Shemini Atzeret Menu

 

September 23rd 2013

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In our family, whenever there is something that needs doing and it hasn’t yet been done, my husband Ed says “what are you waiting for, Shemini Atzeret?” It was meaningless to our children when they were young but they understood what he meant. There is a finality to things, an ending, when what we need to accomplish, we must accomplish.

On Shemini Atzeret the year has ended, the annual cycle of Torah readings has come to its end. I like to think of this joyful “ending” as akin to school commencement, which of course means “a beginning.”

It’s time to begin again, fresh.

There are no particular food traditions for Shemini Atzeret. But because it comes on the heels of Sukkot, in the autumn, we always have a festive, celebratory meal that feels right for the new season. I always bake a homemade challah of course, using my grandma’s award-winning recipe, and my Mom’s chicken soup and apple pie recipes. Then I add a few more modern additions of my own. Here’s the menu:

 

Hummus with Pine Nuts and Zaatar
Traditional Challah

Traditional Challah

old fashioned chicken soup

Lily Vail's Old Fashioned Chicken Soup

roasted moroccan spiced chicken breast

Roasted Moroccan Spiced Chicken Breasts

apricot chutney

Dried Apricot, Date and Ginger Chutney

Your favorite Roasted Potatoes and Green Vegetable and

Apple Pie

My Mom's Apple Pie

Enjoy the last of the holidays and have a very Happy and Sweet New Year.


 

Watch Mike and Ike Bejeweled Sugar Cookies ...

 

September 18th 2013

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So for this one I had a little help from my friends.  First I needed a great recipe.  That’s where my neighbor, who just happens to be a professional baker stepped in.  Meet Amy Schneider of Amy’s.  She makes cakes, cookies, cupcakes and more sweet treats exclusive and made-to-order for everyone’s simchas and celebrations in these parts.  Mike and Ikes are her favorite candy, maybe that’s what we get along so well.  Her favorite flavor is blue, mine is red – so maybe that’s really why we get along so well.  I asked her to “make something sweet, something special and something easy with Mike and Ikes”.  She happily obliged.

Next came my friend from FuninJerusalem.com Joanna Shebson.  I said “I know your husband is in real estate and probably has a  bunch of gorgeous kitchens he can secure for me to use as our set… but… what I really want… is to use yours.  So do you mind if we come in with a crew of 7 and take over your house for 10 hours?”  Thankfully she obliged.  Maybe that’s why we also get along so well.

So this here is the fabulous finished product.  Finally we reveal our top secret recipe for Amy’s Mike and Ike Bejeweled Sugar Cookies – they are perfect and pretty and now all yours.

Get the recipe in detail here, Mike and Ike Bejeweled Sugar Cookies.

***Giveaway***

We are so excited about our new partnership with Mike and Ike and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews and we have lots of fun things planned for you all, starting with this video and this giveaway.  Enter here for your chance to win a Candy Gift Box filled with all our favorites!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: This post and video are part of a partnership with Mike and Ike, all opinions are my own.


 

Day in Jerusalem: Scavenge for FUN and FOOD

 

September 18th 2013

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Next time you visit Jerusalem, consider a new way to see the city. Interactive games and hunts bring the city and its past alive. The Jerusalem scavenger hunt is one of my favorite activities to recommend for tourists & locals because it keeps the kids and the adults entertained, challenged and working as a group to “feel” the history of the streets of Jerusalem.

The Old City of Jerusalem is the oldest residential area in the city dating back to Biblical times. When the Jews of the Old City were encouraged to move out and start new communities outside the walls, they began with the areas of Mishkenot Sheananim/Yemin Moshe and Nachlaot. Today a scavenger hunt in these areas encourages you to search for ancient Jewish artifacts using some of today’s most modern technology.  Learn about the famous residents of each neighborhood and you may even find out where Clinton, Madonna and Churchill stayed when they visited Jerusalem.

When you book a Scavenger Hunt through Fun In Jerusalem, you are able to choose the location: Old City, Nachlaot or Mishkenot Sheananim. As a team you will choose players to fulfill the following roles: a teacher, a reader, a navigator and a photographer. Take your mission pack and begin to explore the alleyways, learn about the history by reading the street signs and understand the meaning behind the street names. Even the trees play a part in the hunt. The kids will love following the clues to their next destination; the photographer in your group will enjoy snapping pictures, while the navigator guides the way. The Jerusalem Scavenger Hunt is one of Fun In Jerusalem’s most popular activities.

Anyone who is traveling with kids knows that you have to have a lunch plan close to your activity. In Jerusalem there is no need to scavenge, the city is filled with amazing kosher restaurants!  The hardest decision will be which one to choose. Here are some kosher restaurants near the the scavenger hunt locations:

Old City: In the center of the Jewish Quarter you will find Burgers Bar, Café Neeman, and some delicious ice cream & frozen yogurt shops.

