Simply Magical London Broil

There are some dishes that need garnishing and extra sauces once cooked.  This is not one of them.   This London Broil roast is ready to serve and self-garnished with baked onions and scallions.  It is simple enough for a weekday dinner and “wow” enough for Shabbos or that special celebration.  It uses the simplest of ingredients, technique and presentation and yet, it is delicious, succulent and beautiful.

Magical baked london broil with Celery on cutting board.png

INGREDIENTS
1 small (2-3 pound) London Broil
1 red onion, diced small
1-2 bunches scallions, cut small
handful of french fried onions (optional)
juice of one lemon or lime
4 stalks celery
salt
pepper
1/3 cup water

DIRECTIONS

Let London Broil come to room temperature.

Slice celery into thick chunks.

In a roasting pan or pyrex dish, place celery chunks and then place London Broil fattier side up.  Squeeze citrus on both sides of London broil and season with salt and pepper.

Pour 1/3 cup of water around London Broil and then top London Broil with diced onion and scallions.

Magical baked london broil with Celery-raw.png

Cover pan tightly with foil.

Bake at 300 degrees F for 3 hours. London Broil should be fork tender when done.   Allow meat to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing on the bias.

Magical baked london broil with Celery.png

Red Velvet Salmon

 

cranberry salmon

I decided to name this salmon recipe red velvet for the color and texture of the cranberry glaze.   There really is something velvety about  this simple salmon recipe that takes cranberry sauce to a whole new level.

Cranberries are a fall and winter specialty item and I still have so many bags of cranberries in my freezer from Thanksgiving.  Every time I open my freezer, I think of cranberry and the many delicious ways to use this tart and distinctive berry.

So, when I was planning a new salmon dish, I thought to use cranberries as the centerpiece.   This recipe can be made with homemade cranberry sauce and that way you can adjust the sweetness of the glaze.  But, to keep things simple, I prepared with salmon recipe with store-bought cranberry sauce.  I used the jellied variety, but the whole berry variety will work just as well.

Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

salmon fillet

glaze
3-4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup canned cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ginger powder

garnishes (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
Celery Curls

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl whisk together the glaze ingredients, smoothing out the lumps in the cranberry sauce as much as possible.

Place the salmon on a baking sheet coated with foil or parchment.  Pat the marinade into the salmon.

Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Garnish with fresh cranberries and celery curls before serving.

Enjoy!

15 Minute Mushroom Soup

mushroom soup

The weather outside is frightfully cold and nothing warms the soul like a hot bowl of satisfying soup.   Although yesterday morning, I intended to start my  Crockpot Drunken Mushroom Soup in the crockpot,  I never did.  Instead, I got home late with only 15 minutes to get dinner on the table.   That meant that I needed to make the soup in a heavy-bottom pot using every shortcut possible.

I skimped on sauteing the onions and celery slowly and carefully.  Instead, I cut the onions and celery very small and started the soup by just sauteing the small bits of onions and celery for a few minutes.  I then shredded the mushrooms and zucchini in the food processor so that the tiny bits would cook quickly.  I skipped the wine and just added salt and pepper for flavor.

This soup was one of the best that I ever produced.  Sorry, kids!  Although my kids often chastise me for complimenting my own food, I subscribe to the belief that a cook may compliment or criticize their own handiwork.  Why not?

The soup was so flavorful and so silky that Don could not believe that there was no cream in this soup.  He loved this soup so much that he enjoyed three bowls of it.  So, guys, I didn’t even need to compliment my own soup.  Dad did it for me in word and in deed.  Indeed!

 

INGREDIENTS

2-3 tablespoons oil
1 onion, diced small
3 stalks celery, diced small
2 containers mushrooms, shredded
2-3 medium zucchini,shredded
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
dash pepper
4-6 cups of water

Celery Garnish (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS
In a heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat, saute onion and celery in oil for just a few minutes, until onions and celery are soft but not brown.

While vegetables are sauteing, shred the mushrooms and zucchini in the food processor using the s-blade or the shredding blade.

Add the shredded mushrooms and zucchini to the onions and celery. Add the salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add water and bring to a boil.  Simmer for a few minutes more until the soup is cooked through and silky.

Garnish with a celery curl.

Enjoy!

 

TIPS

To speed up recipes, cut, shred or dice ingredients into smaller pieces.   Smaller bits create more surface area for the heat and cooking media to enter.  Just take care, because the smaller the pieces of ingredients, the easier these ingredients are to overcook or to burn.

Tulips Times Two

tulips

On these frigid winter days, it is so exciting to see tulips for sale at the local market. Tulips, a member of the lily family,  are a welcome harbinger of spring and it keeps hope alive for warmer weather ahead.

Tulips come in thousands of varieties and can be found in all colors, shapes and heights.  Their leaves are soft and large, sometimes as long as the tulip stem itself.

I especially love tulips that have variegated colors and interesting petal shapes.  These pink tulips were for sale at my local supermarket and boasted green edges, light green leaves and soft blossoms.

This arrangement uses both the tulip blossoms and their leaves.  My tulip bunch was comprised of ten blossoms and my narrow vase fit two five-blossom bunches with enough space left over for effect.

This type of arrangements creates interest both at the top of the vase where the blossoms are arranged and inside the vase where each bunch is wrapped in a tulip leaf.   It is best suited for a long and narrow glass vase.  This can easily be done with one, two or three bunches of tulips, as long as your vase is wide enough.

SUPPLIES
long glass vase
bunch of tulips
piece of wire or small rubber band
water

DIRECTIONS
Trim tulips so that they are just a few inches taller than your vase.  Separate tulips into groups of at least 4 tulips each, trying to keep tulip bunches symmetric.  Remove lower tulip leaves and reserve an unblemished leaf for wrapping each bunch.  Wrap the leaf around each bunch, securing with thin wire or rubber band.

