Sukka Clouds of Glory

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Sunday night is the beginning of the holiday of Sukkos,  סוכות.  We are preparing for the holiday in Jerusalem amid a flurry of shopping, building and cooking.  To commemorate Sukkos, we constructed a temporary home called a Sukka that we use during this week-long holiday.   Our Sukka is built to commemorate the protective clouds of glory provided by G-d for the Jews in their sojourn in the desert after leaving Egypt.   These clouds of glory were miraculous in that they protected the jewish nation on all sides as they traveled through the inhospitable desert for forty years.

It is customary to decorate the Sukka by hanging decorations.   Every year, I add to my Sukka decoration repertoire.   This year, I decided to decorate the Sukka with clouds of glory.   The implementation really was simple.   And, I think the symbolic significance is a wow.

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SUPPLIES

12″ clear balloons
white cotton balls
fish line or twine

DIRECTIONS

For each balloon, take 7-10 cotton balls and stretch them to make them look cloud-like.

Holding the balloon at the neck, stretch the balloon neck and stuff the stretched-out cotton into the base of the balloon.

Blow up the cotton-stuffed balloon to the desired size.   Tie at the neck and secure to the Sukka..

Happy Sukkos!

My Grilled Chicken Mentor

My mother is one of the most persistent and resourceful people that I know. Nowadays, when I look in the mirror, I see my mother. And, I’ve learned so much from her determination.

During my childhood, my mother went back to college and then to law school. We grew up eating cereal for dinner most nights and we were okay with that, because that was our reality. My mother had never taken algebra or writing classes before college and my father tutored her along the fourteen year path from Math 101 to LSAT’s until her graduation from Law School.

It all started years before when she appeared in court for a traffic violation. As she explained the position of her car and the related facts, the judge was visibly impressed. He asked what her line of work was. She replied, “I’m a Hebrew school teacher.” The judge then asked, “And, what does your husband do?” My mother answered, “He’s a rabbinic student.” The judge then gave her a life-altering piece of advice before waiving the ticket. He simply said, “When you are done pulling your husband through Rabbinic school, ask him to pull you through Law School. You have the underpinnings of a great lawyer.”

That judge’s understanding of law was infinitely better than his comprehension of the Torah lifestyle that my parents had chosen.    After all, Torah is a lifetime pursuit and my mother never stopped “pulling my father through Rabbinic school”.  But, my mother listened carefully to his encouraging words and put the wheels in motion.   Her own father had been studying in Law School before the Holocaust and never completed his education. His dream was that one of his children would carry on that legacy.  Until the judge’s comment, my mother had never imagined that she would be the child to fulfill her father’s dream.

Fourteen years of education pursuing that dream as a working mother of four lively children had its challenges. And, it was not the typical course for a kollel (Rabbinic student) wife, especially in those days.   There were many nights where we attended college and law school with my mother.  And, there were those snarky comments from those that just didn’t understand or agree with the dream.  But, with G-d’s help, we all persevered and celebrated when my mother passed the Ohio Bar on the first try, after those long and difficult years of study.

And, then we began worrying.  How would my mother, the perennial student, manage as a self-employed attorney?  The fourteen years began when I was in fourth grade and now I was newly married and living elsewhere.   How would my mother transition from the theoretical to the practical?  How would she find the practical expertise to help her clients?

And, the worries persisted for only a short while.  Because, my mother was vested in the transition from school to practice.  My mother was determined to become the expert in certain aspects of law and she lacked the practical know-how.  Law school had taught her so much of the theoretical, but there were gaping holes in her practical application of the law.  And, her persistence, creativity  and resourcefulness were up to this new challenge.

My mother found mentors.   And, not just any mentors.  She sought out the experts in Cleveland in the areas of law in which she needed help.

She called the top Cleveland lawyers in each area of law expertise.  She introduced herself, gave a brief description of her background and asked if they would be willing to do a good deed and mentor her.  When they asked how she had found them, she told them that they were well-known as the experts in that area of law and she would be honored to have them as her mentors.

Just about every one of these top-notch attorneys agreed to mentor my mother.  They were kind, helpful and attentive to her and she was most appreciative of their assistance.  When she felt that she knew enough to manage on her own, she sent each one of these lawyers a small gift with a handwritten thank you note in her large scrawl.

That is mentoring done right.

It had worked so well for my mother that I tried it on my best friend, Lori.  In our house, she is the grilled chicken guru.  I had a long way to go to preparing the perfect grilled chicken.  So, I called Lori before Purim  and asked if she would mentor me by helping me prepare the grilled chicken for our Purim seuda (feast) on our grill so that I could watch and learn.

I learned how to grill chicken properly.  Mostly, I learned that I would never be able to match Lori’s meticulousness.  She had a cutting board and special knife set up for slicing each piece of chicken down the middle and a stopwatch for timing everything perfectly.

There was one important take-away from our backyard mentoring session that I have been implementing.  I never leave the backyard while anything is on the grill.  Although I skip the cutting board and stopwatch, I watch the grill fastidiously, making sure to turn and remove everything in the right time.  There are occasions that will test the doneness of my grilled chicken by slicing the thickest one open to check that there is no pink in the middle.  I leave the perfection to Lori and I thank her because the mentoring paid off immeasurably.

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Now, for some grilling tips:

(1) Use a great marinade and marinate for at least a few hours or overnight.  The marinade will tenderize and flavor the chicken.

(2) Clean your grill and spray with cooking spray before placing the chicken on the grill.

(3) Use your hot spots on the grill for the thickest pieces of chicken and cooler spots for the smallest pieces.

(4) Stay vigilant!  Do not leave your backyard until the chicken is ready.  Turn and remove pieces as they are ready.

(5) Make the grilled chicken yours by serving with torn fresh herbs, salsa or a homemade sauce.

Happy grilling!

Tisha B’Av: The Sour and the Sweet

 

 

The Hebrew date for this Shabbos is the Ninth of Av.   Tisha B’Av throughout history has been a day of Jewish national tragedy and great hope throughout the ages. Since Shabbos is designated as a day of joy rather than mourning, this year, we commemorate Tisha B’Av on Sunday, instead.

The calamities of Tisha B’Av began on this date in 1313 BCE with the pessimistic report of the twelve spies who returned from assessing the land of Israel.  Most of the spies reported that Israel would be impossible to conquer due to the giant inhabitants.  Only Caleb and Joshua spoke of the true beauty and blessing of the land of Israel.  That night, the Jewish nation cried, heeding the unfortunate pessimism of the spies.   On that fateful night, G-d warned us that this day would be one set aside for meaningful punishment and tears throughout the ages.