Nachlaot: Head into the shuk (Machane Yehuda) across the street from Nachlaot where you can enjoy fresh Fish n Chips, Pasta Basta or an authentic Moroccan meal.

Mishkenot Sheananim: Head down the street to the First Station (aka Old Train Station) for a fun experience. Hamiznon and FRESH are some great dairy lunch options. If you are just looking for a snack or something sweet, hit Re-Bar for a refreshing yogurt drink or frozen yogurt.

Stay tuned for next month’s Day in Jerusalem “FUN ways to volunteer in Jerusalem”.

 Updated picture of the windmill


 

Types and How To Melt Chocolate with Parve...

 

September 17th 2013

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What better way to end a meal than with decadent chocolate desserts?

Here is your source for all things chocolate:

Types of chocolate

Chocolate chips are made differently than baking chocolate, which is the reason they keep their shape when baked. They are best used in recipes where you need to keep the shape of the chocolate as is, whether it is mixed into cookie or cake batter, used as a topping or for added crunch in desserts.

Semisweet baking chocolate. Unsweetened chocolate contains (at least 35%) cocoa butter, sugar, soy lecithin and vanilla extract. Do not purchase chocolate that contains any fat other than cocoa butter. For optimal results, do not substitute chocolate chips in recipes calling for semisweet baking chocolate, since chocolate chips are meant to hold their shape and don’t melt as well.

Bittersweet baking chocolate has a higher chocolate ratio than semisweet, is less sweet and has a stronger chocolate flavor.

Unsweetened baking chocolate, called chocolate liquor, is produced when roasted cocoa beans are ground and processed into liquid. After additional processing, the liquid is hardened into blocks. The packaging label for unsweetened chocolate should list one ingredient: chocolate. Unsweetened baking chocolate is not eaten on its own, but is a core ingredient in many chocolate products.

Unsweetened cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is produced by hydraulically pressing unsweetened chocolate in order to remove most of the cocoa butter. It is not totally fat-free because it does contain residual amounts of cocoa butter. The only ingredient listed: cocoa.

White chocolate is different than other chocolates as it does not contain cocoa solids, but rather is made from cocoa butter, the fat removed from cocoa beans. While in other chocolates, the fat is recombined with the cocoa solids, white chocolate is made from cocoa butter, milk, and sugar. As a result of its lack of cocoa, it doesn’t contain any of the antioxidants that is found in dark chocolate, and is a richer, higher caloric form of chocolate.

Milk chocolate is made from a combination of cocoa butter, cocoa solids, milk powder and sugar. It is also richer than dark chocolate.

Cocoa nibs. Cocoa nibs are ground, roasted cocoa beans and have a bitter taste and a crunchy texture. Cocoa nibs have been gaining popularity in the culinary world and add a chocolate flavor and crunch to desserts and savory dishes.

How to melt Chocolate

Timing is everything when it comes to baking, and more specifically, melting chocolate. A few seconds over optimal time can ruin the makeup of the chocolate.

Microwave time may vary depending on the model of the microwave; it is better to start off on the lower end, starting with the lesser amount, and adding a bit more time as necessary, because once the chocolate overcooks and becomes grainy, your chocolate is basically fit for the garbage. Once melted, the chocolate should stay in liquid form for 30 to 60 minutes in a warm kitchen. In a cool kitchen, keep the melted chocolate over warm water until ready to use.

When purchasing chocolate, make sure to verify that you are buying the best quality possible, as this will have a tremendous impact on your chocolate dish. The best way to ensure top quality chocolate is to read the ingredients. The only source of fat in your chocolate should be cocoa butter. This applies to all types of chocolate including chocolate chips. Palm oil or coconut oil, for instance, is no good and may compromise the end result of a chocolate dish. Store chocolate in a cool, dry place. If storage is too warm, the chocolate can develop gray surface streaks caused by the cocoa butter rising to the surface. It is okay to eat, but not ideal to use for baking as you are not guaranteed optimal results once the makeup of the chocolate has been altered.

chocolate melting times

Time to Get cooking:

chocolate bread puddingChocolate Bread Pudding
This dish has a rich chocolate flavor that makes great use out of a typically leftover staple, bread.

chocolate covered fruitChocolate-Dipped Fruit
A satisfying, fun and healthy dessert.

Chocolate Carrot Cake
Chocolate is a great flavor addition to the classic carrot cake. This cake is moist and satisfying and really simple to make. A great option for a Rosh Hashana (or anytime) dessert, celebrating the tradition of eating carrots on the Jewish New Year.

Chocolate Parfait
This dessert tastes like a molten chocolate cake, but with much less work. The inspiration for this dessert is from Glatt
a la Carte in Brooklyn, N.Y. It can easily be made ahead and will wow your guests with its gloriously rich, chocolaty flavor.

 

As seen in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine Fall 2012 – Subscribe Now.