Display in long glass vase and fill with water.

 

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

Belgian Waffles for a Crowd

waffles for a crowd-a la mode.jpg

 

This week, we hosted two Sheva Brochos  parties at our home.  Since Thursday night’s Sheva Brochos came out right at the conclusion of the fast of Asara Be’Teves, we decided to plan a dairy menu.

For this Sheva Brochos party, we had a wonderful group of hosts.  Each of the hosts prepared delicious food and we had quite a spectacular array of breads, soups, salads, pasta, vegetables and fish.  We had beautiful Divrei Torah (words of Torah) and creative and fun games planned and executed by our friends, Shira and Wendy.

For dessert, we had delicious cheesecake, brownies, apple pie a la mode and so many other delicious dairy delights.  Since it was a cold night, Davida convinced me to prepare waffle batter in advance  and to set up a waffle station for our guests.  I made three batches of our favorite waffle recipe and stored them in mason jars.  I set up the waffle maker, the waffle batter, a small measuring cup, cooking spray and an assortment of toppings.

It was simple to wow our guests with these delicious and fun waffles!

Hearty and Simple Udon Soup

udon soup.jpg

Udon soup is our new family fave.  It has all the penicillin-qualities of a hearty chicken soup and oh, so much more! It is a soup that can easily be transformed into an entire meal and is so satisfying and comforting on these cold winter evenings.

This Udon soup starts from scratch but it can also easily be made using leftover Shabbos chicken soup or store-bought chicken broth.   It is the combination of textures, flavors and colors that gives this soup its memorable qualities.

There is something in this soup for everyone. Some like to wrap their fork around the long, thick and hearty Udon noodles, some pick out the green vegetables and other just savor the Asian-inspired broth for its unique flavor.

INGREDIENTS
8 cups chicken stock

1 cup shredded cooked chicken (optional)

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger or ginger powder
2 cloves minced fresh garlic or 1 tablespoon garlic powder
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons sesame oil

1 package sliced fresh mushrooms
1 zucchini, peeled and sliced

1 bunch of baby bok choy, sliced (see kosher notes)

1/2 cup whole snow peas
1 cup green onions diced

package of fresh Udon noodles

INSTRUCTIONS
Add ginger, garlic, soy sauce  and sesame oil to chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and then add mushrooms,  zucchini and bok choy.  Reduce heat to medium and heat for at least 10 minutes.
Add the Udon noodles and cook according to package directions.  Add green onions and snow peas right before serving to maintain bright green color.

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of any whole insects and therefore greens like bok choy require a process of soaking and rinsing and checking. Kashrut authorities differ on the proper checking of these type of greens 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 bok choy.

.
Enjoy!

Nearly No-Carb Cheesecake with Mom’s Voice

Next week, Don and I will be heading to Israel for my mother-in-law’s ninth Yahrzeit, (commemoration of the anniversary of death) of my mother-in-law, Devorah bas Yitzchok Ahron a’H.  I loved my mother-in-law dearly.  While her physical presence is no longer in this world, her neshoma (soul) endures.  And, the Yahrzeit is the time to reflect on the lessons that she has imparted and continues to impart to us, her children.

My mother-in-law was brutally honest.  She was definitely not subtle.  Not in any way.

She would tell me and everyone else exactly what she thought.  And, exactly what she thought we should do.  She would tell my children that we weren’t taking good enough care of my furniture.  And, that my sister-in-law’s couches were holding up better than mine.   She offered advice to me on how to raise my children.  She couldn’t hold back when she thought someone was too fat or wearing clothing that was not flattering.  And, she always brought me just the items from the dollar store that she thought that I needed in my life.

Mom was absolutely right about most everything.  Her advice was truthful and blunt.  I heard what she said and yet I often rejected her words as harsh and unfair.  Because, in Mom’s lifetime, it was just too much information and it felt so negative.

Now that only her soul and her legacy remains, I interpret her words differently.  I accept them more and push back less.  Honestly, I just needed to learn to accept the criticism and own it.

Now that her physical presence is gone, I still hear her whispering in my ear.  Most amazingly, her voice has merged with my own inner voice.  And, it feels right and only positive now.

“It’s time to lose weight.” “Close the front door.”  “Don’t let the grandchildren play with play dough on the floor.”  “That outfit isn’t flattering.”   These are Mom’s lessons with my own inner voice whispering them.

So, with Mom’s voice as the impetus, we decided to do something exciting, frightening and wonderful on our  Yahrzeit visit to Israel this year.   We decided to jump-start healthier eating habits on this trip with the hope that these habits will last.  And, I feel that Mom has whispered this daunting plan into my ear.  Because, she always wanted her family to be slimmer, more fit and healthier.

Don’s two brothers will be joining us on this trip.  Don’s brother, Yisroel, has been on a modified Atkin’s diet successfully for two years.    He volunteered to be the mentor and coach.  I volunteered to be the cook and menu planner.  Yisroel keeps reminding me that it will be hard work.  And, I am up to the challenge, Mom!

Don’s brother, Mordechai, is on board with this new plan.  For this trip, he will be traveling without the love of his life, Yael.  But, he doesn’t want to give up another love of his life.   Cheesecake.

Don told Mordechai that we will find a way for him to have his cheesecake and eat it, too.   And, since I am in charge of the cooking and meal planning, I was determined to bake a cheesecake with nearly no carbs.

Therefore, I made a simple, crust-free cheesecake with Neufchâtel cream cheese and SPLENDA® .  Although, I generally do not use diet sugars or diet products,  I made an exception here due to the circumstances.   I hope that you love the cheesecake, Mordechai.

