Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Now, where were we?

We seem to have gone astray in the ongoing adventures of Dvora's Cookie Creations. When last we met, we were finishing up with Rosh Hashana. The remainder of the Aseret Y'mai Teshuva went rather quickly. Shana and Ayelet finished up with school - they are off from Friday before Shabbat Shuva until after Isru Chag of Sukkot. That's a lot of time off, ostensibly to help. I am going to be taking then up on that... Ariella was out sick from school for two days, with a cough and congestion. Baruch Hashem, she did not have fever, so we got the "all clear of swine flu" note from the doctor, and she was able to return to school on Friday. The week's cookies, plus cookies that went to Efrat in honor of the new nephew, somehow were done and the food for Shabbat got cooked. We had a "quiet Shabbos," as Dani likes to call it. Our friends Laura and Danny made a beautiful kiddush on Shabbat day, a seudat hodaya in celebration of two years since Danny survived a pulmonary embolism. Laura said that it took this long for Danny to really internalize what had happened. The kiddush was catered, beautifully, and there were throngs of friends enjoying the weather and the company. Here's to many more years of good health and happiness to Danny, to Laura, and to all of us. While I do enjoy a nice kiddush, I must say that this is the second near-death experience kiddush we have attended in a matter of weeks. Let's all stay safe, shall we, and do kiddushes for fun things...

The rest of Shabbat went quickly, and before we knew it, it was Sunday and time for the Seudah Mafseket. Yom Kippur went well for everyone - hope Hashem thinks so, too - and then it was over. Tuesday morning was our new nephew's brit, and that brings us to today.

Reports on last week's cookies, including Shalom Zachar cookies, will follow in another post.


A blessing on your head, mazal tov.

Our families have recently been blessed with new arrivals. Shortly before Rosh Hashana, Adina and Tzedek had a little girl, named Sarah Hadar. Sarah was our Bubby's name, though the baby is being called Hadar, or Dari for short. Last week, Pinny and Claire had a little boy, and today we celebrated his brit. His name is Nadav Simcha, with his second name for Claire's grandfather. May all the parents and the entire extended family have lots of nachat from these two additions, and may they be a credit to their namesakes. Mazal tov!

The times, they are a-changin'

Actually, it is the clock that was a-changed, just in time for Yom Kippur. Chalk this up to yet another advantage to living in the Holy Land; the clock is changed just before Yom Kippur, so the fast starts earlier and ENDS EARLIER. We were finished just a few minutes after six. Awesome! Made havdalah, broke our fast, put up the sukkah (my sukkah is a metaphor - two things at once; it is a sukkah, it is a pergola, and in fact it takes about five minutes to make it into a kosher sukkah), and move on to the new year. The kids made it through the tzom with flying colors. Dani seems to be a very able faster, and he is still over a year away from his bar mitzvah. Ariella sat in shul for all of Kol Nidrei and Maariv, and then for all of Neilah - she was truly awesome, and got a barad from Kabesa on her way home from gymnastics (or gy-mastics, as it has been known to be called).

But back to the time change. While it is really cool to gain an hour, it actually feels like we are jet-lagged. Darkness setting in that much earlier will take getting used to. Further details on this past week's events will have to wait a bit, until I have more energy.

Be back soon...


Monday, September 21, 2009

Dip the apple in the honey....

It's a new year - תש"ע, or 5770 since the world was created. Rosh Hashana always reminds me of my grandfather, my mother's father, which is funny, because to the best of my recollection, we never spent the holiday together. I imagine that Zeidy is listening to the shofar, critiquing the baalei tefilah, keeping things moving along in the yeshiva shel maala... And Bubby is wishing everyone gut yontiff, loudly, and handing out honey cake. I made their honey cake for chag, the famous honey chiffon cake that Bubby used to bring to doctors to ensure a good report, and the same cake that they used to make and deliver to friends, just because they liked it. I served as speedy delivery girl on more than one occasion, to one of their friends - who is my age, not theirs - who lived in our neighborhood. Baking and eating the cake, which I foolishly never particularly enjoyed when they made it, is now one of those traditions I won't let go of; Dani loves it, and anxiously awaits the the Rosh Hashana season just for a taste of Bubby and Zeidy's honey cake. They were special people, and this cake reminds me of them and the high standard they represented, one I struggle with daily to uphold. Bubby may not have been well-educated, but she was a true believer. Zeidy did not always deliver his message in the most politically correct or diplomatic way possible, but damn if he wasn't usually correct. He lived and breathed Torah; he knew more by heart than many learn in a lifetime, and he got the greatest joy out of learning and living by what he learned. Hope they are up there, acting as meilitz yosher for all of us. We could use it.

