Hanukkah Treats

kristen on Dec 23rd 2011

Hanukkah is in full swing at our house and I’m getting my recipes together and ingredients organized for tomorrow’s Day of Baking. This year I am trying a new sufganiyot recipe and making rugelach for the first time.

We’ve had our potato latkes with applesauce and sour cream and I’ve made a few holiday staples. I made the sugar cookies shaped like dreidels, menorahs, and Jewish stars. I also cooked our favorite noodle kugel. While I use different sugar cookie recipes with varying results, I absolutely love our noodle kugel recipe. Add 1 cup of golden raisins for an even sweeter tasting kugel. This recipe is huge and we always have too many leftovers–even when served at a dinner party.  So, if your baking it for your family, cut the recipe in half, use an 8 x 11.5 x 2 inch dish, and bake for 35-40 minutes or until firm, but with a little spring.

I was inspired by my co-worker to make these rum balls. While not connected to Hanukkah in anyway, I couldn’t resist trying these tasty rum and chocolate treats. We didn’t have vanilla wafers so we used whatever snacks we had in the house: animal crackers, graham crackers, and even some of Sam’s Letter of the Day Oatmeal Cinnamon Cookies–yes, a very bizarre array of substitutions. But, oh my! They are dangerously delicious.

Happy Hanukkah!

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Birthday Party Prep

kristen on May 3rd 2011

I had been so totally consumed by Passover planning that I didn’t realize how quickly Sam’s second birthday was coming up. SAM’S 2ND BIRTHDAY! SECOND BIRTHDAY! As in 2 years old! How did that happen? And how is it only 9 days away!

And how is it only 43 degrees out at 12:00pm on May 3? I’m really starting to worry about the weather for Sam’s party. The plan is to have a construction themed party with outdoor events. I hope the weather shapes up soon. This is getting a bit ridiculous and depressing.

This year I decided to make my own invitations. I figured why not put my Photoshop skills to work for my own good. I hastily assembled and mailed them last week after realizing how near we were to Sam’s birthday.

Last night I stuffed party favor bags while chowing down on pepperoni pizza and drinking Mighty Arrow beer—a pretty good night in my book. I found some really cool crayons on Etsy; they are shaped like tractors, dump trucks, bulldozers, and backhoes.

 

I’m still deciding what to do about the cake for Sam’s party. Do I bake my own cake or order one? I was also thinking of making these rocky road crunch bars along with having a cake. It’s shaping up to be a small party so maybe just a cake and a fruit salad. I always end up doing too much. I’m trying to contain myself but it’s not easy.

 

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Getting Ready for Passover: The Menu

kristen on Apr 21st 2011

This year’s Passover menu includes:

Seder Service with Ritual Foods: Charoset, Matzo, Horseradish, Egg, Parsley, Wine

________

Matzo Ball Soup
Gefilte Fish
Red Pepper and Potato Salad
Wine

________

Brisket
Turkey Breast
Cranberry Sauce
Green Beans
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Wine

________

Apple Cake
Matzo Candy
Macaroons
Jelly Candies
Coffee and Tea

________

Every year I try a new recipe. This year I am trying a potato salad type dish. As you can see below, it is an odd mix of ingredients. I am hopeful that once they’re all combined it tastes better than it sounds.

Red Pepper and Potato Salad
(Recipe from Pesach for the Rest of Us by Marge Piercy)

4 potatoes
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 red onion, grated or chopped fine in a food processor
4 hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in their jackets until tender. In the meantime, cook the pepper and onion together until they are soft and well cooked. Chop the potatoes with the eggs. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. This is a dish good served hot and just as good at room temperature. If you serve unheated, you could arrange in on lettuce leaves. [I may add some horseradish to this dish.]

________

We’re also making fresh horseradish sauce. I’m told I should wear goggles and a mask while preparing this. I’m a bit frightened.

How to Prepare Horseradish
(From SimpleRecipes.com)

8-10 inch long piece of horseradish root
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp white vinegar
Pinch of salt

Remove the leaves from the root and rinse the dirt off of the root. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the surface skin off of the tuber. Chop into pieces.

Put into a food processor. Add a couple tablespoons of water. Process until well ground. At this point be careful. Ground fresh horseradish is many times more potent than freshly chopped onions and can really hurt your eyes if you get too close. Keep at arm’s length away, and work in a well ventilated room. Strain out some of the water if the mixture has too much liquid. Add a tablespoon of white vinegar and a pinch of salt to the mixture. Pulse to combine.

Note that the vinegar will stabilize the level of hotness of the ground horseradish, so do not wait too long to add it to the mixture. The longer you wait the hotter the horseradish.

Using a rubber spatula carefully transfer the grated horseradish to a jar. It will keep for 3 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.

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Nadia G: Shiksa’s Passover Special

kristen on Apr 19th 2011

Watch as Nadia G gives a Bitchin’ Kitchen makeover to the beloved-but-bland Passover dish, Gefilte fish. We love this cooking show!!!