Thanks Mom, for that new inner voice!  May your dear neshoma be bound with the souls of the living.

no-carb cheesecake

SUPPLIES

spatula
food processor
mixer

glass pie plate

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds Neufchâtel or light cream cheese
3 large eggs
10 SPLENDA® packets (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

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 350°F.

Prepare pie plate by generously spraying with cooking spray or lining with parchment paper .

In food processor fitted with an S-blade, beat cream cheese, eggs, SPLENDA® 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 pie plate.

Bake for 40 minutes. Turn oven off and leave in oven to another half-hour.

Remove from the oven and cool completely.  Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

TIPS

If you would rather use less SPLENDA® , I would suggest just sprinkling a bit on top of the cheesecake when serving.  A sprinkle of SPLENDA®  or powdered sugar on top fools the palate and imparts sweetness to the whole serving.

Cranberry Pears on Blankets

The best desserts are simple ones, delicious bites that highlight beautiful ingredients prepared in spectacular ways.  Most recently, I have taken a liking to not-too-sweet desserts.  I love fruit dessert presentations that show off the natural beauty, unique shape and incredible character of the fruit itself.

This dessert is just that: simple, gorgeous and not too sweet. The contrast of flavors and textures between the pastry, pears, cranberries, and dates is incredible.  The puffed pastry outlines the natural shape of the pears and the pastry leaves add dimension and flair.

This dessert may be served at room temperature or warm.  It can be served a la mode with just a bit of ice cream to add a temperature contrast, as well.

pear on blanket before baking

SUPPLIES

melon baller
paring knives
rolling pin
cutting mats

INGREDIENTS

puffed pastry sheet
4 pears, ripe and soft to the touch
12 fresh or frozen cranberries
handful of chopped dates (optional)
egg wash (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Wash pears well and using paring knife, cut pears in half through each core,  keeping the stem intact.  With a melon baller, scoop the core out of the middle of each pear.

pear on blanket dessert with cores removed.jpg

Fill each scooped-out pear hole with 3 cranberries and a few chopped dates.

pear on blanket dessert filled with cranberries

Using rolling pin, roll out puffed pastry sheet on cutting mat.  Carefully place pears on pastry cut side down, making sure that cranberries and dates do not fall out.  Using  sharp paring knife, trace around the pears, leaving a 1/4″ border of pastry around the pear.  Cut 8 leaf shapes out of the pastry sheet and score each leaf with paring knife to resemble the veins of the leaf. Score the tops of each pair in a grid-like pattern.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and carefully place each pastry pear on the sheet.  Place two leaves on the top of each pear. Optionally, brush the pastry with egg wash.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes.

pear on blanket

Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and/or a dollop of whipped cream.

Thanksgiving Turkey Drumsticks for Dessert

This dessert is simple, adorable and delicious.  It is the perfect dessert to bring the turkey to your Thanksgiving table, even if you opt out of Thanksgiving turkey as we are this year.  This treat will add legitimacy to our Thanksgiving table, even though we are serving an Italian-style dairy feast.

It is a fun treat to prepare with children.  Davida and Avigail dipped the pretzel rods, while Avigail and I helped form the meaty end of each Rice Krispies drumstick.  Like most good recipes around our home,  most of these were devoured before they ever made it to our Thanksgiving table.

Happy Thanksgiving!

rice krispies turkey drumsticks in cage.jpg

INGREDIENTS
1 bag of pretzel rods
1 bag of white chocolate chips or wafers

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

cooking spray

DIRECTIONS
Using the defrost mode in the microwave, melt chocolate for 6-9 minutes until chocolate is melted. Stir until smooth.

Break the pretzel rods in half or into 4-5″ lengths. Dip the rounded end into chocolate, rounding the bottom and dipping several times to form the bottom of the drumstick.

Cool dipped pretzel rods on wax or parchment paper.

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

Spray gloved hands with cooking spray and form oval clumps of Rice Krispies mixture. Stick undipped end of pretzel rod into each oval clump or Rice Krispies mixtire, tightly forming the drumstick shape and adhering it to the pretzel rod.  Allow drumsticks to set on wax or parchment paper.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Quiche for a Dairy Thanksgiving

pumpkin quiche

We normally celebrate Thanksgiving with a delicious heimeshe (traditional Jewish style) turkey and meat dinner at our niece’s house.  Michal and Shui open their beautiful home and prepare an assortment of delicious foods for this occasion.  After all, the theme of hakaras hatov (thanksgiving) is of paramount importance to our Jewish faith and Thanksgiving is an excellent opportunity to get the family together  to express our appreciation for all that we have been given.  Michal’s dinner is one that the whole family anticipates and enjoys.

This year is different.  This Shabbos, right after Thanksgiving, Michal and Shui will be hosting the entire family for their son’s Bar Mitzvah.  And, the energy and excitement for a wonderful Shabbos all together with aunts, uncles and cousins is palpable.

So, we are left to make our own plans for Thanksgiving.   And, this year, Thanksgiving day comes on the heels of Michelle’s birthday.  And Michelle loves milchig (dairy) foods.

We are changing things up this year and having a dairy Thanksgiving feast with many of Michelle’s favorite foods.  There will be Onion Quiche, fettuccine alfredo (stay tuned for the recipe), Lasagna and plenty of salads.  Of course there will be a Carvel ice cream cake, Michelle’s favorite, and some Cheesecake for dessert.

And, in celebration of Thanksgiving, I will be serving this awesome pumpkin quiche.  After all, we have to keep some tradition in this festive dairy birthday feast.