As much as it is not my policy to share baking recipes, I could not imagine anything better than everyone baking this honey cake for their New Year - also great to end your pre-Yom Kippur meal. If anyone out there would like to try it out, here is the recipe:

Honey Chiffon Cake

9 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar, divided use
1-1/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup honey

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the egg whites with 1/3 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. (If you are unaccustomed to beating egg whites, start beating the whites with a whisk beater. When the whites begin to froth, add the sugar slowly, beating on high speed.) Transfer the whites into a large bowl (unless you have two mixer bowls, in which case, use a second bowl). Beat the yolks with the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, the add the oil, some of the flour, baking soda, honey (spray the measuring cup with cooking spray before measuring the honey, which will allow the honey to slide out easily.), and then the remaining flour. Mix a small amount of the beaten whites - by hand - into the yolks to lighten them, then fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Pour into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 45 - 60 minutes, until the top is browned and puffed and does not feel moist. Cool upside down.

Our Rosh Hashana was good. We enjoyed the simanim on the first night, having tried to incoprate them into some dishes. The leek kugel was a partcular hit - thanks, Caryn! We shared lunch on the first day (davening ended by 12:30) with our two pot-luck buddy families - Lori and Seth, and Ariel and Josh. It was a pleasure to host; the fun of having company, without half of the work or half the pressure. I think it is a good thing to be with good friends on chag. In the same vein, we went to Shoshana and Steven's for lunch the second day, which is liable to become a chazaka next year, so watch out! As always, we had a great time there. David worked very hard in getting ready (gabbai-wise) for yom tov, and it thankfully paid off, as things went smoothly in shul.

I managed to crank out over 500 cookies and bars for chag, but I would not have been able to get then out to my customers without my chief assistant, Shana. She assembled the platters, according to a very complicated spreadsheet, for almost two and a half hours. I wrapped, and then she labeled, and we seem to have been successful. Here are most of the platters from erev Rosh Hashana - actually forgot AGAIN to take pictures until everything was wrapped - guess that's the way the cookie crumbles (sorry, amusing myself).
I developed three new flavors for the holiday: honey sugar cookies, a soft sugar cookie delicately flavored with honey; caramel apple bars, soft, cakey bars, studded with apples and raisins, topped with a caramel glaze; and spiced carrot bars, carrot cake-like bars, full of carrots and golden raisins, frosted with a honey-cinnamon cream. So without further ado, here are a few close-ups.
Mint brownies, black and white cookies, apple crumble bars, spiced carrot bars, honey sugar cookies, peanut butter bites.
Lemon wedges, chocolate dipped chocolate caramel cookies, caramel apple bars, chewy chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cherry brownies, molasses cream sandwiches.
And that's all for now. Hope you are enjoying a meaningful Aseret Y'mai Teshuva.
P.S. Am now adding pictures to previous posts!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


456 - that's the number of cookies (minimum) that I have to produce for Rosh Hashana. 476 is the number I need to make the platters look right. Baruch Hashem, business is good. But that's a lot of cookies. I am doing a lot of variety, including a few recipes that I developed for the chag, featuring some traditional flavors for the New Year (assuming they come out good, you'll be hearing about them in the near future). And I still have not managed to bake my grandparents' honey chiffon cake. It would not be Rosh Hashana without it, even if David doesn't much care for it. So if I don't get to talk to you on the phone, or if I see you on the street and don't stop to chat, I ask mechila right now. It's nothing personal, just self-preservation. I am attempting to go somewhat incommunicado. It's my lame attempt at time management. And if you do see me up close, please don't let me know if I have bags under my eyes. That's also self-preservation, and the lovely state of denial.

Just a little side note - if you are a regular reader, become a follower! Let me know you are out there. I know you are lurking; my sitetracker tells me so.

Sorry to post and run. To paraphrase the Dunkin Donuts guy, it's time to bake the cookies...


