Vegetarian Monte Cristo Sandwich

 

November 5th 2014

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A Monte Cristo sandwcih is like a stuffed, savory french toast. Similar to a Croque Madame, these sandwiches are typically filled with ham and cheese and then dipped in an egg batter before being pan fried. To make a kosher version, you can just leave out the ham and make a glorified grilled cheese, but I wanted to take that a step further and add in apple slices.

Everyone knows apples work well with cheddar, in my recipe I actually used a Blue Marble cheese from Sincerely Brigitte, but a cheddar would work well too. The apple didn’t really get soft and I really enjoyed the crunch that it provided in this sandwich. While preparing this sandwich I learned that it is customary to serve a Monte Cristo sandwich with a sweet sauce, so I served mine with a Plum and Fennel Chutney I got from Kosher Artisanal. It went perfectly.

Here’s my recipe for Apple and Cheddar Monte Cristo


 

A New Very Flavorful Chicken Salad

 

November 4th 2014

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Making a fun mayonnaise is an easy way to perk up an old standby like chicken salad. Piri piri, sometimes called the African birdseye chili, is a chili pepper from the southern part of that continent and proud member of the hotter-than-heck family of peppers. My version is toned down considerably, with roasted poblanos. The dish offers a crunch from peanuts, often used in southern and central African cuisine, and a sweet bite of golden raisins, showing off a pinch of the complexity found in pan-Indian curries. And it’s all tucked in one delicious little sandwich.

Get my full recipe here.


 

Avocado Egg Salad

 

November 3rd 2014

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As a Registered Dietitian, I always suggest that my clients eat whole foods, whenever possible. Not only are whole foods more nutritious and packed with more healthful vitamins and minerals than their processed counterparts, but they are also naturally delicious.

Eggs are am excellent example of a whole food and are good source of protein, rich in vitamin D, biotin and choline. Eggs are also inexpensive and widely available.

Clients often ask me if they should omit the yolk in favor of the pure-protein fat-free egg whites. In moderation, egg yolks are hugely nutritious and filled with delicious flavor and richness. I suggest my clients consume no more than two eggs per day, and do not eat them everyday. But constantly ditching the yolk is entirely unnecessary.

Did you know, eggs are also a great fertility food for women who are trying to conceive? The choline found in egg yolks has been linked to fetal brain development.  Healthy diets, healthy babies!

This recipe uses both whole eggs and egg whites, and swaps traditional mayonnaise for guacamole.  The combination of healthy fats and protein, this is sure to be a filling lunch or light dinner.  Serve with crackers or make a sandwich with bread or in a lettuce wrap and enjoy.

Get the full recipe for my Avocado Egg Salad.


 

The Evolution of Kosher Offerings at Winn-Dixie

 

October 31st 2014

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I grew up in South Florida and I am very familiar with Winn-Dixie, but since I left at the age of 18 for college, I never knew about their commitment to kosher.  This year we have teamed up with Winn-Dixie to help spread the word about their unbelievable selection of kosher offerings across the Sunshine State.   Last month, before Rosh Hashanah, Jamie visited the Winn-Dixie Tamarac store.  She shared some her favorite recipes as part of a live food demonstration, handed out Joy of Kosher magazines and signed books for a crowd of 250 people.  Thanks to all the fans that came out, even in the pouring rain!!  (see photos from the event on our Facebook page)

Winn-Dixie has been highlighting kosher products and the Jewish foods for years.    They boast over 1,000 kosher Winn-Dixie brand items on store shelves.   Winn-Dixie  also has three full-service kosher markets within their stores with delis, meat cutting rooms, prepared foods, catering, sushi, pizza, fried chicken and more, all under the ORB.

 Ahron Scharman started with Winn-Dixie as a mashgiach in the Aventura store back in 2011.  At that time they had just finished renovating their store including an expansion of their kosher offerings.  The Aventura store originally had a small kosher deli with rotisserie chicken and sliced meat, but when they opened the new concept, a one-stop shop, “making it convenient for the kosher community that worked with their busy schedules”,  explained Ahron.  They continued to grow the kosher offerings, and before they knew it, Friday became one of the busiest days of the week.

Over the last few years, with the success of Aventura, Winn-Dixie has begun to dramatically grow the selection of kosher products at their Tamarac and Boca Raton locations.  Last year, Boca got the full kosher “store within a store” to service the large Orthodox and kosher community there.

In addition, Winn-Dixie  has 600 stores showcasing specialty kosher dry goods offerings.  You won’t just see borscht and gefilte fish in the kosher section, Winn-Dixie is promoting healthy, innovative, organic products for kosher consumers to choose.  They have 16 bakery products from challah to rugelach at 120 stores.  Many stores offer their Grab n Go prepared foods, double wrapped and easy to eat wherever you go.

