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Flourless Chunky Monkey Brownie Cookies – Bring. It.

29 Jan

cookies 9

There’s an understanding in the general outside world that Jews don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.  Rather, religiously observant Jews don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.  And this is true though, again, I’m speaking in general.  My husband and I aren’t big on it.  What with the whole “St.” Valentine thing and whatnot, it’s just generally accepted as something the ‘goyim’ do.  However, I grew up ‘celebrating’ and loving Valentine’s Day and to be honest, I still do.  I have rather fond memories from elementary school that have all kind of become jumbled in my head as one big heart-shaped, pink doily.  By the time I reached high school, being a nerd and all, I’m pretty sure Valentine’s Day was spent with my beloved girls friends.  We probably went to our local Chili’s and drowned our love-sorrows in sweet tea and queso dip all the while saying how we didn’t need a boyfriend but secretly wishing we could at least experience ONE Valentine’s Day with a boy.  I do have vivid memories of a Valentine’s Day spent during my senior year with my dear friend, Allison.  I believe we had dinner at La Madeleine (Do those still exist?!) followed by a romantic viewing of Lethal Weapon 4 (I had a thing for Mel Gibson in high school all thanks to a kilt, a Scottish accent and some blue face paint—shalom, Braveheart. Of course that crush was quickly squelched after the whole Passion of the Christ incident). What can I say? We lived large.

flourless brownie cookies kosher jewhungry

As high school came and went and I entered college, Valentine’s Day got kicked up a notch.  There was this one Valentine’s Day my Freshman year when I went to a fancy restaurant with a very sweet guy who proceeded to shower me with gifts so obviously I dropped him the next day.  Dating ineptitude-aside, I honestly have to say that my favorite Valentine’s Day memory involves my first real boyfriend.  We were together for 3 years and our first Valentine’s Day together he got me the usual–roses, chocolate, etc. But the piece de resistance came in the form of a homemade card that had pictures of my favorite neo-soul/hip-hop artists from that time on it (read: D’Angelo and Q-Tip) wishing me a happy Valentine’s Day.  I mean, he nailed it with that one.

flourless brownie cookies kosher jewhungry

But my husband didn’t grow up with Valentine’s Day and so we just don’t get on the Valentine’s Day-train.  Now, that being said, it doesn’t mean I still don’t love the hearts, the doilies and, of course, the fact that food plays a very big role in the celebration of the day.  It also doesn’t mean that, one day, if my beloved husband decided he wanted to come home with roses or, you know, diamonds on Valentine’s Day I’d turn them away.  It just means that we share our love for one another each and every day (OK, maybe not EACH and every day) and if it happens to be on a day dedicated to St. Valentine, then so be it.

Presto, change-o: 15 minutes later you have yumminess

Presto, change-o: 15 minutes later you have yumminess

flourless brownie cookies kosher jewhungry

Try them with some milk, perhaps?

Ok, this recipe. This recipe! It’s quick.  It’s flourless.  It’s easy.  That being said, because it’s flourless, they do become a bit crumbly over time so do try to eat them within a few days of baking, which shouldn’t be a problem because they are that good.

Just so we’re clear . . .

Flourless Chunky Monkey Brownie Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar (use gluten-free if you need)
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/8 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup crushed walnuts
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup banana chips

How:

1) Preheat to 350°. Whisk powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a large bowl, then whisk in egg whites and egg; fold in chocolate chips, banana chips, and walnuts. Spoon batter by the tablespoonful onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2” apart.

2) Bake, rotating sheets once, until cookies are puffed, cracked, and set just around the edges, 14–16 minutes.

3)Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool on pan (they’ll firm up).

Kosher Connection Round-Up: Two Ultimate Thanksgivukkah Latke Sandwiches

17 Nov
Challenge Accepted

Challenge Accepted

Traditions.  I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions lately.  My husband and I don’t really have a lot of traditions.  We’ve been together for five years and married for three and I feel strongly that that’s long enough to have some actual traditions but we just don’t have any.  I would assume that part of the reason for this is because in the 5 years we have been together and 3 years of marriage, we’ve lived in a number of cities (Jerusalem, Ann Arbor, and Miami).  We haven’t actually been anywhere long enough to set up shop and cultivate some serious traditions.  I often read or hear about families who have long-standing traditions of this or that and it sounds really, really nice.  I’d like to get me some of those traditions, if you please?

Kids: The eat for 2 minutes and play for 2 hours.

Kids: The eat for 2 minutes and play for 2 hours.

One tradition we won't drop: Mommy and Siona photo shoot on Thanksgiving (this was last year's).

One tradition we won’t drop: Mommy and Siona photo shoot on Thanksgiving (this was last year’s).

Six adults and one child ate all that delicious, homemade grub.

Six adults and one child ate all that delicious, homemade grub.

The closest thing my husband and I have come to an actual tradition is hosting Thanksgiving.  We have hosted every Thanksgiving we’ve had since moving to Miami in December of 2010; all two of them.  Each year we’ve had our dear friends (and fellow food-lovers), Adam and Francine (check out her yummy food blog here) and their son, Matan come for dinner and this year is no exception.  I have such amazingly fond memories of our Miami Thanksgivings that now, with this impending LA move on the horizon, I feel that what was to become a tradition will be bittersweet this year.  Our Miami Thanksgiving is precious.  It’s ballsy to say, but no grandparents are allowed.  It’s just my our urban family and, now that my husband’s brother and his family have moved here, siblings.  But that’s it.  We drink beers, we eat A LOT and let the kids run wild.  I have no doubts that this year will not disappoint.

