Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Story - and Kosher Connection Recipe Links

Maybe this post is not what it sounds like from the title.  No need for worry.  It's still a kosher blog.  But December 25 is a significant date for me: nineteen years ago today, I became a mother.  And it was all thanks to Chinese food.

Well, not exactly. Let's review.  It's Thursday, December 23, 1993.  I am over a week late with our first child.  I spend a lot of time going back and forth to the doctor.  The only report: there is no progress, and I will be going for yet another ultrasound on Friday.  On Thursday night, we have Chinese food (from Annie's Kitchen, where David had been the mashgiach).  I eat hot and sour soup (the best!), and then have no room for anything else, thanks to the giant baby taking up all the space in my stomach. I do open a fortune cookie, which tells me I will be having a pleasant experience.  Hmmm....

On Friday, we head to the ultrasound, where the doctor discovers that there is very little amniotic fluid left, and, in his words, "It's time to make the doughnuts."  Next stop, the hospital.  The ultrasound there tells us that the baby will be well over 8 pounds (my doctor says "Bah, humbug, not a shade over 7 1/2").  A quick exam lets us know that in the hours since the hot and sour soup, I have gone into labor.  The spicy deliciousness has done its job!  And I am going home because it is likely that labor will proceed faster when I can walk around, rather than be stuck in a hospital bed.

So home we go, and we learn that science is deeply flawed.  I walk around a lot, my contractions stop entirely, I have no more hot and sour to rev things up, and Shabbat morning we are back in the hospital to deliver a baby who must come out immediately.  Fast forward several hours, "It's a GIRL!"  (which we knew, accidentally, but it's still exciting to say).  She was 8 pounds, 9 ounces (Bah, humbug to you, Doc!). So we have our Christmas baby, who was supposed to be a Chanukah baby, but she had other ideas.  On the plus side, the hospital was very empty, and the lovely Jewish residents were happy to have something to do.  On the minus, my frum OB/GYN was on vacation.  Oy, the irony.

Thus the long standing tradition of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas.  Perhaps that yiddishe mamma Mary had some too, to get things revving up for her manger delivery.

This month's Kosher Connection Recipe Linkup is Chinese Food. I would like to think it's in honor of the nineteenth birthday of my daughter/ decorating assistant/ indentured servant Shana, and the food that helped bring her to us.  Thanks for helping us celebrate!  While this month seems to have been a bit too intense for us to contribute a recipe - my advice, go buy some Chinese take-out, which is what we will be doing on the 25th - here are some great recipes from the other contributors, and we hope to be back next month.  B'tayavon!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bread Pudding - November Kosher Connection Recipe Linkup

The theme for this month's linkup is Thanksgiving related - Stuffing.  The gauntlet was definitely thrown down for us dessert-y people, so I felt that I could not get away with another savory, defiantly non-dessert recipe.  I let my mind run amok, as it is wont to do anyway, and went on a whole stream of consciousness adventure.  Stuffed cookies, stuffed cupcakes, a cake with something fabulous hidden in the middle....the possibilities seemed endless.  But then work got intense, and the world got scary.  Elections, hurricanes, nor'easters - and none of that even where we live!  And now, we are embroiled in an unfortunate but utterly necessary military operation, and the world is a little scarier and colder place than it was before.

So the drifting in my brain became focused on two things: 1. the universal need for comfort food, and 2. figuring out what the sweet counterpart to savory stuffing would be.  Well, duh, if stuffing is stale bread with liquids, vegetables, and seasoning, then the sweet version is bread pudding!!  And let's be honest, call it challah kugel and serve it as a side-dish; call it bread pudding and it's dessert (yummy with Creme Anglaise!!).  And if you want to go all out, serve it for breakfast with some maple syrup and it's a fabulous French Toast souffle.  I get raves for this dish, especially from my family, who fight over the last piece...
Is it a side dish?  A dessert? Breakfast? Brunch? All of the above!!
Like almost all recipes I present to you, this is just a launching pad - feel free to change up the dried or fresh fruit components, or leave them out altogether.  Use any leftover challah you have, though I am partial to my own recipe, which happens to have a very soft crust, making it less crucial to trim the challah.  Make the seasoning more exotic, like cardamom and ginger, or more homey, with nutmeg and cloves in addition to the cinnamon.  Make the dish bigger, make it smaller, just incrementally adjust the amount of bread and the amount of custard.  This is a rather rustic looking dish, so don't sweat making it look perfect.  Just enjoy!

