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Happy Anniversary Kosher Connection + A GIVEAWAY: Peas + Shells (and baby bellas!) with Vegan Alfredo Sauce

22 Jul
Cauliflower: My ultimate food frenemy

Cauliflower: My ultimate food frenemy

Happy anniversary Kosher Connection!  It’s been one year since a few kosher cooking blog folks decided to get together and create a connection; a place for kosher food writers/creators could get together to share ideas, recipes, mazal tovs on success and to gain advice.  Some of us are more ‘seasoned’ (please, pun COMPLETELY intended) than others (read: me).  I discovered the Connection late Fall.  At the time, I had just come back to work after 3 months of a very tough and emotional maternity leave.  I was battling undiagnosed (though I’ve diagnosed it) Post Partum Depression, lack of sleep and lots of stress.  I was trying to find my place in this new world of parenthood meets full-time employment and felt I needed something more.  Jewhungry had been on the back burner for roughly a year.  I stopped cooking when I got pregnant and the intense food aversions set in and just never got back into it.  But all those nights spent trying to keep myself awake by the light of my iPhone and the Pinterest app., while attempting to not-so-successfully breast feed, got my creative cooking juices flowing (again, pun COMPLETELY intended).  So I found this Connection, sent a few emails and then the next thing I know, I’m in.

I am so incredibly grateful for this group of people.  As a social worker with a concentration in community organizing, I believe in the power of connectivity.  I always have.  I have found incredibly support and advice from this Connection and though I have never met any of the members in person, some I feel like I’ve known for years (I’m talking to you Yosef, Hindy and Sarah).

In honor of this most auspicious occasion, we are giving away two beautiful prizes from Emile Henry: A Bread Cloche valued at $130 and a 4.2 qt Dutch Oven valued at $170! Use the Rafflecopter below to win- you can enter up to 23 ways! Two winners will be chosen at random. Click on the “A RAFFLECOPTER Giveaway” link below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It's a lot easier to cook when the little one has her bestie over to play.

It’s a lot easier to cook when the little one has her bestie over to play.

For this very special Monday Round-Up, every member of the Kosher Connection who decided to participate in this month’s ‘Round Up”, was randomly assigned the blog of another Connection member. We could pick ANY recipe from that blog to recreate in your own kitchen and most importantly, we needed to make the dish our own.  I was lucky to be assigned More Quiche, Please.  Tali, the adorable creator of More Quiche, Please, was born into a vegetarian family and is still (to my knowledge), a vegetarian so she has a lot of delicious recipes to choose from.  It was a little piece of heaven to go through her recipe index.  It was also really intimidating–there were so many amazing recipes to choose from!  In the end, I decided on pasta shells with peas in a creamy Alfredo sauce.  Now, since I cook for a Paleo and a vegan client, making it ‘my own’ meant making it so that it would roughly fit into their dietary needs, which means no dairy.  For the sake of maintaining the integrity of the dish, I kept the real pasta shells but if I was making it for my sweet little Paleo client, I would have substituted it for quinoa pasta.  The result was the creation of a vegan pasta shells with peas and because I had them on hand and I just love their flavor, I had to add baby bella mushrooms.  The dish is really flavorful but, I have to admit that because I boiled the cauliflower in vegetable broth, it doesn’t look like Alfredo.  It does however, look like a delicious cheddar sauce.  More than anything, it tastes delicious.  So, happy anniversary Kosher Connection and bitayavon!

Pasta + peas

Pasta + peas

My family is, in fact, NOT vegan so we added parmesan to our dish and it was phenomenal.

My family is, in fact, NOT vegan so we added parmesan to our dish and it was phenomenal.

 

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower
Coconut oil
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carton of baby Portobello mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp of white cooking wine
2.5 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of frozen peas
1 carton of pasta shells
Sea salt
Pepper
Thyme
Juice of 1/2 of lemon
*Vegan, unsweetened almond milk

Can you smell the yumminess?

Can you smell the yumminess?