Composing the Masterpiece

Composing the Masterpiece

Who needs bread?

Who needs bread?

Well folks, I think it’s safe to say that the “Thanksgivukkah” horse is dead.  It is so very, very dead.  But just in case it isn’t quite dead yet, I went ahead and accepted my own challenge of creating the ultimate Thanksgivukkah sandwich.  Actually, because I’m a glutton for punishment, I made TWO Thanksgivukkah sandwiches; one to be created using all those glorious leftovers from your Thanksgiving dinner and the other as a beautiful dessert/breakfast/side dish.  I had posted the question on the Jewhungry Facebook page of whether or not a sandwich with latkes as the ‘bun’ was too much but, come on, if you like Jewhungry on Facebook chances are, you are all in favor of a sandwich that has latkes for a bun (and chances are, we would get along swimmingly).

For the sake of my own sanity, I did not roast an entire turkey from scratch nor did I make a batch of my mom’s stuffing recipe.  Instead, I used turkey tenderloin and organic, kosher instant stuffing.  The savory sandwich was, in a word, ridconulous.  It tasted so so good.  And because I started making them at 7am on Sunday morning, my husband, baby daughter and I ate them for brunch at 11am.  This was a true labor of love.  This month’s Kosher Connection round-up theme was “Thanksgivukkah” and well, what better way to mash-up your Thanksgiving turkey and your Chanukkah latke than an actual mash-up . . . on your plate and in your belly.  Enjoy!

Just in case you need help breaking it down.

Just in case you need help breaking it down.

I think cranberry aioli is really really pretty.

I think cranberry aioli is really really pretty.

Savory Sweet + Russet Potato Thanksgivukkah Sandwich

Ingredients:

Tradition latke recipe found here
Turkey tenderloins
3 Tbsp olive oil
Rubbed sage
Garlic powder
Thyme
Pepper
Stuffing – either homemade or instant will work (you decide)
1/4 Cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp Canned jellied cranberry sauce w/whole cranberry chunks
1/2  lemon, juiced
Green leaf lettuce
Gravy (for the sake of my sanity and this recipe, I used instant vegetarian gravy)

How?

(I’m assuming you already having stuffing ready for sandwich-making.  This recipe does not include a stuffing recipe but there are PLENTY out there so feel free to Google).

Before you start with the latkes, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with tin foil and set aside.  Wash and dry your turkey tenderloins. Lay side-by-side on the tin foil-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle the tenderloins with olive oil and the dry spices listed above.  Using a basting brush, brush the olive oil and spices so that they are evenly dispersed on the turkey.  Put in oven and roast for 25 – 30 minutes or until juices run clear.  Once finished, set aside.

Find the method for the traditional savory latke recipe here.

Once you have completed making all your latkes, set to the side an start mixing your cranberry aioli.  Combine mayonnaise, cranberry jelly and lemon juice into a bowl and whisk until well combined.  Add more cranberry or mayo for your liking.

For assembly:  My husband and I are big believers in the even-spread and the importance of the art of layering a sandwich (have i mentioned that we are of nerd-like quality?).  Therefore, I recommend the following for composing your latke sandwich:

Latke Side One:  Cranberry aioli and stuffing
Latke Side Two:  Small leaf of lettuce, turkey, gravy

Lay side one onto side two and go. To. Town.

And just in case you have room for dessert . . .

And just in case you have room for dessert . . .

Cinnamon Sweet Potato and Apple Latke Sandwich with Chocolate Gelt and Coconut Milk Whipped Cream {Latke recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen}

Ingredients:

Find coconut milk whipped cream ingredients and method here.

(Makes 8 – 10 latkes)

3 Medium sweet potatoes
2 large, tart, and firm apples such as Granny Smiths
1 Tbsp lemon juice
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
Sunflower oil
Dark chocolate gelt

How:

First, set up a large bowl of ice water in the sink.  You will pour the shredded sweet potatoes and apples in the ice bath immediately after shredding.

Peel and core apples and sweet potatoes.  Using the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor, shred the apples and sweet potatoes (they can be done in the same bowl). Transfer to the ice bath so as to prevent browning.  Let soak for a few minutes while you clean out your food processor.  Next, transfer to a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth sling and wring out as much juice as you can.

Transfer grated sweet potato and apple mixture to a medium bowl and toss with lemon juice. In a small dish, whisk flour, sugar, cinnamon and baking powder and toss with the sweet potatoes and apples, coating them evenly. Whisk eggs in this small dish until lightly beaten and stir into sweet potato-apple-lemon-flour mixture.

Add sunflower oil to a large frying pan that reaches a depth of 1/8 inch. Heat slowly over medium to about 365 degrees F. Scoop mixture out with large kitchen spoon (usually I loose the spoon after a while and just get in there with my hands). Squeeze the mixture firmly in your palm over an empty dish to remove any excess liquid. (If you squeezed the potatoes out thoroughly in the cloth, you may not have much excess liquid to squeeze out).  Shape the sweet potato/apple mixture into a tightly compacted disk.

Place the disk carefully into the hot oil. Latkes can break apart at this point, they’re very delicate. If you can get them into the hot oil in one piece, chances are they will stick together – frying them is like the “glue” that holds them together. It takes a gentle touch, and it may take you some practice to get the “feel” for it.

