8 Back To School Dairy Lunches

 

August 13th 2014

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It is time to start thinking about getting the kids back to school and transition for Summer fun/vacation to our normal busy lives.   One of the things I dread most with school starting is packing my kids lunches.  Sure my school actually offers a hot lunch program, but they are expensive and my kids won’t eat them.  One of my kids won’t really eat anything for lunch, the other makes it easy for me with a standard yogurt, granola bar and fruit and the third could probably eat pasta with cheese in a thermos every day if I let her.  With her and you all in mind I have compiled this list of 25 back to school lunch ideas, no nuts, no seeds and no meat.

Choose your bento box!! In this article we have bento boxes filled with ideas from Pizza party to Asian themes.

kids veggie sushi

Lila's Lunch Sushi

Sushi is a great lunch idea and you can get really creative with fillings.  All vegetables or use kosher fake crab and avocado, or even canned tuna or salmon mixed with mayo inside sushi with some sriracha if your kids like some spice.

Wraps filled with beans and rice, cheese, avocado, tomatoes made to order for your kids, will sit well in the fridge from the night before.

Bagel sandwiches are a common go to, whether you keep it simply spread with cream cheese or butter or get fancy with this Tuna Nicoise Bagel, they are filling.

Pasta – can be sent hot in a thermos with cheese or sauce or both or room temperature, most kids don’t mind. Try this recipe for a healthy Tuna Noodle Casserole, complete with spinach.

Three Bean Vegetarian Chili

Send leftovers.  Make big pots of soup or chili heat and send in a thermos during the Winter, your kids will love having something hot during the day.  Don’t forget the cheese for this Vegetarian Chili.

passover mini quiche

Crustless Quiche with Asparagus and Oven Rosted Tomatoes

Eggs, frittatas and quiches are all wonderful school lunch ideas.  I love these mini quiches made with your kids favorite fillings for keeping the freezer and last minute lunches are made in seconds.

Mini Pizza Doughnuts

Mini Pizza Doughnuts

Savory doughnuts are another perfect lunchbox item that freezes well too.  Send along some carrot sticks and a fruit for a more complete meal.

What do you like to send for your kids lunches? Any new ideas I haven’t thought of yet?

The main image shows these lunchbox homemade granola bars.


 

Out Of The Dessert Box Grilling

 

August 13th 2014

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Grilled desserts are real showstoppers. The high heat oF the grill greatly amplifies the sweetness of summer fruits. In this recipe, grilled plums make a unique dessert salsa. If the jalapenos are too adventurous for you, use only one, or leave them out entirely– I find that it really punches up the flavor of the salsa. Any stone fruit can be substituted for the plums (apricots, peaches, nectarines).

This recipe uses the grill for 2 components: the plums for the salsa, and the pound cake. A medium-high grill is needed both times. If you make the salsa a day or two in advance, the flavor will only intensify.  To assemble the dessert:

Plate the warm pound cake slices. Cover with a gener- ous spoon of the salsa and a dollop of whipped topping. Garnish with mint leaves, if desired.

Grilled Pound Cake Recipe
Grilled Plum Salsa Recipe

As seen in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

Summer 2013

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The Best Way To Use Leftover Chicken

 

August 12th 2014

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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.

Anyone here have any clue what he means by “eat the house”?

“Eat the house” is Hubby’s way of saying “Jamie stop sending me food shopping for obscure expensive ingredients when we have plenty of good food in this house.” But what he is really saying is “Jamie I am not throwing out any more food. I don’t want to be the only one in this family eating leftovers. You also have to eat the leftovers again and again and again until there are no leftovers left. Then eat all those obscure and expensive ingredients you made me buy that are already right here in this house. Those things you had to have but have yet to use”. I know it’s a sin to throw out edible food but I can’t help but cook for an army and there are only so many times I can look at the same food. Right?

