Tips and Shortcuts

A Special Day for Savta

Today is a wonderful day for my mother.

After finally getting the all-clear to start bearing full weight on her hip after surgery, my mother is finally coming home.  It has been over six grueling weeks since Savta’s hip-revision surgery.

Savta will be continue to receive physical therapy here until she returns home to Cleveland later next week.

And, we are rolling out the red carpet.

With the red carpet, of course, we will need a welcome home sign.  And, a welcome home party thrown by the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  And, so the celebration begins…

Just in case the kids don’t get the sign here before Savta’s arrival, I quickly drew a welcome home sign.  I used a large piece of white foam board and poster markers in black and red.  I finished the exclamation sign off with a cloth bandage.

Welcome home, Savta!


white foam board
thick markers


Display welcome home sign  in window.  That way, no tape is needed and sign can be turned around to be viewed indoors, as well.

The Blessing and Renewal of Tu Beshvat


tu beshvat fruit salad with kiwi garnish.jpg


Tomorrow is Tu B’Shevat , ט״ו בשבט‎‎, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat.   This special Jewish day commemorates the New Year of the Trees.

We are  taught that the trees are judged on this date for the fruit that will be produced in the next growing year.  In Israel, this is the beginning of fruit trees emerging from winter dormancy to begin a new fruit-bearing season.

To commemorate this special day, we enjoy fruit, especially fruits synonymous with the Land of Israel.  In the Torah, certain fruits are praised as the bounty of Israel and we make certain to enjoy these fruits on this day.  These fruits of mention are olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates.

Tu B’Shevat reminds us of the dormant potential in the trees and in each one of us.  Just as the trees and their seeds lie dormant during the harsh and cold winter months, often we have times of dormancy.  Our hope is that we recognize the potential in ourselves, our children and those around us, even in the harshest and most challenging of times. Precisely at this time, while it is still cold and unforgiving outside, the trees celebrate their New Year.

May each one of us celebrate this festival of potential, growth and blossoming in our gardens, our families and our hearts.

This fruit salad incorporates some new fruits and some of the fabulous fruits of Israel. We thank G-d when enjoying the vibrant colors, textures and flavors of fruit by reciting this blessing:


Baruch atah A-donai Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam Borei Pri Ha-aitz.

Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.

When we eat new fruits that we have not eaten for an entire season, we also bless G-d with this special blessing:

Hebrew:Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, shehecheyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higianu laz'man hazeh.

Baruch atah A-donai, Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam shehecheyanu v’kiyimanu v’higi’anu laz’man hazeh

Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season

This fruit salad incorporates so many of the fruits that I love to purchase at the Machene Yehuda Shuk (Jerusalem open-air market) while we are in Israel.  I hope that it connects you to The Land, to G-d and to the potential that is Tu Beshvat, too.

Happy Tu Beshvat!

dragon fruit
kiwi (see tips)
star fruit
Asian pears (see tips)

melon baller
scallop knife

Was, dice, scoop and cut fruit into small pieces.  Gently toss and optionally garnish with Simple Kiwi Flower Garnish.



To keep fruits like Asian pears from oxidizing, place cut pieces in a solution of 4 parts water to 1 part of lemon juice r pineapple juice.

Peel kiwi with a vegetable peeler.  You will preserve more of the fruit.

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

Simple Baked Potato Kugelatkes




Traditionally, we eat potato latkes (pancakes) on Chanukah.  We eat foods prepared with oil to commemorate the miracle of the oil in the Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple) once the Jews were victorious over the Greeks.  After the miraculous war, the Jews entered the desecrated Temple and only found enough pure olive oil to light the Menorah (candelabra) for one day.  The tiny  bit of oil lasted for an entire eight days, enough time for the Jews to get new pure oil to light the Menorah in the Beis Hamikdash, so that the Menorah would be continuously lit.

While latkes are so traditionally linked to Chanukah, there are so many foods that contain olive oil that may just as well commemorate the oil miracle of the Temple.

Truth be told, I hate to fry latkes.

It just takes too much time, too much splatter and it is so hard to manage while entertaining a houseful of guests.

I usually make one batch of latkes just for the first night and find other make-in-advance olive oil alternatives when we entertain guests over Chanukah.

This year, I have adapted my favorite potato kugel recipe to make baked potato kugelatkes.  I made them in a bundt-shaped muffin tin, but they can easily be baked in a cupcake tin, as well.

They are simple to prepare, beautiful and delicious to behold, require no frying and can be prepared well in advance of the Chanukah meal.