 

Mix and Match Sukkot Menus

 

September 17th 2013

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Here we go, get ready for two more three day yom tovim. Unless you live in Israel.  I haven’t heard much from you all in regards to my low calorie Rosh Hashanah menus.  A lot of people read them, but not so many commented to let me know if they liked them and wanted to see more of them.  So, for Sukkot I am offering you a Mix and Match game.  Please comment and let me know which type of holiday menus you prefer.

Menu planning is as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.  All you have to do is choose.

Zucchini Spread

One from this appetizer list:

Zucchini Spread

Quinoa Stuffed Grape Leaves

Healthy Samoosak Stuffed with Chickpeas

Easy Beef Roast

One from the Mains:

Easy Beef Roast

Avocado Stuffed Salmon with Wild Rice

Roasted Lamb with Lemon Potatoes

Stuffed Roasted Chicken With Vegetables

Broccoli Kugel

One vegetable side (or two, this is the place to add on dishes, healthy for all):

Broccoli Kugel

Green Bean and Three Onion Saute

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts

Rosemary Roasted Cauliflower

Kale Chips

Roasted Red Pepper Salad

Mike and Ike Rice Krispy Treats

And 1 Dessert is plenty:

Mike and Ike Rice Krispy Treats

Walnut Ginger and Cranberry Stuffed Apples

Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Honey Cream Cheese Frosting (Pareve)

Ginger Chocolate Chewy Cookies


 

A Healthy Vegetarian Sukkot Menu

 

September 16th 2013

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After too much meat over these holidays I am going veggie with this Sukkot menu.  It is still high in protein and filling, but much healthier.  Here is my menu, simple, healthy and delicoius:

Citrus Salad with Beets, Candied Kumquats and Tangerine Honey Vinaigrette

Chickpea Tagine with Couscous

Molasses Cake Parfaits with Poached Pears

The vivid flavors of this modern tagine are perfect for sukkot and any day. The tagine takes a bit of time to put together (as does any great dish), but once assembled, cooks itself.

The flavors also intensify and meld as the tagine sits. So, the dish is perfect for cooking a day or 2 ahead of serving.

If you feel you need to serve something else, here are a few other veggie and meat dishes that will go well with this menu.

Ful Medamas

Herbed Meatballs

Roasted Snapper with Sweet and Sour Citrus Reduction

Peas with Escarole and Mint

Have a happy and healthy new year and tasty Sukkot.


 

Chicken Pot Pie with Herbed Drop Biscuits

 

September 16th 2013

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Making Chicken Pot Pie is as easy as watching this video! It was so special to travel back to Philly, my hometown for my 2nd appearance on the 10! Show. My mom came along with me and we took turns hounding and downloading info from Dr. Lindsay, fellow 10! Show guest and nutritionist to the stars. All in all it was a fun visit and Luann and I had a blast cooking together – she even gave a shout out to Manischewitz, that’s my girl!


 

Spread The Joy Link Up

 

September 16th 2013

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Tamar, that awesome executive editor of ours, is full of good ideas. So for this Yom Tov season she challenged us (me and all our blogging friends) to “Spread the Joy.” She wants us to think of some food-related charitable cause, a way to give back to family, friends and community in the medium we understand best: food.

Such a great idea. Wish I could say it was mine.

And since this is the season for confessions (for me, it’s always the season), I’ve got to admit that my account at the chessed bank has run pretty low. (Chessed = an act of a kindness = doing something to benefit someone else =lending a helping hand.)

I’ve got lots of good excuses – I mean reasons – for why giving back sorta fell through the cracks. I mean, it’s so hard to keep up with everything on the professional front, and on the personal front, and on the kitchen front, and on the kid front. I’ve got more fronts than a wartime army. So maybe I just got too wrapped up in all that, and well, um, never got around to actually thinking about other people and their challenges.

Well, wouldn’t you know that right after Tamar commanded “Spread the Joy!” my partner in all things – Hubby – said “I think we should start a chessed project; it important for the kids to see their parents doing chessed.” (Are Hubby and Tamar in cahoots, or is it that obvious that I have done nothing for humanity lately?)

Now recently Hubby has decided to donate his time to a local charity here in Beit Shemesh called Lema’an Achai.  They have a tremendous reputation for helping hundreds of families through financial crises and then enabling them to regain their financial independence. As it happens, Hubby is a professional financial advisor, so he will be helping by counseling people about their financial planning based on their real actual budget. (The one person he can’t help is his own wife. I’m beyond help. I see a clear ironic, cosmic humor in that a financial planner is married to the ultimate financial non-planner. Hubby doesn’t think it’s funny.)

Anyway, when he was at Lema’an Achai, he noticed that their food donation pantry was running low. In addition to initial financial assistance, they also give their recipients non-perishable shelf-stable food items based on need.  But there’s never quite enough to go around.  So he suggested we start a monthly Rosh Chodesh canned food drive at the kids’ school.  He volunteered to run it for the boys’ school if I would run it for the girls.  I loved the idea. And I was truly inspired and grateful that I married a man who cares about things like this, but I was also a little afraid of managing yet another project. “I know you’re busy,” he said, “but we can do this together.”