Winn-Dixie has found that consumers are excited about the kosher offerings from affordable store own brand products to full service kosher stores within stores.  Especially around major holidays, Winn-Dixie  sees a surge of interest in finding unique kosher products easily available.  Ahron says, “the kosher product availability at Winn-Dixie stores encourages the growth of local Jewish communities so the community and the stores grow together.”

Ahron rose from store Mashgiach to Category Manager for Kosher and Ethnic Foods and is now working at the corporate headquarters in Jacksonville where he is working to further the company’s growth in serving the kosher community.   And in case you were wondering,  his favorite Winn-Dixie kosher product is the fried chicken!


 

Cucumber Sandwiches

 

October 31st 2014

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Oh how we Israelis love our cucumbers.

 

Year round we are blessed with the perfect lovely crop, that special variety often referred to as Lebanese or Israeli or Persian cucumbers in North America. This variety is small and firm, lacking excess water or bitter skin. We eat them whole, sliced, most classically chopped along with our other national vegetable treasure, the tomato, lightly dressed with a splash of good quality olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Uniquely, cucumbers here in Israel are are regular if not expected addition to most sandwiches. An on the go grab from any bakery or cafe, classic tuna, egg, cheese and such, will likely include cucumber slices, often replacing leafy greens adding special crunch and flavor.

Working equally well as a featured ingredient and as an accent to other flavor profiles, the humble cucumber can be elevated to its highest form in easy to prepare elegant sandwich combinations ideal for a festive brunch or even a light dinner.

 

My lovely and talented friend and food photographer gave a definitive eyebrow raise when I told her we would be doing a cucumber sandwich shoot. From England originally she had visions of watery, tasteless unappealing sandwiches with the crust cut off. I assured her I would do everything possible to enliven this traditional high tea finger food.

Here I have prepared two such options, one using cucumbers as a featured ingredient in a unique Middle Eastern combination, the other a crunchy garnish to a more rustic filling rusk.

Get the full recipes here:

Druze Laffa with Preserved Lemons, Cucumber and Labneh Cheese

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Rusks with Creamy Mustard and Dill Sauce

 

Photos by: Photoli Photography by Andrea Brownstein - www.photoli.net


 

Cooking With Joy: Orange Chicken

 

October 30th 2014

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This sweet and sticky glaze lives up to it’s name. Just from the prep of this marinade alone the stickiness comes through. From cutting up the lemons and limes to scraping the orange marmalade out of the jar, the stickiness was everywhere! I opted to use a whole chicken cut in eighths rather then the drumsticks alone since our family likes tops and bottoms.

I am usually not one to obsess over wings. But let me tell you- the glaze on the wings is INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!!!! It was great on the rest of the chicken too. The crispiness of the skin of these wings made me want to keep eating them.

Sweet and Sticky Citrus Drumsticks page 165
DRESS IT UP Sweet and Sticky Stuffed Cornish Hens

I was so sad there were only two wings on the whole chicken, so I decided to repeat this recipe the next week with a family pack of wings. This time there was plenty for everyone to enjoy. I let the wings marinade in the fridge for a few hours and then baked at 400 for 25 minutes. Then I transferred the wings to a cooking tray and broiled them on high for five minutes on each side to get them nice and crispy. Before serving I dunked the wings back in the marinade to coat, and boy did they taste good! After a brief wing eating tutorial our 6 year old got in on the action too. It is such a nice feeling making a meal that the whole family enjoys!


 

Making a Kosher Reuben Sandwich

 

October 30th 2014

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Over the summer I read somewhere that the Reuben sandwich was one of the top 5 favorite sandwiches in this country. While the sandwich is associated with the Jewish deli and Jewish food, it must have been created when Kosher style came around. The traditional sandwich is inherently not kosher given that it combines meat, corned beed, and cheese, Swiss. That being said many kosher delis will serve it without the cheese and others have dressed it up, like Citron and Rose in Philadelphia, who makes an open faced lamb Reuben sans cheese.

Nowadays you can even try vegan cheesy from Daiya, should be a pretty good substitute. For my sandwich, I decided to try something vegetarian. I started out by making some Pastrami Beets. These were amazing on their own, slice up thin, they can be eaten on their own or served in any kind of sandwich for a healthy pastrami, where double stuffed is encouraged. For the rest of the sandwich I kept it classic, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and just because I could, low fat Swiss cheese. Make sure to use a good quality rye bread and you will have a vegetarian Reuben to rival all others.

