Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chanukah Repost

Last year, I went all out and made a really nice Chanuka greeting. This year, I have a 3 month old baby, so going all out for anything is kind of not happening. I haven't even baked cookies since she was born.

So instead, I'm just going to link back to last year's post here.

Have a wonderful Chanukah, everyone!

Edit: You also may notice that my blog has undergone some changes. I felt like it was time to move myself out of the "elementary HTML" look and move on to something that hurts a little less to look at. Hope you like it! More changes will probably come soon.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

L'Kavod Shabbos: Sweet and Sour Chicken, Green Beans, and Spaghetti Squash Kugel

Since the Huz had the day off on Friday, I took the opportunity to try cooking real shabbos meals again while he watched our daughter. I came up with a couple of pretty awesome recipes on the spot, and I'm kind of proud of myself so I wanted to share them with you.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Ingredients:
  • Chicken (I used a whole fryer, but you can use whatever parts you want)
  • Ketchup
  • Sweet and Sour style Duck sauce
  • Srirachi sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • spices: onion powder, garlic powder, sage, oregano
  • 1 onion, sliced
Instructions:
  1. Use onion slices to line the bottom of your pan (got this idea from my SIL. HI! ~waves~)
  2. Clean chicken and place it on top of onion slices.
  3. Season chicken with the spices above to taste
  4. Mix duck sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, and srirachi sauce together in a bowl. I don't have measurements because I just do everything to taste. The ratio is LOTS of duck sauce to a medium amount of ketchup to a SMALL amount of srirachi sauce and just a DASH of soy sauce. Mess around with it until it tastes right to you.
  5. Pour the sauce over the chicken and bake, covered, at 350 until fully cooked. (for legs, this is usually about an hour, for the whole friar it was closer to an hour and a half.)
Green Beans with Mushrooms and White Wine
Ingredients:
  • Green beans, washed and tips cut off
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Shallots, chopped
  • White wine (I used cooking wine)
  • Lemon juice
  • Garlic powder
Instructions:
  1. Saute shallots and mushrooms in a little olive oil in a large frying pan
  2. Add all other ingredients to taste, cover and let simmer until green beans are JUST tender but still a little crunchy.
Spaghetti Squash Kugel

Ingredients:
  • Spaghetti Squash (I used what was left over from our dinner during the week. About half a squash?)
  • 4 eggs
  • Vanilla soy milk
  • cinnamon, brown sugar, splenda, sugar
Instructions:
  1. Mix eggs with cinnamon, brown sugar and splenda, and add a small amount of vanilla soy milk.
  2. Add in spaghetti squash and mix thoroughly.
  3. Pour into a greased 8x8 pan.
  4. Sprinkle sugar and more cinnamon on top.
  5. Bake at 375, uncovered, until the top is browned and crispy.


These were all delicious. Believe me. :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Fall Squash Extravaganza!

Last night, I decided to cook my SECOND meal since having a baby. When I had gone grocery shopping earlier in the week, I had gone a little crazy with the Fall squash selection. Well, not too crazy. I saw spaghetti and acorn squash and felt the pull of Fall cuisine.

So I pulled it together and made a really awesome Fall dish last night from the squash and a few other items in my pantry. I didn't know if I was really going to like it, but it turned out pretty excellent. It's healthy and, actually, vegan.

It's also easy, which you know makes it all that much better.

Spaghetti Squash with Acorn Squash and Chick Peas

Ingredients:
  • 1 Large Spaghetti Squash
  • 1 small acorn squash
  • 1 can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 8oz package of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • olive oil
  • Garlic powder
  • salt & pepper
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Pierce both squashes all over with a small sharp knife, then place in the oven for about an hour until they're easily pierced with a knife.
  2. In a frying pan, saute the mushrooms, onions, and chickpeas in olive oil. Season with the spices to taste.
  3. Cut the acorn squash into chunks (discarding the seeds, of course) and add to the frying pan, sauteeing and stirring until flavored.
  4. Cut spaghetti squash in half, discard seeds, and use a fork to shred out strings. Serve with chick pea mixture. :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Baby!

It's been a long time since I've updated, but I have a good excuse. You see, 6 weeks ago I had a baby girl. She's small and cute and sweet and full of so many exciting bodily fluids. She's also incredibly time-consuming and tends to occupy at least one of my typing hands, making blog entries more annoying.

Right now she's sleeping in her swing (thanks to the Huz's coworkers for that!) so I'm actually able to type.

