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pesach is in the air!

27 Mar

I love Pesach for its down to earth, back to the basics frame of mind, and because I love the kitchen and Pesach affords me the time and opportunity to cook and bake with the most basic ingredients.

Pesach in the RAAWWW!  We’ve come a long way since the time that the only available kosher for Pesach items were potato starch, hisachdus salt, black pepper, and oil!  In my day, we already had chocolate syrup, chocolate bars, mayonnaise and, of course, Kedem raspberry syrup.  Not to mention a host of other products which my Mother did not deem in necessary to use.  We learned, above all how to do without.  We didn’t buy ground nuts.  We had bowls of whole walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts which we shelled for eating and baking.  And we did not have the convenience of purchasing pre checked, bug-free lettuce.  In those days, year round salads were comprised of iceberg lettuce, which we would cut into chunks (non checked!).  On Pesach, we bought Romaine lettuce, as a bitter herb and sometimes we mixed it with Belgian endives.  The endives did not need checking but the Romaine checking was a project delegated to my father and often started when he came home from shul seder night!

We’ve come a long way since those days of few available Pesach items.  Today there are Pesach stores dedicated to Pesach items, and even small Mom and Pop groceries (of which there are few left today!) have an aisle or two of Kosher L’Pesach items.

I must say that I get upset when I see blatant retakes on such chometz items as breakfast cereals, pasta, and even pizza and rolls (frozen) being marketed and sold.  How will the next generation view Pesach?  Certainly not with the “we can live without it” mentality that we were brought up with.  In our generation of  “anything goes”, and with our kids seeing little or no deprivation on Pesach,  is it surprising that unfortunately, for many youths, this mentality carries over into their every day life?

What can’t you live without for 8 days?

 

chanukah donuts

01 Dec

In Israel, sufganiyot (donuts) are sold exclusively for Chanukah and are not available for purchase the rest of the year. You can feel Chanukah in the air starting shortly after Rosh Chodesh CHESHVAN, when the stores start selling the most awesome donuts.  Their presence is noted by their prominent displays in store windows and it serves to set off the mood for the upcoming Chanukah season.  They’re all super delicious  –  whether they be custard filled, jelly filled, chocolate, or caramel filled – I can’t decide on a favorite.  Actually, whichever one I am eating at that moment is my favorite! 
Where I live, donuts are sold in bakeries and bagel shops all year round, so seeing them in the stores doesn’t automatically create an anticipation of Chanukah. . The donuts and sufganiyot are also not all created equal.  My favorite store-bought ones (after the free ones given out at KosherWest Supermarket each day of Chanukah ;)) are the ones from Shloime’s Bakery in Brooklyn which are also sold in Lakewood, at Gingerbread House.  But still, nothing compares to the fresh, homemade ones I make each year.  To kick off the Chanukah season here, I am going to post different varieties of homemade donuts every few days.  Please rate them in your comments and feel free to email me (koshercheesecake@gmail.com) your favorite donut recipe for possible inclusion. 

photo credit: Bakingandbooks.com

 

compliments to the chef

03 Oct

In addition to the pleasure of serving my family delicious foods on Shabbos and Yom Tov, my husband and I enjoy having guests over for some of the meals, giving me an opportunity to serve to others what has become “ordinary” to my family.  Such was the case, this Rosh Hashana, when I had a gentleman eating over for lunch as I presented my traditional stuffed veal pocket to the table.  I must say, the roast looked perfect – large and impressive, with juices oozing out onto the platter.  Because I serve this to my family at least twice a year, nobody looked terribly impressed, although I am sure that they were salivating.  Yet, our guest requested that I please not slice the roast for a few minutes so that he can just feast his eyes on the beautiful dish.  This statement and his genuine appreciation for the food he would soon eat, elevated the dish to greatness.  I granted his request and even turned the platter around so he could view the roast from all angles.

