Archive | June, 2011

speaking of strawberries…

20 Jun

I went to a pretty fantastic brunch a week or two ago.  The food was beyond amazing.  One of my favorite bites was something that I’ve been dying to share with you.  Have you ever wanted to have a quick and easy trick (dish) up your sleeve?  Not literally, silly.  Of course you don’t want to walk around with a plate tucked into that summer tank top.  You’d look stupid.  That wouldn’t even make sense on Gaga.  Seriously.  Haven’t you wanted to have something that you could throw together at the last-minute.  Haven’t you wanted to be a magician with food?  Of course you have.  What’s more?  Of course I’m here to tell you a life changing little something that will transform your personal curb appeal.

In a word?  Fruit Dip.

Fine.  So that’s two words.  Whatever.  It’s life changing.

Seriously.

I have a hard time with fruit because my inner 5-year-old says things like oranges look like baby fingers when they’re in pieces and when I chew them it feels like I have a mouth full of skin.  Alright.  So I’m sharing too much about my possibly eccentric personality.  I’ve got issues.  What I’m trying to tell you is that fruit dip tastes good.  You might eat a baby finger just to get some.  I’m not kidding.  My favorite thing to eat it with is strawberries, but you can use it on just about anything.  Trust me when I say you’re going to want to eat it on everything.

WHAT?

1 package cream cheese (8oz)

1 small jar of marshmallow fluff (7.5 oz)

 

HOW?

Throw your room temperature package of cream cheese into a stand mixer, add the jar of marshmallow fluff.  Mix until it’s creamy, beautiful and smooth.

 

Easy, right?  Crazy easy.  Fine.  So I said that I was hell-bent on getting corn syrup out of our lives.  I’m making an exception.  Besides, if this will get you to eat more fruit, it’s worth it.  Slice up some strawberries, melon, grapes, whatever fruit you have around and watch your fruit and this dip disappear.  You’ll be the most popular person on your block.  I promise.

Summer Salad

16 Jun

I have always wanted to be one of those people that makes his own salad dressing (and bread and soup and ketchup and everything else).  Admitting that probably reveals that I’m also one of those people who searches out corn syrup free dressings and condiments.  What that means is I spend a lot of time in the store reading with a furrowed brow and cranky eyes.  I don’t care what those commercials say.  Corn should not be in my bread, my ketchup AND my turkey slices.  It’s gross and I’ve got a beach body to maintain, y’all.  It’s summer.  Not that corn isn’t delicious.  I just prefer it slightly grilled and nowhere near my french fries.  It’s hard to have the time or patience to make everything yourself and try to have some semblance of grace on your face.  OR…is it?

I’m giving myself a salad goal this summer.  I’m going to make a few summer salads.  I’m also going to make the dressing that I have with those salads.  How does that sound?  I hope it sounds easy because you know I have the tiniest slip of patience.  If it ain’t easy…I’m not going near it.  Well, I certainly won’t write about it here.  Let’s make salad dressing together this summer!!!

I’ve been dreaming lately of a salad with strawberries, blue cheese and pecans.  Can I call that a Summer Waldorf Salad?  Probably not…and you know that means that’s exactly what I’m going to call it.  It’s a super easy salad.  I’ve already told you everything you need to know about it.  OH!  Except!  Did you know that strawberries are one of the fruits that you should always try to buy organic?  Dr. Oz tells me that in order to get strawberries out to us on time many (almost all) strawberry farmers spray their crops heavily with chemicals to speed up the growth process?  Look for organic versions to avoid such nonsense.  The strawberry is also one of the fruits that are overloaded with antioxidants.  So we should be eating more of them…just not the ones that are covered in cancer.  Mkay?

WHAT?

1 box mixed greens

1 box ORGANIC strawberries

1 small bag of pecans

1 tub of blue cheese (maybe goat cheese or gorgonzola if you hate the blue)

HOW?

Throw your mixed greens in a big bowl, toss in your bag of blue cheese and pecans.  Wash your strawberries, slice and toss them in as well.  You’re basically done.  Now all you need is salad dressing.

 

Strawberry Vinaigrette

WHAT?