And so it has been.

As a nation, we have experienced so many Jewish tragedies on this fateful day:

The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE

The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE

The city of Beitar was destroyed by the Romans in 135 CE and the Jewish population of that city was annihilated.

Turnus Rufus, a Roman warrior, plowed the city of Jerusalem in 135 CE.

On this ominous date, the Jews were expelled from England in 1290, from France in 1306, and from Spain in 1492.

Germany entered World War I in 1914

SS commander Heinrich Himmler received formal approval for The Final Solution and thus began the Holocaust.

In 1942, the Jews were deported from the Warsaw Ghetto.

We cry for the pain of the losses, the devastation and  for the light of the connection to G-d. We shed tears over what we had and what we have lost.

However, we must find hope in our sadness, sweetness in the sourness of the past tragedies.  Our tears should not be the pessimistic tears cried by our ancestors on the night the spies returned.  They should be meaningful tears based upon the optimism and connection of Joshua and Caleb.  After all, pain indicates that we are alive and feeling.  Crying for so many centuries shows that we are still connected to the Holy Temple and the presence of G-d.  The month of Av means father and we must feel the embrace of G-d, our father, through the sour past and into the sweet future.

The Jewish nation looks to our leaders who taught us to find light, meaning and hope, even at the darkest times.   After the destruction of the Temple, Rabbi Akiva was walking in Jerusalem with three other great Rabbis.   They saw a fox running among the ruins of the Holy of Holies of the Holy Temple. The Rabbis began to cry at this sight of utter devastation.  Famously, Rabbi Akiva began to laugh.  He explained “The joyous prophecy of Zechariah is contingent upon the sad prophecy of Uriah. Uriah’s prophecy was that ‘Zion shall be plowed like a field.’ Zechariah’s prophecy was that ‘The old men and women will return and sit in the streets of Jerusalem…’ I see that the prophecy of Uriah has been fulfilled, and now I know with certainty that the prophecy of Zechariah will come to fruition…”.

Tisha B’Av has been a day of darkness and devastation and yet, we hope for the light.  As Leonard Cohen famously sang, “There is a crack, a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in. ”

May the darkness of Tisha B’Av be tempered by the laughter of Rabbi Akiva’s clarity of fate and faith.   May the light enter our lives from a clear understanding of  the cracks in the darkness.  May the sweet replace the sour as we feel G-d’s embrace and we hope for the  Final Redemption and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple.

kotel rice krispie treats

For Shabbos, I prepared Rice Krispies Treats to represent the Kotel (Western Wall) stones.  I placed green Sour Sticks between the stones for a sweet/sour flavor and to represent the live greenery growing in the cracks of the Kotel stones.

 INGREDIENTS
1 jar of marshmallow fluff
3 tablespoons margarine
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

1 small bag of green sour sticks

cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper.  Cut sour sticks into small pieces.

Over low heat, melt margarine. Add marshmallow fluff and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Add Rice Krispies, 2 cups at a time. Stir until well combined.

Using a wooden spoon or a firm silicone spatula, press Rice Krispies treats evenly onto lined baking sheet.

Cut into brick-like pieces and display on a rectangular or square platter.  Intersperse green sour sticks pieces between the Rice Krispies Treats.

Crunchy Broccoli Kugel

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By the time the three weeks rolls around, you, I no longer want to see bags of leftover Pesach (Passover) products.

Even if the bags are sealed.  And, especially if they have been flattened.

As I’m always trying to upcycle, the bag of Pesach potato sticks offered a new challenge.  I needed a way to use them in a way that would enhance my Shabbos menu.

Enter broccoli kugel.   We were hosting a mostly women’s Shabbos with two of my favorite of Leah’s friends joining us for Shabbos.  And, when that happens, we try to offer lots of vegetarian menu choices.

And, the gears started turning.  What if…I just used the potato sticks as a simple and crunchy topping to a broccoli kugel?  And this recipe was born.

My guests approved this simple, delicious and crunchy kugel for your viewing and tasting pleasure.

I’m sure you will love this recipe for its simplicity, texture and taste.

INGREDIENTS

1 bag (24 oz) chopped broccoli (see kosher notes)
1 large onion, sautéed
3 eggs
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup seltzer
1 1/3 teaspoon salt
dash of black pepper

1/2 cup crushed potato sticks or chips

DIRECTIONS

Steam broccoli in microwave until soft. Preheat oven 425 degrees F. Combine all ingredients except potato sand pour into a 9″ round pie dish. Crush potato sticks and sprinkle on top. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden brown on top.

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of any whole insects and therefore broccoli requires a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, pureeing, unless purchased with a reputable kosher hashgacha (certification).  Kashrut authorities differ on the proper checking of broccoli.  This blog was not designed to be your kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding using and preparing broccoli.

Simplest Friday Ciabatta Ever

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For those who have eaten at our home on Friday night, you most likely have tasted Davida’s delicious no-knead ciabatta.   Since Davida will be spending the next few weeks in Israel, I decided that it was high time to take the ciabatta preparation back and make it my own.

Making something my own usually means taking some shortcuts and simplifying the whole process.  It also means using fewer bowls and utensils because I hate the clean-up. Cleaning sticky dough off of counters, bowls, spoons and towels can really be a nightmare.  And, truth be told, I do not have Davida’s baking precision or patience, anyways.

This ciabatta is almost as good as Davida’s with a lot less fuss.  It can be made on the same day, although it requires a minimum of six hours of rise time.  It still has the trademark thick crust and dough full of air bubbles inside.

INGREDIENTS

3 cups of high-gluten or bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 3/4 cups of warm water
olive oil

a sprinkling of additional bench flour or corn meal

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl,  toss flour, yeast, salt, and sugar.  Slowly pour in warm water, and knead with your hands or a large spoon until a soft sticky dough has formed without any any spots or noticeable lumps.

Line a heavy loaf pan or narrow casserole dish with parchment paper and sprinkle a bit of bench flour or corn meal.  Stretch dough out a few times to create air bubbles and place dough in parchment-lined loaf pan.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of the dough and allow the dough to rise in a warm spot for at least six hours.

Remove dough in parchment paper from loaf pan and leave on counter while preheating the loaf pan in a 425 degree F oven for fifteen minutes.

