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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Quick Mexican Chicken Soup with Hominy
Feb20

Quick Mexican Chicken Soup with Hominy

This delicious Posole (traditional Mexican soup or stew) takes 30 minutes to make, and the fun toppings add interesting textures and surprising flavor-bursts. Yummmy! Even Mr. Picky loved it. (faint)   My first request when I go back to South Africa is for my beloved Samp Mielies—a staple in the diet of the Xhosa South African people. (Mielie means corn in Afrikaans.) I have fond memories of my nanny making it for me. I even had my dad schlep a bag in his suitcase when I first moved to Los Angeles in 1996, and almost burned the house down when I tried cooking it in the microwave! (It usually takes about 3 hours to cook on the stove.) Oy! This was clearly before I learned how to cook. In our recent trip to South Africa, sweetheart Mary made it specially for me. You’ll never believe what her secret ingredient was… Cremora. (South African coffee creamer) Hmmm… interesting. That’s her making me a to-go cup (pad-kos) for the drive to the airport. 🙂   I was ecstatic to discover that hominy (the canned, Mexican version of it), was quite similar—and no cooking required! Hominy is basically like giant, puffed up pieces of corn, but with that pasta-like density and chew-factor. LOVE it! And it’s good for you. (It’s one of my top ten Weight Watchers Power Foods—coming soon) But still, I was never quite sure what to do with it—besides heat and eat.   Then last week I saw an intriguing dish at Gelsons Market in California—and on closer inspection discovered that what I thought was potato was actually hominy.   Actually, in their version, called “Chicken Ranchero”, there was hominy and potato. I fell head-over-heels in love with this dish (actually, more like obsessed) and was determined to re-create it. I remembered seeing Daphne Oz making something similar on The Chew (Daphne Oz’s Chicken Pozole Verde)—where she pureed tomatillos and jalapeños. I thought that using Salsa Verde—a green salsa made from tomatillos, green chiles and cilantro—would make it even more cinchy, and no need to conquer your fear of chiles! (Ok, you’re right…  my fear, not yours!)   If you can’t find Salsa Verde, sauté half a chopped jalapeño pepper with the garlic. Greek Yogurt in Mexican Soup, you say? If you can up the protein while adding creaminess and tang, I say why not! Some people don’t like (actually, more like hate) cilantro, so leave it as an optional topping. Crumble Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt White Corn Tortilla Chips for extra crunch! (They don’t taste guilt free at all)   And would you believe that these are all Weight...

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Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with Nutella Sauce
Feb16

Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with Nutella Sauce

Panna Cotta—which means “cooked cream” in Italian—is the most luscious, dreamy dessert, and you won’t believe how easy it is to make!   We had the pleasure of dining at charmingly quaint Via Veneto in Santa Monica last weekend (favorite new LA restaurant!), with our dear friend, Neil, who was visiting from New York. Left to Right: Neil Gillis, Orna Purkin, Sam Purkin   I can resist most restaurant desserts… but they had me at Nutella! Their Panna Cotta with Nutella Sauce was one of the most exquisite things ever to pass my lips. Delightfully smooooth and silky. (How could a milky pudding topped with chocolate hazelnut sauce be bad?) Sorry, didn’t even pause to take a pic before indulging! I politely stopped after what seemed like my third of the dessert, but when I realized that no one else was going in, I quietly scooped up the rest. I guess I wasn’t as discreet as I thought, because quick-witted friend Neil said, are you going to scarf that one too? (Referring to the Berry Panna Cotta, which the extremely authentic Italian waiter—whom we thought at first was was putting on an accent—had mistakenly brought out, and graciously allowed us to keep.) Funny! (Rude) And so began my mission to make Perfect Panna Cotta for Valentine’s Day I found the cute heart shaped ramekins at Cost Plus World Market.   There are many variations of Vanilla Panna Cotta out there, and I can’t believe I got suckered in by the 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt in Iron Chef Michael Symon’s recipe. (Either that or the boyish good looks and charm!) I know a mere 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt won’t add protein or nutritional value to an entire recipe. (And it’s kind of ironic, since I gobbled up every last drop of remaining full-cream deliciousness—putting my usual fat free yogurts to shame!)   Anyway, I thought a little tang in the Panna Cotta would balance the sweetness of the sauce… right? Right! Oh.  My.  Goodness. Your guests will be blown away by this beautiful and decadent dessert—surprisingly light, and not too rich or sweet. If you want to keep it super-simple, just pour into serving glasses or cups and refrigerate—no need to un-mold before serving. (That part can get a little tricky.) PLEASE try it! And let me know how you like it.   Foolproof Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta   Vanilla Beans are pricy, but really take this kind of a dessert to a whole other level. And they’re fun to use.   Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the sticky seeds with the tip of a...

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Apricot Squares
Sep02

Apricot Squares

Grating the dough gives these tasty squares their good looks, and wonderful, crumbly texture!   The smell wafting out of my oven right now takes me right back to my childhood, when my older sister, Sharon, often made these delicious “farfel biscuits.” I’ve fleshed out the simple recipe from The New International Goodwill Recipe Book (which every young Jewish girl in South Africa got when starting out) with detailed instructions and pics. I hope you’ll give them a try, because they’re really easy, and you’ll probably find all the ingredients in your pantry! What you will need  Since this is a jam-centric recipe, buy a good quality jam. I’m partial to Bonne Maman, which is smooth and has a lovely taste, and most importantly doesn’t contain corn syrup. You can find it at most supermarkets these days—even Costco carries the Apricot Preserves, so you know they must be good! Spray baking sheet and line with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang for easy removal Grate half of the chilled dough directly onto the prepared pan Spread the jam evenly on top Grate the remaining dough on top Bake 20 – 25 minutes till golden; after 5 minutes carefully transfer to wire rack to cool completely Cut with a sharp knife into 2-inch squares Apricot Squares 2013-09-01 20:58:35 Yields 35 Write a review Save Recipe Print 184 calories 30 g 25 g 7 g 2 g 3 g 52 g 31 g 15 g 0 g 2 g Nutrition Facts Serving Size 52g Yields 35 Amount Per Serving Calories 184 Calories from Fat 57 % Daily Value * Total Fat 7g 10% Saturated Fat 3g 17% Trans Fat 0g Polyunsaturated Fat 0g Monounsaturated Fat 2g Cholesterol 25mg 8% Sodium 31mg 1% Total Carbohydrates 30g 10% Dietary Fiber 0g 2% Sugars 15g Protein 2g Vitamin A4%Vitamin C3% Calcium3%Iron2% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. Does this look wrong? Ingredients 1 cup butter, salted, room temperature 1 cup sugar 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 large eggs, room temperature 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 4 cups all-purpose flour 4 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt vegetable cooking spray 2 1/4 cups apricot jam, room temperature Instructions Lightly coat an 11 x 17-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; line the bottom with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Spoon jam into a bowl, and beat with a rubber spatula to smooth out; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt to combine. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with...

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