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Great News + Cauliflower Tomato Bake with Basil & Parmesan

22 Jan

Cauliflower-tomato-parmesan-Jewhungry-kosher-blog

Good morning!  I hope ya’ll are doing wonderfully.  I am currently enjoying the decadence that is a chocolate croissant from Aroma Espresso Bar so obviously, I’m doing great. Sure, I have a cold and deadlines and I missed work yesterday and I’m under a bit of stress but, did I mention the chocolate croissant!? Sometimes a delicious chocolate croissant really does make it all better.

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet as I am THIS close to unveiling the new Jewhungry redesign so needed to take a break from posting new content so as not to interfere with the unveiling.  However, a few exciting things happened this week in my world o’ blogging and food and I just couldn’t NOT share, Jew know?

le creuset- jewhungry-blog

 

First things first, I received the most beautiful, HUGE, ruby red Le Creuset Dutch oven (see above) yesterday as a result of winning This American Bite’s Most Inspiring Recipe of 2013.  I was so dang excited when the UPS guy dropped it off that I gave him several freshly baked cookies that had just come out of the oven.  I honestly would have hugged him but I didn’t want to give him the wrong impression.  Yesterday also brought a feature of Jewhungry on My Jewish Learning’s site, The Nosher (see the full interview here).  And today brings the accompanying recipe to the interview.  Here are a few pictures to get you drooling so make sure you head on over to The Nosher for the full recipe.

See you at the Redesign Unveiling, I hope!

xo

cauliflower-tomato-parmesan-bake-jewhungry-blog

tomato-cauliflower-parmesan-bake-jewhungry

Kale & Butternut Squash Quesadilla? Yay! New Years? Meh.

29 Dec

quesadilla-kale-butternut-squash-jewhungry-blog

 

For the passed several years, New Years has been a weird time for me. It’s not for the regular, semi-cliched reasons either. I don’t get sad when I reflect and let it sink in that yet another year has come and gone, though I do get blown away by how quickly time truly does go by. Nope. New Years has become a weird, confusing time for me lately because, well, I already did New Years.

As observant Jews, my husband and I celebrate the new year in the Fall during Rosh Hashanah, known to the world as “Jewish New Year”. That’s the time of year that I get a bit more reflective and/or contemplative. That’s the time of year that I seek to change negative behaviors I see in myself while maintaining the good stuff I see in myself. It’s during this “New Years” that I reach out to old friends to tell them how much I miss them and to make promises to be in contact more often, though we both know it’s probably not going to happen. And because we read the same portion from the Torah every Rosh Hashanah, it’s so much easier to remember just where I was the year before, both spiritually and physically.

I’ll never forget Rosh Hashanah from three years ago. I sat in synagogue listening to the haftorah story of Hannah and her desperate want/pleads to have a child. I sat in that service and so identified with her. My husband and I desperately wanted to be pregnant. I don’t think I ever prayed so hard as I did that new year—begging Hashem to bless us with a child and asking Gd if he/she wouldn’t mind glossing over some questionable behaviors from my early 20s and maybe focusing more on my recent work to help up the blessing ‘ante’. Sure enough, one year later, we brought our 6 week-old baby with us to the very same synagogue to listen to the very same Torah portion and I truly never felt more grateful (or tired. She was only 6 weeks old, after all).

So, you see, this whole December 31st/January 1st thing isn’t such a big deal over here. Now, I’ll take any excuse to by champagne on sale and I do love the glitter that comes with this New Years (mental note: Find way to bring more glitter into Rosh Hashanah), but we already had our New Years’ time of intense reflection. We still do a little count down because we are citizens of this Earth and I do LOVE watching the ball drop from Time’s Square (mental note: Find way to bring a giant ball drop in Time’s Square into Rosh Hashanah) but we don’t go all out for New Years. Last year we started a little tradition of making homemade sushi and setting up the air mattress on the balcony for dinner and a movie al fresco but chances are, I’ll be asleep by 11.

