Saturday, September 18, 2010


The most important day in Judaism, Yom Kippur was the day the High Priest made an atonement sacrifice to reconcile the sins of the people. In the Old Testament, a blood sacrifice was offered to God, and then a goat was set free into the wilderness. This “scapegoat” symbolically carried away the sins of the people.

After fasting 25 hours leading up to Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), a sweet way to break the fast would be a cherry kugel, most welcome after a fast, and easy as well.

Cherry Sweet Noodle Kugel

16 ounces (500 grams) wide noodles
4 eggs, beaten
½ cup (125 grams) sugar
4 tablespoons butter (at room temperature)
16 ounces (500 grams) cottage cheese
1 large can of cherry pie filling

Boil the noodles as package directs. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Add butter to drained noodles and stir well.
Add beaten eggs, sugar, cottage cheese and stir. Mixture should be creamy, not dry.
Place in a large greased casserole dish.
Bake uncovered, at 350F (175C) for 45 minutes.
Cover the top with the filling and bake for another 15 minutes.
Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Try this succulent dessert, rich in flavour, rich in tradition.

Friday, September 17, 2010


When I was a kid, we always had two pies after holiday meals, pumpkin and mincemeat. I liked both of them. Years later I tasted sweet potato pie, which is quite similar tasting to pumpkin. I came to realize the key taste was due to the exotic spices in both pumpkin and sweet potato. So it is six of one, I enjoy them both.

I also remember a woman in Mississippi who baked “Bean Pie” which tasted like the aforementioned pumpkin/sweet potato pies. When I inquired as to why pinto beans, she said she “didn’t have no sweet potatoes around, and it sure ain’t pumpkin season”. She said all she did was make a puree of the pinto beans and take it from there. I asked about the taste and she explained that the spices nullified any bean flavour. She was right.

Recently I baked a Pinto Bean Pie myself and it was so good that, to use an old expression, “It’ll make you want to slap your mama”.

If you have pinto beans on hand (and who doesn’t), you can make this tasty dessert, which happily contains the nutritive bonus of the legume.

Pinto bean puree:

Clean, sort and soak 1 cup of dried pinto beans overnight, or quick soak by bringing soaking water to boiling and then let beans sit for 1 hour. Now, in a medium saucepan, cover pinto beans with water, ½ teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Bring to a boil and simmer until beans are tender, about 1 hour. Or pressure cook about 6 minutes, quick-release the pressure and taste for doneness. Drain the beans but reserve the liquid. Put the pinto beans in an electric blender with a little of the reserved liquid and blend till smooth. This makes about 2 cups of puree.

Pinto bean pie:

3 eggs
2 cups pinto bean puree
1-1/4 cups whole milk
6 fluid ounces light cream

1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 nine inch diameter unbaked pie shell Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Beat eggs well in a large bowl. Now add the puree, milk and cream. Stir until smooth. Add salt and sugar and the spices, stirring until thoroughly blended. Pour into the pie shell and bake for 1 hour. Check doneness by sticking clean knife blade in centre. It should come out clean. Cool to room temperature. Chill the pie and when you serve it put a spot of whipped cream on each wedge.

That Pinto Bean Pie is good groceries, I tell you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Recently my daughter Stephanie called and asked me about cooking EDAMAME. That reminded me about my years working in a grain elevator, and the tons of soybeans I’ve seen. The beans were crushed for their oil, and the remains were dried and became soy meal, for export. Nobody thought of consuming soybeans because they took forever to cook and were very bland. Only industrial processors could appreciate soybeans, turning them into meat analogs or textured vegetable protein, used to stretch or replace meat in recipes. Meat prices got outrageous in the early 1970’s, and a national boycott ensued. Soy- based meat substitute products became ubiquitous in local supermarkets, but soon vanished when beef prices stabilized.

The latest soy “product” on the market has taken off like a rocket; and for good reason. It is easy to prepare and extremely versatile. Called edamame, they are fresh green soy beans available everywhere, even in the freezer section. Mame means bean in Japanese, and Eda means branch. The name edamame means that the soy beans are harvested while still attached in branches.

Edamame are a beautiful jade green. They have a creamy texture, pleasant crunch and they are very healthy. If you are a vegetarian, edamame is a great way to get complete protein (all eight essential amino acids). A ½ cup of cooked edamame has 11 grams of protein and 4 grams of fibre, something to cheer about; as well as hard to find vital omega-3 fats, which are abundant in edamame.