Not sure if I forgot about it 5 minutes later or 5 days later, but when we received an email from the girls’ school about a meeting for all those willing to volunteer for the parents association, Hubby gently reminded me that I should put it on my calendar. He even volunteered to put all the kids to bed that night so I could go. (In fact he does that quite often, and is quite good at it!)  The email said “all ideas were welcome” and he reminded me to bring up our idea. “What idea?”

“The monthly food drive.”

“Oh yeah, ok, that idea.”

Funny thing. Speaking up at the PTA meeting tied my tongue in knots.  My face turned purple. I could barely get the words out. But I did it!  When they asked for suggestions, I raised my hand and talked about how I think chessed is important and we should implement a monthly project; and I’m volunteering to do a food drive for Lema’an Achai. I’ll even do the weekly flyers and come to collect the donations myself.  They all nodded, quite pleased with the idea, because Lema’an Achai is so well respected, and after all, I was volunteering to set this thing in motion and do the follow-up.  A lovely lady named Samantha agreed to run it with me, and well… I came home all excited. Hubby was all smiles and coaxed, “tell me, tell me everything.”

“Everyone loved MY idea,” I told him.

“YOUR idea?”

(I do that to him just to get him. All of HIS ideas that I have claimed as MINE are way too hard to count. Did I ever tell you it was HIS idea to write a cookbook in the first place?)

So does it matter who actually thought of it first?  I love this chance to run a food drive at my girls’ school and have them participate with me, getting all their friends involved in such a meaningful effort. You know my philosophy: food is the great and universal equalizer, able to draw people from all backgrounds and walks of life together around a table. It brings together community, family, the past, present and future. But what of those who have little food, for whom every meal is meager? How can we enjoy our food, knowing that they do not have what they need? I want my children, and all children, to think about that. I want them to know that we have a responsibility toward other people.  So we’ll do our little part here; bringing food to Lema’an Achai, entrusting them to distribute to those in need in our community.

I think Tamar will be happy with this example. But there are so many more ways to “Spread the Joy” in the coming year.

What can you do in your community?  Please share with us any projects in which you are involved, or any that inspire you. Tell us, even if you feel it to be a pipe dream, share it in the comments – writing about it can be a first step in actualizing your charitable dreams. And maybe someone reading your idea will think of a way to implement it!

When we pray sincerely for the needs of others, we can bring that same blessing upon ourselves.  Let’s do the same with our actions: bring food to those in need, or do whatever aspect of chessed speaks to you. And in that merit, as my grandmother a”h would say, “we should never know from it.”

 



 

Enter the Joy of Kosher Candy Sukkah Contest

 

September 15th 2013

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While some are building the real sukkah you can keep busy building a CANDY SUKKAH!!

Enter now through September 29th for your chance to win!!! Sponsored by Mike and Ike and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews.

Let your creativity run loose and design the ultimate CANDY SUKKAH.  From September 14th to September 29th upload a photo of your candy sukkah using Mike and Ike’s and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews as the primary candies.

It’s easy to enter! Simply upload a photo of your Candy Sukkah to the Joy of Kosher Facebook page, on instagram, or email it to info@joyofkosher.com with the hashtag #chosencandy.  Make a few, have your kids join in the fun, there are no limits!

A panel of judges will choose one winner with the most creative Sukkah to win  a candy basket with $50 worth of Mike and Ike and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews candy, a 1 year subscription to Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine, and a $50 Amex Gift Card.

For those out there like me with not so much creativity, we will also select one random winner among all entries, so even your two year old’s Sukkah has a chance to win $25 worth of Mike and Ike and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews Candy.

Our judges panel includes the very talented and regular JoyofKosher contributor, Melissa Kaye Apter of LilMissCakes.com, Melinda Strauss of Kitchen-Tested.com who created the fabulous Sukkah inspiration you see above and me.

Throughout the contest we will share some of our favorites in real time on all our social media channels. We want to see all your creations, don’t be shy.

See mine was real simple…

Melinda’s was …

Now, we want to see yours.  Even send in your kids versions, they will be so happy to win.  Chag Sameach!

*Contest open to residents of the United States who are 18 years or older.

Update: see the submissions here -(note: only the ones with sponsor candy will be eligible to win)

From EstherO

The Blassberger Family

Mamiyes Sukkah

A Sprinci & Luli Reich & EG (Reich) Schwartz production

Meir Family Sukkah - SimplySweet blog

Thank you so much for all the amazing and creative entries.  The judges panel has decided and the winner is Miriam with this Sukkah below and our runner up goes to The Filharts!!


