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, using the metal s-blade of the food processor, pulse eggs, soaked challah or bread, oil, seltzer, baking powder, 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 onions. 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.

Machzor Cupcakes

machzor cupcakes 2.jpg

So much of the Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) holidays are spent in shul (synagogue).  The prayer service follows an order of prayers delineated in the respective machzor (prayer book) for each of these holidays.

In preparation for Rosh Hashana and Staci Segals’ charity bake sale, I prepared some cupcakes that are each decorated with a machzor (prayer book). The proceeds will benefit Yad Sarah, a very worthwhile organization that provides medical equipment to patients in need.

These cupcakes are available for sale among other delicious desserts at the Segal Home this Sunday, September 17th, 2017 from 12 noon-5 PM. The address is 475 FDR Drive #301 on the Lower East Side. For more information, please contact Staci at 917-295-7285 or stacisegal@aol.com

INGREDIENTS

Vanilla Cupcake recipe
sprinkles
White frosting

wafer cookie bites
chocolate frosting

INSTRUCTIONS

Use your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe. I baked mine as confetti cupcakes by mixing sprinkles into the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients. Bake cupcakes according to the recipe.

Frost cupcakes with white icing.

For the open machzor decoration, place two wafer cookie bites, side by side and place a line of chocolate frosting down the seam to hold them together. Decorate with the chocolate frosting.

For the closed machzor decoration, roll out fondant or a soft cookie and cut into a rectangle.  Surround a wafer bite with the fondant or cookie bookcover. Decorate with the chocolate frosting.

machzor cupcakes

Wishing you all a Kesiva Ve’Chasima Tova (a positive inscription and seal for the upcoming year).

Upside-Down Apple Nut Beehive

This cake is both creative and delicious.  The upside-down cake is simple to prepare and can be served as is.  For a Rosh Hashana twist, I surrounded the cake with a chocolate honeycomb and some candy bees.

This cake is available for sale among other delicious desserts at the Segal Home this Sunday, September 17th, 2017 from 12 noon until 5 PM.   The proceeds will benefit Yad Sarah, an excellent organization in Israel that provides medical equipment to patients in need.  The bake sale address is 475 FDR Drive #301 on the Lower East Side. For more information, please contact Staci at 917-295-7285 or stacisegal@aol.com

upside-down apple honey-pecan beehive

INGREDIENTS

Cake
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons juice or nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla sugar
2 eggs

4 small baking apples, diced small
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar

Honey glaze
1/2 cup  honey
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups  chopped nuts (I used pecans)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 °F.  Cover a round baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Cut a parchment paper circle to cover the foil on the bottom of the pan.

Honey glaze

In a small bowl, mix together the honey, coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon and salt.  Fold in the nuts.

Spread the honey glaze over the bottom of the parchment-lined pan.  Place the pan with the honey glaze in the refrigerator or freezer while preparing the cake batter.  This will make the batter easier to add to the top of the glaze.

upside down honeycomb cake-glaze

Apple Honey Cake

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add melted coconut oil, sugar, orange juice, vanilla and eggs and stir until just combined.  The consistency of the batter will be pasty.

In another bowl, toss diced apples with sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

Remove the honey glaze pan from the refrigerator or freezer and pour half of the cake batter (just a thin layer) over the honey sauce.

upside down honeycomb cake-batter

Sprinkle about half of the coated diced apples over the batter. Add the remaining cake batter and don’t worry if the thin layer blends with the apple layer.   Finally, add the remaining apples.  Although the cake looks flat, it will rise during the baking process.

upside down honeycomb cake-batter with apples.jpg

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until just lightly browned.

upside down honeycomb cake-before inverting

Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto the serving plate lined with waxed or parchment paper.

This cake is easiest to serve after refrigeration.

Honeycomb and bees

For a stunning presentation, I surrounded the cake with a chocolate honeycomb and some edible bees, using the bubble wrap technique that I described last year in ..In the Honey: Rosh Hoshana Honeycomb Cupcakes.

Melt chocolate wafers or chips. I use the defrost feature on the microwave. I spread the chocolate out on a microwave-safe dinner plate and place it on defrost mode for 6-8 minutes.