 

How:

Place 3 tbsp of coconut oil in a large frying pan.  Add the onions and most of the garlic to the pan and saute over medium heat until onions are translucent and garlic is smelling up your house nicely.  Remove from heat and place in a separate bowl.  In the same frying pan, add the rest of the garlic and saute for one minute.  Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing on medium low heat for an additional 3 -4 minutes. Add the white wine and 2 tsp of thyme.  Saute for an additional 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and place in a separate bowl from the onions and garlic.  Next, place the chopped cauliflower together with the vegetable in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.  Once the broth has come to a rapid boil, turn heat down to medium low and continue to boil until the cauliflower is tender.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the instruction on the packaging in a separate pot, careful not to over cook. With about 1 to 2 minutes left to cook, dump frozen peas into the boiling water with the pasta and stir.  Let cook for an extra minute or two and drain in a colander that will keep the peas in the colander and set aside.  Meanwhile, back to the cauliflower — once cauliflower is tender, add the onions and garlic to the cauliflower pot plus salt and pepper to your taste.  Using an immersion blender, blend the cauliflower, remaining broth (what hasn’t boiled out), onions, and garlic until smooth.  If you feel that you need a bit more liquid, add some almond milk to the mixture.  Make sure you taste along the way, regardless, and add spices to your liking. Combine the cauliflower alfredo with the noodles, add the peas and the mushrooms and stir a bit to combine (we added parmesan cheese to ours and it really kicked up the flavor).  Enjoy!

{Guest Post} Leaning on Others – A Post by Jackie

19 Jul

Hi Again,

Below is the second guest post for this week that I’m away on vacation and this one is from my dear friend, Jackie. Before you read a bit about her story, I wanted to share a bit about who she is to me. Jackie and I met while I was working at the University of Michigan Hillel. We met at a happy hour. We started chatting about who knows what and then she asked if I like to dance and well, the rest is a very sweet history. We spent 8 months going dancing, drinking tons of coffee, laughing until the point of tears and almost piddling our pants, supporting each other through the hell that is dating and, of course, eating. I went to live in Israel within a year of us meeting and yet, our friendship deepened even though we were several time zones away. Her ability to give advice and listen without judgement is so frikkin’ rare and I’m grateful for it. So, please do enjoy her story and recipe and note that this woman has eaten in the finest restaurants in the world so hers is a palate to trust. Shabbat shalom, Whitney

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My girl, Jackie, giving me blessings at my wedding.

Thank you to my dear friend Whitney for letting me share my story and recipe on this amazing site. It is both her tomato salad recipe and endless advice that have inspired this post.

I’m just about the last of my married friends to get pregnant. During the year I was trying to conceive I struggled with this fact, and was often filled with feelings of jealousy and anger. It seemed the whole world was fertile including all of my lovely girlfriends. It took a lot of personal work to get to a place where I could truly be happy for my friends and right around that point I finally got my double line.

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Pregnant at last after a year of heartache

Now that I am pregnant (thank you G-d!) I am thrilled to have this wealth of knowledge and support from friends. For every question, concern and query I have a variety of mom-friends to turn to. I never feel alone and am thankful for this team of women behind me. I’ve found the silver lining in being the last to be pregnant and the advice is already priceless.

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Jackie and I doing what we do best, dancing up a storm (circa 2007).

Just like in cooking, I am taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that from each of my friends. Some moms have been instrumental in building my registry. Other moms have shared with me their breast feeding stories and have helped me to be aware of future issues. Several moms have loaned me maternity clothes and my closet is full of fun outfits to wear. And every single mom friend has been willing to share her journey and hear mine. Thank you ladies for every text, gchat and phone call.

Being pregnant in the summer means trying to find light dishes that are filling and nutritious which is just what this salad is. I remember visiting my girl, Whitney, when she first moved to Miami. She told me she was hungry for a snack and I expected her to pull out a granola bar or maybe a few pretzels. Instead she diced a tomato, red onion, avocado and added feta cheese and olive oil. Delicious. To fill out this salad I add toasted Israeli couscous and some other tasty treats. It’s the perfect summer picnic salad, pregnant or not!