Admittedly, I haven't cooked a single thing since she was born. But I'm gearing up to make my first dinner tonight. Isn't it exciting? I'm thinking mushroom soup with some bread/breadsticks? I'd best get on it though.

I'm also getting ready to head back to work tomorrow. Scary stuff. Good thing I have so many relatives eager to spend time with the new baby. :)

More updates next time my hands are free!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Veggie Calzone & Garlic Bread Sticks



When trying to decide what to make before the fast of Tisha B'av, I reached out for advice and scoured the internet for suggestions. After a little research and a little thought, I settled on something that would be easy, filling, and healthy, containing things like fiber and protein: Whole Wheat Veggie Calzones. I threw them together on Monday evening and we quite enjoyed them. Whether they helped us fast any better, who knows. But they were good.

As it happened, I had some of the filling leftover tonight. Enough to make one calzone. Since I had some leftover Chinese food to eat myself, I figured I'd make a calzone for Yaakov. The problem is that my pizza dough recipe makes enough dough for two large calzones, not just one. So I thought, "What can I do with the rest of the dough?"

Bread sticks of course!

I can't take full credit for the idea. The same person who shared the pizza dough recipe with me also gave me the idea for turning it in to bread sticks. I've just never really gotten around to it before now. And I'm regretting that. They're amazing. So, thank you Talia for sharing that dough recipe AND for the bread sticks suggestion. You're pretty awesome.

Here are the recipes:



Whole Wheat Veggie Calzones

Ingredients
  • 1 batch of No-Knead Pizza Dough made with whole wheat flour (recipe here)
  • 1 package frozen broccoli, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 package of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 container low-fat ricotta cheese (8 ounces?)
  • 1-2 Cups shredded mozzarella (depending on how cheesy you want it)
Instructions
  1. Saute the onion until translucent. Then saute the mushrooms until tender. Then briefly saute the tomato chunks until they...look yummy...
  2. Mix all the filling ingredients in a large bowl. You can add seasoning like salt and pepper if you like, but it isn't necessary. I DID add a little garlic powder, though.
  3. Cut the pizza dough in half. Roll out 1 half of dough to 1/4 inch thickness (or thereabouts. I'm not too picky on this. Just roll it out until it looks big enough for the amount of filling you want to put in it.)
  4. Spoon filling onto half of the rolled out dough, leaving some space around the edges. Fold over the other half and press the edges together, then fold them up to avoid leaks.
  5. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, or until they look nice and crispy. (Note: These tend to get soggy on the bottom when I bake them on a baking sheet. I think ideally, you should use a pizza crisper. Also, do try to get as much of the liquid OUT of the filling as possible. I really haven't figured out a way to keep them from getting soggy and leaky on the bottoms. Just be prepared for this as a possible outcome. They're still tasty.)




Garlic Bread Sticks

Ingredients:
  • 1 batch Pizza Dough made with whole wheat flour
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • jarred chopped/minced garlic
  • kosher salt
  • Rosemary (optional)
Instructions
  1. Take a small amount of the pizza dough (about the size of an egg) and roll out to form (as much as possible) a long rectangle.
  2. Spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray. Spread on ~ 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic. Sprinkle on a little kosher salt and rosemary.
  3. Roll up the dough width-wise to form a long stick.
  4. Place on a baking sheet.
  5. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  6. Bake at 450 Farenheit for ~10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don't burn. These seemed to brown faster than when I make pizza or calzones. (could be the olive oil spray) Don't worry about them being undercooked because there's nothing RAW in the dough. Just get them to where they look yummy and golden brown.
  7. Let them cool before eating them. They come out REALLY hot (and delicious).

Monday, August 1, 2011

Spinach Calzones

Today is the first day of the 9 Days, during which, as a sign of mourning, we do not eat meat. Normally, this doesn't bother me because I'm more of a dairy person anyway. But this year, silly me, I cooked for Shabbos anticipating leftovers to tide us over through some of the week. So...we've got some chicken that may become soup next shabbos...

Anyway, the point of this riveting story is that I had to come up with something for dinner tonight. I had bought some ingredients for making calzones a couple weeks ago and had never gotten around to it, so I offered that as a dinner option to the Huz. Needless to say, he got a little excited.

The thing about calzones is that they're very easy to make. You whip up a batch of pizza dough, make your filling, fill, fold, and bake. The process usually takes between 30-45 minutes.

