cup vegetable oil 1 cup sugar (oy!) 4 tablespoons soy sauce It was surprisingly delicious. But a little too high in oil and sugar for me. Then, a few weeks ago, we introduced our close friends, the Hills, to Wood Ranch in Agoura Hills—the always packed BBQ joint in the LA West Valley—and the charming waitress, Mia, insisted that we try some of their most popular sides before proceeding with our order of grilled asparagus and Caesar salad. (I guess she didn’t approve!) Well, I was soooo glad that she did, because otherwise I would never have discovered their fabulous slaw! Refreshingly crispy and just a little sweet. (I wished that I had eaten more slaw and less ribs as I waddled out of there feeling like a stuffed piglet!) Idea! What if I combined Auntie Angie’s Super Simple Slaw with Wood Ranch’s Original Peanut Coleslaw, giving it an Asian twist…? I used the same colorful, crunchy veggies—and of course, the roasted peanuts, which give that sweet and salty bite.  I added ginger and garlic, and substituted rice vinegar (my fav) and lime juice, and reduced the sugar and oil.  Yummmm!!!! And totally addicting! (I have literally eaten pounds of the stuff—just cannot get enough of it!) Trader Joe’s carries Natural Rice Vinegar and Toasted Sesame Oil—both reasonably priced. You can find them in the Asian section of your supermarket.           Add a drop to brighten up any dish, or whisk with lemon juice and olive oil for a tasty dressing.                 Click here for my Trader Joe’s Shopping List (with Weight Watchers Power Foods and PointsPlus) >> If you’re in the mood for chopping veggies (I personally find it quite therapeutic)—go for it. But any 2 pound combination of pre-cut cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots—or even broccoli slaw—will work. I even saw an Asian Blend with Kale at Ralph’s. Make it a Meal Add Trader Joe’s Grilled Teriyaki Chicken Strips   Or StarKist Sweet & Spicy Tuna (Target)   Substitute edamame...

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Spectacular Ginger “Hermits”
Dec06

Spectacular Ginger “Hermits”

Click here to see all three clips of Orna making Hermits on YouTube >>  These soft and chewy, gingery cookie bars are the ultimate holiday cookie.   They originated in New England in the 1900’s, and supposedly gained their name because the flavor improves on day 2 or 3, after being stowed away like a “hermit”—perfect for making ahead and giving as gifts. This is a modern version, with brown butter, crystallized ginger, and raisins. I just can’t stop eating them! Click here for latest blogpost on visit to Weight Watchers meeting! The history My mother-in-law once raved about the “best cookie she ever tasted in her life,” and she managed to get the recipe from a friend in Calgary, Canada—Sam’s hometown. I was reluctant, because neither Sam nor I usually like dried fruit in cookies. But his folks convinced us how fabulous these fruity “ginger cookies” were, and I decided to brave the very basic recipe she gave me. The whole process was agonizing! I had scoured the internet for a recipe with similar ingredients and instructions, and discovered that they were actually called “Hermits.” But I couldn’t find exact details on how long or wide to make the logs of dough, how big to cut them, how many cookies it would turn out, etc. If you’ve been following any of my other posts, you’ll know that I LOVE details, so this one was a challenge. The baking times were very tricky, but I FINALLY got it right, and they were outstanding. (I now realize that since the recipe was from Calgary—which is at a higher altitude—I should’ve reduced the oven temp by 25 degrees.) I was still in search of a better version I’m not a fan of cloves—a predominant note in the Calgary recipe, which also has dried apricots and raisins or cherries. I was sure that a different combination of spices would make this cookie really shine. The problem with making something everybody likes is that they will compare everything similar to that and tell you not to bother!   I tried Iced Hermits from Martha Stewart’s Cookies (fabulous book!)—also with crystallized ginger. I thought they were quite good (though a bit rich), but Sam vetoed them in favor of the originals.         You can imagine my delight when I found a detailed recipe for Hermits in my Cook’s Illustrated Baking for the Holidays 2012 magazine. Now I love this magazine even more! (You can find them for a great price at Costco.) They test hundreds of recipes to find the perfect version, explaining the science of each step and method, complete with...