Happy New Year.

There's no "i" in "Team", but there is kale.

There’s no “i” in “Team”, but there is kale.

 

Ok, I made this recipe last Tuesday and I have to say, it’s one of my new favorites. The crispness of a lightly buttered and fried tortilla mingled with the soft, sweetness of butternut squash and Monterrey Jack cheese just does good things to me. You don’t need a lot of spice to this recipe because the natural flavors of the veggies and cheese do it for you. Make sure your kale is chopped small so you can easily get a good bite out of it once it’s in the tortilla and enjoy!

As you can see by the pan, I really do cook these here recipes.

As you can see by the pan, I really do cook these here recipes.

 

Nerd alert: I honestly do pay close attention to what goes in which layer when I make a quesadilla.

Nerd alert: I honestly do pay close attention to what goes in which layer when I make a quesadilla.

 

 

Cheese: It's the glue that holds us (and this quesadilla) together.

Cheese: It’s the glue that holds us (and this quesadilla) together.

 

When it comes to quesadillas, it really is ALL about what's inside.

When it comes to quesadillas, it really is ALL about what’s inside.

Kale and Butternut Squash Quesadilla:

(Makes 3 – 4 Quesadillas)

What:

1 Cup of kale, destemmed and chopped small
1 Cup of roasted butternut squash (see roasting direction here)
2 Cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 Tbsp cumin
Salt
Pepper
3 Tbsp of oil – Coconut or olive works nicely
Flour or whole wheat tortillas
Butter – for pan
1/2 – 3/4 Cup shredded cheese (I recommend Monterrey Jack or white cheddar)

How:

Break out a sauté pan, turn the stove to medium, and put your oil of choice in the pan (coconut or olive are my go-to). Thrown in your kale and sauté for just 1 minute. Next, throw in the garlic and sauté for another minute or so or until kale is bright green. Remove for heat immediately, place in separate bowl and set aside.

Next, wipe the pan down with a paper towel and put a little bit of butter in it. Turn the heat to medium low and place one tortilla in the pan followed but a layer of shredded cheese. Next, add your sautéed kale/garlic mixture and top that with a heaping scoop of butternut squash. Smush the squash down a bit so it’s evenly spread out in the center of the tortilla. Next, add another layer of shredded cheese and the other tortilla. Once that final tortilla top is on, give the quesadilla a nice final smush so that everything gets nicely “stuck” together. Let tortilla sit on the heat for 2-3 minutes, checking a few times to make sure it’s not burning. The secret to the perfect golden and melted quesadilla is too cook it slow and low (heat). After you’ve checked and the bottom tortilla looks good and golden, carefully flip quesadilla over using a wide spatula. If you feel it necessary, and I ALWAYS feel it’s necessary, add a bit more butter to the pan and make sure it gets under the new bottom tortilla. Let sit another 2-3 minutes, checking for perfect golden-ness. Once done, remove and serve hot with favorite toppings (my go-to are sour cream, Sriracha and cilantro).

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?

Potato Latkes with Sriracha Cheddar Sauce

3 Nov

latke 9I love Shabbat.  I love it so much.  With a job that requires A LOT of giving and taking care of others, my need for ‘me’ time and being able to be with my hubby and daughter is invaluable.  As a result, I get a little selfish with my Shabbat.  I don’t like sharing my Shabbat time.  I want to be able to sleep when I want, eat when I want and relax on my time-table (well, the time-table that is Siona’s time-table, but whatever).  I get kind of sweaty when a proposal is made to go out for Shabbat, even if the invitation is from a loved-one.  I can’t help it.  My first thought is generally whether or not the host will have coffee and then that thought is quickly followed by a frantic search for my ear plugs in case there is some sort of noise-issue that I’ll need to cancel out (I’ve mentioned my anxiety before, right?) Anywho, a happy compromise of my own selfish need to NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE for one whole day has resulted in inviting our loved ones to us.  It works out perfectly.  I get to cook, sleep in my own bed and I KNOW there will be coffee. This Shabbat we hosted our dear friends, Zak and Batsheva (they happen to be bakers.  They happen to have brought AMAZING food with them).  It was a wonderful Shabbat.  I am so grateful.

