Recipes

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!

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

A Bottlebrush Arrangement

 

20170728_181652

My favorite floral arrangements are those that bring the outdoors inside.  This weekend, we are visiting the Upper Galilee and we are always amazed by the beautiful varieties of plants and trees that are native to this gorgeous part of Northern Israel.  One of my favorite shrubs found is this part of the world  is the Callisteon, affectionately known as a bottlebrush plant.  The flowers of this shrub resemble a bottlebrush and are unique and stunning.

For this Shabbos, I designed an arrangements using three branches of a bottlebrush shrub and two Monstera leaves brought in from the outdoors.

Shabbat Shalom (peaceful Shabbos)!

The 17th of Tammuz: A Fast to Begin Three Weeks of Mourning

Today was the 17th day of the Jewish lunar month of Tammuz and we observed it as a fast day.   On this Jewish date, we neither eat nor drink from dawn until nightfall. It is the beginning of three weeks of mourning that ends in the saddest day on the Jewish calendar,  Tisha B’Av.   During these three weeks of mourning, we do not schedule weddings,  listen to music or  cut our hair.  This sad day known by its Hebrew name of Shiva Assar B’Tammuz (17th day of Tammuz) commemorates the following tragedies in Jewish history that occurred on this Hebrew date:

  1. Moshe (Moses) broke the stone tablets that were inscribed with the ten commandments as he descended from Mount Sinai and witnessed his nation worshiping the Golden Calf.
  2. In 423 BCE, the priests in the First Temple discontinued the Tamid, the daily sacrificial offering, due to the siege around Jerusalem.
  3. In 69 BCE, the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans during the Second Temple Period.
  4. In 50 BCE, during the time of the Bar Kochba Rebellion, Apostomos, a Roman general,  burned a Torah scroll.
  5. King Menashe placed an idol in the santuary of the Temple as did Apostomos during the Roman occupation of Jerusalem.
  6. In 1391, over 4000 Jews were killed in Spain
  7. In 1559, the Jewish Quarter of Prague was burned and looted.
  8. In 1944, the Kovno ghetto was liquidated.
  9. In 1970, Libya ordered that all Jewish property be confiscated.

The first of these tragedies was the dramatic breaking of the tablets by Moshe right after he descended from Mount Sinai.  Moshe, who was the paradigm of Jewish leadership, had always advocated for his nation.  As he descended from the mountain with these stone tablets that were etched with the commandments, Moshe witnessed his beloved nation dancing around the golden calf and being unfaithful to G-d and he broke the tablets.

Although this event is precipitated by unfaithfulness and is the beginning of tragedy, it also teaches us so much about faith, life and tragedy.

Moshe was the ultimate advocate for the Jewish nation and he was unable to deliver those first commandments to his beloved nation.  We are taught that the tablets were constructed of heavy sapphire stones.  The letters of the ten commandments that were etched by G-d into these stones helped miraculously “carry” the tablets so that Moshe was able to carry them.  When these divinely-inscribed letters witnessed the golden calf, they departed from the tablets back to G-d, leaving Moshe with heavy tablets that he could no longer bear to hold.

G-d commanded that the broken tablets be placed in the Aron, the Holy Ark.    We would have thought that the broken tablets would be buried, as that is the procedure for Jewish holy objects that are no longer able to be used.  Instead, these broken tablets accompanied the replacement second set of tablets in the Aron as the Jewish people sojourned in the desert.

Why did the broken tablets find a resting place among the unbroken tablets and among the nation?  Why did we not bury them as we bury those that no longer are living?  Why do we force ourselves to remember the sin, the imperfection and the tragic misdeeds of our nation?

Because our lives, personal and national, are about growth, not about perfection.  It is about “picking up the pieces” after we fall and we fail.  It is about using our failures to climb and to grow and to not simply forget.  It is of owning up to what we have done, right and wrong, and adding both the successes and the failures to the tapestry of who were are.