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons oil
2-3 onions
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2  teaspoon salt
dash of black pepper

4 eggs
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
1 large can of pumpkin puree
8 ounces shredded or grated cheese

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Over medium-high heat, heat oil and add onions and seasonings. Stir occasionally until the onions are soft. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the onions are light brown, stirring occasionally.

Place half of the cheese in the quiche pan. Combine the eggs, cream, milk and pumpkin puree. Pour into the quiche pan over the cheese. Sprinkle the sauteed onions and garlic over the egg mixture and top with the remaining shredded cheese.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until the top of the quiche is golden-brown.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Avigail’s Simple Pilgrim Hats

This year we are hosting a dairy Thanksgiving feast.

The idea germinated when I realized that Thanksgiving this year falls out right after Michelle’s birthday.  Since Michelle loves Italian dairy foods, it just made sense to offer a dairy menu instead of the traditional Thanksgiving fare.  Since kosher dietary laws prevent the combination of milk and meat, once I chose to go dairy, it precluded having a turkey as the centerpiece of the meal.

Truth be told, I thought to create a vegetarian turkey.  I defrosted two bags of frozen broccoli and brussel sprouts and formed these green vegetables into the shape of a turkey.  I roasted the “green turkey” in the oven with just a drizzle of olive oil, Himalayan sea salt and a dash of balsamic vinegar.  The oven was set on a timed bake cycle while I set out to run some errands.  My plan was that once I returned, the green vegetable turkey would be ready and cooled down.  I would then cover the top of the green turkey with mozzarella cheese and strips of puffed pastry.  Once baked, I hoped that it would resemble a turkey and would make a great centerpiece to our dairy Thanksgiving table.

That seemed like a great plan.  Except, there were two problems: Leah had a day off from school and the roasted broccoli and brussel sprout turkey smelled so delicious once ready.

And, Leah claims that there was a third problem, too.  My green turkey really didn’t bear a close enough resemblance to a turkey.  When she came down for her morning coffee, the timed bake timer was ringing and the oven had just shut off as planned.  She peeked inside the oven and just couldn’t resist tasting the mound of broccoli and brussel sprouts.  And, the taste was so delicious that she ate nearly the whole pan of vegetables.  Leah claimed that she had no idea that this was the start of a vegetable turkey.

So, it was back to the drawing board.

With no green vegetables left to recreate the Thanksgiving turkey, I had to try something else.  So, I opted to reintroduce Thanksgiving to our dairy feast with these adorable Pilgrim hats.

The good news is..they are so simple that my four year old granddaughter made them with a bit of assistance from Davida, my youngest daughter.  It took only two simple ingredients and just a few minutes to prepare.

And, Leah is still busy taste-testing.

simple pilgrim hats by Avigail

INGREDIENTS

Chocolate OREO’s or chocolate sandwich cookies
Reese’s mini peanut butter cups

DIRECTIONS

Unwrap all the peanut butter cups, removing the outer foil wrap and the paper wrapper around the chocolate. Carefully separate the sandwich cookies, taking care to leave some cream o both cookies.

Gently press the peanut butter cup into the center of the cookie, using the cream from the center to help adhere the peanut butter cup.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Simple Celery Ribbons

I am fascinated with garnishes, especially simple garnishes constructed from ordinary ingredients.  After all, simple garnishes put the wow into a dish.  This one is fast and simple, using just celery and cold water.

celery ribbons.png

INGREDIENTS

celery
cold water

DIRECTIONS

Remove a stalk from a head of celery and wash well.  Using a peeler, peel long ribbons of celery off of the celery stalk.

Drop the celery ribbons into cold water and submerge completely for at least 20 minutes or refrigerate overnight.

celery ribbons in ice water.jpg

Voila!

Simple as Pie Pretzel Pizza

simple as pie pretzel pizza.JPG

Now that they have changed the clock, Shabbos starts and ends an hour earlier. Traditionally, we eat a meal called a Melave Malke (literally, Escorting the Queen) to accompany the Shabbos queen from our homes.

Typically, after the meat-based Shabbos meals, the Melave Malke meal is dairy.  Aaron, who has been our official Melave Malke cook is in Cleveland, so I am mostly on my own to prepare Motzei Shabbos (Saturday night).  Some family favorite Melave Malka delicacies are Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sauce and Cheese and Calzones.  

On the first Motzei Shabbos after changing the clock, I decided to change things up.  Rather than order or prepare from-scratch pizza, I decided to layer on-hand ingredients to prepare something delicious and different.

I prepared a pizza pretzel pie.  It started with frozen pretzels.  I spread the pretzels out atop a bed of wraps.  I then layered sauce and sprinkled a blend of shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese.  I baked it all for 20 minutes and voila! We had simple as pie pretzel pizza.

INGREDIENTS

wheat wraps or flour tortillas
frozen pretzels (like Superpretzel)
marinara sauce
shredded cheese

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a pizza pan with parchment paper. Spread a layer of tortillas or wraps, overlapping slightly, until the entire pizza pan is covered. Place pretzels on top and then brush with sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Optionally, sprinkle with topping such as sesame seeds, fresh garlic or chopped vegetables.

Bake for 15-30 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Shavuah Tov! (good week)

Out of the Bowl Tiered Salad

Who says that salad must be served in a salad bowl and tossed?

out of the bowl salad-side view.png

One of the most exciting things about salad is its versatility.  A beautiful and delicious salad can incorporate so many disparate ingredients and the contrast of colors, textures and flavors makes each salad unique.

Today’s salad is about layering a gorgeous vessel with different vegetables and toppings.  Its effortless simplicity achieves an elegance that highlights the colorful and flavorful vegetables themselves.