The oil should sizzle, but not pop when the latke hits it; if the oil jumps wildly or smokes, it is too hot. If it only bubbles weakly, the oil is not hot enough. Use the first latke to test the oil temperature, and don’t fry a whole batch until the temperature is right.

Continue shaping the latkes in this way, using 2 tablespoons of mixture for each latke. Fry in batches of 4-5 latkes at a time (no more than that – don’t crowd the pan) for 2-3 minutes per side until brown and crispy. Remove the latkes from the frying pan and let oil soak on paper towel.

For Assembly of Sandwich:

Place a chocolate gelt coin on each latke.  Top with a dollop of whipped cream and either eat separately or place one on top of the other and, I don’t mean to be redundant, go. To. Town.

Why eat them separately?

Why eat them separately?

Wait for it . . .

Wait for it . . .

When you can make it a sandwich?

When you can make it a sandwich?

Mini Vegan Chocolate Chip Berry Pies + Coconut Milk Whipped Cream

27 Oct

image (1)

I am so tired. Oy. Vey. It has been a week. I think it’s been like two weeks in one, no? You ever have that feeling? I don’t even really have the energy to write anything witty. I am, however, so excited about this recipe so I’ll spare you the usual exceptionally long post and share a few short things:

1. My first blog post for The Huffington Post was published on Friday. I am very proud of the work it took to get there, much less the post itself, and the amazing feedback I’ve gotten from friends and strangers. Thank you to all who posted it on various social media outlets and most especially, to those who actually read it! I am so grateful. Find the post here.

2. Buzzfeed stole my picture! So there I was coming back online from a restful (slept 10 hours Friday night and took two naps on Shabbat. HOLLER!) and quiet Shabbat when I notice that I’ve got 20 text messages waiting for me. And then I notice that I have an exceptional amount of notifications on Facebook too. Well, turns out Buzzfeed posted a hilarious round up of 50 Things Only 90s Girls Would Understand and they used a picture of me from my high school days (circa 1996) I had posted on a blog post I wrote way back in March. Yep. Just me and Drew Barrymore and all our choker-wearing glory. My friend, Ali, thinks I “won the Internet”. Well, if winning the Internet means having your non-professionally edited and enhanced Sophomore (?) yearbook picture splashed right next to an uber-vamped Drew Barrymore, well, I’d like to ‘lose’ the Internet next time. please. Oh, and to top it off, they dubbed me “WordPress”. No name. No permission asked for usage. Just a picture of me from almost 20 years ago with “WordPress” on it. Awesome.

3. Decisions have been made. The next step is upon us. More to come.

In the meantime, I had this recipe in my head for quite a while but knew it needed something. And then my girl, Samantha, from The Little Ferraro Kitchen posted her delicious sweet potato pie with coconut milk whipped cream and I thought, “That’s it!” Since we are exactly one month away from Thanksgiving and my kosher-eating self will need a parve (a.k.a vegan) dessert on hand (plus a grain-free dessert for my grain-free family members who I hope will be visiting us again for Thanksgiving this year), I wanted to adapt my versatile grain-free brownie recipe into a fresh and delicious pie. The recipe turned out to be so delicious and so easy. It has a little bit of sugar in it but other than that, it’s a pretty healthy dessert. I let my 14 month-old go nuts on some of the ‘crust’ mixture with minimal guilt and that’s saying something!

If you do decide to try this recipe, and I hope you do, the trick with the whipped cream is to chill EVERYTHING before whipping. EVERYTHING. Take that can of coconut milk and put it in the fridge for at least 6 hours. Grab your mixing bowl and your mixing attachments and put them in the refrigerator as well. It will be the difference between actual whipped cream and frothy coconut milk. There are further instructions where the recipe is listed so make sure you read through before starting.

I used regular-sized muffin tins + parchment paper to make pie 'crusts'.

I used regular-sized muffin tins + parchment paper to make pie ‘crusts’.

Tiny pie crust - No grain, all glory.

Tiny pie crust – No grain, all glory.

Bring on the color.

Bring on the color.

Add a dollop of coconut milk whipped cream.

Add a dollop of coconut milk whipped cream.

It would be delicious even without whipped cream.

It would be delicious even without whipped cream.

One last look at the yumminess.

One last look at the yumminess.

Mini Pie of Deliciousness

Mini Vegan Chocolate Chip Berry Pies + Coconut Milk Whipped Cream

Ingredients for Crust:

Adapted from my own recipe for Raw Brownie Bites (Make sure to omit the oats for a grain-free version. Keep them if you don’t mind a grain or two).

  • 2 Cups of dates, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup oats (I used gluten free)
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp milled flaxseed
  • 3 Heaping TBSP of vegan cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp organic maple syrup (depending upon your taste—start with 1 and if you make it again, up to 2 if it wasn’t sweet enough for you)

**Extra cocoa for rolling the bites in afterwards if want an extra chocolate punch.

Coconut Milk Whipped Cream (Recipe straight from my girl, Samantha, at The Little Ferraro Kitchen)

  • 1 can coconut milk, chilled
  • 2 Tbsp powdered sugar

Mixed Berry Filling:

  • 1/2 Cup Strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Blackberries, chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Raspberries, chopped
  • 1/2 Lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 Tbsp Demerara Sugar

Crust How-To:

I used regular-sized muffin tins to shape the crusts but a ramekin will work just as well.

