Davida’s Awesome Potato Kugel

It is so wonderful to have Davida back from Israel.  The house is a more joyful abode and Davida and her friends fill our house with laughter, music and good food.  No matter how chaotic things are, Davida seems to have just the right lighthearted joke and is always willing and able to prepare delicious food for all.

Whatever Davida prepares is not only delicious, but perfectly executed, as well.   Her challahs are beautifully braided, her salads are impeccably tossed and her food just begs to be enjoyed.

When we visited Israel for Pesach (Passover),  Davida prepared this delicious kugel for us.  This past winter, Davida first tried this recipe when she prepared a Shabbos in Jerusalem  for Michelle, Scotty and their gluten-free guests.

The original recipe is from Susie Fischbein’s Pesach cookbook.   Davida tweaked and simplified it just a bit.   It contains a small amount of sugar and when I scoffed at that, Davida admitted that she tried it without the sugar and it just wasn’t the same.

This past Shabbos, Davida prepared this potato kugel again and it was another winner.

Welcome home, Davida!

davidas awesome potato kugel

SUPPLIES

food processor
2 pyrex pie plates

INGREDIENTS

1⁄2 cup  oil
8 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
5 large eggs

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425°F degrees.

Using the metal s-blade of the food processor,  shred the onions and then place in a large mixing bowl.  I like to use the stainless steel mixing bowl of my Kitchen Aid mixer, since it is a large, sturdy bowl with a handle for pouring,

Using the metal s-blade of the food processor,  shred the peeled potato chunks until almost smooth.  Add the potatoes to the mixing bowl

Add the salt, pepper, and sugar to the potato-onion mixture and then add the eggs.  Stir until completely combined.

Coat each pyrex pie plate with 1/4 cup of oil and place in preheated oven. When the oil sizzles, carefully remove each pyrex pie plate from oven and spoon some of the sizzling oil into the waiting potato mixture to add fluffiness to the kugel.  Incorporate the sizzling oil into the mixture until well combined.   Pour the mixture into the 2 pyrex pie plates and bake uncovered for one hour.

Enjoy this delicious kugel with music and laughter!

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Pastrami Sandwich Chicken Rolls

pastrami sandwich chicken

 

Last night, we had deli for dinner.

Pastrami. Rye bread. Mustard. Deli pickles. Cole Slaw. The whole deli shebang.

Every once in a while, we just need a deli fix. And, last night was it.

It was so delicious.  And, maybe, just maybe, I wanted a bit more deli in my life.

This morning, I looked at the thin cut chicken breasts that I bought for Shabbos and thought, “How about deli sandwich chicken rolls for Friday night dinner?”.

Here it is!

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds thin-cut chicken cutlets

deli or dijon mustard
mayonnaise

stuffing

2 cups of rye bread, cut into large cubes
1 large onion, diced and sauteed with 4 minced garlic cloves
8 ounces of pastrami, sliced or diced thin
salt and pepper to taste

stuffing
1/2 cup cornflake or bread crumbs
1 cup crushed french fried onions
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

On a plate or pie dish, combine mustard and mayonnaise.

Saute onion and garlic until just starting to brown. Soften bread by soaking in water and then squeezing out extra water. In a separate plate or pie dish, combine rye bread, pastrami, sauteed onion and garlic and seasonings to form stuffing mixture.

On a third plate or pie dish, combine crumbs and seasonings.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or greased foil.

Open each chicken cutlet and fill with a golf-size clump of stuffing. Using a silicone brush, brush each stuffed cutlet with mustard/mayo mixture and then coat generously with crumbs/french fried onions. Place seam side down on lined baking sheet. Leave a bit of space in between chicken cutlet rolls, taking care not to crowd the cutlets.

Lightly drizzle olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes, cutting largest stuffed chicken roll open to ascertain that chicken is no longer pink on the inside.

Watermelon Jicama Salad

watermelon jicama salad

 

A few weeks ago, we had very hot weather on Shabbos.  It was one of those weeks that boasted a potpourri of  weather patterns.  We had rain, cold, overcast skies, bursts of sunshine and then a 40 degree rise in temperatures from Friday to Shabbos.

We just did not have enough time for our bodies to acclimate to nearly ninety degrees F on Shabbos.

I had bought a watermelon to greet the warm weather and Shabbos morning, on the spur of the moment, I decided to serve the watermelon as a salad rather than as a dessert.  I remembered having a delicious watermelon salad at my friend, Sallie’s house several years ago.  I didn’t remember anything about the other ingredients in Sallie’s salad, just that I had really enjoyed her watermelon salad.

I ran the idea of creating a watermelon salad by Ruti, our Shabbos house-guest from Jerusalem.

She had one word for the idea.  Muzar.  Strange.

That didn’t stop me.  I looked in my refrigerator.  I had jicama, mint, scallions and blood oranges in addition to the watermelon.  So, I cut everything up, placed the salad bowl in the refrigerator and waited for inspiration to set in for the dressing.

Inspiration is the mother of invention,  The salad was refreshing, delicious and beautiful.

Oh, and Sallie joined us with her family for Shabbos lunch.  At first all our guests remarked, “So, we’re the guinea pigs for the blog?”, to which I simply said “yes!”.

But then, Sallie tasted the salad and just said, “Wow!”

That made my day.  The ingredient combinations may be muzar, but Sallie’s declaration of wow confirmed that this recipe would be a keeper.

INGREDIENTS

watermelon, cut into cubes (about 4 cups)
jicama, peeled and cut into small cubes
scallions, washed and cut into 1″ sections
mint, soaked and rinsed (optional) (see kosher notes)
2 blood oranges, peeled and cubed

1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
dash of pepper
lemon juice or cider vinegar
drizzle of oil (optional)

SUPPLIES

wavy crinkle cutter

 

DIRECTIONS

Cube watermelon and cut jicama into small strips or cubes using  wavy crinkle cutter. Clean and rinse scallions and mint.  Sprinkle kosher salt and pepper over ingredients. Drizzle with lemon  juice or cider vinegar.  Lightly drizzle with oil.

