Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Low-Fat Salsa Chicken



Very exciting stuff, chopping green onions!
 
After I received a comment from someone on the 'basic nature' of the recipes I was posting, I felt I needed to reiterate the purpose of my project. I will have recipes for meatloaf, baked chicken, zucchini bread, cookies, and veggie dip among others. These are home-style family recipes which many of you already have. I just have never made them and want to be able to say in a years' time that I have accomplished that. You can doctor them up as you wish and some of them I have and will note it when I do.


This blog project is not about making gourmet foods (although I reserve the right to venture down that path in the future.) These are not cooking channel glossy magazine recipes. It is not about me cooking or rather stumbling through some famous chef's cookbook. This project is about cooking through my own families' recipes. Most are my Mom's, but some are my Nana's, sister's, cousin's, and John's family recipes too. I am learning about my extended family by cooking the recipes which were favorites of their families.
 
Chicken was a staple in my household.  Steak and London broil were for special occasions. Ham didn't happen except for maybe my Dad on Easter. We were as I see it, a culturally Jewish family who remained Kosher as best we could in a household where our father was Christian. So remaining Kosher came down to sometimes, ham on Easter and bacon on weekends.  Sheryl and my Mom shied away from the ham but I think they secretly snuck some bacon. I remember my Mom saying, "I can try a little bacon, it doesn't look like a pig." My Mom praised G-d when turkey bacon was invented.  
 
Anyway, back to chicken. Mom, as you will see, had recipes for baked chicken, chicken parmigiana, BBQ chicken (actually Dad's domain), and my Nana's potted chicken. We also had a liking for Kentucky Fried Chicken during the 70's. That mysteriously stopped. Me thinks that Mom was trying to direct us down a healthier path.  Thankfully we still had pizza once a week from Oak Valley Pizza but that become the extent of our fast food.
 
The only misstep that I can think that Mom made while cooking was her attempt at using left over chicken in scrambled eggs. Anyone else think that was ... um ... just an odd and weirdly unethical combination? Eggs and chicken, in one meal?  As it turned out, well let's just say it turned out bad.  Just didn't taste right even with lots of ketchup. Mom was mortified and we razzed her to no end. Even many years later, my brother Adam would bring up the chicken and scrambled eggs story and send the entire family into laughter.  Mom would just turn beat red and laugh with the rest of us.
 
 
Chicken ready to go into the oven.
 
For this week's family recipe, I made my mom's low-fat salsa chicken. It's not the most complex of recipes but it is a good tasty recipe that my Mom loved.  I used a mild salsa but if you want a kick, use a medium salsa or add some hot sauce. Mom made this recipe originally with grated Parmigiano cheese. I substituted a shredded low-fat Mexican blend of cheese and liked it more. I feel it gave it a more of a Southwest flavor.  Feel free to use whatever other seasonings you like. I just used some basic salt and pepper.
 
Low-Fat Salsa Chicken, lookin' good!
Low-Fat Salsa Chicken
From Mom (Abby Deeds)
 
¼ cup of sliced green onions (white part and a little of the green)
¾ cup of your favorite salsa (but you can be as generous as you want)
¼ cup of grated Parm cheese or shredded low-fat Mexican blend cheese (same thing here, use liberally if you like cheese!)
4 – 4 oz chicken breast halves
 
Preheat oven to 350'F
Place chicken in an 11 x 7 in. baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Spoon salsa evenly over chicken; top with green onions.
Sprinkle with cheese.
Cover and bake at 350'F for 30 minutes.
Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until chicken is done.
Serve over hot cooked rice or with baked potatoes.
Serves 4.
 
 
 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Seeing My Cousins and Sharing Recipes

My sis Sheryl and I ventured out to North Jersey (as we call it out here) over the weekend to spend time with our dear cousins, sisters Anne and Jennifer. We reconnected a couple years ago after a long absence. It is a funny thing when you get older, you realize that those cousins you hung with in your childhood years are almost the only family left and hopefully ... and if you are lucky, you reconnect with them or stay connected with them.

If getting older has taught me anything, this is not always the case with friends and families. I live in a very special world where I am very lucky that my family loves each other and loves getting together. I know of plenty of dear friends which this does not happen. It is sad but something that I have come to accept. I cannot impress the close relationships of my family on others. Some families, unfortunately, will just not be that close. As an adult, I have come to accept that I cannot influence my friends in that regard. I look on it with sadness, but I accept it and don't judge.

So this past Sunday that we spent together was certainly a trip down memory lane. Anne, Jennifer, Sheryl, and I spent a wonderful afternoon laughing as well as bickering over details of memories as close siblings do. Our cousins understand the dynamics between Marc, Adam, and Sheryl and we understand the dynamics between Anne and Jennifer. Whether they are observing us or we are observing them, it is always an interesting show. I believe the best seats in the house are Anne's hubby Jeff and Jen's hubby Joe!  Unfortunately my brother Adam was not able to make it but Adam, if your ears were burning ... let's just say you deserved it! :)

One of the shining moments of the visit was seeing how much my adorable little cousin Jessica, who is eight, enjoyed the gifts I brought her.  I gave her two large sticker books. One was decorating cupcakes and the other was decorating headshots with different jewelry and nails. SO HAPPY I got a cool gift for once for one of the youngest members of my family! 

I used this time for swapping family recipes with Anne and Jennifer. I was hoping for their grandmother's recipe for angel food cake (my Aunt Emmy). I just loved that cake and Aunt Emmy made it each time we came to visit back in the 70's. Anne and Jennifer confirmed that unfortunately, the recipe was never handed down. I was sad over it. A recipe lost. It has happened to my side of the family as well. We don't have official family recipes for potato pancakes or gefilte fish but we know our Nana made them. It is sad. A part of our family history is lost.

