Archive | August, 2011

magic magic magic

26 Aug

Oh my goodness.  So much has been happening in my life lately.  My husband got a new job.  I got a new job.  It feels like I’m living in a blender at the moment.  We feel beyond blessed and tested and stretched and crazy.  You know, all of the things that you’re supposed to feel when your life is moving in new and terrifying directions.  When I get freaked out by all of the change blowing in, I have to stop and remind myself that I’ve spent the last year begging for everything that I’m witnessing.  Once I’m done saying thank you to the Universe?  I make make magic cookie bars.

No, not every time.  I’d weigh 300 pounds.

I first discovered magic cookie bars (as they are known in our house) at my mother-in-law’s house.  We had dessert after a family meal and there were these mushy little squares.  I think I ate my weight in them.  If you’ve had a magic cookie bar, you know what I’m talking about.  They’re good.  Crazy good.  One might say they’re life changing.  After having them a couple different times for various family functions I begged for the recipe.  I needed to know how to make that joy happen for myself.  I was stunned when I learned that the recipe was on the back of a sweetened condensed milk can.

That’s right.  They’re  just like the ruby slippers.  You had the magic all along, you just needed somebody to tell you how to use them.  The best part is that they’re so simple and easy to make that you’ll never want to make another dessert again, ever.  They take no time to put together.  You can keep the supplies for them on hand so that you can whip them up when you have to bring a little something to a dinner party or potluck that you were otherwise unprepared for.  You’ll look like a genius, guaranteed.

Shhhhh!  Don’t tell!  I never do.

What?

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine melted

1 (14 oz) can Sweetened Condensed Milk (I use Eagle Brand)

2 cups milk chocolate chips

1 1/3 cups flaked coconut

1 cup chopped nuts

How?

Pre-heat oven to 350.  In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and butter; mix well.  Press crumb mixture firmly on bottom of 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumbs.  Layer evenly with remaining ingredients and press down with a fork.  Bake for 25ish minutes (I think they’re better when they’re a little under done) or until lightly browned.  Cool.  Chill if desired.  Cut into bars.  My MIL kicks the recipe up a notch by using one cup of chocolate chips and one cup of butterscotch chips.  I LOVE the recipe this way.  It gives them a little depth of flavor.  You can really use any chip flavor combination.  Peanut butter and chocolate or white chocolate.  Whatever flavors you like would be amazing.  If you’re not a coconut or nut fan you can leave either or both of those ingredients out.  I actually like to throw the nuts into a food processor so the pieces are really small, but that’s just a person preference.

What are you waiting for?  Go!  Make some right now, then come over to my house!

notes

18 Aug

I’ve had trouble keeping a conversion journal.  That’s probably going to get me into some trouble.  I’m honestly not that great at journaling for any reason.  You give me a deadline for writing that is outside getting laughs and applause or cash payments and I’ll give you a blank stare.  I like to write I’m just not so great under pressure with the whole writing thing.  Maybe that’s why I switched my major in college from journalism to theater?  I’ve had a couple of moments this week though that made me understand what keeping a conversion journal is all about.

The hardest part about converting isn’t the change for me.  It’s the change for all of YOU.  Well, some of you.  I’ve dealt with my Christmas issues.  I’ve rearranged my mind to Jewish time.  I think about Shabbat.  I celebrate Rosh Hashanah.  I observe Yom Kippur.  Maybe I don’t do any of these things the exact correct way.  Maybe I don’t always fast.  Maybe I might sometimes choose dinner at Chilli’s and The Help over Friday night services.  Sometimes I don’t light candles.  So What.  Now it’s your turn.

I’m converting y’all.  This is pretty serious business.  I’m not doing this because Madonna started studying Kabalah or my obsession with Campbell Brown.  This is real.  I am a JEW.  I’m living a Jewish life.  I’m trying to make a real, authentic and actual change.  Things like holidays.  The High Holy Days in particular?  They are now important to me.  I won’t miss Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur services.  I won’t.  I know when Christmas and Easter are.  I have to.  The entire world seems to be vibrating both times of the year.  Please learn when my holidays are.  Please take those days into consideration.  Please.  Maybe even that is too tall an order?  I’m starting to think maybe so.  Maybe realizing that is part of this whole process?

