Food expert and former Winnipegger Norene Gilletz is visiting with her seventh cookbook and a recipe for healthy eating

Winnipeg Free Press, November 28, 2007
Interview and recipes from Norene’s Healthy Kitchen

A nice Jewish girl leaves Winnipeg in 1960, heads for Montreal and then Toronto. Forty-five years later, she comes back home as a published cookbook author, culinary consultant, cooking teacher/lecturer, and freelance food writer.

So how did she get there from here and back again?

Norene Gilletz, who is in town promoting Norene’s Healthy Kitchen (Whitecap Books, $34.95), will tell you herself that she couldn’t always cook.

And pursuing an education in home economics wasn’t in the cards either.

“I couldn’t sew,” says the lively mother and grandmother. “And to be a home economist, you had to take sewing — and my grandfather was a tailor, so he used to do all my sewing for me.”

But Gilletz grew up on home cooking, courtesy of her mom Belle Rykiss (of the bridal wear and formals shop).

“My mother always cooked,” she says. “She always prepared things at home. And both my grandmothers cooked. I just remember being very fascinated. So it was a very good way to connect — with watching food being prepared and then being able to eat it afterwards.”
She got married early and that’s when her education really began.

“I could barely cook when I got married,” says Gilletz. “I was 19 or 20 years old. It was hamburgers one night, and then a big steak another, and liver or lamb chops the third night… And then I had to try to find a way to either go to my in-laws for dinner or a restaurant for dinner. But then when you have kids, you’re stuck cooking.”

And if you want to cook and you don’t live close to home anymore, you better start reading.

“My first cookbook was a Betty Crocker cookbook that I got for a bridal shower. I used to read cookbooks for fun,” she says. “I gradually collected books. I still have my mother’s collection of the old cookbooks from the 1940s — all the old organization cookbooks that Winnipeg was so famous for — with the ads on one side and the wonderful recipes on the other — like Five Roses Flour.”

So how did she go from cookbook reader to cook book writer?

“I got involved in writing a cookbook. We had done a tea for an organization I belong to — we’d made all these things and someone said, ‘Gee you girls should write a cookbook!’ Well! What a great idea!” Gilletz laughs. “‘It will take us a few months, we’ll get the recipes together… yeah!’

“But after a bean and barley soup with no beans and tomato rice soup with no rice, we realized this book needed editing in a very, very major way.”

And so, an author was born.

“I became involved in the testing, and the editing. I was very young. I was only in my 20s,” she says. “I learned how to write a recipe very concisely and I learned to proofread very carefully.

“I’ve got a very strong sense of what works in a recipe. I can read a recipe and tell you, ‘Yes this meets my parameters,’ or, ‘No, that is not going to work for me.'”

Before long, cooking became her business, and now she’s visiting home with her seventh cookbook.

And what’s different about number seven?

“A big part of my market is the Jewish market — the kosher market. It’s hard enough to convert recipes to make them kosher, but to take recipes that are diabetic-friendly or heart-healthy and make them so they would also be kosher? Nobody was really addressing it,” says Gilletz. “Or if they were, they were using ingredients that weren’t easily available. And I’m a very practical cook. I’m very efficient. I cook with what you can buy at the local supermarket.”

And that’s a big part of the charm of Norene’s Healthy Kitchen. It’s being billed as family friendly, diabetic-friendly and kosher kitchen. And you can get the ingredients anywhere.

You Should Meet Her In Person

Head out to the Asper Campus/Rady Centre tonight and meet Gilletz at the Jewish Book Fair. You can also catch her at McNally Robinson Grant Park tomorrow at 2 p.m.

Try Some For Yourself

Just in time for Hanukkah, here’s a new twist on latkes from Gilletz. You will also find recipes for a Mediterranean-style Couscous and a decadent marbled cheesecake. All of these recipes come from her new book. You can also find her on the web at

Mini veggie latkes with smoked salmon and tzatziki

1 medium onion, cut in chunks
1 Idaho (russet) potato, cut in chunks
1 medium sweet potato, cut in chunks
1 carrot, cut in chunks
1 medium zucchini, cut in chunks
1 red pepper, cut in chunks
2 eggs (or 1 egg plus 2 egg whites)
75 ml (1/3 cup) matzo meal or dried bread crumbs (preferably whole wheat)
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
Freshly ground black pepper
30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh dill weed
45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil for frying (plus more as needed)
250 ml (1 cup) two-way tzatziki (recipe follows)
125 g (1/4 lb) smoked salmon, cut into bite-sized pieces
Additional dill weed for garnish