The roast was as delicious as it looked.  When dessert time rolled around, the kind gentleman said he would pass on dessert.  I sent my young son to serve him a portion of just baked Chocolate Chile Bread Pudding and to say “my Mother said ‘you’re not serious'”.  He laughed, accepted the dessert and swooned over it.  When he left, he said “believe me, I’ve been around – but you are the best cook in Lakewood!”.  Mr. W. may say this to every hostess he greets but it sure made me feel great and I will be happy to host him time and again with compliments like that!

 

kid’s quick honey cookies

23 Sep

So this blog post is being forced upon me by my two nieces who have the perfect recipe and 4 hands to get these cookies done in thirty minutes. Thirty minutes from start to finish includes baking time, but not cleanup. They are kids after all.

So here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of flour (from mom’s counter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (not from the container keeping the fridge odorless)
  • 3/4 cup of oil (from that unending cabinet under the sink)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (coffee cabinet)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup honey

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Measure out the ingredients. Carefully

Crack some eggs. Carefully

 

Combine all ingredients in mixer bowl.  Fight over who gets to turn on the mixer.

Then take the mush and make little ballies. Like so

Check to make sure there is ample space between the rows, so the cookies don’t join together. Like so:

Insert carefully into the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove.  Sprinkle with some confectionery sugar and put it away in the Cookie Jar until Rosh Hashanah!

 

 

the hot dog taste-off

20 Jul

My 10-year old son would eat hot dogs daily for breakfast, lunch and supper – if I’d let him.  And certainly, on any given day, he is likely to come home from school or day camp and eat a hot dog or two for snack, before dinner is served a couple of hours later.  So I always have hot dogs in my fridge, and when my husband came home from Costco last week, with a package of Abeles & Heymann hot dogs, which is known to be a top of the line frankfurter, I decided to do a testing of several brands to see if it is indeed “the best”!

We compared 4 different brands, all of which were kosher beef frankfurters.  There was Aaron’s, Abeles & Heymann, Meal Mart and Solomon.  All were 2 oz. hot dogs except for Solomon’s, which was less than 1 3/4 oz.  All 5 tasters agreed that Aaron’s was the #1 tasting hot dog.  Firm in texture (it was also the thinnest hot dog), it had a nice smokey flavor, which did not disappoint.  Abeles & Heymann came in second, more for it’s plump, juicy texture than for its’ flavor.  Solomon, had the lightest color, and came in a close third – with its’ hot dog also having a nice texture and flavor but somehow lacking a bit of oomph.  Surprisingly, the Meal Mart hot dog came in fourth, and was unremarkable.

After we tasted, we ate, and realized that, after all that, once the hot dog is in the bun, with all the trimmings, it was hard to differentiate one from the other!

 
 

a remarkable birthday gathering

30 Mar

In addition to some of the hats I wear, I help to arrange a retreat for women, to benefit Keser Kavod, an organization that provides hairpieces for men and children with illness and hair conditions.  Our Winter retreat is an event that many women look forward to.  A good part of the camaraderie that unites these women of different ages and diverse backgrounds can be attributed to our star speaker, Mrs. Miryam Swerdlov.  In her very real way, with immense depth and witty delivery, she captures the essence of who we are and gives us the encouragement to accept and appreciate what we have, and to move on with our lives. “Look at life through the windshield, not through the rear view mirror”, is a typical Miryam phrase. 

So, we had our retreat February 22nd of this year, at which time Miryam invited us to her home for her upcoming Yom Holedes (birthday) on the 22nd of Adar. About 20 women showed up at her Crown Heights home yesterday afternoon, coming from Lakewood :), Boro Park, Flatbush, Williamsburg, Monsey & Monroe.  We can always count on our nucleus, the core of our group – the women that come with us year after year, to show up.  Miryam, single-handedly, set a beautiful dining room table, and transformed her kitchen island into an elegant buffet of food, even as dessert eyed us from the kitchen table.

