Archive for the 'Holidays' Category

A Honey of a New Year!

This Article is Cross-Posted on KosherEye.com

As 5771 approaches, we look ahead with hope for a good and sweet year.  Honey has been part of tradition for thousands of years, as exemplified by the age-old custom of using a taste of honey to encourage and reward young children for learning.  What can be more delicious than dipping home-made breads, crackers or fruits into honey? And now honey has gotten even sweeter!

Red, White, & Blue Vegan Shabbat Dinner

Photos: Lauren Krohn

The last time I hosted a vegan Shabbat dinner for friends, I planned it a couple of weeks in advance. Although I only came up with the idea of hosting this past Friday’s dinner four days earlier, there was still an “agenda.” First, I wanted to rely chiefly on produce purchased at the Union Square farmers’ market earlier in the day. Second, I wanted to use some red, white, and blue foods, as Independence Day was just two days away.

Shavuot on the Farm

“On our farm, the house is bedecked with fragrant lilacs and green branches weve cleared from the woods. Tonight, were making chvre blintzes drizzled with rhubarb sauce for a sweet supper…”

Are you salivating yet? Click here to read more about Shavuot on the farm from our friends at Ten Apple Farm.

Click here for a recipe for the deliciousness you see in the picture above.

Yid.Dish: In Search of the Perfect Cheesecake




As Shavuot approaches, I’m sure many people are contemplating cheesecake recipes. Chocolate with an Oreo crust; pumpkin with a caramel swirl; lemon or key lime; peanut butter chip; or just pure, unadulterated cheesecake.

It’s not so much the dilemma over recipe that irks me every Shavuot, it’s the huge crack (or 3) down the middle of the cheesecake when all I want is a smooth, beautiful top I don’t have to cover with fruit to hide the imperfections.

After doing some reading on the chemistry of baking cheesecake (and lots of failed experiments [in appearance, not taste :) ]), I found the perfect technique for making a smooth, creamy cheesecake. It freaked me out the first time I did it, but it was the most amazing cheesecake I’ve ever made.

Living with Food Allergies

One bane of being an Ashkenazi Jew is all the food allergies that seem to run rampant through my bloodlines. As many others of Eastern European descent, I’m highly lactose intolerant, and I have recently been diagnosed with non-Celiac gluten sensitivity (in fact, it is supposed that many people with IBS actually have some type of undiagnosed gluten intolerance/sensitivity). [I fondly refer to myself as a lactard/glutentard.]

Living with food allergies can make things difficult, especially when it comes to Shabbat. Of course I love eating Shabbat meals at the homes of my friends, but it’s always quite a dilemma for me. If they don’t already know the ins and outs of my dietary restrictions, do I tell them?

Being dairy-free isn’t too much of a problem (usually), since most of my friends serve meat for Shabbat meals, and most Jews are used to cooking parve (neither meat nor dairy) items. It’s the gluten-free restrictions that are the buzz-kill.

The Haroset Taste-Off

Thanks so much for this great guest post from Rabbi Rebecca Rosenthal.  Rabbi Rosenthal is the Director of Education at Congregation B’nai Zion in El Paso, TX.  Before moving to El Paso, she worked as Shabbat and Holidays Coordinator at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York City.

Charoset

Passover is a perfect time to learn about Jewish communities from around the world, since there are so many different customs that surround the seder and Passover observance in general.  Whether it is the Afgan and Iranian custom of smacking your tablemates with scallions during Dayenu or the Hungarian custom of decorating the seder table with jewels to commemorate the gold, silver and precious stones that the Israelites took with them from Egypt, Passover can really give us a glimpse into the practices of Jewish communities other than our own.  Haroset is one of the ways that people can learn about other communities and their seder customs, since it seems that every Jewish community (and perhaps every Jewish family) has their own way of creating this seder plate staple.

Yid Dish: Homemade Matzah

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“This is the bread of affliction”, my father would drone every Passover as he opened the familiar blue square box. “Matzah is tasteless and dry, not meant to be enjoyed. Eating it should remind you of the sufferings of our people.”  As he went on and on and on with his yearly lecture on the harshness of slavery and unleavened bread I sat there slathering on salted butter, devouring sheet after sheet of crispy goodness. Although bland and stomach binding, this so-called ‘bread of affliction’ was a welcome change to the squishy, faintly chemical smelling Wonder loaves my mother bought the rest of the year. Despite the family mandate that matzah eating required a certain degree of complaining to make it religiously significant, my appreciation for the magical combination of flour, water, and fire was born.