This salad is prepared on a rose gold hammered elongated platter with the ingredients placed in long tiers.  The vibrant colors of the romaine lettuce, shredded fresh beets, rainbow peppers and heirloom tomatoes speak for themselves.

SUPPLIES

hammered elongated bowl (different than bowl pictured on blog post)

INGREDIENTS

romaine lettuce, shredded
raw red beets, peeled and shredded
rainbow peppers, cut into small pieces
heirloom tomatoes
parsley and scallions, cut into tiny pieces

Balsamic Vinaigrette

DIRECTIONS

Place a layer of shredded romaine lettuce.  Top that with a layer of shredded red beets, overlapping the bottom layer so that the romaine lettuce can be viewed from the sides.

out of the bowl salad-layers 1 and 2.png

Top that with small pieces of rainbow peppers and small colorful tomatoes.

rainbow peppers

Garnish with shredded or sliced parsley and scallions.  Drizzle Balsamic Vinaigrette over the salad and serve.

out of the bowl salad partial view.png

 

This salad is truly simple to wow!

out of the bowl salad.png

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

Drunken Mushroom Lime Chicken

drunken mushroom lime chicken on plate.png

For the last thirty years, I have prepared my family-favorite One pot roast chicken for Friday night dinner.  There is something about roasted chicken and potatoes prepared alongside the chicken that really feels like a Shabbos dinner.

Or,  so I thought.

The last couple of weeks, I have been noticing that the Friday night chicken has not been touched.

Leah has been campaigning that we skip the main course on Friday night.  After all, we start our evening Shabbos meal with kiddush over wine.  We then enjoy challah with an assortment of dips.  We move on to chicken soup, still a family favorite.  And, Leah is absolutely right.  There  just is no room for the heavy  one pot roast chicken.

So, I decided to change things up a bit for this Shabbos and prepare a lighter chicken dish.

It starts with boneless chicken breasts, a lighter option than whole roast chicken.  It uses wine and lime juice for the perfect balance of flavor and freshness.  Oh, and it is smothered with lots and lots of mushrooms.  It is fragrant and moist with loads of flavor and texture.

Now, the only question is…Will we skip the main course this Friday night?

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cut or pounded thin
dusting of flour (I used whole wheat flour)
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons oil (I used olive oil)
2 packages mushrooms, sliced or 2 large cans mushrooms, drained
Juice of half a lime or 2 tablespoons lime juice
3/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup soy or almond milk

DIRECTIONS

Place 1/4 cup of flour in a pie dish or a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Coat each piece of chicken with flour.

Over medium-high heat, heat oil in a large frying pan or saute pan. Add the flour-coated chicken. Cook each piece of coated chicken for 3-4 minutes on each side.  Work in batches, setting cooked chicken aside wrapped in foil to keep warm until the rest of the coated chicken has been cooked.

Once all the chicken has been cooked, remove from pan.  Add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, until mushrooms are soft and fragrant.

Add the wine and juice of half a lime, deglazing the pan with a wooden spoon by stirring in any brown bits left over from the cooking of the coated chicken.   Cook until the mushroom sauce is reduced to half.

Lower the heat to medium and add the pareve milk.  With a wooden spoon, stir well until the sauce is well-combined. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer the sauce until the sauce is thick and glossy.

Return the cooked chicken to the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes more, until chicken is fragrant, soft, succulent and cooked through.

drunken mushroom chicken

Simple 10-Minute Creamed Spinach

creamed spinach

 

Creamed spinach pairs so well with deli, meat, fish and just about every protein.  It is a favorite at steakhouses and delicatessens.  The bright green wilted spinach takes only minutes to prepare and its creamy texture and fresh flavor tantalize the eye and the palate.  This classic recipe can be easily prepared with soy or almond milk instead of heavy cream for a pareve side dish.

This side dish is delicious and oh, so simple to prepare.  It is always a winner in my house.  It is fresh, hearty and delectable.

INGREDIENTS

olive oil
1 pound spinach, fresh or frozen (see kosher notes)
2-3 garlic cloves
1 onion, diced
1 pound spinach, fresh or frozen
½ cup cream (milk, soy or almond milk may be substituted)
½ tablespoon salt
½ tablespoon pepper
1-2 tablespoons flour

 

DIRECTIONS

Soak and wash spinach well. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, saute onion and garlic in oil just until starting to brown. Add cream or milk and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper and dusting of flour, slowly stirring with a wooden spoon or a whisk. Once the mixture starts to thicken, add spinach and reduce heat to a simmer until the spinach is wilted and the sauce is thick.

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. I have found that flat-leafed greens like baby spinach are much easier to check for insects than their curly-leaf counterparts. Kashrut authorities differ on the proper checking of leafy vegetables and some disallow the use of spinach altogether. This blog was not designed to be your kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding using and preparing greens such as spinach.

Enjoy!

Simply Amazing Onion Kugel

onion kugel.pngMy life is rather like a “Chopped” competition.  After all, so many of my favorite recipes are developed using the ingredients on hand, keeping the preparation quick and transforming simple ingredients into something more than the sum of the parts.  Most often, my time is limited so I am racing the clock just like the contestants on “Chopped”.

This onion kugel is exactly that.

It uses onions and leftover challah, ingredients that always seem to be available in my “basket”.  The preparation is simple and fast.  And, the end-product is truly a masterful transformation of these simple ingredients.

I normally try to use up the leftover challah from Shabbos by creating bread crumbs or croutons rather than stuffing the challah leftovers into the freezer, just to be fed to the birds before Pesach (Passover).  This recipe elevates challah leftovers to something that will really wow you.  And, do not worry.  I am certain that you will still have plenty of frozen challah leftovers to feed the birds before Pesach.

