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Aviva Cohen Family


by Aviva Cohen, Nov 3, 2011

 For some, buying a new cookbook is like buying a new car. Choices are based on research and reviews, with fierce determination to find the best fit with all the bells and whistles one could possibly dream of. For the right price, of course. Oh, and it also needs to be pretty.

I found a winner in the newest release from ArtScroll Shaar Press called Fresh & Easy by Leah Schapira. This baby is FULLY LOADED! This book is bright, colourful, completely accessible and a pleasure to browse through and utilize.

 There are wonderful little features that I've never encountered that are so clever, I'm not sure why I haven't seen them before!
I spent the last week sampling many different recipes on my very willing family and friends. Even though I tried a bunch of new things, there were very few ingredients that I didn't already have on hand. The ingredients could be common, but the results were quite extraordinary! As we all know, eating begins with the eyes, so a really juicy feature in this cookbook is the picture index at the beginning of the book showing the user a variety of options in a particular area like appetizers, main dishes, Pesach, home made take out, what freezes well or scrumptious desserts and more. These few pages are invaluable for quick referencing and mixing and matching. Each picture is captioned with the name of the recipe and the page number. What a great idea!
Another clever addition is that Schapira has attached complementary recipe ideas to main dishes. This really helps in order to try new things and envision an entirely different approach to some fairly common elements. For instance, I made a delicious apricot honey chicken that I ordinarily would have served with plain white rice. Instead, I made a delicious cous cous with roasted veggies that was simple, colourful and completely original to my repertoire. There was a great tip for the apricot chicken as well. It's supposed to cook for a really long time in a sauce made of apricot jam, honey, onion soup mix, ketchup and red wine and the recipe says to pack the pieces closely together in the baking dish. I've never done that before...I always figured that they needed to be spaced out to cook evenly, but this worked out perfectly!
The cous cous recipe was a fantastic addition to our meal. The kids loved it and it was very easy to prepare. I found the amount of dressing to be a bit much, so when I made it a second time, I made two times the cous cous to one recipe of the dressing. This is something that could easily be made to taste but the important thing is that there is some flexibility to the recipes to make them better suited to one's family or changed to accommodate a food allergy or particular dislike.
On Grey Cup Sunday, aside from our usual chili, rice and wings, we decided to try another recipe from Fresh & Easy called Pulled Beef Sandwiches. I put a tough cut of beef in the crock pot with a short list of ingredients like garlic cloves, brown sugar, ketchup, onions, etc....and turned it on in the morning. Just before half time, I strained the liquid and shredded the beef with two forks as instructed and put it back into the crock pot with half of the reserved liquid for 30 more minutes. Let's just say the pulled beef sandwiches, served on crusty sub buns and topped with anything from raw or sauteed onions, fresh slices of tomato, hot peppers or cool lettuce, were a bigger hit than the football game! Delicious!
I couldn't let this review go by without trying a dessert as well. The most obvious choice, of course, was the chocolate chip biscotti. Biscotti is my husband's kryptonite. He's not much of a dessert eater, but he can't resist biscotti at all.
 I don't make them often because recipes I've tried in the past haven't been terribly successful. Sometimes they can be overly crumbly and won't slice, but this recipe was a dream to follow and came out beautifully. As logs, they were easy to handle and they sliced like a hot knife through butter. Once they were baked the second time, I knew this would be a new family favourite.
Schapira has incorporated all the key elements into a cookbook that should become a staple to every kosher cook. The ingredients are expected and the recipes are straightforward and well explained. The pictures are attractive, appetizing and creative. The sections are laid out in a way that makes sense for me, a wife and mother who cooks dutifully and not always with absolute joy. Let's face it. As a mom, I have to cook to provide nourishing, complete meals for my kids on a daily basis. Yes, it can be tedious and it's far too simple to fall into a rut and make the same things all the time. I appreciate this cookbook for it's mix and match offerings using the ingredients I have stocked in my pantry all the time.
Leah Schapira is a talented, level headed cookbook author who offers originality and variety without getting too exotic, who understands the need for options for those short on time or for those days we haven't made it to the grocery store. One only needs to look at a few sample pages ( to understand how appealing a cookbook this is.

I hope you'll consider taking this cookbook out for a spin and see where it takes you!

 Editor's note: So far the cookbook has taken Aviva Cohen to my house (we are next door neighbors) where she offered us a sampling of all of her fresh and easy cooking. The name of the cookbook has been especially suitable for us--everything we tasted was fresh and it was very easy-it took me no time at all to prepare it !. All I had to do was anwer the door when Aviva knocked.

My kids have given their stamp of approval to everything--in partcular the Pulled Beef Sandwhich. They are hoping to pull more of those Beef Sandwiches away from Aviva's house and over to our house. Love thy neighbor as thyself.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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