Cut pieces of parchment paper into squares about 8 in. by 8 in. or large enough that when placed into the muffin tins there is an excess of paper sticking out.

Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process until well combined—to about the count of 30 or until the ingredients have a dough-like consistency. If you feel like it’s a bit dry due to too many walnuts or oats, just add a bit of water, about 1 tbsp at a time, until you get that doughy consistency. Once you’ve attained your desired consistency, scoop out enough ‘dough’ to form a ball about the size of a tennis ball. Gently press the dough ball into the parchment paper-lined muffin tin and shape to the entirety of the tin so that a ‘crust’ forms. Your crust should be thick enough to hold the filling but thin enough so that it doesn’t take over the pie flavor. Do this until you run out of ‘dough’. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 30 minutes.

Coconut Milk Whipped Cream:

If you haven’t already, open the coconut milk can and pour out the water in a separate bowl (Save it and use for smoothies, soups, etc). If you’ve been chilling your coconut milk in the refrigerator for several hours in prep for this recipe, the watery part of the coconut milk will be at the bottom of the can so pour slowly and make sure to omit the watery part at the end.

Pour the thicker coconut milk in your chilled mixer and begin to whip starting on low and gradually moving to medium-high setting. As soon as it begins to thicken, add powdered sugar and continue to beat. Check every so often for desired consistency.

Fruit Filling:

Place all your chopped fruit into a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and sugar and mix until well combined.

Assembly:

Once your crusts have refrigerated, scoop fruit filling into each pie; enough so that the is a ‘mound’ of fruit filling. Top with a dollop or two (or three) of whipped cream. Enjoy!

Pancakes and Problems: Things get spiced . . . vanilla chai-spiced.

16 Oct

Hello!  It has been AGES since my last post and if you follow this blog, you might be wondering to yourself, “Ummmm, Whit, didn’t you like, make a big deal about unveiling a new and improved, self-hosted blog?”  Yes! I sure did.  Here’s the long of the short of it:  I hired a designer via Etsy.  The designer was less than awesome.  I got my buddy, Yosef from This American Bite on the case but he’s super swamped and I’m anxious to get back to blogging, especially with Thanksgivukkah just around the corner so I made an executive decision to take a step back and hold off until after the holiday season.  Here’s hoping . . .

In the meantime, I’m back to posting and it feels so right.  Since I last posted to this blog, a lot of fun things have happened.  I was asked to become a permanent blogger for the Times of Israel (posts can be found here and here).  I also had another post over at Kveller.com (find it here), was interviewed by the Huffington Post for an article on meditation (that can be found here) and I’ve been asked to do my very first cooking demo for a synagogue here in North Miami Beach (details to follow).  I’ve also been swamped at work, took the family and went to LA for 3 days and hosted our very first Simchat Torah Wing Ding (9 lbs. of wings, 4 different kinds of flavors, and lots of hungry friends.  It’s how we Southern Jews celebrate the completion of reading the Torah).  Life has been lovely and chaotic, to say the least.

In all the time since I last posted, I’ve also been doing a lot of reading and of course, a lot of thinking.  Before I stepped off-line for a bit, I wrote a post that sparked a lot of debate/comments/criticism/assumptions.  I had been having a lot of mixed feelings and confusion over my voice as a writer as well as my place on the blogosphere.  The post (found here) was supposed to be about just that–reflections on where I fit in as a blogger as well as a space to vent some frustrations about what can happen when folks make assumptions on the choices other people make or rather, the assumption that other people even HAVE a choice.  Of course, the irony is that it was completely misread as a judgement piece on other people’s choices as well as a knock to mothers who stay at home.  It was celebrated by mama’s who work out of the home and ripped apart by mama’s who work in the home. I was accused of being ‘intense’ (as if that’s a bad thing?).  I was accused of judging people’s choices (an act of which is against everything I believe to be whole and true, both as a social worker and a human being, though I do not claim to be void of the fault of judgement from time to time).  It was rough y’all.

Lazy Sundays

Lazy Sundays

I’ve been reflecting on this piece off and on since I posted it all those months ago.  I take full responsibility for my part in it’s misinterpretation and have been questioning how it was written ever since–was I inarticulate? Could I have been more clear in defining ‘privilege’ as I see it? Should I have even used that word?  And while I was trying to find clarity in the piece by owning it and moving forward, I read two blog posts from two separate bloggers that I felt brought me right back to square one.  The first was from fellow Kveller.com writer, Tamara Reese entitled, “Tell a Friend: You’re a Good Mama” (found here) and “You’re a stay-at-home mom? What do you DO all day?” by Matt Walsh (found here).  The first post was a gorgeous and emotional story about the author’s observations of new parents and how she looked at the mother, who was apologizing to folks in a restaurant for the fact that her newborn was crying, and told her “You’re a good mom”.  Tamara goes on to tell the story of how someone did that for her once and it was all she could do to not break down when she heard it; not realizing she needed to hear it so badly.   Matt Walsh on the other hand, wrote a post proclaiming his love and admiration for his wife, who works in the home as a stay-at-home-mom.  His tone was harsh (that’s OK, it’s his blog. He gets to do that) in that he supports the hell outta his wife and in making the statement that as an employee,we are all just a number.  I don’t disagree with him.  It’s harsh, but I completely agree.  I feel that daily.  But that’s beside the point.  Both of these bloggers mentioned ‘mommy wars’.  Both of these bloggers felt the need to uplift mamas.  They put themselves out there to speak on behalf of an entire population of people who, on the day-to-day basis, feel completely vulnerable and I thought to myself, well, why? Not, ‘Why do women feel vulnerable’.  I get that.  I completely get that.  But why are there ‘mommy wars’ (man, that term makes me want to vomit)?  Why do so many of us bloggers feel the need to go on a rant (me included and yes, I get the irony of this post)? Why do so many of us bloggers feel the need to support or to criticize in the name of mommyhood?  And then I wondered if it was all a vicious cycle. By blogging about parenting and our own experiences with it, in an effort to connect to like-minded parents, do we run the risk of alienating other parents who feel like they don’t fit in line to exactly what it is you’re blogging about.  Meaning, if I blog as a mom who has a full-time job outside of the home as well, is it assumed that I don’t support moms who work full-time inside the home?  Am I aligning myself I didn’t even know it?