For this onion kugel, the prep time is quick and once baked, the ingredients take on a divine flavor and texture.  I added seltzer to the batter to achieve fluffiness as in my Abracadabra Potato Kugel.  The resulting texture is caramelized and crunchy on the outside, yet soft and creamy on the inside.

SUPPLIES

food processor
pyrex pie plate

INGREDIENTS

3 eggs
1 cup soaked challah or bread
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup seltzer
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
pinch black pepper
3 large onions

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Coat a pyrex pie plate lightly with oil and place in oven.  Soak challah or bread in warm water and squeeze out water, leaving softened bread.

While the oil is heating up, cut two of the onions into large chunks.  Using the metal s-blade of the food processor, pulse eggs, soaked challah or bread, oil, seltzer, baking powder, onion chunks, salt and pepper.  Pulse a couple of times to combine.

Remove the s-blade and add the shredding blade to the food processor.  Shred the last onion.   Pour everything into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.   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,

Carefully remove the sizzling pyrex pie plate from the oven.  Pour the mixture into the pyrex pie plate and bake uncovered for one hour.  When done, the onion kugel should be caramelized on top and bottom and soft and creamy on the inside.

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

Simple No-Bake Sorbet cakes

no-bake sorbet cake 2.JPG

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

A few weeks ago, I had finished preparing a simple Shabbos menu when we found out that we were about to have a houseful of Shabbos company.  I had plenty of real food, but I needed to create an impressive dessert for the next day…quickly and with ingredients already on hand.

I had been planning to serve some cut-up watermelon for dessert and that just wouldn’t do for this audience.  I looked around the house for dessert ingredients that required no baking.  I found a few  pints of  fruit sorbet, chocolate ices, pareve pizzelle cookies and whipped cream.  I had some beautiful variegated basil in the garden and  a pint of strawberries in my refrigerator.  And, this is what I created.

no-bake sorbet cake

SUPPLIES

cupcake pan

cupcake liners

rubber spatulas

INGREDIENTS

ice cream, sorbet or ices
whipped cream, whipped with some vanilla sugar

fresh mint, basil or other herb for garnish
fancy cookies
strawberries

pizzelle cookies or other fancy-shaped cookies

 

DIRECTIONS

Partially defrost ice cream, sorbet or ices on the counter or using the defrost mode on the microwave.  It should be thin enough to remove with rubber spatulas but not a drippy liquid.

Prepare whipped cream by whipping cream with a tablespoon of vanilla sugar until almost stiff.

Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.  If the cupcake liners are thin, double them so that they will stand up to the sorbet filling.

With a teaspoon or  rubber spatulas, drop a small bit of each flavor of ices, sorbet, ice cream and whipped cream into the cupcake liners until they are almost  filled to the top. Freeze for several hours or overnight.

Remove sorbet cupcakes from freezer and peel away cupcake liners so that the ridges of the cupcake liners are visible.  Garnish with herbs, strawberries, whipped cream and pizzelle cookies cut in half.

 

TIPS

I peel away the cupcake liners in advance and refreeze the sorbet cakes until firm.  This allows for a faster and neater serving procedure.

To create a strawberry rose, cut thin slices on the strawberry without cutting through the bottom.  Fan the cut strawberry out to create a rose effect.

I garnish the plates before placing the sorbet cakes.  They melt quickly!

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

Sukkos Lulav Napkin Fold

 

lulav napkin fold on plate.JPG

Among other mitzvos (Jewish commandments) unique to Sukkos (Jewish Feast of Tabernacles),  we acquire a set of Arba Minim (Four Species).  Each of the Four Species has its own unique character:

The Lulav (palm) is an impressively tall and straight green date palm branch with tightly bound leaves.  It has a sweet date flavor  but no fragrance.  The Lulav represents the Jewish scholar, who has impressive Jewish knowledge but lacks good deeds.

The Hadasim (myrtle branches) are fragrant branches with a spectacular waxy pattern of three leaves protruding from the same point.  Hadasim have fragrance, yet have no flavor.  Hadasim represent those who distinguish themselves with good deeds, yet lack Torah scholarship.

The Aravos (willow branches) are branches with smooth-edged oblong-shaped leaves.  They have neither fragrance nor flavor.  Aravos represent those who lack deeds and scholarship.

The Esrog  (citron) is a yellow lemon-like citrus fruit with beautiful fragrance and flavor. The Esrog represents those impressive Jewish scholars with both knowledge and good deeds.

lulavim

The Four Species represent the inherent uniqueness and beauty in different types of people.   The idea of acquiring these different types of species and unifying them symbolizes the importance of Jewish unity.  Each of the Arba Minim represents people with differing Jewish strengths, Torah knowledge and adherence to good deeds.  The Arba Minim signify the importance of Jewish unity and the recognition of the importance of different members of our nation.

We tie all the branches together: two Aravos on the left, one Lulav in the center, and three Hadasim on the right.   We recite the following blessing:

Hebrew

Hebrew Hebrew

Blessed are You, the Lord of the world, Who has sanctified us in His commandments and commanded us to hold the Lulav

We then raise all Four Species and shake them as one unit in all six directions (forward and backward, right and left, up and down).  The six directions represent G-d’s dominion over the entire world.

These Four Species are brought to synagogue each Sukkos day,  except on Shabbos.  We hold and shake the Four Species during the recitation of the Hallel (praise) prayer and the Four Species are carried as  during Hoshanos, where the men surround the Torah.