We used to have this great column years ago called right overs where we took leftovers and remade them into something new and improved and considerably different. That’s why I love this BBQ Chicken Sandwich. You can use leftover soup chicken and/or roast chicken and/or grilled chicken (even dried out chicken that doesn’t have much life left) from Shabbos or last night’s dinner and give it a makeover worthy of a before and after pict. I adore the color, texture and creamy taste of fresh sliced avocado with the sweet saucy shredded chicken. But of course feel free to stretch the meal even further (if you don’t have that much leftover chicken) by piling on lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, cucumbers or whatever other leftover fresh veg you have in the house.

When I come up with a creative way to “eat the house” I am super proud of myself and it makes hubby’s chorus a little less annoying. Not too much less annoying, but just a little.

What’s your favorite leftover makeover?

Here is the recipe for my Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwich and here are a few more recipes you can make with leftover chicken:

Chicken Pot Pie

Cashew Ginger Stir Fried Vegetables With Egg Noodles

Chicken Salad

Chicken Bahn Mi Sandwich

 

 

 


 

3 Recipes For The Perfect Burger

 

August 11th 2014

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There is nothing like a juicy burger, all siz- zling and crackling right off the grill to get the appetite going. I love grilling season and will arm wrestle my husband to see who gets to do the honors.

The Perfect Burger

The Best Burger Beef Mix

This mix is my favorite. The beef chuck provides the rich, fatty beefy flavor and the brisket adds a heartiness and dense texture. You can try other beef mixes but be sure to look for well-marbled meat and fat.

The Best Veggie Burger

 

Sometimes a veggie burger just hits the spot, especially when you want a dairy dessert! I added curry spices to my veggie burger as they pair well with the mango-habanero ketchup. If you are not a curry fan, leave them out.

I am not sure why most ketchups have tomatoes in them. Ketchup is actually an ancient Chinese concoction of pickled fish and spices that evolved into the tomato version we all know. As a different topping for my vegetable burgers I thought I would explore other versions of ketchup. Peaches have a dense texture that lends well to a thick burger topping condiment. I love the floral flavor of mangoes and the layer of flavor they lend to the sauce.  I added a fruity habanero pepper to the mix. If you like spicy food, I urge you to try the habanero. Habanero peppers are definitely spicy but have a fruity-complex flavor and not heat.  If you are unsure, just use a sliver of the pepper to try it.

 Salmon Burger

 

Bahn Mi Salmon Burger

Banh mi sandwiches are a byproduct of French colonialism in Indochina, combining French and Vietnamese ingredients and flavors. Banh mi sandwiches are my favorite sandwich and I cannot get enough of the lip-smacking sweet- sour and savory deliciousness. This is my latest Banh mi variation.

I like to use a combination of fresh Wild salmon and smoked salmon (not lox) for my salmon burgers. The briny fresh salmon alone would be “blown away” by the hot smoky grill or even a hot grill pan, but in combination with a smoked salmon, the fresh flavor shines through the smoke and is a brightly flavored alternative to a beef burger.

I use an aioli to bind my ingredients. The fat, in this case the egg yolks and oil, keep the patty intact and add moisture to the mix. I do not use starchy binders like breadcrumbs or flour as the delicate salmon texture would be lost to the gummy starch.

I added lime and ginger to my aioli for my rendition of the classic Vietnamese/French sandwich. I like the bright and “sunshiny” flavors.

 

 

 

 

As seen in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

Summer 2013

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Burgers 101

 

August 8th 2014

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For such a simple, classic sandwich, there are a surprising number of competing theories on how to make the perfect burger. Chef Mike Gershkovich insists that a true hamburger is made from 100% ground beef. But over at Pomegranate, Brooklyn’s most prestigious supermarket, “meatologist” Ari Heinemann disagrees. At Pomegranate, the most popular ground beef blend is the so-called Perfect Burger, a closely guarded secret recipe involving salt, onion powder, soy sauce and minced onions. And at Wolf & Lamb, Chef Daniel favors a simple mix of salt, pepper, garlic and onion— “seasonings that enhance the natural flavor of the meat, and don’t compete with it,” as Wuensch explained. Both Heinemann and Gershkovich recommend using ground chuck, an affordable and reliable choice.

