Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year in Review... and a farewell

I hate goodbyes. I always have. This is more of a 'so long, see you soon' kind of a goodbye. If you've been following my saga here (and over at my other blog) you know that life's gotten busy lately. Very busy. And I just haven't been able to find a balance that allows time for work, family, cooking, and blogging. Unfortunately, the blogging's got to go. For now.

It's been sad for me not to be able to photograph and post. I love it and I was actually becoming half good at it. I have a sweet group of followers, and I love you guys. But I just can't manage it all now - between my super crazy work schedule, my husband's insane school/study schedule, and my always hungry and always wonderful family, there just isn't enough time in the day.

Here's a sendoff to 2011 and to my blogging. For now. I will be back. When things quiet down and I can make some time for this wonderful hobby. I don't know if it'll be six months or a year. Maybe more, maybe less. But I do hope we'll meet again when I return. In the meantime, thanks for visiting and commenting. Please keep visiting this place. Please keep writing. (Fellow food bloggers, I'll still be stopping by your blogs and doing the same.) Thanks for your support. Have a wonderful year.


# 1 Reader Favorite: Zucchini Banana Bread
#2 Reader Favorite: Roasted Peaches.


#3 Reader Favorite: Lemon Mint Zucchini Pancakes
#4 Reader Favorite: Raspberry Peach Tart

#5 Reader Favorite: Pan Fried Chickpeas
#6 Reader Favorite: Chocolate Muffins

#7 Reader Favorite: Baby Bok Choy Salad

#8 Reader Favorite: Signature Chocolate Chip Cookies

Monday, December 12, 2011

A super easy soup (and please vote for me!)

Visit Joy of Kosher to vote for me!
I know. I haven't exactly been posting regularly. I haven't been keeping you well fed or well read. See, I accepted a promotion at work (read more here) and I just haven't been able to find a balance that takes care of my readers (that would be you) and my eaters. That would be these guys:


But the balance is evolving. Think crock pot dishes and make ahead meals. Think photos taken on the fly with my always handy smartphone. Think award-winning and life-changing iPad photo apps.



Yes, it's been quite a shift from those days of food photography using a fancy DSLR, light kit, and tripod. But the point I'm trying to make here is that I think I'm on to something. I think I've found a way to cook, photograph, and blog once again.



Show me you believe in me! Cast your vote on Joy of Kosher today. It'll give me the push I need to keep going.

And just to show you I'm really back in business, here's a super easy soup recipe that's a weekday dinner staple in my household.



Super Easy Crock Pot Soup
This recipe serves a large brood of hungry people (at least 10 bowls). I tend to make super easy dinners during the week and I feel a lot less guilty serving scrambled eggs or mac-n-cheese if there's a big old pot of  soup to go along with my quickly thrown together meals. This pot goes up in the morning and cooks all day. And here's a great secret to make morning prep even easier: I prep all the veggies the night before and leave them in the fridge in a container or bag overnight. It takes less than five minutes to throw everything in the pot in the morning, and it sure is nice to come home to a fresh hot pot of soup. 


3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
1 zucchini, peeled and chopped
5-10 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed with the back of a knife (leave these out if you're too rushed; or throw in a whole unpeeled head of garlic instead; yes, I do mean a whole unpeeled head)
1/4 cup barley
1/2 cup white or brown rice
1/4 cup red lentils (you can substitute green split peas or brown lentils)
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon paprika
black pepper, to taste
grated mozzarella or Parmesan cheese for garnish

Combine all of the ingredients except the cheese in a large crock pot. (Read the recipe header for my quick prep-ahead tip.) Cover generously with water.

Turn the crock pot to high and cook all day (at least 8 hours).

Ladle into bowls, garnish with cheese, and serve.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bitayavon Magazine, and Lemon Zucchini Pancakes


It's somewhat ironic. I pretty much drop from the face of the earth - stop updating my blog and feeding my readers. And next thing I know, I'm published in Bitayavon Magazine's winter issue. Go figure.

For those of you who don't know Bitayavon, it's a lovely quarterly kosher cooking magazine. I hope you'll pick up a copy this month, and check out my recipe.

