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Archive for the ‘snacks’ Category

A delicious low-cal dinner in minutes!

Lulakabob! What is it really? you ask. If you’re of Armenian descent, you already know; for the rest of us, it’s a happy discovery.
My first experience with lulakabob was at a barbecue – of a sort. It was at a automobile-salvage yard in the middle of a winter afternoon just before Christmas several years ago; it was cold, muddy and windy. One of the yard guys laid a grill over a big hub cap full of hot coals and then grabbed a skewer and squeezed some kind of ground meat onto it and laid it on the grill. He kept transferring meat to skewers as a bottle of Grey Goose and a bottle of Black Label were passed around and plastic cups were filled. Ice and mixer were offered, but with a look that told me only sissies would use them. A heavenly aroma rose from the grill, and when I was handed a skewer hot off the fire, I found out why.

I’ve been a lulakabob fan ever since.

They’re so simple and delicious. I recommend them as an appetizer for parties, although my honey and I have them for dinner too. You can make them on the small wooden skewers you find at the market, but I recommend going to the cooking store of your choice and picking up flat metals ones because they do work much better. I’ve found them at barbecue-supply stores for lots of money, but I’ve also seen them at the 99 Cent Store. Needless to say the chi-chi ones are of better quality, but if you’re in a hurry or on a tight budget, go the cheap route!

As you may have deduced, lulakabob isn’t from these parts, so the hardest part of this recipe can be finding a Middle Eastern market that carries the essential ingredient. If you’re in Glendale, there are lots of them, including my favorite Central Grand Market on N. Central. I have discovered a new favorite out here in the Inland Empire called simply the Farmers Market on Foothill and Archibald in Rancho Cucamonga. It’s a great store with a fabulous stock of exotic foods and a fresh meat market at the back, stocking lulakabob already mixed; you can buy ground, spiced lamb, chicken or beef. Feel free to buy cucumber dip or tzatziki while you’re there and if you find a great market like the two just mentioned, you’ll be able to pick up fresh baked flat bread to accompany your lulakabob.

You can also buy a package of dried lulakabob spices with the directions to make any ground meat into lulakabob. I always have a couple packages on hand.

Uncooked Chicken Lulakabob

Take it home, open up your white butcher paper and let the kabob building begin. It’s easy; wash your hands well, scoop out a handful of ground meat and squeeze on to your skewer – it’s that easy. Make as many skewers as you think you need, and then add a couple more. Place them on a hot grill and turn them every two minutes; they only need about 7 minutes altogether. It’s a quick, yummy dinner – serve with a fresh salad, flat bread and a yogurt dip of your choice. That’s it — a perfect, lo-cal, low-fat dinner. Make them in smaller bite-size skewers for appetizers. They’ll go over great at any Super Bowl party, I promise!

Hazel

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The holidays may be over, but, as singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen observed some years ago, the party never ends. And you always need appetizers. Guests drop in, and it’s nice to have something special to serve with a glass of wine. I’m partial to palmiers, especially because I can make them when I have a free half-hour and stick them in the freezer. They’ll keep for a month, well wrapped.

I almost always have a package of puff pastry dough in my freezer (it’s a thin box and only sucks up a very small portion of that precious freezer real estate)

Choose Your Own Filling Palmiers
Roll out one square of the two in the package. If you wet your work surface with a damp sponge and cover with plastic wrap, this job is achieved with very little mess.

Rolling toward the center

I always layer my dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and roll it out so it becomes about two inches longer than it was when I started. Try to roll so the dough becomes more rectangular in shape.

Take off the top piece of plastic wrap and brush the entire flat piece of pastry with olive oil. Now here’s the fun part. Sprinkle with finely grated parmesan cheese and – you choose! I’ve used caramelized onions, olive tapenade, crumbled bacon, my honey’s smoked tomatoes minced fine, minced garlic – the variations are as big as your imagination. The only caveat: use only a couple ingredients.

Now, starting at the left edge, start to roll your pastry toward the center. Use your plastic wrap to help in this process. Once you have reached just to the center, do the same on the right side of your pastry. Your pastry should look like two small rolls lying next to each other, and they will be about an inch tall. Wrap it with the same plastic wrap that you just used for your counter covering. Put in the refrigerator for an hour and then stash in the freezer somewhere where it will be able to keep its shape. If it’s cold from the refrigerator, it won’t form ice crystals after it hits your freezer.

When you’re ready, pull the dough out and let thaw for only 10 minutes (make sure to keep it firm) and then slice to about 1/3 inch thick pieces. Lay the slices flat on an ungreased baking sheet about a half-inch apart. If you have time, you can let them rise for about half an hour at room temp. Pop them in a 400 degree oven till golden brown and serve hot. They’re crisp, delicious and easy!

Hazel

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By Mel

When it came to cooking, my mother was a conservative. Of course, part of her attitude toward food was explained by my father’s conservative attitude toward eating. He was a real meat-and-potatoes guy. That’s not a metaphor. He enjoyed simple food, and my mother served it that way. Oddly enough, toward the end of her life my mother did come to enjoy restaurant barbecue. But at the time of which I am writing, she would have been horrified at the thought.

