Recipe Remake: Apple Dumplings with Cider Sauce

Perhaps you know the recipe. Perhaps you have one like it, but for another dish. It is easy, quick and usually unhealthy, and involves a “surprise” ingredient.

I don’t like surprises.

This recipe is for Apple Dumplings, and the surprise is sugary soda. The original recipe calls for apple slices wrapped in canned crescent rolls topped with a butter-sugar mixture and drenched in Mountain Dew before baking. While I love the idea of a quick and easy apple dumpling recipe, the thought of baking with Mountain Dew left me feeling a little queasy. So I spent a week remaking this dorm-style recipe into an amazing dessert.

Continue reading “Recipe Remake: Apple Dumplings with Cider Sauce”

1 Pot Magic: Lamb with Orzo

1 Pot Magic: Braised Lamb with Orzo

When my mother gave birth to me, her first baby, at the young age of 24, my maternal grandparents hired a baby nurse to help her and my father navigate the first weeks of caring for a newborn. The nurse was a robust and bossy Greek woman. She taught my mother how to diaper and feed me, helped my nervous father with my first bath, and chastised my parents for letting our family dog “get to know me” by sniffing and licking my days-old cheeks. She also prepared meals for our small family, and she became an indispensable part of my first few weeks, leaving my parents with a newfound confidence about life. Although many details of those weeks have faded from memory, her legacy lives on with a recipe she gave my mother that I still use today. Continue reading “1 Pot Magic: Lamb with Orzo”

3 Reasons This Dessert Should be on your Holiday TableWarm Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Cinnamon-Rum Sauce

The holidays are just around the corner, and with them comes The Holiday Baking. But even with a generous head start and the best of intentions holiday baking can be overwhelming.

 

Rushing around to three different stores on a mad hunt for chestnut paste or the perfect glittery snowflake sprinkles to fulfill a seemingly unattainable Pinterest-inspired dream dessert is no way to celebrate.

Enter Warm Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding. This perfect holiday dessert is the ace up your sleeve for these three reasons.

1. You have the ingredients. This bread pudding recipe uses simple ingredients that you probably already have in your refrigerator and pantry.

2. You can make it in advance. It is completely make ahead, and when I say “make ahead” I mean up to three weeks if you freeze it. It is actually better after it sits for a few days because the flavors and texture have time develop.

3. It’s not pie. Pie has it’s place, and that’s at Thanksgiving. Give your loved ones a break and serve them this bubbly chocolate marvel instead.

Continue reading “3 Reasons This Dessert Should be on your Holiday TableWarm Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Cinnamon-Rum Sauce”

Saving pumpkin from dessert: Afghan Kadu Bouranee

It’s Fall!

I want to scream it from the rooftops. I love fall, and when you really love something you should celebrate it with food.

 So while I have given in to some of my favorite fall indulgences in the form of pumpkin spice lattes, candy corn (eaten one by one from the kid-proof bowl on top of the fridge) and two pans of apple crisp gifted to me by an apple picking partner-in-crime — eventually you have to get back to reality and make dinner.

Continue reading “Saving pumpkin from dessert: Afghan Kadu Bouranee”

Bagel Brunch

Bagel brunch food jew

I have always loved brunch. For me it has always been the perfect time eat on a lazy weekend day when you can squeeze out an extra hour of sleep. Maybe that extra hour includes a child slowly prying your eyes open with little fingers or another cleaning your toes with something that feels kind of wet and slimy, but your eyes are (basically) closed and you are lying down so it counts.

I would prefer to eat breakfast at 11 after the coffee(s!) have done their magic, but weekdays don’t work that way in our house so brunch always feels like a special treat. Continue reading “Bagel Brunch”

Cucumber Canapés with Smoked Salmon Mousse

cucumber canapes

Spring is here and as eager as I am to shed the heavy sweaters of winter in favor of cute sundresses and flip flops I am even more eager to start eating “Spring”. I love seasonal fall and winter food but I am, like many of you I’m sure, ready to eat things that are light, fresh and colorful. I am anticipating with excitement sitting on my deck, on a perfect Spring night with friends and fun food.