Get my recipe for Beet Pastrami Reuben


 

Step Up your Sandwich Game: 8 Sandwiches to Try

 

October 29th 2014

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As it is officially sweater season, I enjoy nothing more than a lunch or dinner of a half sandwich and a steaming bowl of soup.  But seeing as I will be joining the real world quite soon, (graduation is in less than two months!), I’m giving my go-to sandwiches a much needed update.  It takes just a little creativity and few new spices and toppings to take your favorite sandwiches to the next level.  What’s your current go-to sandwich, how do you like to change it up? Please share in the comment section below!

 

Teriayki Beef Banh Mi with Sesame Cucumber Salad

1.  Teriyaki Beef Banh Mi with Sesame Cucumber Salad: I feel more sophisticated just reading the name of the sandwich!  It’s not intimidating or difficult to make, just think of it as an Asian inspired ( and healthier version) of the pastrami sandwich.

 

greek grilled cheese

2.  Greek Style Grilled Cheese Hoagies with Scallions: Melava Malka, anyone?  While I might not bring this sandwich to work, it is definitely a dinner-time approved comfort food.

 

Mini Chocolate Coconut Sandwiches

3.  Mini Chocolate Coconut Sandwiches:  Not exactly dessert for dinner, but these pareve sandwiches are a nice weekday treat and make for a seriously adorable dessert.

 

4.  Kouftikes de Prasa Sandwiches: Traditionally this sandwich is made with mini meatballs, but this vegetarian version is healthier and even more delicious.  Sweet and savory leek patties are seasoned with cinnamon, cumin and cayenne, and topped with labneh and spicy pickled cabbage.

 

Short Rib Sliders

5.  Short Rib Sliders:  Flanken is a popular cut of meat that can be prepared in a growing number of ways.  No need to wait to throw it into shabbos cholent, instead serve it on a weekday in these short rib sliders.  Prepare the meat ahead of time, or throw it in the oven after school or work and let it slow cook until dinner time.

 

6.  Turkey Sandwich with Simple Fig-Onion Jam: The age-old turkey sandwich meets sophistication, the fig-onion jam makes for a delicious condiment and an extra dollop can hide any dryness the turkey, especially if its leftover, can have.

 

Non Dairy Cashew Ice Cream Sandwiches

7.  Cashew Ice Cream “Sandwiches”: This is a make-ahead recipe for sure, there’s isn’t a lot of individual prep time but the cashews need time to soak and the ice cream to freeze.  It’s well worth the wait though!

 

8.  Grilled Vegetable Wraps with Creamy Coleslaw: An easy weekday vegetarian meal, this sandwich works well for both lunch and dinner.

 

 


 

Joy of Kosher Living in Atlanta

 

October 29th 2014

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I was born and raised in the charming southern city of Atlanta, Georgia and am one of few Observant Jews who can claim bragging rights to being a fourth-generation Atlantan (a real Southern gent’). I guess you could say “I’m the real thing” (with apologies to the Coca-Cola Company). That being said, I very much feel a part of Jewish Atlanta. I also very much feel a part of Kosher Atlanta, in particular, as my father ran a popular and very much missed Kosher bakery in Atlanta for close to twenty years and conducted business with many of the city’s synagogues and kosher hotels- giving me an inside look into many of the city’s kosher venues. Always one who has been enraptured by food, I have also seen many restaurants come and go, from our short-lived French bistro-Élysées Buckhead to -the southern family style Twelve Oaks BBQ- to the great neighborhood pizza place, Wall Street Pizza (which is also very much missed). Many Atlantans have enjoyed the flavors and cuisine-culture that these bygone restaurants all respectively brought to Kosher Atlanta.

Mock Up Of The Owners of The Spicy Peach

Times have changed and the Jewish community of Atlanta has grown by leaps and bounds in the past couple of years. With that growth comes the expansion of kosher offerings in the city, most recently a specialty food store ‘The Spicy Peach’. Think Gourmet Glatt/Pomegranate, Amazing Savings, and Oh Nuts! all combined into one tiny store with the Southern heart of roadside Cracker Barrel. Artistically packed into the cozy store are dozens of gourmet cheeses, scrumptious chocolates & candies, high-end disposable dining wear, and other hard-to-find gourmet specialty kosher items (like exotic international/ethnic sauces and snacks) that the city was missing until the Spicy Peach’s arrival.  The Spicy Peach also offers a full line Panini and sandwich bar, soup station, and cholov-yisroel iced-coffee drinks and soft serve ice cream. It’s the new one -stop -shop for kosher awesomeness!

