On A Personal Note

I first want to thank all the readers who have been continuing to come to the site even though it has been a long while since I have been consistently posting. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many visitors the blog still gets.  I thought I should let people know why the long gaps between posts.  The past few months have been difficult, but also a time of great joy. 

This past November my grandmother was hospitalized with a blood clot.  Although that is quite dangerous, the doctors caught it on time and her prognosis was good.  Unfortunately, while in the hospital she developed an infection.  Due to inadequate and negligent care (in my opinion) she ended up passing away three weeks later.  It was a shock to me and my family and I still cannot believe she is gone. 

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From left – my siste Kathleen, my mom, my grandma, me

I wanted to write about her here, on my food blog, because she has been such an influence in my life and my cooking.  She used to take care of my while my parents were at work and my fondest childhood memories are of her.  Mostly of us cooking in her kitchen, watching cooking shows on TV such as Julia Child and The Frugal Gourmet, and creating recipes together.  I recently found Micky’s Cookbook, the original version.  This was a project I did with my grandma when I could only have been 7 or 8 years old.  It was a beat up blue spiral notebook with recipes.  Some of them were family recipes, some were ones that she found in magazines and some were ones that we made up together.  I completely forgot that we even did this and had to laugh as today I have volumes of Micky’s Cookbook.  In college I started collecting recipes from the internet, magazines, cooking shows and my family.  Today I must have close to 500 recipes and three huge binders.  I forgot that it all started with my grandma.  This is why I would like to pay tribute to a very special woman that has shaped who I am as a person, mother and cook today.

Her passing was a time of great sadness and then just to demonstrate the circle of life, I gave birth to a baby girl five days later, Ariel Leah.  My grandmother wanted so much to meet her and I can only hope that she is looking down on her now.  She is the sweetest baby and I am in love.  I am pretty much getting no sleep between her and my 2 year old, but I would not change anything.  I am so grateful. 

As for the blog, I am going to keep at it. I just wrote up a fabulous chili recipe which I plan to post this week as it is a great Superbowl dish.  I am not sure how much posting I will be doing in the upcoming months but I ask that you stick with me and keep checking the blog.  If you choose to “follow me” you will automatically receive an email when I post.   If you “Like” me on facebook I always announce postings there as well. 

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Jewish Indian Stuffed Vegetables (Mahashas)

So, it has been a while since I have posted a recipe.  I apologize for the delay.  I have had some technical difficulties (computer died), a crazy work schedule, school and my child with a stomach virus.  Also, I am pretty pregnant at this point and not so quick on my feet….  The good news is that I have a few recipes that I have been working on and am planning to post in the upcoming weeks.

This recipe that I am posting today is a really great one.  This month the Kosher Connection Link Up theme is “stuffing” (see below).  My all time favorite stuffed anything is my Aunty Seemah’s Mahashas.  This is a classic Jewish Indian dish and family recipe.  Although it has been years since I have had these, I have always remembered how delicious they are.  Thanks to a Sykpe session with my aunt I have the recipe to share with all of you.

For today I have chosen to stuff tomatos and peppers, but onions are another common vegetable used.  I just thought these would be easiest.  These vegetables can either be a side dish or a main dish.  If you would like to make them vegetarian then just omit the ground chicken.  They are extremely flavorful and divine either way!

 

Prep Time:  45 minutes

Cook Time:  1 hour

Serves: 5 to 10

 

5 medium bell peppers – any color

5 large firm tomatoes

¾ cup basmati rice (you can use regular long grain, but basmati is SO much better)

½ pound ground chicken

½  – ¾  cup canola oil – depends how large your pan is

Juice of one lemon

3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon ground tumeric

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Rinse the rice in a strainer until the water runs clear.  Place the rice in a bowl and over it with cold water to soak.

Cut the tops off the tomatoes about ¾ of an inch from the top. Save the tops. With a pairing knife gently cut around the edges of the tomato to loosen the veins and seeds from the outer shell. With a spoon scoop out the seeds and flesh from the inside of the tomato. Place the juice and seeds into a large bowl and the flesh on a cutting board.

Cut the tops off the peppers about ¾ of an inch from the top. Save the tops. Discard the ribs and seeds from the inside of the pepper.

You can either finely chop the tomato flesh or puree it in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Add to the bowl with the tomato juice and seeds. Add the juice of one lemon, 2 tablespoons canola oil, salt, tumeric, garlic, ginger and mint. Stir well. Drain the rice.  Add the rice and ground chicken to the mixture and stir well again. You want the chicken and rice to be completely integrated into the tomato mixture. You also do not want any big pieces of chicken to be stuck together and you want a thick soup consistancy so that the rice has enough liquid to cook in.