At Wolf & Lamb, the chefs put aside scraps as they trim top-notch meat cuts like rib-eye and ribs, and then grind those scraps into their famous rib-eye burgers— Wuensch recommends home cooks try the same trick for an affordable way to have burgers made of top-quality meat.

Another point of disagreement between our panel of burger experts was the correct ratio of meat to fat
in the beef mixture. Wuensch advocated for a high fat percentage of 30%, while Chef Mike insisted that you need only 15% fat. In general, a good rule of thumb is that well-done burgers require more fat, while rare burg-
ers can be leaner. “In an all-beef burger,” Gershkovich explained, “the fat bastes the meat as it melts away, giving you a lot of flavor.”

The best way to know what is in your ground beef is to grind it yourself, but if this isn’t an option, find a real butcher shop where you can have your meat selected and ground to order. At Pomegranate, where fresh beef is ground daily, Heinemann recommends purchasing beef on the day you plan to use it, and notes that slight color changes on the surface of the meat is not a cause for concern. “Of course, if the meat starts to smell bad, you should start to worry,” he joked, cautioning that ground beef be kept cold at all times until it is cooked. While every chef we spoke to agreed that fresh meat is best, if that is not available in your area, you don’t have to feel deprived.

Jack’s Gourmet offers premium frozen burger patties in grocery stores nationwide. Look for Sweet Italian and Mexican Chorizo, modeled after the two most popular sausage flavors from the popular kosher meat brand, as well as a Facon Burger, made of premium chuck meat with bits of “Facon” beef bacon.

The Beef

Once your beef is ground, gently form it into patties and sprinkle generously with non-iodized salt and coarsely ground pepper. “Don’t over-handle it,” Gershkovich cautioned. “The more you roll and handle it, the tougher it gets.” A gentle touch will help the burger retain its flavor and texture—no additives necessary. A relatively thin patty, no more than 3⁄4 of an inch thick, will cook quickly and thoroughly, but if you want to make sure your burgers remain no more than medium-well on the inside, keep your patties about one inch thick. Pressing a dimple into the center of each patty will help prevent the burger from curling up into an unwieldy oval shape. Finally, patting the meat dry with a paper towel will help it sear properly.

The Cookout

Your next step? “Go outside and grill!” Heinemann and Wuensch both noted that most people prefer the grill, even though it is easier to get juicy, succulent burgers by using a skillet indoors. If you do grill directly over the flame, use a less fatty meat mixture and never, ever press burgers down onto the grates with your spatula. “Don’t try to flip the burger until it comes off the grates or the pan easily,” warned Wuensch. “Don’t play with it more than necessary.” Wait until it releases easily from the cooking surface, then flip, and wait until the other side is cooked thoroughly as well.

Doneness is a matter of personal preference, but for food safety reasons, the USDA recommends cooking ground beef to an internal temperature of 160°F.

Nowadays, the list of topping ideas for your burger stretches far beyond your basic ketchup, mustard, lettuce and tomato. There are aiolis, slaws, truffle oils, non-dairy cheese substitutes— enough options to last you until Labor Day. One particularly popular burger topping at kosher eateries is a fried egg—you can find a sunny- side-up perched on a hamburger at Amsterdam Burger Company, at Wolf & Lamb, and several other restaurants. “I think it’s because it has almost a dairy feeling to it,” explained Wuensch. He noted that after several attempts, Wolf & Lamb had decided against using non-dairy cheeses on their burgers, focusing instead on getting that creamy, melt-like sensation from eggs and egg-based sauces, like hollandaise sauce.

For the latest, trendiest and most decadent burger topping, try bacon. Or rather, its nearest kosher equivalent–Facon, from the Jack’s Gourmet line of meat products. We spoke to chef and Jack’s Gourmet founder Jack Silberstein about the wildly popular, and surprisingly authentic-tasting, kosher beef bacon, but he insisted that the authentic taste should come as no surprise at all. “Regular bacon is cured and smoked pork belly,” explained Silberstein. “The meat is dry-cured with salt and sugar, which pulls out moisture and concentrates the flavor, and then it’s smoked. Our facon is made of beef plate, the equivalent cut to pork belly on a steer. We cure it using the same dry-cure, and then cook it with smoke. There are no other tricks!” The result is satisfyingly crispy and smokey- tasting, making it a perfect burger topping–in fact, it is the brand used by Amsterdam Burger Company and many other restaurants. Jack Silberstein recommends the “ultimate breakfast” of a burger with Facon and a sunny-side-up egg, or suggests wrapping strips of Facon around small slider-size burgers for a unique appetizer.