Enjoy!

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of  any whole insects and therefore most greens require a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, pureeing.  Kashrut authorities differ on the proper checking of herbs and some disallow the use of fresh herbs altogether.  This blog was not designed to be your  kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding using and preparing herbs such as mint.

Firecracker Cauliflower

firecracker cauliflower.jpg

Every once in a while, I want to serve something that surprises everyone.  Cauliflower is one of those side dishes that everyone enjoys and is simply good for you.  When roasted, it has both delicious flavor and texture (see Rockstar Roasted Cauliflower).

This week, I decided to wake everyone’s taste buds up by adding some heat to my typical roasted cauliflower.  This recipe was inspired by Simply Spicy Firecracker Salmon.

INGREDIENTS

1-2 heads cauliflower, separated into florets and cleaned (see kosher notes)
Oil

Kosher Salt
Simple and Perfect Spicy Mayo
Lime juice (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or greased foil.

Spread cauliflower in a single layer on baking sheet(s).  Sprinkle with kosher salt and lightly drizzle with spicy mayo.  Drizzle lightly with lime juice for a fresh flavor.

Roast at 425 degrees F for 40-50 minutes, checking that cauliflower is sot on inside and just turning brown on outside before removing from oven.

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of any whole insects and therefore cauliflower require a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, pureeing. Kashrut authorities differ on the proper checking of cauliflower and some disallow its use altogether. This blog was not designed to be your kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding using and preparing cauliflower.

A Vinegar Pantry Tutorial

Vinegar is one of the most versatile ingredients. It is characterized by its acidic taste and is known best for the pungent flavor it imparts to salads.   For centuries, vinegar has been valued for its health benefits.  Vinegar comes in many different tastes and colors and has a wide variety of uses beyond the salad bowl.

vinegar tutorial 1

Adding a splash of an acidic ingredient like vinegar is an excellent way to brighten all types of salads and other dishes.  There are so many varieties and each one has a distinct personality and flavor.

I reserve the standard white variety for cleaning uses, since it boasts a very pungent and sharp taste that can be overly assertive.  It can be used for weed control and cleaning purposes.

My go-to vinegar is cider vinegar since it imparts a medium acidic taste while still tasting fruity and fresh.

Different vinegars impart a variety of  flavors and can change the way that you prepare and enjoy your food.   Feel free to experiment with different vinegars to find the ones that you enjoy most.

My pantry boasts a large variety of vinegars and here are some of my favorites:

 

Cider vinegar: Cider vinegar is fashioned from apples.  This brownish clear vinegar stands up well to hardy salads and is the go-to ingredient in marinades.  It is perfect for recipes like: Roasted Sweet Potato and Beet Salad,  Cowboy Caviar: A Simple and Hearty Salad with Attitude and Simply the Best Marinade: A Science Lesson

White vinegar: White vinegar is assertive and clear.  It is distilled from grain and can be used with sturdy greens.  It has a very assertive flavor that sticks to the back of my throat, so I tend to reserve it for cleaning (When Crayons Must Learn Boundaries: Simple Ways to Clean Crayon Marks on Walls) and garden tasks like (At War with Weeds: A Homemade Non-Toxic Weed-Killer)

Wine vinegar:  Wine vinegar comes in red and white varieties.  Heinz manufactures an assortment of delicious wine vinegars that carry the o-u-p (kosher for Passover) certification year-round.  This type of vinegar is light and delicious and can be used in dressings for a variety of light and pungent salads.   Typically, wine vinegar comes in a shaker bottle and should be shaken sparingly directly on salad.   Wine vinegar is perfect for recipes like Warm Zucchini-Mushroom Salad with Almonds and Sunflower Seeds and Etty’s Simple Basil-Dijon Vinaigrette

Rice vinegar:  Rice vinegar is an excellent alternative to cider or white vinegar.  I used it in a variety of Asian-inspired dishes.  It combines perfectly with soy sauce and sesame oil.  Try it is dishes like Individual Sushi Salads and Asian Red Cabbage Salad…Simple and Wow

Balsamic vinegar:  Balsamic vinegar is one of my favorites, too.  It is dark brown in color and imparts a sweet, syrupy flavor.  Balsamic vinegar is not a tye of wine vinegar, but is rather made from grape pressings that have not been allowed to ferment.  This vinegar imparts a very distinctive flavor and should be used sparingly, often just dotted onto salads, vegetable and protein dishes and fruit.  This vinegar is delicious in Simple, Creamy and Perfect Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette and Roasted Rainbow Skewers.

 

Simple and Colorful Rainbow Carrot Salad

rainbow carrot saladI love using interesting and varied fresh ingredients in my recipes.  It used to be harder to find heirloom produce varieties, and I would have to scour farmer’s markets and specialty shoppes to find specialty produce.  In the past few years, our local supermarkets and stores like Trader Joe’s have begun stocking heirloom and specialty varieties of our favorite produce.

Many unusual color vegetable varieties lose their vivid color when heated, so I prefer to use these in salads and in fresh  preparations (Rainbow Carrot Curls: A Wow Garnish). Vegetables like heirloom tomatoes, red basil and rainbow carrots really add a beautiful and colorful wow factor to ordinary recipes.

This salad is hearty, satisfying and simple to prepare.   It can be made with orange carrots instead of rainbow carrots and will be equally tasty with just a few less colors of the rainbow to admire.  It boasts Garbanzo beans (chick peas) for a protein boost and almonds and scallions for color and texture.

This salad is best made several hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve.  I prefer to shred the carrots myself since unpeeled whole carrots stay fresher than ready-to-use shredded carrots.

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds of peeled rainbow carrots, or any color carrots, shredded
1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained well
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 bunch of scallions, sliced thin

salt
pepper
squirt of mustard
drizzle of honey or agave syrup

DIRECTIONS

Shred carrots using the shredding blade of the food processor or using a hand grater or mandoline.  Add well-drained garbanzo beans, almonds, dried ranberries and scallions.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with mustard and honey.  Toss well and enjoy.

