Author: SimpletoWow

I grew up in the Midwest (and therefore legitimately “mis”pronounce blog as “blawg”, just ask my kids). I moved to the Northeast 27 years ago. I am an engineer and have worked for years in the automation and communications fields, designing and developing software. When my older children were toddlers, I stepped aside from my career in order to raise them. I now work as the electronic billing, records and research coordinator for my husband's medical office in Northern New Jersey. I have four daughters, one son and two grandchildren, all of whom you will meet through this blog. I love to cook, design, set a beautiful table and find simple and upcycled solutions to life messes. I hate to clean, am terrible at laundry (just ask my family) and I love a challenge. In the engineering world, the impetus is to find an elegant solution, meaning a simple, yet effective solution to the issue. In this blog, I attempt to find elegant solutions for food, home and life applications. simple techniques to create inspiration, elegance and taste, mostly with what I already own. I hope that you will find inspiration here to create your own simple and wow ideas and designs. Please feel free to share them with me through the links on the side of this page or by emailing me directly at simpleandwow@gmail.com. To follow me and receive updated blog posts emailed to you regularly, please subscribe.

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.

Gorgeous Roses on a Rose Gold Base

roses on copper

Don still brings home roses just about every Friday.  He brings home a different color every week just to keep things interesting.  While I always favored tropical flowers like birds of paradise, ginger flowers, antherium and haleconias,  I have learned to enjoy and embrace the simple, classic rose, mostly because that is what Don brings home. Every week.

There was a time when Leah would set our Shabbos table on Thursday night and then suggest a matching color of roses to Don so that everything would match.  Nowadays, I am back to setting the table on Friday mornings.  I look forward to the color surprise as Don brings home a dozen roses right after Shacharis (morning prayers) and before he leaves to the office on Friday morning.   I just match my napkins and table design to whatever the rose color of the week is.

I still try to keep the roses for at least two weeks.  Sometimes, we are lucky and can even enjoy them for three weeks.  The newer roses are mere buds, while the older roses are open, mature and beautiful.  Most of the time, by the end of the first week, the week-old roses are starting to droop.  They look so forlorn on the edge of their stems, barely able to hold on.

Once cut off the stem and floated in water, each blossom takes on a new life.  It is amazing how these “older” roses are even more beautiful than their young counterparts. Invariably, my guests ask me if the roses are real, because their complexity borders on perfection.

And I love these roses because they are real.  And mature.  And beautiful despite their age.

Is there a metaphor to the aging process?  Maybe.

This week, to match the vintage looking roses, I resprayed one of the wooden planks that I sanded and painted in an arrangement of Single Roses: Simple, Upcycled and Breathtaking.  I chose a copper color (rose gold) paint, so currently in vogue and such a perfect match to offset the delicate and unusual color of these roses.

Voila!

roses on copper

SUPPLIES

6 large open-blossoms
four foot section of 2″x6″ wood beam
metallic copper spray paint
6 clear 4″ square glass vases
water

 

TOOLS

hand sander

 

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

Cut open rose blossoms off of stem.

Set up 6 clear 4″ square glass vases at equal intervals along beam, aligning first and last vases with the edges of the beam.

Fill each vase two-thirds with water.

Carefully place each blossom in each vase.

 

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

Lemon Zinger Chicken

Sometimes the best flavors are simple ones.  Lemon.  Garlic.  Chicken.   Tea.

Delicious food is simple food with no compromises in freshness, flavor, moistness and taste.

Today, I prepared chicken that was tangy, flavorful and succulent.  It took very little effort.  It used natural ingredients.  And its simplicity and taste made everyone take notice.

intense lemon chicken

INGREDIENTS

chicken parts

Lemon zinger tea

fresh lemon

minced or granulated garlic
paprika
cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

In a cup or measuring cup, add a lemon zinger tea bag to  1 cup of hot water, steeping tea well to create concentrated flavor.

Place chicken pieces in pan and pour tea over chicken.   Rinse whole lemons well and squeeze fresh lemon over chicken.  Generously sprinkle chicken with seasonings.