Carefully remove preheated pan from oven (it will be very hot) and place dough in parchment paper back into loaf pan.   Cover lightly with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15-20 minutes more.

Remove ciabatta from pan and allow to cool before slicing.

Enjoy!

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Peach Velvet Salmon

peach velvet salmon

I’ll share a little secret with you.

Last week’s leftover homemade dip or dressing becomes this week’s favorite marinade.  The reason is simple.  Dips have all the components needed in a marinade.  They have an oil base for moisture,  a flavor profile for taste and usually some acid for tenderizing.

I also like to use whatever seasonal items are on hand.  This week, peaches are plentiful and flavorful at the market and my planters are bursting with fresh chives.  These early summer flavors inspired this dish and my hungry family and friends approved it for publishing on the blog.

I used leftover Simple and Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette to coat the salmon fillets, but any dip, sauce or dressing will work.  I pressed freshly ripened peach slices and torn chives on top.

The salmon is simple and delicious with a taste of summer.  Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

salmon fillets
Simple and Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette
1 ripe peach, scrubbed and sliced thin
Chives, torn for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Line cooking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Brush salmon fillets generously with Simple and Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette or your favorite dressing or dip.   Press thin peaches slices and a few torn chives into salmon.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes, until fish flakes easily with fork. Sprinkle some more fresh chives over salmon.

Baby Carriage Cookies for a Shalom Zachor

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Last week, Michelle’s friend, Daniella, gave birth to an adorable baby boy.  To welcome the baby to the world,  the family hosted a Shalom Zachor (lit: Peaceful welcome male).  Michelle prepared these adorable cookies for the Shalom Zachor, held this past Shabbos.

I was sitting next to my friend, Carol, at the Shalom Zachor.  She recommended that I try these delicious and adorable cookies, not knowing that Michelle had prepared them in my kitchen right before Shabbos!

The Shalom Zachor is such a beautiful tradition.  It is a wonderful opportunity to gather friends, family and community for desserts and drinks at the home of the new baby.  There are many reasons given for this delightful Jewish tradition:

  1. We simply welcome the baby to the first Shabbos of life outside the womb.
  2. We thank G-d on the first Shabbos for the baby surviving the birth.
  3. Since we know that all blessings for the upcoming week emanate from the preceding Shabbos, we open our home to the blessing of family and friends before the upcoming bris (circumcision).  
  4. While in the womb, an angel teaches the baby the entire Torah.   At birth, the teaching angel touches the baby near the mouth and the baby forgets all that he has learned.  The baby’s lifetime duty is to relearn his Torah and family and friends gather to console the baby on having lost his Torah knowledge and study partner.
  5. Shabbos and the birth of a baby boy are auspicious times for peace and we invite our community to our homes in the hope of the creation and continuity of peace between family and community.

INGREDIENTS

Hadar-Tirosh chocolate  half-moon biscuits

Paskesz mini oreo cookies

frosting

blue/pink piping or frosting

 

DIRECTIONS

Using a small spatula coated with frosting, adhere two half-moon cookies together at right angles to create base of carriage.  Since these cookies are double-sided,  use the vanilla side for the base of the carriage and the chocolate-side for the carriage hood.

With a dab of frosting, adhere two wheels to front of cookie carriage.  Pipe lines on hood of carriage for additional decoration.

Leah’s Smelly Drunken Bridesmaid Dress

Who knew that a gown could benefit from a few shots of vodka?

Leah was asked to be a bridesmaid recently and she asked my opinion if she should accept.  Personally,  I am not a fan of bridesmaids for so many reasons.  I don’t like the stress, drama, cost and showiness inherent in having bridesmaids at weddings.  So, I expressed my rather strong opinions on the matter to Leah.

And, Leah countered my negative bridesmaids views with arguments like, “it’s important for the bride”, “this one is an easy color to find and useful for future weddings” and “it should not create any stress at all.”

To which I conceded and told her that the final decision was hers.  And, that I would stand by whatever decision she made.

But, I knew from the beginning that was not going to be as easy as she led me (and herself) to believe.

The color scheme was metallic.  Leah already had a gorgeous gold dress given to her one of her friends.  The gown was expensive and heavily beaded with classic styling.  She asked me what I thought.  “Beautiful,” “classic”  and “free” were some of the adjectives that I used to describe the gown.  I thought the gold gown fit Leah beautifully and that we were done.

Leah disagreed.  And, I knew we were in trouble.

Leah asked her cohorts to advise her on the gold gown.  They all agreed with Leah that the gold gown was just not right for her.

So, Leah found two more gowns to try.  The first gown was an Amazon special in just the right color.  The second gown was a rose gold beaded bridesmaid gown in her size being sold by a former bridesmaid in the Midwest.  She worked out a price and shipping and a few days later both the Midwest gown and the Amazon gown arrived.

The Amazon gown was constructed of slinky cheap material and the Midwest gown was perfect except that it was a tad short for Leah’s 5’9″ height.  After some more consultation with friends and co-workers,  Leah decided to keep the Midwest gown and chose the perfect shoes to wear with the dress.  Everything seemed right in the world of bridesmaid gowns.

Often, there is the calm before the storm.  And, sure enough, the winds started up again on the morning of the wedding.  I woke up and Leah was right there with an offer.  “If you can help me with this challenge, I’ll let you write it up on your blog.”

Now, that was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

It seemed that Leah hadn’t noticed that the Midwest gown arrived with a stench that was unbearable.  Somehow, with all the try-ons and consultations, no one had noticed that the gown had an odor.  Overnight, Leah had already tried everything she knew to remove the odor unsuccessfully.

So, I did some research.  And, the research came up with the following diluted suggestions: lemon juice, baking soda and vodka.  I tried them incrementally.  First, I tried a solution of lemon juice and water.  That helped a bit.  Then, I added some baking soda to the solution.  That helped a bit more.  Finally, I soaked the armpits of the lining in a  solution of vodka.  I pinned a few dryer sheets on the armpits and put the dress outside to dry.

And, thankfully, the tale of the Smelly Drunken Bridesmaid Dress was over after a few shots of diluted vodka.

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

To remove smell from clothing without washing, try any combination of the following steps.  Test a small unnoticeable area first to ascertain how it will affect the color of the garment.

(1) Create a solution of equal parts of lemon juice and water.  Use a brush to apply to smelly area or dip the garment in the lemon juice solution.