Coat the bottom of a foil pan or baking dish with canola oil. Place the tomato “shells” and the peppers in the pan. Fill each tomato or pepper ¾ of the way to the top. Do not fill completely to the top as the rice will swell as it cooks. Drizzle the filled vegetables with a bit of canola oil on top. Place the tops back on the tomatoes and peppers.

Cover the dish tightly with tin foil. Cook in the pre-heated oven for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes take the tin foil off of the dish and cook for a remaining 15 minutes. The vegetables should be tender, the rice should be cooked through. The internal temperature should read at least 170 degrees F.  Enjoy!



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Honey, honey

Considering that I have a serious sweet tooth, it is pretty funny that I actually do not really like honey.  I have more of an affinity towards it now than I did as a child, but I still do not really love the stuff.  During Rosh Hashanah dinner as all my friends and family were pouring gobs of honey all over their apples I would dab the smallest ritualistic amount on my apple.  Actually, I still do that to this day.

For the most part, I find the taste to be really floral and overpowering.  Being that I feel this way, most people would be surprised that I use honey all the time.  Honey is actually rich in antioxidants and can be a great natural sweetener.  For me the trick is to use enough for what I am making to be sweet, but not really taste too much like honey.  I often drizzle it over plain yogurt (which really needs a bit of sweetness) with fruit and granola.  I use a bit of it to sweeten my tea and will often substitute it for sugar in baking.  I also really like to use it in vinaigrettes as I find it gives a nice thickness to the dressing. 

The one exception to my rule is buckwheat honey. I love this stuff!   It is very rich in antioxidants and has an earthy, almost molasses taste.  In fact, it tastes nothing like the traditional honey which is probably why I like it so much.  It is so dark and rich that it actually looks like chocolate syrup.  It can be difficult to find as it is not available in all grocery stores.  You can normally find it in a health food store (I buy mine at Whole Foods) or it is easily found online.  Trust me when I tell you it is worth it!

There are pleanty of honeys in your regular grocery store for a reasonable price.  There is clover honey, wildflower honey, orange blossom honey to name a few.  The type is named for the nectar that the bees were drinking when they produced the honey.  Honey is the star of my Stewed Apples A La Mode Drizzled with Buckwheat Honey.  It is a great dessert for any time of the year and nicely highlights the use of honey as a natural sweetener and buckwheat honey as a delicious garnish.

For all of you who will be celebrating the holiday of Rosh Hashanah and dipping your apples in honey next week,  I wish you a happy, sweet and prosperous new year!  L’shana Tova!

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Stewed Apples A La Mode Drizzled with Buckwheat Honey

This month the kosher link up ingredient is honey (see below).  So, I am presenting a recipe that features not one, but two types of honey – run of the mill clover honey (or use whatever your favorite is)and buckwheat honey.  To be perfectly honest, when I learned of this month’s ingredient I was not surprised as Rosh Hashanah is around the corner, the holiday of apples and honey.  However I was not that excited in that I am not a huge fan of honey and do not use it in many of my recipes.  There is one exception – buckwheat honey.  I love this dark and rich honey that actually tastes nothing like the honey most people buy at the store.  It is not available in all supermarkets so you may have to get it from a health food store (I buy mine at Whole Foods) or order it online.  It is worth it!  It actually looks like chocolate syrup and is decadent and rich.  I knew right away I would have to come up with a recipe that featured buckwheat honey and this creation was born.

A nice thing about this dish is that it is pretty easy to make.  The hardest part is peeling the apples, and truthfully if you can’t be bothered just skip this step and leave the peels on.  I sweeten the apple mixture with clover honey which is readily available at any grocery store and inexpensive.  I like to use honey as opposed to sugar when possible as it has antioxidants and can add some body to what you are making.  The recipe is a relatively healthy dessert as its base is fruit and there is no butter, margarine or oil in it.  So feel free to eat a lot of it!

Although I make the recipe with apples it can be made with any type of fruit.  I bet it would be great with peaches, pears or plums.  I am serving it with vanilla ice cream but it can be served with frozen yogurt, tofuti ice cream or without to make it a non-dairy pareve dessert.  It is very easy to double or triple the recipe to make it for a crowd.  By the way, your house will smell amazing when you make it.  I think it is the perfect fall recipe!

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time:  15 minutes

Yield: 2 – 4 servings

4 large apples (I like Gala because they are not too sweet with a bit of tartness and are firm)

Juice of ½ a large lemon

2 tablespoons clover honey

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

¼ cup raisins (I like golden raisins, but you can use regular)

¾ cup of water

Pinch of salt

Pint of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt

¼ cup buckwheat honey

Peel and core the apples.  Place into a medium sized pot and immediately pour over the juice of the lemon to prevent browning.

