Sunday, October 31, 2010

French Toast

French Toast

Sunday morning breakfasts in our home range from cold cereal (hey, this is my only real vacation day all week!), pancakes made from Aunt Jemima mix (you can't expect me to make everything from scratch!), and French Toast made from leftover homemade challah.

This morning, feeling well rested and very domestic, I made a small batch of French Toast for the kids. Predictably, they ate every last drop! Here's the recipe.

French Toast
About four slices of leftover challah, preferably homemade, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
A dash of cinnamon
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon maple syrup

Mix together the milk, eggs, cinnamon, salt, and maple syrup. Lay the challah slices in the egg mix and soak for 2-3 minutes. Flip the slices over and let the other side soak for a couple of minutes.

Melt the butter in a frying pan (I like to use cast iron) on medium heat. When the butter is bubbling but not burning, add the soaked challah. Fry for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden.

Serve immediately with maple syrup on the side.

I shared this post on Countdown to 2011!


Monday, October 25, 2010

A truly ordinary weeknight dinner

Tonight's dinner ingredients

Tonight's dinner used 100% store bought ingredients. No sauteeing, no chopping. Truly an ordinary dinner, for a hassled weeknight. I post it here so you know that a quick pasta is nothing to be ashamed of...especially if you're a busy working mom (but even if you're not!). Serve it with some sliced veggies or some frozen broccoli warmed through and tossed with melted cheese, and you've got a meal. Use whole wheat pasta if you've got it. The kids won't notice in a casserole like this, and you can feel a little less guilt about serving pasta for dinner.

Four Cheese Casserole
1 box whole wheat pasta (I like Barilla Rotini) cooked and drained
1 12 ounce container ricotta cheese 
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 cup shredded mozarella
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 jar of prepared marinara sauce (I like Frescorti)

Preheat oven to 350*.

Combine all of the ingredients in a 9x13 pan (disposable aluminum works just fine). Mix well.

Bake covered for 30 minutes, and uncovered for 15. Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Homemade Challah

a round challah
A round challah, although we usually make the traditional long shaped ones.



I know that homemade Challah may seem like a luxury. But believe it or not, the reason I make Challah is really and truly to simplify my life! Five pounds of flour yields six or seven loaves, and saves me a Friday bakery run for three weeks. It's simply easier to bake my own Challah than it is to fit in yet another Friday errand. (Especially because I have a terrific electric mixer which does the kneading, and my wonderful daughters do all the braiding for me!)

If you've never made Challah before, you should really try it. Homemade challah just doesn't compare to the store bought stuff, and it's nowhere near as daunting as you might think. If you are mixing by hand and want to make things easier, make just a half recipe with a yield of three loaves. Adjust the flour to 6 1/2 cups, and use half of all the other ingredients.

Challah
4.5 tablespoons dry yeast (5 small packets)
3 1/4 cups water
6 eggs
5 pounds flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup oil
3 tablespoons Kosher salt

Mix the yeast and water together in a large mixing bowl. Add a drop of honey. Let sit for about 5 minutes till it starts bubbling.

Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. If you're using a mixer (I use a Bosch mixer which handles five pounds easily), mix for about five minutes until smooth. If you're kneading by hand, it'll take more like ten minutes (sorry!) but you'll get such satisfaction it'll all be worth it.

Find a warm toasty spot (I use my bedroom!) and let the dough rise for 1-2 hours, till doubled. Take challah, with a blessing. Braid into six or seven loaves (I make mine with four strands of dough), lay the loaves on baking sheets, and then let rise for another hour.

Prepare an egg wash using 2 eggs and about 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the loaves with egg. Preheat the oven to 350* and once it's hot, bake the challah for about 45 minutes until golden. Let the Challah cool completely on cooling racks before wrapping in bags and using or freezing.

See my post on Yeast Spotting.
I shared this post on Countdown to 2011!


Sweet Egg Challah on Foodista

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Some MORE Jersey tomatoes!

























Well, I thought we had the last of the summer tomatoes last week, but I found some more today and restocked. We just can't get enough of these! Here's a really simple preparation which works well when you have delicious summer tomatoes. It takes just a bit of seasoning to highlight their flavor.

Simple Tomato Salad
2 large tomatoes, 4 plum tomatoes, or a pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in chunks
1 scallion, diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Let them sit for at least 15 minutes if possible to let the flavors blend. Serve at room temperature.

Tomato on Foodista

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My mission this week: to clear out the freezer (and pantry)


















Like many working moms, I love a well stocked freezer and pantry. A good stock of frozen meats, kugel, and soup means I am prepared for the worst: a crunch at work, a strep epidemic, or any unforeseen circumstances that leave me without time to shop or cook.