To allude to the lulav tradition on Sukkos, I created a lulav napkin fold using two paper napkins.  As long as the twine has been cut before the holiday, these napkins can be easily folded and assembled on Yom Tov (Holiday).

lulav napkin fold.JPG

SUPPLIES

light green napkins
dark green napkins
twine, cut into 2-3 foot sections

heavy-duty scissors

INSTRUCTIONS

Lay each of the light green napkins flat on the table.  Unfold so that it is folded in half lengthwise.  Fold each corner toward the middle to create a point.   Roll or fold  to create the long part of the lulav.

 

Lay each of the dark green napkins flat on the table.  Unfold completely and then fold on the diagonal to form a large triangle.

lulav napkin-triangle fold for leaves

Fold in small sections, back and forth, to create a large fan.

lulav napkin fold-1st fold for leaves

Fold fan in half to form a large “v” shape.

lulav napkin fold-both napkins and twine.JPG

Place fanned “v” dark green napkin in front of light green lulav napkin and twist twine around center of dark green “v”..

lulav napkin fold-tying both napkins.JPG

lulav napkin fold-securing holder

Gently wind the cut twine around and around the two napkins, securing the dark green napkin “leaves” to the lighter napkin lulav. Secure the end of the twine by tucking it in.

Voila!

Sukkos No-Knead Ciabatta: Harvest and Humility

harvest ciabatta

 

The Autumn Jewish holiday of Sukkos is referred to as Zman Simchaseinu  (season of rejoicing) and Chag Ha’Asif (Festival of of Gathering).  It falls at the time of year in Israel that the grain, grapes and olives are ready to be harvested and brought to market.  The winter, spring and summer months of hard work in the field, orchards and vineyards have finally paid off.  For anyone in the agricultural sector, it is truly the season of rejoicing.

At the time of harvest, it is natural for us to feel proud of our material accomplishments and to attribute our success entirely to our efforts and good fortune.   It is precisely at this time that we are commanded to rejoice humbly within the context of the holiday of Sukkos and to give thought to all that G-d has contributed to the success of our bounty.   We are cautioned to maintain our humility, even through the bountiful harvest.

G-d has given us the gift of Sukkos to enjoy the material benefits of a rich bounty within the context of Torah and mitzvos (commandments).  During Sukkos, we read King Solomon’s  scroll of Koheles (Ecclesiastes).   King Solomon, who was the wisest of men, reflects upon the vanity of the pleasures of this world and sums it up in the last verse of .Koheles.  He declares, “the sum of the matter, when all is considered: Fear G‑d and keep His commandments, for this is the entire purpose of man.”

In keeping with the Sukkos themes of Zman Simchaseinu  (season of rejoicing) and Chag Ha’Asif (Festival of of Gathering), I created this wonderful ciabatta recipe.  It uses the basic no-knead dough that I introduced in Ciabatta Challah: a Simple No-Knead Solution with some technique simplifications and addition of pecans, chocolate and raisins.  It highlights the bounty of the season and is the perfect bread to serve at the first Sukkos meal.

It is best prepared in a covered dutch oven but can also be prepared in a heavy loaf pan or crock with a pot lid on top.  It has an absolutely wonderful crunchy crust and delicious interior dotted with nuts, craisins and chocolate.  Although it is best served within 12 hours of baking, my family enjoys it way past those 12 hours.

Happy Sukkos!

INGREDIENTS
3 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups room temperature water

handful of craisins
handful of pecans, chopped
handful of chocolate chips
sprinkle of flour or cornmeal

DIRECTIONS

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and yeast together.  Slowly add water and  mix very well with a wooden spoon or firm spatula to form a sticky dough.  If dough is not sticky, add a bit more water.  Fold in craisins, pecans and chocolate chips.

sukkos ciabatta.jpg

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 12 to 18 hours.

sukkos ciabatta covered

Preheat oven to 450 F degrees.   Place small covered dutch oven or heavy loaf pan with metal cover in the oven for at least 10 minutes.

Remove the pot or pan from oven and remove the lid.

Sprinkle a bit of flour or cornmeal on the top of the dough to ensure that dough does not stick.  Gently coax the dough from the bowl and shape into a rough ball.   Place dough ball upside down in the pot/pan and sprinkle a bit more flour or cornmeal on the top of the dough.

Bake for 30 minutes covered and then remove the lid and bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes more.  Dough should be golden brown when ready.

Abracadabra Potato Kugel

My grandson, Judah, has learned a new word this summer.  Abracadabra.

Abracadabra is quite a mouthful for a two year old.    And, when Judah uses the word, he uses it with such flair.  He must have learned it from one of the many shows he enjoyed in summer camp.

I have been preparing potato kugel for as long as I remember and most kugels share similar ingredients.  I have two potato kugel recipes on this blog (Davida’s Awesome Potato Kugel,  Simply the Best Potato Kugel Ever and ) and they are both delicious, but rather similar.

There just doesn’t seem to be much new in potato kugel.

Until now.

 

abracadabra potato kugel

After I published Davida’s famous potato kugel recipe (Davida’s Awesome Potato Kugel), my aunt shared a secret tip to her fluffy and creamy potato kugel that proved to be wonderful.

It is a very simple and effective secret.  And, it is well-deserving of the simple to wow seal of approval and Judah’s favorite word, Abracadabra.

Wait for it….

Tante Sari adds seltzer to her potato kugel batter.  The effervescence of the seltzer  adds lightness and creaminess to the potato kugel.  I adapted my potato kugel recipe to accommodate the seltzer and after some tweaking (with plenty of happy taste-testers around), here is the simple to wow recipe.  It has received rave reviews from family and friends alike.

SUPPLIES

food processor
pyrex pie plates

INGREDIENTS

1 onion, quartered

1/3 cup of seltzer
1/3 cup oil
3 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

4 medium to large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

DIRECTIONS

Set oven to 450°F degrees.