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Best laid plans (now, ganging agley)

Okay, for accuracy, I should note that Burns (I believe) said best-laid schemes. But schemes has such an unsavory connotation, or at least sounds very Lucy and Ethel. Our plans for this Shabbat have been all over the place. We had invited a new family for Shabbat lunch, which invitation they enthusiastically accepted. A couple of days later, I got a call from the wife, who is an old friend, sounding very sheepish. She had been reminded by someone else that she had been invited by them for the same Shabbat lunch about two weeks before we tendered the invite. She wanted to know if I had started cooking already (ha, ha, funny), and if not, could they take a raincheck. It was, of course, okay, and we will just have to spend some time together in the near future.

Then our neighbors returned from a long trip to the States (so good to have them back!), and we invited them to lunch, thinking it would be helpful since they returned on Tuesday and had back to back wedding and sheva brachot. They also happily accepted, but as the days passed, the group got larger and larger: married daughter, son-in-law, and grandson, then friend of one of the daughters. In the meantime, two former students, now both citizens (Mazal tov Rivi on your aliyah - we are very proud!), asked to come for Shabbat. As they are always a pleasure to have around, we quickly said yes, after a minute of figuring. The next day, they called and asked if we would be insulted if they went out to a cousin for lunch. They are the sweetest and most thoughtful girls, who I am sure did not want to impose too much. Finally, after a very procrastinate-y week of baking, while I was still working in the kitchen, our neighbor knocked at the door at about 11:30 on Thursday. She too wanted to know if I had cooked yet. I laughed in her face, yet again. The boyfriend of one of her daughters was going to come for Shabbat, and she decided it was too much for everyone to come over. So in that way, we went from 17 at lunch to five. On the plus side, it freed us up to go to a kiddush at friends', who were very thankful that the husband, a builder/handyman, had been extremely lucky in a work accident (a phrase that means something very different in the Israeli press). Also, the whole thing ended up being gam zu l'tova, thanks to Dani, as you will soon see. If only all things showed themselves to be that way so quickly; but then where would the challenge to our bitachon be?

So Friday morning, I finished up all the baking finishing and packing and labeling, and then at about 11:30, thought it might be a good time to think about Shabbat food. Somehow Shabbat came together. The platters came out well (pictures to follow when I have the chance to post them), and I especially liked the ones that were hostess gifts for the bar mitzvah we were attending. The mother of the bar mitzvah bought very cute glass platters, and I filled them for a really nice gift.
Some of the flavors were chosen by the bat mitzvah girl, Penina, whose party I attended on Sunday (more to follow), and her mom, Shiffy. Shiffy said the nicest thing - for this weekend, she wanted to treat herself with a great caterer, and special things she loved for herself and her guests, including yours truly's cookies! Hope they enjoyed. Mazal tov to the whole family! The flavors wereespresso double chocolate chunk cookies, cherry oatmeal crumble bars, sugar cookie ganache sandwiches, cinnamon squares, lemon drop sandwiches, and polka dot cookies.

Shabbat was nice. We had a fun time with Rivi and Mindy on Friday night, and got to sleep at a normal hour. Shalom, the bar mitzvah boy, did a nice job, which David was sure he would. Kiddush at Nicky and Alan's was fun and meaningful. Then we got home and Dani was hysterical from a headache and stomachache. When he started throwing up, things improved measurably. After about an hour of that, he was worn out and emptied out. Then he managed to sleep for a few hours and started to feel better. We napped a bit as well, and headed for seuda shlishit for the bar mitzvah. Soon Shabbat was over, and a new week was starting - but not without a simcha! We headed for Marci and Michael's for a Chanukat Habayit/Simchat Bat. They have a lovely home and a very cute baby, baruch Hashem.

Sunday brought another bat mitzvah - but only I was invited. It was an erev nashim BESARI - a barbeque in the forest. It was a beautiful setting - tables and chairs with linens and china set in a clearing in the woods, with generator powered lights strung between the trees. It was fun, and now we are bar/bat mitzvah free for a little while. Smachot are wonderful, but with chag coming we need a little break! Apropos of that - back to the mixer!


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

And now back to our regularly scheduled program

After my brief digression, let us return to the exciting events that make up the life of Dvora's Cookie Creations's creator. Since I forgot to mention it before, the kiddush went brilliantly. By that, I mean the whole thing, not just my little piece of it. It was really beautiful and elaborate, especially for this neighborhood. We do not have a great many shul kiddushes here - people tend to stick more to kiddush at home, Friday night oneg, or seuda shlishit. I think it is an issue of expense and crowding, though I am not entirely sure. Perhaps it is also a matter of controlling the guest list. This, though, was a real NY style kiddush - cold cuts, kugels, hot dogs, salads, cakes, cookies, fruit, cholent: the whole nine yards. I was under the impression, and Caryn later confirmed, that not a cookie was left at the end! I got lots of great feedback, and I am hopeful that this will translate into increased business. On the other hand, I can't imagine not forming every single cookie, or not being able to.