Sweet Bread Pudding
8 cups cubed day-old challah, crusts removed
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup raisins
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
2 cups soy milk or non-dairy creamer or a combination of the two (use real dairy milk for a milchig/chalavi version)

Toss the challah cubes with the diced apple and raisins.  Place in a greased oven to table baking pan.
Beat together the eggs with the sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved.  Add in the the vanilla, cinnamon, and salt, then slowly whisk in the soy milk or creamer to make a custard mixture. Pour this custard over the challah cubes, making sure to evenly distribute it.

Press down lightly to make sure all of the cubes were moistened.  Turn the oven on to 350 and let the challah soak while it preheats. 

Bake for about 45 - 50 minutes, until top is lightly browned.


Now before I send you to see all the other delicious contributions to this month's link-up, please keep in your minds, hearts, and prayers the brave soldiers of the IDF, as well as the residents of the South of Israel, and the entire Home Front.  May we all be blessed to live in peace and security.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Working means watching

If you have read this blog before, you know that from time to time, I wax rhapsodic about television.  I love TV, I admit it.  I am enthralled by the condensing of narrative into 42 (or 21 funny) minutes.  It's about all my attention span can handle.  I have several movies waiting for me to watch them, some for months now, but the idea of 1 1/2 hours of straight storytelling is a bit daunting.

I am really, really busy, these days, Baruch Hashem.  I should be working right now, putting cookies in the oven, but I was setting up a show to watch and got excited by the idea of letting you know what new shows I am enjoying (somehow, people know to ask me for TV recommendations, so here goes, in print).

Elementary - modern Sherlock Holmes retelling
Vegas - the mobbing up of the desert in the 1960s
Arrow - CW + comic book hero = same winning combination as Smallville, but darker
Mindy Project - uneven, but I love her
Apartment 23 - love watching Dawson lampoon himself

And not new:
Firefly - ten years old, just found it, sad that it had such a short lifespan (how did I miss it?  Loved Buffy, think Whedon is awesome!)
Mad Men - started downloading episodes 5 years ago, finally got around to watching.  So much fun to identify the guest stars by their other roles, while being thrown off by vintage clothes and hair
Top Chef - only kind of reality show I really enjoy
Homeland - so, so good, not much more to say, except yay to Israeli creativity!
Parks and Recreation - Amy Poehler, you rock!
Fringe - overwhelming final season, but sticking it out (PLEASE don't pull a Lost on me!)
The Middle, Modern Family, Suburgatory - genius line-up
Bones, Castle, Grey's Anatomy, The Office, Scandal, Covert Affairs, going to stop now before I embarrass myself any further.

Okay, I think that's enough.  Feel free to leave your recommendations or protests in the comments.  I suppose I will get back to the work of baking - and of course, watching TV.

Shavua tov!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Orange Soup - Kosher Connection Recipe Linkup

Ahh, root vegetables.  This month's theme brings to mind autumn.  Caramelized roasted vegetables, hearty stews, warming soups.  It all sounds wonderful, like fall foliage, roaring fires, warm slippers, and fleece blankets.

Well, it would, if only we actually had a fall season here.  It's still very much summer outside, with today's forecast hitting around 90.  The A/C is on, flip-flops are the footwear of preference, and it's too warm to think about running the oven or standing over the stove for a long time.

And yet, my family is still a bunch of soup lovers.  We have chicken soup each and every Friday night of the year.  One daughter even enters the house on a regular basis with the delightful greeting, "Did you make soup?  Oh, no?  (insert sad and pensive face here)... Maybe I'll make some myself (put upon look)."  Oh, my poor sweetie, I was too busy eating bon-bons and polishing my toenails, while the elves were busy taking care of the housework and running my business.  But I digress...