Fuego Mundo

In the Atlanta dining scene, Fuego Mundo is really where kosher is at! Fuego Mundo, meaning “world of fire” is the city’s “hottest” kosher restaurant. Located in the heart of one of Atlanta’s busiest business districts and just a short drive from all of the city’s Jewish neighborhoods, is a fusion style South American wood fire grill- specializing in healthy, organic, vegan, and gluten free dining options. I dare say I don’t think you’ll find a kosher restaurant quite like Fuego Mundo anywhere else in the U.S. Originally opened as a non-kosher restaurant in 2010, the owners decided to cater to the kosher community of Atlanta two years after their initial opening- a decision that was met with great excitement and appreciation from the kosher community. Diners get to enjoy watching their entrees being grilled right before their eyes on an open-fire wood grille while they sit and spend quality time with their family and friends. The entrée menu offers a variety of options from pineapple glazed citrus-pepper grilled salmon -to spicy grilled chicken breast- to their 16 oz. Uruguayan grass fed rib-eye steak. They even offered a grilled tofu steak and a number of amazing South American and traditional side dishes. Live musical entertainment is just an added bit of excitement to the atmosphere on a Saturday night. There’s something for everyone at Fuego Mundo.


The reigning kosher establishment in Atlanta is Chai Peking. Located inside the Toco Hills Kroger supermarket, the ever-popular Chinese take-out has been catering to kosher Atlantans for over 15 amazing years. I was amused when some friends of mine who recently moved to Atlanta seemed surprised on how good kosher Chinese food in Atlanta was, smiling with satisfaction as they told us about their meal. Chai Peking is a unique kosher Chinese place…let’s admit it: how many Chinese places do you know that serve Cholent on Thursdays as a fundraiser for a local charitable organization? But of course it’s their food (in addition to the great Southern service) that makes them stand apart. With over 150 menu options including veal, fish, and Americana and Israeli dishes, there is something for everyone at Chai Peking. My childhood favorite was their Chinese hot dog (hot dog wrapped in pastrami and deep fried a wonton wrapper) and our family favorite is the General Tso’s chicken and garlic chicken and beef.

The summers in Atlanta can be schvitzing, to say the least. To remedy the hot and humid summer days are two great spots for frozen treats: Bruster’s Ice Cream and Menchie’s frozen yogurt. Bruster’s fresh made ice cream and waffle cones have been delighting Atlantans for over a decade while Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt has joined the kosher scene within the past couple years. In my opinion, what’s more fun than cooling myself off with frozen yogurt is being able to sample all the self-serve yogurt options myself before deciding on my flavors.

The sweet tooth offerings in Atlanta don’t stop at ice cream and frozen yogurt. The city boasts five kosher certified Krispy Kreme donut locations, the coolest cotton candy you have ever heard of by ‘Cotton Cravings’ (located in the heart of uptown’s Lenox Mall), and a fun gourmet cookie shop known as Ali’s Cookies, that are so good they were featured as “snack of the day” on Rachel Ray’s daytime Talk Show. And for those who think they’re in heaven with 7-11, Atlanta’s QuickTrip convenience stores have many frozen and hot beverages that are kosher( by AKC list approval) that put 7-11 Slurpees to shame.

Publix Supermarket Toco Hills

Atlanta also boasts a number of Kroger Co. grocery outlets which offer a full line of kosher products, kosher deli and take-out, and fresh-cut kosher meat and poultry. Not to mention, Atlanta has the only Publix Supermarket that has a kosher meat department, kosher deli (good fried chicken) and sub-sandwich shop, and a fully-kosher bakery. One can also find fresh kosher meat and poultry, dairy products, as well as fresh baked goods at two of the city’s Costco locations.

While the local supermarkets offer wonderful fresh meat and poultry options, many of the city’s residents buy their meat from Griller’s Pride. Griller’s Pride is a local purveyor of fine fresh meats, specializing in premium glatt-kosher beef, fowl, and homemade authentic South African sausages (AKA: Boerewors) and biltong. The best part is that they ship anywhere in the U.S.

Steve Gilmer’s ‘Kosher Gourmet’, Atlanta’s oldest independent kosher meat-market, offers fresh cut meats to customer specification, a colorful array of Shabbos takeout, traditional NY deli sandwiches, and specializes in catering for special occasions and corporate events.

The city also boasts two Middle-Eastern/Israeli restaurants (Pita Palace and Pita Grille) and a vegetarian family -friendly restaurant, Broadway Café, where customers can go to enjoy hot pizza and a selection of fresh dairy fare. Pizza lovers can also get some amazing pizza (really amazing!) on Thursday evenings from Congregation Beth Tefillah (Chabad of Georgia), which has been selling quality stone-oven pizza (for takeout) as a weekly fundraiser for over 12 years. This is some of the best pizza I have ever had and the funny thing is that a lot of kosher Atlantans are not even aware that this exist!