Sunday afternoon was a return to tutoring with my longest standing student, Avi. I guess the summer really is over (a recurring theme in my life right now). Sunday evening was my, wait for it, 20 year high school reunion. Can you believe it's been 20 years since we left the hallowed halls of HAGWash? The real reunion was back in Silver Spring, but we held a satellite reunion here, in the home of yours truly, as we are the most central. Also, I am the only woman in the group, and I am sure that figures into the equation as well. But that is just a reflection, not a complaint. It was absolutely wonderful to see my old friends after a very long time. One of the olim of the class of '89, Robbie, was unfortunately not able to join us, but the other three, Ari, David, and Michael, came over with their wives. It was especially nice because the four of us had been together in an accelerated math class beginning in second grade, all the way through BC Calculus in 11th. So much of my school experience was informed by these guys, that it was really special, at least for me, to reunite. I will say, there is no reason that we had not gotten together with any or all of these couples before now, except that I did not realize how consuming and even traumatic aliyah was at first, at least for me. Making a "normal" life was the driving force for me. Socializing went on the back burner. Then life, and the routines you have started to establish, sort of take over. I hope that we will now all stay in touch, and I also hope that our lives here are settled enough to go out and have more fun!

The evening was a lot of fun - a nice mishmash of reminiscing, catching up, and just hanging out. We Skyped (very Buffy of me to turn a proper noun into a verb - only adjectivizing it would be better) with the folks at the reunion in the US. One very special moment was talking to Mr. Magee, our high school history teacher who is now 88 years old. I always loved his classes, and was relieved to see what good condition he was in, considering his age and the fact that he was not so healthy during our senior year. But some things never change: he asked the guys about their jobs, then asked me how many kids I have. I responded "Four children, and I am an English teacher." I figured I would refrain from adding, "and I bake lots of cookies in my kitchen..." Didn't want to bolster the stereotype. Anyway, it was a fun, late night. Here is a picture of the four of us - David, Michael, me, and Ari. I think we all look a little older, but as the token female, I think I look the most different (euphemism for fatter). Guess it's a hazard of the profession. I like to think I am Gale Gand fabulous, just not Giada DeLaurentis fabulous.

The rest of the week has been consumed with Back to School nights and grocery shopping and just life. We are getting back into the routines of homework, and leaning the ropes with Lola. And now, lots of dough to prep, cookies to bake, filling to make... Glad I am still enjoying it. And I will, b'li neder, remember to take pictures this week, but if I don't, it's not my fault - my sous chef and food stylist, Shana, will be leaving Friday morning for a Shabbat shichva. And we suddenly ended up with a very full house this Shabbat. I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to do a lot of hachnasat orchim, and the chance just fell in our laps. It's all a bracha, right?!


Could this happen anywhere else?

Just a brief aside.
Well over a year ago, our local Rami Levy (a supermarket chain) built a larger building behind the existing store. At first, everyone said that the store, which was cramped and crowded, would be moving into the larger space. But then the current space was enlarged to double the size. Shopping became more pleasant, and we got used to the layout and quirks of the store. We heard through the grapevine that the moving plans had been shelved indefinitely. Then suddenly, with absolutely no warning, yesterday morning, the store was no longer in its old location. Shoppers approached the door and found NOTHING. Not a sign to warn or advise, no grand opening excitement, no advertising campaign. Just a complete overnight relocation. It had moved to the larger, roomier, lighter new space. We should cheer, right? Maybe we will eventually, but in the meantime, the parking is woefully inadequate, and the ramps over the curbs are too steep to negotiate with a full cart. Yet another example of fine urban planning in the greater Modiin area.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cookies, cookies, cookies

It has been a long time since my last post, and quite the week to boot. This week marked the first week of school for Dani and Ariella, the start of first grade, the beginning of many chugim, and the return to normalcy that we all waited for so anxiously. And now, the week in review - if I can remember that far back!!