(2) Add a teaspoon of baking soda to the lemon juice solution created in #1.  Use a brush to apply to smelly area or dip the garment in the solution.

(3) Combine 3 parts of vodka and  2 parts of water.  Use a brush to apply to smelly area or dip the garment in the solution.

(4) Pin dryer sheets to the affected area.

 

 

 

 

Baby Stroller Fruit Display

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There are events that just make you stop and take note.  This past Shabbos, our family was part of one of those life events.

My best friend, Lori, welcomed her first grandchild into this world on Shabbos, Parshas (Torah portion)  Shelach.  Since the baby was born on Shabbos, the Shalom Zachor (festive gathering on first Friday night after birth of baby boy) and Bris (circumcision) were held back-to-back this past Shabbos, Parshas Korach.  To complicate matters, our shul’s social hall was already booked for a Bar Mitzvah, so Lori opted to host both events at her home.

I so wanted to help Lori pull this together because Lori is like the sister that I never had.  I called her daily asking for an assignment, but Lori assured me that the whole family was pulling together to prepare for these exciting and daunting celebrations.    So, I took matters into my own hands.  Actually, I took matters into the capable hands of my youngest daughter, Davida.  And, of course, I wasn’t disappointed.

Davida carved a watermelon into this baby stroller complete with a nectarine baby sipping his bottle.  It was not too complicated to prepare and it really created a wow at the celebration.

Thank you, Davida!

Mazel tov, Lori!

SUPPLIES

1″ baby bottle
Mini-skewers or heavy toothpicks
Permanent marker 
melon baller
paring knives

INGREDIENTS

one oval-shaped watermelon
honeydew or cantaloupe
peach or nectarine
4 oranges or clementines

DIRECTIONS

Using a heavy knife, cut watermelon in half to create base of stroller.

Using a melon baller, scoop out the two halves of the watermelon and other melon(s) and place in a large bowl.  Using melon baller and paring knives, clean out the cavity of the two watermelon halves so that cavities are smooth.

Reserve the larger watermelon half for the stroller cavity.

Using a heavy knife, cut the other half of the watermelon in two to create the stroller hood.  Cut v-shaped notches to create a decorative edge on the larger half.  On the smaller half, cut a small band to use as the stroller handle.  Discard the rest of the watermelon.

Carefully secure the hood to the stroller cavity using Mini-skewers or heavy toothpicks inserted into the middle of the rind of each section.  If skewers are too large,  trim so that they are the right length to secure the watermelon sections together.   Secure the stroller handle to the front of the stroller cavity in the same way.

Carefully secure citrus “wheels” to stroller using  Mini-skewers or heavy toothpicks.

Draw eyelashes on the nectarine or peach and carefully push the baby bottle into the “mouth”.

Refill the watermelon with the melon balls, leaving a small space for the nectarine baby.  Place the baby into the melon carriage.

 

End Of Year Gifts

end-of-year gifts

Now that the end of the school year is fast approaching, it is the time to show appreciation to those who have helped our children through the school year.  Many schools collect money through a class parent or the PTA to offer a more substantial gift to the teachers, but there is still a special place for a personal gift and card expressing appreciation for a job well done.

There were years that I took the time to create personal gifts and there were years that I opted to just go with the class gift.  Now that my children have all graduated from elementary, middle and high school (phew!), I regret that I didn’t take the personal route more often.

And, here is why.

A personal display of appreciation really is important.  Words and gestures really do matter.  And, they last for a very long time, sometimes a lifetime.  This is a lesson I should have learned earlier, but it is an important lesson imparted to me by my daughter, Michelle.

One year, on the first day of school, Michelle came home with a big smile on her face.  “I have the meanest teacher in the school,” she delighted in telling me.

Most parents would worry.  I knew to trust Michelle because I understood why she was smiling.  Michelle was up to the challenge of taming the “meanest teacher in the school.”

It was hard for me to believe that this teacher really was the ogre that Michelle and her friends believed.  After all, she was a well-coiffed woman with the sweetest smile ever.  Michelle assured me that the smile meant nothing and that this teacher smiled even as she made snarky comments to the class.

I waited patiently.

Over the course of the school year, Michelle seemed to have gotten used to this teacher.  Even as her friends complained, Michelle worked at finding favor in the eyes of Mrs. Mean and almost begrudgingly, Mrs. Mean took a liking to Michelle.

In those days, I would write a poem as part of the year-end gift for those teachers that really went the extra mile.  I wasn’t sure that this teacher had really been extraordinary and I was not planning to write that poem.  Michelle thought differently.

A few days before school ended, Michelle asked me if I had written a poem for Mrs. Mean.  I came up with a long list of excuses.  “I’m too busy.”  “I just can’t find the time to do it.”  “I’m not sure your teacher would even care.”

Michelle countered with “what are you so busy with?” “It’s as important as anything else on your to-do list.”  “You don’t know what a handwritten poem will do for this teacher.”  And, finally, “Whatever is on your to-do list, I will do for you so that you can write the poem for my teacher.”

Now, that was an offer that I couldn’t refuse.  So, Michelle cleaned the kitchen, set the table and did everything else that I was supposed to do.  And, I sat down begrudgingly to write the poem.  Of course, I encountered writer’s block.  The words just wouldn’t flow because I really didn’t have much to say.

But, Michelle had a whole year’s worth of material.  And, she was armed with the conviction that this poem was so vital to her teacher.  So, after she completed all my chores, Michelle fed me the material.  And, I wrote that poem.  And, Michelle cheerfully delivered that poem to her teacher.

And, years later, I encountered that teacher.  She was still so well-coiffed and smiley and I still had a hard time believing that she was a monster teacher.  She remembered Michelle so vividly and asked about her.  And, she told me that the gift and the poem are still on her windowsill where she reads the poem often.  And, that the poem written by my pen and Michelle’s heart is one of her most treasured items.

Mrs. Mean would never know that the challenge that year was not in reading, writing, science or spelling.  It was for Michelle to take on the meanest teacher.  And, we all know that Michelle nailed the challenge in so many ways.

So, take the time to create a memorable gift that shows appreciation for a job well done.

Here are some helpful tips:

(1) Include something personal that shows you paid attention.  Choose items in the recipient’s favorite color or theme.  Include a personalized item, a gift card to their favorite store or favorite magazines, candy or food items.

(2) Find an interesting basket or box to contain multiple items.  Find a container that matches the theme and is the right size to include all the items selected.