Yes, I have always been a pretty secular person.  For the most part I still am in many ways.  I’m not going to start speaking in Hebrew or demanding washing cups or tefillin.  I don’t even want to talk about it that much to be honest.  But I am going to not necesarily hang out on Friday evenings and I won’t participate in anything that happens during Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.  The change, I guess, might be shocking to some but what I really need right now is support.

Four Questions with Ricky G.

10 Aug

Ricky G. with a Filet Mignon

If you live in North Miami Beach and you keep kosher, chances are you’ve shopped at Jacob’s Classic Market.  And if you’ve bought meat at Jacob’s, then you’ve run into Ricky G.  You know him by his signature black leather fedora, collared shirt with tie and that gold butcher’s knife that dangles from his neck.  But, most importantly, you know him because his cuts of meat are fantastic.  Every piece of meat that comes into the store comes in whole and is butchered and packaged by Ricky and his team.  From his signature pargiyot stuffed with sausage (which he makes himself—I bought two after the interview) to his favorite cut, filet mignon, Ricky G., is not only an all around fantastic person he’s a fantastic butcher who loves his craft.

Homemade Sausage (that's beef y'all).

“Wherever there’s meat, I like to cut it.”

Born and raised in New Jersey, an 18 year-old Ricky took a job working at a meat packing warehouse called Empire (no relation).  When he first started at Empire his knowledge of meats and butchery wasn’t the greatest.  As Ricky puts it, “My boss would ask me to fetch some lamb and I would run around the place not knowing what I was looking for.”   By 1984, Ricky had made his way down to Florida and took a job at Albertson’s as well as Century Kosher, the local kosher grocery store which was conveniently across the street from Albertson’s.  His shift at Century Kosher ran from 4AM – 2PM and at Albertson’s his shift ran from 2PM – 11PM (and this was during Passover y’all).  Needless to say, the man was tired. One of those gigs had to go and it was Albertson’s that got the ax, so-to-speak.  From there on out, this Italian boy was a kosher butcher for life.

The 4 Questions:

1. JH:  So Ricky, what is it about kosher butchery that got you hooked?

RG:  When I got into kosher butchery at Century Kosher, I was in awe at what kosher did with the merchandising.  At a regular grocery store, they take the chuck and they just grind it.  All they do is grind it.  In a kosher grocery store, we take the chuck and create every kind of variety you can possibly think of.  The meat merchandizing is amazing!

2. JH:  What’s your favorite cut of kosher meat?

RG: Filet mignon!  People think that kosher doesn’t do filet mignon but I’m here to tell you we do and it’s delicious.  A traditional filet mignon is taken from the thigh, near the cyatic nerve, which is a no-no in kosher eating.  As a kosher butcher, I create a filet mignon from the center of the rib eye.  I trim the fat—-it looks and tastes like a regular filet mignon.

3. JH:  What do you think of the chain grocery stores in South Florida, i.e. Winn-Dixie, getting in on the kosher scene?

RG: I welcomed them into the store with open arms and tried to give them a few pointers when they came into our store to do some research.  They don’t have the knowledge to do the kind of butchering I do so I’m not worried about it.  They don’t really know what they are doing.  Their people are sitting in the back Googling ‘kosher’. 

4.  JH:  If you had to do any other job, what would you do?

RG: I’ve done construction, brick laying and carpentry.  I love my job but, if I had to do any other job, I would continue hitting the kids’ party scene as Barney.  I did that for ten years.  My son dressed as Baby Bop and my wife did the sound.  I love kids and I love working with people so it was a great job.  

The Meat BEFORE Ricky's Got to It

Even Vegetarians Couldn't Deny That Smile!