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Kid-Friendly Broccoli Slaw

I developed this recipe many years ago when I joined Weight Watchers, and had to figure out how to stretch twenty “points” a day. The long strands of the broccoli slaw gave me the same satisfaction as pasta (ok—a bit of a stretch) and was zero points! I would add some shredded roast chicken and in no time had a satisfying and delicious meal. Weight Watchers…   Orna with the Duchess of York Weight Watchers Convention, 2004   I joined Weight Watchers in 2001, and after losing 35 pounds on the program (Points & Core Plan), I became a leader and Ambassador for Weight Watchers, and then a Private Coach. Click here for Orna’s Weight Loss Journey (with before and after pics) >> Kid Friendly… My toddler, Aja, LOVES my broccoli slaw; she’s been devouring it since she first started solids. Just cut it up with a kitchen scissors into more manageable pieces for the little ones, so the strands don’t get stuck in their throats. It does get a little messy… but it’s well worth it! Sautéed Broccoli Slaw         Notes:     Broccoli cole slaw is shredded carrots and broccoli stems—instead of the usual shredded cabbage found in cole slaw. Some brands of broccoli slaw (eg. Trader Joes) are a bit tough and stringy, so you might have to simmer for longer, and make sure to cut it into smaller pieces for kids. Tip: I always keep powdered chicken broth in my pantry. It adds flavor to many dishes, and it’s convenient when you only need a small amount. It is also a great Weight Loss Tool: Around 5pm in winter when I feel hungry—or “peckish”, as we would say in South Africa—I fill up on a cup of chicken broth. I used to use Telma Chicken Cubes, but hated having to bash the poor cube with a fork to get it to dissolve properly. Then my sister-in-law, Robyn, introduced me to the powder and I never went back! I do still use Telma Vegetable Cubes because they thicken and add depth of flavor to vegetable dishes—you should try it. Or just to sip on; the carrots and bits at the bottom are strangely satisfying, and the vegetable broth is thicker and more filling than chicken broth. Click here for Orna’s Curried Veggies Recipe >> Cool Tools Masterclad Pro Series Saute 12″ Non-Stick Pan with lid. Favorite sauté pan EVER! I discovered them at Costco on a special promotion, but you can find them online. You Might Also Like Mini Cauliflower Pizza Bites—OMG they’re that good >> Guilt Free “Slap Chips” (aka Fat Free Potato Chips)...

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The Ultimate Ginger Cookie
Oct06

The Ultimate Ginger Cookie

I’ve made many-a-ginger-cookie, and finally discovered this version from Ina Garten, which really is the “ultimate” ginger cookie! A little crispy on the outside, but then perfectly chewy in the middle. And wonderful, distinct gingery flavor! I doubled the recipe, because I think you’ll find that one batch simply isn’t enough. By the time you’ve tried one—or two, or three—just to make sure they are perfect… and then had your “tasters” try one… you get the picture… And… they are even better the next day. Another reason to love this recipe—I am a huge fan of anything that can be made ahead. You might be surprised that I listed these as kid-friendly, but these are Aja, my toddler’s favorite cookies that I bake. Biscuits…? When I visited my brother, Gary, at his house or furniture factory in Johannesburg (Jo’burg), there was always a big tin of delicious, crunchy, homemade “ginger biscuits” that looked like giant ginger flying saucers! What? You must be thinking… Well, in South Africa, a “biscuit” is actually what’s known as a cookie here in the U.S., and a “cookie” is what’s known as a cupcake here. I know, pretty confusing. It took me a long time to learn the new lingo! I tried to recreate the experience, but I think sometimes when you convert recipes from “the old country” they just aren’t the same.   I LOVE grating my own nutmeg—it makes me feel very fancy! My microplane grater is one of my favorite tools. I happen to love the taste and smell of nutmeg, and it is definitely much fresher and more flavorful if you grind it yourself. And there’s something so cute about those little nutmegs—look like acorns.           Cool Tools: Microplane Grater, Parchment Paper, Salter Scale       The Ultimate Ginger Cookie 2013-08-05 10:42:32 Yields 44 Write a review Save Recipe Print Prep Time 30 min Cook Time 15 min Total Time 45 min Prep Time 30 min Cook Time 15 min Total Time 45 min 133 calories 25 g 8 g 3 g 2 g 0 g 36 g 94 g 13 g 0 g 3 g Nutrition Facts Serving Size 36g Yields 44 Amount Per Serving Calories 133 Calories from Fat 27 % Daily Value * Total Fat 3g 5% Saturated Fat 0g 2% Trans Fat 0g Polyunsaturated Fat 1g Monounsaturated Fat 2g Cholesterol 8mg 3% Sodium 94mg 4% Total Carbohydrates 25g 8% Dietary Fiber 1g 4% Sugars 13g Protein 2g Vitamin A0%Vitamin C0% Calcium3%Iron8% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on...

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