Posts Tagged 'Cooking'

A Taste of Honey

I know that I said a few days ago that I would post some Passover menus and recipes. With everything that has been going on with Avi, I have not had the time, or for much of the time the desire. But Passover is coming regardless of Avi’s location, and we are concentrating on our preparations. Noam is very excited about Passover. He is learning a lot of the songs in school and we go over some of them each night. Noam is thriving at Schechter and I for his sake (and ours as well) we will have great Passover Seders. Shayna is getting into the act too and she has learned at least the first of the four questions.

Our Seder plans are basically firmed at this point, with 21 the first night and 22 the second. Our menu is mostly complete as well, and I will include that below. One thing that is always an issue, especially when you have Seders with a lot of kids is how to keep them occupied with the Seder (you can look at some sample pages of my Haggadah where I discuss this as well). One thought that I got from our friend Lisa (who will be at our Seder) is to have a list of questions prepared for the kids. The lists can be set up in so that you have questions that are age appropriate and then you ask questions throughout the Seder. Whoever answers the question correct gets a win ticket or a token. At the end of the Seder, the kids can trade in their tickets for prizes (which we will pick up at the dollar store). This way, everyone will get something, and there will be less rivalry in terms of finding the Afikoman. Also it helps the kids want to stay at the table during the Seder. I don’t know how well it will work, but I will report back after the Seders.

Now let’s get back onto the main topic of this blog entry, FOOD! It is interesting to note that of the 5 main mitzvoth surrounding Passover, 4 of them have to do with food and eating. We are commanded to eat Matza, Marror (the bitter herb) and the Pesah sacrifice (during the time of the Temple in Jerusalem). We are also commanded to stop eating food that come from the five grains (wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye). And people wonder why there is always food at Jewish events! The whole Seder is built surrounding a festive meal. Without food there really is no Passover.

Our menu this year is actually very much the same as in past years. We begin our Seder this year at about 6:30 which is actually too early to start Passover. We do this because starting at the correct time makes getting to the meal very late. In order to make sure that we do not say Kiddush before the proper time (about 7:05) we will start with serving soup and fish first, and then start the Seder with the Kiddush. We do the same the second night just starting a little bit later.

So here is the menu:

Chicken Soup with Matza Balls
Gefilte Fish – We use the frozen logs that you cook in a pot with your own extras
Roast Turkey
Chestnut Stuffing – This is Lisa’s and I will try to post the recipe
Pot Roast with Orange and Dates
Quinoa – We have not yet determined how we will make the Quinoa
Green Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower
Apple Cake
Fruit Ice

And probably some more surprises!

I want to end off with the recipe for Haroset that we use at our Seders. This is a Mizrahi recipe rather than the traditional Ashkenazi recipes that many of us are familiar with. Mizrahi means eastern and it is a term used to describe Jews from the eastern Arabic speaking lands. Often this is called Sefardic, but that really is a term for Jews of Spanish origin.

Before the recipe, I have to throw in some Jewish education. Sorry it’s my nature. Haroset is the sweet apple mixture that is found on the Seder plate. The tradition of Haroset goes all the way back to Mishnaic times (before 200 CE) as it is mentioned in the Mishna as something brought to the table on Passover. The Rabbis come up with three reasons for its inclusion. Everyone will probably think of the first which is in remembrance of the mortar that the Hebrew slaves used to make the bricks. This is one. The second reason is in remembrance of the apple. Why the apple? Well the Midrash tells us that the Jewish people survived in Egypt because of the actions of the women. Pharaoh decreed that the men and women should be kept apart in order to stop childbirth. According to the Midrash, during the heat of the day, the women would lure the men under the apple trees and have relations. So to remember this, we have apples in the Haroset. The third reason is to remember the blood by using wine in the Haroset. So to this day, EVERY Haroset recipe (and there are hundreds) have three things in common. They all use apples, they are all thick like the mortar and they all have wine. Beyond that, the sky is the limit. There are traditions to add cinnamon or ginger in remembrance of the straw that was used in the brick making. Some have the tradition to add the fruits mentioned in Song of Songs in the bible.

Here then is my recipe which my mother got from a Mizrahi Women cookbook.