Showstopper Soup Combinations

Sometimes the wow factor is just in the plating.

Pureed soups are simple, fresh and delicious.  They are easily prepared in a crockpot and then simply pureed using a stick blender.  Some excellent pureed crockpot soups are Carrot Soupspring pea soupCrockpot Mushroom Soup, Orange Root Vegetable Soup and Low-Carb Zucchini Soup. 

Soups can be garnished beautifully with herbs, croutons, seeds or cream, but are rarely showstoppers.  This is the exception.

For this presentation, all that needs to be done is to keep the soup warm in separate crockpots and serve them together.  That is it.

carrot and pea soups on simpletowow board

SUPPLIES

2 same size lightweight measuring cups (preferably with spouts)

INGREDIENTS

2 pureed soups
cream

DIRECTIONS

Prepare two contrasting color pureed soups.  Keep them warm in separate crockpots until ready to serve.

Designate a measuring cup or cup/creamer with a spout for serving each of the soups.  For each bowl of soup, fill each measuring cup with the designated soup.  From opposite sides of each bowl, pour measuring cup of each soup into the bowl at the same time.

Garnish each bowl with minced chives or cream.  To create a gorgeous cream garnish, dot the two-color soup with a few dots of cream.  Using a skewer, connect the dots by slowly dragging the skewer through the centers of the dots. Serve immediately.

Nutty Barley Edamame Salad

barley salad

I’m always looking for salads that can be prepared when the vegetable bins are empty.  This one is simple to prepare and can be made using simple pantry and freezer items.  The nuttiness of the barley in concert with the varied colors and textures of the other ingredients makes this salad unique and delicious.  This salad is so versatile in that different vegetables and ingredients can be add to vary the textures, flavors and colors of this salad.

When I first prepared this salad, Leah felt that the vinegar was too intense and Kaitlyn thought that the vinegar was just right.  Kaitlyn and I agreed that the acidity of the vinegar helped identify this as a salad, while Leah considered this as a barley pilaf.  I therefore left the proportions of salt, pepper, vinegar and oil to you.

This salad can be easily made in advance.  When doing so, just use a scant amount of vinegar during advance preparation.  You can add more vinegar if necessary right before serving.

SUPPLIES

rice cooker

INGREDIENTS
1 cup barley
2 cups water
salt

1 red onion, diced small
1 package frozen edamame
1 can corn (optional)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pecans or your favorite nuts

1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of cider vinegar

In a rice cooker or in a saucepan, cook 1 cup of barley with 2 cups of cold water and a bit of salt.

Prepare frozen shelled edamame according to package directions.

In a large bowl, toss barley with dried cranberries, diced onion, nuts, edamame and corn.  Add salt, pepper, vinegar and oil.  Toss well.

Simple 15 Minute Spring Pea Soup

 

I have been known to define spring as the seasonal period of time when neither heat nor air conditioning is necessary.  There were many days within the past few weeks that definitely fit that definition. Although we have had some rain, we have had some lovely days filled with cool, breezy weather and intermittent sunshine.

I try to prepare hearty soups to greet the cool weather. This silky pea soup is a perfect soup for the time-challenged as it takes less than 15 minutes to prepare. It is perfect to greet springtime as it is a lighter version of the hearty split pea soup.

Best of all, it is versatile in that it can be served hot, cold or at room temperature. It makes for a perfect Shabbos lunch appetizer served at room temperature.

fresh pea soup

INGREDIENTS

olive oil
1 large onion
1 container chicken broth
2 bag frozen sweet peas
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
dash of black pepper
fresh herbs (for garnish)

DIRECTIONS

In a large saucepan, saute onion in olive oil until fragrant and just beginning to brown. Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add frozen peas and stir occasionally until peas are tender and cooked through, not more than 5 more minutes. Add seasonings to taste and puree with a hand blender.

Fresh and Bright Carrot Soup

carrot soup

Cool weather is soup weather.  When the weather is cool, my crockpot does not leave my counter.  This carrot soup is bright and fresh, simple to prepare and delicious. The gorgeous color and silky texture will make this a go-to recipe.

INGREDIENTS

1 container chicken broth
2 pounds of carrots, peeled and cut into chunks or 2 pounds of peeled baby carrots
2-3 garlic cloves or garlic powder
1/4 cup orange juice
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
dash of black pepper
dash of cinnamon
dash of ginger

water

DIRECTIONS

Place all ingredients in crockpot.  Add water to 2 inches from the top of the crockpot. Cook on high for 4-6 hours, or on low for 7-8 hours.  Puree using an immersion blender.

 

Simply Perfect and Healthier Cheesecake

simply perfect cheesecake with fruitWe are counting the days until Shavuos (lit: weeks).

Yes.  Shavuos is the holiday that we literally count the days toward its arrival. We count 49 days (seven weeks) from Pesach (Passover) to Shavuos, blessing the sefira (counting) every evening from the second night of Pesach until Shavuos begins.

From a culinary perspective, many of us count the days until we can enjoy the delicious dairy foods that have become associated with Shavuos. We are commanded to eat dairy foods at our festive meals (Countdown to Shavuos: Floral Inspirations and Dairy Recipes) on Shavuos and cheesecake has become one of the iconic desserts associated with Shavuos.

Shavuos commemorates the receiving of the Torah by the Jewish nation. It also is the time that the wheat is harvested and the bikurim (first fruits) were brought to the Holy Temple in a lavish ceremony (Bekurim: First Fruits from Hollister).  So, this year’s cheesecake is decorated with fruits, so symbolic of the bikurim ceremony.

I have kept the preparation simple and have incorporated greek yogurt and light cream cheese into the recipe to make for a healthier cheescake.   The flavor and texture is still impeccably delicious.