Therefore, though we were dying to try some, my brothers and I did not have an opportunity to eat pizza for quite some time. The first occasion was at the Hancock Park Elementary School Halloween Carnival. All the students attended, many of them dragging their parents, though it was a pretty simple affair. As I recall, you could win the goldfish in a small glass bowl if you managed to toss a Ping-Pong ball into it. I don’t suppose that did the goldfish much good.

For a quarter (this was a long time ago) you could get a slice of OhBoy! Pizza baked right on the premises in a pizza oven brought in for that very purpose. OhBoy! was a local brand of frozen pizza available at many supermarkets back then, but to us it was pretty exotic, heady stuff. As it was to Mom. I don’t know why she thought tomato sauce and cheese on bread would kill us, but we had to plead plenty before she would allow each of us to have one slice.

It wasn’t good pizza, but even today I fondly remember the cheap cardboardy flavor. And I’ve learned from friends that I am not alone.

I don’t understand this phenomenon. There is plenty of good food around, not only at home — where Laurie can whip up incredible meals in jig time — but at the many fine restaurants around Los Angeles. Sometimes, however, fine dining is not what I want. Maybe it is the naïve flavor of childhood I am after. Maybe there is something addictive in the ingredients. Maybe I am merely enjoying the residual feeling that I am doing something vaguely illicit. I don’t know.

But whatever the reason, sometimes, all that will satisfy me is a second-rate frozen pizza fresh out of the oven. Or a fast-food burger served by one of our great American success stories. Or greasy, rapidly cooling fries. My parents would have been appalled.

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By Mel
I’ve written before about my mother’s cooking — and will again, I’d wager — but this time I want to talk about my own cooking. Laurie is such a confident and wonderful cook that these days I rarely have the nerve or the need to do my own cooking. But when I was a kid, I enjoyed cooking for myself, generally making weekend breakfasts and lunches. Mom was there to encourage and guide me if I needed encouragement and guidance, but mostly I just put together what sounded good.

If I’ve given you the idea that I was some sort of child genius, a Mozart of the kitchen, I have badly misled you. Most of my ingredients were canned or frozen. And it never entered my mind that I would feed the resulting dishes to anybody else.

Some Saturdays I would start by scrambling a few eggs and then add whatever meat and vegetables I could find in the fridge. Meat ran to bacon, cold cuts and leftover hamburger; when I say vegetables, I mean onions — green, white, red, whatever.

But the really good part of this nutritious breakfast was the Van de Kamp’s enchilada. Your first response might well be to ask what a company called Van de Kamp knew about Mexican food and you would be right to ask. The enchiladas that company made were nowhere near authentic, but they were full of cheese and

These days Van de Kamp's makes frozen fish sticks. Bah! They just don't know what's good!

onions and black olives and I loved them for themselves, not because they reminded me of actual food from Mexico. Each came frozen in an aluminum tray — this was before microwave ovens — and after about 20 minutes in the oven, it was swimming in a delicious sauce that was also really good on the scrambled eggs.

Lunch was generally something called chip steak. I don’t know what it really was, but it looked like very thinly sliced bits of meat (beef? Who knows?) that I would fry up and slap on a piece of toast along with more catsup than a human should eat at one sitting. The sandwich was always cut from corner to corner, so that I had four triangles. Serve with olives of any color and/or pickles.

Both of these gourmet dishes were delish. Or they were when I was in high school. I haven’t actually eaten anything like chip steak or Van de Kamp’s enchiladas in many years. I think about it sometimes, but the salt and fat content slows me down. Plus the fact that I haven’t been able to find either one of these prepared foods in my local supermarkets despite desperate searching.

So I guess I’m just stuck with the food that Laurie prepares. Sigh. Some guys have it tough.

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Many years ago, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, I went to Los Angeles City College, hoping to get my college career off the ground.

One of the requirements for getting out of LACC with a degree was a class called Health. In this class we were to learn about cleanliness, nutrition, rest, and even a little about sex — things many of us learned from our parents long before reaching the college or even the junior college level.

Most of the Health instructors were PE teachers and coaches who were as little interested in spending two hours a week in this class as most of the students were. You could get a passing grade or better by showing up, staying awake, and not causing any trouble.

When I took this class, my instructor was a tall, thin gentleman named Edward Doodah. (I have no idea whether I am spelling his last name correctly, but that was how even he pronounced it.) Mr. Doodah was kind of remarkable because he believed in everything he said and had a serious enthusiasm for telling you all about it. I sat through his lectures about smoking, drinking, and sex (“a moment of pleasure, a lifetime of regret!”) while drawing pictures of the starship Enterprise on my notes. I certainly never expected anything he said to us to be relevent to me years later — but something is.

One of the foods he recommended was ak-mak crackers. Back then, in my early 20s, my interest in healthy crackers floated somewhere near my interest in going to bed early. I never even bothered looking for them at the store.

Decades later I was surprised to observe that ak-mak crackers were available at Trader Joe’s. The blue and yellow box informed me that ak-maks are lower in carbs than most other snack crackers and have very little fat. Being older now, if not wiser, the fat and carb content of my food is a concern, so I thought I would try the crackers. I found them to be crunchy and delicious, appropriate as the foundation for many less-healthy toppings. I commend ak-mak to you even if you don’t have my concerns for carbs and fats.

I passed Mr. Doodah’s class despite my lack of interest in most of what he said. These days, eating ak-mak crackers is the only advice of his that I continue to follow. I’ve even had sex occasionally, and I have never regretted it.

Mel

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