Posts Tagged 'potluck'

Baby Brioche

Here is something that will look and taste great at your Easter brunch or some other special occasion, and have significant Wow factor if you bring it to someone’s potluck.  I made these to take to a potluck.  Since people don’t often make homemade rolls to bring, they were a big hit.

I associate brioche with eggs and butter and other rich things.  So I searched all over for a low fat recipe. To my astonishment, the low fat recipe was exactly the same as the ones in all my regular cookbooks.  Who would have thought it!  The original recipe is from Cooking Light, but it really is the same as the one in my food processor bread cookbook. It is also made from everyday ingredients you might have in the house, so you don’t need to make a dash to the grocery store to prepare it.

Baby Brioche

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons  sugar
½ cup warm water (105° to 115°)
¼ cup non-fat milk
2 large eggs
3½ cups bread or all-purpose flour, divided
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1 Tablespoon water
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in milk and eggs. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Add 3 cups flour, butter, and salt to yeast mixture, and stir until blended. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface (or into your food processor with a dough hook). Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands or dough hook.

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover dough, and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down; cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Coat a 12 cup muffin pan with cooking oil.

Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Working with 1 portion of dough at a time (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), remove 1 rounded teaspoon of dough from each portion, and set aside. Place the larger portions of dough in muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Make a deep indentation in the center of each portion using a floured finger. Shape the reserved pieces of dough into balls. Press one dough ball into each indentation. Cover and let rise 30 minutes in a warm place (or until doubled in bulk).

Uncover dough. Combine 1 tablespoon water and egg white; brush over dough. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. This makes 12 buttery and impressive brioche at 6 grams of fat/roll.

Variation: You can also make a regular brioche, which is a fancy bread that can be sliced.  Instead of separating the dough into 12 pieces, leave it whole and remove ¼ cup of the dough to set aside. Place the dough in a brioche pan (a special fluted pan that makes the bread look pretty). Shape the reserved dough into a ball. Make an indentation in the large piece of dough, and place the reserved dough into it. Cover and let rise 30 minutes in a warm place. Uncover dough. Combine 1 tablespoon water and egg white; brush over dough. Bake at 375° for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 12 slices at 6 grams of fat/each.

Blintzes with Blueberry-Cinnamon Sauce

Many years ago, when I asked my dear Grandma Freydl, how to make blintzes, those delicious Jewish crepes filled with creamy cheese and topped with fruit, she told me that to make them, you went to the freezer case, bought them, and heated them up at home.  Blintzes have an unjustified reputation for being difficult to make, but they are not hard at all.  If you’re making a large number of them (I’ve made 200 at a time) for a party, it takes time to make all the crepes and fill them (enlisting a couple of friends and relatives to create a production line is helpful), but the process is straightforward: you make small crepes out of a thin batter, cook them on one side, fill them with a cottage cheese mixture on the cooked side, and then fold them and cook the outside.

Some time after I learned there was a means to obtain blintzes outside of the freezer case, I discovered that it was easy to make them very low fat by substituting non-fat ingredients for higher fat ones – thus eliminating blintzes’ reputation for being a high fat luxury. This time I even baked them instead of sautéing them in butter, both further lowering the fat and allowing me to make a large number (40) at once.

Blintzes are also versatile. They freeze well at the point when you’ve filled them but not done the second cooking, allowing you to make them well ahead of an event. Just defrost them before cooking.  They make a good brunch dish, and have significant Wow factor if you bring them to a potluck, as I did this time – especially since people think they’re so hard to make.

You can vary the toppings. Many people serve them with sour cream and sweetened strawberries. I’ve had them with apples cooked in cinnamon, and various melted preserves. The Blueberry-Cinnamon Sauce is simple, and any leftover sauce is great on French toast or pancakes.

The Blintzes

1 large egg
1/2 cup egg substitute
4 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup water
pinch of salt

1 pound dry cottage cheese (I use small curd non-fat cottage cheese and drain it through a sieve for 1/2 hour)
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

cooking spray
1 Tablespoon butter, melted

In a medium bowl, beat batter ingredients to form a thin batter. Spray a small frying pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter into the frying pan, turning quickly so that the batter covers the whole bottom of the pan, making a thin crepe.