I HIGHLY doubt that when my mom was raising two kids in the 80s and 90s she gave two poops about what style of parenting she ascribed to or whether or not she would be ridiculed if she bottle-fed or if co-slept with her baby or not.  Her network of moms were not online but in her community or within her family and when she had a question about something baby-related, she didn’t type it into ‘Google’ and have a million and one confusing and potentially alienating ‘answers’ or blogs pop up touting the benefits of this sleep method or this parenting style.  She was just trying to do the best she could and survive. Dude, that’s what we’re all trying to do, right?

They take self-portraits

They take self-portraits

I worry that, as a blogger, I might be part of the problem.  I might be putting something out there that’s causing the escalation of vulnerability do to the assumption that I know what the hell I’m doing.  I blog about my family and the trials and tribulations I go through as a parent who works outside the home because it’s an outlet but I realize that I have not been clear, and I mean CRYSTAL clear, about one thing—I am not an expert at parenting nor do I claim to be.  I studied early childhood development in social work school but I promise you this, the only thing I’m remotely close to being an expert in when it comes to parenting is parenting my own child and I’m fairly certain that I’m only about 70% expert on that.  I worry that all us bloggers, well, we might be exacerbating an already vulnerable situation—parenting.  I post pictures of my child on Instagram and those pictures are generally of her smiling and being happy.  I don’t post pictures of her when she’s awake at 2AM with a fever or when she’s having a meltdown for some reason because well, a) I don’t have that kind of time and b) I don’t want to post pictures of her in that state.  And yet, I do worry that by only posting us in the golden sunlight of Miami or hipster-ed out in our local coffee shop, I might be exacerbating that thing that might be sparking all these rants or  ‘mommy wars’—- that I’ve got it right and you should be me or that you should at least strive to be as seemingly cool, calm and collected as I am as a parent.

And thus, back to the original point and post.  Folks knee-jerk reacted to that first post.  Folks assumed because I write through one lens that I must be attacking or at least ridiculing the other.  I can’t promise I don’t have a little bit more sympathy for working moms because I can relate more and I don’t fault anyone for assuming that because it’s true and that’s OK. I think we all have junk.  I think we all have guilt; such nasty, nasty guilt, and it makes us vulnerable and it makes us feel like we have to defend our choices.  I also think we are all just trying to do what’s best for the ones we love and are trying to survive.

Sometimes we do a little better than survive :)

Sometimes we do a little better than survive 🙂

Whole Wheat Chai-Spiced Vanilla Pancakes

The players

The players

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1-2 Tbsp honey (you can also use regular ol’ sugar)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp (and a bit) of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • ½  Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground all spice
Hello lovers

Hello lovers

How:

Whisk together flour, honey, baking powder, salt  and spices in a small bowl.   Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together almond milk, oil, vanilla and egg.  Add flour mixture to liquid mixture and stir just to moisten.  It’s OK if there are a few lumps.  Scoop out pancake batter using an ice scream scoop and pour out onto griddle or large frying pan.  Cook pancakes on a griddle over medium heat.  Pancakes are ready to flip once they start to bubble on top.  Serve hot with big slap of butter.

Don't be afraid to sprinkle that glorious stack of pancakes with a dash of cinnamon.

Don’t be afraid to sprinkle that glorious stack of pancakes with a dash of cinnamon.

Orange Peel + Poppy Seed Cookies: The Love Continues

3 Sep

I invite you to know Ali Brand Stern, today’s guest blogger for our Love Stories series, which, if you’ve been following the series, you are realizing has moved into September. Yep, forgot to account for the obligatory Rosh Hashanah posts so our Love Stories were interrupted. However, we are back and still in love.

I met Ali, whose love story is written below, and her husband at the same place I met the previous guest blogger, Stef. I met them all at the glory that is The Pardes Institute of Judaic Studies. I knew I wanted to be friends with Ali during the obligatory opening introductory ‘get to know you’ circle that opens every first year of school at Pardes. There were roughly 60 – 70 people in the room and everyone’s not-so-secretly trying to prove just how smart they are when they introduce themselves. And then it’s Ali’s turn. Ali stands up in the Beit MIdrash, introduces herself and proceeds to tell everyone she just got married and, rather than try to prove her brain power, which is pretty powerful, she continues, “So, sorry ladies and gents, but I’m taken”, and then proceeded to sit right back down as if she didn’t just tell a room full of rabbis, Torah scholars and the like that she’s off the market. Yes. Please. Ali is one of the funniest and most genuine people in the world. When I was trying to wrestle with leaving my single life behind and marrying my husband, it was Ali whose wisdom and open-mind I sought out. She is someone whom I believe truly lives her life to the fullest and I admire her so much. Ladies and gents, here’s Ali. xoxo, Whit

Ali and I representing our class at our friends' wedding.