Jackie’s Couscous Salad inspired by Whitney’s snack salad

Ingredients
Israeli cous cous, 2 cups (for a party)
Water, 2 ¼ cups
Pad of Butter
Almond slivers, ⅓ cup
Tomatoes, diced
Seedless cucumber, diced
Avocado, diced
Yellow bell pepper, diced
Feta (pasteurized if you are pregnant)
Parsley, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Lemons
Olive Oil

How
1. Heat pan and add cous cous, shaking pan frequently until cous cous takes on a golden brown color.
2. Add water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and turn to simmer until all liquid has absorbed. (Tip: You can also use veggie broth, or chicken broth and omit cheese to add additional flavor to your cous cous).
3. While the pearls are cooking, dice all your veggies. Add as much or as little as you want!
4. Toast almonds in a pad of butter. Enjoy the smell of melting butter.
5. When cous cous has cooled mix together with veggies, feta, toasted almonds. Now it’s time to grab a fork. Top with olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, pepper and chopped parsley. Taste. Decide what you need more of (usually for me it’s lemon and salt). Adjust. Taste. Adjust. Etc.

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Cookingpalooza: Homemade Fettuccine + Pesto Cream Sauce with Floretines for Dessert

2 Jul
Pasta of Love

Pasta of Love

You ever meet someone who was a legend?  I’m not talking like David Bowie or Oprah (though it’d be cool to meet them as well) but someone who was legendary within your group of people.  My friend, Francine, is one of those people.  We both attended the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, Israel during different years.  She became very close with one of my most favorite people, Annie.  So, when we were living in Ann Arbor, around the corner from aforementioned favorite person, Annie, and decided to move to Miami to further my husband’s Marine Biology career, Annie suggested we contact Francine and her hubby, Adam, who were already living here.  I was a little nervous.  I’d heard so much good stuff about Francine (and some about Adam . . . I guess.  Haha, just kidding buddy.  There was some actual good stuff about you too. For real!) that I was a bit intimidated.  She’s smart, funny, very kind and, a great cook.  I was just dabbling in cooking.  She sounded perfect.  I had a lady-crush on her from afar and I hadn’t even met her yet!  I eventually called them but spoke with Adam instead.  So, she remained a mystery until we moved here.  Then finally, FINALLY, someone invited the other to the other’s house and we got to meet and seriously, all the stuff was true.  She actually was funny, kind, smart but still, I hadn’t eaten the food yet.  THE FOOD!  Eventually, we scored a highly coveted invite to their place for shabbat dinner and that didn’t disappoint either.  All this awesomeness took place within the first 3 months of moving to Miami and 2 and a half years later, Francine and Adam (and now Matan, their 2 year-old), remain our closest friends in town.

Camping in 2011

Camping with Adam and Francine in 2011

Our Kids in One of My Most Favorite Pictures

Our Kids in One of My Most Favorite Pictures;;’

There have been so many meals-shared since plus a few camping trips, farm-outtings, and beach-visits in between but we had NEVER cooked together. So one day, I suggested that we get together for a day of epic cooking proportions.  Why had we not thought of this sooner?  Coming up for a theme of what to cook was a little difficult but I have a “Cooking Bucket List” for the summer and on it was making my own pasta.  Francine was game, thank heavens (I’m telling ya, she’s super nice).  I consulted a beautiful Kosher Italian cookbook my husband and I received as a wedding gift and decided upon a pasta recipe.  The sauce was made up on the fly after a bit of trial and error.  Unfortunately, I didn’t write down the EXACT measurements so I’m going on memory.  It was a hectic but awesome day.  See below.  And even if you don’t end up making your own pasta, I HIGHLY recommend the sauce and the dessert, both of which are pretty versatile.  Bitayavon!

Because I am sharing this post with Francine, you can find the delicious recipe for the dessert, Florentine with Nutella and Powdered Sugar, can be found on her blog, Feta and Arepa.

Pesto in the Process

Pesto in the Process

It Ain't Easy Being Green . . But it Sure is Tasty.

It Ain’t Easy Being Green . . But it Sure is Tasty.

I Wanted to Eat this LIke a Soup. Yum!

I Wanted to Eat this LIke a Soup. Yum!

Cream Sauce Completion

Cream Sauce Completion

Homemade Fettuccine with Pesto Cream Sauce
(Pasta recipe from Edda Servi Machlin’s Classic Italian Jewish Cooking)

What?

