Think Purim, and what comes to mind? Shalach manot baskets.
But with so many folks watching their weight, consider packing your baskets this year with something other than the ubiquitous sweet cakes and cookies.
I'm planning a selection of cool fruit soups. To deliver them, I'll pour the liquids into tightly-lidded containers and mark the tops with a felt-tipped pen.
I'll also make veggie pancakes and Mexican empanadas the night before. I'll cool them before wrapping in plastic wrap and include directions for reheating — i.e., wrap them in paper towels and zap for 20 seconds or so in the microwave before serving.
Applesauce is also essential — homemade, that is. It's unspillable when you pack it in a recyclable decorative jar.
For sweetness, you can tuck in a few coconut pecan bars and some chocolate-dipped potato chips.
Recipients will also be delighted if you include a printout of each recipe.
Two Melon Soup
1 small cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1/4 cup ginger preserves
1/2 large honeydew, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
2 Tbsps. honey
5-6 fresh basil leaves or 1/2 tsp. dried
Place the cantaloupe and ginger preserves in the food processor. Process to puree. Pour into a pitcher and refrigerate.
Rinse out the food processor container. Place the honeydew, honey and basil in the container. Process to puree. Pour into a pitcher and refrigerate.
Instructions for Serving: Using the pitchers, pour the melon purees at the same time into a shallow soup plate, keeping each puree separate. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
2 small zucchini, unpeeled and cut in 1-inch slices
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsps. (rounded) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. chopped chives
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Break the eggs into the food processor container. Add the potatoes, zucchini, baking powder and flour. Process until the vegetables are chopped with just a few small lumps remaining. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the chives, salt and pepper.
Heat about 1/8 -inch oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Slide 1/4 cupfuls of the mixture into the hot oil, leaving about 1/2-inch space between each pancake.
Press lightly with the back of a spoon to flatten. Cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until nicely browned. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with any remaining mixture, adding more oil as needed. Cool before wrapping or serving.
Makes 12 pancakes.
Sweet Potato Empanadas
The traditional pies of Mexico are usually fried. These are equally delicious baked as in this recipe.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable margarine
1/3 cup ice water
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsps. cinnamon
2 cups mashed, cooked sweet potatoes
3 Tbsps. brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp. grated orange peel
1 tsp. pumpkin spice
Preheat oven to 425°.
To Prepare Pastry: Place the flour, salt, baking powder and margarine in a food processor. Process to the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Add the ice water and process by pulsing, into a ball. Divide into 12 portions. Cover with wax paper and refrigerate 10 minutes.
In a cup, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
To Prepare Filling: Mix all ingredients until smooth.
To Assemble: On a lightly floured board, roll each pastry portion into a 4-inch circle. Place about 2 tablespoons filling onto one half of the circle. Fold over as in a turnover. Seal edges by pressing with a fork. Brush with water and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining pastry and filling.
Place the empanadas on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.
Makes 12 empanadas.
Use any apples or a combination, such as Granny Smith and Jonathan or Golden Delicious. Unpeeled red apple adds fiber, color and nutrition.
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
4 red apples, unpeeled, cored and sliced
1 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tsp. cinnamon or to taste
Place all the ingredients, except the cinnamon, in a large saucepan. Cook, covered, over low heat until apples are tender and most of the liquids are absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly.
Transfer to a blender or food processor. Blend or process until mixture is coarsely blended. If preferred, blend or process until smooth. Pour into a bowl. Stir in cinnamon to taste. Serve warm or chilled.
Serves 4 to 6.
Chocolate Dipped Potato Chips
Choose a salty potato chip. The contrast of sweet and salty is irresistible. You may also used dried fruits such as apricots.
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
40 to 48 large potato chips
Place the chocolate in a microsafe bowl. Cook on medium for 25 seconds or until beginning to soften. Stir. Return to microwave and cook 25 seconds longer or until chocolate is soft and silky. Stir well until completely smooth.
Cover a baking sheet with wax paper. Set aside.
Carefully dip half of each potato chip into the melted chocolate. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until chocolate is completely hardened.
Arrange on a pretty paper plate, leaving space between each chip.
Makes approximately 40 chips.
Coconut Chocolate Bars
Mix in a bowl with a wooden spoon. No electric mixer needed.
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 package (18 oz.) yellow cake mix
2 and 1/2 cups quick cooking oatmeal
1 can (15 oz.) coconut pecan frosting
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans or other nuts
Preheat oven to 350°.
Spray a 15x10x1-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Place the melted butter in a large bowl. Reserve 3 tablespoons cake mix and set aside.
Add the remaining cake mix to the melted butter and stir to blend. Add the egg and oatmeal. Press about 2/3 of this mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Set aside.
Spoon the frosting into a microsafe bowl. Cook on high for 1 minute. Stir in the reserved cake mix. Drizzle half of the frosting mixture over the cake mixture in pan. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips and nuts. Crumble the remaining 1/3 cake/oatmeal mixture over.
Bake for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown and edges are bubbly.
Cool in pan on wire rack at least 2 hours or until completely cooled. Cut into bars and serve.
Makes 48 bars.
Ethel G. Hofman is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Email her at: [email protected]