Here's the original recipe, to tide you over until you get your copy.

Lemon Mint Zucchini Pancakes, adapted from Love and Olive Oil
makes 8 large pancakes 


My adaptation of this recipe calls for 1/4 cup of fresh herbs. I used a combination of lemon verbena, mint, and chives. The result was lemony and minty - just perfect with the zucchini. Other herbs would work well (oregano or dill). But if you don't have lemon verbena, try adding some lemon zest instead. The original recipe calls for that, and I think it would do a lot to brighten the flavors in the absence of lemon verbena. 

4 small zucchini (try to get the bright orange/yellow variety)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/4 cup mixed fresh herbs (I used a combination of lemon balm, chives, and mint)
salt to taste
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
1/8 cup olive oil
Optional: Greek yogurt or sour cream, for serving

If you're using yellow or bright orange zucchini, just wash the zucchini and then grate them coarsely. If you're using green, you may want to peel it before grating. The green color of the peel can turn a little 'muddy.'

In a large bowl, combine the grated zucchini, garlic, shallot, ricotta, eggs, herbs, salt and bread crumbs. Stir well.

In a large, preferably cast iron, skillet, heat the olive oil. When it's nice and hot, add the zucchini batter in about 8 mounds. Each pancake should be 4-5 inches in diameter. Fry over medium heat, turning once, until browned and crisp. This will take about 10 minutes per side. Serve the pancakes right away, with yogurt or sour cream if desired.






Sunday, September 11, 2011

Baby Bok Choy Salad


There are some foods that should NOT be made on Thursday nights. Thursday in my household is typically pizza night. For good reason. I work a full day Friday, and if I want enough food to feed my hungry little monsters all Shabbos long, I need to use Thursdays to put up chulent and challah. To make fruit crisp and rugelach.


But I couldn't help myself tonight. The baby bok choy was calling my name. It was fresh and crispy. Green and luscious. Downright beautiful. Plus, with all the Shabbos groceries to unpack, I needed some more space in the fridge. What's a girl to do?


You can't blame me for making this salad. Especially not after you've made it yourself. It's that good.

Baby Bok Choy Salad
serves 4, about 5 minutes prep time (once the bok choy is clean)
I used almond butter but you could definitely substitute peanut butter. If you can get a hold of any, use natural peanut butter (as in NOT Skippy). The taste is more 'real.' (It tastes like actual peanuts!)


10-15 heads of baby bok choy, cleaned
3 scallions
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 tablespoon natural almond butter
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon honey
sesame seeds, optional, for garnish

Chop the bok choy coarsely, each leaf into two or three pieces. Slice the scallions nice and thin. Combine the bok choy and scallion in a roomy bowl.

Combine the remaining ingredients (except the sesame) in a separate cup or small bowl. Stir very well till completely smooth.

Pour the dressing on the salad and serve immediately, garnished with sesame seeds if desired.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tomato Peach Salad


What defines summer for you? Is it swimming? Tennis? Walks in the park? Weekends on the beach? Lazy mornings without school buses? 


For me - working mom without much time for tennis or lazy mornings - it’s tomatoes, peaches, and basil. I eat tomatoes daily in the summer (yes, EVERY day). Peaches and basil almost as often.


It’s no wonder this salad is one of my favorites, then. It’s a simple combination of my favorite summer foods with a bit of citrus, scallion, and salt to sharpen the flavors. 

And as far as I'm concerned, as long as there are tomatoes and peaches to be had, summer isn't over yet!

Please head over to Kosher Street for the complete recipe. 



Linking this to Ultimate Recipe Swap

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cinnamon Rugelach


Anyone else around here need some comforting this week?


I don't know about you, but what with the earthquake, the hurricane, and my children being stricken by hives, digestive issues, and nasty viruses, it's been a rather trying week for me.


No complaining from this gal, though.


Funny how these sorts of experiences make you thankful for the small things in life.


I'm glad that our power is back (only 24 hours without it) and that we have running water and (mostly) unspoiled food.


I'm glad that my children are healing (slowly) and that school is starting next week. We'll be back to normal in no time.