Just like last year’s mini cheesecake recipe, this recipe does not require a springform pan or a water bath for baking.  It is best to bring the ingredients to room temperature just before preparation.   Preparation takes a few minutes and the baking is simple. It can be prepared as one round or rectangular cheesecake or in 12-16 mini ramekins.

simply perfect individual cheescake

SUPPLIES

spatula

food processor

mixer

INGREDIENTS

2 pound light or regular cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
8 ounce container of plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs

2 cups cookies or graham crackers, crushed

4 tablespoons butter

cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

It is best to bring the ingredients to room temperature before baking to prevent cracking, although I have made this recipe effectively with ingredients right out of the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Prepare cake pan or ramekins by generously spraying with cooking spray and/ or lining with parchment paper .

In food processor fitted with an S-blade, crush cookies and add butter, pulsing until mixture is fully incorporated.  You can also place cookies in a zipper bag and crush using a mallet or rolling pin, adding butter to the bag and kneading gently.  Gently press cookie-butter mixture into pan or ramekins.

Beat cream cheese, yogurt, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a food processor or with a mixer, just until smooth and creamy.  You can also use a whisk to incorporate and beat all these ingredients.  You will have to scrape sides of bowl to incorporate everything well until combined, smooth and creamy.

Pour mixture into pans or ramekins, filling 2/3 of the way to the top.  I find it easiest to pour the mixture from a glass measuring cup with a spout..

Bake mini ramekins for 15 minutes, 3-4″ ramekins for about 18-20 minutes and larger pan for 30 minutes.  Turn oven off and leave in oven to another hour.

Remove from the oven and cool completely.  Chill the ramekin cheesecakes for at least 2 hours and the larger cheesecake for at least 4 hours.  Gently remove cheesecake(s) from pan(s).

Garnish with fruit, berries, edible leaves and flowers. Dust with powdered sugar right before serving.

 

A Nightstand Workbench for Ju-Ju

I walk most mornings again with my friend, Linda.  The hour walk goes by quickly as we share ideas, inspirations and tidbits of each other’s lives.   Linda offers me lots of recipe and shopping tips and shortcuts and I cherish her sage advice.  I find the walks healthy for my body and inspiring for my mind.

My kids think that the daily walks have nothing to do with exercise or friendship.

They often tell me that the early morning walks are really about scouring the neighborhood for cast-off furniture and other treasures to be recycled and upcycled.

They may just be right.

I had been thinking of designing a workbench for two-year old Ju-Ju.   Two weeks ago, I came across the perfect solid wood nightstand on the curb while walking with Linda.  The white nightstand was covered in dust and cobwebs, but was solidly constructed.  The one drawer featured intact hardware and dovetail construction.  It was perfect for my project.

I was delighted!  After the walk, I drove back to where I had seen the nightstand and loaded into my car.  I placed it right next to my front door and I just couldn’t wait to begin my newest project.

JuJu's nightstand workbench-before pic 2

Leah arrived home that evening and wasn’t too happy to see another dusty, worn castoff adorning our front porch.  She reminded me once again that my morning walks are really all about the hunt to find garbage.

I couldn’t have agreed more.

I cleaned the piece with a damp rag and turned it upside down.  I cleaned all the nooks and corners of the nightstand until it was perfectly clean.  I looked around until I found a square-ish piece of plywood that was the same width as the nightstand to use as a backsplash for the nightstand.

Using my inexpensive hand sander, I sanded the nightstand and the plywood down until all the surfaces were smooth, then sprayed the surfaces with blue spray paint.  I removed the drawer and sprayed that with silver metallic spray paint.

juju's nightstand workbench metallic drawer 2

I then ordered a square 16″ plastic pegboard and assorted pegboard accessories.   Don screwed the finished backsplash into the nightstand workbench and installed the pegboard.  I added a few good hooks on the sides to hang additional workbench accessories.

juju's nightstand workbench

I checked the toy boxes and scoured the dollar store for some play tools, safe real tools and tool boxes.  I ordered some kid-friendly power-tools and even personalized a hardhat for Ju-Ju.

Ju-Ju and Avigail loved the workbench and Leah even quizzed me on what I was thinking for the next upcycled project would be.

I just smiled mysteriously.  Let the morning walks continue…

juju's nightstand workbench metallic drawer top view

 

SUPPLIES and TOOLS

one solid-wood nightstand

1 square-ish piece of plywood the same width as the nightstand

hand sander

blue spray paint

silver metallic spray paint.

square 16″ plastic pegboard

assorted pegboard accessories

1 1/4″ round screws with nuts

small adhesive hooks

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Using a damp rag, clean the nightstand.  Make sure to clean all the nooks and crannies and insides and backs of the doors and drawers.  Turn the unit over and clean the bottom and all sides.

Find or purchase a square-ish piece of wood that is the same width as the nightstand for a backsplash.

Using a hand sander, sand the nightstand and the wood down until all the surfaces are smooth, paying special attention to the corners and edges of the nightstand and backsplash.

Remove the drawer(s) and sand separately.  Using a damp rag, wipe the entire unit clean and allow to dry.

Spray all surfaces of the nightstand and backsplash with blue spray paint.   Spray the drawer with silver metallic spray paint.

Screw the backspash into the back of the nightstand and then screw the  square 16″ plastic pegboard into the backsplash.  For the pegboard, we used 1 1/4″ round screws with nuts screwed from the back to the front.

Adhere small adhesive hooks to the sides of he nightstand workbench to hang additional hardware accessories like measuring tape, goggles and helmet.

Place assorted pegboard accessories into the pegboard and hang toy tools and safe real tools.  Fill small toolboxes with additional toy hardware and store in the workbench.

Get to work!

 

Individual Sushi Salads

 

individual sushi salad 1

My kids all love sushi.   To them, having sushi as an appetizer Shabbos lunch is a real luxury.  While sushi is a fan favorite, I don’t feel that it has enough nutritional value as it is mostly rice.  Furthermore, sushi rolls do not stay fresh enough from Friday until Shabbos lunch to make for an appetizing appetizer.