2 Apples
½ C Dates
¼ C Walnuts (or pecans)
1/3 C Sweet wine
½ C Raisins
¼ C Almonds
1 tsp. Ginger
1 tsp. Cinnamon

Quarter and core the apples. Grind apples, raisins, dates and nuts. Add ginger and cinnamon and wine. Mix Well

That is the original recipe. I do it a little differently. First off, for one Seder we make 4 or 5 times this recipe. Second, I core and quarter the apples and put them in the food processor. I process them for a minute. Then I add the rest of the fruit and nuts and process until it starts to get smooth but is still a bit chunky. Then mix in the wine and spices (you can do that in the processor as well, just add and pulse for 20 seconds).

Enjoy!

Phil’s World Famous Never Fail Hamentashen

OK, maybe not world famous, but it was published on a long ago defunct website called JCN (Jewish Communications Network) where I wrote their cooking column.  It is very easy and creates about 2 dozen great Hamentashen.  I posted this here last year, but here I add some commentary.

Ingredients –

1.  1 stick of margerine (or 1/2 C of Crisco)
2.  1 C sugar
3.  1 large egg
4.  1 1/2 t baking powder
5.  1 t vanilla
6.  2 C flour

1.  Cream the margerine and the sugar in a large bowl.  Creaming just means mixing fat (usually butter) with sugar.  You want it well mixed together .  I use my kitchen aid standing mixer, and highly recommend using a mixer.

2.  Add the egg and mix well.

3.  Add the baking powder and vanilla and mix.

4.  Add one cup of the flour and mix in.  Depending on many factors you may use any amount of the second cup of flour (perhaps even a bit more).  The most major factor is humidity.  The more humid, the more flour you will use.  Today for example, doing a double batch I only needed 3 cups of flour!  I suggest adding the second cup by quarter cups.  You want the dough to be like cookie dough, but just a bit dryer as you will need to roll it out.  You also do not want too much flour as you will add flour to the board when you roll.  I like to let the dough stand for a short while to allow everything to incorporate.  You can wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for about an hour.

5.  Roll out to about 1/4″ thickness and then cut out circles with a cookie cutter or a glass.  I use an “old fashion” glass which is about 3 inches in diameter.

6.  Put about 1/2 t of filling in each and then fold up the edges to make a hamentashen (see photo).  Place on cookie sheet sprayed with non stick spray.

7.  Bake in a 350° oven for about 10 minutes.  You want the hamentashen to just start browning.  Don’t let them get dark brown.  Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

Fillings –

This is not meant to be an endorsement, but I have tried them all. The best filling that one can buy for Hamentashen is Solo brand pie filling. It has the best consistency of the pie fillings I have found. Traditional flavors would be Prune, Poppy or Apricot, though they have many different flavors. You could also use Chocolate Chips, or Nutella, which is a hazelnut chocolate combination.  Be careful with Chocolate chips though as the cookie will dry up when baking.  I like to put a small amount of raspberry or strawberry filling in the center and put two or three chocolate chips in the filling.

If you would like to make your own fillings, you should take your fresh fruit, peel then and take out any seeds or pits and then cut them into smaller pieces. Place in a pot and put in some sugar to taste. If the fruit dried, like apricot, you should just cover the fruit with water.  Cook this down slowly until you are left with a thick syrup. If it is not the right consistency, mix one teaspoon of corn starch with 1 teaspoon water in a glass. Pour into the fruit mixture. It will thicken up quickly.

NOTES:
You can use 1/2 stick of regular Margarine and 1/2 stick light margarine to cut down on some of the calories.

You can use your food processor for this recipe. Put the Margarine and the sugar in the bowl of the food processor, and process for 30 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients except the flour and process for about 1 minute until mixed through. Add the flour and process until the dough begins to form a ball in the center of the bowl. At this point, take it out and finish it on your floured board.

It is best to chill the dough before rolling so it is easier to work with.

Enjoy!

1 week of Weight Watchers

So today marks the last day in my first week of Weight Watchers. It has not been too difficult. I have stuck to the plan mostly every day. The hard part of course is on Shabbat when this week we ate at friends houses both for dinner and lunch.