So tonight we are having soup, and so can you, whether it's autumnal or or not (yet).  "Orange soup" is an Israeli classic, a pureed soup made of a variety of orange vegetables.  It can be sweet or savory, depending on the other components, from the added vegetables to the seasonings.  This version, which in its original form came from my friend Shoshana, is an easy and delicious addition to your table any time.  It stars carrots and sweet potatoes, along with pumpkin, zucchini, onions, and garlic.  It tastes great and it's not so heavy that you feel overheated just from eating it.  There is no sauteeing, no hard work aside from peeling and cutting.  And it cooks rather quickly (easy enough for a teenager to put together after school!).  Shoshana makes this in a meaty version, browning some stew meat before adding the other ingredients, and then removing the meat and some of the carrot slices before pureeing.  Because we love to have soup on hand all the time, I turned this into a pareve version, adding a bit of cumin for a smoky, beefy background flavor.  If you have beef flavored soup powder, it is a tasty enhancement, but we just don't find it too often on the grocery shelves in our part of the world.  For a special accent, you can add knaidlach, which makes this extra-enticing for my youngest child, who believes all things are better with matzah balls. Garlic croutons are great with this as well.  Feel free to play with the quantities and proportions of vegetables to suit your taste and your refrigerator!

Orange Soup

2 onions
1 head garlic (If you are fresh garlic-phobic, you can add in a few frozen cubes instead)
4 carrots
2 zucchini
2 sweet potatoes
small chunk pumpkin (optional)
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon beef soup powder (optional)
several shakes cumin

Peel and chop onions, carrots, zucchini, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.  Peel cloves of garlic.  Place all ingredients into stockpot, and add water to cover.
That's it, all the hard work is done!
Bring to a boil, then simmer until vegetables are very tender.  Puree with an immersion blender. 

To add knaidlach:
NOTE - these are not the matzah balls we add to the Friday night chicken soup.  Those are delicate things of beauty, with a carefully combined batter that gets a rest in the refrigerator to let the matzah meal absorb the other ingredients.  It is then gently rolled into balls and dropped into a pot of boiling water flavored with salt and chicken boullion, and cooked until perfectly round, light, and fluffy.  These are not them.  These are rustic knaidlach, a little chewier and heartier, quickly mixed and dropped into the simmering soup by teeny tiny spoonful.
Mix together
1 egg
1/4 cup matzah meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Drop into simmering soup by teaspoonful, and cook about 10 minutes.  Enjoy!
Now that you can make your soup and eat it too, check out the other Root Vegetable recipes on the Kosher Connection this month.  And leave a comment to tell us what you thought!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Got a little ahead of myself

Is anyone else out there STILL having trouble figuring out what day it is?  Since the end of Sukkot, every day has held a bit of confusion.  So when I suddenly realized it was time for the October Kosher Connection Recipe Link-up, I figured I had better get to work.  I bought the ingredients, made the recipe, took pictures, and started the post. With the deadline looming, I neglected to write another post for the blog, assuming the new recipe would be posting shortly.  Then I checked my email, only to realize I had remembered the date wrong - I still had six days to go!!  Nothing harder for me than to write when I am not under any pressure.  So I stopped cold.

Then I started thinking of the seven different ways I could approach this post.  The many millions of super-important, clever, and amusing things I wanted to say.  The other recipes I could be posting to fulfil the theme of the month.  I just got in my own way.  So now it's Sunday morning, recipes should be posting tomorrow, and I have to finish, and I have to acknowledge the fact that the blog has laid dormant for days and days.  So I am going to apologize, and let you know that I will giving you a little bonus to make up for my laziness: an extra recipe on the theme, just for the fun of it.  But that will not be making its appearance until at LEAST Tuesday, if I can make it to my flour-laden keyboard in between filling orders.  I hope this lame little post will hold you over, just a little.