Whether you choose to top your burgers with sauces and slaws, or stick to ketchup and mustard, make sure your toppings and buns are ready before the first burger hits the grill. “People wait for food; food doesn’t wait for people.” Chef Mike repeated this mantra several times, stressing that it is perfectly ok—even preferable—to have your guests wait and get their burgers one at a time as they come sizzling off the grill. “Good food is worth the wait,” he said with a smile. And when you hand your guests a burger so delicious and juicy that it will seem like a professional chef is hiding in the kitchen, they will be inclined to agree.

Read more from our chefs in A Better Burger.

As seen in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

Summer 2013

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A Better Burger – Talking With Chefs

 

August 8th 2014

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Picture yourself at a barbecue on a lazy summer afternoon. With one hand, you hold a frosty beer; with the other, you bite into a thick, juicy hamburger. Soft bun meets juicy tomato, crunchy pickle and savory, beefy burger in that one perfect bite — THE TASTE OF SUMMER…

That is, at least in theory. Far too often, the burgers I find at backyard barbecues are little more than crusty, blackened pucks of meat drowning in ketchup and mustard. Meanwhile, the humble hamburger is enjoying a haute-cuisine revival at kosher restaurants in New York and across the country.

Prime Grill Porcini Burgers

Prime Grill Porcini Burgers

Restaurants such as Rare in Miami, Shilohs and La Gandola in Los Angeles, and Shallots and Ken’s Diner & Grill in Chicago, create gourmet burger offerings that are worth trying out. At Amsterdam Burger Company, a new Manhattan restaurant run by Chef Mike Gershkovich, there are five variations on the classic beef burger, plus burgers made with tuna, chicken and lamb. At Pardes, in Downtown Brooklyn, a miniature burger is topped with a red wine onion jam, bacon and chicken liver. Midtown stalwart Wolf & Lamb serves burgers made of rib-eye steak. With this wave of popularity and reinvention, it seems like it’s the right time to take a second look at the homemade burger.

Our Favorite Burger From Wolf & Lamb

What is it about a burger that keeps us flipping them onto the grill every summer, and ordering them every time we eat out? “Burgers are nostalgic,” said Wolf & Lamb co-owner Zalman Wuensch. “Everyone remembers burgers from childhood — that Sunday afternoon barbecue, that family time. A satisfying burger takes you back to that—it’s more than just a meal.”

“We are living in a time where basic things, simple preparations, are valued,” said Chef Mike Gershkovich of Amsterdam Burger Company over lunch at his restaurant. “A hamburger is the definition of good eats.” Straight- forward as it may be, it takes skill, care, and a few secret tips to make a restaurant quality burger at home.

Amsterdam Burger

The secret, Gershkovich revealed, lies in simplicity and attention. “If your raw ingredients aren’t good, no additions or doctoring is going to make the final result taste good.” The key is starting with quality ingredients, handling them carefully, and paying close attention to even the smallest details. “Toppings are accessories,” he insisted. As for his own personal favorite burger topping? “A fresh cut slice of red onion. That’s it.”

Chef Daniel Espinoza, the chef at Wolf & Lamb agrees. It’s ironic, of course, that the head chefs at these two Manhattan eateries known for their creative burger toppings both insist that the best burger is a simple one, but it is a testament to their shared conviction in putting quality first.

Click here for more from our chef burger experts in our Burgers 101.

As seen in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

Summer 2013

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Cooking With Joy: Sweet Potato Casserole

 

August 7th 2014

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We have never really had sweet potato casserole in the 7 years we have been together. Some people are very familiar with it as a Thanksgiving staple- not us! Although, we do like sweet potatoes in general so this was not a dish that scared us off.

