If you’re a close reader of food magazines or healthy food blogs, you may have noticed that coconut oil is showing up in more and more recipes and articles. Years ago, you may remember that coconut oil was vilified, so what’s going on?
For starters, the coconut oil that caused an outcry, way back in the 1990’s was highly processed and full of bad for you trans fats. Today’s unrefined (or virgin) coconut oil does not contain trans fats and is even being studied for its positive role in everything from thyroid function and weight loss to diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. And though it’s very high in saturated fat, its composition is different from the saturated fats in animal products and may actually improve HDL or “good” cholesterol.
While the jury is still out on health claims and long term benefits, everything I have read and tested leads me to believe that pure (not hydrogenated) coconut oil in moderation is fine for a few reasons: It’s delicious. I love it for its savory yet sweet, slightly nutty flavor. It’s amazing in curry dishes, stir-fry dishes, roasting vegetables, frying, and even baking. And you should use LESS than the equivalent other fat, i.e. oil or margarine, because when melted it has a greasier result than the other fats. I love it with sautéed carrots in a cast iron pan, tossed with sweet potatoes and roasted with spices, and especially in lots of cookie recipes. Finally, coconut oil is amazing as a moisturizer. I often find that my teenage girls take it from the pantry and use it in their showers.
Check out these recipes but try to use it in your favorite recipes too. And let me know your favorites. Coconut oil is available nationwide with kosher certification in most national markets.
I sometimes buy peeled garlic to save myself the peeling step, but many cities this is not available. I recently participated in a culinary tip seminar and I'm excited to share this tip I learned. To peel many cloves at once, put the cloves in a big metal bowl, and cover them with another metal bowl, bottom side up. Then while holding the bowls tightly together, shake like crazy, and really use your best strength. Not only does this relieve a little stress but it takes most of the skins right off.
Store Peeled Garlic: Store garlic in a jar with a lid in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Garlic Oil: Mince about 10 cloves and place in a jar. Then pour 3/4 cup olive oil over the garlic and set aside for a few days. Use in cooking and salad dressings for awesome garlic infused oil.
Use garlic in any of these recipes.
You ask great questions and I love sharing both the question and the answers with all of my readers. Best of summer q and a….
Why does basil die when I put it in my fridge?
Farmer market girl, Los Angeles
Vibrant, lush fresh perfumey basil quickly becomes limp and brown after being stored in the refrigerator. Basil is a tropical plant, highly sensitive to cold. If stored below 40 F, and most refrigerators are set between 35 and 38. Instead, keep basil in a cool, shady place in your kitchen, stems submerged in a glass partially filled with water. Then place a large zip lock plastic bag over the top of the basil: this keeps the leaves moist while still letting the plant breathe.
What is that yellow spot on the watermelon and someone said it is important for ripeness? How do I pick a ripe watermelon?
Martha, Brookline, MA
I just learned this myself! Although a ripe melon says “punk” when thumped and a green one says “pink or pank”, this can be very difficult. Look instead for a deep cream or yellow ground spot, where the melon sat on the ground as it grew, to show that it ripened adequately before harvest. Light green or whitish spots indicate underripe melons. Also, shiny melons may be unripe and dull rinds can be overripe. I like to smell them too, the fragrant melons, all types are usually riper.
Here are two pre-fast items that are both refreshing and delicious. Watermelon is terrific because it contains a lot of …water, and is hydrating and filling. I’m serving it in this Watermelon Gazpacho but also as dessert alongside these adorable Mason Jar S’mores. My kids still love Caramelized Onion and Boursin Cheese Pizza and I like Pan Seared Cod with Creamed Corn. I’ll serve a simple green salad with a light lemon vinaigrette alongside these filling dishes plus lots and lots of water. Finally, back by popular demand, What’s Best to Eat Before a Fast.
Mason Jar S'mores
The Nine Days are here again…and we have the GKC Nine Days Recipe Roundup Here with something for everyone, from pasta making tips and recipes, quiche, homemade pizza, to tons and tons of fish options, vegetarian chili, and more. Send me your favorites so that I can add it to our extensive collection. And don’t forget to search the index by ingredient too, like salmon, or flounder, or ice cream.
A few other favorites right here:
Pan Roasted Maple Halibut with Herbed Pistou
Mushroom and Spinach Frittata
Crispy Kani Salad with Cucumber and Spicy Mayo by Esther Deutsch
Salmon with Yogurt Zaatar Sauce
I know, I know…your kids won’t eat that, just for kids then, try these
Homemade Pizza Dough and Pizza
Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes
Mini Macaroni and Cheese Puffs
Vegetarian Chili and Taco Selections
Three Cheese Calzone with Balsamic Glaze
Sugar Cookie Fruit Pizza
I also like to make lots of bean dishes during the nine days. Try some of these.
