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).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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


Butternut Squash Soup


September 9th 2013

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Watch and learn how to make this creamy and delicate pareve Butternut Squash Soup. Perfect for Shabbos or a cold night any day of the week.


Pre-Yom Kippur Menu: Hearty and Filling Foods


September 9th 2013

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Before a fast day, it’s important to fill yourself up with hearty foods but it’s also very important to avoid overly spicy and salty ingredients. Keeping that in mind, I’ve created a menu of recipes that will fill you up before the fast but won’t make you feel bloated or thirsty. A few tips to remember for your last meal before the fast of Yom Kipper: don’t overeat, drink tons of water, eat foods that are easy to digest and eat a lot of protein and complex carbohydrates. So enjoy your pre-Yom Kippur meal and have a safe and meaningful fast!

Salsa Baked Salmon

Pressure Cooker Oxtail Soup

Pressure Cooker Oxtail Soup

Whole Wheat Couscous Cake

Strawberry Fig Pistachio Tart

Gingerbread Loaf


Host a Joy of Kosher Cookbook Club Get a Free Book


September 4th 2013

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The Joy of Kosher Cookbook Club is so delicious, it’s good enough to eat, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

We are looking for 10 volunteers across the United States to HOST Joy of Kosher Cookbook Club Dinner Parties.

If you volunteer and are selected to host you will receive a FREE copy of the new Joy of Kosher cookbook before anyone else – and you will have the perfect excuse to host a fabulous Joy of Kosher dinner party with your favorite foodie friends.

What Does a Host Do?

  • Get ready to party!
  • Schedule your party any time between October 15th and October 31st.
  • Invite at least 5 friends. (More would be better. That way there’ll be more food to taste.)
  • Cook from the book.  Each guest will cook a recipe from the book to bring to the party.
  • Take pictures of the party, including the food and your friends, and share on social media with #JoyofKosherCookbook.
  • Email photos and tell us about your party (no later than November 1, please, for inclusion in a future article on JoyofKosher.com.)

I’d love to be your special guest.  If the timing works out, I will do my best to Skype or call in to say hi during your party!

A few more suggestions to help you host your cookbook club:

Q: Who makes what?

A: Usually the host makes the main course and assigns each guest a dish to make and bring to the party. But this is not a hard and fast rule. You already know there are no hard and fast rules in my kitchen.

So as the host you have the option to plan the menu and assign each dish, but it’s also fun not knowing what everyone will make. So you can just assign each guest a category – soups, starters, sides, salads, mains or desserts. (Someone can even bake a bread or challah from the challah chapter!)

Q: Can I share the book with my club?

A:  Sure. You can either pass around your cookbook, or each person can get his or her own copy (pretty please :) .) Preorder yours now to get it as soon as it is available.

Q: What do we do at the party?

A:  Eat and discuss amongst yourselves. And eat some more. Seriously, I want you to talk about the food and about the book.  You can rate the recipes you each made, discuss what you liked or how you would tweak each dish.  Hopefully everyone will have had a chance to read through my stories in the book too, so along with the food discussion, you can talk about your own experiences with some of the issues I write about – epic kitchen disasters, for instance, or the “what’s for dinner” debate, your favorite family heirloom recipes, and there’s lots more. (Like sleep deprivation, mother of the year award, play date lunches, brisket a love story, dessert before the meal, the power of a smile etc….) As host, you can lead the discussion with a story of your own, if you like; then go round the table to share the thoughts and experiences of others.

Q. What about wine?

A: Each recipe has a wine pairing.  Put one guest on buying a bottle or two to enhance the evening.

Q: How can I volunteer to be a host?

A: Put your name and town/city in the comments below.  Around September 17th we will select 10 random people from across the United States to be our hostesses.

 Update on 9/18 -  So excited to see so many states covered here, can’t believe we got one in Iowa!!  I wish I could give you all books and I hope you all consider hosting book club parties anyway.  We spread out the states and picked randomly among them. Look for an email from us.  The winners are:

Bryna Roth – Miami, FL
Avigayil – Lincolnwood, IL
Dia Matthews – Kansas City, MO
Sara – Baltimore, MD
Becky  – Elizabeth, NJ
Rachel F – Washington Heights, NY
George Lohmann – Midland, TX
Puttiemom – Los Angeles, CA
Kari – Franklin, MI
Liath Bricks – Richmond, VA






An Italian Holiday Feast


September 3rd 2013

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In last year’s Rosh Hashanah issue of Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller we shared three unique holiday menus.  Italian, Moroccan and Traditional.  Today we will share Alessandra’s Italian feast with you, but you don’t want to have to wait a year for the amazing recipes and menus we feature in our magazine, get your subscription here.

Click through to each recipe to find make ahead tips to make this menu easier to prepare.

Spinach, Hearts of Palm and Pomegranate Salad

This salad is a fresh and festive start to any meal

Fish Borekas

Fish Borekas

These borekas are crunchy, savory bites that are a great make-ahead dish.  The anchovies and capers add a salty component.

Ravioli in Broth

Meat Ravioli in Broth


stuffed veal roast

Stuffed Veal or Turkey Roast


sweet and sour pumpkin

Sweet and Sour Pumpkin


Spongata (Double Crusted Honey Nut Pie)

Spongata (Double Crusted Honey Nut Pie)

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


Leeks and Apples for Rosh Hashanah


September 3rd 2013

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As we are so close to Rosh Hashanah, there are so many things to say about it. I am focusing on food obviously. I come from a Sephardic family and both my parents are from Saloniki, Greece. I grew up on Jewish-Greek food. The holidays were the times when I could most see the differences between our customs and the others.


One of the most significant foods for Rosh Hashanah is apple dipped in honey. In my home my mother used to make many jars of apple jam to give to family and friends. We served this special apple jam with the prayer of a sweet New Year. Here’s the recipe, which you can also find in my cookbook.

When it comes to food memories, the holiday period is the time when they are strongest. Besides apple jam for Rosh Hashanah, my mother also used to make leek patties for the blessing:

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּכָּרְתוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ

May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that our enemies, haters, and those who wish evil upon us shall be cut down.

She used to make two versions – one vegetarian for me and one with minced meat. The recipe I share here and in my cookbook is for the vegetarian patties. They taste like heaven. No matter how many are made they’re gone in minutes without mentioning how many disappeared directly from the pan while making them. When I make them I keep counting them to reassure there will be enough to be served at dinner time.

Happy & Sweet New Year

Apple Jam Recipe

Leek Patties

Find these recipes above among other 100 kosher recipes with a whole section for Jewish Holidays: Cook in Israel – Home Cooking Inspiration.   For a limited time get $5 when you purchase a signed copy, here:  http://cookinisrael.ravpage.co.il/Cook-in-Israel