I know that Jamie thinks there is something wrong with people who don’t like marshmallows- I’m guilty- never said I was perfect! Hubs and the kids like marshmallows, but I felt that since we were all going to be enjoying this dish, it would be better sans the white goo.

I “varaitioned” up this recipe. In my opinion the variation notes on the recipes are there for the reader/cooker to love these recipes and make them their own (right Jamie?). I have done this with many of the recipes so far and probably will continue.

Hubs and I are anti putting nuts into (on top is different) things- like why would someone ruin a decadent fudgy brownie with a walnut? I know people are into it, just not us. Rather than putting the pecans in the casserole I put them on top. And for an added sweetness, I used honey glazed and put about ¼ cup brown sugar into the mix.

The casserole came out really great- even our 2 year old couldn’t get enough of it!

 

Sweet Potato Casserole page 110
DRESS IT UP Marshmallow-Topped Sweet Potato Casserole 


 

20 Summer BBQ Recipes

 

August 6th 2014

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Everyone seems to have their own summer barbecue traditions, right down to the way they spell it out their invitations (barbecue or BBQ–which to choose!).  Whether you like to keep things simple or love spending time by the grill, below are 20 recipes to please all grill masters alike.

 

Short ribs are dangerously delicious and incredibly versatile.  Enjoy classic Boneless Short Ribs or you can try the Sticky Cola Ribs, Korean BBQ Short Ribs, or Sticky Ginger and Honey Basted Lamb Ribs.

Garlic Honey Brisket

Although brisket needs to be prepared far in advance of the barbecue, once it’s cooked it fits right in with the rest of your barbecue favorites.  I first came across the Garlic Honey Brisket in Jamie’s latest cookbook, and since then there’s been no going back.  Brisket is a tough meat but is so versatile, from the Barbecued Brisket to the Cuban Creole Stew Braised Beef Brisket.

 

 

Prime Grill Porcini Burgers

 

When it comes to burgers there are so many ways to prepare it from the Classic Beef Burger loaded with toppings such as Special Sauce, Spicy Fried Onions, Corn and Avocado Relish, and the Grilled Hawaiian Burger, to meatless burgers like the Fresh Salmon Burger, Porcini Burgers and California Tempeh Burger.

 

 

There are so many ways to prepare fish, and grilling happens to be on of the best of them.  Grill Salmon on Wine-Soaked Plank or enjoy it raw in Salmon Ceviche.  Try Whole Roasted Turbot or Roasted Branzino with Citrus and Caramelized Fennel, both of which can be wrapped in silver foil and roasted on the grill.  Or keep things simple with Fish Tacos with Avocado Slaw.

Check out more BBQ recipes here!

 

DIY Cake Decorating

 

August 6th 2014

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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!

Before we get to the DIY tutorials, here are a few tips:

CHILL IN THE FREEZER: Place your cakes in the freezer for about 30 to 45 minutes to firm them up so you have fewer crumbs when you frost.

CRUMB COAT YOUR CAKES:
A crumb coat is just a thin layer of frosting (the same color you intend to frost the cake with) applied with an offset spatula to help hide crumbs. Don’t worry if crumbs get into your crumb coat, the crumbs will become “glued” into the surface of the cake with the 2nd chill.

CHILL AGAIN THIS TIME IN THE FRIDGE: Once you have applied a crumb coat you will need to let it set. Place your cake in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight. Once set, the surface will be ready for a final frost and to decorate.

Here are a few easy to decorate cake ideas, click on the links to get the full instructions:

DIY Decorated Train Cake

Baseball and Basketball Cupcakes

Basic Rainbow Cake

Double Rainbow Cake

 

As seen in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

Summer 2013

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Day In Jerusalem – Summer Activities

 

August 4th 2014

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This summer Israel has been in the news and I am sure it has been on your minds. While we pray for the safety of our soldiers, many of whom are our cousins, brothers, sisters, fathers, and friends, the incredible resilience of the Israeli people has kept the day to day life as close to normal as possible in Jerusalem. Summer camps have continued as usual with some changes to their itineraries due to security concerns.