Drizzle with the clover honey and sprinkle with the cinnamon and a pinch of salt (trust me on the salt).  Add the raisins and walnuts.  Pour the water over the mixture and heat over a medium temperature.

Once the liquid comes to a boil lower the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for another ten minutes.

Allow the apples to cool slightly.  Place apples into a bowl, pour over the juice, raisins and walnuts.  Top with ice cream or frozen yogurt and drizzle with buckwheat honey.



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Classic Hamburger

I am happy to announce that I am participating in the Joyofkosher.com Kosher Connection Link Up for Kosher food bloggers again (see below!).  The theme for this month is grilled food.  Perfect – right up my alley!  I love almost anything grilled, from lettuce,to meat, to fish, to fruits and veggies.  I had a hard time deciding what to post since you can make so many great recipes on the grill.  I was having thoughts of grilled sandwiches, desserts, kabobs and all sorts of grilled concoctions.  After many days of obsessing I could not decide what to post, but kept coming back to my favorite thing to make on the grill – a good old fashioned hamburger.

I love this recipe because it is quick, easy and delicious.  It is kid and adult tested and always a winner!  There are only a few ingredients, and these burgers are really flavorful.  They can be made on an outdoor grill or year round on a grill pan.  For many years I lived in an apartment and did not have an outdoor grill.  These are still great made on the grill pan.

I love this burger on a bun topped with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato pickles and a slice of onion – the classic.  You can also get creative with what type of bun you use and top it with any of your favorite toppings.  Some other toppers I love are sliced avocado, grilled onions and mushrooms, spicy mayonnaise or any pickled veggie.  The possibilities are endless!

 

Prep Time: 5 Minutes

Cook Time:  10 – 12 Minutes

Yield: 4 servings

 

1 ¼ pounds of lean ground beef

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

 

Preheat a grill pan or outdoor grill over medium-high heat.

Combine the salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder in a large bowl.  Add the Worcestershire sauce and meat to the of the spices.  Mix until just combined – do not over mix.

Create 4 burgers out of the mixture.  Create a dimple in the middle of each burger to help cook evenly. Place the burgers on the grill.

Grill for 5 – 6 minutes on each side for medium burgers.  A minute less for medium rare and a minute or two more for well done on each side.

 


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Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Omelet

I have many recipes for eggs only because they are so versatile.  I eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are a great source of protein and quick and easy to make.  You can add any type of vegetable to bump up the healthy factor .

This omelet combines some of my favorite flavors  – tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese.  They are a great and classic combination.  One day I decided to put them all into an omelet and this recipe was born!

Prep Time: 5 Minutes

Cook Time:  10 Minutes

Yield: 2 servings

 

2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 tablespoon of water

1 Roma tomato, chopped

3-4 large basil leaves, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)

¼ cup part skim shredded mozzarella cheese

Kosher salt

Ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in an 8 inch skillet over medium heat.  Place the tomatoes into the pan with a pinch of salt and sauté.

While the tomatoes cook beat the eggs and add the basil leaves (reserve a few pieces for garnish) salt, pepper and one tablespoon of water.

Once the tomatoes are slightly softened add the eggs to the pan.  Lower the heat to medium-low.  Cook the eggs until the edges start to firm up.  Loosen the edges of the eggs with a flexible spatula and tilt the skillet to let the uncooked egg run underneath.

Once the bottom is firm carefully place the spatula under the egg and flip the omelet.  If you do not think the egg will flip easily you can place the eggs under the broiler until the top is firm (about 3 to 5 minutes).  This is my trick to perfect omelets every time!

Sprinkle the cheese onto half of the egg.  Flip the egg on top of itself to fold in half.  Cut the egg in half and serve.

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Baba ghanoush

I know this has a funny name, but for anyone who has never tried baba ghanoush do not let the name scare you.  This is a Middle Eastern dip/spread/salad that is made of eggplant.  It is often served as a starter to a meal, but can be used as a side dish as well. It is popular from Morocco to Israel and many countries have their own spin on it.

My recipe is adapted from a recipe my sister Kathleen got from her mother-in-law who happens to be from Morocco and Israel.  I have seen many different versions of this dish but the reason I like mine is, A – it is easy, B – you do not need any additional equipment like a food processor and C – it does not require babysitting the eggplant over an open flame.  The cook time is over an hour.  But most of the time the eggplant is just roasting in the oven and you only need to check on it every 15 minutes or so.