We served ourselves from the wide array of food in the kitchen, which we carried to and ate in the dining room.  There were beautiful salads, sushi, bagels, lox, tuna & egg salad, roasted potatoes, hot soup, cabbage & noodles, and several types of crackers and breadsticks.  While we ate, we heard inspiring music from Morah Music, interspersed with words of wisdom and chizuk from Miryam, and spontaneous dancing.

After lunch, we sat or stood around the kitchen table drinking coffee and eating cheesecake, but mostly savoring these moments of friendship until the next time this wondrous group reunites, hopefully soon, with the coming of Moshiach, bimhaia b’yameinu, Amein.  (I guess my surroundings rubbed off on me!)

 
 

a super burger

22 Mar

I had this grand idea to order a bread in the shape of a large bagel to fill with deli meat and serve at the Purim Seuda.  Somehow, the bakery misunderstood and made me a large 12″ round bread without a hole!  Well, it was no longer suitable for a deli sandwich so yours truly got out some chopped meat and made a super huge, fabulous, hamburger!!  I fried it in a frying pan while I cut and filled the bread with lots of ketchup pickles and lettuce.  The massive burger was cut into wedges and was the talk of the table!

 
 

aranygaluska

17 Mar

I was quite organized this week so I got all my baking orders for Purim and deliveries out of the way.  Today, Tannis Esther is a nidcheh (pushed off) as it is usually a day before Purim (Shabbos this year), and we do not fast on Shabbos unless it is Yom Kippur.  So that leaves me with a free day to make what I’d like for the breaking of the fast tonight, and for Purim.  My plan today is to make hamantashen, which I have only made once in my life when I tried it in a dairy variety, dairy chocolate bobka and rugelach and Aranygaluska.  Wikipedia defines Aranygaluska as Hungarian sweet dumplings.  In actuality, it is balls of a rich yeast dough dipped in oil and rolled in ground walnuts.  It is then layered and baked in a tube pan and traditionally served (at least in homes of Hungarian background) on Purim.   We always had a (slightly overbaked ;)) Aranygaluska straight out of the oven on Purim.  It is similar to monkey bread in that it’s eaten “pull-apart” style as opposed to in slices.  When I googled Aranygaluska, I saw a picture of one which had lekvar (prune jam) filling in each ball.  Although not authentic in my mother’s home, I think I will make it that way today since I love the lekvar filling and look for opportunities to use it.  I think the best option for a fresh cake, would be to freeze it raw and then thaw and bake it fresh on Purim morning.

This is a recipe that was printed in Mishpacha’s Family First Magazine in the March 5, 2008 edition.  I tried it that year and must have been in one of my organized moments, because I found it just where I thought it would be and in a protective plastic sleeve. I am glad I was able to find it now.

 

ARANYGALUSKA

Ingredients

  • 6 1/2 cups (2lbs + 4 oz) or 1 Kilo flour
  • 1 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice (use milk if making it dairy)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

TOPPING:

  • oil
  • 3 cups choppped/ground walnuts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla sugar

Directions

Place the flour, margarine, and sugars into a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, pour the lukewarm water over the yeast and wait 2-3 minutes.  Add this to the flour, along with the apple juice, egg yolks, and salt.  Mix together until it forms a dough.  The dough should be soft and pliable.  Tranfer the dough to a bowl sprinkled generously with flour.  Cover and let the dough rise for 45 minutes.

After the dough is risen, transfer it to a work surface and roll it out gently to a 1/2-inch thickness.  Use a glass with a 3-inch rim and cut out circle.  Cover the circles and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Prepare two bowls.  Pour some oil into the first; in the second one, combine the walnuts with the sugar and vanilla sugar.

