Archive for the 'Crafts' Category

How Do You Mark Your Passover Kitchen?

Until last year, my mother did the bulk of the Passover preparations in our family, which of course included tons of cooking before and during the holiday. We keep a kosher kitchen, and in the basement my family has boxes and boxes of pots, pans, dishes and kitchen utensils only for use on Passover. There are two full sets of everything, so we can make both meat and dairy meals, and my mother had a system that involved dots of various colors of nail polish to delineate the milk and meat dishes (pink for meat, silver for dairy).

Well Labeled Kitchen

Unfortunately, nail polish chips off, especially after years of use, and the system seems to have been less scientific than we previously thought. As my sister and I forged through the first few days of Passover without my mother we found a puzzling array of kitchen supplies marked in a variety of perplexing ways. Some pots were marked with both pink and silver dots. Spoons and serving utensils sometimes sported a P written in permanent marker. Does this mean that it was pareve, or simply that it was set aside for Pesach? Some containers and pots had been marked with Ms, but that can imply either milk or meat. Many things gave no hints to their gender whatsoever. Cooking felt like a giant guessing game as we reached into boxes of supplies and hoped to find something that we recognized as definitively meat, dairy or pareve.

Edible Crafts Series: Pesach

In my family, each year as we embraced dessert after the seder, trays of chocolate were always passed around the table: chocolate covered jellies, chocolate covered coconut, chocolate turtles, and more. As an edible craft treat, why not make your own chocolate covered desserts?

Chocolate covered treats

Pick out your favorite fruits, nuts, dried fruit, and even kosher for Passover marshmallows. I used bananas, dried apricots, walnuts, and almonds. You can find chocolate fondue recipes here and here. Get creative, invite family and friends to join you, and eat some homemade dessert for Pesach!

Pesach Preparations Are All Sewn Up

photo by jelene

Every year, I host a seder that can only be described as unorthodox in every sense of the term.  The guests are usually folks who might not otherwise observe the holiday, and I’m happy to gather them into my home to pray, eat, sing, and think about what freedom means and what we ought to do to make more of it in the world.

I’m so happy to gather them that in the days leading up to seder, I start freaking out about what we’re running short of because I’ve invited so many guests.  Thus comes the last minute run for cutlery, dishes, glassware . . . every year it’s something different. The panic, however, remains the same.

What Will You Do With Your Extra Matzah? Make a Diorama! (Play to Win!)

Each year the Washington Post holds a diorama contest utilizing the colorful marshmallow treat Peeps.  We were inspired by the creativity that can be found in the Post’s Peeps Shows and remembering how each year there always seems to be that extra box of matzah at the end of Passover no one knows what to do with.  So, the Jew and the Carrot wants to help you use up the rest of your matzah – with a diorama contest of our own!

Edible Crafts Series: Purim

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This post is the first in a new series, Edible Crafts. I will be exploring edible crafts and food as art throughout the year. Not only can food be made to look beautiful just as it can be made to taste delicious, but there are many ways to incorporate crafting into making food.

For a treat this year, I decided to try baking hamentashen with local, homemade jams that I made last summer. Using fruits from Berkshires farms and farm stands, I made four varieties: peach, pear, blackberry, and blueberry. I filled the hamentashen with blackberry, peach, and pear jams. The blackberry and peach ones are nice alternatives to raspberry and apricot flavored ones. The pear brings on an autumnal flavor. Try any fruit-flavored jam you like, as long as it has a thick consistency.

What’s in YOUR Mishloach Manot Basket?

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One custom I have always liked about Purim (aside from the drunken revelry, of course) is Mishloach Manot, those fun Jewish goodie-bags that people give to each other during this festive holiday.  It’s like Trick-Or-Treating in reverse:  the candy, wine, cookies, etc come to you -no need to go banging on any strangers’ doors.

Surfing Google, I came across a myriad of articles about what one should include in their Mishloach Manot baskets, including a rather heated discussion over “themed Mishloach Manot” on Hashkafah.com.  All these ideas got me thinking like a cunning marketer, and it occurred to me that there is an untapped market for “niche” Mishloach Manot.

So here are a few categories of potential Mishloach Manot ideas targeted to the interests of specific populations to help get this venture started.  (NOTE:  all items included result from intensive focus groups with members of each target audience.)

8 Hanukkah Gift, Party & Tzedakah Ideas You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

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While I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that Hanukkah is here again (time really flew since last year’s latke fry), I do have an assortment of gift, party, and tzedakah ideas in mind for this year’s Festival of Lights.  Here are eight suggestions—one for each night.