Cook until the crepe is golden brown on the bottom. Be sure not to overcook so the crepe doesn’t get too stiff, or it will be hard to fold.  Remove the crepe from the pan, and set aside, raw side up. Don’t be concerned if the first crepe or so is a bit ragged.  It takes a while to get the knack of making them.  Besides, they don’t have to be perfectly round since you’re going to fold them. I prefer to make all my crepes at once, and then fill them. You can line your counter with plastic wrap or wax paper and overlap the cooked crepes…if you’re making a lot it becomes a blintz factory.  You will probably have to re-spray the pan about every third crepe.

This is the blintz factory.

Mix filling ingredients ( cottage cheese through cinnamon) in a medium bowl. Place crepe on a flat surfaace cooked side up. Place a small quantity of filling in the center of the lower third of the crepe.

Note that this crepe is not very round. Perfection isn’t all that important here.

Fold crepe over filling, then fold the sides in, and continue to roll the crepe up.  You now have a blintz.  Place blintz seam side down and set aside.  If you are going to freeze the blintzes, this is the time to do it. Be sure to put plastic wrap between the layers of the blintzes you’re freezing so they don’t stick together.

There are two ways to cook the blintzes. (If the blintzes are frozen, defrost them before this step.) You can either melt one tablespoon of butter in a frying pan and cook the blintzes over medium low heat, starting with the seam side down and turning once when the bottom side is golden brown.  Or you can put the blintzes, seam side down, on a baking sheet or pan coated with cooking spray, and brush the tops with the melted butter. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes, or until golden brown.
Some of the blintzes have little tears where the filling shows through  These won’t matter once they are cooked.

This makes about 10 blintzes at about 1.6 grams of fat/blintz.

NOTE: This recipe is a bit imprecise because a lot depends on the size of the pan you make your crepes in. Mine makes about 10 blintzes per recipe.  Also, if you double, triple, or otherwise increase the recipe, be aware that it makes more filling than you need for the number of blintzes you are creating. I usually make 3 recipes of crepe batter to 2 recipes of filling, but I often have leftover filling even then.

Blueberry-Cinnamon Sauce

1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons water
1 T cornstarch

Cook blueberries, sugar, cinnamon, and 1/4 cup water over medium heat until blueberries are soft, mashing gently with a fork or potato masher occasionally as they cook. When berries are soft, mix one tablespoon cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water. Sir into the blueberry mixture and stir until the mixture thickens slightly.

This was a blintz that unraveled a bit, so I didn’t take it to the potluck. I ate it right then.

Apple Strudel

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Naturally, after services last night there was an oneg, food for the congregation to eat. In my small congregation, this is always a potluck, and for Rosh Hashanah, it tends to be fruit and sweets, along with the traditional challah, and apples and honey so that the new year is sweet.  It is traditional to make desserts with apple, or honey cake, in keeping with the holiday. I decided on an apple strudel. Of course, since I still have mountains of plums, I also made a plum strudel – but more about that later.

This strudel uses on of my favorite techniques, phyllo dough instead of fatty pastry dough. Phyllo (or filo) is paper-thin sheets of raw, unleavened flour dough used for making pastries or savory dishes with a flaky crust. When layers of phillo are baked, they become flaky, but have little fat.  The technique used is to stack the very thin sheets of phyllo, spraying each with cooking spray before adding the next sheet.  This strudel recipe came from Cooking Light.

Apple Strudel

1/3 cup golden raisins
3  Tablespoons  amaretto (almond-flavored liqueur) I lacked amaretto, so I used Fra Angelico, or hazelnut liqueur
3 cups coarsely chopped peeled Granny Smith apples
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Butter-flavored cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a large baking sheet or jelly roll pan by spraying with butter-flavored cooking spray.

Combine raisins and amaretto in a bowl. Microwave at high 1½ minutes; drain well. Combine raisins, apples, sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a bowl. Toss well, and set aside.

Place 1 phyllo sheet on a large work surface (cover remaining dough to keep from drying); lightly coat phyllo sheet with cooking spray. Place one phyllo sheet at a time atop the others, coating each with cooking spray as you stack the layers. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over stacked phyllo, pressing gently to seal sheets together; discard plastic wrap.