Black Bean, Edamame, and Quinoa Salad
Corn and Black Bean Salad with Basil Lime Vinaigrette
Black Bean Caesar Salad
Roasted Tomatoes with Fennel and White Beans
Whatever you make, end it with some delicious dairy desserts, like homemade ice creams or cookies made with butter! You might skip meat more often.
Here's a clean and easy way to remove kernels from an ear of corn.
Whip out your Bundt pan, but not for making a cake.
1. First, fit the tip of a shucked ear of corn into the hole in the center of a Bundt pan.
2. Then, firmly hold the ear near the top, and slide a sharp knife down the side to cut off the corn kernels.
3. Rotate the cob and repeat cutting, letting the cake pan neatly catch the kernels as they are removed.
Fresh corn is delicious this time of year while it's in the height of season. Watch for Long Island white corn in August.
Try these terrific corn recipes:
Romaine and Corn Salad with Avocado Dressing
Summer Corn and Tomato Salad
Corn and Black Bean Salad with Basil Lime Vinaigrette
Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad
Fresh Corn and Avocado Salad
Father’s Day and graduation are definitely a terrific kickoff to summer. Burgers are an essential part of summertime and we make them any and all ways in our house.
Before starting any BBQ or burger night, start with these BURGER MAKING TIPS, to ensure perfect juicy results every time. And get more tips and the best Turkey Burger recipe on this GKC Turkey Burger Video. It’s a fan favorite on both Aol and Yahoo video, with over 200,000 views.
Next, we have a few burger recipes to keep on hand all summer! Serve them with different condiments, ketchups, chili sauces, tzatziki, or mustards, and assorted breads/buns, including pitas, Indian bread, wraps, etc. This way every burger seems like a very different meal and cuisine. Let me know your favorite burger recipe too, so we can share it with all GKC burger fans.
Easiest Father’s Day Burger
Mini Moroccan Lamb Burgers
Grilled Burgers with Lemon Margarine
Asian Burgers with Chili Mayonnaise
Beer Bathed Pulled Brisket Burgers
The New American Burger (Turkey and Veal)
What’s the difference between the variety of cucumbers you see in the market? Actually the difference is huge in terms of taste and crunch but all can be used interchangeably in a recipe, although I certainly have my preference. Check out these varieties and get your summer started with some Classic Cucumber Salad.
Knubby and mixed shades of green. About 3-inches long and often 2-inches wide. Tasty firm flesh and thin skin make it a natural for eating raw or pickling.
My personal favorite! High ratio of skin to flesh, resulting gin concentrated flavor and crunchy texture than can stand up to cooking but excellent as a snack or in salads. Great flavor.
Common Cucumber a.k.a. American cucumber
Thick, often waxed skin and big seeds, which means, peeling is a must. I seed them too because they often shed too much water in salads. Good for the American cucumber salad, but that’s about it.
Delicious, thin, crisp skin and a delicate aroma. Ideal for juicing and cocktails, salads, and eating. The skin adds color and flavor so leave it on.
Try these recipes with terrific flavorful cucumbers, perfect for sunny days of summer…
Chilled Cucumber Soup
Cucumber and Sesame Mixed Green Salad
Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts
Tandoori Chicken with Cucumber Sauce
Indian Spiced Cucumber Salad
Cucumber and Pomegranate Salad
Classic Cucumber Salad
Thanks for the great questions, it helps all of us become better cooks. Please send me your questions, and I’ll share the answers with GKC readers.
Fluffier Brown Rice?
Soak brown rice for 30 minutes before cooking for fluffier texture.
What can I use in place of an egg wash?
Substitute pareve cream, heavy cream, soymilk or milk. The result will be slightly less glossy. Sometimes I brush challahs with a combination of 1 tablespoon soymilk, ½ teaspoon honey and a splash of vanilla extract
Flakier pie crust?
Add a drop of white distilled vinegar to the dough for a flakier crust.
What can I use in place of pareve whipping cream?
This is tough because there are no products on the market currently that whip as well as the artificial product we currently use. However, I have been whipping the firm layer that forms from a can of chilled unsweetened coconut milk. Whip it just like heavy cream. After soft peaks form add ¼ cup sugar, very gradually and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.
Crisper roasted vegetables?
For roasted vegetables, always use a low-sided baking sheet and high oven heat (400 degrees) or convection bake or roast (for convection, I use 375 degrees). Also, add a little oil to baking sheets and put them in the oven while it heats. When you add the veggies, they will immediately sear.