For those not in the know, Weight Watchers works on a point system. You get a certain amount of points a day and each food item has a point value. Doing the online version of WW makes this easy as they have many brand names in their database as well as generic items. You also get an extra 35 points for the week that can be spread out however you want. You don’t have to use them, but for Shabbat it makes things easier. I decided that on Shabbat I would basically not count points. I tried to be reasonable with my eating and food choices, and at the end of the day, I just marked down the extra 35 points. My normal daily allotment is 33 points.

I am pretty sure I have already lost some weight as my pants are now looser. On WW you only weigh yourself once a week and for me that will be tomorrow morning. Hopefully I will have good news to report.

Last night, after a particularly difficult evening with the kids, Marsha and I had not eaten dinner and we were in the mood for soup. I googled 10 minute soup and came up with a few ideas. Here is a recipe that I adapted from one I found (originally from Women’s Day Magazine).

10 Minute Tuscan Tomato Soup

  1. 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  2. 1 7 oz jar of roasted red peppers (about 2 peppers)
  3. 1 15 oz can of cannellini beans
  4. 1 clove garlic
  5. 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  6. 1 Tbs consommé powder prepared with 2 cups of water
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
  8. ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Rinse beans well and place the first five ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth.
Pour into saucepan and mix in the prepared consommé.
Heat on medium high heat for about 5 minutes until soup is almost boiling.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with 1 Tbs of cheese on top.

This came out great! Don’t leave out the cheese as it gives a real creaminess that the soup needs.

Enjoy!

Cooking Class

I have not posted any recipes in a while, and given that I am quite hungry right now, I thought I would post my recipe for Noddle Kugel.  To be fair, I got this recipe from my mother, so it is really not mine, but it is perhaps the best non-dairy kugel I have ever tasted.

The usual translation of a kugel in English is pudding. Not a pudding like a tapioca or a chocolate pudding, but like an English bread pudding. You mix your ingredients in your bowl, pour them into a casserole dish and then bake in the oven. What could be easier! Jews have been making Kugels for hundreds of years. No matter where you came from, there was always at least two or more kugel recipes. If you came from northeastern Europe you called them Kugels and if you came from southeastern Europe you called them kigels. No matter what you call them they are some of the best foods that Jewish cooking has ever created.

There are many different kinds of Kugels out there. The most well know of course is the lukshen kugel. Lukshen means noodles, so this is the ever famous noodle kugel or noodle pudding. If you have never had a sweet noodle kugel, I urge you to stop reading here and go directly to the recipe, make it and then eat! Those of you who have had noodle kugel know what we’re talking about.

Basic Noodle Kugel

1.   8 oz. wide egg noodles (the wider the better!)
2.   1/2 C Margarine, melted
3.   4 eggs beaten
4.   1/2 C Sugar
5.   1 t Vanilla
6.   8 oz. can of crushed pineapple with juice
7.   1/4 C raisins
8.   cinnamon/sugar

  1. Cook noodles so they are just a little bit under done.
  2. Drain noodles and rinse with water.  This will get rid of the extra starch and make them easier to work with.
  3. Put the noodles in a large bowl.  Add the melted margarine and mix well
  4. Add the eggs and mix well and then add the rest of the ingredients except the cinnamon/sugar.  When adding the pineapple, make sure to add the juice as well.
  5. Prepare 8″x8″ glass baking dish with non-stick spray.
  6. Pour mixture into dish.
  7. Generously sprinkle top with cinnamon/sugar.  Make sure to cover the entire surface.
  8. Place in pre-heated 350° oven for about 45 minutes.  The top should be nicely caramelized and brown.
  9. Let stand 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

We always double this recipe and you can also cut down by 1 egg and use only 2/3 of the margarine if you like.  I rarely do this though.

That is it!  You can take out the pineapple if you like but increase the suge by 1/4 C.  You can also make a savory kugel by taking out the sugar and fruit and adding a tsp of salt and pepper.  We also love to add sauted onions and chopped fresh spinach to our savory kugel.

Enjoy!

Hamentashen

If people have not guessed yet, food is a somewhat important part of my life, as is Judaism. Luckily for me, food is also an important part of Judaism, so life, at times, it quite good. Years ago I used to write a Jewish food column on an early Jewish website called the Jewish Communication Network. I am posting my Purim entry from that site here today.

We are now beginning a period of time in which many Jews think of so much food it can make them go crazy. Purim is just around the corner, and right behind that is Passover. Today I would like to talk about Purim and Hamentashen.