Spoon apple mixture along 1 long edge of phyllo, leaving a 2-inch border (it will actually cover most of the phyllo). Fold over the short edges of phyllo to cover 2 inches of apple mixture on each end.

Starting at long edge with 2-inch border, roll up jelly-roll fashion. (Do not roll tightly, or strudel may split.) Place strudel, seam side down, on the prepared pan. Score diagonal slits into top of strudel using a sharp knife. Lightly spray strudel with cooking spray.

Bake 35 minutes or until golden brown. This makes 8 servings at about 1 gram of fat/serving. This tastes heavenly on its own, but whipped cream or low fat ice cream would make a nice addition. Be sure to add the extra fat grams.

apple strudel

You will note another, misshapen, strudel in the foreground beside the apple strudel. This is the ill-fated plum strudel.  I used a different recipe, and, although it tasted terrific, it fell apart. I think that the plums I used were much juicier than the plums the recipe anticipated – and unlike the apple strudel the recipe did not call for flour to thicken the filling. Mind you, both strudels disappeared from the table in minutes.  But I’m going to make the plum strudel again to perfect it – after all, it’s not like I don’t have plums.

L’ShanaTova. May you be written down for a good year.

Smoked Trout Platter

There is a potluck today.  It’s hot – in the 90’s, although today might be 2 degrees cooler. Too hot to bake something interesting.  And you know everyone will be bringing salads and if they don’t feel creative, boxes of store-bought baked goods.  And did I mention it’s hot?  I am not fond of hot weather.  I like clouds.

Then, to my rescue, the local grocery had whole trout on sale. Chubby, sleek trout with their heads on. I bought six of them.   I had the butcher remove their heads (“I’m decapitating” he said. “Tell the other trout not to look”).   I took off tails and fins at home and smoked the whole trout in my handy smoker.  I didn’t do anything special to them – no seasoning or brine. I smoked them over alder chips for 2½  hours.  Trout are actually rather fatty, so they grill and smoke well without getting dried out.  They have a distinctive flavor, too, that I didn’t want to mask.  I think next to steelhead, trout are my favorite fish.

Once the trout were done, I skinned them and took as many of the bones out as possible.  I find this easier to do once the fish is cooked, since the skin peels right off and the bones more or less lift out when you pull the spine out.  Then I wrapped them individually and put them in the refrigerator to chill.  This morning, I made a big platter of smoked trout – three of the fish (the rest I’ll use for other things) atop fresh leaf lettuce, with thinly sliced sweet onion, ripe tomatoes, and  cucumber, with lemons scattered about for those who want them.  Now this has the requisite Wow Factor to take to a potluck.  It actually looks more involved than it was to make (Remember, it’s hot).  It’s all in the presentation, sort of like accessorizing a basic dress.

trout smoked

This also follows my Principle of never making anything for a potluck that you don’t want to eat as leftovers.

To accompany the trout platter, I thought that most people would want to put their bit of trout on bread or crackers.  I bought some interesting dark bread and also cut up a baguette, toasting the slices to crisp them up.  I made two spreads to go with the trout. One was cream cheese and chives – put chives in the food processor to chop, then add an 8 ounce bar of low fat or non-fat cream cheese.  The second spread was a little more unconventional – blue cheese and sun dried tomatoes.

Blue Cheese and Sun Dried Tomato Spread

1 bar (8 ounces) fat free cream cheese
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes (not oil pack)
1/3 cup reduced fat blue cheese
2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Place the sun dried tomatoes in a food processor and pulse several times to chop.  Add the remaining ingredients and process until fully blended. Refrigerate overnight to blend flavors. This has about 1 gram of fat/2 tablespoon serving.

trout bread plate

Pasta Salad with Sweet Lime Chili Sauce

Another potluck.  This time they said bring a salad or side dish that is “dairy” – contains no meat.  To complicate things, I had to run errands before the gathering, and was going to a jazz concert after, so It couldn’t be a hot dish, and leftovers would have to be able to survive in the car for a couple of hours.  Since it is very cold, I wasn’t really worried about spoilage.   And of course, it had to meet my standard potluck principle of being something I could eat at the potluck to avoid the fatty dishes others brought, and the leftovers would be ok to eat without being too high fat.