Ali and I representing our class at our friends’ wedding.

Thirteen years. That’s how long my husband and I have been partners. When I tell people our dating history, I follow it up by saying that I met my husband, Noam, when I was a fetus. That’s not actually true, but it sometimes feels like it. I don’t know many other thirtysomethings who have been with their better half for the better half of their life.

Talking about the beginning of our “love story” is like talking about the day I realized I had a left arm. I can’t recall when, but I’m sure there was a day when I said to myself, “I have another arm? This is awesome! This will help me accomplish so many more things in my life!” That’s sort of how I feel about my husband. I can’t really remember a time when he wasn’t there.

I met Noam three weeks before my 17th birthday while we were attending a summer program at Brandeis University called Genesis, which was a glorified nerd camp for Jews. Are there summer camps for Jews that aren’t also nerd camps? No, probably not.

Noam was the first Orthodox Jew I ever really met. He was sweet (still is), short (still is) and wore an over-sized, severely faded Pearl Jam t-shirt (which I later made him burn for fashion reasons. I have nothing against Pearl or her delicious jams.) Noam sat down across from me during the first Shabbat dinner at Genesis. My actual thought when I saw him was, “That one. I want that one.” Although full disclosure, I thought the same thing when they brought out cake for dessert.

Having never attended Jew camp before, I didn’t know any of the songs that everyone else started to sing at the end of the Shabbat meal. Actually, I could barely read Hebrew. I felt like an idiot. And there is nothing more painful than being a 16-year-old girl sitting across from a super cute little yid and feeling like an idiot. But because Noam is who he is, he quickly caught on that I was just silently mouthing the world “watermelon” over and over again, trying to look like I belonged. Noam got everyone to sing the only song I knew (which could very well have been Dayenu, complete with hand gestures. I don’t remember.) Noam stuck by me the rest of the night. And that was it. That was the night I met my left arm.

Ali and Noam in Jerusalem, 2013

Ali and Noam in Jerusalem, 2013

We fell for each other quickly, in a totally PG-summer camp sort of way. During one of our many night walks through the deserted college campus, Noam asked me if I was a fruit, what kind of fruit I would be. I told him I would probably be an orange because I have a layer that you need to get past in order to really know me (Leave me alone. I just finished reading Ralph Waldo Emerson that summer and had even underlined a few passages in a vintage fountain pen, so clearly, I was really, really deep.)

A few days later, on my 17th birthday, Noam gave me a gift. It was an orange, partially peeled. He told me that he hoped he had gotten past part of my “layer”, and was looking forward to getting to know more about me.

At the end of the summer, I went back to Boulder, CO and Noam went back home to Maryland. We said our goodbyes and left our relationship as “two people who cared a lot about each other, but lived super far away.” We didn’t want to label ourselves and what we had. Dan Savage would have been proud. I never thought I would hear from Noam again. I cried a lot. Had there been Facebook when I was 17, I’d like to believe that I wouldn’t have posted thousands of very meaningful and totally poignant song lyrics from all of the Lilith Fair albums. But I would have. Because I was that awesome.

Fast forward 8 years. Fast forward through hundreds of long distance phone calls and emails. Fast forward through my parents flying Noam out to be my high school prom date. Fast forward through that time when I was a freshman in college in Seattle and Noam was studying in Israel during the height of the Second Intifada, and he called to tell me that the café across the street just blew up, and it was terrible, but he was okay and he loved me. Fast forward through me not being able to tolerate the long distance anymore and finally transferring colleges to be with Noam at Brandeis.

Fast forward 8 years to the afternoon at Walden Pond when Noam got down on one knee and took out an orange, almost entirely peeled. Fast forward to when he told me that he wanted us to spend the rest of our lives getting to know each other better.

Newly engaged; peeled orange and all.

Newly engaged; peeled orange and all.

Two weeks after our wedding, we ran away together to Israel, where I met Whitney. Our year-long-honeymoon-adventure in Jerusalem turned into five years living in Israel. Living abroad was the greatest gift to our marriage. We dodged rockets and killed cockroaches. We walked towards each other religiously and spiritually and built ourselves a happy little home somewhere in the middle. We made each other laugh, and we drove each other completely insane in ways that only your partner can. We helped each other up when we fell down. In 2011 when I lost my dad to cancer, Noam stayed at my father’s bedside reciting Psalms, serving as my father’s spiritual guardian. Noam is so much more than my left hand; he is my spare soul.

Noam and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary this July. On our wedding day, we stood in front of our family and friends and pledged to spend the rest of our lives helping each other peel back our layers. I think we’re off to a good start.

Ali's Orange Peel and Poppy Seed Cookies.

Ali’s Orange Peel and Poppy Seed Cookies.