Shavua tov!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Queen of Gluten Free

Before we made aliyah, celiac disease (or as we knew it to be called, celiac sprue), was barely known to us.  David's cousin has it, but she was literally our only encounter with the disease.  Then we moved, and while at first we only knew a small handful of people with celiac, the number of sufferers has increased dramatically over the last six years.  And not only do people with celiac have to avoid gluten, but we know other people who avoid gluten religiously for a variety of health reasons.

Gluten, for the uninitiated, is a protein found in wheat and related species, and it's what gives dough its elasticity. For people with celiac disease, gluten can cause many unpleasant, very serious, and long-reaching consequences.  While it was not as well known before, more celiac disease is being diagnosed, and the levels of gluten in flour has risen in the last decades, causing people increased sensitivity (or so I have been told). I myself was tested for celiac this year, thanks to a lifetime of stomach issues, and while the test was negative, the wait for results gave me a lot of food for thought, about what I would do with my business if the result was positive.

The thing is, gluten is in a lot of foods. Surprising and unexpected foods. So it can be hard to avoid. But the amazing thing to me was that most cake decorating ingredients are actually gluten free, so to make a beautiful cake that has no gluten, you just need to find a great cake recipe. That I did with a little help from a few friends with family members with celiac. Since I started working on these GF recipes, I am sort of feeling like that is the most popular thing I do.  Believe me, the smiles I get from producing a cake or cupcakes that actually taste good - even to wheat eaters! - makes me feel so good!  I love knowing that a person who might not otherwise have had a cake to enhance their celebration will now get to indulge just like the rest of us.  I can't share the recipes with you (so far just chocolate and vanilla cake) as it's my livelihood we are talking about here, but I can show you what we have created. It's all GF!!

60th birthday celebration

Engagement party

Multiple birthday celebration


Bat mitzvah dessert buffet

Bat mitzvah
17th birthday celebration
Sheva brachot

5th birthday celebration
But to make it up to you, I am going to give you a GF recipe - for the most delicious brownies ever.  So why am I sharing davka this recipe with you?  Because to be quite honest, the ingredients in this recipe are rather pricey (an entire pound of bittersweet chocolate, for starters), so I don't think selling them would ever be worthwhile.  I made them this summer for my GF sister and brother-in-law, and no one at the table missed the gluten.
Gluten Free Brownies 
adapted from Pragmatic Attic

6 tablespoons margarine (75 grams in Israel)
5 tablespoons canola oil
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I prefer Vered HaGalil for daily use, but check with your gluten-free person about what chocolates are okay for them - here, Carmit 60% seems to be considered the "cleanest", though many brands claim to have less than 20ppm, which is the gold standard) or semi-sweet, or a combination - whatever you favor
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons corn starch, called cornflour in Israel (or potato starch - kemach tapuchei adama)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
Line an 9x13 pan with foil then parchment paper extending over the ends for ease of removal after baking. Spray exposed foil with cooking spray.
Melt together the chocolate and margarine, either on the stove top over a very low heat, stirring frequently, or in the microwave on a half power setting. when the chocolate and margarine are melted, add in the oil, then the sugar, stirring well. Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the salt.
In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder, coffee powder andstarch to evenly combine. Add to the melted chocolate mixture and mix vigorously to evenly combine.
Mix vigorously until the batter is smooth and well combine.  Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula.Bake for about 35 minutes, checking beginning at about 25 minutes. Brownies are done when an inserted toothpick comes out nearly clean, with just a few moist crumbs.  Cool completely.  Use the parchment paper to aid in removal from pan, and cut into squares - these are very rich, so 32 brownies is a fair number.

Whether you avoid gluten or not, ENJOY!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

An Easy and Meaningful Fast

I would like to wish you one of those - don't we all say that, and hope that it's real?  But is an easy fast a meaningful one?  Or are we meant to suffer?  Deep thoughts...

As always, I prefer to think about the before and after, and not so much the during.  We have a curous minhag of two meals before the fast, both with washing for challah.  The first is gefilte fish followed by chicken soup with Lola's favorite kreplach, and the second, after mincha, is the "main course" - chicken, potato kugel, challah kugel, and green beans (something green in the second meal!! Yay us!).  Then maybe dessert, while drinking a good amount of water all the way through, and that will be it for 25 hours.  Delightful.