I Miss Vacation

7 Aug

The husband and I finally went on our honeymoon.  We’ve been married almost a year and due to moving to Miami and spending all our savings in renting an apartment and financing a car, our plans for a honeymoon had to be put off for a bit.  But, luckily for tax returns and very generous father-in-laws with plenty of frequent flyer miles, we were able to finally take a honeymoon to Costa Rica. It was heaven.

I’ve been known to have exceedingly high expectations that get my in trouble from time to time.  Having incredibly high expectations on a regular basis can result in one being disappointed on a regular basis but can sometimes be good when those expectations are transferred to expectations of yourself.  Anyway, the reason I am self-disclosing is because this time, the expectations were not only met they were exceeded.  Let me just take a break for spouting the glory of kosher cooking to spout the glory of Costa Rica.  If you are privileged enough to take vacations GO TO COSTA RICA.  The people are friendly, the coffee is delicious (I’ll get to that in a later post) and the beaches are beautiful.  What is difficult about going on an amazing vacation is coming home from an amazing vacation.  Sure, we live in Miami but man, my vacation glow lasted for a solid 24 hours before I got disgruntled.  I missed vacation. I missed spending 24/7 with my bestest friend in the whole world and I certainly missed waking up, getting dressed, walking out to the nearest palapa and having fresh fruit and coffee waiting for me.  ‘Twas amazing.  Even more amazing? Not having to do the dishes for 10 days (it’s the little things in life).  I digress.  We returned on Sunday and the next day was the start of the 9 days —  a higher level of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temple and culminates in the Fast of Av (Av is the Hebrew month we are in now and the first of the month started the 9 days of increased mourning).  To say that I didn’t have to dig too deep to feel sadness is an understatement.  We returned later Sunday afternoon and were at work on Monday morning.  I’m starting a new job and granted, I started in in mid-June but I’m working at a Jewish day school so as we near the start of school it’s really feeling like a new job and all the head-trips I play on myself (you know, ‘Am I doing a good job? Do I have enough Jewish knowledge to be in charge of student life at a Jewish day school? Does it matter?).  I mean, that much self-doubting is enough it cause even the most normally confident person to go into a tailspin of sadness.

So here’s what’s what—-I decided to have my mourning period.  As a Jew, I feel the sadness of not having a great Temple.  As a Jew in a larger community, I feel the sadness of a disjointed community who always finds ways to alienated each other and whose constant inability to accept the differences of one another results in a community that isn’t ready for a Temple.   I also feel the sadness of being in Miami, which I don’t really love–being so far away from family and close friends.  BUT, I’m thinking that after the fast on Tuesday, I will refocus on the good stuff–the blessings.  I gotta not be so lazy.  I mean when school starts it’s on.  It’ll be a 180 day  marathon so I gotta make sure I carve out time for spiritual growth and ways to keep connected as well as ways to try to like South Florida (at least enough to get us through the next 5 years).

Oy, this is a super long post.  Getting to the point, part of the mourning during the 9 days is to not eat meat of any kind (meat being a symbol of celebration and joy).  BUT, because shabbat trumps all mourning (except for Yom Kippur), we had Meat Fest 2011.  And because I love a good shabbarbecue and a theme, the lunch I made for shabbat had a barbecue theme to it.  I kinda made up a potato salad recipe sans mayonnaise (I know, as a Southern that’s a bit of a shunda) and it was delicious.  Meat Fest 2011 also included Miami Friend Fest 2011.  All in all, I’m hoping the fast coupled with this past shabbat could be a beginning . . . of what, I’m not sure.  But a beginning nonetheless.

Shabbarbecue Menu:

Sweet & Spicy Chicken (from my new obsession, The Pioneer Woman)

Avocado & Jalapeno Potato Salad (adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s Cilatro-Avocado Potato Salad)

Corn on the Cobb

Black Bean Salad (adapted from Simply Recipes)

Sweet & Spicy Chicken

What?!