Lazy CrockPot Chicken with Dumplings


Now that the weather has started to get colder, my crockpot is busy most days.  I have been making soup, stews and all in one dinners in the crockpot.  Crockpot cooking is simple and requires very little attention during the cooking process. The only thing different about crockpot cooking is getting all the ingredients into the crock early in the day, so that they will have enough lazy time to cook and be ready in time for dinner.

This recipe for chicken with dumplings is one of those comfort dishes that never fails to impress.  It warms the soul on those cold, dark wintry evenings.  It is simple, but really packs a satisfying bite. The chicken can be cooked with the vegetables and served without the dumplings. The dumplings soak up much of the liquid and make this dish extra hearty.



1-2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, uncooked
2-3 cups chicken broth or water
1 onion
3-4 cloves garlic or garlic powder
4 stalks celery
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


1 eggs
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cups water
1 cup all-purpose flour



Combine all ingredients in the crockpot and gently stir to combine.  Cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours.


One to two hours before serving, prepare dumplings:
In a medium bowl, stir water, egg, oil, salt, and pepper. Gradually add flour, and stir until thick. Drop dumplings into the crockpot using a spoon or a fork. Do not stir until ready to serve. Gently ladle out portions.


Know your crockpot and which settings to use. I cook my soup on the high setting of my six quart crockpot for about 6 hours and only turn it down to low or auto once the soup has been completed. Your crockpot may need to be set to auto for the duration of the cooking. If you are not sure, start your soup at high. Check on the soup after 3 hours. If it tastes ready, then turn it down to auto or low until serving. If not, cook the soup for longer, checking every hour.

This recipe can easily be made with bone-in chicken and can be adapted to incorporate your favorite vegetables.


When I anticipate preparing something in the crockpot, but know that my morning will be hectic,  I prepare the ingredients (including seasonings and liquid) in the crock the night before.  I store the crock filled with ingredients in the refrigerator overnight.  To be safe, I usually keep the poultry ingredients separate until ready to cook.  Then, all I have to do is place the crock into the pot and plug in the next morning.  It eliminates the stressful morning rush and offers me a hearty cooked dinner several hours later. This recipe will require you to prepare the dumplings 1-2 hours before serving. The dumpling dough is very forgiving and can be prepared the night before and just added to the crock 1-2 hours before serving.

Thanksgiving Quinoa Salad

Thanksgiving celebrates the bounty of the harvest.  Giving thanks is central to Judaism and offering thanks for agricultural success (Bekurim: First Fruits from Hollister) is an important Jewish theme.  Traditionally, foods like cranberry, almonds and corn are included in the American Thanksgiving celebration.  This salad celebrates the breadth of so many delicious salad ingredients, some old, some new and some recreated.  The addition of pumpkin pie spice to the toasting of the seeds and nuts adds a familiar Thanksgiving taste and aroma to this salad. (more…)

Warm Zucchini-Mushroom Salad with Almonds and Sunflower Seeds

A warm salad can both accommodate our low-carb diet and satisfy our hearty side dish craving in a way that a cold salad never can.   This salad starts with a cold base of chopped romaine lettuce and is topped with a warm saute of onions, zucchini, mushrooms, slivered almonds and sunflower seeds.  The combination of salad and saute, cold and warm, fresh and hearty is simply sensational.

It is easy to prepare the parts of this warm salad in advance.  Just make sure to assemble right before serving to keep the salad greens crisp and fresh.

Best of all, you can separate  some of the warm saute separate and save it for another meal.  It will refrigerate well and can be served the next day over a bed of warm rice or quinoa.

warm salad mushrooms zucchini nuts and seeds plated



Extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced (see onion tip below)

1 box of mushrooms, cleaned, sliced and patted dry

1-2 zucchini, scrubbed, diced small  and patted dry

a sprinkle of slivered almonds

a sprinkle of shelled sunflower seeds

salt and pepper to taste
scant drizzle of balsamic or wine vinegar

1 cup romaine lettuce, soaked, rinsed and chopped



Clean and chop romaine lettuce.  Place on plate or in salad bowl.

Lightly saute onion in olive oil until just starting to brown.  Add mushrooms and zucchini to saute pan.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Scantly drizzle balsamic vinegar over saute and add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to saute pan.

Saute vegetable for a few minutes, just until soft and fragrant.  Add a light sprinkle of almonds and sunflower seeds.  Toss until just coated, for 1-2 minutes more.

warm salad mushrooms zucchini nuts and seeds.jpg

Spoon  vegetable saute over the romaine lettuce.  Enjoy!





Lightly pierce and microwave onion for 30 seconds before chopping to avoid tears.The microwave heat denatures the onion enzymes that cause the release of sulphuric gas, which are the culprit for making us cry when cutting onions.