Coat a pyrex pie plate lightly with oil and place in oven (no preheating necessary).

While the oil is heating up, using the metal s-blade of the food processor, shred the onion.  Once the onion is shredded,  add oil, eggs, seltzer, salt and pepper.  Pulse a couple of times to combine.

Remove the s-blade and add the shredding blade to the food processor.  Shred the potatoes.  Pour everything into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.   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,

Carefully remove the sizzling pyrex pie plate from the oven.  Pour the mixture into the pyrex pie plate and bake uncovered for one hour.

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

Streusel Topped Challah

Sometimes, just a simple topping can be a recipe-changer.  This simple streusel topping transforms my Simply the Best Challah Recipe…ever! into something extraordinary.  It adds a delicious sweetness and texture that is unique and oh, so decadent.

Since this streusel challah uses the same dough recipe, I can produce two different types of challah with the same dough.  I top some of the challah with the streusel topping and leave some of the challah dough as is.

Often, when I prepare a recipe of the streusel topping, I place the left-overs in a plastic zipper bag and freeze it on a freezer door shelf.  I then top next week’s Friday night challah with the leftover streusel.

streusel challah

 

INGREDIENTS

one recipe of  Simply the Best Challah Recipe…ever!

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla sugar (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS

Combine streusel ingredients using a large fork, wooden spoon, pastry blender or food processor s-blade.  Texture of streusel should resemble coarse crumbs.  If crumbs are not coarse enough, add a few more drops of oil.  If crumbs are too coarse, add a bit more flour.

Prepare  Simply the Best Challah Recipe…ever! dough according to blog post instructions. Braid challah loaves or form pull-apart challah by creating challah roll twists and placing them side by side.

Press streusel topping into crevices between braided logs or challah roll twists.

Apples and Roses: A Rosh Hashana Table Arrangement

roses and apples arrangement

I was looking to create a SimpletoWow fruit and floral arrangement worthy of the Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) table.  On Rosh Hashana, we dip an apple into honey as a symbol for a sweet new year (see Dip the Apple… Rosh Hashana Cupcakes), so incorporating apples into the arrangement was a no-brainer.    I wanted the apples to remain as pristine as possible so that they can be admired as part of the table arrangement but still be ceremoniously eaten later.

Voila!

roses and apples arrangement 2

SUPPLIES

2 large open-blossoms
2 unblemished apples
6 short but full boxwood branches
two to four foot section of 2″x6″ wood beam
copper spray paint
6 clear 4″ square glass vases
water

TOOLS

hand sander
copper spray paint

INSTRUCTIONS

Using hand sander, sand rough edges of beam.

Spray paint the top and all sides of the beams in your favorite color.   I used metallic copper spray paint.  Allow to dry.

Cut two open rose blossoms off of stem.  Float each rose in each of two vases filled with water almost to the top.

Cut six short and full boxwood stems.  Place three boxwood stems in each of two vases filled with water almost to the top.

Select interesting and unblemished apples sized to fill the remaining two vases.  Place these apples into the vases without adding any water.

Set up the six rose, apple and boxwood clear 4″ square glass vases at equal intervals along beam, aligning first and last vases with the edges of the beam.  Optionally, alternate vases on the left and right sides of the beam.

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

German Chocolate Cake for Mordy

germman chcolate cake

Last week, my brother, Mordy, celebrated his birthday. Growing up, nobody made much of a deal about birthdays and that has become part of my DNA.  Most of the time, we forget each others birthdays and I have been know to forget my own birthday and anniversary.   Thankfully, my brother, Itzy, often calls, texts or emails us to remember someone’s special day.    Thank you, Itzy!

I do remember elementary school birthday parties from my childhood.  My mother would invite the entire class over on a Sunday afternoon for birthday cake.  My father would take down his huge and heavy polaroid camera from the top of the closet.  He would take exactly one picture of the birthday child.   We would be so excited in anticipation of that polaroid photo to develop and it would seem like an eternity until the photo was ready.  My father would watch the time on his watch carefully, holding us all at bay until the picture was finally revealed.  It was magical.

Many years ago, I discovered that Mordy enjoys two unusual foods: arugula and German chocolate cake.    Both foods are ones that most people either love or hate.  I prepare arugula most weeks and have a few wonderful arugula blog posts (see Crunchy Arugula and Jicama Salad and Arugula Salad Wrapped and Upright)

I have not prepared German chocolate cake in a very long time.

Years ago,  I would prepare German chocolate cake in a  10-11″ tart pan using the basic guidelines of  the recipe on the back of the Baker’s coconut bag.  This week, I bought coconut and discovered that the German chocolate cake icing recipe was no longer on the back of the bag.  I was determined to recreate that recipe.  Thankfully, I found another recipe and made some enhancements to adapt it to a pareve and less sweet menu.  Although I have not prepared German Chocolate cake in over a decade,  it did not disappoint.

Happy birthday, Mordy!

 

SUPPLIES

10-11″ tart pan

 

INGREDIENTS

1 chocolate cake or brownie recipe

12 ounces pareve milk or cream
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla powder
2 egg yolks

1/2 cup chopped pecans, optionally toasted
2 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chocolate chips

Large coconut flakes for garnish (optional)

Using cooking spray, heavily grease bottom of each 10-11″ tart pan.  Prepare your favorite chocolate cake or brownie recipe and bake according to directions.  Allow to cool.   Gently coax cake from 10-11″ tart pan.

In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, cook  milk, coconut oil, honey, vanilla and and egg yolks, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add pecans, chocolate chips and coconut.  Mixture should be thick, but spreadable.

Remove from heat and add mixture to center of chocolate tart.  Optionally, garnish with flaked coconut.