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In the JOK Kitchen with Norene Gilletz

morning muffin

Norene Gilletz is the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada and the owner of Gourmania Inc. Norene is crazy about food and her world revolves around recipes. She divides her time between work as a freelance food writer, editor, food consultant, cooking teacher and culinary spokesperson.  Norene is passionate about healthy cooking and living, and has expertise in a wide variety of health concerns and special diets. Her motto, “food that’s good for you should taste good,” has been a core principle guiding her culinary career.  Norene's previous titles include The Food Processor Bible, Norene's Healthy Kitchen and Healthy Helpings.  Born and raised in Winnipeg, Norene raised her family in Montreal and now lives in Toronto, Canada. She has three children and five grandchildren. Norene received her initial culinary training in her late mother’s kitchen, where she was taught the creative art of recycling leftovers!

1 How would you describe your cooking philosophy?

Food that’s good for you should taste good! I like to lighten up traditional kosher recipes by reducing the fat, calories, carbohydrates and sodium – but taste rules! My recipes call for ingredients that are easily available at most supermarkets and I use my food processor and microwave to speed up food preparation. I believe in food fast, not fast food!

2 Who bought you your first food processor?

I did! In 1973, I saw the first model of the 7-cup Cuisinart food processor at a gift show and was totally in awe when I saw it in action. My first food processor cost me $120 and I spent the first month making puree of dinner! Through trial and error, I became a processor whiz, quickly transforming simple ingredients into mouth-watering meals for family and friends. My machine and I were in constant motion, chopping, grating and pureeing everything edible. I also bought a food processor for my mother who was an extraordinary cook and baker. She used her processor almost every day for 35 years until her mid-nineties.

3 You seem to have a limitless amount of energy, what inspires you?

Food inspires me! I love sharing recipes, cooking techniques and new approaches to traditional dishes with others. Food is a wonderful way to connect with people of all ages, to share food memories, and to create new taste memories. I love to share my culinary knowledge with others and to learn from them as well.

4 Describe your best cooking moment?

My most memorable cooking moment was meeting Julia Child in person at an IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) conference in the early 80’s. I was holding a copy of my cookbook “The Pleasures of your Food Processor” (now out of print and considered collectible) and when Julia asked me what my specialty was, I showed her my cookbook and shyly asked her if she would autograph it. She happily agreed and inscribed it:“Vive la kosher cuisine!”

5 What has changed since the publication of your first food processor book, 30 years ago?

Food processors have evolved tremendously since they were introduced in the 70’s and are much more powerful and versatile today. They now come in a variety of sizes, colors and prices. Accessories and features vary, depending on the brand. Many models come with electronic touchpad controls, making them a snap to wipe clean and so easy to use. Some models come with a dough cycle that works by spinning the steel blade more slowly when kneading yeast dough. Nested bowls offer more options for prepping ingredients and some models include measurement markings and pouring spouts on the bowls. Many models now come with a wide-mouth feed tube to accommodate larger ingredients, so less pre-cutting is required. The slicing disc is adjustable on some newer models, offering 6 different thicknesses with a twist of a dial. The steel blade locks into place so it doesn’t fall out when you empty the bowl and it also prevents leakage from the bottom – amazing! But no matter which brand or model of food processor you own, my updated and revised edition of The NEW Food Processor Bible will help you make maximum use of this fantastic appliance.

Also, there are many new ingredients available today that weren’t available when I wrote the original edition, so I’ve revised the Smart Chart to help my readers use their food processor to process all sorts of ingredients efficiently, from A to Z. I’ve also included nutrient analysis for each recipe to help people make healthier choices, with many lighter and lower sodium options. There are do-ahead steps and freezing and storage information which are extremely helpful for today’s time-starved cooks.

