Posts Tagged 'nuts'

Orange Kiss Me Cake

When I was in elementary school, my mother took a home catering course that was held in the cafeteria of a local school. Although my mother worked part-time as a bookkeeper, her primary identity was as the keeper of a home with four children – she was a homemaker. This was, after all, the Fifties. There were a number of such classes offered to help women perfect their home-making skills.

I only remember a few things she learned to make: tiny carrots made out of Velveeta cheese and a bit of parsley, another appetizer consisting of little circles of toast with a mound of ground beef ornamented with circles of mustard and ketchup, to be served hot to guests who would no doubt be in awe of your culinary skills.  My mother was a already a great cook of traditional foods, and I don’t remember her newly learned appetizers appearing many times after the initial introduction to the relatives at a family party.

One recipe that stayed, however, was Orange Kissimmee Cake (for the town of Kissimmee, Florida). We always giggled because we thought it was “Kiss Me” cake, which to our childish minds had a tinge of naughty.  But it was one of my favorite cakes, redolent of nuts, orange, cinnamon, and raisins. It was bitter and sweet – a grown up cake so different from frosted cakes. The recipe I found in Susan Purdy’s “Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too” was similar to my mother’s recipe (and Purdy calls it Orange Kiss Me Cake – tee hee), although considerably lower In fat. My mother ground up the orange with walnuts and raisins, using the same hand grinder that she used to make chopped liver for the holidays – this recipe only uses nuts on the top of the cake. I lowered the fat content further by substituting some of the oil with applesauce.

A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE about oranges.  This recipe calls for one whole orange to be ground up whole, with the skin, which is what my mother did. But Florida oranges are very different from the navel oranges available in stores in most of the U.S. Florida oranges are juice oranges and have thin skins, and very little bitter white pith. Navel oranges have thick skins, and lots of bitter white pith.

If you are going to use a navel orange, which I did, you will need to remove the thin orange zest, then peel the orange to remove the white pith, and cut the remaining fruit in eighths to be ground with the zest and raisins. If you are fortunate enough to have a thin skinned Florida orange, you can just grind it skin and all.

Orange Kiss Me Cake

Butter Flavor cooking spray
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon mace
2 Tablespoons toasted wheat germ
1 orange (see note above) cut into eighths and seeded
1 cup seedless raisons
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
1 cup orange juice

Orange Glaze
½ cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup finely chopped toasted pecans (note – I would have preferred to use walnuts, like my mother did.  I think it would be better that way – or at least more like I was used to)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray. Dust with flour and tap out excess flour.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and mace into a bowl. Stir in wheat germ.

In a food processor or meat grinder, grind together the orange sections (and zest for non-Florida oranges) and raisins. If you are using a food processor, be careful not to puree the mixture – you want it coarsely textured in about 1/8 inch bits.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine oil, applesauce, sugar, egg, and egg white. Beat until well blended. Alternately add the flour mixture and the orange juice, beating on low speed, and starting and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in the orange/raisin mixture. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and level the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is golden brown on top and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze and topping. In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the glaze ingredients (orange juice and sugar) until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. In a small owl stir together the sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. Set aside.

Remove cake from oven when done. Set the pan on a wire rack. While the cake is still hot, prick the top all over with a toothpick or bamboo skewer. Spoon the glaze evenly over the cake. Sprinkle on the topping. Allow the cake to sit for about 2 hours to absorb the glaze and to cool thoroughly. Cut into squares and serve. The original recipe said it made 12 squares, but these would be very large. I made 24 servings at about 3.5 grams of fat/serving.

In the pan

Heading to a potluck

If you should happen to have some leftovers, this cake freezes well, although some people have been known to eat the pieces while still frozen rather than waiting for them to defrost.


Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce

This is one of the best chicken curries I have ever made – or tasted.  I made a three curry dinner for two friends.

The curries are – from the top clockwise, Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce, Indian Fish Stew, and Buffalo with Green Beans Curry, surrounding a mound of Brown Rice.  More about the other curries at a later date.

Despite the fact there was more than enough food, there was not a drop of this chicken curry left. The sauce is rich, and thickened by the cashew nuts. It is not a particularly hot curry. If you want more heat, add a little cayenne pepper or chopped green chilis into the spice mixture, or do as I often do, have hot sauce on the table. The original recipe comes from Husain and Kanani’s Healthy Indian Cooking.

I’m sure this would freeze well, if there was ever any left!

Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce

2 medium onions
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 ounces cashew nuts
1½ teaspoons garam masala (see note)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
I teaspoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon non-fat yogurt
1 Tablespoon canola oil
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
1 Tablespoon raisins
1 pond boneless chicken breast, skinned and cut into 1-2 inch cubes
6 ounces small button mushrooms (or larger mushrooms cut in quarters)
1¼ cup water

Place onions in food processor and process for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, cashew nuts, garam masala, garlic, chili powder, lemon juice, turmeric, salt, and yogurt and process for another minute or so.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan. Lower the heat to medium and add the ground spice mixture from the food processor. Fry spices for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure that the mixture does not burn.  When the spice mixture is lightly cooked, add half the chopped fresh coriander, the raisins, and the chicken cubes and continue to stir fry for 1 minute. Add mushrooms, pour in the water and bring to a simmer.  Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink and the sauce has thickened. Serve hot sprinkled with the remaining coriander.  Serve with rice or couscous. Makes 4 servings at about 9.8 grams of fat/serving.

