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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?

Mommy Blogs and Meatballs: A Blogdentity Crisis

24 Aug

This week was an interesting one. A rollercoaster of emotions, if you will. It was the first week back at school with the kiddos so I was up at 6ish every morning and at work by 7ish, which meant I was gone before Siona was awake. I was exhausted but running on buckets of coffee and adrenaline. Though it’s my 3rd year in my job as a school counselor, this was my first time at the first week of school in my job. The first year I was still in my original position as Student Life Director and the second year I was on maternity leave. I was nervous and overwhelmed. I also took over as ‘senior’ school counselor in the Middle School, which didn’t help my anxiety. I was trying to train our new counselor while tending to the needs of my students and colleagues. And though this past week I survived on adrenaline, iced coffee and water, I thrived on being able to be there for my students; being able to be there for one of my new 6th graders who sobbed for over an hour in my office in fear of Middle School and my 8th graders who are already freaking out about high school and college.

One of the many ridiculous things I do for my students -- dressing up as Effie from the Hunger Games for Color War back when I was pregnant.

One of the many ridiculous things I do for my students — dressing up as Effie from the Hunger Games for Color War back when I was pregnant.

While I was kicking a** and taking names in my role as school counselor, this blog wasn’t fairing so well and it was bringing me down. This summer allowed me a bit more freedom to be present for this blog, which made me really happy. I finally was able to interview my friend, Zak the Baker. I made the fried chicken recipe that had been living in my head and I finally was able to write down my own love story. It felt wonderful to have the time to do all that. But this past week brought on the realization that, once again, my free time is extremely limited. And then, on Thursday morning, I received an email in my inbox from a blog I follow (or, now, used to follow). The blogger is an incredible writer and, in my estimation, would fall into the category of ‘mommy blogger’. She writes about her adventures with her young daughters set against the back drop of Montana. Her Instagram account should be sponsored by the visitors bureau of Montana, the pictures are that incredibly beautiful. But that’s besides the point. This post was about her living her dream of quitting her job so that she could be home with her girls. As beautiful and ethereal as this post was, it also enraged me a bit. I felt badly about having these feelings of anger. And, as I like to remind my students, no one can “make” a person feel anything. Instead, we allow these feelings to occur. We give them life and this post was bringing all sorts of life to some not-so-nice feelings for me that I really needed to get to the bottom of.

I don’t know this woman in the slightest. I follow her on Instagram and read her posts but I don’t know her. I don’t know her except what she wants me and the rest of the world to know about her. And please don’t misunderstand me, she seems like a lovely person. It’s not necessarily her that I take/took issue with. I think this post came at the wrong time for me, personally. I had barely seen my daughter all week. I only saw her for an hour on Wednesday, between coming home from work and then having to go back for a parent night. One hour out of 24. And here I was, reading a post about how this woman got to leave her day job and now spends her days going on adventures with her daughters. So yes, bad timing.

She gets me.

She gets me.

I ended up writing a comment about how I thought her post was beautiful but that it was also difficult to read as I too dream of being at home with my daughter but I can’t. She wrote back because that’s the type of blogger she is; always wanting to be there for her readers. But what she wrote back enraged me even more. She responded with all the write buzz words/phrases, ‘walking in the path of your dreams’, ‘walking with your heart and soul’, like a new Oprah for the hipster mommy-set.