 

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Getting Ready for Passover: Recipes

kristen on Apr 18th 2011

Here are some dishes we serve at our Passover Seder.

Sweet and Sour Brisket
From Linda Klein

4lb beef brisket
1 clove galic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
6 red russet potatoes
2 large onions sliced (or halved then quartered)
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup dates or golden raisins

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook over low heat until meet is tender. Minimum cook time 5 hours.

__________________________________________

Matzo Buttercrunch Candy
From Judy Goldberg (slightly modified by KK)

4+ unsalted Matzo sheets
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed firm
6-12 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips (depending on how chocolaty you want the candy to be)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Wrap cookie sheet in aluminum foil. Lightly grease. Line bottom of pan evenly with matzo sheets, using what you need and cutting pieces to fit any spaces on the cookie sheet.

Combine butter and brown sugar in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Continue cooking 3 more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and pour over matzo and spread evenly using a plastic spatula. Bake 10-15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure mixture is not burning. (If it seems to be browning too quickly, remove from oven.)

Remove from oven then sprinkle chocolate chips as evenly as possible over butter and sugar mixture. Place in oven for approx. 2 minutes. Remove and spread chocolate evenly over matzo with plastic spatula. Let cool and refrigerate. Once completely cooled cut into squares or break off pieces by hand. Make sure your hands are dry or the chocolate will melt under your touch. [A pizza cutter works best for cutting even pieces. Candy is best stored in fridge.]

__________________________________________

Passover Apple Cake
From Martha Stewart

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon mace
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup matzo cake meal (or matzo meal and potato starch; 1 part each)
5 medium apples, such as Golden Delicious or Crispin, peeled, cored, halved, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 cups)
1/3 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack set in the center. Lightly spray an 8-inch-square glass baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Mix together pecans, 3/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and ginger in a medium bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat eggs on medium speed until well combined. Beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, until mixture is thick and foamy. (Turn mixer to faster setting to foam mixture.) With the mixer running, slowly pour in oil. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Stir in matzo cake meal.

Pour half of the batter into prepared cake pan. Sprinkle over half of the nut mixture, half of the apples and raisins. Pour over remaining batter and top with remaining apples and raisins; sprinkle over remaining nut mixture.

Transfer cake to oven and bake until the sides of the cake pull away from the baking dish very slightly and topping begins to caramelize, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove cake from oven and let stand for several hours until completely cool, before cutting. Keep cake covered tightly with plastic wrap for up to 2 days, as the flavor improves with age.

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PhilosophyBlog: Atlas: More! Again!

Shawn on Apr 18th 2011

Over at my blog, I wrote up some thoughts on Atlas Shrugged Part 1. Here’s a snippet:

In this regard, Atlas Shrugged Part 1 passes with flying colors. Sure it has some technical weaknesses that even a film idiot like me can pick out. Sure there are things in the characters and the story that are missed or could have been done way better. But once the film started, I didn’t look at my watch once. I didn’t think about what papers I needed to grade or classes I need to prep. I didn’t once think to myself: “where is this going? why are they doing this?” I didn’t have one “WTF” moment. There were several moments that I wanted to cheer. When it was over, I had two thoughts: “More!” “Again!”

Check out the full post.

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Getting Ready for Passover: The Seder Plate

kristen on Apr 18th 2011

The Seder Plate is the focal point of Passover and holds the ritual foods:

Matsah – unleavened bread
Maror – bitter herb
Pesakh – roasted lamb bone
Charoset – a sweet mixture
Karpas – sprigs of parsley
Baytsah – a roasted egg

Passover is often referred to as the Festival of Freedom. Many foods on our Seder plate hold meanings symbolic of the struggle for freedom: matsah, horseradish (maror), and charoset. Passover also has roots in ancient springtime festivals. This is clearly seen on the Seder plate with green sprigs of parsley (karpas), a roasted egg (baytsah), and the lamb shank (pesakh).

The ritual foods on the Seder plate hold varying meanings with both ancient and modern interpretations.

Matsah – When the Israelites fled Egypt, they left in such haste that the bread they baked did not have time to rise. Matsah is the bread they ate in the wandering of the desert. Matsah is the symbol or our affliction and our freedom.

Maror – Maror is a bitter herb such as horseradish. The bitter herb reminds us of the time of our slavery. We force ourselves to taste the pain of our ancestors. Bitter herbs were also eaten during ancient springtime festivals as a way to awaken the senses and welcome nature’s revival.

Pesakh – Lambs were precious to our ancestors. They provided meat, milk, and wool. Born in the spring, they were the often the original sacrifice of the first harvest. Lamb’s blood is also an important part of the Passover story. The Israelites placed lamb’s blood above their doorposts so that the 10 plagues visited upon Egypt would pass over them.

Charoset – This is a sweet mixture of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon. It is the color of clay and mortar. It reminds us of the bricks and mortar the Israelites were forced to make to build the Pharaoh’s great palaces and cities. At the same time, charoset is sweet and reminds us of the sweetness of freedom.

