Tell me the truth. When you wake up in the morning, are you already thinking about your supper plans before you even finish getting dressed, or it is just me?
It’s not that I’m obsessed with food (okay, maybe I am, but only a teeny, tiny bit). It’s just that as one of the least spontaneous people you will ever meet, I like to plan ahead. So before I even get to my daily breakfast of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and an ice cold mug of skim milk, chances are excellent that my mind has already pondered defrosting chicken and starting a pot of soup, while simultaneously scrolling through my mental recipe Rolodex for a salad whose ingredients loosely correspond to the contents of my vegetable bin.
Like everyone else, I have stockpiled plenty of recipes over the years from friends, relatives, magazines, websites and other random sources to make those suppers magically appear on the table, but I confess to getting a secret thrill every time a new kosher cookbook hits the market. There is nothing like the feel of those crisp new pages in your hands while taking in gorgeous, glossy pictures that you know took hours to get just right. Kosher cookbooks have finally made it to the big leagues, with stunning volumes that can hold their own in any Barnes and Noble, and the latest two entries distinguish themselves as unique specialty cookbooks that are very timely, very today and full of great ideas.
Secrets of Skinny Cooking (ArtScroll)
If you have ever psyched yourself up to lose those extra pounds but then lost your resolve when you realized that you had absolutely no clue what to cook while watching your weight, you will understand what drove popular food writer Victoria Dwek and nutritionist Shani Taub to team up. Hoping to inspire healthy eaters with foods that are tasty, full of flavor but still surprisingly light, Secrets of Skinny Cooking has more than 135 recipes that tackle not just soups, salads, veggies and mains, but also breakfast, dessert, and friendly carbs.
Both Dwek and Taub bring their A-game to this beautiful book. As the co-author of the Made Easy cookbook series, managing editor of a weekly kosher food magazine, a featured personality on the Kosher.com website and co-founder of the Between Carpools lifestyle website and app, Dwek is bubbly, energetic and full of creativity and enthusiasm. Certified as both a nutritionist and a diet consultant, Taub has her own health food line and has counseled hundreds of patients. Put these two vibrant women together and, boom!, you get a cookbook that appreciates that if you want people to make healthy food choices, you better make sure they have delicious, easy-to-prepare options that will tempt the entire family.
There are plenty of goodies here that will get your whole brood wandering into the kitchen sniffing appreciatively. Quite a few are based on relatively unknown foodie tricks: how to caramelize onions without oil, how to create fabulous dressings that will make any salad sing without tipping the scale in the wrong direction, suggestions for healthy snacks that won’t blow your daily calorie budget and a recipe for cauliflower cream (yup, you read that right) that can be used as a replacement for heavy cream or cheese. Sprinkled throughout are other great ideas such as pasta alternatives and suggestions for recipe building blocks to keep in your fridge. It also features clear labels indicating a recipe’s compatibility with popular diets and eating plans, including gluten-free, sugar-free, low carb, Whole 30, paleo and Taub’s diet program.
Don’t let the name Secrets of Skinny Cooking fool you. This book isn’t just about raw veggies and the versatility of rice cakes; there are diet-friendly milkshakes here, people, as well as a svelte Alfredo sauce, zucchini pizza fries, pulled chicken tacos, tuna sliders, crème brulee and 44-calorie sushi made with nori, cauliflower rice and your favorite fish and veggies.
The must try’s for me? The hearty mushroom chili that marries ground beef with baby bella mushrooms and plenty of spices. The fish fajitas, a great way to turn humble tilapia into a rock star. And chocolate brownies that include baby food sweet potatoes to make them both fat free and low in sugar. Equally exciting is a recipe guide that offers lightened up versions of a number of great recipes in the six earlier cookbooks that Dwek co-authored with her partner in all things yummy, Leah Schapira.
Secrets of Skinny Cooking more than lives up to its subtitle, Mouthwatering Recipes You Won’t Believe are Low Calorie, and may just be the answer to your dieting dreams.
Table for Two (Israel Bookshop)
How to turn a kitchen newbie into a culinary superstar? Just hand her a copy of Rivka Parizad’s Table for Two, a kitchen tool so indispensable that it should be given to every kallah under the chuppah along with her kesuba. An amazing book that includes not just recipes but also oodles of helpful advice, Table for Two is like that wonderful sister, cousin or BFF who understands that just because you found your bashert doesn’t mean that you were suddenly gifted with the ability to turn out yummy, healthy meals on a daily basis. Just about everything a new bride could ever want to know about cooking is here, from what size pans and containers will best suit your needs, to a quick glossary of basic cooking terms, to dealing with that moment of terror when you realize that you need to prepare food for lunch. Every. Single. Day.
Table for Two is divided into helpful chapters that address the most common cooking situations: breakfast, lunch, supper and Shabbos, further broken down into sub-categories including all three Shabbos meals, side dishes, soups and desserts.
One of the great things about this book is that it includes relatively simple recipes for foods that a kitchen novice might typically buy, thinking erroneously that they are beyond her pay grade, such as falafel, bagels, granola, shawarma, lace cookies, bagels, kishke and a variety of dips. And true to the book’s name, most of the recipes are scaled down to feed a couple, including one for a “two-man cholent,” because, let’s face it, other than my father and my brother, there is no one out there who wants to be eating leftover cholent all week long.