Lightly grease two tube pans with removable bottoms.  Working quickly, dip the dough circles into oil and then coat them with the nut/sugar mixture. Put the coated balls inside the pan to form layers.  Sprinkle additional nut mixture on top of each completed layer, until you have three layers in all.  The cake should reach about 3/4 of the height of the pan.  Repeat the same process with the second pan.  If using lekvar filling, put a teaspoon or two of the jam in the center of each round.  form into a ball, enclosing the filling.  Then dip in oil and nuts and described above.  Rise 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake for 45 minutes.  Let cool.  Use both hands to carefully remove the cake from around the tube.  Serve whole on a cake plate, and expect the balls to be pulled apart for eating.

yield: 2 cakes

 
 

a trip to the city

07 Mar

To a Brooklyn girl like me, Manhattan will always be known as “the city”.  How I love the city!  I love the noise, the excitement, the hustle and bustle, the shopping and the shops.  I had to be in Manhattan briefly today and found a parking spot within a block of my destination.  I struggled with the muni meter and noticed I had parked in front of a bake shop called “Crumbs” on Amsterdam and 77th Street.  This area is traditionally known as the West Side.  I made a mental note to check out the shop before heading back to New Jersey.  The sign in the window said <strong>CUPCAKES, Made by hand, baked with love</strong>.  Little did I know that this was one of close to 20 stores bearing the Crumbs name!  An hour later, as I stepped into the store to view the selection, I noticed an orthodox kashrus certificate in the window.  I called my friend Y. who lives on the West Side to ask her about it and she said “some people eat there, and some don’t – just so you know, they are open on Shabbos”.  I thought, ‘Ok, not for me, but at least I can walk in!’ .  There was a nice long counter filled with the most appetizing looking pastries, each accompanied by signs with enticing sounding flavors, and the number of calories per serving!  Now that is daring, but it doesn’t seem as though it affects business.  the shop had a steady stream of customers some staying to sit and have a cup of coffee and others on the run.  Some of the cake flavors included, Rainbow Sprinkle, Squiggle, Red Velvet, Black-out (one of my favorites), Carrot Cake, and the most adorable 4″ birthday cake with chocolate frosting and 6 deflated icing balloons on top.  They had whoopie pies in Chocolate and Red Velvet, and cupcakes in innovative flavors and in 4 sizes ranging from the mini to the colossal.  Naturally, I didn’t try any of these delicacies and although I was able to see their kitchen through the door, I learned that the pastries were not made on the premises but came from a wholesale outfit in the Bronx.  Nevertheless, the store’s clean look and updated ambiance created a nice coffee shop atmosphere and I am pretty sure that the pastries were equally good.

 
 

sunday musings

06 Mar

Our living room is usually not used during the week for casual entertaining.  But I do like to sit on my couch to say tehillim and to daven.  Today, my mother knocked on the door as I was saying tehillim and joined me on the living room couch.  I offered her something to drink – a coffee or perhaps some carrot juice?  She said she can’t “afford” (to drink) carrot juice.  We shmoozed for a bit, when my sister-in-law E. happened by and joined us.  After a few minutes she went to “the cabinet” where unsellable baked items are placed for family enjoyment.  You never know what you may find in “the cabinet”.  It usually has biscotti, but today she found butter cookies.  These are traditional Hungarian butter cookies or vajas pogasca.  They are round cookies, about 1/2 inch thick, with a grid design on top, traditionally baked on a high shelf in the oven so it can bake through without burning the bottoms.  They are dry with a rich buttery flavor, perfect with a coffee.  Mom’s eyes lit up.  “Now we’re talking”, she said and asked for a coffee to go with it.  Isn’t it interesting that the carrot juice is “unaffordable”, but the butter cookies and coffee are fine!  I guess the cookie just didn’t do it for E. or she had her mind on something else because she asked if I had any chocolate chip cookies.  “Sure” I said.  “In the last freezer on the left, on the second shelf , there’s a box  which has an opening on top that will fit a hand.  Please bring me one while you’re at it!”  And that is how it happened, that on a random Sunday morning I entertained my Mother and SIL with cookies and coffee in the Living Room.