After the fast?  Zucchini-potato soup (a pareve variation of the one found here), and of course bagels.  Then sukkah building, and cookie baking.

Hope this did not make you hungry, or anxious, or anything else unhelpful.  Wishing you a G'mar Chatima Tova!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Baking Powder Brouhaha

Last month, I contributed an article to the Joy of Kosher website about adjusting your baking for Israel.  I thought it would be a fun way to share some of what I learned in my six years since aliyah.  I addressed about 10 different ingredients, one of which was baking powder.  Here's what I had to say about it:

Baking powder – this is a tricky one. Avkat afiyah is sold in little envelopes, which is annoying, but the real problem is that it doesn’t work the same as American baking powder. There is a scientific explanation (double acting versus single), but bottom line, you have to use less or your cakes will collapse after baking. It is generally fine for cookies, though. If you don’t want to refigure all your recipes, make this one of the few things you import.

Did I know that this one paragraph was going to raise so many eyebrows - and tempers?  For every response I received that said "Now I know why my cakes were not turning out right until I started using American baking powder again,"  I got another one that said, "My recipes come out right every time, and you have no idea what you are talking about!"

So let's take a few calm steps back, and discuss this rationally.

1. Israeli baking powder is single acting.  That means that the release of carbon dioxide, which is what leavens the cake, occurs as soon as the wet ingredients meet the dry.  If you leave your batter on the counter for a little while, you may lose the leavening effect.

2.  Almost all American baking powder is double acting.  It contains an additional acid that does not release the CO2 until heat is applied - about 70% of the leavening power is on reserve until you actually bake the batter.

Conclusion A: there is NO QUESTION that the two kinds of baking powders, American and Israeli, are different, and thusly may produce different results.

3. There is a difference of opinion among various baking authorities about whether or not the two types of baking powder can be interchanged in even amounts.  Some say yes, some say use 1 1/2 times as much single acting in a recipe calling for double acting.

4. Some folks think double acting is healthier, because it contains phosphate of calcium.  On the other hand, most brands also contain aluminum, so hmmm....

5. To a man, everything I have read indicates that a batter mixed with single acting baking powder must IMMEDIATELY be put into the oven, or the leavening will flop.  For someone like me, who works with volume, that just does not work.

6. I think it's fair to say we all have different expectations of our baking.  In general, "Israeli" cakes have a different type of crumb than typical American recipes.  I also find, through informal surveying, that Israeli bakers tend to use more beaten egg whites for leavening than American cooks.  That could mitigate the leavening issue.  It may just be a matter of taste.

Conclusion B: If you are happy with your baking results, by all means, STICK WITH IT!!!  But if you have been using Israeli baking powder and you are unhappy with what has been coming out of your oven, be it tough, dense, or collapsed, try the American baking powder.  Our local purveyor of American products (also the local baking supply store) sells it, and I would bet that any Anglo-heavy area has a store that sells many of the things you miss from the alte heim.

Final disclaimer:  My initial discovery of the baking powder issue was when I made a chocolate torte that I had made before, but always with American baking powder.  When the stash from my lift ran out, I started using the Israeli kind.  The chocolate torte would bake up properly, rising, baking through, testing clean, but when I removed from the oven, it sank a few minutes later.  This happened to another friend as well.  I had also noticed that a classic yellow cake recipe I had been making for years no longer had the right consistency.  When I looked it up in Rose Levy Berenbaum's Cake Bible, the entry on over-leavening described my trouble nearly perfectly.  So my impression was that the Israeli baking powder was over-, not under-leavening, and one would need to use less.  Scientifically, that may not be right, but it helped me to pinpoint the failed variable.  So whether you need to use more or less or just buy the Duncan Hines mix (wash my mouth out with soap!), there is a difference.  Maybe let's just leave it at that.

