Archive | January, 2013

A Little Heavy and A Lot of Fake Cheese

28 Jan
"Cheese"

“Cheese”

It’s no surprise that as a new mom, or really, a mom, I don’t really get a lot of free time. Between work and spending time with Siona there’s not a lot of ‘me’ time. This thought kept running over and over in my head the first couple months of my daughter’s life. I know it’s not really talked about but the first three months as a mother were some of the most difficult months of my life. Yes, I felt excited but mostly I felt terrified. I was terrified of all the change. I was terrified of not being able to cut it in my new role as a mom/wife/friend/sister/employee. How would I balance it all? Would I ever watch a movie again? Cook? Read a book? It was so overwhelming at times I felt like I was drowning in a sea of anxiety until one day I had a realization that all that fear and anxiety was getting in the way of actually connecting with my child. My husband, who just happens to be an incredibly fun and light-hearted individual, had this amazing relationship with her but I wasn’t getting smiles or giggles. I was the overly concerned, constantly worried mom in the corner just trying to catch my breath and catch up with my life. So of course, one shabbat evening, as my husband and I sat across from each other over dinner, I had my little meltdown. We talked, I cried a little and then the next morning we woke up and I felt lifted. Since then, about 3 months ago, things have gotten a lot better. I still battle with the occasional bout of anxiety (hey, I’m a Jewish mother. I mean, I can’t shake that) but it’s nothing compared to all those months ago and the result of this self-realization is a happier, more connected relationship with not only my daughter but with myself as well.

It’s easy to connect when you force your child to hang out on you. P.S. Awesome drool shot, no?

Since then, not only have I seen more movies than I can keep track of, I’ve even found a little ‘me’ time (this blog can attest to that). Before I became a mommy, I would spend my shabbat mornings on our balcony, sipping iced coffee and reading for hours. I was never one for schul after leaving Jerusalem and not connecting with a schul since living in Ann Arbor. Instead, I would find my solace on the balcony; coffee in hand and book in lap. Nowadays, I feel blessed to get 45 minutes to an hour on a shabbat to read and drink coffee and dang it if that’s not all I need. I don’t even need a marathon nap, though, I do miss those. Just a little quiet time to escape in a book, a cup of coffee and maybe, if I felt ambitious that week, a sweet little chocolate treat.

New book, new love

New book, new love

Now that there has been a little balance restored to my life, and clearly cooking is back, I decided to take on the task of cooking for a colleague (as mentioned in the previous post). I’m doing a ‘trial’ run with another potential client for this week who was intrigued with the idea of someone else cooking for them, especially more healthy, clean food. I’ve been asked to prepare as much Paleo or vegan-friendly meals as possible. My kitchen being a kosher kitchen, they’re also getting kosher food but of course, kosher being flexible (it’s true! I promise!), all that Paleo/vegan cooking isn’t as scary as I thought.

Veggies--so perrrdy

Veggies–so perrrdy

They actually put 'cheese' on the label

They actually put ‘cheese’ on the label

I decided to try out a recipe I found on Oh She Glows. It was easy and pretty delicious. I don’t usually cook with fake cheese but luckily, my ‘client’ (and dear friend) puts a lot of trust in me and let’s me be adventurous and I’m SO grateful for that. I followed the recipe pretty word for word so have to admit, I wasn’t super adventurous this time around and didn’t make up my own recipe but hey, it was a busy weekend. Can’t a girl catch a break 😉

Oh She Glows’ “Naughty & Nice Vegan Enchilada”

What?

  • 8-ounces dry fusilli pasta (3.5 cups dry noodles or half a 16-oz package)*
  • (I used brown rice noodles to keep it closer to Paleo-friendly. Make sure to cook for no more than 10 minutes if going brown rice noodle or else they will get mushy).

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped*
  • 3 bell peppers (I used 1 red, 1 orange, and 1 yellow), chopped
  • 1-3 tbsp taco seasoning mix (I made my own with a dash or two of cinnamon, cumin, ground coriander and sea salt)
  • 1 can black beans (or 2 cups cooked), drained and rinsed
  • 1.5-2 cups homemade enchilada sauce (see above, or use store-bought)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup Daiya cheese (or other non-dairy cheese)
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 20 tortilla chips (about 2 handfuls), crushed
  • Avocado, salsa, sour cream, etc, to garnish

How’s That Now?