Almost bedtime

This picture has no context within this post. I just love that face.

Adjustments.

Sand check.

And yet, here it is, 2pm on Sunday and all that rest from Shabbat has gone out the window.  Thanks to the awesomeness that is the ending of Daylight Savings Time, Siona woke up at ‘new’ 5:30.  Rather than wallowing in being awake WAY too early, we decided to make some delicious lemonade out of extremely tired lemons and hit the beach for a sunrise picnic breakfast.  So yes, it’s 2pm, I’ve already lost any remaining ‘restful’ feeling I may have had from this past Shabbat but I’m already in love with this weekend so much.  And if an amazing picnic breakfast wasn’t enough, we topped this off with an insanely decadent lunch of latkes with Sriracha cheddar sauce.  I’m sure I’ve written about my insane love of cheese fries before, right?  Just as a recap, I love them.  I love them so much. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Well if you love them so much, why don’t you just marry them?”  I would.  I would so marry cheese fries.  It had been a while since I enjoyed a nice basket of cheese fry-glory and my craving was getting intense.  And then it hit me.  Holy crap.  Latkes.  Thanksgivukkah is just around the corner.  I need to get a latke recipe out there and latkes are basically Jewish French fries.  Might as well make some latkes and top them with a boat-load of cheddar sauce so, badda boom badda bing, latkes with cheddar sauce. And while I was on the subject, might as well throw some Sriracha in there and make it a party, right? Right.

Hello lemons, meet your lemonade.

Hello lemons, meet your lemonade.

And now for your latke-viewing pleasure . . .

The cold soak prevents browning -- it's a MUST.

The cold soak prevents browning — it’s a MUST.

Fried Friends

Fried Friends

Nothing left to say.

Nothing left to say.

latke 4

Bring it on.  Bring it ALL on.

Bring it on. Bring it ALL on.

We survived.  Let's get decadent.

We survived. Let’s get decadent.

Potato Latkes with Sriracha Cheddar Sauce (latke recipe adapted from The Shiksa )

Latke Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 large white onion
  • 3/4 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp potato starch
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • Sunflower oil for frying (about 1 1/2 cups)

Latke Directions:

Peel the potatoes, then grate them using a hand grater or food processor shredding attachment with fine holes (small shreds). I really recommend using the food processor, it saves a ton of time and will help you avoid onion tears when grating the onion.  Place grated potato into a bowl and immediately cover with cold water.

Meanwhile, grate the onion using the same grater or attachment you used for the potatoes (fine holes for small shreds).  Drain the potato shreds in a colander. Rinse and dry the bowl used to soak the shreds and set aside.  Place drained potato shreds and grated onion in the center of a clean tea towel or multiple layers of cheesecloth. Wrap the shreds up in the cloth, twisting the cloth to secure the bundle, and squeeze firmly to remove excess liquid from the shreds.

Pour potato and onion into the clean dry bowl. Stir the shreds with a fork to make sure the grated onion is evenly mixed throughout the potato shreds.

Add oil to a large frying pan that reaches a depth of 1/8 inch. Heat slowly over medium to about 365 degrees F. While oil is heating, use the fork to stir the matzo meal, , beaten eggs, Sriracha, garlic powder, salt and pepper into the potato and onion shreds. You can add more seasoning as you go.  I find the oil over powers so I add more seasoning as I go. You can also sprinkle on more salt to taste after cooking, if desired. Take care to make sure the egg and seasonings are fully mixed throughout the potato shreds.