Cut a piece of clean bubble wrap to match the height and circumference of the cake with just a bit of overlap for the length.

upside down honeycomb cake-with bubble wrap surround

Cut another small square of bubble wrap for the honeycomb shards.  Mark the size of the bubble wrap surround on a piece of parchment or wax paper and another for the small square.  Spread the chocolate out on the parchment or wax paper for the surround and the shards, keeping the chocolate thin but not translucent. Press bubble wrap with bubble side down onto melted chocolate.     Let the honeycomb square harden on a flat surface.

beehive-chocolate-with-bubble-wrap

While still warm and pliable, but firm enough to maintain its shape, place the chocolate side of the bubble wrap against the cake, surrounding the cake with the coated bubble wrap.

 

Break off portions of the honeycomb at the top of the cake to give it a natural honeycomb look.  Once chocolate has hardened, carefully peel bubble wrap off of the chocolate, revealing the honeycomb surround.

For the bubble wrap square, carefully remove the bubble wrap and break the chocolate into shards that resemble pieces of honeycombs.

Place slivered almonds on either side of each jellybean.

Fill two small ziploc or piping bags with chocolate and white frosting. To do this neatly, place the bag in a tall glass and fold the top of the bag over the edge of the glass like a collar and fill with frosting. Cut corner of bag with a tiny opening to pipe thin stripes on the jellybean bees. Carefully squeeze frosting to corner.

Pipe stripes of white frosting on black jellybeans. Pipe stripes of chocolate frosting on yellow jellybeans.

Use frosting to adhere the bees to the cake and to the honeycombs.

Voila!

upside-down apple honey-pecan beehive
.

Red Apple Cupcakes with a Purpose

Last year, I prepared these beautiful and delicious apple cupcakes in time for Staci Segal’s pre-Rosh Hashana bake sale.  They were such a hit that one of my blog readers rushed down to the bake sale and purchased all the baked goods that I had delivered.

apple cupcakes in carrier up close

Rosh Hashana is around the corner again and I prepared a few items for Staci to sell this year.  The proceeds will benefit Yad Sarah, an impressive organization in Israel that provides and lends medical equipment to patients in need.

Traditionally, on Rosh Hashana, we eat apples dipped in honey for a sweet new year.   It is interesting that an apple is chosen as the fruit to dip.

One reason is that in King Solomon’s Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs), the nation of Israel is compared to an apple.  “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved (Israel) amongst the maidens (nations) of the world.”  Furthernore, an apple is symbolic of the love between the nation of Israel and G-d as we read in Shir Hashirim , “Beneath the apple tree I aroused you.”

We are taught that an apple tree sprouts the tiny core of each apple before the leaves surround and protect the young fruit.  In the same way, the young Jewish nation accepted the Torah before understanding the myriad of details within.  The famous acceptance of our nation was verbalized as “we will do and we will understand”.  We committed to the holy observance of Torah commandments even before we understood the full extent of what this commitment entailed.  Therefore, the apple has become a symbol and remembrance of the commitment to our faith and acceptance of Torah at Mount Sinai.  We recall this on Rosh Hashana when our mission is to proclaim G-d as our King.

 

These cupcakes are available for sale among other delicious desserts at the Segal Home this Sunday, September 17th, 2017 from 12 noon-5 PM.  The address is 475 FDR Drive #301 on the Lower East Side. For more information, please contact Staci at 917-295-7285 or stacisegal@aol.com

 

 

INGREDIENTS

Vanilla Cupcake recipe

sprinkles

White or red frosting

Red sanding sugar or sugar and red food coloring

Brown licorice, brown taffy or small pretzel nub

Green fruit by the foot or taffy

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Use your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe.  I baked mine as confetti cupcakes by mixing sprinkles into the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients.  I baked them according to the recipe.

Cut brown licorice into thirds or prepare a small piece of taffy or pretzel nub for the stems.  APPLE CUPCAKES stems

Flatten green taffy with a rolling pin or mallet, or use green fruit by the foot.  Use knife or scissors to cut out leaf shapes.  Use blunt knife to form leaf veins.