1. Preheat oven to 350F and grab a 2-quart casserole dish. Add dry pasta to a pot of boiling water and cook for 7-8 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the pasta or it will get mushy in the casserole. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

2. In a large skillet, sauté the chopped onion, jalapeno, and peppers in the olive oil over medium heat for about 7-8 mins.

3. Add the taco seasoning, drained and rinsed black beans, and 1 cup of the enchilada sauce. Stir well and cook for another 5 mins.

4. Stir in the cheese, pasta, and chopped green onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

5. Spread 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce over the bottom of the casserole dish. Scoop on the skillet mixture and spread out evenly. Spoon on the rest of the sauce on top and sprinkle with cheese.

6. Bake for 15-20 mins at 350F until heated through. Sprinkle with crushed nacho chips, chopped avocado, salsa, and sour cream if desired just before serving. Serve with a big green salad and nacho chips.

Note 1: Be sure not to handle the jalapeno seeds as they can make your fingers (and anything you touch) sting badly. You can also wear plastic gloves too.

Confessions of a Kosher School Cafeteria Chef

24 Jan

It was 10 o’clock in the morning when I interviewed Chef Tony. As usual, you could already smell the roasting potatoes complete with garlic and paprika and though it was only 10AM, I wanted those roasted potatoes with garlic and paprika. But sadly, those were being roasted for the first lunch run that starts at 10:30AM, five days a week, and doesn’t stop until the kitchen closes at about 1:30PM.  In most every public school in America, lunch has finished cooking by 8AM, which means that it’s been sitting for hours by the time the average student (that would have been me) actually ate it. But that’s not how Chef Tony does it. Nope, Chef Tony and the Chefs at about a handful of other SAGE kitchens practice what’s called “batch cooking”.  Batch cooking is a method of cooking that comes as close to cooking-to-order as possible, even if that’s cooking for 1500 people, which is how many mouths Chef Tony and his kitchen staff serves on a daily basis.   Plus, he does it with the help of only 6 other employees and no stove.  “The kitchen is about 40 years-old.  We’re the ‘red-headed stepchild’ of budgeting.  No one’s budgeting for the kitchen but if you look at the research, we all know that good eating goes hand-in-hand with good academics”.   And it’s true.  If you Google, “good eating and great grades” a host of resources come up on your screen.  But between the iPads and the SMART boards and the salaries of some of my colleagues (cough, cough), the kitchen isn’t seeing any cash-love.  But that’s not a problem for Chef Tony, a man whose been in the food business since he was 12 years-old when he began washing dishes at a Greek diner in Long Island and a year later was promoted to line cook.  Though his mother was a “good Catholic girl”, his father was Jewish and passed down a respect of Jewish culture.  Chef’s personal kitchen is kosher ‘style’—he doesn’t mix meat and milk and doesn’t mix meat and milk equipment but also doesn’t require his personal food to be hechshered.

Chef Tony

Chef Tony

The Only Grill We Got---He can only fit about 30 chicken breasts at a time so be gentle the next time you complain there's no chicken breast. Remember: 1500 mouths to 30 chicken breasts

The Only Grill We Got—He can only fit about 30 chicken breasts at a time so be gentle the next time you complain there’s no chicken breast. Remember: 1500 mouths to 30 chicken breasts

I want to be clear about something.  I really like Chef Tony.  He can be gruff and considers himself the ‘least politically-correct person you’ve ever met’, but Chef Tony can’t fool me.  He is always talking about his children and grandchildren.  When I was pregnant, he always checked up on me and asked me how I was doing.  Even my husband is a huge fan of Chef Tony.  One day, in my first trimester, I was having an insanely strong craving for Thanksgiving dinner.  I was desperate for turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, the whole nine yards.   I even cried.  I’m not proud.  But Boston Market not being kosher and my husband not up for cooking Thanksgiving dinner at 7PM on a Tuesday night, I went without (yes, I know, there are people starving all over the world but I was hormonal people, OK?).  But wouldn’t you know, the next day at school, we had turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy.  I’m not kidding when I tell you I hugged Chef when I saw him that day after lunch . . . and after about four pounds of turkey.