And while I appreciate the conversation, what I realized this morning, after finally getting a solid 11 hours of sleep (Gd bless Shabbat), was that not anywhere in her post or in her response did she talk about the privilege of being able to stay at home and ‘live your dreams’. And then I realized that though this blog of mine is technically a food blog, I sometimes delve into the ‘mommy blog’ world, which, I now clearly understand, is not the place for me. My sister-in-law, Caitlin, of The Joy of Caitlin, had a very sweet post published by the Huffington Post this week. She worked really hard to get it out there—posting it all over the place, and she absolutely deserved to have it posted. So I thought, why not follow her lead and try to get more stuff out there. I tried posting the only post I could find in my blog archives that I though would fit into the ‘mommy blog’ or parenting category. I took 20 minutes out of my work day on Friday to post it on various parenting/mom pages and bloggers but it just didn’t fit. Hell, one of them flagged me for spam, which I thought hilarious. But with that notification that someone thought my post was ‘spam’ came the realization of what I was doing. I was trying to fit a pentagon into a round hole. This community is not for me. I love reading my food blogs and I am so appreciative of the community of food bloggers I’ve become close to via the Kosher Connection and Instagram but the circle on mommy/parent bloggers is another realm and though a lot of them speak of light and peace, the general feeling I have is that it’s a competition of who has the most hipster dressed kids and appearance of a near-perfect life. And if you’re thinking I sound a little angry or frustrated, I am. In all my mommy/parenting blog reading, I have not once read the term ‘privilege’. Not once has one of these bloggers spoken about the privilege of staying home; the privilege of breastfeeding; the privilege of eating organic or ‘clean’. Every time one of these parent bloggers posts a meme on their Facebook page about the evils of formula or GMOs or baby cereal or the like, I wonder if they’ve ever thought about the countless moms and dads who don’t have the privilege of buying GMO-free, or organic or whose breasts didn’t quite work out as expected; much less stay at home to be with their children, and what that must feel like for that parent on the other side of their meme. Have they ever thought about privilege? Thanks to social work school, I think about it all the time. It’s a privilege I have this computer so that I can write down my thoughts. It’s a privilege that I have amazing friends and family who support me. It’s a privilege I can afford daycare and still have enough cash to pay rent and occasionally shop at Whole Foods. People don’t like thinking about privilege because they feel they have to apologize for it, but that’s not how I see it. If you can acknowledge it and not take advantage of it or acknowledge it and be self-aware enough to recognize what it means for those who don’t have it, well then, that’s a different story. That I can support.

Late-night blogging.

Late-night blogging.

And so when this particular mommy blogger’s post landed in my inbox I thought if I calmly comment, maybe I’ll get over my feelings of frustration. But I didn’t. In fact, it got a little worse for me. When the blogger responded to my comment that she advocates for the ability to ‘change our minds’, I thought to myself, ‘wow, what a privilege it is to even think that that’s always an option’. I can change my mind until I’m blue in the face but the fact of the matter is that I can’t afford to stay at home with Siona. And what would I miss if I did (besides food, shelter, health insurance and the like)? I’d miss the amazing community of people I’m surrounded by at work. I’d miss learning from them and laughing with them. I’d miss the diversity of thoughts they bring to my life. Some of these people are women with children, some of them don’t have any children. Some are married and some are not. Some of these people are men. Some of these people are white, some black, some Jewish and some Catholic. Some or straight and some are gay and the majority of all these folks are humble and self-aware. And, just like in real, I crave that diversity of mind and spirit in my online world as well. So, I’m giving up on my attempt to fit into the mommy world and instead will just be whomever it is I am . . . just like in real life. I will give time to the blog and let it develop organically (no pun intended) into whatever category it fits into, if at all. I will stop following all these other mommy’s on Instgram whom I first started following way back in the depths of post-partum depression, when I needed reminding that children do eventually sleep and that parenthood can be fun. We just don’t seem to have anything in common anymore. I will stick to food and family and see what comes.

And as for the recipe? Well, these are my most favorite meatballs. They are not gluten-free, but could be. I sometimes make them with veal and sometimes a mixture of veal and ground beef but usually with ground turkey. They are kind of like Thanksgiving all rolled into a delicious ball. I hope you enjoy and I thank you for reading.

For her.

For her.

Thanksgiving Meatballs:

What

1 package of ground turkey
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 pint of button mushrooms, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
Dried bread crumbs, preferrably challah, diced into small chunks (should be bigger than store-bought bread crumbs but not bigger than croutons)
1 egg
Thyme
Sea Salt
Pepper
Rubbed Sage

For the Stove Top*

Vegetable or Coconut Oil
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour

*I go back and forth between frying and baking these meatballs . . . depending on my mood. If you do decide to bake rather than fry, bake on a greased baking sheet on 375 for roughly 20 minutes

Those Colors!

Those Colors!

Those Look Like Ping Pongs, right?

Those Look Like Ping Pongs, right?

How:

Pour the olive oil in a deep frying pan with a flat surface. Let sit on medium heat for a few seconds. Saute the onions until transparent. Add the carrots and stir, sauteeing until carrots are golden. Add the garlic and continue sauteeing for another minute. Finally, add the mushrooms an saute for another minute or two. Sprinkle the mixture with a dash or salt and pepper, stir and pour into a separate bowl and set aside.