Wishing happy and successful baking to you all, no matter where you may be!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

For a Sweet New Year - Kosher Connection Recipe Linkup

It's time for the next round of the Kosher Connection Recipe Link-Up!  This month's theme is "Honey," which is especially appropriate for the time of year - the run-up to Rosh Hashana.  In addition to my grandparents' honey chiffon cake, which I suggest you make because it makes me happy ;-),  I am contributing a newly developed recipe for Spiced Honey Sticks with Lemon Glaze.  I can't exactly call them mandelbroit, because there's no mandel (almonds) in the recipe, and they are not biscotti, because they are not toasted after baking and slicing.  The texture is soft and chewy, just the way I like them.  They have a tasty honey flavor without being cloying, the spice adds interesting notes, and the honey-lemon glaze brings it all together.  Feel free to bake and freeze. The honey in the recipe keeps the bars moist and chewy for several days, stored in a sealed plastic container.  A great recipe to prepare in advance of the holiday.

Here in Israel, we don't call it a run-up to chag for nothing.  All over the country, people are running around and FREAKING OUT over the impending TWO DAY CHAG!!!  When we first made aliyah, I vacillated between thinking that (A) everyone here was crazy, I mean good grief, I could prepare two day yom tov in my sleep and (B) how wonderful it was that everyone is preparing for the same holiday.  Six years down the road, I am slightly less enamored of the supermarket chaos that ensues two full weeks before yom tov.  If you saw the creative parking that goes on in the lot at our Rami Levy (think drunken sailors and illegal mid-lane car abandonments), you would understand my frustration.  But it is still truly beautiful that we are on the same page, gearing up for Rosh Hashana.  And I just have to keep telling myself that.  Even if I am now enough of an old-timer to think two days of yom tov is really, really long.

Fear not the crystallized ginger -
 but do try sprinkling a little flour over it while
you're chopping so it doesn't stick to your knife

So what are the keys to getting ready for Rosh Hashana?  Here's my take:  Shop early.  Get whatever you can buy in advance, things you can freeze like chicken and meat, dry goods, items with long shelf lives.  Start preparing early.  Bake and freeze, if you have the room.  Make recipes that are quick and require little patchke-ing.  Like this one. Mix it up, chill just a bit, bake in two long loaves, cool, glaze, and slice.  I considered giving you two variations, one with crystallized ginger and one without, because I thought the ginger flavor might be a bit much for some people.  The flavor is indeed quite pronounced shortly after baking, like when you can't wait for the bars to cool and you slice off an end and you burn your fingers and your tongue just a little, but it's worth it.  The next day, though, the flavors meld and mellow perfectly.  Even if you've never tried it,  be adventurous - add the crystallized ginger.  But if you don't have it on hand, or don't feel like chopping it up (I can't resist a little patchke!) but still want a spicy kick, add an additional 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger. Or just omit the crystallized ginger, and it's still a delicious honey dessert for a sweet New Year.  Definitely a step up from your traditional honey cake.

Spiced Honey Sticks with Lemon Glaze

100 grams or 1/2 cup margarine at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely diced crystallized ginger

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, optional
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

Cream the margarine with the sugars until smooth.  Beat in the egg, then the honey and vanilla.  Add in the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.  Mix in crystallized ginger.  Chill dough at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough into two and, with oiled hands, roll each into a long, narrow log about 13 inches long, and place on the sheet, leaving space between the two rolls.  Flatten slightly.

I cheated - I used two separate pans.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool.

Not so impressive without the glaze, but still yummy.

Mix together glaze ingredients. Drizzle diagonally across loaves with a disposable decorating bag, a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off, or even with a fork. 

Allow glaze to set, then cut into slices, somewhere between a half and three-quarters of an inch. Enjoy!

With best wishes for a Shana Tova U'Metuka - a Good and Sweet New Year full of blessings for us all.


Now check out all the other recipes featuring honey from the September Kosher Connection Recipe Linkup!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Letting you in on a secret or two

When we first made aliyah, there was a transition period wherein I went from woman who knew how to run a kitchen, to a sad lady who could not make anything come out right.  The food I served on our first Rosh Hashana continues to haunt me.... For whatever reason, the ingredients, the climate, the oven, the water, the air - WHO KNOWS?! - nothing came out the way it did in the US.  It took nearly a year until my chocolate chip cookies came out the same every time.  Part of the solution was learning not to fight against the ingredients, but to work with them.  I could not expect everything to be the same as it was in the US.  Once I mastered that, it was smooth(er) sailing in the kitchen.