(3) Use clear cellophane wrap or cellophane bag to wrap items and secure corners with clear packing tape.

(4) Shred brown paper grocery bags in paper shredder to use as filler.

(5) Secure with a thick ribbon and trim top of cellophane wrap .

(6) Always include a personal note.  Reference something that made your experience with this teacher or mentor unique and memorable.  You never know if yours will be the note that your recipient treasures for a lifetime.

 

 

Blood-Orange Glazed Salmon

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When I was a little girl visiting my grandparents in Willamsburg, Brooklyn, I remember my Oma and Opa bringing home blood oranges as a special treat for Yom Tov (Jewish holiday). I was traumatized by these small oranges tinged with bloodish red coloration throughout.  I really believed that there was blood inside these oranges and no matter how much my grandparents tried to convince me that there was no blood inside these oranges, I was still horrified by the thought of blood oranges.  Of course, I refused to eat them and was repulsed by the mere sight of these oranges with the red-tinged flesh.

I had forgotten about this aversion to blood oranges.  Until a few years ago.

I cannot even remember exactly when Trader Joe’s began stocking blood oranges regularly.  And, blood-orange became a flavor sensation in sorbet and drinks.

And, I decided that it was time to give blood oranges another chance.  Thankfully, my adult self became fascinated with the tropical flavor and tye-dye whimsy of these oranges.

This simple salmon dish highlights the unique flavor and beautiful coloration of these oranges.

blood orange glazed salmon 2.png

INGREDIENTS

salmon fillets
⅓ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2-3 tablespoons orange juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 blood orange, sliced thin for garnish
Scallions, sliced thin for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Line cooking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Brush salmon fillets with just enough Worcestershire sauce and orange juice to be absorbed by the salmon fillets. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Drizzle a bit more Worcestershire sauce and orange juice over brown sugar. Sprinkle minced garlic and sliced scallions over salmon.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 40-50 minutes, until fish flakes easily with fork. Serve with sliced scallions and thin blood orange slices.

Heimeshe Farfel

heimeshe farfel.jpg

My son, Aaron, loves farfel (flake-shaped pasta popular in Jewish cuisine).

When he was younger, Aaron used to love to visit Bubby and Zaidy in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens.  While he enjoyed spending time with his grandparents, he was excited by the fact that there was nearly a dozen places where he could buy prepared farfel within a short radius of  Bubby and Zaidy‘s home.  That meant something back then.

Some things haven’t changed.

When Aaron comes home for Shabbos, I try to prepare heimeshe (home-style) farfel.  Nowadays, there are not many stores in our hometown that sell Heimeshe farfel.  Most sell egg barley, which is more like orzo than like farfel.  Heimeshe farfel is typically made from an egg noodle dough and/or matzo and is toasted before being cooked.  It has trademark light and dark coloration, reminiscent of the color of matzo.

Farfel is something that reminds me of my childhood.  That uniquely hemishe side dish evokes images of a past era where life was so much simpler.   On my visits to Monsey or Brooklyn, I can easily find this ingredient, much to Aaron’s delight.  And, when I prepare this simple and delicious dish, he doesn’t even need to leave the house to enjoy it!

INGREDIENTS

2 small bags heimeshe farfel
1-2 onions
garlic, minced (optional)

oil
1 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper

1 1/2- 2 cups of water

 
DIRECTIONS

Over medium-high heat, saute onions and garlic in oil, just until starting to brown.  Add  heimeshe farfel and toast for 1-2 minutes.  Add 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and stir occasionally for 15-20 minutes, making sure that farfel doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add a bit more water in intervals, if necessary.  Farfel should be dry and soft when ready.

Perfect Strawberry Smoothie

perfect strawberry smoothie.png

INGREDIENTS

1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons honey or strawberry daquiri mix
whipped cream (optional)

SUPPLIES

blender
straws

DIRECTIONS
Add strawberries, milk and honey to blender jar. Blend until smooth. Carefully pour into tall glass and garnish with whipped cream.  Add a thick straw.

Enjoy!

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

 

Sliders with Onion Slices and Frizzled Beets

slider with frizzled beets.jpg

Most of the time, we eat sliders without the bun.  And, most of the family enjoys their burgers and sliders very well-done.  That means that the burgers need some pretty exciting accessories to keep them moist and interesting.  This burger started out as an experiment and ended up with rave reviews.  It is a well-done burger that still has character and juiciness.

When thinking about how to dress up an ordinary burger, of course, onions came to mind.  After all, onions make just about everything exciting.  They are sweet and hearty, flavorful and versatile.

And, as you know,  I have become an unwitting ambassador for beets.  Beets are maligned and ignored, mostly because of the unfortunate texture that many people have encountered in their childhood.  Thankfully, beets are making a comeback, mostly because boiled beets are a very small part of the beet preparation pie-chart.  In reality, beets are beautiful and exciting with a variety of textures depending upon their preparation.  They are inexpensive, widely available and are best eaten raw or roasted.  Beets are truly are one of the most exciting vegetables available.

This recipe starts in a pan on the fire and ends in the oven.  It is forgiving and will wait for you.  The end product is a juicy well-done slider atop a soft, succulent onion slice with drizzled beets on the top.

Enjoy!

 

SUPPLIES

food processor

INGREDIENTS

1-2 beets, shredded
1-2 onions
all-beef sliders

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

By hand or using the shredding blade on the food processor, shred or grate beets.

Slice the onions and place on the bottom of a baking dish.  Pour water to coat the bottom and halfway up the onion slices.  Place in hot oven.

Heat sliders and shredded beets in fry pan.

sliders with frizzled beets in pan.jpg

Turn sliders until both sides are well-cooked.  Carefully place sliders, frizzled beets and some of the pan drippings on top of the onions in the baking dish and place bake in the oven.

Bake for 15 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven.

Roasted Vegetable Sliders

roasted vegetable sliders 2

This appetizer is one of the most beautiful, delicious and versatile ones that I have up my sleeve.  It is simply a stack of roasted vegetables secured with an interesting pick.  As you already know, I roast vegetables almost every Erev Shabbos (Friday afternoon) in preparation for our Shabbos.  Everyone enjoys the vegetables before Shabbos and I try to make enough that we still have enough to enjoy at our Shabbos meals.

This appetizer can be dressed up with an herb garnish on top.  It can be served with a dollop of Jalapeño  Dip, or even topped with some melted cheese  for a dairy meal.