Preparing for Frying or Baking

Preparing for Frying or Baking

In a large bowl, combine ground turkey with the vegetable saute mixture, bread crumbs, egg, a dash more salt, pepper, thyme and finally, the rubbed sage. Stir mixture until well-combined (I use my hands and really get into there). Meanwhile, pour your flour into a small bowl and set on the stove near your frying pan. Also, in preparation, set out a plate with a few layers of paper towels in order to soak up some of that yummy grease after frying. After setting up, roll your meatballs into balls the size of ping pongs and set on a plate.

Post-baking

Post-baking

Hello little friends.

Hello little friends.

Once done shaping your meatballs, place frying pan on the stove over medium-high heat and pour in enough vegetable (or frying oil of choice) oil to cover 1/2 inch of the bottom of the pan. Roll each meatball into the bowl of the all-purpose flour so that each meatball is lightly covered in a flour dusting. Place 5 – 6 meatballs in the pan for frying, making sure to cook evenly on each side, giving about 4 -5 minutes of cooking for each ball. Once done, place on paper towel for grease-soaking.

A Shabbat staple

A Shabbat staple

Comfort Food – The Best Thing I Ever Ate – Kosher Connection Monday Round-Up

15 Apr

This month’s theme for our Kosher Connection round-up is, as stated above, the best thing I ever ate.  This one was a doozie for me.  There’s so much associated with taste.  It goes beyond the texture, the flavor combination, the exotic-ness of the dish.  For me, it also has so much to do with positive memory.  I remember the first time I had a hot wing.  I remember mom coming home from dinner and giving me her leftover for me to taste even though I was supposed to be going to bed.  I remember sitting at the kitchen counter and taking my first bite and the subsequent burning sensation of my lips and tanginess on my tongue.  I remember thinking, “I need to eat this ALL THE TIME”.  I also remember the first time I had real Italian drinking chocolate while living in Milan in the summer of 1999 (I was supposed to be there to model but come on, who puts the modeling capital of the world in Italy for crying out loud!? More on that in a future post).  I remember the first time I had real Italian espresso and chocolate croissant (again, seriously, if we’re not supposed to eat then put the fashion capital of the world in like, I don’t know, NOT Italy).  I was living abroad for the first time, trying all the food I came into contact with—-tasting freedom and fresh, Italian cooking.  It was heaven. The first time I took a sip of that drinking chocolate I thought to myself, “Yes.  Just, yes.”

You can see it in my 19 year-old eyes.  I want a chocolate croissant and I want it now!  P.S. There was some serious air-brushing that went on here

You can see it in my 19 year-old eyes. I want a chocolate croissant and I want it now! P.S. There was some serious air-brushing that went on here

So for this round-up, I didn’t go complicated.  Instead, I went with a memory of a dish that was rich, creamy, delicious; all my favorites.  It combines my love of cheese, garlic and chicken—but kosher, of course.  This dish also sprung to mind because the memories associated with it are pretty yummy as well.  In 2001 I was a senior in college.  My boyfriend was studying abroad to get his Master’s degree, I was living in the dorm next door to some dudes who decided it would be OK to have band practice in their room at 11PM at night and I was itchin’ to get out of college.  I went to college in a small town in the middle of Ohio called The College of Wooster.  By the time I was a senior I believe there were roughly 1700 students on campus.  So yes, 3 years into that kind of smallness and you’re ready to get.  My senior year started out about 2 weeks before 9/11.  Everything that happened on that fateful day pretty much set the tone for the rest of my senior year.  We felt isolated and alone in the middle of nowhere Ohio.  We were partly chomping at the bit to get out of there and partly terrified to see what the ‘real world’ was like.  I was blessed to have a wonderful and loving group of girl friends, thank Gd, who did everything together.  One very cold winter day, our little group piled in our cars and headed to our girl, Kristen’s mom’s house.  Kristen lived the quintessential Ohio life.  She grew up on a farm and her neighbors, who were miles down the dirt road, were mostly her relatives.  It was a far cry from the suburban Atlanta neighborhood I grew up in.  Anyway, the plan was to get away for a bit and have a taste of home.  I remember that during this time I was especially feeling anxious and scared about the future so a little time at home, even someone else’s home, was exactly what I needed. The minute we walked in the front door, I didn’t want to leave.  The place smelled like everything ‘home’ should smell like.  For dinner that night, Kristen’s mom served us a classic “the college kids are coming to dinner” meal of stuffed chicken breast.  It was breaded, baked and stuffed with cream cheese and spinach.   Now, this was during my ‘BK’ years—-Before Kosher, so please don’t freak out here.  The following recipe includes Tofutti cream cheese.  Anyway, the point is that though it wasn’t culinary genius, it was perfection.  It was warmth and home and love served on an ooey, gooey plate.