There's a lot of turkey and gravy in there.  Oh, and baby.

There’s a lot of turkey and gravy in there. Oh, and baby.

Chef Tony got into the kosher business about 10 years ago after he sold his bowling alley snack business and took what he thought would be a part time job at a new Conservative Jewish Day School in West Palm Beach with SAGE Dining Services.  Ten years later he’s heading up one of the strictest and better kept kosher kitchens in South Florida.  In fact, says Chef Tony, who is also known as the ‘Mashgiach-slayer’, his kitchen is so together in terms of kashrut standards that he often hosts mashgiachs-in-training (as long as the mashgiach doesn’t come into Chef Tony’s kitchen and try to change anything. G-d bless the mashgiach who tries to question Chef Tony’s standards).  But working with an outdated kitchen, no burners (did you hear that? NO BURNERS), a staff of only six, and a limited budget isn’t even Chef’s greatest headache.  It’s not even the parents that like to come in for a ‘meeting’ to advise him on how to cook (apparently the biggest ‘suggestion’ is for homemade marinara sauce.  Guess how much tomatoes are from Chef’s produce guy (or any bulk produce supplier) when they’re out of season? $39.  Also, take this into account.  Have you ever tried making marinara without a stovetop?).  Nope, it’s not the parents.  It’s kashrut.  The man’s ‘bread and butter’ is also his greatest enemy.  “I wish kosher could just be black and white. But it’s like that old saying, ‘Put two Jews in a room and you get three opinions.'” Every affiliation has it’s standard and when you’re a large community day school with a strong observant staff, you’re going to get the occassional staff person who questions the standards because it doesn’t fit his or hers level of kashrut observance.

It Was Hot Dog Day Ya'll

It Was Hot Dog Day Ya’ll

How does Chef deal with it?  He grins and bears it and though he likes to be a little, um, aggressive with his opinions, his passion for what he does, not to mention his incredibly strong work ethic, doesn’t allow him to not consider the opinion, whether he agrees or not.  For a man who was raised by a father who spent forty years in the Marine Corps., and who would have been a lifer himself if it wasn’t for his wife (he’s been married four times.  He makes no qualms about his love life.  “It takes a special woman to be married to a Marine Corps. officer and a chef.”), Chef Tony, The Mashgiach-Slayer, just might be the most important and yet the most under-appreciated staff member on campus.

And You Think You Have Storage Issues?

And You Think You Have Storage Issues?

Sex with a Side of Roasted Carrot Soup w/Coconut Milk (Kosher Connections Link Up, Jan., 2013)

20 Jan

Sex was brought up a lot at work this week. Let me explain. I am a middle school counselor. That’s right. I get paid in nickles and warm fuzzies the big bucks to be emotionally and physically available to middle school-aged children 9 hours a day, 5 days a week (well, I get out early on Friday for Shabbat). It’s not a job I EVER, I repeat, EVER thought I would do much less love but I do love it. I was originally hired at the school as a co-director of student life and then 2 weeks after school started I walked into a meeting I thought was about our kosher food bank program and it turned out to be a “how’d you like to be a school counselor” conversation. I am a trained social worker so it’s not far off. I also love working with youth, which was my concentration in social work school but my focus was in community organizing, not in individual practice (IP). In fact, I distinctly remember somewhat tuning out in the mandatory IP courses thinking, “There’s no way in H*LL I’m ever going to do this.” Ha. Jokes on me. So here I am, a school counselor—–for middle school students. I mean, the apex of awkwardness, ‘drama’, emotions, depression, everything in a child’s developmental life. I have learned so much about young people through this job. Heck, I’ve been asked parenting advice and that was before I had a child. Parents come to me desperate for advice or an explanation as to why their child is behaving the way they are and often I bring up the frontal-lobe/brain development stuff but mostly I tell them that this is normal. Your child is going through a change that is so intense the only ages that match it’s intensity of development is 0-2. It’s amazing the sigh of relief I see when parents hear, “You’re not alone.” Of course, the other side of the job is occasionally recommending continual outside therapy and let me tell you, NO ONE likes the person in the room who is recommending therapy.