Tuck squeezed lemon in between chicken pieces.  Cover tightly with foil and cook at 400 degrees F for two hours.

To Preheat or Not to Preheat?

oven thermometer.jpgI have a confession to make.  I almost never preheat the oven.

“I don’t want to take the extra time.  I don’t like to stick my hands into a hot oven, unless absolutely necessary.  I love shortcuts.  I love to use the delay timed cook feature on the oven.  I don’t want to waste the few minutes of gas/electricity it takes to preheat (thanks Mom!).”

I have lots of excuses.

Preheating the oven for a recipe seems to be a rite of passage for the culinary enthusiast. After all, whenever I read a recipe, it begins with “preheat oven”.  Most of the time, whenever I write a recipe, it also begins with “preheat oven”.

So, am I a hypocrite?

Probably, but my recipes come out just fine without preheating the oven.

Preheating the oven is necessary for certain precise recipes and I do preheat the outside grill.  But, simpletowow is really not about precision.  It’s about culinary license.  Like poetic license, this blog is allowed to break some rules in favor of creativity and simplicity.

After all, most of the feedback that I get is that this blog introduced them to a new ingredient (take Farro: A Simple, Ancient and Fabulous Grain, for instance) or a new way of preparing an age-old ingredient (like Balsamic Beet Slaw: Easy, Fresh and Delicious) or trying new varieties of simple vegetables (see You Say Tomato…I Say Heirloom Tomato Salad.

It is about healthier cooking preparations, like baking instead of frying (see Onion-Battered Baked Tilapia) and finding one’s own cooking voice.  Really, progressive cooking could stand to shed some of the annoying conventions like preheating.  Simplicity and producing delicious, wholesome food with minimal effort does reign supreme.

So, I leave it to you.  Preheat or don’t preheat.  It’s your choice.

But, I still will start my recipes with “preheat oven”.  Shhh…don’t let my secret out.

 

 

 

Simple Superstar Roasted Onions

roasted onions up close

Onions are the ultimate team player.   They are used to start soups and sautes, taking very little credit for the impactful favor that they impart.  They are sprinkled atop salads or roasts, adding spiciness and satisfying juiciness wherever they are used.

They are the utility player that can be used here or there, always making the other ingredients taste a little better without taking credit themselves.  Fried or sauteed onions become the basis for great flavorful dishes.  Onions have the ability to make so many different types of recipes heartier, fuller and more delicious.

Onions are the unsung stars of so many dishes.

But, do onions not deserve to be superstars in their own right?

After all, there is nothing like a caramelized onion.  The decadent smell.  The charred sweet outside and the creamy soft inside is one of those texture combinations that is like no other.

This side dish is so simple.  So perfect.  And, so delicious.  And, it finally highlights the onion as the star of the game.

After preparing these roasted onions and certainly after tasting their distinctive creamy sweet flavor, you’ll be cheering for the onion to be your new favorite player, too!

roasted onions on plate

 

INGREDIENTS

3-4 large onions

oil spray
salt
pepper
minced or granulated garlic

 

DIRECTIONS

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut onions crosswise into 1/2 inch sections. Line onions on pan and spray lightly with oil spray. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic.

Roast at 400 degrees F for 45-55 minutes or until onions are golden brown on outside and soft and creamy on the inside.

roasted onions on baking sheet

Chana’s Low-Carb Broccoli Kugel

chana's low-carb brocolli kugel.jpg

Last Shabbos, we hosted my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and niece for Shabbos.    We always look forward to their visits.  Yisroel and Chana are some of my favorite guests, so helpful and appreciative.

We had a wonderful Shabbos, sharing divrei torah (words of Torah) and my father-in-law’s a’h favorite zemiros (Shabbos melodies) at our Shabbos table.  Don and his brother entertained us as they shared uproarious accounts of their childhood antics.   Chana regaled us with side-splitting stories, as Devora Brocha, their beautiful daughter kaH, acted out these anecdotes.