The college crew.  I'm fairly confident I'm wearing overalls in this picture. #2002

The college crew. I’m fairly confident I’m wearing overalls in this picture. #2002

Cooking the Greens

Cooking the Greens

Chicken Breast Stuffed with Tofutti Cream ‘Cheese’, Spinach and Zucchini

Ingredients:

3 Chicken breasts, pounded flat
3 TBSP of Coconut Oil
1 Small yellow onion, diced
3 Cloves garlic OR 1 shallot, diced
1 Zucchini, diced
1 Big handful of spinach
1/2 Cup of Toffuti cream cheese
Handful of fresh dill and thyme, washed and cut small to be incorporated into cream cheese for added flavor

Additional Supplies:
Poultry twine
or
Toothpicks

Stuffing the Flattened Chicken

Stuffing the Flattened Chicken

How:

Put boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a large Ziploc freezer bag and seal it up tight. Using a mallet (or in my case the bottom of another cooking pan), pound those little breasts down until about 1/2 inch thick.  The thinner the better (but not too thin that the stuffing would seep through).  Once flattened, put to the side.  Using a large, deep skillet, about 2 -3 inches at the sides, heat your coconut oil on a medium high level.  Add your onions and sautee until transclucent, about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and sautee for another minute.  Next, add your zucchini and sautee until just beginning to brown. Finally, add your fresh spinach (you can use frozen as well just make sure everything else has browned by now as the moisture in the frozen spinach will stop the browning process).  Spinach wilts quickly so make sure not to overcook.  Add your spices while sauteeing and adjust to your liking.  Once spinach is nice and bright green and incorporated into the rest of the vegetables, turn the heat off.  At this point, add the toffuti cream cheese and herb mix to the pan and stir all together until you’ve got a nice, creamy mixture of cream cheese, herbs and vegetables.  Once that’s combined, dish out into a separate bowl and clean your pan out to be used to cook the chicken (why do MORE dishes, right?).

Little Chicken Packages of Love

So Close to Being Eaten!

Lay out chicken breasts on a flat surface.  Place a heaping spoonful of the cream cheese mixture onto a little left of the middle of each piece of chicken.  If you put it right in the middle, it’ll make the ‘sandwiching’ of the chicken a bit difficult.  Next, fold the chicken in half so that the cream cheese mixture is sandwiched between the same chicken (see image above).  Take your poultry twine and wrap the chicken up tight like a nice little chicken present so that the filling stays in while cooking (you can also use a toothpick at the ends of the chicken to hold it together but then it should be roasted).  After you’ve done that with all three, put 2 more TBSP of coconut oil into the pan at a medium high level.  Add the chicken to the pan and let brown on each side about 7 – 8 minutes or until the chicken juices run clean and enjoy.

Happy Little Chicken Campers

Happy Little Chicken Campers

A Taste of Comfort

 

 

Win a Whole Organic, Kosher Chicken – a KOL Foods Giveaway!

11 Apr
Special Delivery

Special Delivery

It wasn’t long ago that the majority of the food that I ate consisted of some kind of direction that involved, “add water, 1 TBSP of butter and stir”. Yep, if it was freeze-dried or loaded with preservatives, I was on it. It’s not like I didn’t always love food, I just was incredibly intimidated by cooking. I also never loved the idea of the cleaning up after the cooking. That part just seemed like a giant time suckage. Ugh. I was also single for the majority of my 20s and definitely had the whole, my-oven-is-used-for-storage-not-cooking thing down. It’s hard to cook for just one person. You end up throwing away leftovers and no one’s there to give you feedback so it was ready made meals and tofu hotdogs aplenty in my kitchen during those non-cooking years. One of my classic ‘dishes’ during this time in my life was the ‘just add frozen vegetables to Pasta-roni’ pasta. Again, and I know I’ve said this before, I have no idea how I’m not 500 pounds.

Fresh Turkey

Fresh Turkey

Things changed for me when I moved to Israel in 2008, lived close to the shuk and started seriously dating someone who was not only willing to eat my culinary experiments but also very patient with me as well. It’s no coincidence that during this same time in my life I decided to eat healthier. When you have so much fresh produce available to you why on Earth would you eat instant anything? I started reading about the benefits of whole grains, what the big fuss is over sugar and most importantly, what the big fuss is about organic.