When my friend Laura asked for a food contribution to her sweet daughter Violet’s school gala next weekend, these cucumber canapés immediately came to mind. They are crisp, fresh and beautiful. They scream Spring all wrapped up in a pretty one-bite package. And they are a terrific modern twist on some traditional Jewish favorites. What could be better?
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Ingredients:

3/4 pound smoked salmon
8 ounces soft cream cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 TB heavy cream or half-and-half
2 English cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1/2″ slices and patted dry
Salmon roe caviar
Purchased bagel chips
In a food processor, process smoked salmon until it is a paste. Add cream cheese, heavy cream or half-and-half and salt and pepper to taste. Scoop into pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip. Pipe approximately 2 teaspoons of salmon mousse on each cucumber slice. Top with a chard of bagel chip and small spoonful of salmon roe caviar. Serve immediately.
 

Passover Seder and Charoset

 

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Passover begins this year on the evening of April 3rd. This year my friend, fellow blogger, and design maven, Brooke over at fireandflowers.com designed this amazing handmade chalkboard Seder plate. It is stunning. And you can do it too! Checkout Brooke’s how-to here.

Seder plate contains symbolic foods eaten or displayed at the Passover Seder.

Horseradish and bitter herbs

These symbolize the bitterness of the slavery of the Hebrews to the Egyptians

Parsley

The parsley is dipped in salt water before eating to symbolize symbolize the tears of the Hebrews

Lamb shank bone and hard-boiled egg

Both the egg and shank bone are roasted to represent the sacrifices made in the temple in Jerusalem.

Charoset

A traditionally a sweet mixture of apples, walnuts, honey, cinnamon and wine. It is meant to symbolize the mortar that the the enslaved Hebrews used in slavery to build for the Egyptians.

For me, even though charoset has a somber meaning, it is the star of the Seder. My mother’s was a very traditional mixture including the basic ingredients. Over the years I have added my own touches — toasting the walnuts, adding chopped dates, and using a dry red wine to elevate this charoset to a modern dish you crave throughout the year.

It is tradition to eat a charoset, matzah and horseradish sandwich during the Seder, but we always have extra charoset, which inspired my favorite Passover sandwich: a matzah spread with horseradish mayo, topped with smoked turkey and Charoset, served open faced. This is Passover’s version of Thanksgiving leftovers, so grab some bowls and lets start mixing!

To make the charoset

Grate apples

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Add finely chopped toasted walnuts and chopped dates

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Add honey, cinnamon and red wine and stir to combine.

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Passover seder food

Passover seder food

Let sit for a few hours before eating to develop the flavors–and try to save some for the Seder Plate!

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups toasted walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup dates, finely chopped
1 pound apples (about 3 small apples), peeled, cored, and grated (I love honeycrisp apples for Charoset but any firm sweet-tart apple will do)
1 TB honey
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Passover seder food

Jewish Comfort Bagel

Jewish food really is synonymous with comfort food. Most people know about old fashioned Jewish style chicken soup (with or without matzoh balls) and it’s moniker “Jewish Penicillin.” And of course Jews fondly reminisce about their favorite childhood foods, prepared by their Jewish mothers or grandmothers. These are the comfort foods for generations of Jews — their grandmother’s brisket or bubbe’s rugelach or mandel bread.

My Jewish comfort food is the “Jewish Comfort Bagel” or JCB. You’ll probably see me write a lot about bagels, as they are one of my favorite foods. The JCB is my favorite way to eat them.

A JCB harkens back to a time before bagels became a thing. The 80’s. Before chain “bagelries” started rolling out huge puffy hole-less disks of doughy bread. In flavors like cranberry orange, French toast and the irony-rich holiday favorite, the eggnog bagel.

Although she never called it that, my nanny, Vivian, is the reason for the comfort in my Jewish Comfort Bagel. She lived in Florida with a bunch of other retired Jewish snowbirds, so there were real bagel shops there in the 70’s when I was a girl. She was, by her own admission, a terrible cook, and I’m sure she did not invent the JCB. But she certainly made a pretty fantastic version!

A JCB bagel starts with a real bagel in a savory flavor. My favorite is sesame but salt and everything are great too!

You will also need butter, cream cheese,  kosher salt and the best tomatoes you can find, beefsteak or heirloom varieties.

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Choose your flavor and toast to a nice medium brown.

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Spread with a generous amount of butter. (Yes we are going to go there! Don’t skip this step to cut calories, you would rob yourself of the essence of the JCB.)

Comfort Bagel

Then top with a good schmear of cream cheese. Don’t skimp!

Comfort Bagel

Add your slice of thickly cut tomato.

Comfort Bagel

And sprinkle with salt.