In the Purim story the Jews are living peacefully in Persia, but Hamen, one of the kings advisers, does not like them because they are different. He gets the King’s permission to destroy all the Jews. A Jew named Mordecai and his niece Esther save the day, the King moves his support to the Jews, and they win the war and kill Hamen and his people. For more info, read the book of Esther.

Esther then proclaims a holiday for all time to commemorate this. There are not really any traditions about the foods to be eaten at this meal, but there is one special traditional food for Purim, and that is known as Hamentashen.

Hamentashen is a three cornered cookie like pastry with some sort of filling in it. It is very easy to make, and I hope that you will print out this recipe and make it tonight! The recipe makes about 18 Hamentashen, and can be doubled, tripled or even quadrupled without any problems. I hope you enjoy.

Well, enough talk, on with the recipe:

  1. 1 stick Margarine – softened
  2. 1 c. Sugar
  3. 1 large egg
  4. 1 tsp. Vanilla
  5. 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  6. 2 c. Flour
  1. Place the Margarine in a bowl and add the sugar.
  2. Mix the two together with a fork or beaters until totally incorporated. This is called creaming.
  3. Add the egg and mix together.
  4. Add the Vanilla and the Baking Powder and mix.
  5. Add the flour a little at a time until the dough is no longer sticky. Use more or less flour as needed.
  6. Flatten into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Put in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a floured board or table. Roll it out to about 1/4 inch thickness and then cut circles with a cookie cutter or use an “old-fashion” glass.
  8. Set aside your cut cookies. You may stack them with a bit of flour between each layer.
  9. Take one circle and put about 1/2 teaspoon of the filling in the center. Bring up one side and then a second side and pinch together one corner. You will now have a “third side” to bring up and pinch together the two remaining corners.
  10. Place on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray and put in pre-heated 350° oven for about 10-15 minutes or until just beginning to turn color. I like my Hamentashen to be just turning brown.
  11. Remove from oven and cool on racks.

FillingsThis is not meant to be an endorsement, but I have tried them all. The best filling that one can buy for Hamentashen is Solo brand pie filling. It has the best consistency of the pie fillings I have found. Traditional flavors would be Prune, Poppy or Apricot, though they have many different flavors. You could also use Chocolate Chips, or Nutella, which is a hazelnut chocolate combination.  Be careful with Chocolate chips though as the cookie will dry up when baking.  I like to put a small amount of raspberry or strawberry filling in the center and put two or three chocolate chips in the filling.
If you would like to make your own fillings, you should take your fresh fruit, peel then and take out any seeds or pits and then cut them into smaller pieces. Place in a pot and put in some sugar to taste. If the fruit dried, like apricot, you should just cover the fruit with water.  Cook this down slowly until you are left with a thick syrup. If it is not the right consistency, mix one teaspoon of corn starch with 1 teaspoon water in a glass. Pour into the fruit mixture. It will thicken up quickly.

NOTES:
You can use 1/2 stick of regular Margarine and 1/2 stick light margarine to cut down on some of the calories.

You can use your food processor for this recipe. Put the Margarine and the sugar in the bowl of the food processor, and process for 30 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients except the flour and process for about 1 minute until mixed through. Add the flour and process until the dough begins to form a ball in the center of the bowl. At this point, take it out and finish it on your floured board.

It is best to chill the dough before rolling so it is easier to work with.

Enjoy!

Cooking Special Edition

With some regularity I am going to post some yummy recipes.  Some are my own and others come from different sources.

Pumpkin Bread
courtesy of  Noam’s  Kindergarten’s  teachers

3 C Flour                                 4 Eggs
2 C Sugar                                2 C Canned Pumpkin
1 t Salt                                     1 C Oil
1 t Baking Soda                       1/2 C chopped nuts
2 t Baking Powder
1 T cinnamon
1 T allspice

Preheat oven to 350°
Grease 2 loaf pans
Place dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Wisk well to combine.
Beat eggs in a medium bowl and add the oil.  Mix well to combine.
Add pumpkin to egg mixture and mix well to combine.
Add egg/pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Transfer batter to prepared loaf pans.
Bake for one hour or until cake tester comes out clean.

Enjoy!


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