So I have a tendency to panic when my freezer is looking empty. When there's any empty space in my freezer, I head to Costco, place a grocery order, and spend the entire Sunday cooking and baking.

I have had a few panic attacks of this nature lately, so this week I had the opposite problem. My freezer is TOO full. I shopped last week and didn't have room for my meats! Worse, it's filled with a hodgepodge of dishes of unknown origin. So I set out with a mission this week: to clear out the old round of foods in the freezer and pantry (and make room for a new round).

Last night, we had three salmon fillets defrosted and then prepared with a honey mustard glaze. We also had a small pan of manicotti stuffed with cheese and some zucchini that was hiding in the vegetable drawer, miraculously come to life with just some butter and fresh herbs.

Tonight's dinner was a success too, and I managed to use up so many freezer and pantry items! What a joy!

Chicken and Vegetable Stew
1 cup brown rice
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in half
1 white potato, peeled and cut in half
2 zucchini, peeled
1-2 cans of mushrooms rinsed
1 can of chicpeas rinsed (or 1/2 cup chicpeas soaked overnight)
1 onion, peeled and left whole
A head of garlic, rinsed and left whole
6 chicken thighs (straight from the freezer is fine, no need to defrost!)
1 teaspoon salt
Some paprika

Combine everything in a slow cooker crock pot in the order listed above, starting with the rice at the bottom and ending with the chicken and seasoning on top.

Add water to come up about halfway.

Set the crock pot to high and leave cooking all day!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Doctoring store-bought chopped liver

My mother spoiled us. She lovingly sauteed liver in onions each week and chopped it by hand. I must confess that I don't go to those lengths for our Shabbos liver (but I do enjoy it immensely when we visit my mother for Shabbos!). Here's how I doctor the ordinary store-bought stuff:

Chopped Liver
1 pound chopped beef liver
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped fine
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon mustard, preferably dijon
dash of salt
dash of pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well and serve.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My homemade challah secrets



Yes, I work full time (very). Yes, I have four children, including a very trying one-year-old. But I still manage to fit in homemade challah. Here is my secret.

Daughters. At least one, but preferably two or three. The more, the merrier!

I may post other secret tips for homemade challah - like the perfect amount of rising time and really good pans. But without my daughters to braid the dough for me, I confess: we would be suffering with the store bought stuff.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Last of the Jersey tomatoes

















We're enjoying the last of the summer tomatoes - and herbs - here in New Jersey. It's amazing how much flavor is packed into this six ingredient salad. Even my one-year-old enjoyed it. Good to the last drop! If you make it with parsley, use a 1/2 cup (or more!) of herbs. Use less if you're making it with basil.

2 large beautiful summer tomatoes,chopped coarse
1/4-1/2 cup fresh parsley or basil, chopped
1 scallion, diced
1 teaspoon oil (vegetable or olive)
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a nice large bowl. Mix gently and serve within 15 minutes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The joys of the freezer

Aaah...the joys of the freezer! There's something so gratifying about defrosting a carefully packaged frozen dinner - lovingly prepared and wrapped weeks ago. I feel organized, efficient, and VERY Martha-Stewart-esque.




Spinach Quiche

a 16-oz. package of frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed as dry as possible in a colander
1 egg
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup cottage cheese
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
a ready made quiche crust

Combine spinach, egg, cheeses and bread crumbs. Mix well and freeze until needed.

Defrost the spinach mixture in the fridge the night before you need it.

Preheat the oven to 350*. Pour the spinach mix into the crust and bake for about 45 minutes until the top is lightly browned.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Traditional plus fun

I love traditional Jewish Shabbos foods but there's something to be said for variety and originality. Chicken soup and chulent get just a little boring week after week! This week I had a vegetarian guest for Shabbos so I had to do things a little differently (without an awful lot of time on my hands). I supplemented the traditional chicken soup with a fun spaghetti salad (made 100% out of veggies) and I added lots of salads to the menu. Guess what? The kids ate the salads! And I had more fun!


















Veggie Spaghetti Salad
3 green zucchinis, yellow squash, or a combination
1 yellow onion
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
A dash of black pepper
2 tablespoons of your favorite fresh herbs, diced (try basil or lemon verbena)
2 tablespoons dry white wine, like sherry

Sauté the onion in the oil. While it's getting nice and golden, cut the zucchini into thin julienne. Here is my really important tip to make this easier: go out and get yourself a Kuhn Rikon Juli Peeler. It is a great $6 investment for this recipe and lots of others. If you don't have one, you can just julienne the zucchini the old fashioned way.

Once the onions are golden, add the zucchini and sauté for about 5 minutes, till warmed through. Add salt and pepper.

Right before serving (you can serve warm or at room temperature), stir in the herbs and wine.