The summer in Jerusalem is filled with festivals, special exhibits and even a beach. Instead of our traditional itinerary we would like to offer you lots of great suggestions for summer activities in Jerusalem.

Bambu: This incredible unique exhibit at the Israel Museum allows visitors (ages 6+) to climb through the interactive art installation in the Sculpture Garden. Made entirely of Bamboo and climbing rope this exhibit was created by the Starn brothers and allows you to climb up the steps and the paths and view the Jerusalem Hills and the top of the Israel Museum. This is an exhibit not to be missed! Separate tickets must be purchased for the exhibit and the museum is open for free for kids in August.

Jerusalem Has A Beach: Jerusalem has many attributes and many attractions but the one thing it did not have was a beach. In honor of summer, the First Station outdoor mall and entertainment center has created a beach with sand, umbrellas, beach volleyball, refreshments, kids activities and even outdoor showers. Later this month the simulated surf machine will open up to the public. The beach is free and activities are an additional fee.  During the day families can enjoy music, snacks and activities and then in the evening the beach is open to adults only.

Beach Bus: If you still prefer the real thing and want an easy way to go up to the Tel Aviv beach then you can take the Jerusalem Beach Bus. With pickups in Jerusalem’s Katamon, Rechavia and Bakaa neighborhoods, you can go straight to the beach on Fridays and be back before Shabbat, without the mess in your car or hassle of switching busses.

Ropes Course on Ammunition Hill: This summer take the Ropes Course Challenge in a truly unique location at Ammunition Hill. See the bunkers and learn about the history of the fight for Jerusalem as you learn to swing from the Rope swing and walk the rope ladder or slide down the Omega (zipline).  Activities can be customized for each group.

Israel National Parks: The summer is a great time to visit some of Israel’s most beautiful national parks. Water hikes, sound & light shows and historical tours are available at many of the parks. The closest parks to Jerusalem are Castel, Ein Hemed, Stalactite Caves and Ir David. Plan ahead and purchase an Israel National Parks Family Membership Card that lets you in to all the parks for free during the year.

August Summer Camps: It’s not too late to enjoy a special summer camp experience. Whether your kids want to learn how to surf, cook, train dogs, design fashion and more at Camp Kimama or want to experience a tech camp in the Start Up Nation at Big Idea, or learn to take care of horses and go horseback riding at King David Stables, there are so many choices for summer camps in Israel. To really get a sense of the options see our video blog of camps in Israel. When you are ready to plan for next summer take a look at our camps guide. Make next year a summer in Israel!

Festivals: Summer festivals in Jerusalem take place in July and August. They include the Jerusalem Film Festival, Hutzot Hayotzer Art Festival, Formula One Peace Road Show, International Puppet Festival and the Jerusalem Theater End of Summer Festival.

The best advice I have for tourists who have decided to come this summer during Operation Protective Edge (Tzok Eitan) is to be aware and plan ahead with our Red Alert Tips. Know where the safe rooms are and that if you are in Jerusalem you have 90 seconds to get there. You can still enjoy your summer in Israel.

I hope this blog post has given you the inspiration to spend your next summer in Jerusalem, especially with your family.  For more ideas of activities and events in Jerusalem for your family, contact joanna@funinjerusalem.com and I would be happy to give you some personalized recommendations.


 

Family Dinner, A Must

 

August 1st 2014

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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.

I remember going to friends’ houses and starving (even with a snack) until their family + daddy dinner time at 6 or 7pm.  My stomach just couldn’t get bear the wait.

But I have come to really, really, really! believe in the dinner as a family concept.  I remember reading something Rabbi Lawrence Hajioff (our JoK Rabbi) wrote about Shabbos and the endurance of the Jewish people as a whole and the success of the family unit (in contrast to other religions and cultures) as due in part to our weekly, ritual, undistracted, family-focused, Shabbos meals.

My parents are now divorced.  For the second time.  From each other.  Yes, they divorced each other twice.  Which of course means they married each other twice.  Now I am not saying it’s because we didn’t keep Shabbos and didn’t eat dinner as a family.  I am just saying.