Karpas – The parsley on the Seder plate is also a bitter herb. While its green sprigs remind us that spring has come, we use the parsley as a means to taste the tears we cried when we were slaves. We dip the parsley into salt water and eat it. The sharp flavor mixed with the salt water reminds us of the pain and sadness of oppression.

Baytsah – The egg is the universal sign of life. It is the symbol of springtime and fertility. Yet the egg is fragile. It represents potential that can be destroyed.

You will hear much of the above retold in our Haggadah.

I’ll end with our yummy charoset recipe.

Charoset
(Recipe from Wolfgang Puck. Slightly modified by KK.)

6 medium peeled, cored and grated apples (about 6 cups)
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped pecans
1 cup golden raisins
1/4 to 1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup kosher for Passover sweet red wine

In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients; let sit in refrigerator overnight. Sample before serving and add more nuts, wine, lemon juice and/or honey to preferred taste and consistency. Serve and enjoy.

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Getting Ready for Passover: The Seder

kristen on Apr 13th 2011

Passover is one of my favorite Jewish holidays. It is the 8 day observance commemorating the freedom and exodus of the Israelites from Egypt during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II. It is a time of family gatherings and lavish meals where the story of Passover is retold through the reading of the Haggadah.

As secular Jews we view Passover as much more than the celebration of Moses and the exodus from Egypt. The excerpt below is taken from the Society for Humanistic Judaism and clearly reflects our view of Passover:

Humanistic Jews view the biblical Exodus story as one of the most powerful myths of the Jewish people, a tale that relates the courage and determination of a people fleeing slavery for freedom. Secular Humanistic Judaism views Passover as a time to celebrate the modern, as well as the ancient, quest for freedom.

A Humanist Haggadah includes both the legendary tale of the exodus from Egypt and the modern Jewish exodus stories, as well as the themes of its origin. Passover is also a celebration of human dignity and of the freedom that makes dignity possible.

The Haggadah is the book we read from during the Passover Seder. It contains stories, poems, rituals, and directions to guide us through the Passover Seder.

Each Passover we are a year older, each year brings new joys and sorrows, and each year we have different friends and family members at our Seder. To have a truly meaningful Seder it is important to honor these changes through the creation of an appropriate Haggadah. That is why we choose to create our own Haggadah. Each year we review the text and make revisions that reflect our current situation. Given that we are prone to procrastination, there are often many typos and grammatical errors. I like to think they make our Haggadah all the more unique!

How it works:

Shawn leads the Seder and we go around the table taking turns reading passages from the Haggadah. Throughout the Seder we are asked to eat the ritual foods on the Seder plate and drink cups of wine–four full cups of wine to be exact. The children drink grape juice.

Then we feast on a lavish meal of holiday foods: Gefilte fish with or without horseradish (this is for the strong of stomach–I don’t go near the stuff), matzo ball soup, brisket and roasted turkey breast, assorted veggies (we have to have something healthy), chocolate buttercrunch matzo candy, apple cake, and store bought macaroons and assorted jelly candies (why store bought… because it is tradition).

At the end of the meal we turn to the Haggadah for the final portion of the Seder. Wait! The Seder cannot end until the afikomen is found! This is like the Jewish Easter Egg Hunt. Shawn may kill me for that analogy, but it works. At some point during the Passover meal Shawn hides a piece of matzah–this is called the afikomen. In order to end the Seder it must be found. The kids search the house for it and whoever finds it gets a prize.

FYI: In my experience children never, ever sit through an entire Seder. NEVER. EVER. They wrestle under the table, they sit and watch TV, they runaround the house. That is all part of a traditional Seder. We are prepared for this.

The next blog will talk about the Seder plate and its ritual foods.

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Sammy Goes to School

kristen on Apr 4th 2011

Shawn dropped off our deposit on Friday! Sam starts school this Fall!

Sam is enrolled in the Young Child Program at the Montessori Private Academy in Rockford. He is currently registered for three full days: Monday through Wednesday, 8:30AM to 3:30PM. If he takes to the program we may extend it to five full days.

I cannot aptly describe all the emotions I am feeling at this moment. I am excited. I am scared. I am relieved to have some of my time back. And I am dreadfully sad to think how empty my days will be without Sam; the house will be so still and too quiet. I could cry tears of sadness while smiling proudly and happily.

My baby is growing up!

Yippee! 

Boo-hoo!

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Save the Date

kristen on Mar 31st 2011

Calling all builders, big and small! We’ll dig in the dirt and have a ball!

Join us for Sammy’s 2nd birthday!

Saturday, May 14th
2:00PM to 4:00PM

Shovels, hardhats, and lots of dirt will be provided! We’ll also have tons of cake, brownies, and ice cream!

Need some gift ideas? Check out Sam’s Amazon wish list: http://amzn.com/w/7JVT08EOF25P.

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