I cooked this a few hours earlier in my large flat-bottomed wok, which I use for everything, and transferred it to a casserole for reheating in the microwave and serving.

NOTE: Garam Masala means warm (garam) spices (masala). Most Indian households have their own mix, handed down from mother – or mother-in-law – to daughter, which is stored in a container for daily use. You can make your own mix from the many recipes available, or buy a good quality garam masala either at an Asian market or in the spice section of your grocery store. I often use the Spice Islands mix.

Rugelach (Grandma’s Butter Cookies)

When I was young, there were two cookies that captured the essence of home and tradition. They were “rugelach” (sometimes called “der ahnderer” or the other ones) and “der geralte”, the rolled ones, which were damson plum jam, raisins and nuts rolled in a pastry dough and sliced.  The recipes were passed down from my Grandma Fredyl.  Fredyl, having grown up in the “old country”, did not have recipes; she cooked by eye and feel.  Family legend has it that my Aunt Gladys stood by her side as she cooked, and every time Grandma tossed in an ingredient, Gladys stuck out a measuring cup to measure the recipe.  Now I have the recipe on my mother Sylvia’s recipe cards, a memory of her since she’s gone.  They still evoke home.  Once I was visiting my sister when she lived in North Carolina, and we baked “Grandma cookies”. Her husband thought we were crazy, since we rarely saw one another, and we were spending our precious time together baking cookies.  We told him that we were “channeling Sylvia”.

For several years, I’ve been looking for a way to make low fat rugelach.  After all, the family recipe started with a quarter of a pound of butter.  I thought I found a recipe in a low fat baking book.  The recipe was a bit fussy, and after my experience with the lemon bars, I decided to calculate the fat content of my family recipe.  I was delighted to see that Grandma’s rugelach were quite reasonable in fat grams, so here is the recipe.


¼ pound of butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour + up to ¼ cup flour if needed (I used about a Tablespoon)
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped small
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 350.  Sift 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour and baking powder into a medium bowl and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until well-blended. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed until flour is incorporated.   Turn out onto a floured surface and knead in enough of the ¼ cup of flour to firm up the dough.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Take dough out of refrigerator and cut about ¼ of the dough. To make rolling the dough easier, roll it out between 2 pieces of either parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap, with the lower sheet lightly sprinkled with flour. Use new sheets for each ¼ piece of dough.  This makes it much easier to get the cookies off the paper.  Roll the piece of dough into a rough square, about 1/8 inch thick.  Sprinkle with ¼ of the walnuts and a bit of the cinnamon and sugar (I have a shaker with mixed cinnamon and sugar, so I don’t usually measure them). Gently roll the rolling pin over the dough to set the filling.  Cut the dough into 2 inch squares.  Don’t worry about ragged edges.  I find that I have to shape each cookie by hand, and rough edges can be tucked in.  Put 2 raisins at each end of the squares.


Roll up each square, pushing the dough around the raisins to cover them up. Try to make them approximately the same size so they will bake evenly – I am not always successful in doing this.  Bend the cookies into little crescents.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

I was rather distressed the first time I made these, since my rugelach were rather bumpy and unshapely.  But then I remembered that the rugelach of my youth looked that way, too.  They are a homey cookie, not a glamour cookie – but oh the taste of them.  Here they are in their lumpy splendor on the cookie sheet waiting to be sprinkled and baked.


Sprinkle the unbaked rugelach with the cinnamon and sugar mix.  Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. Do not let them get too brown.  Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then cool completely on rack (Try not to eat too many of the “broken ones). This makes 60 cookies at about 2 grams of fat/cookie.  These keep well, and freeze beautifully. We always had them in the freezer when I was growing up for a late night “nosh” or if unexpected company came.


NOTE: My mother didn’t toast the walnuts, but toasting brings out the flavor so that you can use fewer of them.

Now if I can only figure out how to make low fat geralte.

Cranberry-Pistachio Bars

Back to cookie making.  These bars are quite festive looking, especially for the holidays, because of the bright red cranberries and the green-tinted pistachios (but they don’t photograph well).  They are a bit surprising to taste, because they are both tart and sweet.  The original recipe came from Eating Well magazine.

Cranberry-Pistachio Bars

The Crust
3 Tablespoons unsalted  butter at room temperature
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

The Topping
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange rind
¼ cup orange juice
2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup shelled pistachios, preferably unsalted, chopped and toasted

To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Coat an 8 inch square pan with cooking spray.  Beat butter, granulated and brown sugars in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Stir in whole wheat pastry flour, all purpose flour, and salt until well combined.  The mixture will be crumbly.  Evenly press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake until just barely golden around the edges, 10-12 minutes.  Remove crust from oven. You do not have to let it cool before putting the topping on.