The basics, like chicken soup, potato kugel, shnitzel and cole slaw, are all here, but they share space with delightful entries like thin crust personal pizzas, pastrami barbeque stir fry and chocolate mousse cups, all gracefully navigating that fine line between approachable and enticing. Among my favorites were vegetable pizza calzones, blueberry sunflower seed salad and a three-ingredient, no-mixer needed, cookies ‘n cream pie that takes two minutes or less to assemble.
Whether you are half of a new couple, living on your own, an empty nester or have a large family and don’t mind doing the math to expand the recipes to feed your crew, Table for Two has something for everyone and may just become an instant classic.
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Lemon Meringue Napoleon
(From Secrets Of Skinny Cooking Courtesy of Artscroll Publications)
Yields 12 servings; Pareve
Calories: 129 per serving
Do you want a dessert that’s crunchy, creamy, sweet, refreshing, and made with (yup!) real sugar?!? There are no dessert compromises here… just naturally light components joining together in one satisfying sweet that everyone around the table can enjoy together.
24 wonton wrappers
2 tsp sugar
Cinnamon, for sprinkling
Low-Fat Lemon Curd
10 tbsp sugar
⅔ cup lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
3 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
Berries of your choice
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Add wonton wrappers; sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake until golden and crisp, 7-8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the curd: Add sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Add eggs to a bowl and slowly pour in the lemon mixture, whisking quickly as you pour. Return mixture to the saucepan and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
- Prepare the meringue: Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; boil for 4 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until soft peaks form.
- With the mixer on high speed, very slowly pour hot sugar liquid into meringue. After pouring in the sugar, beat meringue for 7 minutes.
- To assemble: Top a wonton crisp with a spoonful lemon curd, ¼ cup meringue, and berries. Top with a second wonton crisp; serve immediately.
[Try This!] You can also serve this mousse-style, by combining the meringue and curd in a dessert glass. Use the wonton crisps and berries as garnish.
[Make Ahead] The wonton crisps and lemon curd can be prepared ahead. Meringue must be prepared fresh shortly before serving. You can also assemble curd and meringue in cups and freeze; add fruit and crisps before serving.
[Shani Says] Save this as a maintenance treat to enjoy along with your guests when you’re entertaining and want a light dessert that everyone can appreciate.
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(From Secrets Of Skinny Cooking Courtesy of Artscroll Publications)
Yields 4 servings Meat; Gluten-Free; Low Carb; Sugar-Free; Whole30; Paleo
Calories: 295 per serving; shani taub exchange: 2 proteins, ¼ vegetable
A pound of meat can be comprised of two steaks that can feed two people. A pound of ground meat, though, can also feed a family of 6 a nourishing and filling dinner… when it’s made into a chili and “beefed” up with lots and lots of mushrooms. Mushrooms take on a meaty flavor of their own and add to, rather than detract from, the heartiness of the stew. Each “serving” here is a very generous portion.
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp salt, plus more for sprinkling
2 garlic cloves, crushed
16 oz baby bella mushrooms, finely diced
1 lb ground meat
1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
Pinch cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy)
Pinch smoked paprika (or more if you like it smoky)
Pinch black pepper
- Heat a large pot over medium-high heat; coat with nonstick cooking spray. Lower heat, add onion and sprinkle with salt. Cover; cook until onion is soft, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms; cook until mushrooms are deeply brown, 15-20 minutes. Add meat; brown, breaking apart meat constantly until meat is no longer red and is cooked through, about 2 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt, oregano, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, and pepper; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, lower heat to the lowest setting. Cover; simmer for 60-90 minutes.
[For the Family] My whole family enjoyed this chili. The kids don’t notice that it was half comprised of mushrooms (they eat it in a taco shell). Just dice the mushrooms finely and no one will be the wiser. You can serve the chili in wonton shells or toasted tortillas.
[Make Ahead] Yes! Chili is one of the most freezer-friendly foods.
[Try This!] Serve this with toppings (as pictured)!
[Shani Says] Look for extra lean meat in your butcher’s showcase.
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Apple Trifle with Strawberry Sauce and Crunch
(From Table For Two Courtesy of Israel Bookshop)
Parve; Makes 12 mini or 1 large
This trifle has all the components of a perfect dessert. It looks gorgeous, it’s easy to make, it’s low on fat and sugar, and most importantly it tastes divine! To make a smaller amount, see tip.
3 red apples, unpeeled and diced
3 green apples, unpeeled and diced
3 yellow apples, unpeeled and diced
1 20-oz. can crushed pineapple (do not drain)
¾ cup chopped almonds
1 cup crisp rice cereal
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup trans-fat-free margarine, room temperature
1 lb. frozen straw berries
4 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla sugar
- For the crunch, preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium sized bowl, combine the chopped almonds, crisp rice cereal, and brown sugar. Mix together, and then knead in the margarine until the mixture has reached a crumbly consistency. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Allow the crunch to cool slightly, then crumble into small pieces.
- To make the strawberry sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
- In mini trifle bowls, layer the red, green, and yellow apples. Place about 2½ Tbsp. crushed pineapple at the top of each trifle and spread over the top. Immediately before serving, top with strawberry sauce and crunch.
Tip: Although this recipe is enough for twelve mini trifles, you can easily make only four individual trifles, by using just one red apple, one green apple, and one yellow apple. Freeze the remaining crunch, strawberry sauce, and crushed pineapple, and the next time you want to serve it, all you’ll have to do is chop up the apples!