 

Gastronomic Journal of Mendy Pellin

 

September 13th 2013

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6:03 AM (Los Angeles) – Kasha with Cheese

My 4-year-old daughter Hinda has always been very ambitious. As with most high achievers, she is an early riser. She’s got magna-tiles to build, princess costumes to wear and an Abba to wake up. Yup, she has effectively made my alarm clock obsolete.

I’m not a morning person. I spill my negel vasser, forget to take my yarmulka off in the shower, and return the cheerios to the fridge and milk to the cabinet. But a good breakfast clears my morning brain fog.

The kasha has to be made just right. Not mushy and not burnt; a rice-style texture. Once cooked, I melt pieces of American cheese on top. This dish is the perfect representation of what I try to infuse into all my projects. Old-school shtetl Judaism (kasha) packaged with a modern appeal (American cheese). Yum! My day can begin!

8:30 AM (Studio City) – Grab 1 Chocolate Oat Crunch Bar

I have one with my coffee as I meet with our makeup artist and a group of APP developers at Brand-Knew offices. No, I don’t put on makeup every morning. The artist is creating some cool photo shoot prosthetics for our new APP: JEWBELLISH METER (available for free on iOS and Android). This APP determines how Jewish you are based on complex scientific variables. The facial recognition software can see how Jewish-looking you are. Voice recognition can calculate how Jewish-sounding you are. You can also test your Jewish knowledge and thought process.

11:00 AM (Miracle Mile) – Leiber’s Aleph Beis Cookies

Back at Jewbellish headquarters (pronounced: JEW-BELL-ISH), there are casting auditions already in progress. We are casting today for our new web series of biblical comedy sketches and a satirical series called Mad Mensch. Running our casting call is veteran casting director Farrah West. This gentile loves the box of cookies I stole from my kids’ lunch closet. She wants to buy a case of them.

The biblical comedy director, Jeffrey Lampert, is a veteran filmmaker who recently came off the set of Die Hard 5 — a film where the actors are constantly fighting with Russians. The Mad Mensch director, Arnon Shorr, is a frum filmmaker who recently came off the set of Mendy’s Kitchen — a show where I constantly fight with ingredients.

1:30 PM – Smoked white fish, grape juice and ham

This lunch break is starting to get awkward. I serve everyone Bris food. There is a huge fully intact white fish next to a dozen bagels. In the Jewbellish spirit, Mr. Lampert brought a large bottle of Kedem grape juice as our sole beverage. The gentile half of our production staff felt uncomfortable eating straight out of a fish that had eyes staring at them. They respectfully ordered ham sandwiches from Subways. I get a call from my manager asking if I’m available to do a stand-up gig at a Pesach hotel. I definitely have at least five minutes of new material from this bizarre lunch.

5:30 PM (Downtown Los Angeles) – No Tomato Soup

I’m meeting with my Jewbellish partner-in-crime Jeff Rudes at his J Brand offices. His pre-dinner is a huge serving bowl of vegetable tomato soup. I’m holding my appetite for my favorite dinner waiting for me at home. We review samples of our revolutionary Jewish apparel to be released in a few months.

Then we Jewbellish. We debate all possible reactions someone can have to a matzah ball falling out of one’s soup onto the floor. (One of our questions on the Jewbellish Meter.)

7:00 PM (Los Angeles) – Pepper Steak with Couscous

It’s my favorite 5 seconds of the day. With much excitement my kids yell out their status update: Abba’s home! Then the fussy-time battle begins over who’s going to open the front door. I smell the yummy dinner my wife made: pepper steak marinated in soy sauce, sugar and oil, cooked on a bed of sautéed onions — served with a perfect balance of Israeli couscous.
At some point the battle will end and someone will let me inside my house to devour my favorite dinner. After which I’ll say shema with the kids and put them to sleep. Hinda has to wake up early tomorrow morning to ambitiously wake up Abba.

Mendy Pellin is a comedian/actor/filmmaker living in Los Angeles with his wife (Shulamis) and three kids (Hinda, 4, Yosef, 3 and Sheva, 2 months)

If you like this type of article make sure to let us know in the comments below so that we can bring you more just like it.

As seen in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine Fall 2013 – Subscribe Now.


 

Celebrate Sukkot With Unbreakable Tableware

 

September 12th 2013

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The crash of broken glass is the highlight of a Jewish wedding ceremony, but it’s not a sound you want to hear anywhere near the lunch or dinner table.  With three children, I’ve always been interested in the possibility of unbreakable plates and tableware, but to be honest, they usually look cheap and ugly.

With the holiday of Sukkot approaching and my meal traveling from the kitchen to the unstable fold-out table outdoors, I thought it might be time to revisit the melamine marketplace.  That’s when I got a chance to discover the fun colorful dishes from French Bull.

French Bull launched in 2002 and pioneered the melamine renaissance with a modern spin featuring the bold style of designer Jackie Shapiro.  French Bull updates their collection with new designs regularly and this year I really like this line of Nouveau for Sukkot.  I am imagining a table outside under the stars with a table brightened by the flowers on these plates.  Melamine is resistant to high heat and shatterproof, so they’re perfect for frequent hosting and extremely durable.