We remember and commemorate tragedy at our happiest and our saddest moments.   When a Jewish bride and groom stand under their chuppah (wedding canopy), they break a glass to remember the destruction of our Holy Temples in Jerusalem.  The broken glass represents what we have lost and where we have failed as our young couples endeavor to builds a home together. We do not simply forget; we must keep an awareness for what we have lost if we are to yearn for it.

jewish bride and groom breaking glass

Just as the Aron housed the whole tablets and the broken ones, and both sets of tablets accompanied our people during their travels, we must live our lives with the duality of the whole and the broken.  Most often, our lives do not fit into a nice, neat box.  There are the broken times and the failures that must co-mingle with the wonderful times, the growth and the successes.  We must take responsibility for our failures as we mourn what we have lost in an effort to grow and rebuild our future.

May we merit to witness the rebuilding of the Holy Temple by learning from our past with hope, prayer and growth for the future.

 

 

Simple Chicken Vegetable Packets

I devone of those hot and humid days that were exhausting.  I just had very little energy left at the end of the day to prepare dinner.  I had defrosted chicken breasts earlier to use for dinner and needed inspiration to create a simple and delicious meal.

I wanted no fuss and very little effort.    I didn’t even want the extra effort of preheating the oven.  I wanted to use at-hand ingredients and easy cleanup.

Packet cooking seemed like the perfect solution.

I have prepared packet meals with salmon (Low-Carb Cajun Salmon Fillets in Foil Packets) and decided to try it with the chicken breasts.   To keep the meal hearty and fuss-free, I decided to add an assortment of fresh and frozen vegetables that I had on hand to the packets, too.

This really was simple.  And, yes, it was a wow!

INGREDIENTS

4 chicken breasts

barbecue sauce
soy sauce

frozen green beans
tomatoes
peppers

DIRECTIONS

Cut four square pieces of heavy duty foil. On each piece of foil, place one chicken breast and then lightly drizzle with soy sauce and then barbecue sauce. Layer tomatoes and peppers and then sprinkle with a few frozen green beans. Seal foil into packets.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes. Open foil packets carefully to let steamm escape and serve immediately.

The Perfect Grilled Salmon Wrap

salmon tortilla wraps 2

Salmon is one of the staples in my house.  Just about everyone here (except my mother) really enjoys salmon, so it is often a go-to dinner.  Very often, I prepare a family pack of salmon, only to find that someone has already eaten dinner elsewhere.   I then repurpose the salmon for lunch the next day.

One of my favorite lunches is a grilled salmon wrap.  It is portable, delicious and very satisfying.  It is so simple to prepare once you know the way to roll the perfect wrap.

 

 

INGREDIENTS

large pliable tortillas or wraps

arugula (see Kosher notes)

Thinly sliced tomatoes  or other vegetables (optional)

grilled or baked salmon

Spicy Mayo

 

STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS

Lay out the wrap on a flat surface.  I chose a rectangular wrap, but this can be made in exactly the same way using a round tortilla or wrap.  Just make sure to use a tortilla or wrap that is soft and pliable, not brittle.

tortilla wrap step 1

Choose your favorite dip or dressing or and spread it all over the wrap.  This gives extra flavor to the salmon and helps the fillings  adhere to the wrap.

 

Add the arugula by placing in a thin layer right over the sauce, making sure to cover about half of the tortilla.

tortilla wrap step 2

Add any other thinly sliced vegetables.   This will add another texture and/or moisture to your wrap.

Here I added beefsteak tomatoes from my garden.  Tomatoes will add favor and moisture to the wrap.  You can add thinly sliced cucumbers, peppers or jicama to add crunch.  Of course, you may omit this step if you are a purist about your wrap.

tortilla wrap step 3

Next, add the salmon.  If there are any bones, remove and lay in a single strip or flake and place atop the arugula and vegetables.

tortilla wrap step 4

Sprinkle on another thin layer of dressing or dip to keep the salmon flavorful.

tortilla wrap step 5

Next, fold your wrap carefully.