Coordinating dinner as a family is so complicated I know, between schedules, and jobs, and extracurricular activities.  But to the extent that you can make family dinner a priority, at least once during the work week, the investment in your family is priceless.

At our family dinners we have a ritual where we go around the table and ask everyone individually to talk about the best part of their day.  As we sit down and begin serving the food everyone (including the adults) starts to think and get excited for their turn.  This exercise helps us all frame our sometimes wonderful, sometimes exhausting, sometimes difficult day into one with a positive takeaway.  The happiest memory shines front and center as does the person sharing it with the family.  It’s a simple exercise in optimism, in positivity, in the sharing of happy experiences with one another as well as in confidence building and in public speaking.  We make it a point to all participate and even ask my 2 ½ year old about the best part of her day.  She can’t talk much yet but she always says or does something cute that makes us all laugh.  Hubby and I share too.  We are careful to go around the table in a different order at each meal so everyone has a chance to be first.

What do you think about family dinner?  How important is it?  Do you do it?  What do you do to get the dinner table conversation going?  Or how do you focus it?


 

Tuna, Trendy and Gluten Free

 

July 31st 2014

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Believe it or not, growing up I used to look forward to the 9 days. Not that I enjoyed the fact that we were in mourning and that we couldn’t go swimming and that Tisha Ba’av was the longest fast of the year, but I did look forward to a week without Shabbat leftovers. The 9 days and their prohibition against eating meat meant no Shabbat leftovers on Sunday, and no leftovers on Monday and no leftovers on Tuesday, not to mention the occasional spill over to Wednesday and even Thursday.

Leftovers were not how my early childhood started. Our dinner menus changed when my youngest brother was born. 16 years my junior, with no one in-between, my brother and his dairy and soy allergies revolutionized dinnertime. My brother was so allergic to dairy and the proteins in dairy that you could not even touch him if you were eating dairy or washing dairy dishes. So my mom would make enough chicken and meat on Shabbat to last the whole week! No joke! Dairy took a back seat in our home. Because of my brother’s allergies, our dinners became more routine – chicken – Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday night, and if my memory serves me correctly probably Wednesday and Thursday night as well. Gone were the pizza and the lasagna, the eggplant Parmesan and my personal favorite — tuna casserole. Yet, once a year, in the heat of the summer, we stocked up on milk and cheese and feasted on my old dairy favorites. It was a dairy lover’s paradise for the whole family except my younger brother who still ate his chicken night after night.

As the years passed and I became a wife, a mother, and now a Savti, the 9 days have become a much more serious time for me, especially as I write this and the situation in Israel seems quite grave. I no longer have the levity I did as a child during these 9 days. I have a better and more mature understanding of what it all means. And, at the same time, I still love the milchig meals.

Tuna is one of my favorites. I used to love tuna casserole and would make it for my family regularly, until … I too had a child who could not tolerate a food group. This time it was gluten. When my daughter was diagnosed as gluten intolerant our dinners changed. Tuna casserole was no longer on the menu. There are gluten free noodles now, but they were not a big hit in our home and most cream of mushroom soup required for the recipe has gluten in them as well.

I was determined not to let my daughter’s allergy keep us from enjoying a family favorite. Fortunately I have found an even better option. My Aunt gave me a recipe for the most delicious gluten free tuna casserole. I tweaked it a bit for our family, and now the whole family categorically likes it even better than the traditional noodle tuna casserole. This Gluten Free tuna casserole is the best. I guarantee you will love this twist on the old favorite.

Here is the full recipe for my Gluten Free Tuna Casserole.

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Cooking with Joy: Easy Couscous Side

 

July 31st 2014

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I always notice people asking for quick and easy side dishes. Well this recipe might be exactly what those people are looking for. This recipe took about 7 minutes from start to finish NO JOKE!

While the water was boiling for the couscous I prepped the rest of the ingredients.

Hubs doesn’t like craisins, so I just added a few. I love the sweet tart flavor they add to most things I put them in. I also loved the combo of the cumin, parsley, lemon and pine nuts!