How much salad dressing do I need to make?
Count on 1 - 1 ½ tablespoons dressing per serving.
Thank you for all the special and delicious “mom” recipes. Here are a few favorites from some of my favorite “Mom” bloggers and friends.
“My father-in-law’s mother, whom my daughter is named after, used to make this cake for my father all the time and it's been an honor to recreate it for him. It's become a fun recipe to make with my kids and I even make it with my own mom when I go visit my parents and siblings in Seattle. It's definitely a family favorite! “
Jamie Geller, from Joy of Kosher, makes this bright and fresh California Avocado Salad for her mom. It’s her mom’s favorite. Her mom is in awe of Jamie’s cooking skills as she doesn’t cook and did not pass that on to Jamie. Well, look at her now, mom! Tamar Genger, from Joy of Kosher, has a mom fave too. Her mom is great at making schnitzel and all kinds of latkes, but this is probably her specialty that she actually posted to the site in the very early days, Stuffed Veal Roast
Shoshana Ohriner, from Couldntbepareve.com shared two nostalgic and classic recipes. Her dad is the chef in their home but the original recipe is from her maternal grandmother who was a great cook. How cool is that, her dad makes a recipe from her mom’s family. It’s called World’s Best Brisket and is filled with flavorful ingredients like thyme, oregano and Manishewitz wine.
Shoshana’s husband’s grandmother comes to visit and makes these Grandma Rose Mandelbrot with her grandkids. Now that’s how memories and great recipes are shared.
Fellow blogger and friend, Ronnie Fein wrote this touching and memorable article for the yahrzeit of her mom. It would have been her 100th birthday. Ronnie’s mom was a wonderful cook (check out the recipes in her post, fried chicken, Fannies, apple pie, corn fritters!) and the Famous Nut Roll Recipe which is delicious and easy to make! Ronnie, it’s a beautiful tribute to your mom.
Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox, sister bloggers and chefs from MayIhavethatrecipe.com shared these Sweet Semolina Borekas because it reminds them of their mom. The orange blossom syrup is citrusy and sweet and amazing on the borekas.
Honoring Moms…What’s the recipe you remember mom making? Have mom’s best recipe? Please share it!
My mom (now a grandmother) is famous with my kids for homemade pancakes and rugelach. As a kid, I actually remember her making lavish (or just very messy) Chinese food. She took a Chinese cooking class and became a wok master.
I also remember making Rocky Road Chocolate Fudge with my grandmother, but cannot locate the recipe L but my mother remembers her making excellent babka and cookies, like these Coconut Cookies. I actually have her old recipe binder with neatly typed out and handwritten recipes filed by recipe type. Yes, there is a big jello section, but tons of sweet cakes like Ethel’s coffee cake, or Sophie’s Barbkie (I guess that’s Babki, like Babka?)
It’s almost Mother’s Day and sorry to burst your bubble, but I don’t want breakfast in bed! I want to sleep in (what’s that?), I want someone to drive any and all carpools, I want a great cup of hot coffee, and I definitely want to eat one or all of these recipes. I’m easy, just make something I like ☺ that means, almost anything with chopped, toasted nuts, or crumble, maybe something chocolate, and definitely something moist, delicious and satiating. And…please clean up after you make it for me, tysm
I love being a mom!
Strawberry-Almond Cornmeal Cake
Carrot-Walnut Loaf Cake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Bites
Winter comfort food no more! Spring is finally here! The minute warmer weather arrives in NY, I’m motivated to create light and fresh recipes. I also enjoy the outdoors so I like spring recipes that are quick and easy and allow for more time to enjoy the sunshine. However, just like the lazy winter blues shouldn’t compromise your meals neither should spring fever. Try these simple, light, and super tasty salad recipes. Welcome Spring welcome ☺
Good luck! Share your favorite spring salad recipes or any spring salad ideas in the comments below!
Confessions….one of my favorite parts of teaching cooking classes is the pseudo therapy the women in the class give one another. Sometimes its hard to quiet people down because they are so passionate about the topics from how to feed picky eaters, how to make healthier meals without a fuss, dinner and Shabbos recipe suggestions, and very often lately, how to save money and still feed a family in a nutritious way.
I think these are very relatable. I very often go to the store for one or two items only to spend much more money than I planned for a couple of groceries. And I like to cook wholesome and healthy for a big family and often lots of company on Shabbos and want it to be affordable and time efficient.
As I've become more experienced in the food industry, I've come to realize there are lots of ways to make grocery shopping quick and less expensive (this applies to healthy eaters who like specialty stores like Whole Foods Markets, as well those who are looking for ways to spend less on organic and nutritious groceries).