Ali’s Orange Peel and Poppy Seed Cookies:

Ingredients

– 1 tbsp orange zest

– 1 egg (room temperature)

– 2/3 cup sugar

– 1/2 cup butter/margarine

– 1 tbsp poppy seeds

– 1 1/4 cup flour

– 1/2 tsp baking soda

Directions

Blend butter and sugar. Add egg and orange zest. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients (except seeds). Slowly add dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg/zest mixture. Add poppy seeds. Bake at 360F for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

August Love Stories: Love Goes Gluten-Free

19 Aug
Getting goofy with my Misty Dawn.

Getting goofy with my Misty Dawn.

The third guest post in our August Love Stories comes from my beloved sister-in-law, Misty.  I honestly can’t remember a time in my life when Misty wasn’t there.  She’s been in my brother’s life since he was about 22 and I was 19.  She’s a constant in my life; I rely on her for every piece of advice I could ever need.  She’s my first call when I have a baby question.  I think I must have texted her about 20 times a week when my 1 year-old was first born.  Lucky for her, that’s gone down to at least five or six times a week now.  Her relationship with my brother was the first healthy relationship I ever really had the privilege of watching grow and mature.  Truth be told, I looked up to the relationship Misty shared with my big brother as something to aspire to.  It’s a relationship filled with love, communication, respect and loads of laughter.  Also, my brother is an entire foot taller than Misty.  Now that’s just too dang cute.

From Misty  . . .

I never said yes when he proposed.  I didn’t go wedding dress shopping.  Not even one time.   I was 24 years-old when my husband proposed and although we had been dating for three years at the time and I KNEW he was the ONE, it felt surreal.  I had just turned 21 when we met.  We had a very tumultuous dating relationship.  Now, if you go to “Uncle Google” you’ll see the definition of tumultuous is exciting, confusing, disorderly.  I can guarantee you our relationship was all three of those adjectives with a whole lot of love in between.

Five months before our engagement

Five months before our engagement

My husband, who also happens to be Whitney’s older brother, and I met in college.  But, of course we didn’t go to the same college.  That would be way too simple, and honestly we probably wouldn’t have stuck together if we did.  Our dating relationship was a long-distance one.  Our respective colleges were roughly a three-hour drive from one another.  This was also fourteen years ago, before the entire world thrived on cell phone usage and text messaging, so we actually had to really communicate with one another.  I would check my Hotmail account once a day praying an email from him would be there.  We would try and call each other as often as possible, but we were college students and long distance phone calls where you spent an hour on the phone weren’t cheap, ya’ll.  To say we had many ups and downs would be an understatement.  Long distance relationships are NOT easy, especially when you’re in college.  There were lots of road trips.   I honestly believe though, that because our relationship was long-distance and based on honest open communication while learning HOW to communicate with one another, we figured out some of the hardest parts of a partnership those first 3 years.

Eleven years later . . .

Eleven years later . . .

During one of those trips that he drove from Athens late at night, he started to run out of gas.  His car at the time constantly needed oil added, and he kept a case of oil in his trunk.  When he  realized he wasn’t going to make it all the way without adding fuel, he pulled in the gas station and quickly realized he didn’t have a single penny on him.  Luckily, he was in South Georgia and the gas station attendant let him trade the oil he had in the trunk of his car for gas!  When he finally arrived at my house, he retold the story with me laughing and feeling terrible all at the same time.  It was really late, even in college terms,  and we didn’t have a lot of food in the house. I knew he must have been hungry, so I went in the kitchen and made biscuits, he must have eaten four or five.

Our little family about 4 years ago (you can't see our baby girl.  She's strapped to my front).

Our little family about 4 years ago (you can’t see our baby girl. She’s strapped to my front).

When I graduated college I moved home to Atlanta and 5 months later he proposed.  We were engaged for exactly one year before we married.  Three years later we had a little boy, and two years after that a little girl.  Ten years of marriage and fourteen years after we met, life is wonderful, hard and busy.  Both of our kids have dietary restrictions, mainly gluten and dairy, so when it comes to cooking I have to get creative.  When we first went gluten free, the thought of not having biscuits terrified my husband.  One evening, I decided that we could have them and set out to make almond flour biscuits.  Now, these biscuits aren’t the biscuits my grandmother makes, but they are an amazing substitute for those with dietary restrictions and they are gluten and dairy free!  Every time I make biscuits, I think of my man and that long drive in the middle of the night.  It makes me smile and remember, just how far we’ve come.

Biscuits ready to be enjoyed

Biscuits ready to be enjoyed

Almond Flour Biscuits

adapted from Elana’s Pantry

What?

5 cups of blanched almond flour

1 tsp of celtic sea salt

1 tsp of baking soda

½ cup of Earth Balance natural buttery spread (soy free)

4 eggs

2 tbsp honey

How?

Preheat oven to 350.  In a medium bowl combine almond flour, salt and baking soda.  In a large bowl combine Earth Balance, eggs and honey. I found it easier to mix the wet ingredients if I melted the earth balance a little.  Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until a nice dough forms.  Line 2 baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper.  Proceed to drop biscuits onto baking sheets using a large spoon, mine are about 2 ½ inches wide and 1 ½ inches tall.  This gave me 17 biscuits total.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until biscuits are browned on the bottom edges.  Enjoy!

A biscuits best friend? Coconut-milk soaked fried chicken!

A biscuits best friend? Coconut-milk soaked fried chicken!

Flamingos + Pizza + Babies. Now That’s a Party

13 Aug
Someone was bound to get naked.  Oh, also celebrating one of the few pictures where I'm not DROWNING in sweat. Dang Miami.