You can puree edamame and serve as a healthy alternative to mashed potatoes, or to make a lovely Hummus. Try adding edamame to soup recipes during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Substitute edamame for lima beans in succotash. Use it to replace green peas once in awhile. You can enjoy edamame added to salads.

Try this hummus recipe, using edamame in place of garbanzo beans.

2 cups frozen shelled edamame, cooked as per directions
¼ cup of tahini (substitute creamy peanut butter if you cannot obtain tahini)
¼ cup of water
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon powdered cumin
Good pinch of salt
¼ cup good olive oil

Combine all in a food processor and enjoy with crisp pita chips, celery sticks or carrot sticks.

Used to be if you wanted to enjoy the many health benefits of soybeans, you had to start with the dried beans. That meant you had to soak them overnight or quick soak them (bring to boil in covered water, then let sit for one hour), and then either cook for 3 hours, or pressure cook for 13-15 minutes. The now widely available edamame is much more convenient.

Try edamame, its good groceries.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


If you liked the onion cream soup, I’d like to offer an old-time favourite, a leek and potato soup called Vichyssoise. But plan ahead, it needs to cool down to room temperature and then subsequently chill for 6 hours. But this classic is worth it. It serves 8, easily halved if you wish.

2 tablespoons butter
4 large leeks, cleaned and sliced, mostly tender white part
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
5 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1 quart (32ounces) good chicken stock
2 cups milk
Pinch of white pepper
2 cups light cream
1 cup heavy cream
Chopped chives for garnish

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the leeks and onion, stirring until translucent.

Add the potatoes and stock to the pan, stir and simmer for 30 minutes. Potatoes should be very tender.

In an electric blender, puree the contents of the pan, one cup at a time and return to the pan.

Add the milk, pepper and light cream and heat, not quite to boiling.

Cool the soup and then add the heavy cream and chill at least 6 hours.

Serve this marvelous soup in small bowls or cups, garnished with chives.

I know there are some folks who don’t care to indulge in cold soups, but they who have responded to my gentle prodding are mighty pleased every time. Vichssoise is classic French cookery, rightly esteemed. I hope you will try it.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Cream is a wonderful food to have in your home, important in both rustic farmhouse and gourmet haute cuisine, or anywhere in-between.

Light cream is about 30% butterfat and heavy cream is at least 40%. Many people cringe at these butterfat amounts, but they shouldn’t. It’s the manufactured industrial fats that are more troublesome. Any packaged foods you could now find in supermarkets are more dangerous than sweet cream could ever be. But if you cook from scratch using natural un-processed groceries, using real cream will be a healthy and tasty addition to your diet. Instead of a “powdered” cream in your coffee, try a ½ and ½ blend of light cream and milk instead. While you are enjoying your cuppa java, read the ingredients on the dry cream label and then quickly toss in the refuse bin. Good riddance and welcome to wholesome cream.

You can make delicious whipped cream garnish toppings for waffles, soups and drinks.

Crème Chantilly is simply beating a teaspoon of honey and a ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract into one cup of heavy cream.

Crème Amandine is one cup of heavy cream whipped with the addition of one teaspoon almond extract, a couple drops of lemon juice and a tablespoon of toasted, shredded almonds. Or you could skip that and just add ¼ cup of almond paste.

Soups made with cream are always toothsome and satisfying. Here is an interesting Onion Cream Soup:

2 tablespoons butter
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 cups of milk
2 tablespoons flour
4 egg yolks
12 fluid ounces of light cream
6 slices of French bread baguette, fried in butter till browned on both sides
Pinch of black pepper

Heat the milk gently
Fry the onions in butter until tender
Thoroughly stir the flour into the onions. Slowly add the hot milk and pepper
Cook on low flame for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, and then remove from heat
Beat the egg yolks and cream in a bowl
Beating steadily, slowly drip 1 cup of soup into the bowl to temper the yolks
Now pour this into the soup, heating gently
Put the toast slices in each bowl and pour on the soup.

You’ll enjoy this delicious soup for sure.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Rosh Hashanah refers to the Jewish New Year, a celebration of the creation of the world. It is also a 2-day event for devout followers of Judaism to re-examine their life and repent for any transgressions.