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 potato 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 potato 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. Note: If your latkes aren’t holding together, stir more matzo meal into the mixture, 2 teaspoons at a time, until the batter “holds”. You can also add another egg, if needed.  Remove the latkes from the frying pan and let oil soak on paper towel.

Sriracha Cheddar Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha (add more as needed)

How:

Melt the butter in a 4-quart sauce pan over medium heat.  When the butter has melted and has started to bubble, whisk in the flour; whisk continuously until smooth, about 1 minute.  Gradually whisk in the milk until no lumps remain.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook milk mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens and bubbles, about 3  minutes.

Remove sauce pan from the heat and by the handful, stir in the cheeses allowing all of the cheese to melt into the sauce before adding more.  Stir in the Sriracha until well combined.  Taste and add more Sriracha as needed.

A Spicy Tofu Eggplant Stir-Fry: A Meat-Eater Meets his Match

30 Aug

You know, I should really make a holiday to celebrate my dear friend, Jessie.  Upon reflection, I realized that without Jessie, I may not have met some really important and incredible people in my life.  One of these incredible people, besides my husband, is Stef, the guest author of this post.  Stef is one of those people who is the full package — outrageously funny, kind, smart, and beautiful.  I remember asking her years ago how she met her husband (at the time, they were just dating) and I remember loving this love story.   I’m sure you will too.  Shabbat shalom, Whit xoxox

P.S.  Follow Stef and Matt’s journey as new Israelis here.

 

 

When I asked my husband which food he thought most represented our love, he answered without hesitation: tofu.

On Our Wedding Day in Jerusalem

On Our Wedding Day in Jerusalem

Like Whitney, I met my husband, Matt, in the holy city of Jerusalem, but it took us a bit longer to realize we were meant to be. On my first day at the Pardes Institute in 2006, where I planned to study for 3 years, my closest friend turned to me and asked me who I thought was cute. I immediately picked out my future husband, despite the fact that he was wearing cut-off hospital pants, a “wife-beater” tank-top, and mismatched red and blue converse high tops. It took us a few weeks to actually have a conversation (although my husband doesn’t remember it) and a couple months until we became friends. Since he was in a relationship with someone else at the time and I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship myself, we continued to be just friends for the remainder of the year. In the first days of our friendship, Matt came over to my apartment for dinner. That year also happened to be the year I reintroduced meat into my diet after many year of vegetarianism. While I had begun eating some meat, I still preferred to (and generally still do) cook vegetarian. When Matt came over for dinner that night early on in our friendship, I told him I was making tofu. A look of uncertainty and fear washed over his face. He admitted to not having a lot of “experience” eating tofu and to not liking it so much, but agreed to try it nonetheless. I don’t think I could truthfully say that fell in love with tofu that night, but he did eat it and that’s a good first step.
At our LA Wedding Reception

At our LA Wedding Reception

Fast-forward to today: we have been married for four years and tofu is a still a staple part of our diet. How did that happen? The simple answer (to both the questions of marriage and tofu) is love.
After our year of friendship, Matt moved back to the US and I began my second year of school in Jerusalem. Now, with both of us available and thousands of miles between us, we decided it was the right time to start dating. This was confirmed the week I came back to the States for a friend’s wedding. We knew we wanted to see each other before committing to a long-distance relationship, so I planned a detour on my trip to meet him for a weekend. Unfortunately, the only time such a visit could be arranged was over the holiday of Yom Kippur, a 25-hour fast day where we are meant to focus on repentance and atonement. It would have to do. Even though we spent much of the visit davening (praying) in shul (synagogue) on separate sides of the mehitzah, it was enough for us to know that we were ready to do this. We survived the distance and the following year Matt got a job in Israel so we could spend my 3rd year of school together.
Finally in the same place, we began to share many more meals together and I began to learn about all the foods Matt did or did not like. On the list of “not-likes” was, you guessed it, tofu. To add insult to injury, he also claimed to not like spicy food, something that characterized almost everything I ate. Here’s where love comes into play. Despite his specific dislikes (those previously mentioned, among others), Matt always tried every single dish I cooked. And to both our surprise, he liked more things than he thought he did. If you ask him, Matt will still claim that anything I make with tofu would taste better with chicken, but he eats it and, dare I say, he enjoys it. At the end of my final year of school, we got married in Jerusalem (at a vegetarian restaurant) on Tu B’Av, the Jewish day of love, and the rest is history.
Falling in Love in Jerusalem