Someone was bound to get naked. Oh, also celebrating one of the few pictures where I’m not DROWNING in sweat. Dang Miami.

I survived my child’s first birthday. I survived and I thrived. And let’s be honest, the only reason it was a little bit stressed was me. I can’t do ‘simple’. I really can’t. It’s not in my DNA. Gd bless you if you can do simple. I admire and salute you but I just can’t do it. I mean, you should have seen my Bat Mitzvah. Of course there was a theme (Hollywood). Of course there was a color scheme (black, silver and magenta) and of course, there was a DJ who dressed up like Michael Jackson and did an entire choreographed dance to a medley of Michael Jackson through the years. I mean, this was THE Bat Mitzvah to end all Bat Mitzvahs. So you see, the daughter raised by a mother who bought life-size cut-outs of movie stars and a hot pink sequenced top hats and feather boas as decoration for her daughter’s Jewish coming-of-age party wasn’t going to grow up to tread lightly into her own child’s birthday parties. Oh no. Not a chance.

Grain-free peppermint chocolate chip brownies. One of my most requested recipes.

Grain-free peppermint chocolate chip brownies. One of my most requested recipes.

There was a theme (retro-Palm-Springs-tacky-chic). There was kind of a color scheme (pink, yellow, green). I had made all the decorations, from the “Happy Birthday” sign to gluing about 50 individual sea horse cut out onto toothpicks for cupcake toppers. Part of the reason I made everything is because I can’t in good conscience pay $10 for a happy birthday sign when I can pay less to make my own. Same goes with the cupcake toppers. Paying for things I can make hurts my insides a little so, of course I had to make that stuff. And of course, I made the food. Oh the food. The baking/cooking started at 8:45 on Saturday night and didn’t stop until 1:55 on Sunday afternoon (the party started at 2PM). My husband and I went back and forth with what to serve folks for a late afternoon party — I wanted to go dairy so that I could do dairy cupcakes. We settled on homemade pizzas of varying fun flavors coupled with your usual hummus, veggies, fruit, etc. I also made mini strawberry cupcakes using the Sprinkles Cupcakes recipe, which I highly recommend. And since we have a few loved ones with a grain-free diet, I ended up making mini grain-free pizzas using roasted eggplant and zucchinis as the ‘crust’ as well as grain-free, vegan peppermint chocolate chip brownie bites (I used my own brownie bites recipe, found here, and took out the oats and added a few drops of peppermint oil and vegan chocolate chips). All-in-all, I felt really proud of the party we created to celebrate the first year of life of our sweet girl. But honestly, I do love the planning and the arts and crafts and whatnot but that’s not why I do it all. I go through all this big planning because I also want to celebrate the people who helped make her first year of life so frikkin’ wonderful. Yes, I do love a good theme party and yes, I love cooking for people but more than anything, I love showing the people in our lives my ever-lasting appreciation through food and through taking care of them, even if it is for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. My hope is that they walked away knowing that I love them for loving our girl. And if they happened to take a few dozen extra mini cupcakes away with them as well, that’d be OK too.

Below is a photo journal of the party as well as a few recipes I created for our dear friends. I hope you enjoy!

Grain-free Pizzas

Ingredients:

1 large roasted eggplant OR 1 large, thick zucchini cut into 1.5 inch thick rounds
Marinara Sauce
Cheese of choice
Fresh basil
Oil for baking sheet

How:

Cut eggplants into 1.5 inch rounds and dust with coarse kosher salt. Leave on for an hour to draw out moisture. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Pat down with paper towel. Place on greased baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for roughly 30 minutes – keep eye out for over-browning. Once roasted, top with sauce and cheese — I used a standard marinara and topped some with sheep’s milk feta and some with mozzarella. Top with chopped fresh basil.

Out of the oven

Out of the oven

So. Much. Cooking.

So. Much. Cooking.

I made 3 different kinds of pizzas using puffed pastry dough as the crust — I couldn’t make the crust too. I wasn’t that much of a glutton for punishment. Anyway, the toppings were as follows:

1) Tomato sauce with mozzarella, roasted eggplant, roasted garlic and fresh basil

2) Tomato sauce with mozzarella, sheep’s milk feta and corn

3) BBQ Sauce, black peppercorn Monterrey Jack with caramelized purple onions

Roasted eggplant and garlic pizza.

Roasted eggplant and garlic pizza.

My 1 year old

My 1 year old

We still have 30 of these in our refrigerator

We still have 30 of these in our refrigerator

My Queen

My Queen

Just a bunch of moms being awesome by the pool

Just a bunch of moms being awesome by the pool

They really have no clue what's going on

They really have no clue what’s going on

Ice-cold beverage, anyone?

Ice-cold beverage, anyone?

After an hour in the pool, she was ready to party.

After an hour in the pool, she was ready to party.

Aunt Misty was there too! I bet she didn't even know it.

Aunt Misty was there too! I bet she didn’t even know it.

Seriously, Uncle Mo, do my shades make me look too ironic?

Seriously, Uncle Mo, do my shades make me look too ironic?

Cupcake ecstasy

Cupcake ecstasy

I'm not sure what it is, maybe it's the beard, but Siona is captivated by Zak.

I’m not sure what it is, maybe it’s the beard, but Siona is captivated by Zak.

One of those people I hope I can at least make half as happy as she makes me.

One of those people I hope I can at least make half as happy as she makes me.

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