Mommy, where do babies come from? Ummmm . . .

Mommy, where do babies come from? Ummmm . . .

So why sex? Well, I run a girls group—-a small group ‘lunch bunch’ of 6th grade girls. Working with girls in helping them feel confident, understood, and healthy is a passion of mine, especially in Miami where the exposure to weight-loss ads, Botox, and the expectation of beauty is so overwhelming I have 6th graders telling me they want to be ‘skinny’ when they grow up. It’s heartbreaking. I had the first two sessions of my two 6th grade girls group this past week and during this time I always ask them what they want to talk/learn about. I get the usual–gossip, cliques, parents, peer pressure, etc. But this time around, someone in both groups said puberty. Last year I ended up teaching ‘unofficial’ sex education when it became very clear that my girls had no idea what their periods are and what happens to their bodies during puberty. I closed the shades, told them that I reserved the right to not answer a question they might ask and then let them ask me any question they ever had about the issue (within reason, of course). It was very “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, except this was “Learning about My Uterus in Jewish Day School” (remember people, its uterUS not uterU). Could I have gotten fired? I’m not sure. But dang it, it’s too important that our girls are educated about their bodies so that they can make educated decisions about what happens to it as they grow up. So now I’m getting permission to officially talk about it in girls group plus I’ve been asked to teach sex ed. in health class. It’s intense but it’s all in a day’s work.

On top of all that sex talk, I was asked to compile a list of resources for a mom who wants to talk about sex with her eleven year-old son but is terrified to do so. And then it dawned on me, ‘Holy shit, I’m gonna have to do this with Siona one day”. And then another thing dawned on me. As a relatively observant Jewish woman, my husband and I practice Taharat Hamishpacha, The Laws of Family Purity, part of which is going to the mikveh every month for a ritual cleansing. One day Siona is going to realize that mom leaves the house once a month all showered, no make up, hair wet, and is gone for about 20 minutes (Gd bless those mikvot that take reservations) and then comes back all hair still wet. She’s going to want to know what’s up with that and eventually I’ll need to be honest about what it is and why mommy does it. It’s kind of a beautiful way to explain the birds and the bees to a child. It certainly beats learning about it from your awkward Math teacher when you’re 10 years-old. I’m still debating whether that was a good thing or a bad thing as in the end, I was terrified of sex for quite a long time. Thanks Mr. H. Maybe that’s why I hate Math so much.

Carrots: Pre-roasting

Carrots: Pre-roasting

This week’s recipe is soup. I’ve started cooking 3-4 dinners/week for a dear friend/co-worker who wants to go semi-Paleo and doesn’t want to cook for herself. It’s such a great opportunity because it challenges me in the kitchen and I get paid. Holler! I was craving roasted carrot soup for myself so went ahead and made it for Dana and then saved some for me. I hope she likes it (and you too)!

Carrots: Post-roast

Carrots: Post-roast

Roasted Carrot Soup with Coconut Milk and Cilantro

What?!

8-10 carrots cut in 1/2 in. rounds
Olive oil for drizzle
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 can coconut milk
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
4 cups of water or vegetable broth
Sea salt
Pepper
1 bunch of cilantro

How?!

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place cut-up carrots spread out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and place in oven for about 30 minutes. About 15 minutes into the roasting, coarsely chop onions and mince the garlic. Place a stock pot on the stove with the flame on medium-high heat. Put coconut oil in pot. Let sit for a minute and then add onions. Sauté until clear, about 4-5 minutes. Turn down flame and add minced garlic. Sauté with onions for another minute or so. Add carrots to the mix once they are done (they should be nicely browned and soft). Add the ground coriander. Sauté for another minute. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the water to simmer and let sit, covered, for about 10-15 minutes.