After the prayer service, Jews eat a festive meal. This includes their special Challah bread baked in a round to symbolize the cycle of time. Another important food custom observed on the feast of Rosh Hashanah is eating a piece of apple dipped in honey signifying hope for a sweet year. On the second day, a new fruit not yet eaten this year is eaten. Worldwide, symbolic foods like dates and beets are eaten also, depending on which traditions are observed.

One universally popular holiday side dish is called Potato Kugel, which is like a savory pudding that goes well with poultry and fish dishes. I love it.


6 potatoes
1 medium onion, grated
2 egg yolks, beaten
4 tablespoons matzoh meal, or cracker meal
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons melted chicken fat or butter
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Preheat oven to 375F
Grate peeled potatoes into salted water, and then drain well.
Mix them in a big bowl with the onion, egg yolks, meal, baking powder, salt and pepper, and two tablespoons of fat. When thoroughly mixed, fold in the egg whites carefully.
Pour into a well greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Now pour the remaining fat on top.
Bake for 1 hour (mixture is set and lightly browned on top).

You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy Potato Kugel. Enjoy anytime.
Shana Tovah (Happy New Year).

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Years ago, when I was single, often I worked overtime. I’d have a plate lunch, and after a 12 hour day, go back to the flat and look for something quick, easy, nutritious, and of course, tasty to eat. What soon became a twice weekly meal were ramen noodles. They were very inexpensive and quick to prepare. But tasty was another story. By themselves they were just a salty liquid with noodles. One way to cut the salt was to add vegetables. I bought some 16 oz bags of frozen broccoli, cauliflower and carrot mixture, and after some experimentation, I came up with a tasty dish.

Here is how to doctor up ramen noodles, with the wonderful benefit of eating more than enough fresh frozen vegetables. This could be two servings, but even if you eat it all yourself, it’s still only about 300 calories, although light on protein. But, if you ate enough protein during the day, this complex carbohydrate meal is perfect for your supper.

1 packet of ramen noodles, your choice of flavour
16oz bag of frozen broccoli, cauliflower and carrot mixture
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon of oriental sesame oil
Dash of onion powder and garlic powder (optional)
Dash of 5 spice powder (optional)

Put one cup of water in a pot. Turn on flame and add the soy sauce, sesame oil, onion and garlic powder and 5 spice powder, if using. Before opening the noodles, break in half and then break each half in half. Add the contents of the flavour envelope, stir, and add vegetables. Cover and bring to boil, then boil uncovered about 3 minutes. Add the quartered noodles and stir well to fully immerse. Boil 3 minutes and serve.

Friday, September 3, 2010


All over Latin America and India too, people eat legumes (beans and lentils), almost daily. Combined with grain they make it a complete protein. It could be corn, wheat or barley, but most often is rice.

From the infinitive “dalna,” which means “to split,” Indian bean dishes are usually called “dals.” Like our split peas, numerous Indian beans are split.

Many Indians do not eat meat, but thrive on dals. Not only are they nutritious, but also inexpensive and easy to prepare. Best of all they taste fabulous due to the fragrant spices utilized. You could set aside one day a week for dals. Because of the many varieties, one could go for months with a different dal each week. Or, use dals as an interesting side dish.

If you have a lot of spices in your cupboard that you hardly ever employ, dals may afford you the opportunity to use them. Spice mixtures are known as garam masalas, and they add wonderful warm flavour to dals. They may consist of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, nutmeg and other spices. Masala means mixture, so use those most pleasing to you and mix it up. If you don’t have a lot of spices, you can purchase a single garam masala in the spice section of any supermarket.

Actual Chana Dal is made with hard to find, split garbanzo beans, but a bag of dried yellow split peas is a reasonable substitute. If you have a slow-cooker or a pressure cooker, dals are as easy as making coffee. If you don’t, they are as easy as making tea.

Chana Dal
2 cups dried yellow split peas
6 cups water
1 large onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons garam masala
salt to taste
Chop the onion and fry in oil. Caramelize it starting with medium high heat, then lower it and stir frequently to avoid burning it. While the onion is browning, simmer the peas in salted water until tender, as package directs.

When the onions are browned, add the garam masala to the skillet. Stir well and then add the onion mixture to the peas.

Serve over steamed rice. You can put a spoonful of plain yoghurt on the dal if you like.
If you’ve never made a dal, try this basic recipe. It’s delicious and a good way to use those untouched spices you may have on hand.
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