So, I have been preparing individual sushi salads as a Shabbos lunch appetizer, instead.

And, sushi salads eliminate most of  the fussiness of rolling sushi.  I can choose the proportions of each element in the sushi salad, favoring more vegetables and fish than rice and nori.  The elements of the sushi salad can all be prepared in advance.   Furthermore, they are all simple ingredients that I can use in different ways for the Friday night Shabbos dinner.  And,  best of all, once assembled on Shabbos morning, the individual sushi salad ingredients stay perfectly fresh, simply delicious and gorgeous until ready to serve.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup sushi rice (I favor brown sushi rice) prepared in rice cooker

1/4 cup rice vinegar

baked or roasted salmon fillet, cubed or shredded

nori, cut into thin strips

1 medium avocado

1-2 zucchini or cucumber, diced or grated

1-2 Carrots, grated (optional)

Simple and Perfect Spicy Mayo

 

DIRECTIONS

Prepare sushi rice in a rice cooker, using 1 cup of rice to 1 cup of water.   Add 1/4 cup rice vinegar to prepared sushi rice.

Prepare salmon fillet.  Cube or shred.

Cube avocado and place in a solution of 1 cup water with juice of one lemon.

Grate cucumber, zucchini and/or carrots.

Gently roll nori sheets and cut thin strips with scissors.

In a clear glass or plastic bowl, layer cooked rice, salmon, nori, avocado, cucumber and carrot.  Drizzle spicy mayo on top and garnish with thin strips of nori drizzle of spicy mayo.

TIPS

For Shabbos lunch, prepare salmon, rice and grated vegetables before Shabbos.  Store each ingredient separately in a zipper bag.  Prepare Simple and Perfect Spicy Mayo and store in 16-oz wide-mouth squeeze bottles or 24-oz wide mouth squeeze bottles.

Before assembling, mix sushi rice with rice vinegar.  Cut or shred salmon.  Cube avocado and place in a solution of 1 cup water with juice of one lemon.

In a clear glass or plastic bowl, layer cooked rice, salmon, nori, avocado, cucumber and carrot.  Drizzle spicy mayo on top and garnish with thin strips of nori and drizzle of spicy mayo.

 

VARIATIONS

For Pesach, substitute quinoa for the sushi rice and cider vinegar for the rice vinegar.

 

PLATING TIPS

Use clear glass or plastic bowl and overlap thin strips of nori on top, creating an x or star for an impressive presentation.

 

individual sushi salad

Perfectly Moist Baked Stuffed Chicken

baked stuffed chicken cut in half

For the Purim seuda (feast) this year, Don did almost all of the shopping for ingredients. My mother had emergency surgery shortly before Purim and I spent the week with her in Cleveland.  That meant that I would not have the time to shop and fully prepare for the seuda.  Don offered to help by doing the shopping for me.

Don did an awesome job shopping for the meat and chicken.  He bought thin sliced chicken cutlets for me to grill as one of the main dishes.   When I saw how thin the cutlets were, I was nervous that they would overcook easily.   So, I decided to develop a recipe that would accommodate cutlets that were butterflied and very thin.

I also had a bagful of frozen rice from a previous dinner party and lots of leftover frozen bread.  Keeping in mind that Pesach (Passover) was around the corner, I was eager to create a stuffing recipe that would use my leftover rice and bread.

And, so this stuffed chicken recipe was developed.

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Lattice Chicken Pie

I’ve always suggested that we start a leftovers club.  After all, your leftovers would be like new to me and my leftovers may be palatable to you.  As long as our families subscribe to the same dietary laws, allergy restrictions, likes and dislikes, a leftovers club would be perfect.

There are times that I repurpose my leftovers.  I often send them home wih Kaitlyn and Aaron.  After a party, seuda (festive holiday meal as in Five Simple Tips to Keep the Wow in Purim) or sheva brochos (seven days of wedding after-party as in Goldie’s Vintage Sheva Brochos Menu), I usually put out leftovers in to-go containers for my guests.  I have even separated the white and dark meat on my Simply Reliable One Pan Roast Chicken Dinner, delivering most of the dark meat to family and friends who prefer the dark chicken since my family generally prefers white chicken.

But this week, I had leftover chicken with plenty of sauce.  And, so this lattice chicken pie was born.

It’s a great recipe and a simple solution to leftovers.  It is perfect for leftover Chinese food or any chicken that has sauce.

But, I’m still looking to start a leftovers club.

 

INGREDIENTS

4 cups of cooked chicken with sauce

3 eggs, whisked

1/2 cup panko or cornflake crumbs (optional)

puffed pastry

Bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS

Place chicken with sauce in pie dish.  Pour whisked eggs over chicken.  Optionally, dust with some crumbs to absorb extra moisture.  Cut strips of puffed pastry and place across the pie plate.  Place additional puffed pastry strips across the pie plate in the opposite direction.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes

TIPS

To keep things simple, I cut strips of puffed pastry for the lattice.  I lay the first set of strips across the pie and then lay the second set of strips perpendicular to the first.  To save time,  I don’t bother to weave the strips under and over.

lattice chicken pie

An Endless Row of Roses

For a recent dinner party, I constructed arrangements of single roses on gold wooden planks (see An arrangement of Single Roses: Simple, Upcycled and Breathtaking).  For that original arrangement, I used 6 roses for each 6-foot section of gilded wood.

This arrangement takes inspiration from that one, but uses 10 single rose blossoms for each 6 foot wooden plank.  This leaves almost no whitespace between the individual vases of rose blossoms and creates the illusion of an endless row of rose blossoms.

Simple to Wow?  You decide.

 

roses in a row

Zucchini Mushroom Kugel

zucchini mushroom kugel

Jewish cooking favors the preparation of kugels (casseroles), probably because of their versatility.  Since cooking is prohibited on Shabbos (Sabbath) and is limited on the Jewish holidays, the kugel has become a go-to solution.  It allows for make-ahead preparation and can be served hot or at room temperature.