  1. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the vegetables in batches until finely minced, about 8 to 10 seconds for each batch.
  2. Transfer the minced vegetables to a large mixing bowl, and add the eggs, matzo meal, salt, pepper and dill weed; mix well.
  3. Spray a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray. Add 1 tbsp oil and heat over medium high heat. Drop the mixture from a teaspoon into the hot oil to form pancakes (latkes). Flatten each with the back of a spoon. Reduce heat to medium and brown well on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the latkes from the pan as ready and drain on paper towels. Add additional oil to the pan as needed and stir batter before cooking each new batch of latkes. (Can be made in advance and kept warm in a 120C (250F) oven.
  4. When ready to serve, arrange the latkes on a platter, and top each one with a dollop of tzatziki, smoked salmon, and a sprig of dill weed.

Yield: About 4 dozen miniature latkes. Keeps two days in the refrigerator, reheats well. Freezes well for up to a month.

Two-way tzatziki

You can make this dairy-free by substituting 1 tub (340 g/12 oz) of imitation sour cream such as Toffutti Sour Supreme.

1 medium English cucumber, peeled and grated
6 green onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic (about 15 ml/1 tbsp) minced
60 ml (1/4 cup) minced fresh dill weed or mint
400 ml (1 1/2 cups) light sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Place cucumber in a strainer and press gently to drain excess liquid.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the cucumber, green onions, garlic, dill weed, sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste; mix well.
  3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve chilled.

Yield: 12 servings (about 1/4 cup each). Leftovers will keep 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. Don’t freeze.

Couscous, Mediterranean-style

30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
2 medium onions chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic (about 10 ml or 2 tsp minced)
400 ml (1 1/2 cups) couscous
5 ml (1 tsp) ground cumin
750 ml (3 cups) hot vegetable or chicken broth
125 ml (1/2 cup) raisins or currants
125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped dried apricots or dates
Salt and freshly ground pepper
125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh parsley or mint
75 ml (1/3 cup) toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds

  1. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet on medium heat. Add the onions, red pepper and garlic; saut? for 6 to 7 minutes or until golden.
  2. Stir in the couscous and cumin and cook for 2 minutes longer or until golden. Slowly add the hot broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover, and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the couscous is tender.
  3. Stir in the raisins, apricots, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and pine nuts and serve. Yield 8 servings. Keeps for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, reheats well. Freezes well for up to 2 months.

Decadent marbled cheesecake

500 g (1 lb) light cream cheese, cut in chunks
250 g (1/2 lb) nonfat pressed (smooth) cottage cheese, cut into chunks
250 ml (1 cup) granulated sugar
2 large eggs plus 2 egg whites (or 3 large eggs)
15 ml (1 tbsp) Passover brandy or liqueur
75 g (3 oz) dark/bittersweet chocolate, melted (or 125 ml (1/2c) chocolate chips)

  1. Preheat oven to 175C (350F). Fill a baking pan half-full with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven. (The steam helps prevent the cheesecake from cracking.) Spray a 10-inch ceramic quiche dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the cream cheese, the cottage cheese and sugar until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs and brandy; process until well-mixed, about 25 to 30 seconds longer. (Be careful not to over-process.) Remove 250 ml (1 cup) of the batter and mix with the melted chocolate until blended.
  3. Pour the white batter into the prepared baking dish. Pour the chocolate batter over the white batter in a wide circle, about 1/2-inch in from the sides of the pan; there should be a bull’s-eye of white batter in the center. Cut through the batter carefully with a knife to create a marbled effect. Don’t blend the batter too much or the marbled effect will disappear.
  4. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. When done, the centre will jiggle slightly when you shake the baking dish, but the cheesecake won’t be sticky when touched lightly with your fingertips.
  5. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let cool. When completely cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Yield: 12 servings. Keeps for up to 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. Leftovers, if any, can be frozen.

More Info | Order Now

Norene’s Healthy Kitchen– Eat Your Way to Good Health
by Norene Gilletz
Published by: Whitecap Books
ISBN 978-1-55285-802-8
CDN $34.95 paperback
8″ x 9″, 512 pages
colour photographs throughout