Jamie Geller's Blog

 

Holiday Prep Tip #5 – Chop, Chop, Chop

 

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Now is when you really earn your sous chef stripes.  (Say that 10 times fast!)  I chop, cut, slice, dice, ribbon, julienne and more about once a week.  I think about my menu and cut accordingly. I often have carrots 3-ways in my fridge: in coins (for roasting and snacking), julienned (for stir fries and starchy sides) and ribboned for salads.

I filet my bell peppers (includes washing and removing the seeds and ribs) and slice them into strips so I can easily grab a bunch and use them as is and/or quickly dice without having to wash and clean.


 

Holiday Prep Tip #4 – Don’t Be Scared...

 

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Now that I live in Israel most meat comes frozen. There are fresh butchers here and there but for the most part I buy my roasts, chop meat, and stew beef, frozen. Similarly whole sides of salmon and fish fillets come frozen. Fishmongers are harder to come by than butchers. And because year-round I don’t have time for a big shop more than once a week I buy lots of fresh chicken – on the bone, in cutlets, in strips, ground – and freeze that as well. This way, I can just shop from my freezer before cooking.

An InLinkz Link-up



 

Holiday Prep Tip #3 – Organize Your Shopping...

 

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Now that you know your menu, including intended repeats organize your list by shelf stable and fresh produce.  Have you ever noticed that stores start to run out of stuff as the end of the holiday draws to a close?  Of course this is most prevalent on Passover but it happens during the High Holiday season as well.  We usually do 1 BIG and by BIG I mean HUGE shop at the start and then fill in with perishables and last minute items throughout the month.  This way you have everything (or most things) you know you need at the ready.

When you organize your list though, be sure to include any perishables you need for bulk cooking within that first shop.


 

Holiday Prep Tip #2 – Consider Encore...

 

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When planning your menu, consider your company and time between each holiday meal and don’t shy away from serving the same thing more than once over the course of the month.  Serve the same soup the first night of RH and the first night of Sukkot or the same brisket Shabbos of the 3-day Rosh Hashanah Yom Tov and Shabbos Chol Hamoed (Sukkos).  Point is, don’t make 3 soups, 5 briskets, or even 8 desserts.  Cook in bulk by doubling/tripling/quadrupling recipes that freeze well.

Freeze in portions the size of your crowd and pull from the freezer in advance of the meal.  This way you are not starting from scratch before each holiday.  Alternate your menu based on company (so you don’t repeat food with repeat guests – although that wouldn’t be the worst thing) and proximity of meals.


 

Holiday Prep Tip #1 – Plan Your Menus Now

 

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By now, I mean right now.  Tomorrow is ok (now is better!) but just don’t let it wait a week.  Plan your menu for the entire holiday season at once, the earlier the better, from the first Rosh Hashanah meal to the last Simchat Torah seudah.  Crazy Fact: There are at least 16 meals if you live in Israel and 20 meals if you live outside of Israel.


 

Brown Bag Lunch Ideas

 

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A while back I went looking for brown bags in Israel, not for lunches for a project that I can’t even recall now, and guess what?  I’m still looking.  So if anyone knows where I can find some just say so in the comments.  Maybe by then I’ll remember why I needed them.

But in terms of interesting “brown bag” lunch ideas for our linkup this month we always have dribs and drabs of leftovers in small little cute Snapwear containers in our fridge.  Not enough to feed the whole family for dinner (again) but just enough for one or two lucky customers.


 

The Best Way To Use Leftover Chicken

 

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My husband has this thing he’s always saying. Ready for it?

He’s always telling me to “eat the house”. It really drives me nutso. It just sounds so barbaric. When we were younger my sister always said “busted” when I was caught with my hand in the cookie jar. I always thought “busted” especially the way she delivered it sounded kind of truck driver-ish. And I pretty much thought nothing could annoy me more than her “busted”. Comes along hubby with “eat the house” and I almost forgot about “busted” until now.


 

DIY Cake Decorating

 

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I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination. Yes you can call me creative, however I am creative in a theoretical sense. But when it comes to hands-on artistry I cannot be relied on to do much more than color in the lines. I never took a course (or even a class) in cake decorating nor do I own my own set of pastry bags and tips. I always borrow from my kind and patient neighbor Robin. She is patient because sometimes it takes me days to return her cake decorating equipment and she is kind because she never says anything about it.