Recently, cookbook author and kosher food guru Jamie "The Bride Who Knew Nothing" Geller made aliyah with her husband and children.  My article this month on her Joy of Kosher website is about making baking work in Israel, and I hope you will all enjoy it, either because it is useful to you or because someday it will be ;-).

Also included, a brand new Apple Oatmeal Cookie, adapted from Joy the Baker, and my challah recipe, adapted from Carine Goren with tweaks for the American-Israeli palate, which has appeared here before, but is worth looking at if you haven't previously.  It's the ideal recipe for Israel, as it includes a great ingredient available here, granulated fresh yeast, but it is also a simply delicious, simple-to-make sweet challah.  US/dry yeast substitutions are included.  These recipes will be wonderful on your holiday table!
So head on over to Joy of Kosher, and I'll let you in on a few of the secrets I've learned the hard way, so it will be a little easier on you.  I hope these recipes and tips will be helpful to you no matter where you live, and will be a welcome addition to your yom tov tables.

With wishes for a happy, healthy, and SWEET New Year,


Monday, August 20, 2012

Could these be any cuter?

 I sound like Chandler Bing.  Or maybe Jerry Seinfeld.  But really.

Are these not so cute you could scream?

I mean seriously, the blue, the pink, the bears, the duckies.

So cute, you could just eat them up (pun intended)!

And if you think the cookies are cute, you should see the babies!!

Mazal tov to all the parents and grandparents on their new additions - have lots of nachat!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dijon and Thyme Grilled Chicken - Kosher Recipe Linkup

What is a grilled chicken recipe doing on a baking blog?  Well, man can not live on cookies and buttercream alone, and a home baking business can not survive without a strong support system, so read on...

It’s true confession time, boys and girls.  Here’s my big, guilty secret.

I don’t know how to use a grill.

Seriously.  I don’t even know how to turn our gas grill on.  When my husband left on his first trip to the States, he gave me a quick lesson on how to use the grill, which I immediately put out of my mind, as I had many other things to think about, like how to get everything in the house done as a (temporarily) single parent without killing the children I was supposed to be caring for.  I see my girlfriends grilling outdoors and I admire them, but I am truly happy to leave the heavy lifting to my DH and stick to the prep work in the kitchen.

So when the Kosher Connection theme for the very month I joined the group turned out to be "Grilled,” I was a bit taken aback.  Sugar, eggs, frosting, those are food themes I can easily get behind.  And no, I was not about to bake a cake on the grill, or even grill sliced pound cake or nectarines on my very besari (meaty, or fleishig) grill.  So this challenge led me to conclude that I would need some help from my dear grilling husband.  Which made me think that I have to make another true confession:

I would not be able to make Shabbat without help from my husband and children, especially my two older daughters.

Seriously.  People tend to think I am organized and on top of things, able to get everything done and make it look effortless. Hah! Just ask my family. Erev Shabbat in our house is chaos.  Between cooking for Shabbat, baking fresh challah, wrapping cookie platters, and decorating cakes, there is about 24 hours worth of work to be done, but only about 10-12 hours to do it in.  We have worked up a couple of strategies, including finding a few recipes for each family member to master and be in charge of each week.  The other strategy is getting some of the cooking moved out of doors to free up oven space.  With our great weather here in Israel, we can grill pretty much year-round, especially for Shabbat.  And since I don’t know how to work the grill, I am off the hook for any grilled items.  Recipes like this one, they help me stay sane. Woohoo! 