Although I favor keeping my vegetables raw and simply prepared, this kugel has become one of my favorites.  It highlights a simple list of fresh ingredients and this kugel  is perfect for freezing in advance of a busy Yom Tov (holiday, lit: good day) like Pesach (Passover).  Although zucchini squash has a high water content and usually needs to be squeezed out, the sliced zucchini in this recipe needs no squeezing.  The moisture of the zucchini slices creates a satisfying textural compliment to the other ingredients and make for a soft and juicy kugel.

INGREDIENTS

1 large onion or 2 shallots, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced or garlic powder
3 large zucchini, thinly sliced
1 package mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup potato starch
3 eggs
1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon salt
dash pepper

DIRECTIONS

Grease a pie dish or line a baking dish with parchment paper.

Saute onions, garlic and mushrooms until soft and starting to brown.

Whisk eggs and combine with oil, seasonings, sauteed onion, garlic and mushrooms. Sprinkle zucchnii slices with potato starch.  Fold egg mixture into zucchini slices until just combined.

Fill baking dish with mixture and bake uncovered at  400 degrees F for 45 minutes to one hour.  Kugel should be golden brown and set when ready.

 

VARIATIONS

Flour and a tad of baking powder may be substituted for the potato starch for non-Passover cooking.

Charoset Ices

charoset ices

Last year in Israel, we discovered that Ben and Jerry’s manufactures Charoset ice cream for Pesach (Passover).  We bought it at the Israel supermarket for its Passover-themed value but we devoured it for its delicious taste.

charoset ice cream.png

After all,  charoset is a traditional dip consumed at the Passover Seder. It is typically prepared with chopped apples, nuts, cinnamon and red wine or grape juice.   The charoset is a  gritty dip for the Maror (bitter herbs) that symbolizes the mortar used by the Jews to fashion bricks while they were enslaved in Egypt.

The apples and grape juice or wine lend a sweet taste to this dish and make for the perfect combination of ingredients to prepare charoset ices.  This will make the perfect dessert for your Pesach meal.

 

INGREDIENTS

3-4 apples, cut into large chunks
1 cup wine or grape juice
dash of cinnamon
1/4 cup nuts
1 cup frozen grapes
small romaine heart (optional, for garnish)

DIRECTIONS

Using the s-blade of the food processor, puree all ingredients except romaine heart until just combined.

Freeze until solid or overnight.

Once frozen, remove from freezer and defrost just enough to scoop back into the food processor fitted with the s-blade.

Pulse sorbet in food processor just until smooth.  Refreeze.

To allow for simple entertaining, I usually defrost for 20-30 minutes before scooping.

Garnish with a small piece of romaine lettuce.

SUBSTITUTIONS

Any frozen fruit may be substituted for the frozen grapes.  Just make sure to taste puree and blend with enough wine or  juice for optimal sweetness.  Honey may be added as well to sweeten the sorbet.

TIPS

I scoop the sorbet into small cups in advance and freeze in the cups until ready to serve. That speeds up the serving of a frozen dessert and keeps everything tidy.    I add the garnish at the end so that the leaves stay fresh and green.charoset ices.jpg

Frosted Candied Grapes

Grapes are featured prominently at the annual Pesach (Passover) seder (festive meal, lit: order).  After all, we drink four cups of wine or grape juice and the seder ceremony begins with the kiddush (santification) over the first cup of wine (or grape juice).  Wine is featured in the charoset (fruit and nut dip symbolizing mortar) for the maror (bitter herbs).

The seder is a mixture of tradition and whimsy.  It is the only night on the Jewish calendar when we sing Hallel (songs of praise) and tell the story of Egypt at length.  It is an evening in which we engage the children and pass these Jewish traditions from generation to generation.  In fact, so much of the elements of the seder are intended to pique the interest of our children.

Which brings me to candied grapes.  We are taught that parents are to give their children special foods and gifts in order to engage them at the seder.  So, why not combine the elements of tradition and whimsy in creating these adorable and delicious candied grapes?

One note of caution, though.  The round shape of the grapes  can create a choking hazard for small children.  These grapes should not be given to young children, unless they are quartered.

These grapes can make a delicious snack or the perfect garnish for desserts.

 
candied grapesINGREDIENTS

1 box jello
grapes

 
DIRECTIONS

Rinse individual grapes thoroughly in a colander. Spread jello powder in a pie plate or large plate.  Coat grapes with powder.    Place on waxed or parchment paper to dry.
Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow gelatin to set.

NOTES

The round shape of the grapes  can present a choking hazard for small children.  These grapes should not be given to young children, unless they are quartered.

Simple Lean Kosher for Passover Brisket

pesach FF onion brisket

 

Last week, I prepared my meats for Pesach (Passover).  The briskets that I purchased were leaner than I expected and I was nervous that they would cook up tough. When this happens, I usually smother the roast in fresh or french fried onions. This creates a blanket of moisture that replaces the fat and protects the tender beef.

This simple and perfect low temperature recipe is reminiscent of Low and Slow Oven Brisket: No Braising Necessary.  It has been adapted for Pesach and truly yielded the perfectly moist and tender brisket with very little effort.

INGREDIENTS

3-4 pound first cut brisket or top of the rib

wine
olive oil
lemon juice
garlic and/or onion powder

very thinly diced onions or baked french fried onions

DIRECTIONS

Pierce the brisket with a fork all over on both sides. Place in roasting pan and pour wine, oil and lemon juice over brisket, just until absorbed.

Turn roast over and repeat piercing, drizzling and sprinkling on the second side.

Place fattier side of the brisket up so that fat keeps the meat tender during cooking. Brush the top of the brisket with a light layer of olive oil and then smother with a layer of very thinly sliced onions or baked french fried onions, pressing into the roast.

Let brisket come to room temperature or place in oven on delayed cook mode.