One Big Happy Soup Family

One Big Happy Soup Family

At this point you can either blend in batches in a food processor or, if you’re really good, you have a hand blender and just blend the crap outta it. I LOVE the hand blender. It’s the easiest way to make any soup. Just roast vegetables, add water or broth and then blend. Once it’s smoothly blended, add the coconut milk and stir. This part is up to you. Taste and if you like the consistency, keep it as is. If you want it richer, then add more. Add a bit more sea salt and pepper to your taste. Top with bunch of fresh cilantro and serve.

This soup is delicious. I’m pretty proud of myself for this recipe. I may or may not have high-fived myself after eating.



Paging Nurse Latke.

14 Jan

It’s day four of quarantine.  I’ve had some nasty virus for four days and I am officially over it.  When I first started feeling yucky I thought I could pump myself full of Emergen-Cee and multi-vitamins and that that would do the trick.  Little did I know that this thing would get so fierce it would land me in the ER on shabbat so dehydrated that they gave me two bags of fluids.  The last time I felt remotely this crappy was when I went to Israel in 2008.  I landed in Tel Aviv, spent all day Friday with a dear friend and then she headed back to Chicago and I headed to Jerusalem only to be smacked in the face with what I have since self-diagnosed as dysentery.  I was rescued then by my very amazing friend, Jessie, who picked me up after a long day at Pardes and took me to Terem (Israel’s urgent care) where I was treated by a very brash and very ironically named nurse . . . Simcha Latke (Happy Latke).  I kid you not.  This nurse’s name was Simcha Latke and she could not have been more cold if she tried.  I will never forget her handing me a cup, looking at me up and down (the hot mess that I was) and saying, “You go. Make pee pee. Bring back. Now.”  Yes Nurse Latke.

This time around I was rescued by my dear friend, Dina, who spent an insanely boring four hours with me at the ER and then subsequently, the local Walgreens and let me just tell you, if you need to get sh*t done and you need it done now then you need Dina in your corner.  That woman doesn’t take crap from no one.  The nurse who initially took my temperature took it incorrectly and boy, you better believe the doctor in charge heard about it.  Then there was the hour long wait at Walgreen after being told it would only take 20 minutes.  Girlfriend was not having any of that either.  Seriously, she was/is my hero and I am totally in her debt.

IMG_5480

Probably discussing Eli Manning’s abysmal 2012-2013 season.

Now being a mommy and being sick means that I haven’t left the bedroom in four days (except for aforementioned ER visit) so as not to get any of these germs around the baby.  It also means that I haven’t been able to hug and kiss my sweet little girl and that my husband has been taking care of me and the baby all by himself and let me just say, he is a rock star. Seriously, this man deserves a medal of some kind; definitely a Purple Heart.  He also definitely deserves a vacation of some sort after I’m all better, which we can’t afford but something should be worked out.  Regardless, what I’m trying to say is I am blessed with a tremendously amazing husband and since we can’t afford for him to go on vacation, the next best thing in his eyes are fresh baked cookies, lots and lots of freshly baked cookies.  The man loves fresh baked cookies so much he actually told the cookie lady in the maternity ward our baby’s name before ANYONE else knew (and before the Simchat Bat) just to score an extra cookie. The cookie lady knew Siona’s name before her own grandparents did, that’s the kind of power fresh baked goods have over my husband.  Therefore, when I get better, there will be freshly baked cookies aplenty in this apartment.  One batch will be of what he has named Kitchen Sink Cookies because I just go ahead and put everything in there except the kitchen sink.  The base is from a Smitten Kitchen recipe and the rest is basically everything we like in a cookie packed into one bite.

Butter: The classic frenemy

Butter: The classic frenemy

That's a whole lotta goodness

That’s a whole lotta goodness

Kitchen Sink Cookies

What!?

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter, softened
2/3 cup  light brown sugar, packed
1 large 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 table salt
1  cups rolled oats
1/4 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
Sea salt for topping

How’s That Now!?

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 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. Either way, heat oven to 350°F  before you scoop the cookies, so that it’s fully heated when you’re ready to put them in.

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.