Since we only arranged to spend Shabbos together late Thursday afternoon, Chana offered to prepare and bring her delicious broccoli kugel.  That was an offer that was hard to refuse because I love Chana’s cooking and I am always happy to serve one more, delicious dish.

It did not disappoint.  This broccoli kugel is flavorful with excellent texture. Its creaminess and depth of flavor are perfect.  Best of all, it is gluten-free and low in carbs. Thanks, Chana!

INGREDIENTS

1 bag (24 oz) chopped broccoli, steamed for 10 minutes (see Kosher notes)
1 large onion and 2 cloves garlic, sautéed
2 eggs
1 1/2 heaping teaspoons mayonnaise
1/2 heaping teaspoon chicken soup mix or consomme
3/4 teaspoon salt
dash of black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven 400 degrees F. Combine all ingredients and pour into a 9″ round pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden brown on top.

KOSHER NOTES

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

TIPS
I eliminate the consomme and just increase the salt and pepper slightly.

Enjoy!

Kate Spade Black Pink and Gold Armoire

Davida has finally arrived home from camp!

Her birthday was last Sunday.  Originally, the project was supposed to be a surprise for her birthday.  Instead, Davida surprised me by arriving home for her day off as I was in the throes of this messy project (A Bench Fit for Kate Spade (and Davida)). Davida arrived home to find her childhood pink and white furniture on the curb, her juvenile gymnast border half steamed off the walls and everything in the middle of  her bedroom. True to Davida, she took it all in stride.

After all, as the youngest child, Davida has learned the value of patience and resourcefulness.  She was the child who wrote her own yearbook ad when her delinquent parents kept forgetting to submit one for her.  She is the one who cooks, organizes and plans while I take all the credit (right, Davida?)

I have spent the past few weeks redecorating her room .  This project was truly a labor of love with much shlepping, (Yiddish for lugging things around) sanding, stapling and painting.

The centerpiece of the project is her new Kate Spade inspired armoire.  In its former life, it was a gorgeous antique walnut armoire owned by a lovely family in nearby Fair Lawn. I found it on CraigsList and fell in love with the vintage dovetailed drawers and lovely carving.  It had such good bones and was perfect for her new room.

kate spade armoire

I sprayed the interior a hot pink color.  I then closed the doors and sprayed all the exterior surfaces in a metallic gold paint.  The finished product seemed a bit too gilded for the look that I was trying to achieve.  I left some gold accents around the edges of the doors, but sprayed the exterior black, instead.  That was a more perfect fit for the Kate Spade inspiration.

davidas new kate spade room.jpg

Best, of all, Davida came home and admired it.  She promptly showered and took a nap in her new Kate Spade inspired bedroom.  I’m so glad that even with all the changes, it still feels like home to her.

kate spade armoire

SUPPLIES and TOOLS

one solid-wood armoire

screwdriver
knobs and drawer pulls (optional)
hand sander
damp rag

metallic spray paint
hot pink spray paint

INSTRUCTIONS

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

Using a screwdriver, remove all hardware.   Using a hand sander, sand the nightstand and the wood until all the surfaces are smooth, paying special attention to the corners and edges of the armoire.

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

kste spade armoire after sanding and cleaning

 

Using painters tape, tape all metal surfaces, hinges and hardware that could not be removed.    Wrap edges of hardware very carefully so that paint does not bleed onto hardware.

Wrap exterior corners and edges so that interior paint does not affect the exterior.  Spray all interior surfaces with hot pink spray paint and allow to dry completely .  Remove the drawers from the armoire before spraying the interior of the drawers.

Wrap interior exterior corners and edges so that exterior paint does not affect the interior.   Spray all exterior surfaces of the nightstand with metallic spray paint.  Spray the exterior of the drawers separately and allow to dry completely before placing drawers back into the armoire.

kate spade armoire up close.jpg

Challah: Wrapping Up a Bit of Heaven

wrapping a bit of heavenTraditionally, we bake braided challah for Shabbos.    The Hebrew word, challah, actually means loaf of bread and alludes to the mitzvah (commandment) of challah, the blessing and setting aside of a small piece of bread dough during the bread preparation process.