1 cup olive oil

1/2 pint strawberries

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon white sugar

 

HOW?

I hope you’ve got a pareve blender or food processor.  Throw the strawberries in and pulse while adding the vinegar and olive oil.  Once that’s blended well you’ll add your salt pepper and sugar.  You’re done.  You’ve also got a little fresh strawberry vinaigrette for your Summer Waldorf Salad!

Enjoy!!

 

To Cover or Not to Cover?

15 Jun

I’m having an identity crisis.  After sweet husband and I got married, I started covering my hair in some way on a daily basis.  Whether it was a head band or a hat, my head had something on it and I really liked what it brought to myself, my growing spiritual-self and my relationship with said sweet husband.

Wait, let me back up a bit so we’re all on the same page.

Jewish law (halacha) stipulates that when a woman becomes married, she must cover her hair (the amount of hair that should be covered is under some debate).  In my research on why and how a woman should cover her hair I stumbled across a variety of both Rabbinic and Torah-based sources.  One such source from the Torah states that the Sotah (woman suspected of committing adultery) is forced to uncover her hair (Bemidbar 5:18), from which we may deduce that married Jewish women kept their hair covered.  The act of covering one’s hair is also deeply rooted in the laws of tzniut (modesty).  One big misconception of hair covering and the laws of modesty in general is that we cover it up to keep those lusty man eyes from checking out our womanly form.  Now, to deny that that is a part of tzniut would be lying.  However, if you’re only paying attention to that reasoning then you’re missing the deeper meaning.  Tzniut is the de-emphasis of the outer self that enables the essential self to emerge.  Practically speaking, this means that our behavior in speech, dress, and in the way we carry ourselves should convey the message to ourselves first and foremost and to others secondarily that I need to look a certain way—an anomaly in South Florida. Additionally, so much of tzniut (and truly, all mitzvot like keeping kosher or observing shabbat) is based in making way for one to have a deeper awareness or intention in the every day while  also being an attempt to maintain the spiritual  in a world which is constantly doing it’s darndest to push the spiritual out (Jersey Shore anyone?).     When I put that headband on in the morning I am not accessorizing (though, come on, bonus) I’m remembering my place and role in the world as a Jewish woman with the most amazing partner I could ever have been blessed with.

So, why all this philosophizing on hair coverings?   Well, upon moving from Ann Arbor (where wearing a hat all day, every day during winter is just practical) and moving to Miami (where the type of hair covering, or any hair covering for that matter, so readily aligns you to a sect or specific Jewish community you may or may not actually identify directly with) has been challenging.  Up until this Friday, I have worked in a professional environment where I did not feel comfortable covering my head (though the occasional headband was worn.  However, upon wearing it I felt a little too much like Rachel Berry—her headband song did rock though).  However, beginning Monday, I will be starting a new job at an

been feeling Rachel Berry-tastic

Orthodox Jewish day school with a skirt requirement and the flexibility to cover or not to cover and I’m feeling like this change in career is giving way to an even bigger personal change.   I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit to the occasional worry of alienating my friends who have strictly known me as less observant but then I get pissed at myself for not giving them the benefit of the doubt for being quite amazing and accepting.   As I start this job that puts me at the forefront of mentoring Jewish youth, I want to set a good example but most importantly, I want to be true to myself and my relationship with Gd and my hubby (good LORD, how coincidental is it that while writing this last sentence, Sublime’s “Rivers of Babylon” just came on my Pandora station.  Dude, that’s just crazy).  So much of my growing and deepening spirituality/observance has been anonymous.  You can’t tell that I keep kosher or observe shabbat just by looking at me.  However, once that hat or head scarf goes on, my anonymity as an observant Jew is lost, at least in more heavily Jewish populated areas.   Otherwise, I’m just a tall girl in a skirt and a hat.  It’s a huge step and I’m just a little nervous.

So what the heck does this have to do with food and kashrut!?!?  Well, nothing except that I hosted a book club meeting on Monday night and made some killer artichoke dip and fried pickles (we read The Help, I wanted to put something on the menu that was classically Southern) and I want to post the recipe and also wanted to get the above conversation off my chest.  I appreciate you listening and if you made it to the end of this post let me be the first to wish you a mazal tov to hanging on this long!

