Posts Tagged 'Jewish'

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.

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.


Elijah is coming to town

You better watch out…

Now that the football season is over our minds and hearts can turn to that spring pastime that we call


Believe it or not, there are only 49 shopping days until Passover! And just to be sure that you are aware, the grocery stores have begun putting in their Passover food section (at least in NJ). Of course we still have Purim coming and most people have hardly given any thought to Passover, but it’s here and they want you to buy.

Not that we have not already begun thinking about it. For those who read my blog last year, the three moms (Marsha and two friends) have already made preliminary plans to do the Seders together again, and that puts us at about 23 people each night already.

So as we begin the season of Passover purchasing I will leave you with this youtube video.


Rosh Hashana and Politics

Is it possible to have a blog post about both?

Happy Holidays!


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.



Throughout my posts in this blog it is fairly obvious that I am an observant Jew. I am Shomer Shabbat, I eat only kosher food and I try to live my life in accordance with the laws and customs of traditional Judaism. What I have never really talked about my personal Jewish commitment and why I do what I do. As I begin to write this post, I cannot say that that is what I will write, but an article in the New York Times from about a week ago caught my eye and I wanted to comment on it and on my own choices.

The article is entitled “Among Orthodox Jews, More Openness on Sexuality“. I never liked the way newspapers and magazine title their articles. But I understand that they need to sell their product and titles help that (and that is a total different topic). I recommend reading the entire article as it is very interesting, but I will summarize. In the right wing Orthodox Jewish world, there is little talk about sexuality and when young adults are getting married, they really have no idea what to do. Some in the Orthodox world are working to solve this problem and I hope they are successful.

I bring up this article to highlight a reason why I am not an Orthodox Jew. I consider myself a Conservative Jew. To try to explain the differences between Orthodoxy and Conservatism can (and does) take books, so I will not attempt to do that here. In many ways, from the outside, I look no different from a Modern Orthodox Jew. I wear a kippah all the time. I eat only kosher food and I observe Shabbat. The difference is in my beliefs. For example, while I believe in the divinity of the Torah, I see it as a document that records man’s understanding of divine revelation. That is to say that God reveled himself at Sinai to the Israelites and the Torah is their understanding of what they experienced.

Everything else is commentary. I am not saying that the laws that came later have no authority, but I do believe that they are not written in stone and although the earlier interpretations need to be given much weight, I do believe that everything is still open for discussion. A friend of mine, Rabbi Geoff Haber used to explain the difference between Orthodoxy and Conservatism with this simple analogy. It may be a bit too simple, but it works.

Imagine Jewish law as a chess game. Each piece has a specific role in the game. Pawns can only move one square, bishops on the diagonal, etc. Before moves are made, the players will look at every move and what the other player might do based on their move, and they will try to do this as many moves out as they can. Finally, after careful examination, a move is made. In Jewish law this was the way it was for many years. Rabbis would examine everything and after that careful examination, they would make a ruling. But what happened is that by the middle of the last century, when Jews gained a level of freedom they never had before, the Rabbis countered by placing a clear case over the chess game. The game could still be studied, but the moves could no longer be made. Conservative Judaism still proceeds with the game open.

As I said that is simplistic, but it does work. If the Rabbis had chosen to allow certain things, they could have, but they chose not to. I prefer to be involved with Judaism that is still willing to interpret laws based on the changes in society around us, not a Judaism that reacts to the world by closing themselves off from the world.

Getting back to the article, I want to focus on the part where the teacher told her class (women who were about to be married) that sex was horrible and painful. This is an example of an even further reaction by Orthodox today where they are not only closing themselves off, but they are making things even more difficult. The fear is that if people were to think that sex was a beautiful and enjoyable experience, then people might start trying to experience it outside of marriage. Better people should think sex is horrible then the community have to deal with teaching young people sex education.

These stringencies are appearing in every aspect of Jewish life, from kosher laws to sabbath laws. This is why I choose to be involved with Conservatism. Do I agree with everything in the Conservative movement? No, of course not. But I do believe it is the most authentic way to be Jewish. All I can do is try my hardest to live my life the way I think God wants me to. I hope I am doing my best.

I want to end with a joke (this post was a bit serious) and a youtube video.

A man comes to his Rabbi and asks, “Rabbi, is it ok for my wife and me to try different positions when we have sex?” The Rabbi says “of course.” “So it’s ok if she is on top” he asks. “Yes” says the Rabbi. “What about if she is on her knees and I am behind her like a dog?” “Whatever you do in the bedroom is fine” answers the Rabbi again. “Rabbi, what about having sex standing up?” “NO” says the Rabbi sternly. “Absolutely not!” “It might lead to mixed dancing!”

In the same vein, here is a wonderful number from “Fiddler on the Roof”. This number was for whatever reason left out of the movie (and it is too bad, because it perhaps one of the funniest moments in the show!) I added this myself on youtube. Listen to the whole thing, as the “punchline” is at the very end.

Whats been going on

Its been almost two weeks since my last full posting, and now I have so much to say, I have been putting it off because I just don’t know where to start. I think the easiest way is chronologically, so I will pick up where I left off and tell you about our Passover holiday.

Friday night the 18th we all went to one of the mom’s houses for Shabbat dinner. Dinner was to be at about 6:30 but for many reasons we did not actually eat until closer to 8:00. Dinner was fine but we needed to get a lot of the food back to our house for the rest of the holiday so a nice old-fashion wagon came in handy. We got home by 11 pm and thank God the kids went to sleep.

I think we made it to Synagogue just about when it ended. We went to the other mom’s house for lunch and that was actually kind of nice. It was a nice day so the kids played outside and we all got a chance to relax. One of the many kids was a bit sick but she just stayed asleep on a couch. By about 3:30 the moms moseyed back to our house to begin to get food in the oven and set the table for the Seder. I brought a few of the kids back at about 5, and helped to finish getting ready.

Normally dinner is during the Seder. On the other hand, the Seder cannot start until after sundown, so we would have to feed our kids very late if we did that (not to mention the hungry adults!) So we decided to have dinner first and then start the Seder on time. At the point where dinner would be we would have dessert.

I wont go into details of the Seder itself, except to say it was lively and I think everyone had a good time. Of course we did the whole thing over the 2nd day and I think everyone had fun then too.

Will we do this cooperative Seder again? I don’t know, but it did make for some fun times despite the difficulties of getting ready. Next year we may try again and we will have learned from our past mistakes.

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