snack

Orange-Vanilla Flavored Cheese Stuffed Dates

Sometimes I think life is a bunch of holidays with not much in between. Except for the entire month of January.

I suppose that's a good thing, because holidays are happy and celebratory.

Also, there's the food. Except for Yom Kippur, every holiday has food. And even when it comes to Yom Kippur, there's the break-the-fast when it's all over and the break-the-fast is all about food. 

As far as holidays go, at this point of the year, we've just finished Thanksgiving. So what’s next up?

Hanukkah!

Hanukkah is a really delicious holiday. Lots of fried stuff like latkes and doughnuts.

It's also a dairy holiday because of the story of Judith, which you can read about it here

For our family, in honor of Judith, I make lots of dairy items in addition to the usual potato latkes and doughnuts. I have served cheese latkes and potato latkes with a yogurt based sauce laced with lemongrass. And also Potato Galette with Caramelized Onions and Cheese and Almond Crusted Winter Squash and Noodle Kugel (actually that one’s a favorite). 

Desserts? Maybe Meyer Lemon Yogurt Pie (you can use regular lemons) or Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries. Maybe even cheesecake. Or some fabulous cheesecake cookies!

And also these stuffed dates! Easy to make, not too sweet (no added sugar), these little morsels are perfect for the holiday. If you don't want to use almonds for garnish, crushed, toasted coconut will do nicely.

Btw, these make a nice tidbit for New Year’s, either as hors d’oeuvre or late night snack. 

 

Orange-Vanilla Flavored Cheese Stuffed Dates

  • 12 medjool dates

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (4 ounces)

  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt

  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel

  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 3 tablespoons crushed toasted almonds (or pistachios or crushed, toasted coconut)

Cut the dates through the center, but not all the way through to the bottom. Remove the pit and spread the date slightly to form a hollow for filling. Mix the cream cheese, yogurt, orange peel and vanilla extract in a small bowl until the mixture is smooth and soft. Fill the dates with the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the nuts.

Makes 12 

Applesauce Yogurt Coffee Cake with Oat Streusel

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I cooked a lot of applesauce lately. We ate some. I froze some.

There was still more, so I used some of it for cake and muffins.

This was one of the best. Crunchy on top, moist underneath, not too sweet.

Applesauce Yogurt Coffee Cake with Oat Streusel

cake:

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup butter

  • 1/2 cup applesauce

  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt

  • 1 large egg, beaten

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/3 cup milk

Streusel:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Mix the oats, flour, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and work it into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8” square cake pan. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and set aside. Beat the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer or electric mixer at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the applesauce, yogurt, egg and vanilla extract and beat for 1-2 minutes or until smooth. Add half the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat until well blended. Add half the milk and beat until well blended. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Prepare the streusel and sprinkle over the batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan 10 minutes then invert onto a cake rack. Turn the cake right side up to cool completely.

 

Makes 8-10 servings

 

Chocolate-Banana-Applesauce Cake

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When I was a kid my mother sometimes made macaroni-and-cheese using somewhat older, hard-around-the-edges American cheese that didn’t look fit to eat. I thought it was appalling.

But she told me that these cheese wasn’t spoiled, just hard because maybe it wasn’t wrapped quite so well, and that in any event she would never make any dish for us using an ingredient that could be harmful.

Of course.

And also, why waste perfectly good cheese that’s going to melt anyway. So if it isn’t perfect to eat cold, as is, it is perfectly fine for macaroni and cheese.

And it was. She made delicious macaroni and cheese.

My children are appalled if I use an ingredient that’s past its sell-by/expiration date. I feel the same way my mother did. I would never use an ingredient that is spoiled or harmful. But some of those expiration dates are meant more as a “use them soon because the flavor or texture won’t be perfect” than “do not eat this EVER!”

So recently, I noticed that in addition to some fresh bananas turned black-spotty, my snack packages of applesauce were a month beyond their expiration date. Rather than give the applesauce to my grandkids and have my daughters feel appalled, I used it in chocolate cake, in the place of eggs.

Not only was I able to use up a perfectly good ingredient, the cake was delicious and also a good vegan choice.

So there.

Chocolate-Banana-Applesauce Cake

  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 medium ripe bananas

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup applesauce

  • 1/3 cup apple juice (or orange juice)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8”x8” cake pan. Melt the chocolate and set it aside to cool. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set the flour mixture aside. Mash the bananas and place them in the bowl of an electric mixer (or use a hand mixer and bowl). Add the sugar and mix at medium speed for a minute, or until well blended. Add the applesauce, juice, vanilla extract and melted chocolate and beat for 1-2 minutes, or until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and beat for 1-2 minutes, or until throughly blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 9 servings

Best Hummus

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Despite the fact that hummus is the most popular snack and you can buy dozens of different kinds in every supermarket, I still make my own. And every time, a different recipe, always trying for perfection.

I served a version seasoned with zatar and garnished with toasted pine nuts once for an election night get-together.

I've made hummus using dried chick peas and canned.