Because my version cooks the eggplant in the oven as opposed to over an open flame there is not really a smokey taste to the baba.  I personally do not mind, but if you want a smokier version you could either roast the eggplant over a gas burner or cook it on an outdoor grill using the same method I describe.  I will also forewarn you that you really get the taste of garlic and lemon in my recipe.  If those are not flavors that you particularly like you can always use half the amount I suggest.  I do strongly suggest taking the time to paste up the garlic so that no one bites down on a large chunk.

This is  a really easy recipe to double, triple or even quadruple if you are making it for a crowd.  I like to serve it with pita bread, pita chips, crudites, challah or as an accompaniment to meat or chicken.  It can also be made the day before you plan to serve it.

Prep Time:  10 minutes

Cook Time:  60 minutes, plus 30 minutes cooling time

Yields:  4-8 servings

1 large eggplant, light in weight

1 clove garlic, pressed or very finely chopped

Juice of half a lemon

½ cup light mayonnaise

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the eggplant on a baking sheet lined with tin foil.  Prick the eggplant on all four sides with a fork.

Place the eggplant into the oven on the middle rack.  Cook the eggplant for one hour total rotating it every 15 minutes.  Once the eggplant is cooked through it will appear deflated.  Set it aside to cool.

While the eggplant is cooking you can make the sauce.  Chop the garlic or press it.  Add a generous pinch of kosher salt to the garlic.  With the back of your knife mash the garlic and drag it against the cutting board to create a paste.

Place the garlic paste into a large bowl.  Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and add the mayonnaise.  Add a few grinds of black pepper and stir everything together.

Refrigerate the mayonnaise mixture while the eggplant continues to cook.

Once the eggplant is cool scoop out the flesh from the inside, discarding the peel.  Place the eggplant into a strainer and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour so that most of the juices drain.

Chop the eggplant into small pieces and add to the mayonnaise sauce.  Mix well and serve chilled.

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Top Five Items To Keep In Your Freezer

I find that the best way to come up with quick, healthy and easy meals and snacks is to have a well stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer.  I have previously posted my top seven items to keep in your refrigerator.  So, today I am going to talk about the top five items to keep in your freezer.

I would love to say that I only buy fresh produce everyday for the meals I create.   The truth is I have to make a concerted effort to buy fresh produce once a week!  It is important to me that my family gets a good amount of fruits and veggies into their diet.  However, it is not possible for me to continuously shop for these items.  Even when I do have them on hand I never really know that I will be able to use everything I buy before it goes bad.  If there is anything I hate, it is throwing out food!  When I found out that frozen fruits and vegetables are almost as good nutritionally as their fresh counterparts I was sold.

Frozen Fruits – One of the great benefits of frozen fruit is that it is usually picked and frozen at the optimal time in their season.  Many fruits have a short season when they are really good.  Most fruits are not great year round, and if they are great then they are being flown in from half way around the world.  Frozen fruits allow you to enjoy your favorite fruits any time of the year.

My personal favorites are frozen berries and peaches.  I use them in smoothies, crumbles, tarts or sauces.  I also eat them plain with a sprinkle of sugar or served with some frozen yogurt.

Frozen Vegetables – You can pretty much be guaranteed that the vegetables were picked at the height of freshness and frozen.  This is a great thing!  The main reason I love frozen vegetables is because of their convenience.  Sometimes I do not have time to clean and cook the veggies that I want to serve.  This is when I rely on the frozen.  I also prefer frozen vegetables to canned as there is less sodium and no concern for exposure to the chemicals used to line the cans.  You also do not really sacrifice on texture as long as you cook them properly (meaning do not over cook!).

Another positive of frozen vegetables is the price.  They are often a lot less expensive than the fresh.  Frozen spinach is the best bargain around as it takes pounds of fresh spinach to make one box of frozen!

Some of my favorite frozen veggies are asparagus, green beans, edemame, broccoli, peas, corn and spinach.  I use them in side dishes, salads, soups and quiche.  They also can be great steamed and on their own.

Frozen Yogurt – I could eat ice cream every day of the week.  However, that is probably not the best idea for my waist line.  A nice compromise for me is frozen yogurt.  It is lower in fat and calories than regular ice cream and also has all those great cultures.

There are some really good quality frozen yogurts out there that really satisfy my craving for something creamy and delicious.  I like all kinds of flavors, but my favorites are probably anything chocolate or Stoneyfield Farm’s Vanilla.  You can actually see the vanilla bean dots going through the vanilla yogurt!