5 What are some of your favorite dishes?

I love the foods from my childhood, including traditional comfort foods such as kasha with bow ties and lots of fried onions, chicken soup with fluffy matzo balls, old-fashioned hamburgers, chopped herring, crispy potato latkes, potato knishes, meat kreplach, lokshin and vegetable kugels, roasted vegetables of all sorts, grilled, roasted or glazed salmon, homemade roast brisket or stuffed veal roast with natural gravy, Greek or Caesar salad, homemade cinnamon buns with lots of raisins,rugelach, trifle, chocolate pudding, yogurt topped with berries…but not all at the same meal, of course! My favorite foods are different every day, depending on my mood. Oh – and how could I forget about yogurt or ice cream – chocolate mint chip, mango, cherry or blueberry– any kind except ice cream with broken-up cookie pieces!

6 What is your earliest memory of cooking?

I remember watching my mother pull out her stretch dough for knishes and strudel, shaking it like when you stretch a sheet over the bed. The paper-thin dough would cover the entire kitchen table and you could almost read a newspaper through it. My mother never wasted food and taught me the art of recycling leftovers! Her potato knishes were legendary.

7 What advice would you give the busy home cook?

Read, learn, cook! Read cookbooks and food magazines and watch cooking shows on TV when you have a bit of free time. Find a family member to teach you some basic dishes or take a few cooking classes. Learn how to make a few basic recipes that you can prepare quickly and that require little clean-up. Use your food processor – it saves so much time! Soups are so simple - if they’re too thick, add some water, if they’re too watery, simmer them uncovered for a few minutes. Learn how to makea couple of chickendishes (chicken isvery versatile), meatballs and burgers, brisket and fish, some roasted or steamed veggies, assemble a simple casserole or a basic salad, make some simple salad dressings. Make double the recipe whenever possible – cook once, eat twice!It’s perfectly fine to supplement with a store-bought dish when you’re busy. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice if you don’t know how to make something. If a friend or family member offers to help out and bring a dish, say yes!

8 What is your favorite holiday and why?

Probably Chanukah – I love latkes of all sorts! Rosh Hashanah is probably my next favorite holiday. I love when everyone gathers around the holiday table to enjoy kugels, kasha, sweet and sour meatballs, roast brisket with gravy, sesame chicken, roasted vegetables, carrot tsimmis, honey cake and cinnamon twist cookies.

10 With the High Holidays approaching, our thoughts turn to three day Yom Tovs, a houseful of guests and lots of food. Can you share with us some tips and tricks to help us plan ahead?

First, plan your menu. Make several lists - a timeline, a shopping list, and which serving dishes/casseroles to use for each finished dish. Chicken soup can be made in advance and will freeze beautifully. Brisket, meat balls, chicken, tsimmis, kasha and kugels all freeze well or can be made a few days in advance. Honey cake and all sorts of cookies can be made a couple of days ahead of time and also freeze well. Mix up and shape your challahs and freeze them unbaked, then store in freezer bags. The night before, take them out of the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator. Transfer to baking sheets, cover and let rise until double, then glaze and bake. Or buy some things – don’t be a martyr! Roast chicken and kugels can be made in advance and be refrigerated for a few days or frozen. Salads should be made shortly before serving time but salad dressings keep well in the refrigerator several days in advance. Apple cake shouldn’t be made more than a day in advance as it will get a bit soggy. Choose some dishes that can be served at room temperature. Set the table in advance or ask the children to do this task. (I hate to set the table!)

Try to keep the menu colorful, varied and offer a few lighter dishes. Offer some heart-healthy options for those with dietary requirements (e.g., diabetic, lower-sodium, lower-fat and/or vegetarian dishes, nut-free dishes for those with nut allergies). In most of the cookbooks I’ve written, I’ve included information as to whether a dish can be made in advance and if it freezes well, plus many lighter, healthier options.

If you’re lucky enough to be invited out for yom tov, accept the invitation. Happiness is a home-cooked meal, happiness is eating out!

Please try one of these recipes from my book so that you can get more out of your food processor.

Morning Glorious Muffins

Super Roast Brisket