Before we begin, here are two important points:

  1. Make sure that you are using a pliable and soft wrap or tortilla.  Brittle tortillas or wraps will not work well for these wraps.
  2. You will be tempted to overfill your wrap.  Don’t give in to temptation,  It will make your wrap messy and impossible to roll up neatly.

Here are step-by-step instructions:

  1. Fold in the first sidetortilla wrap step 6
  2. Now, fold in the second side  tortilla wraps step 6a
  3. Start rolling wrap from bottom to top, carefully move the stuffing toward the bottom of the wrap as your roll, leaving a least 1 1/2 to 2 inches at the top of the wrap.   Roll the wrap all the way to the top.tortilla wrap step 7tortilla wrap step 8
  4. Wrap the parchment or wax paper around it.
  5. Using a very sharp knife, cut through the wrap on a diagonal.salmon tortilla wraps 2

 

Voila!

 

KOSHER NOTES

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

Kaitlyn’s Simple and Delicious Chili Recipe

Kaitlyn loves to make chili for her family.    Her husband, Aaron, has some Texas roots and that may account for her family’s penchant for chili.

Aaron loves his chili with plenty of cayenne pepper and Avigail and Yehuda don’t seem to mind the heat in their chili, either.

Kaitlyn refers to their chili as cholent (traditional beef stew served on Shabbos) and the kids devour it.    After all cholent is a beef casserole and so is chili.  Perhaps we can even consider cholent to be a Shabbos chili.

If  prefer milder chili, you can easily adjust or eliminate the hot pepper, chili seasoning and cayenne pepper to accommodate your heat index.

This recipe has become of of my favorites because it is simple to prepare and can be served in so many ways.  Best of all, it freezes well.

chili-up-close

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Davida’s Awesome Potato Kugel

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome home, Davida!

davidas awesome potato kugel

SUPPLIES

food processor
2 pyrex pie plates

INGREDIENTS

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

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425°F degrees.

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

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

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

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

Enjoy this delicious kugel with music and laughter!

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

Pastrami Sandwich Chicken Rolls

pastrami sandwich chicken

 

Last night, we had deli for dinner.

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

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

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

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

Here it is!

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds thin-cut chicken cutlets

deli or dijon mustard
mayonnaise

stuffing

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

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

DIRECTIONS

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

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

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

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or greased foil.

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

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

Watermelon Jicama Salad

watermelon jicama salad

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INGREDIENTS

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

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

SUPPLIES

wavy crinkle cutter

 

DIRECTIONS

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

Enjoy!

KOSHER NOTES

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

Firecracker Cauliflower

firecracker cauliflower.jpg

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

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

INGREDIENTS

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

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

DIRECTIONS

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or greased foil.

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

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

KOSHER NOTES

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

A Vinegar Pantry Tutorial

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

vinegar tutorial 1

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Simple and Colorful Rainbow Carrot Salad

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

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

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

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

INGREDIENTS

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

salt
pepper
squirt of mustard
drizzle of honey or agave syrup

DIRECTIONS

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

Simple Jalapeño  Dip

This dip recipe has become a family favorite.  I prepare it before Shabbos as  a delicious dip for challah.  I often serve it with salmon and grilled chicken, too.  Both my sons-in-law, Aaron and Scotty, look forward to this jalapeño  dip at our Shabbos table.  It is simple to prepare and lasts in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.

Jalapeño peppers are a type of medium-hot chili pepper that originated in Mexico.   Its strong spicy flavor and thick dark green skin make them perfect for this dip, which boasts a lovely green color and spicy after-taste bite.  Fresh jalapeno peppers are a rich source of vitamins A and C.

For this recipe, I remove the seeds and veins of the jalapeño peppers.  While the veins and the seeds carry most of the hear, it is the oils in these peppers that can irritate your skin and eyes.