Now listen, I am a school counselor. The hubby is a PhD student. We do not have an expendable income, however, in our house there are some nonnegotiables. At this point, I almost primarily cook with coconut oil. I only buy non-GMO, organic cheese. We never have sodas and if we’re eating anything with sugar or bake anything requiring sugar, we generally use maple syrup or pure sugar. I also almost always purchase organic meats. Thankfully, several years ago, a dear friend of mine and fellow foodie, Annie (heck, she’s been my cooking inspiration for years! I wonder if she knows that? hmmm . . .), purchased a KOL Foods turkey for Thanksgiving. With this one purchase she opened my eyes to a whole world of conscious kosher. If you haven’t heard of KOL Foods before, then sit back, relax and let me drop some knowledge on ya.

Founded in 2008 by Devora Kimelman-Block, KOL Foods is the only kosher meat company that exclusively sources 100% grass-fed meat in the United States. Before this time, if you were kosher and wanted to eat sustainable, ethically-raised meat you basically had to become vegetarian. KOL Foods allowed the kosher consumer with conscience a way to bridge their beliefs with their wallet—but purchasing from KOL Foods you’re not only supporting a more ethical kosher, you’re also supporting local, small business. Today, KOL Foods offers glatt-kosher, organic-raised, grass-fed beef, lamb and no-nitrate deli; pastured chicken, turkey and duck; wild caught Alaskan salmon and other specialty goods. They ship frozen via FedEx nationwide or via buying clubs in select cities.

We Love Lime in Miami

We Love Lime in Miami

Coconut Oil is My New Life Source

Coconut Oil is My New Life Source

As a self-taught cook who now has a client with a requirement for Paleo-diet menu items, a diet that only allows for grass-fed meat, I was excited when KOL Foods reached out for a potential partnership. I believe in their product and in their mission and I wanted a chance to delve into some of their products. And delve I did! I was sent some delicious turkey legs that my hubby wanted to simply roast up and eat Medieval like but I wanted to get a bit more creative and play the flavors that are coming in season in Miami. I also didn’t want to work with the same ol’ expected turkey flavors—-sage, marjoram, thyme, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE all those flavors but again, I wanted to experiment.  The following is my experiment and it.was.delicious! The flavors of the salsa are strong but mix well with the natural light flavors of the turkey and I’m ALWAYS a suckers for turkey drippings mixed with honey marinade.

After the Marinating Time

After the Marinating Time

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The Colors of Miami

The Colors of Miami

Turkey Ready for the Taking

Turkey Ready for the Taking

Roast Organic Turkey Legs with Mango Salsa

For Marinade:

3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon of Honey
Juice of half a lime
Sea Salt
Pepper
Dash of Cayenne

For Salsa:

1/2 Mango, diced
1 Small Purple Onion, diced
1 Jalapeno, diced
1 Bunch of Cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1/2 of lime (add more if you need)
Dash of Sea Salt
Dash of Garlic Powder

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl.  Place turkey legs in a roasting dish. Using a basting brush, slather marinade on turkey legs, cover dish and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  At this point, the coconut oil in the marinade with harden a bit but this is typical.  Once the turkey legs have marinated for at least 30 minutes, uncover and place in the oven.  Make sure you baste constantly.  In my mind, you can not over baste.  Turkey legs will take about an hour to cook, maybe more, depending on how often you baste.

While turkey is cooking, combine salsa ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Once turkey is complete, top turkey with salsa.

Transitions, Shmansitions.

19 Dec

Before I get into this post, I must wish a very heartfelt ‘refuah shleimah’, a renewal of body and spirit to my partner in blog, Jeremy.  Jeremy was hit by a car while walking home at night this past weekend.  Thank Gd, only suffering a nasty black and blue nose; the worst of it being the fact that the person who hit him drove off without offering apologies and responsibility.  If the past week hasn’t shown us enough, it’s a rough world out there folks.  Please make sure you look both ways and always remember to stop and say you’re sorry.

That's Jeremy, to my right, and the rest of our crew, being awesome on my wedding day.

That’s Jeremy, to my right, and the rest of our crew, being awesome on my wedding day.