  • 1 cup Apricot Preserves
  • ½ cups Ketchup
  • ¼ cups Soy Sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Minced Garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Hot Pepper Sauce – naturally, I used Frank’s Red Hot
  • 3 pounds Drumsticks (about 12)

How ?!

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small saucepan, combine preserves, ketchup, soy sauce, garlic and hot pepper sauce. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until preserves are melted.

Arrange drumsticks in a single layer on a 13 x 9″ baking pan. Pour sauce over drumsticks, turning to coat. Bake, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes or until chicken is done, spooning sauce over drumsticks while baking. Serves 6.

Chicken Kitchen

Mmm . . . garlic

Avocado & Jalapeno Potato Salad

What!?

  • 2 pounds potatoes, peeled, small diced, and cooked in boiling salted water until tender, drained
  • 1/3 cup finely minced red onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 firm-ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
  • 1 (1-ounce) package cilantro, leaves picked and finely chopped

Whit’s Guacamole

  • 1 Avocado
  • 1/2 Lime juice
  • 1/2 of a small onion, minced red onion
  • Garlic Powder
  • Kosher Salt
  • LOTS of cilantro

Mash avocado in a small bowl.  Add lime juice to avocado and keep mashing/mixing until creamy.  Add onion, a dash of garlic power and kosher salt.  Add until to suit to your tastes.  Add cilantro at the end.

How?!

Combine potatoes, onions, and garlic in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3 turns pepper. Add olive oil, tossing to coat. Add guacamole and mix.  Add the avocados, lime juice, jalapeno, and cilantro, and toss well to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Black Bean Salad

What!?

  • 1 15-oz can black bans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 green pepper, chopped fine
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped fine
  • 1 cup fresh, finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbsp fresh finely chopped rosemary
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

How!?

1 In a large bowl, mix the beans, green pepper, onion, parsley and rosemary.

2 In a separate small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add the dressing to the beans. Toss to coat.

3 Chill beans in the refrigerator for several hours, to allow the beans to soak up the flavor of the dressing.

A Paula Deen Moment.

2 Aug

I have a lot of Paula Deen moments.  Some of them are far better than others.  Yesterday?  Yesterday I might have had my greatest Paula Deen moment.  The best part about yesterday’s Paula Deen moment was that I didn’t use a recipe.  I’m gettin’ pretty good at making a few things up as I go along.  I hope these do it yourself suggestions inspire you rather than get you worked up and annoyed.

The one Southern dish that I might love more than any other is grits.  Some people turn their nose up at them.  I’m not sure how to handle a bad reaction to grits.  If you don’t like them?  I think it means that you just haven’t found the right grits.  Keep. Looking.  In a way, they remind me of mashed potatoes.  Mashed potatoes are fine on their own but you can “dress ’em up” and really have something special.  I got reacquainted (fell in love) with grits a couple of years ago on our honeymoon in Savannah, GA.  Maybe you have to travel to Savannah to learn how to love grits, but I don’t think so.

I wrote a post a week or two ago about my new and unwavering love for blue cheese.  Ever since I wrote that post I’ve been trying to come up with new ways to get blue cheese on my plate.  I got up yesterday and it hit me.  Blue. Cheese. Grits.  I ran to the store.  I rushed around finding the few things that I would need to take my grits to the next level.

A word about grits.  Since that trip to Savannah, I’ve made tons of grits.  I’ve read about them.  I’ve learned of new and weird things to do with them.  I DVR Paula Deen, what can I say.  So…I have a couple of tips for you.  If you want creamy grits?  And you do by the way.  You want them to be creamy, not clumped up and weird.  The easiest way to make creamy grits is to not follow the directions on the box.  Don’t add grits to boiling water.  Put your grits in the water and then bring that water to boil.  Weird, right?  It totally makes them creamier.  The other tip I have?  Don’t use water.  Crank up the flavor by using chicken or vegetable stock to cook your grits.  If you follow one or both of those tips?  Your grits will already be better than ever.