Where I grew up in the Midwest during the 1970’s there were only two kinds of matzah available. Manishewitz and Streit’s. Both perfectly square and almost identical in taste, matzah was matzah; or so I thought. It was not until decades later at a community Seder that I discovered that matzah could be round, organic or made from non-white flour.

Yid.Dish: Maple Pecan Matzah “Granola”

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On Passover there are at leat 13 ways of looking at matzah;  Matzah Pizza, matzah lasagne (meat and dairy version), matzah farfel stuffing, matzah brittle, brussell sprouts with garlic matzah crumbs, matzah layer cake, chocolate covered matzah, matzah ball soup, matzah meal chicken nuggets, matzah brei, matzah rolls….. And now,  maple pecan matzah “granola”.  This one is for my kids- who are already tiring of  cream cheese and jam on matzah for breakfast, and vowed to never take a simple bowl of  sweet crunchy morning cereal for granted.

Maple Pecan Matzah Granola

1/4 c. butter

1/2 c. maple syrup

Interfaith Hillel Sandwich

If Peeps were made with kosher marshmallows, could this become an acceptable alternative to the traditional Hillel sandwich? You decide! Chag sameach.

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Seder for the Under Six Set

“Seder” is Hebrew for “order.”  In my playgroup last week we tried to recreate the order in this three-thousand-year-old carefully choreographed ritual (the Passover seder) while exploring the symbolic seder foods.

The children made seder plates. They got large biodegradable bamboo plates, onto which they glued round cardboard prototypes, with six blank circles for the six seder plate foods.  Onto those blanks they stuck stickers representing the egg, lamb shank (we subbed yam), parsley, romaine lettuce, charoset and horseradish.

Win A Copy Of the Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam

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Every year come Passover there is the great dessert dilemma. Do I try to fake the cake using matzo meal, or forgo carbs and make meringues?  A few years back I put out fruit with a dark chocolate fondue, but you can really pull that rabbit out of the hat just once.  Invariably, I would pause on almonds, which are delicious, protein filled, fragrant, and fraught with biblical meaning.  Many scholars believe that Moses’ rod was an almond branch, as was Aaron’s.  It is also believed by some that the staff of the messiah will be an almond branch.

Last-Minute Locavore – Chicago Style

So you promised your boss you would go to work 1/2 day Monday, but you haven’t finished your shopping for the big night.  It’s Chicago.  It’s winter.  OK technically it’s Spring, but we’re all still wearing parkas and fantasizing about the sun returning.  And most importantly, the farmers’ market season in Chicago doesn’t really being until April.

Or does it?

A little-known gem is thriving right under your L stop in downtown Chicago!  Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand, located at 66 E. Randolph Street, is practically under the Randolph/Wabash stop, across from the Millenium Metra Train station, and open 6 days a week ALL YEAR.

Yes, Elisheba, There IS A Farmers’ Market (In Chicago)…

B'nai Abraham Zion of Oak Park Helping Market shoppers for Passover

…during the winter

…on a day other than Saturday

Those of us organic, sustainable foodies in Chicago are keenly aware of the famous Green City Market which stays open year-round by moving into the Nature Museum November-April.  But for us who observe Shabbat, the Saturday-only schedule they keep in the in winter months is sad news indeed.

So I finally kvetched – kvweeted? – to all the Chicago farmers market Tweeps I follow about how Jews are blocked from farmers market goodness in the winter.

Passover Cleaning: Year One

(Originally published at The Forward)

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One day last spring, at 11 minutes to midnight, I was on my hands and knees, scrubbing the kitchen floor. My jeans were streaked with dirt and my hands covered with those chalky, yellow rubber gloves that scream, “I’m in serious cleaning mode, people!” There was something soothing about the rhythm of plunging my sponge into the bucket of sudsy water and attacking the grimy tile. And heaven knows, I needed some soothing; I was waist-deep into preparing my kitchen for Passover for the first time, and I was terrified.

As a home cook who had done my share of scrubbing beet juice from the grooves of cutting boards, and coaxed stubborn islands of cheese from the bottom of lasagna pans, I admittedly should not have been so intimidated by a little cleaning. But getting ready for Passover felt like serious business. On top of the usual kitchen cleaning, every last crumb of bread, which is forbidden during the weeklong holiday, needed to be accounted for. If a rebellious Kashi flake fell through the cracks, my home would be unfit for the celebration. To crib from the Hebrew National hotdog packages, Passover cleaners “answer to a higher authority.”