It’s become increasingly obvious to me that one of the biggest challenges in parenting (for me at least) thus far, in all of my four and a half months of being a parent, is the number of transitions one goes through.  Let me get real on your a** for a moment.  I HATE transitions.  I mean it. I hate transitions.  And I’m a school counselor and I do not like using the word ‘hate’ but I’m gonna use it here because it’s true. The irony is, of course, that since I was 18 years old until we moved to Miami almost two years ago, I have been in a constant state of self-inflicted transition because of my inability to stay in one place. I lived in Chicago for 3.5 years and that was a wonder! I’ve lived for some amount of time in the following cities since I was 18 years old (I consider ‘lived’ being I had my own bed in an apartment, not crashing on a couch):  Wooster, OH; Milan, Italy; Washington, DC; Marietta, GA; Asheville, NC; Athens, GA; Jerusalem, Israel; Chicago, IL; Ann Arbor, MI; and Miami, FL.  I feel very strongly that I’m forgetting a city so maybe if Mom or Misty reads this they can fill me. Regardless, the point is I should be used to transitions by now but the fact of the matter is that I am not.  I don’t like them and I’m terrible at them. So it was a surprise for me when I had a little revelation that much of parenting is deeply imbedded in transitions and I might want to get over myself right quick-like.

I mention this because we are about two and a half weeks away from yet another transition—day care.  I spent the first 2.5 months of our baby’s life home with her during maternity leave.  If I’m being honest, I have to tell you, I truly struggled during maternity leave.  I was often unhappy during the first 2.5 months of my child’s life, not because I wasn’t head-over-heels for my little one but mainly because I couldn’t get to the purity of my love for her because I was dripping with anxiety and depression.  I so vividly remember asking my sister-in-law, Caitlin (found at her blog, The Joy of Caitlin), “Why doesn’t anyone tell you how hard this is?” And she so honestly said, “Because we want you to have kids.”   So it was difficult. It was difficult but it passed.  My husband took over our baby’s care when I went back to work and has been with her for the past 2 months.  He’s AMAZING with her and I count my blessings daily that he’s had this incredible opportunity to be with her.  I feel much more comfortable sending a 5 month old to day care rather than a 2.5 month old but I am still terrified.  I’ve already started telling my co-workers to be prepared to see me in a fit of tears the day we drop her off.  I should mention that we are doubly blessed that the day care is across the parking lot of the school I work in and I should feel better (always with the ‘shoulds’.  The ‘shoulds’ will drive you crazy) about sending her but I don’t. We’ve got such a nice little routine down and I feel a lot of comfort in the routine but come January 7th,  we will become a fulltime working family.  A coworker said to me yesterday, “Whitney. I don’t know how you leave her. I couldn’t leave my baby for 2 years.”  For which I replied, “Well, my landlord forces us to pay rent and I like eating so that’s how.”  Cheeky? Probably, but the point is we don’t have a choice so day care, here we come.

Someone Else in the Family is Starting to Enjoy Solids Too!

Someone Else in the Family is Starting to Enjoy Solids Too!

So what in the world does this have to do with today’s recipe? Absolutely nothing.  I just needed to get that out so thank you for listening.  Incidentally, this post’s recipe is one of my most favorite shabbat chicken recipes and follows in the footsteps of Jeremy’s Ina Garten post.  My dear friend, Annie, made this chicken for shabbat dinner on the first shabbat I landed in Ann Arbor (the second time. That’s right, I went back for more) and I fell in love.  It’s delicious, juicy and makes your guests think you’re a James Beard award-winning chef.  Bon Appetite!

P.S. I’m taking words of advice/encouragement re: the whole day care thing so please feel free to post in the comments section 🙂

Ina’s Lemon Chicken with Croutons (adapted)

What!?

  • 1 (4 to 5-pound) roasting chicken
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 in. rounds
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • 4 lemons, quartered
  • 6 cups (3/4-inch) bread cubes (I use fresh challah. It’s SO good)

How’s That Now!?

Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers. Toss the onion and carrots with a little olive oil in a small roasting pan. Place the chicken. Place the lemons inside the chicken and around the outside. Brush outside of chicken with the olive oil, and sprinkle the top with salt, garlic powder and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.

Roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh.  The key to the juiciness of this chicken is basting. Baste every 15 – 20 minutes! Cover with foil and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. (The onions may burn, but the flavor is good.)

Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until very hot. Lower the heat to medium-low and saute the bread cubes, tossing frequently, until nicely browned, 8 to

10 minutes. Add more olive oil, as needed, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place the croutons on a serving platter. Slice the chicken and place it, plus all the pan juices, over the croutons. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.