TIP

If roasting squashes or sweet potatoes, scrub peel and leave on before roasting.  This will help the roasted vegetable hold together so that it can be stacked.

roasted vegetables for sliders.pngroasted vegetable sliders

Onion-Smothered Salmon

salmon smothered with onions 2

I use salmon in a host of recipes.  I prepare it as a main dish for an easy weeknight dinner.  I prepare it or use in Shabbos appetizers like Individual Sushi Salads and others.  Salmon is versatile and popular.  Its distinctive taste makes it one of our family favorites.

Since I use salmon in so many different ways, I am always on the hunt for new preparations.   This past Shabbos, I made a Tex-Mex Shabbos appetizer.  The star of this appetizer was the onion-smothered salmon.   It was so delicious and yet, so simple.

While I normally roast salmon at a higher temperature, baking the fish at 350 degrees F yields a dish that is so delicious and so moist.   I normally saute a large batch of onions in advance of my marathon Shabbos or Yom Tov cooking.    I sometimes even freeze the leftover onions.  This dish is the perfect one to use these batch onions.

 

INGREDIENTS

salmon fillet
soy sauce
onions
oil
DIRECTIONS

Saute onions in oil or butter, just until soft and starting to brown.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.  Lay salmon fillet on the lined sheet and brush with soy sauce.  Smother with sauteed onions.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-50 minutes, depending on size of the salmon fillet.  Salmon should be cooked through, thickly flaking and moist when ready.

salmon smothered with onions

 

5-Ingredient Cheesecake Brownie Bites

cheesecake brownie bites.jpg

Cheesecake and brownies.  Brownies and cheesecake.  Two delicious and decadent desserts that deserve each other.

This recipe is simple and oh, so delicious.  It is the perfect combination of these two classic dessert flavors.  The recipe begins with brownie mix and end up as the perfect combination of brownies and cheesecake, marbled to perfection.  It is forgiving and memorable.  The texture is decadent and fudgey.  It will wow you in its simplicity and it will wow you in its delicious taste and texture.

INGREDIENTS
1 brownie mix
8 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare brownie batter according to package instructions and pour into individual cupcake papers or ramekins.

Using a mixer or the s-blade of the food processor, mix together cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Add the egg and beat  until creamy and smooth.

Add a dollop of  cheesecake batter on top of each of the brownie batter ramekins. Use a skewer, small knife or chopstick to swirl the cheesecake and brownie batter.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until the top of the cheesecake is turning golden brown.  Test with a toothpick inserted into the center of one ramekin.  If a bit of the batter sticks to the toothpick, you will have a fudgier end-product.  If you wait until the toothpick comes out clean, you will have a more cake-like end-product.

cheesecake brownie bites

Modest Mountain Midrash Cupcakes for Shavuos

Tomorrow night, Davida will be hosting a Shavuos bake sale at our home  from 8:00 PM to 10:30 PM.  These Shavuos cupcakes will be offered for sale.

mountain cupcakes.png

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 8.28.45 PM

It comes just in time for the Jewish holiday of Shavuos, the holiday where we celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.  There is a beautiful midrash (story-like commentary) explaining how G-d chose Har Sinai (Mount Sinai),  the humblest mountain of all,  to be the place where the Torah was received by the Jewish nation.

This past Shabbos, my grandchildren, Avigail and Yehuda,  visited.  On Shabbos, they sang this song that they both learned in their respective preschools.  It is based upon this very Midrash.  It explains in song how many mountains vied for the opportunity to be the venue for Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah).  Each mountain highlighted its own virtue.  Some were tall; others were strong or beautifully adorned.   Har Sinai was chosen for it epitomized the lessons of humility and simplicity.

Here are the lyrics:

I am a mountain so very high
I can reach way up to the sky
The Torah should be given on me
For I am as tall as can be, you see

Oh No! I am much greater than you
There are so many things I can do
The Torah should be given on me
For I am as strong as can be, you see

But little Har Sinai just stood there and sighed,
“I know I’m not tall; I know I’m not wide
The Torah cannot be given on me
For I am as small as can be, you see

From all the mountains, Hashem chose Sinai
Because he did not hold himself high
He had such simple and humble ways
And from here we learn humility pays

This song and midrash became the basis for these mountain cupcakes.  I frosted a dozen green cupcakes using different techniques, sprinkles and embellishments.  I chose the simplest cupcake to represent Har Sinai.    In the center of that cupcake,  I placed white chocolate luchos (tablets).

SUPPLIES

cupcakes
green frosting
shredded coconut
green food coloring
assorted sprinkles and edible pearls.
white chocolate

1 large zipper bag
1 small zipper bag

 

DIRECTIONS

Place 1 cup of shredded coconut in a zipper bag. Add a few drops of green food coloring and knead or shake until color is distributed throughout.

Frost seven cupcakes with green icing. Add green coconut,  sprinkles and embellishments.  Keep one cupcake simple.

Melt white chocolate by placing on a microwave-safe plate and using the timed-defrost feature for 5-9 minutes, checking every minute after 5 minutes.

Spread a piece of waxed or parchment paper and carefully fill a small zipper bag with the melted chocolate.  Pipe out the shape of the luchos (tablets) and allow to harden.

Place the luchos in the center of the plainest cupcake.

 

TIPS

For a smooth frosting, microwave the green frosting on high for 10-30 seconds, checking after every ten seconds.  When frosting is smooth and warm, pour over cupcakes.  This will yield a shiny smooth frosted cupcake that can be easily dipped into sprinkles.

Yom Yerushalayim: A Day of Gratitude, Responsibility and Love

Yom Yerushalayim and Yehuda with flags.png

 

“Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) is a gift given to our generation,” I declare often to my children.  “It is not a small gift and it is not a gift to be taken for granted.  It came at a high price and we have a huge responsibility to appreciate this treasure and care for it properly.”

For generations, we longed to be able to walk the streets of Yerushalayim in peace and in song.   We prayed long and hard for the opportunity to shed tears and pour our hearts out in prayer at the Kotel (The Wailing Wall).  When we visit Jerusalem now, we can enjoy the beauty and comfort of Jerusalem and it is easy to forget that it has only been 51 years since we have received this enormous gift.

My brother-in-law, Bezalel, recalls visiting Jerusalem for his Bar Mitzvah, prior to 1967.  He made the long journey by boat with great anticipation of finally reaching the Holy Land and seeing Jerusalem.  He describes the moment of the great reveal.