For Pasta:
2 1/2 to 3 Cups of Unbleached Flour
4 Egg, Slightly Beaten

For Pesto:

1 1/2 Cups of Fresh Basil, Tightly Packed
3 Cloves of Garlic
1/3 Cup of Parmesan
1/2 Cups of Walnuts
1/4 Cup of Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Pepper

For Cream Sauce:

4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
4 Tbsp Unbleached Flour
1 Cup Heavy Cream
Pepper
Salt

For Pasta with Hand Operated Machine:

Mound part of the flour on a large board or other working surface and make a well at the corner.  Pour in the eggs.  With the aid of a fork, mix the eggs and flour very gradually until a soft paste is formed.  With your fingers mix in enough additional flour to make a firm, but not too hard, dough.  Knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth.  Place in an unfloured dish; cover with an inverted dish and let rest in the refrigerator for about 1/2 hour.

Take one-quarter of the dough at a time and begin the thinning.  With the rollers set at the first slot (farthest apart), feed the dough between the rollers or to the machine, that means the dough is too soft and more flour must be added.  Fold and feed with the rollers set at the same slot 3 to 4 times, until the sheet comes out in one piece (but not too smooth).  Move on to the second slot and feed the sheet only once.  For fettuccine, you will stop at the next to the last slot.  Keep on moving until the desired thinness is obtained.  Repeat with the remaining pasta, using one-quarter of the original quantity each time.  Use as directed in each individual recipe. (Pasta made with only eggs and flour is very elastic and tends to shrink.  However, the second time through it keeps its shape better).

Once pasta is finished, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add the pasta and stir.  Bring to another boil and reduce heat to medium and let cook for roughly 7 minutes.  Drain and place in a bowl.

Sauce “How To”:

Place the basil in the processor together with the garlic, nuts, parmesan and a dash of salt and pepper.  DO NOT ADD THE OLIVE OIL YET.  Process the ingredients while slowly adding in the olive oil during the pulsing process.  Taste.  Add more salt if necessary (Be careful my kosher brethren.  That kosher parmesan can be salty).  Transfer the sauce to another bowl.

Meanwhile, prepare the cream base by melting the butter on medium heat in a large saucepan.  Once melted, add the flour one tablespoon at a time, whisking in between each addition of flour so that it’s smooth.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the heavy whipping cream.  Cook over simmer for another 3 – 5 minutes, stirring frequently until the sauce thickens a bit. Turn the heat off and stir in the pesto.  Add the mixed sauce to the bowl of cooked pasta and stir to incorporate.  Top with some shredded parmesan and fresh basil.

Just One More

Just One More

Dive In

Dive In

Add a Little Shaved Parmesan on Top and You Are Set!

Add a Little Shaved Parmesan on Top and You Are Set!

The Mother of Days

12 May
Wynwood Walls decorated for Mother's Day.  Can you spot me and my girl?

Wynwood Walls decorated for Mother’s Day. Can you spot me and my girl?

I like to to fight the establishment. I do. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to be a social worker and why my focus in social work school was community outreach. I’ve participated in many the protest and spent a decent amount of time on a picket line. And while I really wanted to jump on board my husband’s cry of ‘down with all Hallmark holidays”, this time I could not. And no, before you jump to conclusions, it’s not because I wanted a new, shiny present (we decided to make a donation to a children’s organization on Mother’s and Father’s Day instead of doing gifts). It’s because in this day and age, when work and other people’s needs take precedent over our own, having a day here and there when you can say, without apologies or guilt, “I can’t work today or I can’t do ____ for you today, it’s Mother’s Day and I’m spending time with my family” and actually have folks accept that and back off, well, it’s nice and I’ll take it when I can get it. Sure, there are actual holidays but as Jews, I feel like our extensive holiday list kinda starts cancelling out the “I’m with my family now. I’ll get back to you later.” Especially when we start rolling into the High Holiday time period and you’re having to take off day after day for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, etc. You try explaining Shemini Atzeret to your boss. I dare you to try to ignore the, ‘I’m so not buying this as a holiday’ look from her eyes. For sure your boss thinks you just made that word up. Seriously? Shemini Atzeret!? So, when it’s a nationally agreed upon, bi-partisan holiday that affords me unapologetic time with my family, I’m on board.

Something for Everyone.

Something for Everyone.

"You Can't Tell Now, But I'm Gonna Give My Parents Hell When They Try to Put Me to Sleep in an Hour".