As I continuously watch the Atlanta Jewish community grow by leaps and bounds, I watch with anticipation as what the growth will bring next to Atlanta’s kosher scene. A sushi place? Hamburger Joint? A House of Dog? Carlos & Gabby’s??? Until then, I will enjoy the many great kosher establishments that bless the capital of the Sweet South.


 

Spicing Up Tradition, Santa Fe Style!

 

October 28th 2014

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In this multi-cultural melting pot, one enterprising family endeavors to bring a uniquely “New Mexican” spin to generations-old Ashkenazi and Sephardi recipes.

Thanks to Santa Fe, New Mexico’s historically inclusive culture, Jewish travelers will feel welcome. Reminders of how European Jewish immigrants helped build Santa Fe from the ground up can be found in every part of town, from world-re-nowned art gallery street Canyon Road to museums and public buildings. La Posada, one of Santa Fe’s poshest hotels and most coveted sites for weddings and bar mitzvahs (kosher catering available), was built out of the homes of German-Jewish immigrants Abraham and Julia Staab, instrumental in transforming the city into a trade center and state capital in the 19th century.

Even with five shuls and approximately 7,000 Jews among the greater population of 65,000, however, there are no stand-alone kosher cafes—surprising when one considers the well-documented impact the Staabs and other pioneers, entrepreneurs and artists had on Santa Fe. Chabad Santa Fe’s Rabbi Berel and Devorah Leah Levertov, however, believe there is no reason why there shouldn’t be a kosher restaurant in Santa Fe. While Devorah runs a small kosher “market” out of the family garage, and Santa Fe Chabad offers catering services as well as prepared meals-to-go ($40), they are diligently working to push things forward with the same pioneering spirit as their 19th century counterparts.

Rabbi Levertov recently worked with the Santa Fe Tortilla Company to make their production facilities kosher. A visitor can also get a taste of their vision now by contacting Chabad Santa Fe to attend one of their Friday Shabbos dinners or holiday events.

Every Shabbos and gathering is admittedly a labor of love, as Devorah Leah makes the rounds to different area supermarkets (Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Smith’s, and Albertson’s) and Santa Fe’s nationally acclaimed farmers’ market to stock up on provisions and produce. Every Friday, Devorah Leah and her daughters bask in the glow of a Georgia O’Keefe sunset and the warm, pungent aromas of New Mexico chili and spices as the different dishes that will comprise their late spring Shabbos spread.

“What makes New Mexico cuisine special and why I love it so much are the flavors,” affirms Devorah Leah as she checks on her green chili matzoh ball soup. “The way we prepare food on the holidays as well as every day is a mix of traditional (Ashkenaz) kosher food and New Mexican components such as the fresh green and dried red chilies. Every year we purchase a big stack of green chilies when they are in season in the fall, and we use both kinds throughout the year in everything. Though roasting chilies takes effort, the smell alone is worth it. We do chili-based stews for major holidays and events, and occasionally offer a chili cholent!”

SPICY TIPS FROM DEVORAH LEAH’S KITCHEN

A word on chili: “When using chili, I add accordingly for extra flavor. Here in New Mexico, people eat their chili dishes very hot, but you need to be careful as every chili pepper is different, and the longer you cook the dish, the more the chili flavor dilutes.”

Chili Chicken Soup: “I prep and combine one bag of carrots (chopped), one large sweet potato, three chopped zucchinis, a whole chopped onion, salt, pepper, garlic, a bunch of parsley and most importantly, two large roasted New Mexico green chili peppers, (no skin and no seeds) in a large pot with the chicken. Next, I fill the pot with water, bring to a boil and simmer for a few hours. The chili gives it a good kick!”

Chili Gefilte Fish: “I line the bottom of a pan with 8 ounces tomato sauce, black pepper, garlic powder, parsley and two tablespoons of lemon juice. I take all the parchment paper off of my gefilte fish, put two rolls into the pan, pour lemon juice over the frozen rolls and pour remaining half can of tomato sauce over the fish and lemon juice. Then sprinkle some garlic powder, red chili pepper, black pepper and parsley on top of sauce. I bake it uncovered for two hours at 350°F.

Chili Potato Side Dish: “Cut your potatoes into chunks and boil until soft, but be careful not to overcook them. Next, drain the water and add olive oil, salt, red chili pepper, fresh parsley, garlic powder and diced New Mexico roasted green chili pieces. If you can- not get these peppers in your area, or the peppers are not in season, you can use cans of hot roasted green chili pepper, diced. Mix it all together, serve immediately or keep warm in oven.”