I decided on a pasta salad with a Thai flavor so it would be a little different, but easy to transport. This was also good as a leftover for lunch, when I added little cooked shrimp to it one day, and tuna the next.

Pasta Salad with Sweet Lime Chili Sauce

1 pound small pasta (see Note)
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 green onions, sliced thinly
1 colored pepper, chopped coarsely
2 Tablespoons dried flaked onions
¼ cup cilantro, chopped


1/3  cup  fresh lime juice
2  tablespoons  Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
2  Tablespoons  sugar
1/4  cup  finely shredded peeled carrot
1/2  teaspoon  Thai-style chili paste
1  tablespoon  chopped fresh mint
1  tablespoon  chopped fresh cilantro

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Rinse under cold water and allow to drain completely.   Toss pasta with remaining salad ingredients (tomatoes through cilantro). To make dressing, whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour over pasta and toss thoroughly. Makes 8 1½  cup servings at about 2 grams of fat/serving.

NOTE: You can use any kind of small pasta you’d like – orzo, little shells, small macaroni, etc.  I was originally planning to use small shells until I found adorable mini farfalle (bow ties), which I thought gave the salad an interesting look.

VARIATION: I made this salad milder and sweeter than I might have if I wasn’t taking it to a potluck.  If you want to give it a real Thai kick, reduce the sugar to 2 teaspoons, and increase the chili paste to 1 teaspoon – or more to taste.


Gadjar Kari (Carrot Curry)

Carrots are a sweet vegetable that can be used in many ways – think carrot cake.  In India, they make a candy called gadjar halwah, which is soft and sweet, and often studded with pistachios, topped with edible silver foil, and served for special occasions. Because of their sweetness, carrots combine well with other sweet ingredients, even if the end result is not a dessert.  This curry is a little unusual because one of the sweet ingredients is a banana.

For potlucks I often like to bring a vegetarian dish, since everyone can usually eat it.  This curry, adapted from The World of Jewish Cooking, came out unexpectedly spicier than I thought it would, but the people at the potluck thought it was just right.  In the picture below, I tempered it by serving it with yogurt – a fairly common accompaniment for my Mumbai neighbors.  Milk products cut the heat of overly spicy foods – I can’t remember the chemistry of this, but a glass of milk works better than a glass of water to wash down a fiery dish.  You certainly can reduce the amount of cayenne pepper if you’d like.

Carrot Curry

1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
1 ½ teaspoons yellow mustard seed
1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cardomom
1 teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 pound carrots, sliced, or 1 pound baby carrots
1 medium banana, peeled and sliced
¼ cup golden raisins
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add the spices (cumin seed through   cayenne) and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. I mixed the spices in a little bowl beforehand so that I could add them all at once, and they wouldn’t burn while I measured out the other spices. Add the carrots and sauté until lightly colored, about 3-5 minutes.  Stir in the banana and raisins.  Add the water, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the carrots are tender, not mushy, about 20 minutes, Uncover, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently  until most of the liquid is evaporated and the carrots and raisins are glazed, about 5-10 minutes.  Serve with rice.  Makes 4 servings at about 4 grams of fat/serving.


Sweet Potato Salad

I usually don’t think of sweet potatoes and salad in the same line of thought. Sweet potatoes (or yams) are a hot side dish, often served at holiday dinners.  Salads are cold.  Of course, this isn’t really true, think of potato salad.  I was looking for something dramatic to take to a potluck when I came upon this brightly colored salad.  It got some funny looks at first, but people liked it.  It’s also a good make ahead dish.

Sweet Potato Salad

1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes or yams, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into ¼ inch slices
½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half
3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced diagonally
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 garlic cove, finely chopped
black pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts

Steam sweet potatoes over boiling water in a steamer until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the sweet potatoes to a large bowl and set aside. Steam the beans until they are cooked but still crisp – about 4 minutes. (You can use the same steamer.) Refresh the beans under cold water so they keep their color and add to the sweet potatoes.  Add the sliced scallions.  Mix the dressing ingredients – rice vinegar through black pepper – in a small bowl.  Pour over sweet potato mixture and toss. Chill the vegetables for at least one hour.  I made this the night before I served it and it kept well. When ready to serve, toss again and sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.  This makes 8 servings with about 4 grams of fat/serving.



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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