Here are my tips on how to grocery shop efficiently and affordably without over spending:
1. Meal Prep! I cannot stress this tip enough. Every Sunday, take 10 minutes and create a few weeknight and weekday (for lunch makers) meals for that week. I usually plan Monday through Wednesday and then create a grocery list from these meals. I add in snacks, and the regular items that are standards, like milk, fruit, salad vegetables, and juice. It may seem a bit ridiculous, but meal prepping saves you time by not having to decide what to make each night and money by not over buying and shopping carelessly. It may be hard to incorporate what you want to make for Shabbos in your preparations, so don't worry you can also think about Shabbos meals on Wednesday or Thursday and shop for Shabbos then.
2. Order Online if possible. Unfortunately, many markets do not have this online feature. However, if your market allows you to make an order through email for pickup or delivery, I strongly suggest it. It saves both time and money. Most people walk through the grocery store and select unnecessary items that add up. Even sale items that you do not need, will add to a bill. How often are you surprised at the grocery bill when you check out? Some of that overspending at the market can be avoided with online ordering. Of course, I enjoy trying new products that catch my eye, but try to keep the "extras" to a minimum when I’m actually in the market.
3. If you are a fruit and vegetable lover like me, this tip is especially applicable to you. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. Many times we go to the market looking for artichokes, persimmons, cherry tomatoes, or mangos, look down at the price and they are double the usual cost. This is because fruits and veggies work with supply and demand. If they are in season, there is a greater supply so the cost goes down. And the opposite, when they are not in season, causing the prices to jump. Therefore, try to buy fruits and vegetables that are seasonal to get the best value for their cost.
4. Look for sales- this may seem a bit extreme, but don't ignore super market sales. Follow the advertisements and buy items on sale in bulk. I buy cereal on sale, always, granola bars, flour, sugar, and yogurts too. I don’t run from market to market because it just takes too much time, but I do watch the sales at my favorite market and make sure to put away my staple items at those time when I see a great sale. Even markets like Whole Foods has great sales. Last week I saw Kind Bars for 3 for $1, and Chobani yogurts for $.89.
5. Certain stores provide cash back for bringing your own bag (to avoid using plastic). This is a great and easy way to save money. Don't forget your canvas bags! And many markets have school “give back” programs where they give a % of the proceeds from every sale to the school of your choice. That way you can feel good about all that grocery shopping.
I love hearing your thoughts and learn so much from all my readers! Share the way you save time and money to become a pro shopper in the comments below. Happy shopping!
Classic, Gluten-Free, Filo Dough, Cake Mix, and TONS of delicious and creative filling options. See it all here.
Party Cocktails…Chocolate Martinis AND Easy Margaritas AND Tutti Frutti’s
Red Pepper Soup with Cumin
Beer Bathed Brisket
Mixed Green Salad with Avocado, Mango, and Champagne Vinaigrette
Cedar Planked Salmon with Dill Sauce
Asparagus Sesame Maple Dressing
Balsamic Portobello Mushrooms
Oven Roasted Greek Potatoes
Carrot Zucchini Muffins
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ice Box Cake
If you’ve been peeling bananas from the stem, there’s a better way. Monkeys, who know their bananas, use the stem as a handle and pinch the other end to split the peel, as shown here. The peel comes off evenly and cleanly, taking more of those stringy bits with it.
Frozen bananas are great in smoothies and milkshakes and help sweeten treats without a lot of extra sugar. I freeze the overripe ones in the peel, or peel them and slice them and freeze them in a single layer so that they don’t all stick together.
Try these recipes that with bananas…
Pumpkin Bread Sweetened with Banana
Healthy Applesauce Muffins
Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie
What to do with an over-ripe banana, more recipes here.
Tu B’shevat, the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar, falls on February 4. Try these delicious Tu B’Shevat recipes. May it be a fruitful year in Israel and everywhere.
Spiced Carrot and Apple Soup
Moroccan Chicken with Dates and Olives
Simple Roasted Pomegranate Chicken
Cumin Scented Eggplant
Spinach Salad with Dates and Jicama
Couscous with Pinenuts and Currents
Chocolate Pomegranate Bark
Almond Pound Cake
My dad loves his homemade tuna fish. He is not the chef in the family, although he makes great matzo brei, and grills like a master chef, but he has perfected a wonderful tuna fish and is quite proud of himself. On a recent visit to California, he pulled me aside and challenged my very basic tuna, mayo, and lemon juice combo that I threw together for my hungry family. He proudly shared his California Style Tuna and now I must share it with you. It includes lots of crunch, and both salty, savory and sweet flavors. It’s best on a bed of lettuce with carrot and celery sticks on the side. But my dad loves it on toasted whole grain bread (also California style), with extra lettuce, tomatoes and sliced pickles on the side…and of course a big pile of potato chips too.