New Mexico Taco Salad: “This is a mix of romaine lettuce, fresh tomatoes, black olives, avocado, red onions and roasted corn. What makes the salad ‘New Mexican’ is the dressing, which needs to be added in at the very last minute. The dressing is two parts of homemade medium or hot salsa, mixed with one part mayo. You then customize it with fresh diced green chili or red chili added to the dressing to taste. Finally, mix crumbled tortilla chips like those by Garden of Eden and top with more homemade salsa.”

RESOURCES:

Chabad Jewish Center of Santa Fe
www.chabadsantafe.com
(505) 983-2000
Info@chabadsantafe.com

Santa Fe Farmers’ Market

New Mexico Jewish Historical Society

The Jewish Federation of New Mexico Headquartered in Albuquerque, this organization provides services and information for Jews throughout the state. 

Santa Fe Hadassah

As seen in the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

Summer 2013

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Food Tours in Israel

 

October 27th 2014

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This past summer, I had the amazing chance to spend six weeks in Israel with my family. We really got to see what it was like to LIVE in Israel. We arrived toward the end of June and two weeks later we heard our first emergency siren. The siren didn’t really worry me or my kids, but all the calls from friends and relatives helped me realize that my Israeli cousins weren’t worried for our safety, but for our sanity. We readjusted to this new normal with a profound faith in our Army and the people of Israel who were remarkably resilient during these difficult days.

We made some changes to our trip and moved north where we got to spend more time with family. The events of the summer didn’t hold us back from all the eating we had planned. Before the trip, I had been researching all the Israel food tours that have popped up in recent years.  There are many companies that offer all kinds of culinary tours, here are a few I have been in touch with (feel free to add any that you have used in the comments below:

Due to timing, I did my own tour of the Tel Aviv Carmel Market and Machaneh Yehuda.  Pictured here is a Hummus shop in the Carmel market.  I heard great things about this Hummus shop that looked like an old synagogue, but I didn’t get a chance to eat there, because we were too full from an Israeli breakfast.

Machaneh Yehuda was a zoo and not easy to navigate with three kids, but our favorite stall was the halva guys.  They offer plenty of free tastes of the multitude of flavors they sell and my kids had a ball picking out some to take home.  Next time I plan to try the Shuk Bites tour, where you take a self-guided tour that points you to the best tastes at the market.  I also won’t go on a Friday.

Our best tour this trip was the Tel Aviv tour by Delicious Israel. Delicious Israel is a food tour company run by Inbal Baum, an Israeli who was brought up in the US. She gave up a promising career as a New York lawyer for her lifelong passion for food and history. She has started a successful business organzing food tours and cooking classes in Tel Aviv. Inbal introduced us to her favorite shops and sites as we walked from the Jaffa Port to the Levinsky market.

Upon leaving the Jaffa Port we had our first bite, and it was an unbelievable hummus that will forever change the way I think about hummus. While I loved the whole experience, I particularly loved dipping raw onion into the dense, creamy spread. It allowed me to eat more without filling up on the pita (as much).

We had a few other tasty treats and learned about Jaffa oranges and walked through the Jaffa flea market, but the real highlight for me was our visit to the historic Levinsky market. The market has been around since the 1920s and is recently enjoying a resurgence of interest by Israeli foodies and tourists. It has a unique mix of old and new shops for spices, baked goods, cheese, delis and more.

I’m still dreaming of the soda guy! Everyone that experiences Benny’s sodas get hooked on the amazing natural flavors he concocts in his closet-sized laboratory. Fellow blogger, Shulie shares her experience and a recipe on the Forward here. We loved it so much I came back with my kids (check them out on Instagram) and now have my oldest son working on his own sodas – look out Benny!

We also loved the antipasto platter from one of the local gourmet shops. They had the most unbelievable olives and homemade stuffed grape leaves. We tried crispy potato borekas right out of the oven and an interesting frozen dessert drink called Faloodeh, made with rice vermicelli, sugar and rose water. Definitely a one-of-a-kind experience!

A food tour is a wonderful way to experience the history, culture and cuisine of a city. They can be customized for your taste, kashrut level or family interests and can really personalize the travel experience.

I highly recommend trying a food tour next time you are in Israel.

If you have done one in Israel or anywhere else, please share your experience in the comments below.

 


 

A Family Vacation in Lake Como

 

October 24th 2014

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Lake Como, a popular vacation destination in Northern Italy is best known to most Americans today because George Clooney lives there, see pictures of his villa here.  Now, that wasn’t my reason for going (at least that’s what I promised my husband) and I didn’t have any celebrity sightings at all, but I did see some of the most gorgeous scenery imaginable.

On our family trip to Israel this summer we were able to arrange a brief stopover in Milan, after a short stay in the world’s fashion capital we took a 1 hour train to the lake region.