He had spent weeks traveling by sea.  Jerusalem was in his hopes and his dreams.  He along with the Jewish nation prayed and pray daily for the opportunity for our eyes to behold  Yerushalayim.  There was such anticipation and excitement.

Bezalel reached the Mandelbaum Gate, the closest place at that time that a Jew could come to the Old City of Jerusalem.  It was the checkpoint into the Jordanian-controlled part of Jerusalem, north of the western edge of the Old City.    Bezalel climbed up as high as possible to try and catch a glimpse of the Old City of Jerusalem.  He describes straining his eyes to behold Jerusalem.  He describes how fortunate he felt that his parents allowed him to make the long, albeit meaningful, trip to catch but a glimpse of the holiness and beauty of Yerushalayim.

Did he believe that just a few years later his children and grandchildren would be able to choose from scores of flights daily into Israel?  Did he imagine that he would be able to walk hand-in-hand with his progeny in the streets of  Yerushalayim?   Would he have guessed that the streets of Jerusalem would be filled with song and the many study halls of Jerusalem would be sweetened by the sounds and echos of Torah learning?

It is a dream come true and an enormous gift and responsibility not to be taken lightly.

Years ago, we visited Israel with Kaitlyn, who was a preschooler and just beginning to learn Hebrew.  She struggled with the basic Hebrew vocabulary and grammar.  I remember that during that visit, Kaitlyn exclaimed, “Wow!  Even the babies cry in Hebrew!”

Today is Yom Yerushalayim, a day commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City after the Six-Day War.  It is a day of drama and a day of appreciation.  It is a day of importance, a day of gratitude and a day of responsibility.

As I have written in the past, G-d chose the place for the the  Holy Temple in Jerusalem to be built as the spot where two men felt each other’s kindness, caring and  brotherly love. We are taught that there were two brothers living in Jerusalem.  One brother had a large family and the other brother lived alone.   One evening, each brother devised a plan to help the other brother.  The single brother thought, “my brother has so many children and probably not enough food. I will bring him a bundle of wheat.”  The brother with a large family thought, “my brother has nothing but his wealth.  I will bring a wheat bundle to him to fill some of his loneliness.”    That night, each brother carried a bundle of wheat through the hills of Jerusalem.  Under the cover of darkness, the two brothers met and embraced each other. God proclaimed.  “This very spot where these two brothers demonstrated love for each other is where the Holy Temple will be built.”

The boy in the picture is my three year old grandson, Yehuda.  When we visited Yerushalayim for Pesach (Passover), Yehuda had just turned three.  One morning, before the rest of the house awoke,  I invited him to take the Jerusalem light rail train with me to do some shopping.  On the way back, I offered that he could get himself a single item.  He chose a small Israeli flag.  As we were walking back to the train, Yehuda remembered that we had not bought anything for Avigail.  He asked if I would give him money to buy a flag for Avigail, as well.  We went back and bought her the same flag.

This picture was a candid shot of Yehuda at the Davidka station of the light rail waving his and Avigail’s flags in the streets of Jerusalem with the carefree happiness that we have hope for, longed for and prayed for.

May G-d allow us the opportunity to appreciate the gift or Yerushalayim, until the true rebuilding of this city in the times of Moshiach.

 

Simple No-Cook Salmon Appetizer

no-cook salmon appetizers

There are times that a simple no-cook appetizer is the way to go.

Like, when there are six Yom Tov (holiday) meals in a row and you’re looking for a new creative way to serve an appetizer with minimal effort.  The upcoming Shavuos holiday comes on the heels of a Shabbos, calling for six consecutive festive meals.  And, because it is fish, this appetizer can be served pareve (non-dairy) or with crème fraîche on the side with a dairy meal.

It is simple.  It is beautiful.  That simple and beautiful combination is a wow!

SUPPLIES

wide vegetable peeler

no-cook salmon appetizers-ingredients.jpg

INGREDIENTS

Long Seedless cucumber
lox or smoked salmon, sliced thin

celery leaves (optional)
salmon caviar (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS

Using a wide vegetable peeler, carefully peel long, thin slices of seedless cucumber.

Spread each slice of cucumber flat and top with lox slice(s), lining up bottom edges of cucumber and lox.

no-cook salmon appetizers-ready to roll.jpg

 

Starting at end that has both cucumber and lox, carefully roll up to form a rose.

no-cook salmon appetizers-in progress

 

Stand up and unfurl lox petals for a delicate rose-like formation.

Optionally, garnish with celery leaves and salmon caviar.

Voila!

no-cook salmon appetizers.jpg

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

A Bouquet of Cupcakes with Purpose

cupcake bouquet.png

Davida volunteered to host a Shavuos bake sale at our home next Wednesday night, May 16th, 2018  from 8:00 PM to 10:30 PM.  It comes right on the heels of Mother’s Day and right before the Jewish holiday of Shavuos.

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 8.28.45 PM

Both Mother’s Day and Shavuos are days associated with flowers, so Davida and I prepared a few cupcake bouquets for the bake sale.  All proceeds will benefit families in need and will satisfy both the food and decorative aspects of the upcoming holiday.  

Davida is the go-to person in the family for any baking or cooking tasks.  She is a master at baking and decorating and her baked goods are both delicious and beautiful.  This one is no exception.  It uses items that you would have on hand and is simple to assemble.

 

SUPPLIES

7 cupcakes

7 cups
stapler
green cocktail napkins
green tissue paper

glue stick
ribbon
container

DIRECTIONS

Frost seven cupcakes with icing to resemble flowers.

Find plastic or paper cups that will allow each cupcake to fit snugly inside.

Staple the seven cups together in the following way to easily form a bouquet base with places to hold the flower cupcakes:

  • Staple three cups in a row.
  • Staple another two cups to each other.
  • Staple the last two cups to each other.
  • Staple the three cups to one pair of two stapled cups.  Staple the other pair of two cups to the three cups on the other side.  This will form a base for your seven cupcakes with one cup in the middle and six cups all around.

cupcake bouquet-cups only

Fit the plastic cup base into a basket or bowl that fits snugly.  I found a farmer’s market basket that fit perfectly.

Cut the green tissue paper in half and wrap around the basket, gluing it into place.  Tie a ribbon around the basket and secure with glue, if necessary.