And I'm glad we have wonderful treats like these to comfort us and nourish us and keep us happy.

Cinnamon Rugelach, adapted from Culinary Creations
Makes about 2 dozen cookies


DOUGH:
3 cups flour (more or less!)
1 1/2 sticks margarine
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (use extract if you don't have sugar)
a dash of salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast (1/2 a packet)
1/2 cup orange juice

FILLING:
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
oil or margarine
egg yolk, for a wash
Turbinado sugar, optional

First, make the dough. Combine all the ingredients in a stand mixer. Add more flour if needed, till the dough is smooth and not too sticky.

Let the dough rise for about an hour, till doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 350*.

Split the dough into four even pieces. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.

Roll one of the pieces of dough into a large circle. Spread it evenly with some oil or margarine. Sprinkle with about 1/4 of the cinnamon-sugar mix, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Use a knife to cut the dough into triangles, pizza style.

Starting from the outside, roll each of the triangles inward to create a traditional rugela shape. Lay the rugelach on a baking sheet, leaving a little room for rising.

Repeat the process with the remaining pieces of dough.

Beat the egg yolk with a bit of water to make a wash. Brush the rugelach with the egg wash and then sprinkle with the Turbinado sugar, if you're using it. (It'll create a little sparkle and a nice crunch.)

Bake for about 25 minutes, till golden. Cool on racks and serve within 2-3 days. (Or freeze them and defrost at room temperature when you're ready to eat them. They freeze beautifully.)



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Moroccan Meat Cigars


Here I sit, less than 24 hours before Shabbos, remembering the wonderful meat cigars we had last week. They were crisp. They were perfectly seasoned. And, best of all, they were lovingly shaped and filled by my almost-twelve-year-old daughters.



Alas, it's not looking too good for us this week. The evening got off to a rocky start with a trip to the pediatrician (for an injury that happened three weeks ago: BAD MOMMY), followed by a long drawn out trip to the pharmacy, and a fit thrown by a not-so-eager-to-get-to-bed child in her terrible twos.




I headed to the kitchen for a cooking therapy session, only to find a broken oven. There went my hopes for rugelach, fruit crisp, and homemade challah.


But at least we have the memories. The fond memories.



And the photos.



Oh. And the recipe.

Moroccan Meat Cigars
makes about two dozen cigars

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced super fine
1 lb. chopped meat
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon allspice
dash of cayenne
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup water
salt, to taste
a package of filo dough
about 1/4 cup olive oil, for brushing

Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat, till golden. Be sure not to burn it.

Add the meat and cook for a few minutes, stirring, till the meat is browning. Add the spices, water and lemon juice. Cover the pan and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, till the meat is cooked through and no longer raw.

Uncover the pan and increase the heat a bit. Cook until all the excess liquid is gone, but be sure not to let the meat burn.

Cool the meat slightly and transfer it to a food processor. Pulse for a minute or two, till the meat is chopped fine, but NOT pureed into a paste. You want it to have some texture, but no chunks.

Now, preheat your oven to 350* and start assembling your cigars. Unroll the filo sheets and use a kitchen scissors to cut the stack of filo sheets into three stacks of rectangles. You'll have about 50 rectangles.  (My sheets were 13x18; I cut them into 13x6 rectangles.) NOTE: You'll only use about 1/2 the dough. Find another use for the rest.

Lay out one thin filo rectangle and brush it with olive oil. Place about a tablespoon of the filling onto the edge of ONE filo rectangle. Leave at least 1/2 inch around the edges.


Fold in the long sides so they come up over the meat filling just a bit.


Roll the filo - starting with the edge closest to the meat - to make a nice neat cigar. 


Brush the tops of the cigars with some more olive oil. 


Bake for about 25 minutes, till crispy and lightly browned. Serve fresh, or set aside for a few hours and reheat in a 325* oven for about 10 minutes. (I'm told that these freeze well but haven't tried it myself. 24 cigars was just the right amount for us hungry peeps.) 


For a vegetarian version, click here. (Use Google Translate to get the recipe in English!) 

Linking this up to Weekend Bloggy Reading and Real Food Digest