At our Shabbos meals, after we say the kiddush (blessing on wine), we recite a blessing over two loaves of bread on a tray that are covered.  These braided loaves are referred to as Challah, for their importance in our fulfillment of the mitzvah of  challah.

challah x 2

In Numbers 15:17-19, we are taught that at the time of the Temple, when we bake bread, we were to set aside a small piece of dough and give it to the Kohen (priest) to eat.  Today, when we no longer have the Holy Temple, we separate a piece of dough whenever we bake bread.

 

If we have prepared a large batch of dough (at least five pounds), we make the following blessing:

Hebrew:
ברוך אתה י-י אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציונו להפריש חלה

Transliteration:
Ba-Ruch A-tah A-do-noi Elo-hai-nu Me-lech Ha-O-Lam A-sher Ke-di-sha-nu Be-mitz-vo-sav Ve-tzi-va-nu Le-Haf-rish Cha-lah

Translation:
Blessed are You, our G‑d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.

We carefully discard the small piece of challah or we burn it.  We call this mitzvah (commandment)  challah.

challah top and bottom dew.jpg

As our ancestors traveled in the desert, the Maan (manna) fell from heaven to physically sustain them.  Every morning, they would go out and collect the Maan.  On the Friday morning before our very first Shabbos in the desert, two portions of the Maan (manna) fell for each person so that they would not collect the Maan on Shabbos.   To commemorate this double portion of Maan,  we set two loaves of challah at our Shabbos table.  The loaves are set upon a bread tray and covered with a decorative challah cover.  The layers underneath and atop the loaves of challah remind us of the layers of dew sent by G-d to lovingly protect the precious Maan, both on top and bottom.

challah a bit of heaven.jpg

The root of the word challah is chol which means secular or common.  The etymology of its name teaches us much about the challah and our relationship to Shabbos and to the world.   The challah tradition takes a mundane, though rhythmic and beautiful, chol (secular or common) task of baking bread  and elevates it into something extraordinary and holy.  It recreates a physical baking process into a spiritual tradition that provides service and generosity from the baker to the Kohen and ultimately to G-d.

The challah is typically braided with three strands.  The two loaves contain six strands of dough.  This symbolizes the six days of the week preceding Shabbos.  The braids allude to our bringing together the six weekdays of material sustenance into Shabbos, when we create unity and harmony by infusing our lives with spiritual sustenance.

Shabbos and the challah represents unity and spiritual direction.  The six weekdays represent the diverse secular part of our week.   The days, Sunday through Friday, each represent one of the six directions in our secular world: North, South, East, West, upward and downward.  During these weekdays, we move outward as we attempt to master our physical environment.

Shabbos is different.  It points inward, and we attempt to infuse our neshoma (soul) with the gifts of spiritual sustenance.  We try to achieve a sense of peace and unity as we direct the blessings of the week into our homes.   On Shabbos, we greet each other with the words, Shabbat Shalom (peaceful Shabbos) as that is the ultimate goal, one of finding great inner peace as we bring ourselves closer to the ones we love and to G-d.

In the past, when I performed the challah tradition, I either burned the challah portion or carefully wrapped it and discarded it according to the letter of the law.  After today’s baking of the challah, I added something else.  I added a pretty bag and a bow to the discarded piece of challah.  If I were to bring it to the Kohen, I would wrap it properly, so certainly, if I am designated this small piece of dough for G-d, I must present it well.  If my weekday recipes must be simple to wow, then certainly my spiritual traditions must be up to par!

Does G-d really care about the external trappings?  Maybe, yes or maybe, no.  But, there are at least two parts of every mitzvah (commandment).  There is the relationship part of the mitzvah that connects a person to G-d.  Then, there is another part of every mitzvah that is at least as important.  It is how that mitzvah cleanses and imprints the soul of the individual performing the mitzvah.  So, wrapping the piece of donated challah with a bow may not affect G-d’s relationship with me, but that special wrapping of the challah donation really imprints me with a greater sensitivity, understanding and yearning to perform the mitzvos (commandments).