Falling in Love in Jerusalem

Over the course of our marriage, my husband has grown to like other previously disliked foods as well, including spicy food. I still prefer to cook vegetarian during the week (we save the meat for Shabbat) and this Spicy Tofu Eggplant Stir-fry is one of our go-to meals. If you don’t like spicy food, heads up, this is a real mouth burner.

Spicy Tofu Eggplant Stir-fry (adapted from a “learn to cook vegetarian” book I had in college)

What

2 Tbsp Cooking Oil (you can choose: canola, olive, coconut, etc.)
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp (or more) Fresh Ginger, minced
1-2 Tbsp Chinese Chili Garlic Sauce (the hero of this dish)
1 block of Tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes, drained
1 small or 1/2 large Eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes, pre-steamed if you like softer eggplant
Any other vegetable of your choice: red pepper cut into strips, mushrooms, zucchinni, spinach, water chestnuts, etc.
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Tsp Corn Starch
1/2 cup water
2-3 Green Onions, diced

How

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok, add garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add Chinese chili sauce (adjust for taste) and simmer for another minute. Add the drained tofu cubes and cook for a few minutes until the tofu absorbs the garlic mixture. Add the eggplant and stir-fry until cooked through.
Working with Tofu

Working with Tofu

Mix together soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, corn starch and water in a separate bowl. At this point add any additional vegetables and then the sauce mixture to the pan. Cook until vegetables reach desired tenderness. In the last minute, add green onion.
DSCF2872
Serve over brown rice and enjoy!
Spicy Love

Spicy Love

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

A *Giveaway* because . . . Surprise! It’s My Kid’s Hebrew Birthday!

26 Jul
My sweet girl just one HOUR old.

My sweet girl just one HOUR old.

Today is my daughter’s first Hebrew birthday. I want to write something poetic about that fact. I’d like to connect the meaning of her Hebrew birthday with the meaning of her name, Siona, which happens to be the feminine form of Sion, Hebrew for Zion, but I can’t. I can’t do that because I have never celebrated a Hebrew birthday in my life; not even a little bit. In fact, I wouldn’t have even known that today is my daughter’s Hebrew birthday if it weren’t for my very sweet and dear friend, Sharona, who told me that today is the day. I had texted her to see if she wanted to go out on a lady-date next Wednesday but she declined because that’s HER daughter’s first Hebrew birthday, “So”, she texted me, “That means that Friday is Siona’s Hebrew birthday!” (insert cricket chirps here and blank staring at text message here).

To be honest, I didn’t text her back after receiving text. In fact, I let it sit for a day or so before responding because I felt like such a farce for not even knowing my kid’s Hebrew birthday. Hell, I don’t even know my own Hebrew birthday!

Siona's Simchat Bat - her Jewish life is beginning.

Siona’s Simchat Bat – her Jewish life is beginning.