What?

Grits (I use Quaker old-fashioned grits…they’re like $1.50 at Target)

1 small onion

ricotta cheese

2 cups (one can) vegetable broth

blue cheese crumbles

two garlic cloves

 

How?

Again.  There are no rules on this one.  I’ll just tell you what I did and hopefully that will inspire you in some way.  You can add more or less or none of what I’ve done.  I’m not exactly sure on the amounts…I’m guessing.  First?  I diced a small onion and fried it in olive oil.  Fried onion makes everything better.  I set the onion to the side and brought 3/4 cup of grits to boil in vegetable stock.  The one annoying thing about cooking grits is that you’ve got to sit with them while they cook.  You should be stirring (I prefer a whisk) them constantly.  If you don’t?  They’ll turn into a rock.  Seriously.  When I could tell that the water was getting close to the boiling point?  I peeled and smashed two garlic cloves and tossed them in to add flavor.  Once the vegetable broth was absorbed I reduced the heat, added about 4 or 5 tablespoons of ricotta cheese (it adds creaminess and gives a little depth of flavor), threw in my onion and tossed in about 1/2 of a small package of blue cheese.  Keep stirring so everything melts into creamy amazingness.  They were so good I thought about them all day!

These are pretty savory grits.  You can have them for breakfast with eggs like I did or serve them at dinner with other stuff.  If you don’t want to go the blue cheese route add a different full flavored cheese.  Whatever you like.    Just please, please, PLEASE give them a try.  I promise you’ll like them.

 

White Trash Sangria!

1 Aug

WHAT?  What did he just call me?  Girl calm down.  It’s the name of a drink!

I have been so busy lately being a social butterfly that I haven’t had much time to focus on our lovely little blog.  Well, I’m coming back.  My social calendar is beginning to land the plane so to speak.  Last weekend I hosted a little get together for a group of friends.  We met at my house and ordered in Thai, had a few cocktails and tons of laughs.  I was a little worried.  I can cook but don’t ask me to tend bar.  It makes me nervous.  I wanted to have a refreshing summer cocktail that was new and different and none too threatening.  What I came up with was what I like to call White Trash Sangria.

A friend of mine told me about the drink a few years ago and while I was intrigued by the idea I didn’t really have an opportunity to give it a try.  This drink recipe, much like my last blog post is a little do it yourself.  There’s a basic guideline but how you make it happen is up to you.  If you’re feeling brave you can change-up the main ingredients.  There are only two.  When I share this with you you’re going to think I’m crazy.  You’re going to turn up your nose.  But!  I promise you if you give it a try you won’t be disappointed.  Not to mention you just have to make the stuff for a party and set it out for friends to enjoy…you don’t have to say what it’s made of.

What?

2 bottles of Red Wine

1 two litter bottle of Coke

How?

Here’s what I did.  I took a large plastic pitcher and poured in one bottle of cheap Cabernet.  I chose Cabernet because it’s a big, full-bodied red wine that I decided could stand up to the sweetness of Coke.  There were around 10 folks coming over so when I poured the wine into my pitcher it didn’t look like that would assure everyone a glass.  So…I poured in a second bottle of the Cabernet.  Then I added 3/4 of a 2 litter bottle of cherry coke.  Again…I figured that the Cherry Coke would kick this drink up a notch.  It totally did. Once you’ve poured both into a pitcher put the mix in the fridge and let it chill.

I looked around the internet for this recipe.  I found all sorts of variations.  White Wine with Sprite.  White Wine with Orange Soda.  Red Wine with Orange Soda.  Pick two flavors that you like and go to town.  It really is tasty.  It’s sangria!  You can use one bottle of wine and one bottle of Coke.  Give it a try, but please try this it’s amazing.  You could also add some fruit to add a little festive vibe.  Apples?  Limes?  Lemons?  Oranges.  You decide.  I was too lazy for all of that.  I served it over ice to the delight and fascination of my girlfriends.  Enjoy!

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