 

 

Cheesy Cabbage Steaks

This week, I decided to prepare a delicious, colorful and low-carb dairy dinner.  Since I had just returned from an overseas trip, I found my refrigerator and pantry low-stocked. With very few ingredients to choose from, I opted to use the head of cabbage that I found in the refrigerator to prepare these of, so wonderful cheesy cabbage steaks.

Cabbage has many health benefits.  It is low in calories and carbs and high in fiber and vitamins. Cabbage is low in saturated fat and boasts high levels of vitamin C and vitamin K.  Best of all, it is inexpensive and available year-round.

I used red cabbage for this recipe, but any cabbage may be used.  In this simple recipe, the red cabbage creates a stunning purple backdrop to the velvety melted cheese on top. It may be used to Passover and is gluten free, too.

Cheesy cabbage steaks

INGREDIENTS

Red cabbage, cleaned and cut into steaks

4 minced garlic cloves or granulated garlic
coarse salt
coarse ground black pepper
olive oil or cooking spray

shredded cheese

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or greased foil.

Remove first 4-5 tough outer leaves of cabbage.  Clean cabbage and cut into 1/2 inch to 3/4 thick steaks.  Place cabbage steaks in a single layer on lined cookie sheets.   Drizzle with olive oil or generously spray with cooking spray.   Lightly sprinkle with salt, garlic and black pepper.

Roast for 40-45 minutes, checking that cabbage steaks are soft and just starting to brown before removing from oven.

 

Sprinkle shredded cheese over the cooked cabbage steaks.  Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes more until cheese is melted and gooey.

Enjoy!

A Simple and Regal Gladiola Arrangement

orange gladiolas after arranging

I love gladiolas.  I love their ladder-like flowers that are soft and delicate.  I find gladiolas to be regal and tall, stately, yet graceful.  I look forward to each higher blossom budding and opening, just as the lower blossoms are withering and falling off.  I love the deeper and interesting shades of this flower, gladiolas that come in deep orange,  scalloped red and midnight purple.

Gladiolas seem to be a flower from the past,  a flower that has lost its way for no good reason.  They are rarely admired anymore and are hard to find.  Their graceful silhouette no longer seems to be in fashion and I feel badly about that, sad for their disgrace.  I am always excited when I can find gladiolas for purchase at my local market.

My husband, Don, hates gladiolas.

Don associates gladiolas with funerals.  I’m not sure why.

There are no flowers at Jewish funerals.  Jewish law requires burial as soon as possible and that the body be buried with simple shrouds in a plain coffin with no special adornment.

But, Don insists that Gladiolas are funeral flowers.

Sorry, Don.  I still love Gladiolas.

And, this week, I found them at my market.  Each bunch was $1.99.  How could I resist?

 

SUPPLIES

sharp pruning shears

tall glass vase

 

DIRECTIONS

Trim gladiolas so that base of flowering blossoms begins just above the top of your vase.

orange gladiolas before arranging

Strip leaves from each gladiola, setting the leaves aside.

orange gladiolas laid out with leaves removed

Fill vase with water and place gladiolas in vase, arranging them so that they branch out slightly from the top of the vase in each direction.  You may want to keep turning the vase to make sure that the gladiola arrangement looks good from all sides.

orange gladiolas in vase

Add the gladiola leaves to the arrangement, making sure that they are evenly distributed within the arrangement and that the water level is reaching the base of each leaf.

orange gladiolas after arranging

Really, Don.  Aren’t these flowers gorgeous?

 

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

A Bench Fit for Kate Spade (and Davida)

kate spade bench front view

I have always enjoyed using the summertime as the perfect season to reorganize and redecorate.  After all, when the kids are away at camp, the closets are a bit emptier and there is more time to get things done.

This summer is no exception.  Although the kids are no longer campers in summer camp, there is still more time on my hands. And, with Davida and Aaron away at camp as staff, the house really is quieter and there is less in their closets.