Cut each cocktail napkin into a large circle.  Tuck the napkin remnants between each cup to fill in gaps.

cupcake bouquet assembled with greenery ready

Wrap each cupcake in a napkin circle and fit each floral cupcake snugly into each plastic cup.

Voila!

cupcake bouquet

 

 

Basil Pesto Butter

basil butter flowers.png

Close to ten years ago, we shared a dairy lunch meal with our good friends, Neal and Marilyn, at their new home in Jerusalem.  They ordered food from Village Green, a well-known and delicious vegetarian restaurant on Jaffa Street right in the heart of Jerusalem.  They ordered a lavish assortment of salads, quiches, pastas and desserts.

It was a luncheon to remember.  The food was delicious, colorful and plentiful.  The camaraderie among the adults and the kids was remarkable.  But, there was one stand-out rockstar at that luncheon.

It was the herbed butter.

Village Green had packaged the food with small individual pats of herbed butter and those delicious flavorful butter treats transformed that afternoon.

So, ten years later, I decided that it was time to recreate that buttery sensation.   I simply added basil to the food processor and pulsed it into a rough pesto.  I then added softened butter and processed it until it was well combined.

Best of all, when I served the butter, it transported us back instantly to that afternoon in the heart of Israel.  Hopefully, this simple upgrade to your dairy meal will create pleasant memories for you, too….

 

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cleaned and pat dry (see kosher notes)
1 pound salted or unsalted butter

 

 

DIRECTIONS

Place basil leaves in the food processor.  Using the s-blade, pulse until roughly ground.  Cut butter into small cubes and add to food processor.  Pulse until smooth and well-combined.

Alternatively,  chop basil.  Soften butter by using the time-defrost mode on the microwave.  Defrost in 30 second intervals until softened but not melted. Combine chopped basil and softened butter until well-combined

Place pesto butter onto parchment paper and roll.  Twist ends of parchment roll.  Refrigerate until firm.

basil butter log.png

Cut into thin slices before serving.

basil butter log cut into pieces.jpg

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of any whole insects and therefore herbs require a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, pureeing, unless purchased with a reputable kosher hashgacha (certification). Kashrut authorities differ on the proper checking of broccoli. This blog was not designed to be your kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding using and preparing fresh herbs.

TIP

For an additional wow, place basil butter in individual molds or interesting ice cube trays.  Freeze until it is easy to pop out into individual decorative pats of butter.

basil butter flowers

Refrigerate or freeze leftovers and use as starter for dairy soups and omelets or as  a delicious accompaniment to roasted or steamed vegetables and fish.

Hoop Floral Arrangements

magnolia hoop arrangement.jpg

I am intrigued by framed arrangements.  I love the contrast of a rigid framed shape against the natural beauty of foliage and flowers.  The frame provides boundary and format to the creativity and unique beauty of G-d’s world

Last year, I attended a cousin’s Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem and the simple floral arrangements mesmerized me.  The arrangements  incorporated circular hoops as the backdrop for tropical flowers.  I was intrigued by these arrangements and just couldn’t take my eyes off them.  There was something about the way the circular hoop framed the arrangement and the way the lush tropical foliage and orchids contrasted with the simplicity of the circular shape.  My relatives caught me staring and  quickly realized that they would be seeing  more of this type of arrangement on  my blog.

hoop floral arrangement

I spent some time thinking about how I could achieve that look on a budget and with flowers from my garden.  I loved the idea of the circular framing.  I was determined to use the hoop as a frame for a sparse arrangement that would allow one to see right through the arrangement.

For our Purim seuda (feast), I created these arrangements using the just budding branches of our Magnolia trees in our backyard.  Back in late February-early March, the buds were fuzzy, kind of like pussy willow buds but with meandering branches that were so interesting in their unique shapes.

magnolia tree in february.jpg

I contrasted rose-gold painted hoops with these branches and the effect was breathtaking and unique.  I mounted the hoops onto cans spray-painted in the same metallic color as the hoops.   They were conversation starters, especially because they incorporated elements from the winter-beleaguered trees in my backyard.  And, they signaled that spring really would arrive this year.

shabbos table through copper hoop arrangement

Almost two months later, the branches are still gorgeous and fresh with the fuzzy, though slightly withered blossoms still attached.   I found an old globe stand and I fitted one of the metallic hoop arrangements into the semicircular base of the globe stand and have been enjoying the floral arrangement in my front hall.

Until, last week.

Just a few days ago, the Magnolia tree fuzzies metamorphosed into their trademark showy pink blossoms.

magnolia tree.jpg

And, I just couldn’t resist updating and upgrading the hoop arrangements.

And this old-new arrangement just took my breath away.  Not because of the rose-gold hoops.  Or, the meandering branches.  Or the fuzzy blossom beginnings.  Or, even the spectacular magnolia blossoms.

magnolia hoop arrangement 2

It is because of the symbolism.  The round world surrounding the flowing beauty of nature, marching to the same rhythm and yet, ever changing.  It is the miracle in the world.  And in nature.  And in creativity.  And, mostly in the things we just take for granted.

 

SUPPLIES

pruning shears

small 16-24″ hula hoop

metallic spray paint

glue gun with glue sticks

heavy brick or can for base

INSTRUCTIONS

Using pruning shears, cut interesting branches, with or without blossoms, that will fit inside the hoop.   Peel any stickers or coating off of the small 16-24″ hula hoop. Spray the hoop and the base carefully with metallic spray paint.  Using a glue gun with glue sticks, carefully secure branches or flowers to the insides of the hula hoop, securing them in a few spots on the hoop.  Using the glue gun with glue sticks,  secure the hoop to the weighted base.

Voila!

shabbos table through copper hoop arrangement

Challah Braiding Hack: It Really Works

This week, a challah braiding hack by Seth Brandes took the challah-baking public by storm.  This hack was shared with me by many of my Whatsapp groups.  It seems that Seth shared this terrific shortcut on his Facebook account and it went viral.  He showed that simply slicing a lump of challah dough on the diagonal with a dough scraper in both directions can produce a beautiful challah loaf in minimal time with very little effort.  After all, the time-honored challah braiding takes time and effort and Seth brought challah-braiding into 2018.

My friends and family challenged me to check out this hack and see if it really is as simple as Seth claimed and if it really produces the type of challah wow that challah bakers want.

And, it does.  The initial result looks quilted rather than braided.

challah hack dough.jpg

But, as you can see, the final baked result looks great.  And it really saves braiding time and effort.

challah hack final result

Thanks, Seth!

 

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