Take care when handling jalapeño peppers as the oils from these peppers can burn your skin, eyes, nose and mouth and make you cough.  You may want to wear latex gloves when working with these peppers. Nonetheless, when you are finished, always wash your hands well with soap and water.

 

SUPPLIES

melon baller
paring knife
food processor
wide-mouth squeeze bottles

 

INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup olive oil
6-8 large jalapeño peppers, rinsed and seeded, ribs removed
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch coarse black pepper

2 small cloves garlic or garlic powder to taste

pinch sugar or agave syrup (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS

Rinse and seed jalapeño peppers, making sure to remove all seeds and ribs.  Take care not to touch eyes, nose or mouth while working with jalapeño  peppers and wear gloves, if necessary, to protect hands.  You can use a paring knife or melon baller  to remove seeds and ribs.

Place everything in the food processor; pulse until smooth and enjoy!

Decant into wide-mouth squirt bottles.

Enjoy!

 

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

Showstopper Soup Combinations

Sometimes the wow factor is just in the plating.

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

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

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

carrot and pea soups on simpletowow board

SUPPLIES

2 same size lightweight measuring cups (preferably with spouts)

INGREDIENTS

2 pureed soups
cream

DIRECTIONS

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

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

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

Nutty Barley Edamame Salad

barley salad

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

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

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

SUPPLIES

rice cooker

INGREDIENTS
1 cup barley
2 cups water
salt

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

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

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

Prepare frozen shelled edamame according to package directions.

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

Simple 15 Minute Spring Pea Soup

 

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

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

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

fresh pea soup

INGREDIENTS

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

DIRECTIONS

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

Fresh and Bright Carrot Soup

carrot soup

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

INGREDIENTS

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

water

DIRECTIONS

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

 

Simply Perfect and Healthier Cheesecake

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

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

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

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

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

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

simply perfect individual cheescake

SUPPLIES

spatula

food processor

mixer

INGREDIENTS

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

2 cups cookies or graham crackers, crushed

4 tablespoons butter

cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

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

Preheat oven to 325°F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Individual Sushi Salads

 

individual sushi salad 1

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

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

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

INGREDIENTS

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

1/4 cup rice vinegar

baked or roasted salmon fillet, cubed or shredded

nori, cut into thin strips

1 medium avocado

1-2 zucchini or cucumber, diced or grated

1-2 Carrots, grated (optional)

Simple and Perfect Spicy Mayo

 

DIRECTIONS

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

Prepare salmon fillet.  Cube or shred.

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

Grate cucumber, zucchini and/or carrots.

Gently roll nori sheets and cut thin strips with scissors.

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

TIPS

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

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

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

 

VARIATIONS

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

 

PLATING TIPS

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

 

individual sushi salad

Perfectly Moist Baked Stuffed Chicken

baked stuffed chicken cut in half

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

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

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

And, so this stuffed chicken recipe was developed.

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Lattice Chicken Pie

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

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

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

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

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

 

INGREDIENTS

4 cups of cooked chicken with sauce

3 eggs, whisked

1/2 cup panko or cornflake crumbs (optional)

puffed pastry

Bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS

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

Bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes

TIPS

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

lattice chicken pie

An Endless Row of Roses

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

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

Simple to Wow?  You decide.

 

roses in a row

Zucchini Mushroom Kugel

zucchini mushroom kugel

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

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

INGREDIENTS

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

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

1 teaspoon salt
dash pepper

DIRECTIONS

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

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

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

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

 

VARIATIONS

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

Charoset Ices

charoset ices

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

charoset ice cream.png

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

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

 

INGREDIENTS

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

DIRECTIONS

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

Freeze until solid or overnight.

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

Pulse sorbet in food processor just until smooth.  Refreeze.

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

Garnish with a small piece of romaine lettuce.

SUBSTITUTIONS

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

TIPS

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