Sprinkle with sea salt while they are cooling

Wish I could eat them now

Wish I could eat them now

Spaghetti Squash with a Side of Pink Eye

8 Jan

It’s been a rough 2 days.  We dropped our little one off at daycare for the first time on Monday, which also happened to be her 5 month birthday so basically it was all, “Happy Birthday Siona! For your birthday, we’ll be dropping you off at daycare to spend the day with strangers, which basically means we’ve dropped you off to get pink-eye and to hang with strangers. Happy birthday! YAY!”  UGH.

Image

You’re taking me where? Oh crap.

It was hard.  It was the hardest thing I’ve done in a very long time.  I felt a sense of loss all day long that I hadn’t felt since I lost my grandfather two years ago.  If you’ve never dropped off your tiny one at daycare before then I get that it’s possible you’re thinking I’m being a drama queen but I’m telling you, it was the pits.  The worst.  After the hubby and I somewhat regained our composure after having a complete emotional break down shedding some tears, he went to work and I went to work and then I proceeded to cry every hour until roughly 2PM, when I think I just got too dang tired to cry.  I know on my previous post I got all deep on your tushies with my, ‘we found peace in daycare’ but Lord have mercy, I had no idea it would be this hard.  And you know what? You just have to feel it.  I let it all out.  I mean I’m sure some of my students saw me crying (even though I tried really really hard to only cry in the privacy of my friends’ offices or the bathroom or my own office) and even my boss offered to give me the rest of the day off and I almost went for it.  I pictured walking over to the JCC (it’s also our first foray into ‘organized’Jewish education–I can’t wait for the popsicle stick “baby Moses basket” for Pesach art projects and the finger painted challah covers), picking Siona up and running for the hills foot-loose and fancy free but alas, I said no.  I just had to rip the band aid.  I spent weeks and weeks dreading yesterday that there was something of a relief in just getting through the dang thing already.  Like, OK, we did it. We dropped off this tiny person who is the love of our life to complete strangers and then we went about our day.  It sucked so hard but we did it. Yay for us . . . I guess?

Image

Ahhh The Berenstein Bears—-everyone’s favorite Jewish bear family.

I gotta tell ya though, picking her up is amazing.  I get giddy. I can only liken it to the feeling you get when you’re first falling in love and you can’t wait to see that person and every time you do your heart beats a little faster and your adrenaline is pumping? You know what I mean? It’s like that. It’s this amazing little present that’s purely mine at the end of a crazy work day.  I’m gonna try extra super hard to focus on the positives of all of this.  Unsolicited advice from me to you—do not focus on the hours you don’t get to spend with your little one or any loved one.  Instead, focus on when you do get to see them.  One of the things that was so heart-breaking at first was counting the hours I could actually get to spend with her (and no, not because I had to do math and “add”) because what the hell did that get me but sadness.  You just can’t go there.  So instead, the hubby and I made an agreement when we got home yesterday afternoon that we weren’t going to focus on that kind of stuff but instead on how we spend the time when we are together.  This is life people.  We are not independently wealthy (damn it!), we still haven’t won the lottery (damn it!) so this is our new reality.  We better shape up and deal with it or our family time is going to be spent wallowing and who wants to be around that? Certainly not me.

On top of everything else I’m trying to cut back on sugar and carbs.  I mean, what the hell? I’m having one the most emotional weeks of my life and I decide to cut back on sugar and carbs. What the h*#& was I thinking? At one point on Monday afternoon I was this close to offering up grade changes for my students in exchange for any and all of their contraband candy.  I’m a pretty ethical school counselor, yes indeedy.

As a result of this ban on carbs I made pasta with spaghetti squash.  It was my first time delving into spaghetti squash and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to cook with.  See below.

Image

Inside the spaghetti squash

Spaghetti Squash “Pasta” with Garden Vegetable Sauce

What?

1 Spaghetti squash
1 Zucchini, coarsely chopped
1/4 C Olive oil
1 C Onion, coarsely chopped
4 Garlic cloves, minced
5 Carrots, coarsely chopped
1 Green pepper, coarsely chopped
2 Cans crushed tomatoes (or prepared marinara sauce)
1 tbsp salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme

IMG_5488

How’s That Now?

