As a teenager, I sat at my grandmother's kitchen table as she prepared family dinners. In 1966, Betty Friedan founded the National Organization of Women, while Granny ladled sour cream into noodles, and pumped tzimmes with brisket, and poured a pint of heavy cream into her rice pudding.
"How many calories in that rice pudding?" I asked one autumn afternoon.
"Diet on your own time," she said. "At my house, we enjoy good food."
Although Granny was a portly woman, her apron was never spattered. She never left home without wearing white gloves and a hat with a veil.
While she served us meals of several courses, we ate little that's deemed healthy these days. It would be more than a decade before cholesterol entered our vocabulary, and another 20 years before "low fat" became high concept.
By the '90s, I noticed a dramatic shift on supermarket shelves. Reduced-fat containers of sour cream and cottage cheese outnumbered their high-calorie counterparts.
I wondered if the flavor of some of my grandmother's recipes would suffer if they were a little less fattening. I began tinkering with them. Yet I refused to strip their tantalizing taste in the service of cutting fat.
"You're breaking Granny's heart," said my aunt, reminding me that my great-grandmother had brought these recipes with her when she emigrated from Breslau, Germany.
"If Granny were still here, I think she'd understand," I said. "She wouldn't want to make us sick."
While we are a people with strong emotional ties to traditional foods, it's possible to savor these same dishes by reducing calories and cholesterol, and along the way, even reducing some of the Jewish guilt associated with all of this.
Lighter Noodle Pudding
1 package (16 oz.) Dutch noodles
6 Tbsps. nonhydrogenated margarine
1/2 pinch of salt
2 lbs. reduced-fat cottage cheese
1 pint reduced-fat sour cream
7/8 cup sugar
nonstick vegetable spray
4 Tbsps. nonhydrogenated margarine, melted
1/2 cup graham-cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°.
Spray a 10×15-inch ovenproof casserole with nonstick spray.
Place the noodles in boiling water and follow the package instructions. Drain well. While still hot, move to a large mixing bowl, and add the margarine and salt. Mix well and cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream and sugar into another large mixing bowl. Using an electric beater, whip together until well-incorporated. Add the noodle mixture and stir into the custard.
Pour the noodles and custard into the prepared pan.
For the Topping: Place all topping ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. Mix well with a fork. Sprinkle evenly over the noodles. Bake for 1 hour.
Serves 18 generous portions.
6 large sweet potatoes
2 cups orange juice
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup water
6 oz. pitted prunes
1 cube of vegetable bouillon
1 jar (8 oz.) honey
Peel the sweet potatoes and carrots, and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
Put them in a large pot.
Pour in the orange juice, lemon juice, wine and water, and stir gently to blend.
Add the prunes, bouillon and honey. Mix again, blending well.
Simmer on a medium-low flame, stirring often, until potatoes and carrots are soft, about 20 to 30 minutes.
A Lighter Rice Pudding
11/2 cups cooked rice (made from 1/2 cup raw rice)
11/2 cups, plus 1/2 cup, 2 percent milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. nonhydrogenated margarine
3/4 tsp. vanilla
dash of cinnamon
Prepare the rice according to package instructions.
Place the rice, 11/2 cups milk, sugar and salt in a large pot. Simmer over a low flame, stirring until thick and creamy, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Into the rice mixture, blend in the remaining 1/2 cup milk, along with the egg. Simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the margarine, vanilla and cinnamon to taste. Mix together well.
Spoon into a serving bowl and sprinkle with cinnamon for color. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold. Pudding can be refrigerated for three days.
Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. E-mail her at: [email protected] .