The area of Lake Como is comprised of dozens of small villages running up and down either side of the water.  It is often recommended for romantic getaways and honeymoons, because of the gorgeous views of the Swiss Alps over the lake, quaint small towns and beautiful gardens, but it is also very family friendly.

It is relatively easy to find an apartment to rent with Airbnb or other vacation rental sites so that you can have enough space for even a very large family. You can bring some kosher foods from Milan which boasts several kosher restaurants and markets or buy fresh produce in the local markets.  The biggest decision you have is which village to stay in.  A ferry boat service traverses the lake throughout the day and some towns offer water taxi service, but some villages have more frequent service than others.  You will want to find a nice village that you enjoy and works with your budget, but it’s nice to know that many other small towns are only a short boat trip away.

Look at these views from the ferry.

We stayed in Bellano, this was the view from our bedroom, the waterfall that put us to sleep every night.

Bellano was not as busy as some of the other lake towns which was a plus for us.  Bellano had several small markets, playgrounds, a movie theater, public and private swimming areas and some great fishing.  We thought it was the perfect place to stay, but there is less to do for tourists.

Since the nineteenth century, Bellagio has enjoyed a reputation as one of the most exclusive and opulent resort villages in Italy. The neoclassical villas of Bellagio evoke refinement and sophistication and you can easily arrange a guided tour of the grounds of these magnificent homes. Villa Melzi and Villa Serbelloni are the most famous in town.  Tickets to Villa Melzi include entrance to the neo-classical Chapel, the museum and the park which boasts beautiful sculptures and lovely azaleas and rhododendrons. Villa Serbelloni is operated by the Rockefeller Foundation and hosts artists and scientists from all over the world.  Although you can’t see the inside of the Villa, you can tour the grounds and gardens.

Villa Carlotta in the lakeside village of Tremezzo was one of the highlights of our trip.  The museum includes Canova’s masterpieces such as Palamede, Amore e Psiche, Tersicore, La Maddalena Penitente, but also Thorvaldsen’s monumental frieze Alessandro Magno’s Entrance to Babylon and the famous painting Romeo and Juliet Last Farewell by Hayez.

Yes, these are real live turtles!!

You can also stroll for hours in the Villa’s gardens observing azaleas, camellias, ferns, rhododendron and bamboo with the glittering waters of the lake in the postcard-ready background.

 

The main highlight of Varenna is Villa Monastero, a 14-room house museum where you can experience 19th century life in the living, dining, parlor and bedoom of the aristocratic neo-classical villa adorned with objects of art and furniture and surrounded by a lovely botanical garden hosting a wide variety of indigenous and exotic species.

On our Lake Como vacation we enjoyed the amazing views of snowcapped mountains and the daily adventures ferrying from town to town along the magnificent lake, walking cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways and falling under the spellbinding magic of Italy’s Lombardy region.  You will do a lot of walking and my youngest was just turning 6, she only whined a little bit.


 

24 Hours In Milan

 

October 23rd 2014

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This summer my family and I took an extended trip to Israel and scheduled a stopover to Italy.  We flew from New York to Milan and had a little over 24 hours to enjoy the city.  A lot of people told me to skip Milan that it wasn’t worth a visit (unless you were going during Fashion Week or had a big expense account), but I beg to disagree.  The city of Milan offers much more than we could ever enjoy in 24 hours and it is worth a stopover or a special visit to see for yourself.

Arrive in Milan airport early in the morning, drop your bags at the gorgeous Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport hotel (you don’t even have to leave the terminal) before heading out for the day.  From the airport to the downtown Milan, you can take a bus or Malpensa Express train service and be in the city center in less than an hour.

Our first stop was to a rectory adjacent to Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie to see the Last Supper, Leonardo DaVinci’s magnificent wall painting that was reopened to the public in 1999 after a 22 year restoration effort.  Please be sure to book tickets in advance to reserve your preferred time and they do sell out frequently – especially during the busy tourist season.

 Next, we spent a couple of hours at the nearby Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia, “Leonardo da Vinci” the largest museum of science and technology in Italy, showcasing the history of Italian science, technology and industry from the 19th century to the present.  The museum was very kid-friendly and the historic models of DaVinci’s innovations offered a glimpse into the extraordinary artist and forward-thinking renaissance scientist and inventor.

For a delicious kosher lunch, head over to http://www.denzel.it - It is only about a 20 minute walk – (pick up something for later as there are not so many kosher food options in the center).

After lunch you can head over to the Duomo di Milano, landmark Gothic cathedral in the center which is adjacent to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls where you can find many high-end stores from all over the world right next to 19th century coffee houses.