So, this summer, I decided to finally redecorate Davida’s room.  Davida has been dropping hints since she started high school that she would love to have her room upgraded to a more adult-inspired decor.  After all, we decorated her room last in 2001 when she was three years old!  The toddler gymnasts on her wall, the pink gingham valance and the baby pink and blue walls were no longer a match for Davida’s sophisticated personality.

I finally heard Davida’s pleas for upgrading her room.  And, I decided to surprise Davida for her birthday in August.   I removed all her pink and white formica furniture and my nephew, Andrew, and son-in-law, Scotty, helped remove everything to the curb.

And, so the surprise birthday  bedroom upgrade began.

Except, the biggest part of the surprise was mine.

Because, the morning after all of Davida’s pink and white furniture was moved to the curb, Davida decided to surprise me.  She had taken a day off from camp and decided to come home without telling me first.

Michelle arranged to pick her up from the dropoff point and brought her home.

Imagine her surprise when she saw all of her bedroom furniture at the curb!  Imagine my surprise when Davida showed up at the front door and her new furniture was in the throes of being “created”.  The black and pink armoire was on the front porch in the process of being sanded and painted.  Her gymnast wallpaper border had been partially removed and the gingham valance was in the process of being reincarnated as a leatherette window valance.   And, her room was a blessed mess.

Davida couldn’t have been happier.  Messes are an important part of her teenage life. And, this mess was an important part of rebuilding.

Davida loved it all.  The curbed furniture.  The glossy black and pink armoire.  The leatherette valance.  The half-steamed wallpaper border.

And, most of all, Davida was excited for the Kate Spade-inspired bench.  After all, it was the only thing that was completed.  It was cool.  And,  it served as a harbinger of a new age in Davida’s room.

 

The bench had been a torn nailhead vinyl covered bench with x-shaped legs that I had picked up from a local curb several years ago.  I had been using it as a luggage rack in the guest bedroom.  And, it was the perfect start for Davida’s Kate Spade inspired room.

 

 

SUPPLIES

hand sander

polka dot fabric

heavy duty staple gun

staples

batting

spray paint

spray paint handle

 

DIRECTIONS

Remove cushion from base of bench and set aside hardware.

Using hand sander, sand wooden bench legs and then spray paint the legs.

kate spade bench x legs sprayed hot pink.jpg

Remove old fabric from cushion and discard. Cover with several  layers of batting, taking care to keep batting flat with no wrinkles.  Bring an inch of batting to the back of cushion and turn cushion over.   Using heavy duty staple gun, staple batting in place to back of cushion.

kate spade bench stapling

Place fabric over batting, pulling fabric taut.  Turn cushion over and staple to back, pulling fabric taut before each staple.  so that the fabric is pulled tightly from front to back.  Using heavy duty staple gun, staple in place.  Cut corners and staple neatly in place.

kate spade bench -fabric stapling

kate spade bench

 

Reattach cushion to base.

kate spade bech side view

 

TIPS

spray paint handle is a very small investment and takes the stress and finger aches off of a large spray paint job.

 

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

 

Floating Gerber Daisies in Series

I am enchanted by simple floral arrangements that highlight the beauty, intricacy and detail of individual blossoms.  From my very first blog post entitled  It’s all about the arrangement (psst….even with last week’s roses)until now, I have advocated for using a few blossoms to create inexpensive and stunning floral arrangements.

When there are many blossoms in an arrangement, very often the individual detail of each flower is lost.  It’s hard to tell the trees from the forest, or rather the flowers from the arrangement.  In an arrangement where a few blossoms rule, it is important to choose full-bodied blossoms like open roses, gerber daisies or large chrysanthemums.

Here I simply floated gerber daisy blossoms cut right below the blossom in square glass bowls.  For a little extra pizzazz, I encircled each blossom with tall leaves that I snipped from my lily bushes.

Voila!

floating gerbers.JPGfloating gerber daisies up close.JPGfloating gerber daisies in series.JPG