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New Year's resolution food needn't be tasteless

You know those packages that say, “Do not open until Christmas”? If you tend to avoid resolutions until the actual first of the year, then eat, drink and be merry tonight, and save this column for tomorrow.

It’s New Year’s resolution time again, and I’m making the same one I make every year (sigh), to lose those extra pounds. And how I would love to implement my resolve at, say, the world-renowned Golden Door spa, pampered in the epitome of luxury with world-class chefs lavishing me with nutritious, satisfying, and glorious meals.

Ain’t gonna happen.

With the tight economy affecting travel plans, more and more Americans are choosing a staycation instead of a vacation – you know, donning bathing suit, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat for a luxurious loll in the backyard.

I’m spending my staycation at home with the help of the new “Golden Door Cooks at Home” cookbook (Clarkson Potter, $40) by executive chef Dean Rucker with food writer Marah Stets.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Golden Door with resort spas in Escondido, California, as well as throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

“It used to be that the term ‘spa food’ evoked images of unadorned dishes without flavor or flair, created to contain as few calories and as little fat as possible without regard for how enjoyable it was to actually eat them,” writes chef Rucker.

No longer. The emphasis now is on a healthy diet and portion control. “And this is made far easier when the food is both delicious and filling,” he says.

Chicken and Scallion Potstickers with Chili Lime Sauce. Pan Roasted Lobster with Basil Potato Puree. Moroccan Spice-Rubbed Lamb Loin with Chickpeas, Feta, and Olives. Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake with Orange Sauce.

Spa food? Hardly.

Posted in Submitted by Judy on Thu, 12/31/2009 - 5:15pm.

Visiting family shares holiday traditions

My Christmas story for The Orange County Register contains a recipe for a Swedish pastry called Lussikatter. It's a wonderful eggy sweet bread reminiscent of a saffron-scented challah. Read the whole story.

Something old and something new for the holiday


The Orange County Register
September 17, 2009


Moroccan-Style Hot Fish

Chicken Casserole with Dried Fruit on a Bed of Couscous

Apple, Cinnamon and Walnut Cake

An old saying goes, ask two Jews a question and you'll get three opinions.
Controversy, controversy. In politics you expect it, but it's true even in

Take the much maligned, yet oh, so beloved Jewish appetizer that graces
every holiday table from the weekly celebration of the Sabbath to Rosh Hashana,
the Jewish New Year: Gefilte fish.

In the Middle Ages Jewish mystics viewed fish as signaling the coming of the
Messiah. No wonder it is served for every holiday. Fish was expensive in
Europe, and the recipe was developed as an economical way to stretch it so that
every family member could get a taste.

The word gefilte is actually German for "stuffed." The original
recipe called for seasoned, ground boned fish mixed with eggs and fillers, such
as vegetables and crumbs, which was then stuffed back into the fish skin and
cooked. Over the centuries, the skin was eliminated, with cooks shaping the
mixture into balls or patties and poaching them.

But wherein lies the controversy? Do we open a jar or make it ourselves…or
"doctor" the jarred variety? Do we like it sweet or peppery? With
some guests adoring it and others repelled at the very sight, do we even serve
it at all?

Posted in Submitted by Judy on Thu, 09/17/2009 - 9:24am.

Can she bake a rhubarb pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?

I don’t come from a long line of pie bakers. I don’t think my grandmother, Mama Hinda, ever baked one…I know my mother never did. Yet to my mind as a young bride, nothing epitomized consummate homemaking skills as much as the baking of pies, something I would not even attempt for decades. 

For many years I lived with a dough phobia, the result of a kitchen disaster I call the “kreplach incident.” I had rolled out the dough for these little meat-filled dumplings, carefully placed them in boiling water and they exploded! That experience created a fear of all things rolled that spilled over to piecrusts and pastries and lasted over thirty years.

Although in the ensuing years I rolled cookie dough and turned out homemade knishes by the dozens with ease, somehow pie baking I thought of as a magical gift bestowed from birth on some, but never to be attained by others. Genetics, perhaps?

“I’m just not a dough person,” I would lament… until testing recipes for my cookbook forced me to face my fears (and without a support group). Recipes needed to be tested. I cooked. I baked. I even perfected the dreaded kreplach! The pies I left for last.   

Finally, in an “Aha!” moment of the kitchen kind, I realized…I roll cookie dough, I roll knish dough. Now I even roll kreplach dough! Surely I can roll pie dough.

Enter cooking instructor Barbara Shenson, whom my daughter-in-law Tracey met when Shenson was teaching for Home Chef, a cooking school and store in San Francisco. Her pie-making tips put that last notch in my belt.