It takes a lot for me to feel self-conscious about something; I consider myself pretty confident in most of the important areas (i.e. competency as a wife, in my job, healthy sense of self) but my confidence levels in my Judaism have always yo-yoed. I mean, I’ve worked in Jewish organizations for the majority of my professional life. I’ve been to Israel more times than I can count. I sent myself to Yeshiva for a year when I was 28. I named my kid Siona, for crying out loud!  But I didn’t learn the full Birkat Hamazon until I was 29. I’m pretty sure it’s been 5771 for like, 5 years now and I often get our forefathers, Joseph and Isaac confused (thank Gd for the musical, ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dream Coat’ because seriously, that’s what I use to remember who is whom when I’m occasionally sitting with a student and walking them through Judaics homework; “Give Mrs. Fisch a moment, honey. I’m trying to recall which one had the fabulous coat.”). All those gaps in my Jewish knowledge coupled with an expectation that, as a Jewish professional who keeps Shabbat and kosher and has a daughter named Siona, sometimes accumulates to me feeling “less than”. “Less than” whom?  I’m not sure (p.s. Gang, are you picking up how many times I used ‘whom’ in this post?! I’m hoping all the English majors in my life will be proud). But when I was standing there on the other end of that text, receiving the information of the fact that my daughter’s Hebrew birthday is upon me from another mom, I felt like an idiot. And let me just state that later that night, when I told my husband that Siona’s Hebrew birthday was 2 days away he responded, “Cool”, and went about his business.  Ahhh, how much simpler life might occasionally be if I were man.

Two weeks old

What? Me worry? (2 weeks old)

Playing in the sand in Montana - 11 1/2 months old.  Where does the time go!?

Playing in the sand in Montanan- 11 1/2 months old. Where does the time go!?

I’m not sure what we’ll do to celebrate our daughter’s day, if anything. I’ve been eyes-deep in Pinterest, doing menu -planning and decoration-planning for her 1st English birthday. But I’ve come up with nothing to celebrate today or to make it something special for her or for us as a family.  But, she’ll be one so she will have the same memories of this birthday as she will have of her English birthday, which is to say she’ll have no memories. Yet, I’m huge into positive family traditions of all kinds so I’d like to do something. I’m very curious as to what you have done to celebrate your or your child’s Hebrew birthday? What are some traditions you’ve incorporated into your family to celebrate this day?  I’d really love to hear from you so if you don’t mind taking the time and jotting down a few ideas/traditions in the comments portion of this post, I’d be very grateful.

I’m not sure if our child will attend Jewish Day School but I do know that whatever we can do in the home to build positive associations/feelings/connection to our children’s Judaism will do more for them than anything else done Jewishly outside of the home. Plus, I mean, I am deeply obsessed with like birthdays so any excuse to celebrate a loved one’s birthday more than once is always a good thing in my book.

A free trip to Israel via the pages of this gorgeous book.

A free trip to Israel via the pages of this gorgeous book.

Orly'z traditional shakshuka -- my idea of Sunday morning brunch heaven.

Orly’z traditional shakshuka — my idea of Sunday morning brunch heaven.

So, because its my daughter’s surprise Hebrew birthday, I’d thought I’d give YOU, my dear readers, a chance at receiving a beautiful gift. I was blessed to have Orly Ziv’s stunning new Israeli cookbook, Cook in Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration, sent to me by the cookbook’s talented photographer, Katherine Martinelli. Orly is a talented nutritionist, cooking instructor, and culinary tour guide in Israel. Cook in Israel, her first cookbook, is filled with 100 kosher, mostly vegetarian recipes accompanied by beautiful color photographs (including many step-by-step illustrations). The cookbook shows that healthy and delicious home cooking doesn’t need to be time-consuming or complicated. Flipping through the pages of this cookbook is like being transported to Jerusalem’s famous shuk (market). I swear, all it needs is a scratch-and-sniff za’atar sticker and you are IN Israel. The book is available for $35 plus shipping OR you could simply click on the Rafflecopter link below for up to 6 ways to up your chances of winning your own copy. The giveaway will run until, Friday, August 9th, at midnight and the winner will be announced on Monday, August 12th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Go to Cook In Israel to find out more about Orly, her culinary tours, cooking classes and how to purchase this book, which you can do here. BUT, if you want to SAVE yourself $35 plus shipping, enter into the giveaway via the link above and remember, some options you can do daily so come back often.  Also, note that this giveaway is open to those living in Israel too!!!

Good luck and . . . Yom Huledet Sameach, Siona!

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