To make the topping
: Chop cranberries coarsely by pulsing them in a food processor. Combine ¾ cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add egg, egg white, orange zest and juice. Stir until blended and smooth.  Sprinkle chopped cranberries over the baked crust.  Pour the orange mixture over the cranberries and sprinkle with the chopped pistachios.

Bake until golden and set, 40-45 minutes.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.  This is easier to cut if you chill it before you try to cut it.  The recipe says that this makes 16 cookies, at 4 grams of fat/cookie.  But I found the cookies to be very large, especially for a cookie plate, so I cut them in half – and then they made 32 cookies at 2 grams/cookie.


A note on pistachio nuts: If you can get unsalted nuts, use them.  There is a lovely brand called “Everybody’s Nuts” that has unsalted nuts that are easy to open.  But my local stores seem to longer carry them, and I was in too much of a hurry to order them online.  I used salted nuts and rinsed them to get the salt off, but it really wasn’t as satisfactory as unsalted nuts would have been.

Hint: Specialty flours and grains that are sometimes called for in recipes (like the whole wheat pastry flour in this recipe) can become rancid if they are kept too long. The same is true of nuts.  If you need ¼ cup of wheat bran, or 2 tablespoons of pecans, what do you do with the rest?   You seal the in a zip top plastic bag, and put them in the freezer!  They will keep for months, and you really don’t have to defrost them to use them.

Brownies and Blondies

Yet another potluck. And at short notice. They are providing the barbecued burgers and chicken. Usually I like to make something interesting and exotic that will wow people with my cooking prowess and shock them when I tell them it is low fat. But there are several factors that interfered with my usual strategy.

  • With short notice, I don’t have time to go to the grocery, whatever I make has to be from ingredients I have in the house – a bad time to discover you’re almost out of brown sugar.
  • It is on a week night, so it has to be something I can make after work.
  • The gathering is way out in the middle of nowhere. So it has to be something sturdy that can withstand bouncing around on the seat of my truck as I get lost navigating dirt roads in the deep woods trying to find this place.

So the decision is: Bittersweet Brownies and Cranberry Pecan Blondies. It was a good decision, too, because I did indeed get lost out in the woods looking for the tiny hidden driveway onto their land, and almost everyone else brought a salad.

Here they are in their glory, ready for transport to the feast:

About these Bittersweet Brownies. The recipe comes from Cooking Light, a magazine you should seriously consider subscribing to. These are some of the best brownies I have ever eaten. The brownies are moist, and if you love chocolate, they are positively orgasmic.

Bittersweet Brownies

Cooking spray
1/4 cup boiling water
1 Tablespoon instant espresso granules or 2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (not your regular chocolate chips, but the really dark kind like Ghirardelli 60% Cacao)
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg white
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Combine 1/4 cup water and coffee granules in a medium bowl. Stir in chocolate chips, stirring until they melt. Stir in butter, vanilla, egg, and egg white until they are well combined. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups, level with a knife. Add sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt to the flour and whisk together. Add chocolate-coffee mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until just moist. (This was very stiff to stir, even with a wooden spoon. I ultimately used my hands to make sure all of the dry ingredients were mixed in). Place batter into prepared baking pan, and smooth out so it is mostly even. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you are using it. Cut into servings.

The original recipe said this made 18 brownies, at 5.8 grams of fat/brownie. This made mighty big brownies, especially to take to a potluck. I cut it into 24 brownies, at 3.9 grams of fat/brownie. They were nice sized brownies, and since one of my Principles is that a snack should be 4 grams of fat or less, it brought them into snack range.

Hint: it is difficult to substitute applesauce for butter in cookies. The trick is to have recipes that use less butter.

Hint: For years, I just scooped the flour into a measuring cup and leveled it, the way my mother did. I recently learned it is better to lightly spoon the flour into the cup until it is overflowing and level it off. You don’t compress the flour, so the measure is more accurate, and your baked goodies are lighter in texture. Who knew?

Yet another hint: When making brownies, cookies, and many other baked goods, you need to make sure the dry ingredients are thoroughly combined with the wet ingredients so there aren’t nasty lumps of unmixed flour in your goody, but not to beat them too much or your baked goodies will be tough.

Cranberry Pecan Blondies

This recipe was an improvisation when I discovered that I did not have the ingredients for the oatmeal butterscotch bars I was going to make. They are a bit cakier in texture than brownies.

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup softened butter
1/2 cup egg substitute
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups, level with a knife. Add oats, baking powder, and salt to the flour and whisk together. Put sugar and butter in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until they are well blended. Add egg substitute, egg, and vanilla to the sugar mixture and beat until well blended. Add flour mixture and beat until the dry ingredients are just combined. Sir in nuts and fruit. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars. This makes 24 bars at 3.8 grams of fat/bar.

Hint: Toasting nuts brings out their flavor, so you can use fewer of them. Toast nuts by putting them in a small frying pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. It takes about 5 minutes. They’re done when you can smell them – be sure not to burn them.

Variations: These would be good with other dried fruit, such as raisins, chopped apricots, or chopped cherries.


I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

More about me.

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