So with many thanks to my wonderful husband, I share with you one of our favorite grilled chicken recipes.  It is so flavorful – even with a relatively short marinating time – and delicious fresh off the grill, or even room temperature or reheated the next day.  You probably have all the ingredients in your fridge and pantry already, a real bonus.  It’s also super  versatile, as you can use this marinade on boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but also it’s also unbelievable on pargiyot – boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which are so rich and luxurious tasting that you will feel you have died and gone to culinary heaven.  You can also cube up your chicken before marinating and put it on skewers along with a variety of vegetables, like onion, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms that have also taken a bath in the delectable marinade.  Don’t forget to soak your wooden skewers in cold water for about 30 minutes to keep them from burning on the grill.  And if you are useless with a grill like I am, an indoor grill pan works well, too.

And now, with no further ado, here is our family contribution to the August Kosher Connection:

The cast of characters, minus the chicken -
and yes, that is a lemon.
Welcome to Israel in August.
Dijon and Thyme Grilled Chicken
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/3 cup Dijon mustard (if you prefer a little more mustard kick, use whole grain Dijon for part of the amount; I used smooth only)
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh is best, of course, but in a pinch or a rush, bottled is fine, too!)
8 turns of the pepper grinder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, stripped from a couple of sprigs, or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (here, fresh is much more delicious - go for it!  And save the rest for the best French onion soup you will ever make...)
¼ cup olive oil
1 kilo (about 2 pounds) boneless skinless chicken – breasts or thighs, trimmed and cleaned

Take out all your aggressions on your garlic, and chop very finely.  You can, of course, use a garlic press, but I prefer a large, sharp knife, both for therapeutic and flavor reasons.  Combine the garlic, mustard, honey, lemon juice, pepper, salt, and thyme in a small mixing bowl. 
Whisk in the olive oil. 
You can whisk with a fork, I won't tell!
Place the chicken in a gallon-sized plastic zipper storage bag or a large bowl. Pour the marinade over the trimmed chicken and mix to combine.  Seal the bag or cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.
Preheat your grill (that’s what my husband does, so it must be right!), then grill the chicken pieces about 5-7 minutes per side until you have beautiful grill marks and the chicken is cooked through, but not at all dried out.
Smoky grilling.  Thank you, honey!
Serving suggestion:
Serve alongside Joyce’s Dijon Roasted Potatoes, which echo the flavors in the marinade beautifully, and need very little attention once mixed together and thrown into the oven.  A green salad on the side, maybe even some grilled veggies if you want to carry the whole grilling theme through, and you have an unbelievably delicious meal.  B’tayavon!

Yes, the photography could be better, but my specialty is food, not cameras.
Please bear with us as we try to improve! In the meantime, take it on faith - it's delicious!!! 

Best Potato Recipe. Ever. Seriously.

I suppose I have a sexist view of barbequing, in that my husband – and now my son – do the grilling, while I do the prep in the house.  To the grillers go the glory, or something like that, but they also spend a lot of time out in the heat with the smoke pouring out on them, so you need to have some mercy on them.  I show my love and appreciation by making some of the side dishes indoors. Also, this way, everyone knows I participated in preparing the meal.  But I'm not manipulative or tricky or anything...
This recipe comes from my BF Joyce, who is a great cook, and a consummate cookbook collector.  We have enjoyed fabulous meals at her home, and I know that any recipes she gives me are going to be delicious.  I don't know where this recipe came from originally, but we all love it so much that I must warn you - make enough so that there is a little extra for everyone in the family who is going to snitch a freshly roasted potato - or two.  It's totally worth the burnt fingers!
The ingredients (potatoes are in their own
beauty shot!)
Joyce's Dijon Roasted Potatoes
3 lbs small red potatoes, scrubbed and halved (or any larger waxy potatoes, cut in 1 inch chunks)
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary leaves

such cute little potatoes!
Directions:Preheat oven to 375.  Combine all ingredients besides potatoes.  Pour over potatoes and mix well.

Spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 40-60 minutes, until golden and crispy on the outside and tender inside.  Enjoy!
And make sure you serve these potatoes with Dijon and Thyme Grilled Chicken, our contribution to the August Kosher Connection Recipe Linkup, from Joy of Kosher. It's a perfect combination. Enjoy - you can thank me later! ;-)
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