I used some guidelines for my filling, but I did my own thing for the most part. It came out very tasty, but I'm concerned that the filling didn't fully cook. I also think that in the future, I will make 4 smaller calzones instead of 2 large ones. For me, the filling to dough ratio was a little too high.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures before we started eating, so the ones I have aren't the best, or most appetizing, so I'll keep them to myself. Just imagine a calzone. That's what they looked like.

Anyway, here's the recipe. Enjoy! :)

Spinach Calzones

Ingredients
  • Pizza dough (recipe here)
  • 1 container low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 Cup low-fat mozzarella cheese
  • 1 Cup frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
Instructions
  1. Mix all of the ingredients, excluding the pizza dough, in a bowl.
  2. Separate the pizza dough into 2-4 portions (depending on your size preference) and roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness.
  3. place 1/2 or 1/4 (depending on how many calzones your making) of the filling on one side of the rolled out dough. Fold the other half of the dough over and pinch closed, being careful not to let the filling squeeze out.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees Farenheit for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure the calzone isn't burning, and try to gauge when you think the filling is cooked.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hot Weather And Salad Dinner

Since it's been two weeks since my last update, I figured I should write something to keep my readers interested. I think that's what blogging is supposed to be about.

If you've been in Baltimore this week, you know that the weather here is kind of miserable right now. It's been in the 90's all week, but with humidity it feels like it's over 100 degrees. Well, this Shabbos, the temperature will actually reach 103 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now I don't want to hear anything from people in Arizona saying 103 degrees is pretty normal by their standards, or people in Israel complaining about 105 degree weather. I'm not trying to start some "who's hotter?" competition, I'm just stating facts. Regardless of whether there's worse weather elsewhere in the world (you like that use of homonyms, don't you?), the weather here is still pretty awful.

Anyway, these kinds of miserable mid-summer days get me thinking about food. Primarily foods like popsicles, ice cream, smoothies, fresh fruit, and bags of frozen peas applied liberally all over my body. I've got a whole bunch of ice cream and sorbet ideas in the works, but until I finish off that Cherry Chocolate Chunk ice cream, I won't have a container to put them in or room in the freezer. We're working on it, no worries.

In the meantime, I've got to come up with dinners that are filling, healthy (read: non-sugar based), but also light and simple enough to avoid heat stroke.

Tonight's dinner was a pretty good example. I made a broccoli slaw with chunks of deli, craisins, Granny Smith apple chunks, and a honey garlic dressing (homemade with low fat mayo). It came together quickly (10 minutes? If that much? How long does it take to cut an apple and a hunk of deli into chunks?), it was pretty tasty, and managed to be a decently balanced meal all at the same time (all the major food groups: protein, veggies, fruit, and mayonnaise). When paired with a nice, tall, ice cold glass of seltzer, it was even pretty refreshing.

Well, I hope this will tide you all over until my next kitchen adventure. Until then, {insert catchphrase here}!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rice & Beans, Corn Soup, And A Plum Cake



I don't know what came over me, but tonight I was really in a kitchen mood. I had been looking for inexpensive dinner ideas yesterday, and someone suggested rice and beans. I couldn't imagine that being a dinner on its own (my own failing) so I decided it must be accompanied by soup.

I decided on a simple corn soup recipe (found here) and used two bags of frozen corn instead of the fresh corn it calls for, added a little dash of MimicCreme, and decided to leave the "salting to taste" to individual tastes. I can't rave enough about this soup. Yaakov and I both loved it and it was so incredibly simple to make. It took all of 30 minutes and only cost me about $5 to make about 6 servings.

For the rice and beans, I went to an old favorite of mine, Skinny Weight Watcher's Girl. I've made a number of her recipes in the past, and they tend to be pretty good. Knowing the nutrition facts is definitely an added bonus. So I knew that if I made this, I'd be getting a decently balanced meal out of it. This came out pretty tasty and I didn't change a thing. Follow her instructions and it makes a pretty good meal or side dish.



Now, after dinner, I found myself thinking about those plums I picked on Sunday and how they're not disappearing as quickly as they should. Earlier today, while hanging around on TasteSpotting.com (a great way to waste time on the internet if you're a foodie, like me), I had found a recipe for a Peach Cake, but finding my peach supply dwindling and seeing that it can also be used for plums, this seemed like a good solution.

Now on the cake, I made a couple tweaks.

For one thing, I had no raw sugar, but I DID have some vanilla sugar, so I substituted that in the topping.