When it comes to my kids’ birthday cakes, I feel so much pressure. People can’t wait to see what I turn out. They expect cakes of grandeur and beauty, cakes that are whimsical and delicious and most of all professional looking. But I wasn’t trained for this. Suddenly you become a mom and you’re expected to be able to do something fun with frosting. But because I am creative in the theoretical sense, I’ve figured out a way to make my kids and myself look good. Now with no skill or fancy equipment (other than an offset spatula) you can too!


 

Family Dinner, A Must

 

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My parents are European.  Which means lots of things, for instance, we yell a lot.  When I’d ask my dad “why are you and mommy and grandma and grandpa and Aunt Pat and Uncle Frankie and everyone always screaming at each other?”  “We’re not screaming” he’d answer loudly, “this is just how we talk.”  Apparently we’re a rowdy bunch.  My AMERICAN husband is always shushing me.   Making that lower-your-voice-waving-motion with his hand when I talk to him, on the phone, to the kids, I like to think I am just full of joie de vivre but I guess I do kinda come across as noisy.

I also inherited the old country habit of eating the day’s main meal EARLY.  On the weekends we always ate dinner (which was really lunch you see) at 2 o’clock and on the weekdays we ate dinner at 4.  Which means during the week we almost never ate together as a family, with my dad, cause he was ALWAYS at work.


 

A Light Pasta To Break A Fast

 

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People think of pasta as heavy – but it can be light. Ok so you probably already knew that but until recently I always preferred super heavy, creamy, cheesy, saucy, pasta dishes. So whenever I thought pasta I thought about an off-the-diet, carb and cream laden, comma-inducing feast. Always one to overdo things I would roll out of a pasta meal feeling like I never ever wanted to eat again.

Now that I am trying to take an overall healthier approach to food and not just completely cutting the carbs when I am being “good” and subsisting solely on carbs when I am being “bad” I have started to change the whole house over to whole grains and have begun to enjoy lighter, whole-wheat, summer pasta dishes.


 

Smoked Salmon Salad *Smokey Linkup*

 

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For those of you that have been paying attention you know we do monthly, theme based, recipe link ups with bloggers from around the world.  This month’s theme is smoky.  I decided to ditch the obvious BBQ direction in favor of a light summer salad featuring smoked salmon – that counts, right?!

I am going to breakdown the salad ingredients here and give you the “WHY” of each:


 

I Stop Eating After 6ish

 

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That’s my goal, most every night.

But now that the kids are getting older and staying up later and our dinner time has been pushed from around 4pm to around 5pm, I have turned my no eating after 6pm “rule” into a no eating after sometime between 6 and 7pm.


 

Fruit and Cheese Quesadillas

 

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It’s hot.  Like really, really, really hot.  I wouldn’t call the heat oppressive, because I simply don’t like that word when describing Israel but yeah, it is hot.  The summer heat brings with it this need to feel lighter.  This naturally sweet and savory recipe is a perfect summer treat when a heavy sandwich can feel, well, heavy.

My Blueberry and Cheese Quesadillas make for a lovely summer lunch.  Filled with blueberries, sliced peaches, goat cheese, red onion and thyme you can savor them warm or at room temp.   In Israel (or anywhere else for that matter) you can skip the blueberries and instead add sliced plums, strawberries or event pitted cherries.  I also like using soft whole wheat flour tortillas for this recipe.  We are actually now, after 10 years of marriage, making the switch to whole wheat (everything) in our home (YAY – only took me a decade to convince Hubby!).


 

Brisket Is Best When…

 

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…overcooked.  Really!  If you want that tender, soft, melt-in-your-mouth, fork tender, cuts like “butter” beef then brisket is your best friend, your baby, your #1.  Although in Israel it’s designated by the number #3 but that’s neither here nor there.  Most often we cookbook authors will end a brisket recipe with instructions to let it rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing against the grain and serving.  But really, there is a better way to do that and so much more.  Listen very closely to what I am writing and you are reading here:  No matter what the recipe tells you, mine included brisket is best when…


 

Mexican Burgers

 

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Since moving to Israel I now eat hummus and tehina and schug with everything.  Everything.  My eggs, my salads, my burgers.  Growing up in the good ‘ol USA I loaded my burgers with the usual, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, plus lots of ketchup – nestled in the expected sesame bun sandwich.  One of the cool culinary perks of moving across the ocean is the exposure to a whole new world of flavors and food traditions.  I’ve become a lot more adventurous in the kitchen.  It goes without saying that regional foods have become staples but I am also exercising and opening up my palate in lots of new ways.