“You Can’t Tell Now, But I’m Gonna Give My Parents Hell When They Try to Put Me to Sleep in an Hour”.

See, the hubby and I were chatting last night and we realized something, In the chaos of Siona’s first 2 weeks of life, people backed off. People forgive you for forgetting them or for putting them lower on the priority list than usual. Work lets you not return phone calls and emails and text messages go unanswered with no apology needed. People give you that time and it’s really, really nice. In fact, it’s kind of the nicest gift anyone can give—–space and time. As I’ve been back at work for about 6 months now, I’ve really had to fight for my time with my family. I let so much take priority over my time with them and it’s no one else’s fault but mine but it’s really hard work trying to lay those boundaries. One is so available with Smart Phones that there really isn’t an excuse as to why you didn’t answer an email or text right away. I love my job but I don’t have a lot of role models there when it comes to work/life balance. So when there’s a day on the calendar that’s kind of, “national-take-a-breath-and-hang-with-the-people-who-love-you-unconditionally-day”, I’m gonna go ahead and celebrate that and even be thankful for it.

Close Up at Wynwood Walls

Close Up at Wynwood Walls

Family Photo

Family Photo

Now, because I’m a big lover of food, today’s day revolved around just that—-food. We started the day at my most favorite coffee shop in the whole world, Panther Coffee. It’s located in the very trendy, very hipster-heavy neightborhood of Wynwood in Midtown, Miami. So, suffice-it-to-say, the people watching does not disappoint. Not only is Wynwood known for it’s hipsters and eateries but it’s also known for it’s amazing art and graffiti (see pictures before). Next on the agenda was a visit to the Pinecrest Gardens Farmer’s Market to visit our dear friend, Zak the Baker, who is a bit of a bread celebrity (look for an interview with Zak in a forth-coming post). Zak’s sourdough is the stuff of legends and as soon as we got home, the multigrain loaf he gave us sandwiched a delectable grilled cheese made with sharp white cheddar, balsamic carmelized purple onions and avocado. We also picked up some limes, which I used in a cheesecake recipe I made later in the day while the little one napped. We’re finishing this beautiful Sunday with some sushi and a movie and a dessert of warm fuzzies**. What blessings. Happy Mother’s Day!

**Quick Update: Warm fuzzies and sushi were put on hold as baby girl spent a solid hour and a half fighting sleep. That a’girl.

Oh! Before I forget! I made some quinoa ‘meatballs’ last week for a customer. I made them sort of off-the-cuff and didn’t take a lot of pictures (and the ones I did take aren’t that spectacular). I was just going to do a practice round but they came out so nicely I saved myself another go round and sacrificed the pictures. Sorry ’bout that. Anyway, I wanted to share. See below.

Quinoa Balls - Wish I Took More Pictures!

Quinoa Balls – Wish I Took More Pictures!

Baby Bella Quinoa “Meatballs”

What!?

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 3 tsp. coconut oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 baby portobella
  • 1 zucchini, finely chopped (skin off)
  • 1 tsp. basil or oregano
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste*
  • 1/2 cup matzoh meal, bread crumbs (if going gluten free or paleo, try 1/2 – 3/4 cup almond meal)
  • Sea salt and pepper

How’s That Now?!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat the coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots saute for about 3 minutes or until a transparent. Next, add the zucchini and garlic and saute for another several minutes or until fragrant (you may need to add a bit more coconut oil at this point). Next, add the mushrooms and saute for another 3 – 4 minutes. (The mushrooms naturally have a little more moisture in them then the zucchini so it will soften the other ingredients as it cooks. I like my zucchini a little brown so that is why I add it first). Finally, add the oregano, tomato paste, sea salt, and pepper. Cook another several minutes until all ingredients are well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Add to a bowl with the quinoa and stir to combine. Add the whole wheat bread crumbs and continue mixing until completely combined. Roll into 12 – 14 meatballs, each about the size of a ping pong ball, and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes on the first side. Flip over and bake for 12 more minutes.

*Because I made these vegan I omitted any egg that could have been used as a binding agent. The tomato paste coupled with the bread crumbs worked out perfectly and I didn’t see a need for the egg but if you do, please feel free to add one.

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.

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.

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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?

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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.

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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

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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.

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Pasta What?

6 Jan

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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!

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