One year the guests at my annual Break-the-Fast declared that year's hummus the best they ever tasted.

But apparently last year's Break-the-Fast version topped even that! 

So here is the recipe: easy to make, terrific for entertaining, for snacks, as a sandwich spread. Perfect all year, perfect for break-the-fast.

 

Lemony-Garlic Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas (about one pound)

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup tahini

  • 2 large cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon zatar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • cayenne pepper to taste (I use 1/8 teaspoon)

  • chopped parsley, optional, about 2-3 tablespoons

  • zatar, optional

  • pita bread or chips

Drain the chickpeas but reserve the liquid. Place the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, paprika, zatar, salt and cayenne pepper in a food processor. Process until you reach the texture you like, adding 3-4 tablespoons of the reserved chickpea liquid if you prefer it smoother and softer. Spoon into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with optional parsley and zatar. Serve with pita bread or chips.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

Tropical Salsa

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In our family, Mother's Day involves a cookoff. Everyone participates in some way. We pick a theme, some people cook, some set the table, some help clean up and so on. Then we all eat what we have cooked and everyone wins a prize for something, like: best looking; most delicious; most unusual.....

It's been so much fun over the years and we all believe it beats going to a restaurant which, because it's a holiday, is usually crowded and noisy and the service awful.

This year's theme was "dips."

My son-in-law and one of the grandkids made a hot French Onion Dip; one daughter and granddaughter made a spicy Red Pepper Dip; another daughter and child made a chocolate dip for dessert.

It was all awesome.

This was my entry, which got the award for "most refreshing" and "most attractive" as well as "most perfect for summer" awards.

It's so easy to make too.

Also, it really is perfect for summer.

And it is actually refreshing and attractive.

So -- for summer company or just for yourself, try my award-winning Tropical Salsa. Serve it on Father's Day. Or July 4th!

By the way, this is also a good side dish with grilled meat, poultry or fish and can be used to top a hamburger.

Tropical Salsa

  • 2 cups diced fresh papaya
  • 2 large mangoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 large avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lime peel
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt
  • corn chips or other favorite chips

Place the papaya, mango and avocado dice in a bowl. Add the jalapeno pepper, lime peel, lime juice and cilantro and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly. Taste and add salt as needed. Serve with chips.

Makes about 3 cups

Banana Applesauce Cupcakes

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One of the greatest pleasures in life is cooking with children.

Children are enthusiastic, creative and joyful abut anything they've cooked or baked.

These cupcakes are a melange of my grandchildren's ideas about what to make for dessert. It had to be dairy free. We had a few bananas and some leftover applesauce that we wanted to use.

The cupcakes were yummy. Even the adults thought so.

Decorations, including the one lone banana slice in the center, by the kids, of course, .

 

Banana Applesauce cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin tins. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and whisk the ingredients to blend them thoroughly. Place the sugar, vegetable oil and applesauce in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat the ingredients at medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until well blended. Add the eggs and beat them in. Add the bananas, apple juice and vanilla extract and beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes or until well blended. Spoon equal quantities of batter into the muffin tins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Makes 12

frosting

  • 1 cup margarine, shortening or mix of coconut oil and margarine 
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • apple juice as necessary

Place the margarine, confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl (or use an electric mixer) and beat with a hand mixer at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until well blended and creamy. If the mixture seems too thick to spread as frosting, mix in a teaspoon or two of apple juice.

Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

 

President's Cookies

Before there was such a thing as President's Day or President's Week, there was Washington's birthday, which was a school holiday on his real birthday, February 22nd. If you lived in the North, like in New York and Connecticut, you also got a day off on Lincoln's birthday, which is February 12th (the poor kids in the South weren't so lucky, although maybe they got Jefferson Davis' birthday off).

On Washington's birthday, everybody celebrated with cherry pie or cherry something else because supposedly Washington chopped down a cherry tree and didn't lie about it when someone asked if he did it.

Lincoln's birthday didn't have any particular food because he supposedly was a fussy eater and didn't like much of anything in particular.

At some point Mondays became an official holiday for most holidays and Washington and Lincoln's birthdays were merged into one big celebration and an entire week vacation from school.

I suppose that's progress.

Along the way, I discovered that Lincoln actually did have some favorite foods. Like sorghum, which is a sweet syrup similar to molasses. And he liked ginger cookies.

And so, in honor of Lincoln's birthday (which was on February 12th but will be celebrated on the 19th), whenever you celebrate and for how long, here's some sorghum-based ginger cookies to celebrate with. And by the way, if you don't have sorghum, you can use molasses instead.

 

Sorghum Ginger Cookies

  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 laarge egg
  • 1/4 cup sorghum syrup
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Combine the shortening, coconut oil and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well combined (about 2 minutes). Add the egg and sorghum syrup and beat until well blended. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg and beat until the dough is well blended, smooth and uniform in color. Take off small pieces of dough and shape into small balls about one-inch in diameter. Roll the balls in the remaining sugar to coat the surface. Place the balls on the prepared cookie sheet, leaving an inch space between each ball. Bake cookies for about 12 minutes or until the cookies have spread and are flat and crispy, with lines on the surface.