 

As the afternoon came to an end, we took the kids to Castello Sforzesco.  A historic castle right in the center of Milan.  The Castle was named after Francesco Sforza, who transformed it into a residence in 1450, but its origins go back nearly a hundred years earlier to the time of Galeazzo II Visconti.

 

An evening in Milan is not complete without a night at the opera.  The La Scala Opera House regularly boasts the world’s greatest opera stars.  My husband and I saw Mozart’s Così fan tutte in a small box seat — it was an experience we will never forget!  Check out my inside picture from Instagram here.

Photos above from Shutterstock, except for the Sheraton which came from the hotel.  My photos didn’t come out so great this time around.

Make sure to check out our trip to Lake Como, the second part of this vacation.


 

Cooking With Joy: Coq au Vin

 

October 23rd 2014

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When I get overwhelmed I love to watch The Food Network, specifically The Barefoot Contessa. Everything about her calms me down. She has such an ease to everything she does. One of the dishes that she makes is Coq Au Vin. It’s always been something that I have wanted to try, just had to figure out how to make it easier and kosher. Thank you Jamie for giving us exactly that!

Before I continue on about the Coq Au Vin, I just want to talk about the actual chicken for a minute. I don’t have such a great relationship with bone chicken, so I opted to use cutlets. Not all chicken is created equal. The quality of the meats and various cuts at Evergreen, are things you can’t always find in other places. The whole store is like this, but specifically the meat department- you could just spend time looking at everything and become inspired- at least that is what I do. When you have good ingredients the recipes always taste better. And that is just one of the reasons why I love shopping there.

Coq au Vin with Veal Sausage, Thyme, and Merlot page 148
DRESS IT DOWN Quick Coq au Vin 

I combined the dressed up and dressed down versions. I followed the recipe for the dressed up version, yet used cutlets to make the recipe cook faster. I love using Jacks sausages, so I used the Kilbasa again, just because its SO GOOD! Again I left out the thyme, and the dish turned out pretty good if I do say so myself.  I used a really nice bottle of Merlot. Of course I had to taste it before pouring it into the pot, it was surprisingly sweet, with fruity notes (look at me talking about wine and being all fancy) Seriously though, the wine lent itself beautifully to this dish. When cooking with wine, make sure it’s a bottle that you would want to drink, since the flavor and the quality is what will be passed onto the dish.

 

The aroma of the wine was filling the house and it was making me really hungry. After I took the pot out of the oven, I let it cool just enough before diving in. I put a bite of mushroom, pearl onion, sausage and chicken onto the fork (my mouth is watering as I write this) together, dipped it into the wine for good measure and ate. The richness of the sausage and mushrooms combined with  the silkiness of the pearl onions- WHOA!! I tried to find the words to write, but honestly I just kept going back for more.

Special thanks to Yehoshua Werth of The Grapevine for sponsoring the Merlot. Next time you are in Monsey go visit them. They have a gorgeous new store, wide selection and very friendly knowledgeable staff.


 

15 Travel Friendly Recipes

 

October 22nd 2014

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It’s officially fall here in New England!  The beautiful scenery makes me want to go outdoors and enjoy the gorgeous colors of fall, not to mention the necessary road trips to go apple and pumpkin picking.  Here in the suburbs of Philadelphia (where I attend college) I’m just a stones throw away from hiking trails and the farms of Lancaster County.  I’m done with midterms and looking to spend sometime outside, which means packing travel friendly foods (there aren’t too many kosher options in Amish country!) for my time on the road.  Below are 15 recipes to take on your travels.

 

apples-and-cinnamon-quinoa-breakfast

Quinoa is my go-to starch when traveling, and everyday, really!  It is a protein filled base that will support just about anything you pair with it.  From Apple and Cinnamon to Citrus Scented Quinoa and California Raisin Salad.  Or try quinoa salads such as Quinoa, Black Bean & Mango Salad, Black Quinoa Asian Slaw, and good old Quinoa Salad.

 

Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

I’m not going to lie, these bars aren’t diet food but they are delicious and will give you energy.  Some, like the Power Packed Oat Bars with Cranberries, Apricots and Pumpkin Seeds or Gluten Free Miracle Chocolate Chip Bars make for a good breakfast or snack.  The Sweet Peanut Butter Cereal BarCrunchy Maple Brown Sugar Granola Bars, or Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars are a nice treat after a day spent traveling.

 

In addition to the classic PB&J, some travel friendly sandwiches include the delicious Roast Beef Sandwich or Chunky Tuna Sandwiches.  Or stick to the veggies with Roast Pepper and Pesto Tea Sandwiches, Oven Roasted Falafel or Ultimate Veggie Sliders.  To prevent soggy bread, spread condiments in the middle of the sandwich or wait to assemble the sandwiches until you’re ready to eat.