On Sunday, baking prep began in earnest. A few days before, my friend Caryn, who is one half of Peas in the Pod event planners, called me to ask if I would be able to do a large order for a kiddush at shul the next week. I jumped at the chance, as this was great exposure, as well as being the kiddush of people I like very much. Caryn and Leiah (the other "pea") have been great supporters of my business endeavor, and I think they were happy to be able to give me the business. So preparing to bake 600+ cookies required a trip to the supermarket to stock up on supplies, and then, we were off.

Later in the day, David and I headed to a kitah alef asifat horim vyeladim at the elementary school. This was meant to help the first graders and their parents prepare for the expectations and routines of first grade. Of course, it had to start at 6 pm, which makes excellent sense when you are dealing with six year olds. Ariella is in a very sweet class, just 22 girls, with a teacher who seems to really know her stuff. After sitting through a long conversation, we had to pick ourselves up and head to Yerushalayim for a bar mitzvah. It was a really nice event, for the son of a very special family, and we were glad to be there, if a bit tardy. Of course, we were not the only ones, as a number of guests had to be at the asifat horim as well.

Monday was the last free day for the two younger kids. We got them ready for school earlier in the day, as we were heading to a wedding in the evening. Everyone seemed to cooperate about getting ready and to bed on time. It happens at least once a year! The wedding was beautiful - leibedik, and in a beautiful setting. The chatan and kallah looked so happy, and so did their parents! The two had lived just a couple of blocks away from each other for years, but were set up by a mutual friend!

Tuesday morning was the big day. Dani and Lola managed to get up bright and early and get ready for school with a smile. Naturally, I had to photograph them.
I walked them to school and took Ariella to her classroom. I did not bring a camera, because I did not want to be the dorky parent with the lense in everyone's face, and especially not the dorky American. And of course, nearly all the Israeli parents were there photographing the proceedings...
David picked the two kids up at the end of the day, and they were both happy, Ariella more so than Dani. Dani was upset with the class split, as most of his friends were in the other class. We hope that he will learn to deal, and we are looking forward to Back to School night, because we are interested to hear the teacher's philosophy on this - we know Dani is not the only unhappy kid.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were consumed with baking. I churned out fouteen varieties. On Friday morning, David and I headed for Yerushalayim to the bar mitzvah. It was a lovely affair, the bar mitzvah of a cousin and neighbor! Then we picked up Shana and Ayelet (hasa'a difficulties), and zoomed home. Dani brought Ariella home and was supervising her - he did a GREAT job and we are very proud. He is really stepping up in the big brother role; he walks Lola to and from school every day. I will be sad next week when he is on Mishmeret Zahav (crossing guard) duty and I will have to cover.
Then it was time to pack up the platters. Shana was a tremendous help, and we managed to pack, count, and wrap in record time. I had also baked a batch of mini-cupcakes in the morning before we left for the bar mitzvah, which needed icing and decorating and packing -that was the cousin/friend contribution, as opposed to the business portion of our show. Shana and I had to deliver quickly - the event planners were in and out of the shul picking up the catering orders - so there was, sadly, no time for even a single photograph, which is really chaval - they looked great. Instead, I will have to regale you with the flavors:
Chocolate pecan fingers
Mint brownies
Thin mint sandwiches
Chocolate dipped chocolate chip
Linzer cookies
Molasses cream sandwiches
Orange cranberry white chocolate cookies
Whoopie pies
Chocolate caramel sandwiches
Mexican brownies
Peanut butter bites
Glazed lemon cookies
Maple pecan cranberry triangles
Is that list long enough for ya?
Shabbat was great - a young couple and their 12 week old adorable son - guests for the bar mitzvah who were cousins we had never met before! - stayed in our house. Arica and Josh were kind and merciful and invited us for lunch. Suzanne and Gary were there also, and we had a great time, though this time I stayed away from most alcohol, and thusly did not turn bright red or experience pounding in my head. We finally made it home - without Lola, of course, as she stayed to play with her intended Jordy - napped a lot, which was excellent as I had not slept more than 3 or so hours for several nights, and then got up to retrieve Lola (me) and go learn with Dani (David). I found Ariella in the park with Jordy, so I stayed to hang out with Arica and Lori, whom I had found along the way. David turned up a little while later, and we stayed for a bit longer, then headed back for seuda shlishit. Then suddenly, Shabbat was over, and a new week was starting. I will leave you with this thought - there is nothing more hideous than a Motzaei Shabbat when we are still on shaon kayitz, when then kids have to suddenly remember how to get ready to go to school on Sunday morning.
Shavua tov.
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