Makes about 6 dozen

 

Honey Orange Chicken Wings

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You can never have too many recipes for chicken wings, whether or not you watch or even care about the Superbowl. 

My latest chicken wing recipe came about recently, after I attended a honey tasting with my friend Liz Rueven, who blogs at Kosherlikeme. We went to Red Bee Apiary in Weston, Connecticut, where all of us were in rapt attention as beekeeper Carla Marina Marchese told us all about different kinds of bees and different kinds of honey. Then we had a feast of single origin honeys with tidbits of food (cheese, fruit and so on) that went best with them.

Of course, everyone knows that there are many varieties of honey and they all have a unique flavor. No different than wine, for example. You don't have to be an expert to understand and appreciate the differences. But it is fun to taste several all in one sitting. So I recommend this place (or one near you if you don't live in Connecticut).

After it was all said and done I bought a few jars of honey and experimented with them.

Buckwheat honey proved to be very interesting to work with. It has a distinct, intense, almost molasses-ey flavor that makes it a big winner for cookies, muffins and similar types of baked goods. Or baked apples. Or mashed sweet potatoes and so on.

But my favorite was this recipe for chicken wings. Just in time for Superbowl. Or whenever.

 

Honey Orange Wings

  • 1/4 cup honey (I used buckwheat honey)
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • salt and pepper
  • 24-30 dozen wing pieces

Preheat the broiler with the rack at least 6-inches from the heat. Place the honey, orange juice, chives, mustard, orange peel and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix for a minute or so or until well blended. Add the chicken wings and toss them in the liquid to coat all the surfaces. (You can let the chicken marinate for an hour or so if you wish.) Place the wings in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil the wings for about 15-18 minutes, turning them every 3-4 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Makes 24-30

Orange and Vanilla Scented Cheese Stuffed Dates

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Sometimes I think life is a bunch of holidays with not much in between, except for the entire month of January.

I suppose that's a good thing, because holidays are happy and celebratory. Also, there's the food. Except for Yom Kippur, every holiday has food. And even when it comes to Yom Kippur, there's the break-the-fast when it's all over and the break-the-fast is all about food. 

As far as holidays go, at this point of the year, we've just finished Thanksgiving. Next up? Hanukkah!

Hanukkah is a really delicious holiday. Lots of fried stuff like latkes and doughnuts.

It's also a dairy holiday because of the story of Judith. You can read all about it here

So for me, in honor of Judith, in addition to the usual potato latkes and doughnuts, I have served cheese latkes and potato latkes with a yogurt based sauce laced with lemongrassPotato Galette with Caramelized Onions and Cheese has been on my Hanukkah menu and also Almond Crusted Winter Squash and Noodle Kugel

Desserts? I could go with Meyer Lemon Yogurt Pie (you can use regular lemons) or maybe Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries. Maybe even cheesecake. Or some fabulous cheesecake cookies!

And also these stuffed dates! Easy to make, not too sweet (no added sugar), these little morsels are perfect for the holiday. If you don't want to use almonds for garnish, crushed, toasted coconut will do nicely.

 

ORANGE-VANILLA SCENTED CHEESE STUFFED DATES

  • 12 medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons crushed toasted almonds (or pistachios or crushed, toasted coconut)

Cut the dates through the center, but not all the way through to the bottom. Remove the pit and spread the date slightly to form a hollow for filling. Mix the cram cheese, yogurt, orange peel and vanilla extract in a small bowl until the mixture is smooth and soft. Fill the dates with the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the nuts.

Makes 12 

Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies

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I know it's latke season and doughnut season. But in the larger world out there it's also cookie season.

Well, actually, for me it is always cookie season. When I was a kid my Mom baked cookies all the time and when we got home from school we had milk and cookies every day. That was the snack -- before the days of chips (potato, kale or otherwise in little bags) and frozen pizza.

My brothers taught me how to dunk.

So when cookie season comes around I feel nostalgic. Sure, I make the old family favorites. Fannies. Peanut butter cookies. Chocolate Chunk Grand Finale cookies

But occasionally I try something new. I'm not always happy with the results and most often I discard the recipe.

But these were wonderful. And also perfect for dunking.

 

Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups finely ground almonds (8 ounces)
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons sugar for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 teaspoon orange extract)

In a food processor, pulse the chocolate until almost ground. Add the cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and cloves and process on pulse to incorporate the ingredients until finely ground and well mixed. Place the mixture into a bowl, add the ground almonds and mix to blend the ingredients thoroughly.

In the bowl of an electric beater, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 3/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in the extract and the chocolate-almond mixture.

Sprinkle a sheet of parchment paper with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Place the dough on top of the sugar. Place another piece of parchment paper on top. Roll or press the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 to 3/8 inch. Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Let the unbaked cookies air dry for at least 1-1/2 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut out circles or shapes with a cookie cutter. Place the cut out cookies on the parchment paper, leaving room between each cookie for them to spread. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cookies cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 36 cookies