(recipe courtesy of Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks)

Baked Artichoke Dip Recipe

Sometimes silken tofu can be hard to find. No worries, I’ve had success using medium firm regular tofu as well – just stay clear of the firm and extra-firm varieties. For some added nutritional punch and color quickly saute a couple handfuls of spinach in a bit of olive oil – toss it in the food processor with the artichokes, tofu, and garlic.

2 (14-ounce) cans water-packed artichokes, well drained
4 ounces organic silken tofu
3 large cloves garlic
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2/3 cup plain (or Greek) yogurt
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or more to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper

more Parmesan to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. In a blender or food processor puree the artichokes, tofu, and garlic. In a separate medium bowl whisk together the parmesan cheese, yogurt, salt, and cayenne. Stir in the artichoke puree and pour mixture into a medium-sized baking dish (or multiple smaller dishes). Sprinkle the top with more Parmesan. Bake uncovered until heated through and the cheese on the top starts to brown, about 45 minutes.

Makes 2-3 cups of artichoke dip.

We’re Back . . . and just in time for a holiday devoted to cheese!

5 Jun

Hello again friends! How are you? So, May was kinda busy.  I mean, very busy.  Actually, I have no idea how it went by so quickly but luckily it did cause it was kind of a nasty b*tch.  But June, shalom to you dear, sweet June.  It’s officially beyond hot here in South Florida and what better time than the sweltering heat of June to start baking up a storm in preparation of Shavuot.  Shavuot, which translates into ‘weeks’ in Hebrew, is one of those holidays I forget I truly love.  Here is a holiday based entirely around love (love of Torah, love of Gd and love of learning) while also being a holiday based around the idea of renewal (renewal of the acceptance of the Torah, renewal of one’s love of Gd and renewal of one’s decision to keep learning).  Shavuot is the day the Jewish people renew our acceptance of the Torah.  However, like in every healthy relationship, this is no one-way street of devotion.  Oh no my friends.  Shavuot is also the day that Gd ‘regifts’ the Torah to the Jewish people so that we may renew our acceptance.  Now, please do not see the word ‘regift’ and picture Gd handing over that bizarre yogurt maker no one registered for (but somehow got anyway).  That’s not the type of regifting we’re talking about.  It’s an understanding that Gd knows the Torah and all it’s complications is truly a gift or rather, a blessing, and Gd is telling the Jewish folk, “Look, I know this is complicated and the world is rough but I trust you and believe in you so much that I have no regrets in that original Torah-giving of 3300 years ago.”  It is customary to stay up all night learning Torah on the first night of Shavuot.  This ultimate all nighter is seen as an embodiment of the acceptance.

Prepping for Cheesecake

It’s as if the Jewish people and Gd are renewing their vows together and then we get to eat a really great brunch of blintzes, cheesecake and other delicious dairy goodies.  I’m not 100% sure of where this custom came from, but some believe that since Shavuot commemorates the receiving of the Torah, which included the kosher laws, the Jewish people could not cook meat in their pots, which had yet to be kashered.  But that’s besides the point.  We’re talking about a holiday that encourages the eating of my favorite food—cheese!  Oh sweet, sweet cheese.

Cheesecake Filling

So, the first item up for Shavuot baking is actually a classic no-bake cheesecake.  Cheese-freak that I am, I’ve never made a cheesecake.  Now, because I have to make 2 days worth of meals in advance of the holiday (you can technically cook on a ‘chag’ but you can’t start a new flame so a lot of people will keep their ovens on or a flame on their store but I’m too paranoid for that business) so I opted for a no-bake cheesecake so I could also tackle some ultimate oatmeal cookies and a cauliflower cheddar soup.  See below for the cheesecake and cookie recipes (you’ll have to forgive me for not including the cauliflower soup–I got too dang tired as it was the last thing I made).

Chag Sameach!!

No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake

What?

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces prepared whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 prepared graham cracker crust (6 ounces)
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise

How?