Set oven to cook for 3 hours on 325 degrees F. Let roast stay in oven until the oven cools down, at least for a half hour.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate before slicing.

Passover Meat Muffins

meat muffins

During the past March snowstorm, I began cooking for Pesach.

One of my favorite shortcuts is to prepare one batter and then use it to prepare a host of different menu items.  This time, I prepared one ground beef batter and used it to prepare baked meatballs, stuffed cabbage and these delicious and adorable meat muffins,

Meat muffins are just individual meatloaves prepared in round ramekins and topped with mashed potato or sweet potato icing.  They are whimsical enough to entice the children and delicious enough for even the adults to try.

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds ground beef
2 eggs
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 Passover crumbs
1-2 onions, grated or diced small
2-3 garlic cloves or 2 tablespoons minced or granulated garlic
1 small can of tomato sauce or paste
1 squirt of ketchup

Mashed Potato Icing

4 large potatoes or sweet potatoes
½ cup vegetable stock or water
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

SUPPLIES

Piping Set for Icing
Disposable Ramekins
Wilton Large Piping Tip Set
Heavy Duty 16″ Disposable Piping Bags
Wood and Silicone Spatula
jumbo zipper bags

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In large mixing bowl or extra large ziploc bag, combine all ingredients, kneading until just combined.  Be careful not to overmix.

Using a Wood and Silicone Spatula, press meat batter into individual ramekins or disposable round ramekins.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until meat muffins are no longer pink in center.  Pour grease off of each ramekin right after removing from the oven.

Cool to room temperature before icing.

Mashed Potato Icing

Peel and dice potatoes or sweet potatoes.   Steam or boil until soft.  Drain, then add oil and liquid.

Mash until smooth and creamy but stiff enough to spread or pipe onto the Meat Cupcakes. To pipe, fill piping bag fitted with tip or large ziploc bag with one cut corner.

NOTES

You can use any combination of ground veal, ground lamb, ground chicken and/or ground turkey.

TIPS

Double or triple the meatball batter and use to make meatloaf, stuffed cabbage and baked meatballs.

Mixing the meatball batter by hand is best, but if you would rather not, use a jumbo zipper bag instead.  Just place all ingredients inside bag and close zipper, releasing any air.  Knead batter from the outside of the bag.

To fill mashed potato icing most easily and without making much of a mess, cuff bag over tall jar or glass.  Use a stiff rubber spatula to load puree into piping bag or zipper bag.

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Pesach Pesto Stuffed Chicken

Stuffed chicken is the perfect way to prepare a main dish and side dish all in one.  I find that it is a main dish that can be served hot or at room temperature and makes for great leftovers.

I developed this stuffed chicken recipe in honor of Rachel.  Last week, after the big snowstorm, I offered to prepare a few Shabbos foods for Rachel’s family.  Rachel placed a request for me to prepare grilled pesto chicken.  I had prepared pesto grilled chicken for Rachel in the past and it has become one of her favorites.   I had already marinated the chicken for the grill and was ready to go outside to grill the chicken, when I realized that it just wasn’t possible to grill.

The snow was too high and the grill was entombed in layers and layers of ice.  So, I had to rethink the grilled pesto chicken idea.  And, I did.   I prepared some sauteed vegetables for stuffing and baked the pesto chicken in the oven, instead.

And, I’m hoping that this new recipe will become one of Rachel’s favorites, too. The fact that her mom asked if it will be on this blog sounded promising.

Necessity really is the mother of invention.  I hope you will love this recipe.  It is simple enough and doesn’t require going out to an ice-encased grill.

 

INGREDIENTS

1 package chicken cutlets

basil pesto
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup basil leaves
2-3 garlic cloves or 2 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

stuffing
1 large onion
2-3 cloves garlic minced or garlic powder
1-2 cups shredded cabbage and carrots
potato starch (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

french fried onions (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS

In food processor fitted with an s-blade or in a blender, pulse pesto ingredients until smooth. Reserve half of the pesto for later and reserve a bit for serving, taking care not to reuse pesto that has been in contact with the raw chicken.

In a zipper bag, marinate chicken with pesto marinade for at least one hour.

Saute onion and garlic until just starting to brown.  Add cabbage and carrots until wilted and fragrant. Optionally, dust with potato starch to absorb the moisture.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or greased foil.

Open each chicken cutlet and fill with a golf-size clump of stuffing.  Roll chicken cutlet around stuffing and place seam side down on lined baking sheet.  Leave a bit of space in between chicken cutlet rolls taking care not to crowd the cutlets.

Using a silicone brush, brush each stuffed cutlet with some of the reserved pesto. Optionally, press some french fried onions on top.

Lightly drizzle olive oil or spray with cooking spray.  Bake for 30 minutes, cutting largest stuffed chicken roll open to ascertain that chicken is no longer pink on the inside.  If pink, bake for a few minutes longer.

DIY Passover French Baked Onions

french fried onions for pesach

So many of my simple and moist recipes rely on french fried onions.  They add moisture and pizazz to even the simplest and leanest of fish, meats and poultry.  Recipes such as Onion-Battered Baked TilapiaSimple Onion Baked Chicken Cutlets and Low and Slow Oven Brisket require this as a key ingredient.

Year-round, this is a readily available ingredient with so many kosher brands to choose from.  For some reason the smaller packages of French’s do not carry an o-u kosher certification while the 26.5 ounce package of Family size french fried onions is available on Amazon with a reliable o-u certification.

Since these products have flour listed on the ingredient list, I understood that they would not acceptable for Passover use.    However, I was hoping to find a similar product this year that would be kosher for Passover.   Alas, I was unsuccessful.

That meant that I needed to develop a recipe for french fried onions similar enough to the store-bought ones.  I also wanted a recipe that would not require frying.  There is just too much to be done before Pesach (Passover) for me to be frying onions in small batches.

This recipe is good.  It is not as dry and crunchy as the original.  But, it does serve as a good replacement for these recipes.  And, it is simple.