“My crust always shrinks,” I whined. Read the whole story.

Posted in Submitted by Judy on Fri, 07/24/2009 - 8:52am.

Summer's here - how about some ice cream?

You adored it as a kid, but you’ve never outgrown it. Here are two words that make everyone’s eyes light up – ice cream!

“In the store-bought category there’s good, not so good and really bad,” said food writer and consultant Peggy Fallon, author of “The Best Ice Cream Maker Cookbook Ever” (HarperCollins) from her Northern California home. Ice cream maker? Do I need yet another unused appliance taking up space on my counter, I wondered.

Then I leafed through the book and I was smitten. Chocolate Pumpkin with Hazelnuts. Peaches ‘n’ Cream. Double Ginger. Utterly Peanut Butter with a whole cup of peanut butter in a quart of ice cream!  But with so many even gourmet ice creams available today, why would I want to make my own?

“I think the appeal of homemade ice cream, sorbets and frozen yogurts is that you control what goes into them,” Fallon noted. “There are so many odd ingredients in most supermarket ice cream. Just look at the labels. When you make your own, you use real cream, eggs, sugar and milk. If you’re concerned about what you put into your body, it’s better to eat real food.”

Sounds great, but I’m thinking, remember that bread machine you couldn’t live without and the havoc it played with your waistline?

Then I read on. A chapter called “On the Lighter Side” offers mouthwatering light ice creams, frozen yogurts, granitas and sorbets with alluring titles such as Maple Crunch Light Ice Cream, Tangy Orange Iced Buttermillk, Honey Vanilla Frozen Yogurt and Pear Sorbet with Zinfandel and Fresh Basil.  Read the whole story 

Posted in Submitted by Judy on Tue, 05/19/2009 - 6:51am.


The March issue of Better Homes and Gardens features three Passover recipes from Cooking Jewish: Apricot Squares, Chocolate Macaroons and Flourless Chocolate Cake. See pages 160 and 162 and enjoy!

Have you got a shiterein story for me?

Okay, before you have me arrested, I’m not cursing here.

Shiterein (Yiddish): v. to add an unspecified amount adj. describing one who cooks from experiece and touch without recipes or measuring

Our foremothers were shiterein cooks. Who needs to measure? You throw in a little of this, a little of that, and a wonderful dish emerges. Far from haphazard, it’s a style borne of experience, confidence, instinct, and skill.

Shiterein cooks don’t usually write down their recipes. Fortunately Aunt Sally recorded my grandmother’s recipes or I wouldn’t have them. When they do write them down, they provide rather quirky measurements and instructions:

“a glass flour” or “a gluzzela” (little glass)
“an eggshell water”
“2 cents yeast”
“a nice piece of veal”
“knead until it feels right”
and of course the ever popular: “cook until done”

Aunt Hilda’s recipe for Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot ended this way: “If too sweet, next time add less sugar.”

Recently a friend told me that when she asked her mother when to put the dish in the oven, her response was, “So you’ll wake up a little earlier.”

Have you got a shiterein tale to tell? Would love to hear the instructions your foremothers left for you. Click "comments" below.

Mom's soup: a Mother's Day Special

My column on OU's website ezine Shabbat Shalom is a tribute to my wonderful mom - hard to believe she's 90! - and contains recipes for her unbelievable chicken soup, my Shiitake Mushroom Matzoh Balls and her Killer Brisket with Tsimmes. It begins this way:

My mother’s name is Lillian, but everyone calls her Honey. When I was expecting her first grandchild, Mom wanted to be called “Grandma Honey.” Mom had high hopes. My children called her “Honey” and it stuck. Even their friends think that that’s her name.

Read the whole story.

Cooking contest winner brings back childhood memories

Canadian Jewish News, May 2, 2008

Manischewitz National Cookoff winner announced

by Judy Bart Kancigor

My Grandma Ruchel was very religious. When I was a child, I would watch her pray facing the cabinet where she kept the Tam Tams – those addictive, “bet you can’t eat one” crackers from Manischewitz – swaying back and forth as her arthritic fingers turned the pages of her prayer book. I had no idea she was facing east. I thought Tam Tam crackers were holy!

So it was with amusement Read the whole story

MY TV debut on NY1!

Watch the video as I prepare Stuffed Orange Sweet Potato Cups with the ebullient Shelley Goldberg, NY1’s Parenting Consultant, and kibbutz about holiday food traditions you can take part in with your children.


Stuffed Orange Sweet Potato Cups

Grandma Sera Fritkin's Russian Brisket

Potato Latkes

Cookin' for Love Malaysian Latkes with Minty Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

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