French Bull has plates of all sizes, platters, bowls, salad servers, and even cake plates!  They are the perfect addition to your kitchen assortment and a thoughtful hostess gift.  Click here to find your favorite French Bull tableware from Amazon.


 

Bento Boxes – Getting Creative With School...

 

September 11th 2013

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My friend wants you to make her a lunch,” said my daughter, Cadence, as she got off the bus from camp. “Mine too,” added my oldest daughter, Laine. Later on that evening, I received an email from my oldest daughter’s camp counselor expressing how impressed she was with Laine’s “extraordinary lunches.” This was good news; not only were my children eating their lunches, they were making their friends envious. Before you hate me, I must confess, this was not always the case.

As a mother of two extremely picky children, I faced my fair share of uneaten lunches and complaints. It wasn’t until I walked by a Japanese restaurant one afternoon when the solution finally dawned on me. The restaurant boasted an impressive display of very realistic-looking plastic food in the window, presumably menu items, each arranged and garnished beautifully. One of my daughters pressed her face up against the window and, on the verge of salivating, exclaimed, “That looks yuuuuuummmy.” No argument from me there.  It did look yummy. But, what was she talking about? She hates eggs.
And seaweed.
And fish.
Shall I go on?

My daughter’s interest in this newfound “pretty” food led me to the discovery of bento lunches in short order. What’s a bento lunch, exactly? Simply put, it’s a boxed lunch; just unlike any boxed lunch most Americans have probably ever experienced growing up. Boxed lunches are pretty common throughout Asia, manifesting themselves as Indian tiffin, Philippino baon, Korean dosirak, and Taiwanese biandang, to name a few. When I was a girl in Thailand, my aunt used to send a tiffin style lunch to me while I was spending the day with my cousin at her school. As popular and wide spread as these boxed lunches are, the Japanese bento box takes lunch to a whole other level.

A simple Google image search brings up countless images of Japanese-style bento lunches, some featuring amazing food facsimiles of popular cartoon or anime characters, and others, breathtaking sculptural representations of landscapes or naturalistic vignettes; all edible. The format and idea behind a bento lunch can be extremely helpful in packing a healthy and visually interesting school lunch, even for the pickiest eaters.

Before you start putting together those boxes, it’s important to pick the right box. As with all other serving containers, there are a variety of shapes and sizes to choose from. Which is right for you? Click here for an overview of boxes including additions to make them even more fun.

Nutritional Balance

While simultaneously providing a feast for the eyes and the stomach, bentos are an excellent way to exercise portion and nutrition control, and the USDA nutritional guidelines dubbed “My Plate” work very nicely here, since the confined space (and compartments, should you choose to use that kind of a box) sets boundaries of how much of each food group to pack. Although children are likely to consume components of various food groups throughout the day, a good place to start is with:

  • Approximately equal parts of vegetables and grains
  • Smaller, but equal parts of fruits and proteins
  • A small, complementary serving of calcium

School lunch ideas:

Traditionally, bento lunches are consumed either cold or at room temperature, but if you have the opportunity and the appropriate box, you could pack just about anything you’d like. Leftovers are a great place to start. Here are some ideas for school lunches that can be eaten cold or at room temperature:

Sunny Sandwich Box:

  • Sandwich made with sun butter and apple slices (use a bread stamp and/or cookie cutter here)
  • Baby carrots or cut out carrot coins (using cookie cutters)
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Whole grain muffin
  • Yogurt with berries

Pizza Party Lunch:

  • Two small flat breads or one English muffin, halved
  • Tomato/pizza sauce (in a condiment container)
  • Shredded cheese
  • Steamed or sautéed vegetables
  • Vegetarian “pepperoni”
  • Apple slices 

Asian-Style Lunch:

  • Soba Noodles with Soy-Sesame Dressing: 1 tablespoon low sodium tamari or soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, Sesame seeds, to garnish
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Mandarin orange/ tangerine slices
  • Sliced Asian pear
  • Hard-boiled egg or edamame 

Israeli Lunch:

  • 1-2 slices of pita cut into wedges, or 2 small bourekas
  • Hummus
  • Cut vegetables for dipping, such as bell peppers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery, etc.
  • Grilled/roasted eggplant or salad greens
  • 1/2 a segmented orange
  • Small piece of Halvah 

Mish-Mash Lunch:

  • Whole grain crackers
  • Cheese slices
  • Grapes and apple slices
  • Salad greens with sunflower seeds and dressing (in condiment cup)
  • Whole grain muffin 

Mexi-Mix Lunch:

  • 1 tortilla, spread with two tablespoons of refried beans and sprinkled with shredded cheddar cheese
  • Mango slices
  • Tortilla chips
  • Jicama sticks
  • Salsa 

Breakfast for Lunch:

  • Silver-dollar pancakes or French toast sticks with maple syrup (in condiment cup)
  • 1-egg omelet
  • Vanilla yogurt
  • Fresh berries
  • Oven-roasted potatoes

As you can see, the possibilities and combinations are endless, and these meals are highly customizable to suit your child’s taste…or their friends’ for that matter. With a little planning and practice, the lunches will come together.