I would love to hear your comments, especially if you found this recipe to be simple to wow.

INGREDIENTS

4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup Passover crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
olive oil or cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or greased aluminum foil.

Separate thinly sliced onion rings into individual rings. In a large bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and toss to coat the onion rings.

Place the onion rings ton the baking sheet and drizzle olive oil or generously spray with cooking spray.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, frequently checking that the onions do not burn.  When ready, these onions should be just starting to turn golden brown.

Allow onions to come to room temperature before using.

Passover Stuffed Cabbage

passover stuffed cabbage

Last week, I began cooking and freezing for Pesach (Passover).  With the furious and beautiful backdrop of a March snowstorm, I prepared most of my main dishes for the week of Passover.

It may sound a bit compulsive, but this just helps me manage the fury and beauty of the Passover holiday.

We travel to Israel for the holiday where we have a tiny kitchen and doll-sized appliances. The smallness of the food preparation facilities stand in direct contrast to the number of guests and family members that join us for the Passover seder and meals.

I have discovered that cooking the main dishes in advance really takes the edge off of the frenzy of Erev Pesach (Passover eve) and helps our family enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Jerusalem with some measure of serenity.

It certainly helps me appreciate the purity of the holiday and the freshness of the spring season.  It allows me to focus on the theme of this holiday that is so central to Judaism.  I can savor the beautiful traditions of Pesach, all to remind us of the birth of the Jewish nation as we miraculously left Egypt so many centuries ago.

Many women note that they feel enslaved by the enormity and difficulty of Passover cooking and that reminds them more than anything at the seder of the bondage of Jewish nation in Egypt.  I would rather celebrate the freedom from slavery by planning ahead and leaving time and energy to enjoy the traditions and themes of Passover.  It makes for a better me and it allows me to enjoy this wonderful spring holiday.

I have been making stuffed cabbage for many, many years.  Traditionally, rice is used as a filler.  Jews of Ashkenazic (Eastern European)  origin do not eat rice on Passover while those of  Sephardic (originally from Iberian Peninsula) background eat certain types of rice during the holiday.  For this use, you can either substitute quinoa for the rice or skip the rice altogether.

Last year, I did not prepare my cooktop for Passover advance cooking so I was unable to boil the heads of cabbage.  Instead, I froze the heads of cabbage and found it to be a simpler way to prepare the cabbage leaves for stuffing.  Best of all, it meant one less pot to clean at the end.  So, this year I wouldn’t prepare my cabbage leaves any other way.

Stuffed cabbage is one of those menu items that takes some time, but makes enough for many meals.  This year’s stuffed cabbage made enough for two Passover meals with some extras to deliver to some of my friends for their Passover meals.

Stuffed cabbage freezes so well.  The cabbage rolls can be frozen either with or without the suace.  I freeze the cabbage rolls in freezer bags and just take out as many as needed for the next meal.

INGREDIENTS

2 heads of cabbage

2 pounds ground beef
2 eggs
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 Passover crumbs
1 cup quinoa (optional)
1-2 onions, grated or diced small
2-3 garlic cloves or 2 tablespoons minced or granulated garlic
1 small can of tomato sauce or paste
1 squirt of ketchup

sweet and sour sauce

2 cans tomato sauce
2/3 cup sugar or honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup raisins or craisins (optional)

SUPPLIES

Wood and Silicone Spatula
jumbo zipper bags

DIRECTIONS

Carefully remove the first 4-6 leaves of the cabbage and freeze the cabbage for at least 12 hours.

Defrost cabbage for several hours and/or microwave the frozen cabbage heads in 4 minute increments until leaves are soft and pliable enough to remove from head.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In large mixing bowl or extra large ziploc bag, combine all meat batter ingredients, kneading until just combined.  Be careful not to overmix.

Using a Wood and Silicone Spatula, press a golf ball size of meat batter into each cabbage leaf.  Roll soft cabbage leaf around meat, tucking ends under.  Place cabbage rolls seam side down in baking dish or pan.

Cut leftover cabbage into bite size pieces and toss among the cabbage rolls.

Prepare sauce by combining all ingredients and heating in sauce pan or microwave.   Pour sweet and sour sauce over cabbage rolls.

Bake tightly covered for 90 minutes.

 

 

NOTES

You can use any combination of ground veal, ground lamb, ground chicken and/or ground turkey.

 

TIPS

Double or triple the meatball batter and use to make meatloaf, meat muffins and baked meatballs.

Mixing the meatball batter by hand is best, but if you would rather not, use a jumbo zipper bag instead.  Just place all ingredients inside bag and close zipper, releasing any air.  Knead batter from the outside of the bag.

 

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Roses in a Grid

 

Just about one year ago, this blog started with a simple arrangement of rose heads floating in a grid-like pattern: It’s all about the arrangement (psst….even with last week’s roses)  I have mixed things up by using floating roses in so many different ways.  I have mixed rose blossoms with lanterns in Roses and Lanterns: A Simple and Stunning Centerpiece and with plenty of white space over spray-painted wooden planks in An arrangement of Single Roses: Simple, Upcycled and Breathtaking.

Admittedly, roses have never been one of my favorite flowers.  They just seemed so….ordinary.  I have learned to embrace their beauty by admiring these blossoms for their variety of colors, soft petals and classic style.  I have discovered that by floating rose blossoms in different types of arrangements, it allows the viewer to see the majesty of each unique petal on each individual rose.

This is yet another simple wow arrangement that highlights the special qualities of the lovely rose.

This arrangement was created quite by accident.  I had just finished clearing up the dining room from our Purim seuda (festive meal).  For the seuda, I had set up individual square vases with floating roses alternating with individual vases with submerged orange berries and tulip petal swirls.  I placed all the vases that I had collected on my kitchen table and was contemplating what to do with the flowers.  When I looked down, I realized that I had inadvertently formed a beautiful, albeit haphazard collection of individual roses interspersed with submerged berries and tulip petals.

Here it is!

roses in a grid 1