Pepper

Pepper

Carrots and Onions

Carrots and Onions

Ready for the Oven

Ready for the Oven

 

 

Deep Breath Chicken

2 Dec
Setting Up Ingredients

Setting Up Ingredients

Something happens when you have a baby. Something bizarre that NO ONE can prepare you for. People seem to lose their filter, especially women. I got a taste of this phenomenon when I was pregnant. People, especially women, loved to tell me their birth stories and more often than not these birth stories were horrifying! I get it. I get that experiencing and living through childbirth is something to be proud of, especially if that labor experience was a rough one. It’s a woman’s red badge of courage and you wanna get it out there–share how proud you are of yourself. However, it never made sense to me that a person, especially another woman, could tell a labor horror story to a visibly pregnant woman but people did and they did it a lot. I was looking forward to no longer hearing these stories once the little baby was here. What I didn’t expect to happen was that these stories would shift to strangers needing to tell you how well their babies sleep at night and how long they nursed their children for and yada yada yada. I’ve had strangers ask me if I breast feed like this is an acceptable question. That particular question is a trigger for me as I really struggled to nurse and eventually, just couldn’t produce enough so we went to straight formula. If you think one Shabbat night I didn’t break down for feeling betrayed by my body you would be mistaken. And so now, whenever anyone inappropriately asks me if I nurse I just throw it out there and watch the awkwardness set it, “Nope. Producing breast milk was nearly impossible for me so we feed her formula. Have a nice day!” You can see it on their faces, the “oh sh*t, did not expect you to be honest with me and now I feel super awkward” face. Maybe I should ease up on folks. I don’t see that happening but maybeI should 🙂

Chopped eggplant and zucchini

Recently, I had a coworker who I respect tell me out and out that what I was doing for my baby’s sleep routine was wrong. I mean she literally said, “You’re doing it all wrong”. Ummmmm, what? Don’t I look rested? Have you asked me if my baby is happy and healthy? Yikes. It was right then and there that I decided that this all had to stop. We, as women, NEED to stop judging one another for their parenting choices and we certainly have to stop scaring pregnant women and new mothers. I mean, for crying out loud, let’s be a little more nurturing here, yes? I’ll admit it, I’ve absolutely silently judged the choices of fellow parents but it is brutal enough out there as a woman, as a parent, etc. Therefore, I’m making the decision right here and now to stop it. It’s exhausting and not worth it. Why make it harder on each other? It boggles the mind. It really does. (Deep Exhale).

So why the rant? I could not stop thinking about this interaction all day on Friday. This, on top of some other stressful work stuff, resulted in me being THIS close to ordering Chinese food for Shabbat and calling it a day. But instead of taking the easy way out I seized the opportunity to cook while also having decent light for pictures and the result was what I am now calling, “Let’s All Take a BIG Deep Breath” Chicken. I hope you enjoy. Thanks for listening.

Take a deep breath---it smells DELICIOUS

Take a deep breath—it smells DELICIOUS

What?

1 1/2 – 2 pounds chicken leg quarters
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Coarse salt and pepper to taste
1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar (I substituted for Apple Cider Vinegar)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons freshly-minced parsley
2 tablespoons freshly-minced cilantro

How’s That Now?

1. In large skillet over medium high-heat, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season leg quarters with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Add leg quarters to pan, skin-side down. Brown chicken, turning once, 8 to 10 minutes per side. Remove chicken to plate and drain off all but 2 tablespoons oil.
2. Add eggplant to hot pan and cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add remaining tablespoon olive oil, along with zucchini, onion and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Raise heat to high and add white wine to pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add all other ingredients, except parsley and cilantro, and place chicken legs in mixture. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes or until cooked through or until an instant read thermometer reads 170F.
4. Do yourself a favor and serve this with Israeli Couscous. You’ll have a lot of leftover vegetable topping and it’ll go nicely on top of the couscous. Sprinkle with parsley and cilantro and enjoy!

I Miss Vacation

7 Aug

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

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

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

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

Shabbarbecue Menu:

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

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

Corn on the Cobb

Black Bean Salad (adapted from Simply Recipes)

Sweet & Spicy Chicken

What?!

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

How ?!

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

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

Chicken Kitchen

Mmm . . . garlic

Avocado & Jalapeno Potato Salad

What!?

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

Whit’s Guacamole

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

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

How?!

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

Black Bean Salad

What!?

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

How!?

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

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

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

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