 

As seen in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine Fall 2013 – Subscribe Now.


 

How To Choose The Right Bento Box For Lunch

 

September 11th 2013

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Before you start putting together fun lunches for your kids with a Japanese style you have to pick the right box.  Here is an overview of what is available:

What’s Your Style? Although the concept of bento is Japanese, just about anything can be used as a bento box, as long as it’s easily washable, and relatively watertight.

If you prefer as compact a lunch as possible, try stackable containers that fit tightly together (try Black and Blum Lunch Pot, or rubber banding smaller sized Lock & Lock plastic containers).

If you don’t like the idea of your food being tightly packed and pressed up against one another, you may like a partitioned box. Laptop Lunches make excellent first bento boxes for beginners, and have removable containers within the larger one for easy washing and storage. If you’re looking for versatility, perhaps a collection of free form containers (Ikea 365+ series containers have heat vents, if lunches should be heated, and Rubbermaid containers are inexpensive and durable) that can be broken up with silicone baking cups is a better option.

Concerned about BPA? BPA is a chemical sometimes found in plastic products. Studies have proven that BPA may have negative side-effects. It might surprise you to know that Japan voluntarily began reducing their use of BPA-containing plastics in prepared canned foods ten years before the United States even acknowledged the issue. Any Japanese made bento box from a reputable manufacturer is probably pretty safe as a result. However, there are other options if you want to be extra careful.

Stainless steel bento boxes are available (try Lunch Bots or traditional Indian-style tiffin containers) which are extremely durable, green, mostly kasherable, and dishwasher safe, but not microwavable. You can also try glass containers (Kinetic Glass Lock, Rubbermaid Premiere, and Lock & Lock Glass Euro Lunch Box Set) with snap-on lids, which are microwave safe.

Of course, the bento boxes from Japan exude a certain charm, and are always popular with children. These lunch boxes, although very well made and suited for the purpose, are a little more expensive, but easily found online.

Now that you picked your box, you can have even more fun!!

Silicone baking cups come in a variety of different colors, are dishwasher and microwave safe, and add a nice punch of color when needed.
How to use them: Use these cups to separate dry items from wetter items, such as nuts from pasta.

Cookie cutters and Bread stamps

From mini-sized to extra-large, cookie cutters are key in a bento maker’s arsenal, and not for cookies!
How to use them: use smaller cutters to cut carrot coins into fun shapes, make decorative cut-outs in cheese, deli meats, and vegetables. Use larger cutters on sandwich bread for fun and interesting sandwiches.

These plastic stamps may resemble something from your child’s Play-Doh set (which, by the way, you can use for this purpose very successfully), but they do a great job of making a sandwich look much more inviting. After making the sandwich, place the stamp in the desired place and press it into the bread, using moderate pressure.

Egg molds

Perhaps one of the oddest things to find in a Japanese bento lunch is a very precisely shaped hard-boiled egg. Egg molds are fairly inexpensive and are available in a variety of different shapes. Place a warm, peeled boiled egg into the egg mold and close it up, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Onigiri molds

Onigiri, or, Japanese rice balls are sushi rice shaped into triangular cakes and stuffed with a variety of different ingredients. Traditionally, these ingredients can be seaweed, pickled plums or ground meat, but you can use just about anything that suits your taste.
Try berries, tuna, chopped stir-fried vegetables, or even cheese. After seasoning hot rice with a little salt, tightly pack the rice into the mold so it fills the mold half way. Add a small spoonful of filling, and fill the rest of the mold with rice. Pack the rice together with the other side of the mold, and push the rice ball out.

Okay, time to get creative with School lunches (or work lunches), what are you packing for your kids?

 

As seen in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine Fall 2013 – Subscribe Now.


 

Break Fast with Cheese *Giveaway*

 

September 10th 2013

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Typical breakfast fare includes bagels, lox, cream cheese, maybe a few quiches and maybe a baked ziti or pasta salad.  Sometimes you want to try something new, but it has to be easy and something you can make ahead.  So I got together with The Cheese Guy and came up with a few new recipes for you.

The Cheese Guy, also known as Brent Delman, happens to be a neighbor of mine and I love his enthusiasm for all things cheese.  I recently was able to visit his cheese cave, where he has wheels of cheese shipped in from Italy aging to his exacting standards.  It was quite a site to see (and yes, I got to taste as well).   The Cheese Guy is known around the world for high-end, small batch, artisanal, kosher cheeses – with many organic and low-fat varieties available.

kosher spicy cheese

His products range from local cheddars and jacks to imported Italian specialties.  He shared his new line of spicy cheeses, Jalapeno, Habanero and Chipotle. Even though spicy is not typically on a break fast menu, my Habanero Cheesy Grits and Chiptole Cheese Stuffed Fish are spice-tacular!