I will chop up a banana, or peach or throw some berries in the bottom of a bowl and top it with the frozen yogurt.  If I really want to be decadent I will drizzle some buckwheat honey on top and add some chopped nuts.  It is the perfect guilt free sundae! Frozen yogurt is a great snack in the summer when the weather is hot and you just want something cold and creamy.

Veggie Burgers – There are so many great types of veggie burgers on the market today.  Where they were once poor substitutes for a real burger, I really think that they have evolved.  There are some that mimic beef or chicken made of soy proteins.  There are others that are more “veggie” and made up of mostly vegetables.  They are a good source of lean protein and a major convenience food in that they normally take 1 to 2 minutes to heat up in the microwave.  There is always the option to cook them on the grill for a more authentic feel.

My favorites these days are the Bombay Veggie Burgers by Dr. Praeger (they are spiced beautifully!) and the California Veggie Burger from Morningstar Farms.  They have real pieces of avocado in them – yum!  You can serve them on toasted whole grain bread or on a bun for a healthy lunch or dinner.

Vodka – I am not a total lush, but I do like to keep a bottle of vodka in the freezer.  Of course vodka is just fine outside of the freezer, but I really like it ice cold.  Because of the alcohol content you do not have to worry about it freezing.  It is however, the perfect temperature for some celebratory shots, mixed drinks or martinis 🙂

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Mojito Mango Granita

This month is the first month I am participating in the Joyofkosher.com Kosher Connection Link Up for Kosher food bloggers.  Every month we will have to come up with a recipe based on an ingredient or theme that has been selected.  I am really excited to be participating in this – see link below!  This month the theme is a frozen dessert.  I immediately panicked because I am really not a great baker and dessert is not my forte.

Since it is summer, I thought of some of my favorite hot weather flavors .  To me, a drink that is synonymous with summer is a mojito.  I love this refreshing minty cocktail served in a chilled glass over ice.   This year my dad’s mango tree has been producing some of the sweetest, tastiest mangoes I have ever eaten.   I decided to come up with a mango mojito!  This is the kind of dessert that is right up my alley – no baking!  It is an excellent parev dessert, refreshing snack on a hot day or palate cleanser in between courses.  You can make it with or without the rum.  It is delicious either way!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 – 6 hours freeze time
Yield: 6 – 8 servings

½ cup sugar
½ cup water
½ cup mint leaves plus extra for garnish
4 cups mango juice
Zest of 1 large lime
2 – 3 large limes
½ cup white rum (optional)

Pour the water and sugar into a sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.  As soon as the sugar is dissolved, set it aside to cool.

Chop the ½ cup of packed mint leaves extremely fine either by hand or in a mini food processor.

Zest one lime (green part only).  Add the chopped mint, zest and juice of 2 large limes (3 if they are not giving off a lot of juice) to a large bowl.  Add the sugar syrup, mango juice and stir well.  Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 baking pan that is safe to go into the freezer.

Place the pan in the freezer.  Scrape the mixture every hour to break up the ice crystals.  After 4 to 6 hours (depending on your freezer) the pan should be all ice crystals.

Serve in a bowl or glass with a sprig of mint and slice of lime to garnish.




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Spice Rub Trout

I love fish.  I can go without eating red meat and poultry for weeks on end, but that would be difficult for me to do with fish.  It is hard to believe that as a little girl I would not go near any type of fish.  Now I eat it raw!  I crave it.  The more the better.  That little girl would never believe it.  Lucky for me fish has a lot of really great health benefits. It is a great source of protein and those omega-3 fatty acids that everyone is talking about.

This recipe can be made with any white flay fish.  The herbs de Provance is my secret ingredient in this dish.  As with many of my recipes, it was a fluke how the spices all came together.  Once I realized how good the combination was I knew it was a keeper.

Sometimes I make this recipe once a week.  It is so easy and takes no time to prep and cook.  I make it just for us on a weeknight and also for company.  While the fish is in the oven I make a side dish.  I serve it with a baked potato or sweet potato, cous cous or rice pilaf and some vegetables.  A healthy dinner and it is always a hit!

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Cook Time:  15 to 20 Minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Cooking Spray or Olive Oil in a Misto (preferable)

2 pounds trout filet

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons paprika

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons herbs de Provance

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray a large baking pan or foil tray with nonstick cooking spray or olive oil in a Misto.  Place the trout filets in a single layer on the baking sheet.

In a small bowl add all of the spices, salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Drizzle olive oil over the trout and rub into the fish.  Sprinkle the spice rub over the fish.  Turn the fish over and drizzle the second side with olive oil.  Sprinkle the other side with the spice rub.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.  It should be cooked through, not opaque and flake easily.

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