The Gingerbread Sukkah

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There’s a joke that all fun secular holidays have “Jewish” equivalents.  Halloween has Purim, Christmas has Chanukah, etc.  But Chanukah, in all its fried deliciousness, does not offer an opportunity to bake the mother of architectural sweets: The Gingerbread House.  Now, the Jewish harvest holiday of Sukkot has stepped in to fill this wide gap in the Jewish culinary calendar with The Gingerbread Sukkah.

Boston resident Julia Greenstein (daughter of renowned baker, George Greenstein)  makes gingerbread sukkahs every year with her family.  These miniature “dwelling structures” are as temporary as their real-sized cousins – if only because they are irresistible to eat!  Find out how she does it, and how you can build your own cookie sukkah below.

What’s Hanging from your Rafters?

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As a kid, anything edible held my attention. Sukkahs, charged with dappled light and dedicated to the harvest, seemed to combine all of my interests into one sacred space. I’ll never forget the excitement I felt, standing alone in the autumn-smelling sukkah, under a ceiling hung with fresh, growing foods; and I’ll never forget my disappointment, year after year, at the sight of apples, squash and blue corn wizening and rotting on their strings.

Now that I’m a full grown canner, it occurs to me that the sukkah, with it’s commandments for good air circulation, more shade than light, and it’s tradition of hanging edibles, is a perfect place to preserve for the cold months. After all, turning sukkot decorations into food is already a tradition—Etrogs make it into wine or brandy after the celebration’s over.

Below, you can find some tips and recipes for celebrating God’s gift of food and shelter through the year.

Feeling the Crunch: NYC Picklefest ‘08

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New Yorkers crammed into the street at today’s eighth annual NYC International Pickle Day like so many Kirby cukes in a barrel. Pickle-makers from Essex Street to South Korea came to sample and sell their wares to an eager audience of thousands.

Where was I last year on pickle day? you might be wondering, but in fact, you were probably here, on Orchard Street, biting into one of Guss’ famous three-quarter sours with it’s crisp, salty bite that’s more refreshing than a gulp of Gatorade. According to the folks at Guss’, the festival has been packed every year since the New York Food Museum began sponsoring it in 2001.

Bacon Vodka is the New Ham Soda

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(Thanks to Jewlicious and  for the hat tip)

Last November, The Jew & The Carrot blogger Jeff reported on the newest treif sensation: Ham-flavored soda from the Jones Soda Co.  (It was part of the company’s Christmas soda line.)

Well, it seems the pork-infused drink thing is catching on.  Several different food bloggers out there have started making their own bacon vodkas – the most beautiful of which is featured at the Brownie Points blog .  For the record, the scariest looking bacon vodka I found is over at Si Blog.  Eegaads!  It looks like a science project gone terribly awry.

In Praise of Dabbling

bagels.bmpI’d like to put in a good word for the DIY folks. DIY (do-it-yourself) might simply conjure images of people who turn sweaters into skirts, make t-shirts, pave their patio with mosaics from old china, or make their own candy bars. But in fact, these people approach the world with the attitude that if the thing in question can be cooked, grown, built, or otherwise pulled off by themselves or a few of their friends, then it’s something they out to be involved in. I’m not sure whether Judaism is inherently DIY—but I do think there’s room for it.

The prevailing philosophy seems to be one of narrowing. Specialize in your field. Corner the market. Find the best possible place to grow blueberries then plant eight thousand acres of them. But actually that attitude is disempowering, because it implies there are so many thing that others can do better than me, I shouldn’t even bother (and, by extension, if there isn’t something I can do better than anyone else, what am I?)

So instead I’d like to suggest a philosophy of dabbling.

For post-pesach wanderings: The BagelSpindle!


Idea and image courtesy of flickr user Rodrigo Piwonka.

Jews have always been good at “repurposing” – pagan agricultural festivals, indigenous artforms, or the latest technology are all fodder for making our Jewish lives richer, more varied, or, well, simply more portable.

(Note: Even “Food-safe” plastics raise multiple health issues. You probably wouldn’t want to make a habit out of carting your lunch around in a container that you got of the shelf at Staples. Still, an entertaining idea nonetheless).

Charoset: A Rememberance of Mortar Used for Pharaoh’s Construction Projects

We remember! We remember!
(We also recommend adding a little more wine to this recipe, for optimal construction qualities).

Charoset Sphinx