The couscous didn’t even hit our plates; we ate it right out of the bowl.

This is a no fail recipe- make your own! Double it or triple it, add more lemon or pine nuts or forget the craisins- whatever works for your crew!


 

10 Birthday Cakes All Grown-Up

 

July 30th 2014

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As a summer birthday girl myself, I have always been a fan of the ice cream cake.  For a long time I was never a fan of the traditional birthday cake, but after seeing so many sophisticated and delicious looking recipes here at Joy of Kosher, I’m starting to reconsider my position.  Here are 10 grown-up birthday cakes that will give ice cream cake and your go-to birthday cake a serious run for it’s money.

 

 

Summer Berry Chocolate Cake:  I’ve never been much of a cake love, except for ice cream cake, of course, but the idea is growing on me.  It’s hard to beat a classic chocolate cake, especially when it’s covered in icing and loaded with ripe summer berries.

 

 

Brazilian Style Coconut Truffle Cupcakes:  Don’t be intimidated by the ten-step process, with some planning it’s quite manageable; these cupcakes take a little extra work but are totally worth the effort.

 

 

Babka Bundt Cake

Babka Bundt Cake:  The alliteration in the title is only the beginning of the fun that this cake has in store.  It combines the comfort of both babka and the old-fashioned bundt in a way that breathes new life into these tried and true desserts.

 

 

Maple Walnut Chiffon Cake: The ingredients sound more suited to the fall or chillier weather, but this cake is delicate enough to serve for a summer birthday.

 

 

Frangipane Tart with Amaretto Honey Poached Pears

Frangipane Tart with Amaretto & Honey Poached Pears: Presentation is key here, the poached pears appear to be growing out of the cake in a surreal, and very appetizing manner.  Encourage some child-like giddiness with this fantastical cake.

 

 

Candied Orange Cheesecake: I can imagine serving this cake to compliment a lovely birthday meal of grilled fish and summer salads.  There is something so happy about this recipe that it begs to be enjoyed in conjunction with the sunny summer weather.

 

 

Traditional Jewish Seven Layer Cake: Traditional and impressive, this towering cake will be enough to feed even the most enthusiastic cake eaters.

 

 

strawberry shortcake with coconut frosting

Strawberry Shortcakes: Early summer is strawberry season where I live, so I’m going to substitute fresh berries for the frozen ones called for in the recipe.

 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Cake with Peanut Praline and Caramel Sauce

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Cake with Peanut Praline and Caramel Sauce: This cake seems to have every indulgent ingredient possible, but hey, it’s your birthday so enjoy!

 

 

Coffee Crêpe Cake

Coffee Crêpe Cake: This would be a lovely cake to serve at a birthday brunch.  This cake takes some time because of the crepe preparation, so it might be best to prep the cake the night before if you plan to serve it early in the day.


 

Hybrid Fruits: 3 Pluot Recipes

 

July 30th 2014

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Pluots are a hybrid of a plum and an apricot and only make an appearance during the summer.

We are thrilled to be presenting you with a true summer fruit and several ways to use it. There are many varieties of pluots, mostly origi- nating from California, and each farm gives their crop a unique name — ranging from Dinosaur Eggs, Flavor Grenade, Dapple Dandy and Flavorglo, just to name a few. Pluots are sweet and juicy with a pink/red interior. They are full of vitamins A and C, and about 40 to 80 calories. Use pluots as you would plums.

 

Grilled Pluot Salad

Grilled fruit is a recent phenomenon that works well on many fruits.  The grilled plots work especially well in a salad to start or even be a meal.

Pluot Tart

Tarts are easy when using puff pastry dough, just choose a favorite jam and get your pluots ready for the quickest Summer dessert you can offer.

Macerated Pluots

Macerated fruit is the process of of breaking down the fruit usually just using sugar to bring out the fruits natural juices.  The fruits become softer, easier to chew and digest. This version uses a little citrus zest and juice to add more flavor and is wonderful served alone or top of a cake or yogurt.

How do you like to eat Pluots?

As seen in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine (Summer 2013) – Subscribe Now.