APPLE CUPCAKES leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To make red sanding sugar, combine 1 cup of sugar with red food coloring, adding food coloring until the desired depth of color is reached.  I pulsed this in my food processor. Alternatively, you can combine the sugar and color in a ziploc bag or in your mixer.

apple-cupcakes-sanding-sugar-ingredients

apple-cupcakes-sanding-sugar

 

Either frost cupcakes using a knife and mounding the center, or fill a piping bag with frosting and cut bottom of bag.  Pipe concentric rings of frosting onto cupcakes, heaping frosting to form a mound in the center of  each cupcake.

Sprinkle sanding sugar on top of each cupcake until well coated.  Gently shake off excess sanding sugar.

apple-cupcakes-in-sugar

Insert brown stem and green leaf.

apple cupcakes in carrier.jpg

 

 

Wishing you all a Kesiva Ve’Chasma Tova (a positive inscription and seal for the upcoming year).

 

 

Pacman Gefilte Fish

pacman gefilte fish 1

Sometimes the wow is all in the presentation.  The presentation takes a simple menu item to a whole new level.   Just cutting something a different way or finding a unique manner to plate it creates a real wow.

Gefilte fish is a Jewish Shabbos and Yom Tov (holiday) staple.  It is like a meatloaf, except with ground fish.  And, traditionally, it is cut into slices and served with horseradish and beets.  This is a simple and unique way to serve gefilte fish.

I first saw this way of serving gefilte fish at my friend, Lori’s house many years ago.  I have served gefilte fish so many times this way and it never fails to bring a smile to the lips of my guests.  This Pacman presentation has received lots of mileage, especially with Avigail and Judah, my grandchildren.  They are too young to know what Pacman is, so we just call it “fish” gefilte fish and they look forward to it whenever they visit for Shabbos.

pacman gefilte fish 2

INGREDIENTS

one loaf of gefilte fish and 1-2 carrots, prepared according to directions

 

DIRECTIONS

Prepare gefilte fish and carrot according to package directions.  I used A&B Cut cooked gefilte fish loaf into slices.  Cut a notch out of the narrow end of each slice and remove it.  Move it to the other end of the slice, creating a fishtail.

Cut carrot into slices.  Place one over the notch cutout to resemble a fish eye.

Voila!

 

 

Perfect Lean and Moist Brisket

low-carb brisket up close.JPG

This Shabbos, we were expecting a houseful of company. Our guests were a motley assortment of meat eaters and lean eaters. That left me in a quandary as to how to prepare a menu to satisfy all tastes.

I prepared a vast assortment of simple Rainbow Roasted Vegetables including cabbage, cauliflower, rainbow carrots, eggplant and zucchini.  As the main dishes for Friday night, I prepared lemon zinger chicken and this lean and moist brisket.

This recipe doesn’t require marination.  It also doesn’t call for any oil. What it needs, though, is time.  Plenty of time.  Three hours of cooking time.  Oh, and onions.  Plenty of onions to keep it moist.

The low and slow cooking keeps the flavor and moistness.  The sliced onions create a flavorful and tender blanket of moisture that replaces the fat and protects the tender beef.

This is a gluten-free and low-carb recipe that is suitable for Pesach (Passover), too.

Simple and moist onion-covered brisket

INGREDIENTS

3-4 pound top of the rib beef roast or lean brisket

2-3 onions, sliced thin

lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper
minced garlic or garlic powder
paprika
powdered ginger
onion powder

dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

1 cup zinger tea

 

DIRECTIONS

Make a cup of zinger tea, squeezing out the tea bag to release as much flavor as possible. Add half of the tea to the bottom of the pan. Place roast in pan. Pour rest of tea over roast and generously sprinkle seasonings on top of the roast.

Place fattier side of the brisket up so that fat keeps the meat tender during cooking. Smother the roast with a layer of very thinly sliced onions, pressing into the roast.

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

Set oven to cook for 3 hours on 300 degrees F. Let roast stay in oven until the oven cools down, at least for a half hour.

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

Fan Potatoes and Family Memories

fan potatoes.jpg

When I was young, I vividly remember my mother preparing fan potatoes.  She did not serve them often.  They were a rare treat.