Also, I decided while mixing the batter that a little lemon extract seemed like a great idea to really rev up the tartness factor.



It was. :)

You can find all the recipes by following the links above. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Spontaneous Kitchen Adventure and Post #100!

Hello everybody!

As you may recall, a couple weeks ago, I went cherry picking.

Well this week, I went peach and plum picking!

And I wanted pie.

So badly.

That I broke out some mini frozen pie crusts.

Here's the result:



All this is is frozen pie crust, sliced peaches, sugar and a little pumpkin pie seasoning, topped with a lattice crust.

Now, here's the problem:



SOGGY PIE BOTTOM!

If only I'd added a little flour or corn starch! Anything to soak up those nummy juices!

I'll know better for next time. For now, this is a pretty darn tasty pie. :)



In other news, THIS IS POST #100 ON THIS BLOG!! Get excited! I'm throwing a little party in my brain. ~wiggle to the left, wiggle to the right~

I hope you've all been enjoying it. See you later at post #1,000. :-D

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pareve Ice Cream with Cherries and Chocolate Chunks (UPDATE)



As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I recently went cherry picking and decided to use some of those cherries to make an ice cream recipe I'd been contemplating for a while. I also promised in that post that I would share my results today. :)
Let me begin by saying that I took a very basic recipe (basic vanilla ice cream + cherries + chocolate chunks) and did it my own way, as usual. The result is, I believe, an acquired taste.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

You see, my original plan was to take a container of Sweetened MimicCreme, add a little vanilla extract, put it in the ice cream maker and then add cherries and chocolate chunks. But then I was thinking about the last time I made ice cream that was JUST MimicCreme, and how it had frozen solid. It was delicious and creamy, but you had to let it soften for a while before you could get at it. So I thought, what can I add to keep it from getting so hard?

My brilliant idea? A tiny dash of white cooking wine that I had in the fridge. Here's the problem with that theory that struck me pretty quickly after I'd added it:
  1. wine actually freezes. I should have used something with a higher alcohol content, like vodka if I'd had any.
  2. white cooking wine is not high quality wine and therefore doesn't add the BEST taste in the world. Not a BAD taste, mind you, just not the best.


The resulting ice cream actually came out less creamy than I would have liked, still froze hard, and has a white wine undertone that, while actually a pretty good flavor combination in general, is not quite what you expect when you dig in. The initial effect can be a little off-putting.

My other mistake is the chocolate I used. I happen to be a big fan of Elite Chocolate, and love to eat it straight. When thinking of what to use for the chocolate chunks, I went straight for their bittersweet dark chocolate. However, I should have upgraded to something higher quality and more bitter, or at least to chocolate chips, because this doesn't seem to have held up well. the pieces aren't hard when you bite in to them, but have a texture closer to pecans in ice cream.

All in all, I think this ice cream is pretty tasty, but it's definitely not for everyone. (The Huz, for instance, found it too repugnant to finish the small teaspoonful he took.) I'd definitely do many things differently if I had it to do all over again (and I might!) but for now it's an intriguing flavor combination that would probably be wonderful for some and disgusting for others.

(UPDATE: Tasting it again, I've determined this is actually quite delicious if you think of it as a cream ice rather than an ice cream. The flavors work much better that way and the texture makes more sense. Also, I need to correct a statement earlier in this post. The Huz was not grossed out by the ice cream, he merely wasn't in the mood to eat it with his cheese sandwich. He actually seems to enjoy it.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cherry Picking and Pasta with Meat Sauce



As some of my Facebook followers are aware, I recently went cherry picking. If you've never gone fruit picking before, let me tell you that it's incredibly fun, and it's a family friendly activity, too! But here's the thing: You end up with a lot of fruit! So what to do with all those cherries? Well, I know what I want to do!



I recently saw a fantastic sounding recipe for Chocolate Chunk Cherry Ice Cream. The recipe was pretty simple, and I knew that with one of my favorite secret ingredients, I could make it pareve to boot! So tonight, I went ahead and broke out my ice cream maker.



Now, I can't really give you results on it yet because it's still hardening in the freezer, but rest assured that tomorrow you'll be seeing an update with the outcome and the recipe.



But to tide you over....