1. Beat the cream cheese until smooth with an electric mixer. Gradually beat in the sugar. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla until just combined. Fold in the whipped topping. Scrape mixture into the piecrust. (There may be some filling left over. If so, reserve it to be decoratively piped onto the top of the pie.) Chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

2. Starting in the center, arrange the strawberries in a circular pattern. Pipe with extra filling, if desired.

Cookie Perfection

Not Your Bubbe’s Oatmeal Cookies

This is a half recipe. It makes a couple dozen standard-size cookies.

What?

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt (I often use a half teaspoon, but I like more salt in my baked goods)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup raisins (I don’t like mine drowning in raisins)
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup mini morsels of chocolate chips

How?

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them.

At this point you can either chill the dough for a bit in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet and then chill

Pre-Cookie

the whole tray before baking them. You could also bake them right away, if you’re impatient, but I do find that they end up slighly less thick.

The cookies should be two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in), taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

Waldorf Salad, anyone?

2 Jun

Whew. May? Where did you go? Where did WE go.  Time flies when life is kicking you in the toushy.  But…none of that.  It’s June and I’m starving for something light and amazing.  How on Earth did we go from 40 degree weather to 90 degree weather?  I’m working on my thankful face, but right now all I can do right now is wipe the sweat off my brow and hope for a light breeze.

Now I know that it’s not as hot in Chicago as it might be wherever you are but I’m delicate.  I can’t take these drastic weather changes.  I grew up in the swampy hot Delta but I’m made for 70 degree weather with no humidity, y’all.  I can’t take these 40 degree weather flops, no ma’am!  Lucky for me things turned around yesterday and I went to the park with my bff and had a little picnic.

I’ve become addicted to Waldorf Salad.  I mean ADDICTED.  As soon as I learned how to make it, it became a family staple.  I’m cranking out the Waldorf every chance I can get.  It’s easy, light and perfect for summer.  And?  If you’re eating it with a bff all you need is a big bowl and a couple forks.  We have no shame.

Though, I’ve got to tell you the best part about a picnic on the beach is pairing this Waldorf with some serious people watching.  You know I’d rather walk on my lips than talk about somebody but you’ve not lived until you people watch at the beach.  Forget the salad.  Grab a coke and go sit on a bench and wait a couple minutes.  It’s better than Celebrity Apprentice.  I am serious!  But if you’re not daring enough to brave the beach alone, checkout this salad recipe.  It’s life changing.

WHAT?

1/2 cup walnut halves

1 cup Greek Yogurt

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 heaping teaspoon honey

1 lemon

Freshly ground black pepper

2 large crisp apples…I use Granny Smith

1 small bag cranberries

1 small box of blue cheese (or gorgonzola or goat cheese…or none at all if you’re not into cheese)

1 bag/box mixed greens (you can use whatever lettuce is your favorite)  I like dark and or mixed greens

 

HOW?

In a large bowl core your apples and then slice up in to bite size chunks.  Maybe you’re particular about how you like your apples in a salad?  You’re the boss…cut them the way you like to have them in a salad!

In a separate bowl?  Throw in your yogurt, mayo, honey, black pepper (as much or as little black pepper as you like).  Take the lemon, zest it.  Whisk all of this together.

Cut your lemon in half.  Squeeze the lemon juice over your apples.  I only use half, but if you don’t want waste your lemon juice…use the whole thing.  Toss the apples in the juice to make sure that they’re coated in the lemon juice.  This will keep your apples from turning brown and lookin’ yucky at your picnic!  Throw the apples (and the excess lemon juice) in with your salad dressing and mix around.  Now put your lettuce in the bowl.  Use your hands and mix this all around.  You really want your lettuce and apple mixture to be well coated!  Toss in your walnuts and cranberries.  I like a lot of cranberries and walnuts so I kinda go crazy with this part.  Mix everything around until it’s covered in the dressing.  Quick.  Easy.  AMAZING.

If you wanted to add meat to the salad AND keep it Kosh?  Add one of those small pre-cooked bags of chicken that they have at the grocery, don’t add cheese, switch the Greek yogurt out for plain soy yogurt and you’re good.  Switch things around, just read your labels.  You don’t have to break your brain to eat Kosher, you just have to try a little harder.  Mkay?

xo

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