Comfort Bagel

Cut (or don’t) and enjoy! And don’t blame me when you are compelled to eat another one.

Comfort Bagel

Comfort Bagel

Purim and Hamantaschen

A favorite family recipe brings back the best of childhood during Purim.

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Purim is around the corner, this year starting at sunset on Wednesday, March 4th. Purim is officially the celebration of Jewish deliverance as told in the book of Esther, but for this food Jew, Purim is mostly about hamantaschen. (The timing of Hebrew holidays can be complicated even for the Jews, so you can read more about Jewish holidays here.)

Hamantaschen are filled triangle shaped pastries. There are plenty of legends surrounding the triangle shape. Some say they are shaped like the ears of the Jews’ defeated enemy Haman. I always thought that was kind of gross, so I go with the other common legend, that they are triangular like Haman’s hat. Traditionally they include poppyseed and prune fillings. My mother’s were prune made extra delicious with raisins, walnuts and apricot freshened with a lot of lemon juice. Over the years my sister and I, at my oldest niece’s request, have added cherry to the line up. I like it, but if you are only up for making two fillings I recommend going with my family’s favorites of apricot and prune.

I loved Purim as a child. Some call it the “Jewish Halloween.” We always went to a Purim Carnival at our temple complete with games, costume parades and tons of special treats. My sister and I would dress up as Queen Esther, usually by wearing one of my mother’s satin lace trimmed nightgowns as a veil on our heads.

Despite all the parties, costumes, and activities, hamantaschen were always the pinnacle of the holiday. The hand-shaped cookies took all day to make because my mother would make several hundred. It is a tradition to give gift baskets — mishloach manot — with hamantaschen and other sweets. My Mother’s manot were piled high with treats and I know her friends felt lucky to receive them.

Now my sister and I honor our mother, who passed away when we were young teens, by making these together every year using her 50-year-old recipe. We spend hours together, just the two of us, talking and reminiscing, mixing and rolling, crying and laughing. And of course, eating! We only make them once a year so the anticipation is high. (Disclaimer: One year I did make them to satisfy my sister’s deep pregnancy craving when she was just weeks away from delivering her daughter, but that is the only exception.) There is nothing I look forward to more than eating the first, hot out of the oven, hamantaschen.

Like our mother, we give manot to our friends and neighbors, many who are not Jews (food or otherwise) and have never had a hamantaschen. I get so much pleasure from sharing these labors of love with people I care about.

So let’s bake!

See this recipe card?
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This is my mother’s original recipe written in her beautiful handwriting. I love that it is stained and splotched. This is a real living recipe, one that gets used year after year.

To make the dough (we double this recipe and usually make between 250-275 hamantaschen!):
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You may be wondering about the Crisco here. I know that it is old fashioned and let’s face it, unhealthy, but just go ahead and move forward. Jews have a long history of using Crisco instead of butter because it is parve. This is a once-a-year treat.

Combine flour, sugar, and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment.

Add shortening and mix until crumbly, about the size of peas, then add eggs

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Then while the mixer is running on low, pour in orange juice.

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Dough should form a ball, turn dough out onto floured surface and shape into a ball

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Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight.
(You can make it three days in advance, or freeze for up to three months. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.)

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Make the fillings

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For the prune filling, empty the entire can of Solo prune filling into a medium bowl, add the raisins, walnuts, honey and lemon juice.

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For the Apricot filling, in a medium bowl, mix entire can of Solo apricot filling, apricot jam, and lemon juice.

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Create the hamantaschen

On heavily floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut rounds using a 4-inch circle cutter.

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Add 1 scant teaspoon of filling in the middle of each round.

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Fold in two sides to create one point of your triangle shape.

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Then fold opposite side to create two other points simultaneously.

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Brush top edges of hamentashen with egg wash.

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Place on parchment-covered baking sheets and bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until tops begin to turn a light golden brown.

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Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

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The filling of these cookies stay hot much longer than the pastry so be sure the middle is cool before giving to the kids who are undoubtedly waiting to sample them.

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Enjoy! And don’t forget to spread the love.

Hamantaschen Recipe

Ingredients

For the Dough:

6 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1 cup orange juice
2 eggs
2 cups Crisco/Vegetable shortening

For the Apricot Filling:

1 can Solo brand apricot cake and pie filling
1/2 cup good quality apricot jam
Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

For the Prune Filling:

1 can Solo brand prune cake and pie filling
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup raisins
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the Egg Wash:
1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water