Need other tuna fish options? Try these…
Tuna and White Bean Salad
And of course, you could also, just open a can, drain it of any liquid, add mayonnaise and lemon juice, maybe a pinch of salt and serve.
Although January 1 has no significance on the Jewish calendar, people still use it as a benchmark for restarting a healthy diet. Gym memberships, diet websites, and nutritionists are busier than ever this time of year.
There are no easy fixes for dieting or miracle foods in the energy equation, but smart food choices really boost your day. It’s a crucial time to treat your body well. Kids need more energy and hydration to stay perked up for learning and adults have longer days than ever. In addition to watching my diet, I’m keeping my refrigerator full of kale and arugula for interesting salads and making some homemade snack bars and muffins to keep the kids happy and better nourished. Try these simple and tasty recipes that meet healthy lifestyle standards and taste great.
Here are a few blends you have heard of but never knew how to use.
Using the right spice blend can mean the difference between an authentic tasting dish and one that’s just okay. Find these spice blends in your local markets, specialty markets and online at penzeys.com or kalustyans.com (make sure you verify kosher certification before purchasing). And if you don’t want to buy them, here are the essential ingredients in each mixture. They take the ordinary dishes and make them extraordinary plus they make everyday cooking so easy because they liven up regular roasted chicken, rice or vegetables. Just use the spice blend with some olive oil, kosher salt and pepper and roast. Delicious and easy.
Za’atar: Classic middle Eastern blend that includes sesame seeds oreganzo or thyme and sumac. I like to sprinkle it on chicken or fish and add lots of lemon, garlic and olive oil.
Try Grilled Chicken with Za’atar and Lemon or Zaatar Salmon.
Ras-el-hanout: Blend of cardomom, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric and coriander. It’s a North African blend and is amazing sprinkled on lamb before grilling or roasting, adds warm flavor to rice pilaf or couscous and delicious added to cholent.
Dukka: This Egyptian ground spice and nut blend includes hazelnuts, cumin, caraway, sesame, coriander and mint. Sprinkle on challah, or roasted vegetables.
Vadouvan: This French-Indian blend is used as a substitute for curry in anything from soup, to chicken or meat. It includes onion, shallots, garlic, cumin and curry.
Baharat: A blend of black pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and cardomom. Season beef or soups with this warm blend.
White asparagus has become very popular in Jewish markets because washing green asparagus is more difficult and challenging to confirm that no bugs are hiding in those delicious tops. White asparagus is less bitter and more tender than its green counterpart. It’s pale because it’s grown covered in dirt so it’s never exposed to sunlight and does not develop chlorophyll. I think it has a dressy and elegant appearance, white and silvery, especially combined with another green vegetable or plated with a sliced roast. It is a bit more expensive but it is a great addition to salads, as a side dish and even sliced raw.
Try these recipes with asparagus or use white asparagus in place of green asparagus in your favorite recipes.
White Asparagus Salad with Creamy Tomato Dressing
Roasted Asparagus with Orange Infused Mayonnaise
Asparagus with Sesame Citrus Sauce
Asparagus with Gluten Free Sesame Maple Dressing
I have good news, what I consider really good news! My friend Estee Kafra, of kosherscoop.com has packaged and created a new PAREVE CHOCOLATE CHIP, that is delicious, divine, and full of fabulous flavor. Finally, finally, we can all stop mourning the loss of Trader Joe’s chocolate chips.
These chocolate chips, called Best Ingredients For Best Results, semi-sweet chocolate chips, pareve, gluten-free, vegan, and no nuts are coming soon to your local markets (or go ask for them!) and now available on Amazon.com.
The taste is rich and chocolaty and they are made with 45% cocoa and 100% Barry Callebaut chocolate. No garbage ingredients, real tasty chocolate for baking, cooking, melting and just eating. I did all of the above! I made Aunt Cassi’s low fat Oatmeal cookies, Chili Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, added them to homemade granola, and made a fantastic Chocolate Chicken Mole (it calls for unsweetened chocolate but this made it really good).
These chips are a great new product and I am so excited for you to try them and to change your baking forever. There is no comparison to the imitation chips and other packaged chocolate chips currently on the market that are available. These are affordable and delicious. Way to go Estee Kafra, thank you for filling the needs of the kosher food community.