Pecorino Baked Penne

Pecorino Baked Penne

For break fast, I am focusing on The Cheese Guy’s exclusive line of Italian cheeses.  He recently got a shipment of Pecorino Sardo from Italy that he is aging in Westchester County, New York, so he is calling it the Saw Mill River Pecorino.  It is younger than his Pecorino Romano so it is quite  a bit softer, but it still has the familiar nutty flavor I love.  It melts well and I used it to make this Penne Pecorino Pasta that would be a perfect side that you can prepare the day before and reheat just before serving.  I topped it with a little grated Pecorino Romano – just for the fun of trying two Pecorinos in one dish.

Asiago No Knead Bread

Asiago No Knead Bread

When I looked at The Cheese Guy’s Asiago cheese, I adapted my regular “no-knead” bread recipe and turned it into the most unbelievable Asiago bread.  Filled with gooey cheese, tons of flavor and really perfect.  Like a grilled cheese baked inside a loaf of bread, it would be delicious with sliced tomatoes or dipped in a tomato soup, or just eaten on its own, lightly toasted so you can taste a little melt in your mouth.

I hope you enjoy these recipes.  Learn more about The Cheese Guy and his selection of Kosher cheeses by clicking here and share your cheesy recipes and comments below.  Then enter to WIN!!

***Giveaway*** The Cheese Guy is giving away a basket of cheeses especially for you!!  The Cheese Guy has many Chalav Yisroel cheeses too, so we can tailor the basket to the winner’s needs. (approximate retail value $50).

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Disclosure: This post was sponsored by The Cheese Guy, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.


 

It’s Been 1 Year Since I Made Aliyah and My...

 

September 10th 2013

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Just about a year ago, Hubby and I decided to pick up with our five children and move from our comfortable home in Monsey, New York to a cottage in Israel, a place where we would all have to learn the language and culture, a place where we would be immigrants, just like my parents had been in the USA.  People are still asking me why.

Why move to Israel?

When people ask me “why”, they’re really asking “Isn’t it hard? Why do it if it’s so hard?” I confess this is not my own observation. It was made by one of the most funny and fascinating rabbis on the planet, Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky, but I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Almost everyone who moves to Israel is asked this question sooner or later.  Your visiting friends, relatives, parents are aghast that life in Israel is so challenging. It can be simple stuff – like getting used to different paper towels, tissues and toilet paper, learning to live with Israeli milk bags (in pitchers!), bagging your own groceries at the supermarket – or real issues like, housing in quarters less than half the size of what you had in the States, the suffocating heat of a chamsin in the summer, nuclear threats from our Arab cousins. Every oleh can provide a long, personalized list, I assure you.

In my case, leaving my birthplace (which was actually Philly), my parents (my mom visits a lot), my old friends (hi Atara and Simcha Rus), my favorite coffee shop (shout out to Purple Pear), everything familiar, to live in Israel was the natural destination of my personal spiritual trajectory. I had gone from one level of Jewish living to the next; then suddenly I was gripped by the awareness that it’s all very nice to build lovely Jewish communities in outposts all over the world, but that Israel’s gates now are open to us. After two thousand years, we can go home! How can we turn our backs on that? So it seemed kinda natural to just pick up and come to the Holy Land – not expecting it to be easy, and alert to the challenges that lay ahead. Yet it was a monumental thing to do, a historic act. And I’m all into doing things that make a difference.  Truth is it’s most probably an eternal difference.

And yes, it’s hard. Very hard.  Can’t deny it. Nu? What’s so terrible about that? If you look back on life, you’ll notice that just about everything worth doing is hard. Marriage is hard. Childbirth is hard (but not as hard as raising children). Pesach preparation is hard. Learning to cook is hard. Writing cookbooks is hard (even though it looks like fun.) Reinventing yourself in a new country is hard.

But the result is a life that’s rich in purpose, a life that actually moves in a consistent direction. It’s a life that’s aware, precisely because the choices were hard and you had to grow into them. I’m not saying my choices are right for anybody else. They’re right for me.  And as long as I can stay true to myself, I’ll be able to look at myself in the mirror every morning and know that I’ll never have to look back with regret.

In case you missed the last episode of JoyofAliyah (or just want to see it again) watch it here:

And for no other reason that the fact that this reflective post was written around one of the holiest days on our calendar, here is my Quick & Kosher post Yom Kippur menu.  Easy Fast and G’Mar Chatima Tova!

 

Parsnip and Celery Root Soup

 

Lemon and White Wine Broiled Sole

green bean casserole

Green Bean Casserole

Fettucine with Pumpkin Sauce

Lemon Yogurt Pie