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Cut spaghetti squash in half, brush tops with olive oil and place cut-side down on baking sheet.  Place in over for 45 minutes.

3.  While spaghetti squash cooks, in a large saucepan or medium stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat for two minutes. Add in the onion, garlic, peppers, carrots and zucchini. Cook until onions turn translucent and vegetables start to soften, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Increase temperature to medium-high. Add tomatoes and spices. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil stirring occasionally. When sauce reaches a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for the rest of the time the spaghetti squash cooks. The longer you let it simmer the fewer chunks there will be.  Season with spices to your taste. Stir occasionally to prevent any sticking to the bottom of the pan.

5. Once spaghetti squash is finished, let cool for a few minutes and then fork out onto plate. Top  with sauce.  I also recommend adding some feta to top it all off.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti squash--looks like pasta but doesn't taste like pasta

Spaghetti squash–looks like pasta but doesn’t taste like pasta

I have to be honest, this does not taste like pasta.  Do not be fooled. It only LOOKs like pasta.  Do not go in thinking this will taste like pasta cause it just won’t.  Also, just a heads up, this is a GREAT way to get your pasta fill during Pesach without having to pretend you like potato pasta.

IMG_5491

Pasta What?

6 Jan

-3

Each year, at some point around Winter Break, my husband and I make a Moses like pilgrimage to Southern Florida.  I like to call it our trip to the Promised Land.  When you live in Chicago there is no clearer way to see evidence of Gd than to leave a 3 degree place and arrive in a 75 degree place, so there is no better name for our trip.  No we aren’t independently wealthy.  We’re just incredibly lucky.  My man’s parents have a time share and each year the entire family rushes down for a few days of sitting by the pool, marathon movie trips and eating like we’re in a contest at the county fair.  Each year I end up finding something that I’m newly obsessed with food wise.  For the last several years it has been garlic rolls.  Weird, right?  This year though something new happened.  I accidentally tried Pasta e Fagioli.

I’m sorry, what did you call me?

Pasta e Fagioli.  It’s pronounced (at least in the States) Pasta Vadjool.

Pasta e Fagioli Soup.  Have you heard of it?  It means Pasta and Beans.  Wikipedia tells me that it’s an old Italian peasant dish.  You guys, that is my very favorite thing.  Poor folks are resourceful.  I mean, aren’t we??  They make delicious and easy food.  Especially poor folks from the past, who also happened to be Italian.  Like, dang, give me a break.

Anywho.  I had the soup a couple times at different Italian restaurants in the Promised Land (ie Southern Florida).  I decided that my goal when I got back to Chicago would be to figure out how to make this magical soup so that I could share it with you…and my little family.

I’m going to take a moment and brag.  I’m getting pretty good at improvising recipes.  I’m at least getting a little brave.  When I looked up the recipe for Pasta e Fagioli Soup in various recipes in books and online what I saw made me tired.  Fry bacon fat?  No.  Fry fat back and mash it into a mush.  NO!  What follows is my improvised version of a Mario Batali recipe.

What:

2 medium Spanish Onions

3 teaspoons of minced Garlic

1 6 oz can Tomato Paste

2 quarts Chicken Stock (8 cups…or if you’re me…4 regular sized cans)

2 cans White Beans (I’m not fancy I use cans)

1 can Red Kidney Beans

1 can Rotel (y’all know I’m Southern, right?)

2 cups of cooked pasta (I used Ditalini)

What:

Chop the onions small or large depending on how you prefer onion in your soup and fry with a little Olive Oil in a Dutch Oven.  Don’t freak about the amount of oil here.  You want to make sure that all of this onion will cook and not burn so add more as needed but don’t get crazy.  Fry the onion until it’s tender and translucent.  This will take 8 – 10 minutes.  Give a dash or 5 of Salt and Pepper to flavor the onion.  While your pan is still hot add the can of Tomato Paste and stir around in the onion until the pasted is mixed throughout.  Cook this for 3 or 4 minutes.  Toss in the garlic and let that cook with the tomato and onion mixture for a few minutes more (3-5).  Your house should be smelling incredible at this point.  Add your chicken stock and beans and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and let the soup simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes stirring occasionally so that your beans don’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.  Now, with the pasta you have two options.  You can cook it separately and add it in to the soup for a wetter soup or you can toss the dry pasta in to your pot and let it cook with everything else for a thicker consistency.  Either way is fine.  Since I’m Southern and I add Rotel to just about everything I tossed in a can of Rotel to add a tiny bit of spice to the mix.  I also threw in a teaspoon of Italian Seasoning.