My readers, use this as a lesson to pass down recipes to your other family members. We lost the angel food cake recipe but I gained others from Anne and Jennifer. Their mother was our dear cousin Jean. As I sit here writing, I remember her great hugs and kisses and it brings a smile to my face. Her sister was Aunt Harriet. I remember enjoying cousin Jean's brisket recipe, but her daughters Anne and Jennifer said that Aunt Harriet's was better! So I have that which I will eventually share with you, along with my mother's.

I also was able to get Anne's family potato pancake (latke) recipe, cousin Jean's noodle kugel recipe (different from Nana's!), cousin Jean's chocolate cake recipe, a family Challah bread recipe, and Anne's recipe for Hamantachen (a triangle shaped cookie served traditionally at the Jewish holiday of Purim). I have my work cut out for me with this cooking project!

I consider myself lucky for several reasons. I was able to get some great family recipes as well as the history behind them from my dear cousins. Love them those gals. Also, family time is just so precious. There are only a few older family members left in my mother's families:  the Linns and the Newmans. It makes it all the more important that we children (now in our 40's) carry on the traditions and history of our families.

Don't forget this my friends! I know it doesn't happen with every family but if possible, renew and strengthen those family bonds. Those traditions need to be passed on to your children and your younger cousins, maybe in the form of family recipes. Kids like my cousin Jessica, and my niece and nephew Johnny and Angelica will wonder one day where they came from and we need to be able to pass on the family history and traditions to them.

My only regret was that I didn't get cousin Jean's macaroni and cheese recipe before I left. Hello Anne and Jennifer, help a cousin out here!?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sweet Noodle Kugel

This is my Nana's recipe for sweet noodle kugel. I posted about this once before but never posted the recipe. Kugel is a holiday mainstay in Jewish culture and cooking. I remember having this on Rosh Hoshana, Hannukah, and Passover. It is fitting that I am putting this recipe up during the holiest of holidays periods, the 10 High Holy days between Passover and Yom Kippur.

Kugel can be made in variety of ways:  apple sauce kugel, potato kugel, noodle kugel, matzoh kugel, savory spinach kugel, carrot kugel, and of course, my Nana's recipe below for the sweet noodle kugel with raisins. I love this recipe as I have eaten it as a side dish, dessert, or even a quick breakfast on the run.  My sister Sheryl makes a great spinach kug. I remember my brother Adam and I loving this recipe below when Nana and Mom made it in the 70's. We would fight for the pieces which had the most crunchy noodles on top.

I made the recipe this evening. You could smell the apples, nutmeg, and cinnamon while it was cooking! It came out great but I would recommend reducing the cooking time by 5 to 10 minutes if you have a newer oven so it doesn't dry out. You can always continue baking if need be. 

Sweet Noodle Kugel


Nana's Sweet Noodle Kugel

Set oven on bake to 350'F.

8 oz broad noodles (I used David's Wide Enriched Kosher Egg Noodles)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil.
3 eggs separated
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup seedless raisins
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups diced apples

1. Boil noodles according to package instructions, drain well.
2. Beat egg yolks, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and salt.
3. Add apples, raisins, and noodles.
4. Beat egg whites until stiff - fold into noodle mixture.
5. Pour into greased baking dish - 9 x 9 x 1 1/2 inches.
6. Bake at 350'F for 45 minutes until brown.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Baked Fish with Vegetables

Nana, Mom, and Sheryl
As a child, I hated all types of fish except those that were battered, breaded, deep fried and covered in ketchup. Give me fish sticks till the end of the earth! I also loved those Gorton's beer battered cod fillets. They were so good with ketchup, LOTS of ketchup. As far as I was concerned, that is how they came out of the ocean, already slathered in ketchup.
 
We used to go to a restaurant in Mullica Hill, NJ, by the name of the Hilltop Restaurant. It was a small diner/café type place. Mom would drag us around town antiquing till she was ready to drop. We hated it but were rewarded with lunch and I had my FAVORITE meal, fried clam strips with lots of ketchup.
 
Growing up, I was never a fan of just baked or broiled fish. That is until my Mom made this recipe. I ate it cautiously at first. The 2nd mouthful was even better. It wasn't until years later that I found that this was actually one of my Nana's recipes and the family history-buff in me loved it even more. Or maybe it was the tomato sauce, the high end cousin of ketchup!

It is a fairly easy recipe and I have made it with cod, haddock, and tilapia but I am sure almost any mild fish would do.  I would try it with flounder, red snapper, or trout. I think salmon or tuna would be too strong for this. We always made it with a side of white or brown rice. This time I made it with tilapia, portabella mushrooms, and brown rice. You can vary the recipe with what ever seasonings you wish. I hope you enjoy.
 
Baked Fish with Vegetables
From the kitchen of Sarah 'Nana' Newman

Baked Fish (tilapia) with Vegetables
 
Heat oven to 400'F
Serves 6
 
6 slices frozen or fresh mild flavored fish
1 large cooking onion, diced
1/4 lbs mushrooms, fresh sliced or canned
1 green pepper, diced
 5 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 1/2 cans/jars tomato sauce (16 oz cans/jars)
salt and pepper to taste, or additional seasonings
vegetable oil (optional)
 
1. Brown vegetables in 2 tablespoons margarine, butter, or vegetable oil
2. Arrange vegetables on bottom of large glass or metal baking pan
3. Place fish over vegetables
4. Dot fish with butter
5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
6. Pour tomato sauce over fish
7. Bake at 400'F uncovered for 35 minutes at the most, or until the fish are thoroughly done
8. Baste occasionally
9. Serve with white or brown rice.