I can picture in my mind how the potatoes fanned out and how delicious they were: crisp on the outside. soft and buttery on the inside.  The fins of each fan potato created pockets of crispy caramelized deliciousness.  They were simple and perfectly salted.

After I had my own children, I asked my mother for the fan potatoes recipe.  My mother returned my request with a blank stare.

How did she not remember preparing or serving them?  They conjured such fond memories for me.  How could she not recall?  Worse yet, how could she not find the recipe?

Now that I have my own kitchen, I understand.  There are countless recipes that I made for a time and then forgot about.  Some of those for-a-time recipes were even shared with friends and they have found a permanent place in their homes.  How many times does someone mention that they still prepare my cranberry mold or my chocolate mousse cake and I have no recollection of preparing it, serving it or sharing the recipe?

A few years ago, one of my friends shared a cranberry-oatmeal souffle recipe with me.  I later found the same recipe that I had written in my own handwriting thirty years ago!

Despite it all, I was determined to recreate those fan potatoes of my childhood.  It is one those truly simple to wow recipes.  It has become part of my own family’s memory bank…and it is a here-to-stay recipe.

Yields 6-8 servings.

INGREDIENTS

Potatoes, scrubbed or peeled
Kosher or pink Himalayan salt salt
fresh garlic or minced garlic  (optional)
Olive oil or cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

Grease/spray cookie sheet or line cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Half potatoes lengthwise. Place potato halves flat side down on cookie sheet.  Cut slits in each potato half starting at the round side but not cutting all the way through to the flat bottom.  If using garlic, coarsely chop and place between potato slits.

Drizzle lightly or spray generously with oil.  Sprinkle salt over the tops of the potatoes.

Roast in the oven for 45-65 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. Potatoes should be golden brown when ready.

NOTES

These fan potatoes are best when eaten right away.  I usually prepare them late Friday afternoon and set them on the counter.  Most of them are devoured before Shabbos even begins.  The few that are left are still delicious for Friday night dinner, served hot.

Potatoes may be peeled or just scrubbed for this recipe.  Scrubbed potatoes will achieve a more rustic looking result, while the peeled potatoes will achieve a more refined result. They are delicious both ways!

Any potatoes may be used, but the results will differ.  Let your taste buds decide which type of potato is your favorite for this recipe.  Higher starch potatoes like Idaho or Russet will yield a firmer and mealier inside texture.  Lower starch potatoes like Red or Yukon Gold will yield a softer and creamier inside texture.

I have also served this recipe as an hors d’oeuvre using small potatoes and interesting toothpicks. It is simply delicious and beautiful both ways!

Perfectly Roasted and Seasoned Bok Choy

Bok choy is one of our favorite ingredients in leafy salads.  It is a powerhouse of nutrition, and has a signature taste and bold texture, making it the perfect ingredient for salads that are dressed in advance.  I have incorporated it into a number of salads already highlighted on the blog (see Simple, Colorful and Crunchy Baby Bok Choy Salad with Apples, Peppers, Tomatoes and Craisins).

Bok Choy is a cabbage-like green that can be found in most vegetable markets and green grocers.  For centuries, bok choy has been a staple of Chinese cuisine and medicine.   Bok choy is a rich leafy vegetable that has stalks similar to celery and leaves that are reminiscent of  Romaine lettuce.    Rich in vitamins  A, C and K, bok choy is an excellent sources of beta carotene, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and iron.

Until now, I have only enjoyed bok choy as a raw ingredient.  Kaitlyn suggested trying bok choy as a roasted vegetable.  I took Kaitlyn’s advice and roasted it with my Everything Bagel Seasoning and it was a huge hit.  It will now becom epart of my permanent roasting repertoire.

roasted bok choy

INGREDIENTS 

1-2 heads bok choy, cleaned and cut lengthwise into large spears (see kosher notes)
cooking spray
Everything Bagel Seasoning

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or greased foil.

Spread bok choy spears in a single layer on baking sheet(s).  Lightly spray with cooking spray and  sprinkle with Everything Bagel Seasoning.

Roast for 25-35 minutes, checking that bok choy is slightly brown on top, but still moist and tender inside.

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.   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.