This soup will freak you out it’s so good.  I hope you enjoy!

Wait, what? I have a kid?

5 Jan

Has this ever happened to you? You have a baby, you are sent home from the hospital with said baby and then for several weeks you wonder aloud, “So, when are this child’s parents coming to pick up their baby?”  No? Just me?

Our baby is starting school on Monday.  Yes it’s really daycare but they have a curriculum.  We toured the place again on Thursday and the Director asked us if we wanted to go through their curriculum and in my head I thought to myself, “Wait, curriculum? Don’t you just make sure they’re fed, happy and rested?”  And then it hit me, this is our child’s first step into school.  She’s going out there in the world without us.  She’s going to meet other kids and make little art projects and we’re going to be invited to parent-teacher conferences.  Now, granted the first year or so will focus on her poop and nap schedule development but seriously, this parent thing is getting real!

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They don’t call it the ‘happy baby’ pose in yoga for nothing.

So rather than freak out, yet again, this shabbat we tried to focus—-focus on the fact that we’re not sending our 5 month old off to baby boarding school but to daycare.  We still get our little love back every night and of course, on the most important day–shabbat.  We focused on answering those important kosher questions like, ‘what age are we going to have to start caring about Siona eating meat after milk? What will our stance be when she inevitably tries a cheeseburger? Will we stop eating dairy at non-kosher restaurants because it could be confusing or maybe it’ll ease the kosher thing as it could be less restrictive-feeling?’  We have some answers and some we’ll have to wait and see how our family life evolves as it’s easy to be kosher in Miami, but not so easy in a city like Raleigh-Durham (it’s on our short list).  Regardless, my ability to give a poop about some of the parenting things I gave a poop about for the last 5 months has most definitely decreased.  I’ve come to terms and even found peace in the fact that our baby is a formula baby. I’ve found peace in the fact that I have to work full time in order to help provide for my family.  There’s just no time or even brain space for holding on to that stuff because dang it, no one’s coming to pick up that baby.  She’s ours and thank Gd for that.

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Talk about multi-tasking

This week’s recipe is a staple on our shabbat table.  It’s often requested when our friends, the Whislers come over, and it’s soooo easy.  One of the biggest changes will be the fact that the hubbs will still be at work when I need to be cooking for dinner.  I’ll probably have to just suck it up and do the majority of my cooking the night before, which will SERIOUSLY get in the way of my 8:30 bed time.  But, in the end, it might save my sanity.

Roasted Cauliflower with Tehina

What!?

2 heads of cauliflower1/2 cup of tehina (recipe below)
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Pepper
Garlic powder
Tumeric
Parsley and cilantro for garnish

For the Tehina:
1/2 cup of sesame paste
1/2 juice of lemon (or more depending on your taste)
Dash of kosher salt
Dash of garlic powder
Hot water to thin tehina

*Add all tehina ingredients EXCEPT water to a deep bowl and stir.  Slowly add the hot water until desired consistency.  You want it to be pourable but not runny.  Season to taste.

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How’s That Now!?

When you’re working with cauliflower in a kosher kitchen, you want to soak your cauliflower for several hours in hot water with a little salt at the bottom. 

Pre-heat oven to 400.  Once cauliflower have been soaked, chop so that the pieces are a decent size as they will shrink in the oven.  Spread chopped cauliflower on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder and tumeric. Bake cauliflower for 45 minutes or so making sure to toss every 15 minutes or so.

Drizzle roasted cauliflower with tehina right before serving.  Top with chopped parsley and cilantro for garnish

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