Tonight I wanted something easy for dinner because I didn't get home from shopping with my mother until after 7. (I got SHOES!!!!) I had bought some "Spicy Italian Chicken and Turkey Sausage" and decided to use it to make a simple meat sauce. Here's how I did it:


Pasta with Meat Sauce

Ingredients:
  • Pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • Spicy Italian Chicken and Turky Sausage, or other sausage of your choice, cut into bitesized chunks
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp chopped/minced garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp white wine
  • 1/2 bottle Barilla Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce
Instructions
  1. coat the bottom of a small saucepan with olive oil
  2. Sauté the onion for ~1-2 minutes, until just translucent
  3. Add in sausage and continue sautéing, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown
  4. Add in minced garlic, stir around and cook about 1 min
  5. Add white wine, let simmer ~2-3 mins
  6. Add marinara sauce, cover and simmer until hot
  7. Pour over pasta and enjoy. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Belated Cheesecakes

Ok, so I should have posted this last week, but I got distracted by cheesecake.


Really good cheesecake.


Really EASY cheesecake.


Really, deliciously rich and fattening cheesecake.

Yum.



I found this recipe on Gourmet Kosher Cooking. It's called "The Best Plain Cheesecake." The name says it all.

All I did to change this recipe was to bake it in little cupcake tins for 25-30 minutes, and I put some frozen berries in before pouring in the filling. But let me say, the plain ones were great too. All around, this is going to be my go-to cheesecake recipe. Next time I make it (which could be quite a while from now) I'll experiment with using it as a base for various flavors, like peanut butter or almond.

If you do any experimenting, let me know how it goes.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Unconsummated

I recently discovered a blog called "Unconsummated". It is written by an Orthodox Jewish girl who is struggling with a sexual disorder called vaginismus. I'm linking to it on here because I think it's important to spread awareness about these issues. Women who struggle with this issue often feel very alone because, even outside of religious circles, it's difficult and often shameful to speak about with others. (One article which she refers to in her blog states that Orthodox Jewish couples are more likely than other couples to seek treatment for the disorder because of the emphasis placed on sex in the marriage relationship).

She discussed in a recent post that many of the people who have linked to her blog have done so for the purpose of blaming Judaism for her condition. These people made false claims to the effect that these issues only exist in strict, religious circles. Forgetting the fact that sex is not a taboo topic in Judaism, as many of these people claim, and that although sex is forbidden before marriage it is seen as one of the holiest acts in the world after marriage, pretending that this is something that only effects the repressed or victims of sexual trauma undermines the pain of all the women who experienced neither and are still suffering.

Vaginismus is a real medical condition. It is caused by a physical reaction within the body to penetration. Many women, from all sorts of backgrounds, struggle with this condition. It does not necessarily have to begin with someone's first sexual encounters. Some women may be sexually active for years and suddenly find themselves, for whatever reason, experiencing vaginismus (this is called secondary vaginismus).

I'm not interested in starting a debate about religion and sexuality here. Any comments to that effect will be deleted. I'm merely interested in helping this girl spread awareness of an extremely difficult, complicated and painful condition which much of the world likes to ignore.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Did you miss me?

I apologize for failing to update. I'm sure my throngs of fans have been weeping with anxious anticipation. Sorry to disappoint, but I have nothing fabulous to write about today either. I haven't done a whole lot of cooking lately, but I did cook for this past shabbos and will gladly share the recipes I made with all you.

I was having a vegetarian friend over along with two couples and decided a pareve lunch would be nice. The vegetarian friend eats fish, so that made things a lot simpler. My menu was simple: Minestrone soup, two types of fish, and cake. I had one couple bring a side dish and the other bring a salad. All in all, the meal turned out very nice.

For the minestrone, I tweaked it to leave out the veggies I don't like and added in veggies I DO like. So I left out the canned beans and green beans and added in acorn squash. I also left out the cheese, because my crock pot is still fleishig.

For the fish, I made a pan of salmon filets baked with dill, kosher salt, and pepper, along with a dijon dill dipping sauce. (This recipe is from Quick and Kosher by Jamie Gellar)

I also made my mother's tilapia recipe which would have been much better if it had been served hot. Fresh out of the oven it was incredible.

Tilapia cooked with dill and white wine:
  • Frozen Tilapia fillets (I used three bages of frozen tilapia, totaling about 12 fillets)
  • Margarine or butter
  • Fresh dill, chopped
  • 1-2 lemons
  • salt
  • pepper
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • cayenne pepper (all seasonings should be sprinkled lightly. Don't go overboard with these seasonings.)
  • White wine
  1. Rinse tilapia under running water to soften and remove any ice crystals.
  2. place fillets in a 9x13 (or two) pan, sprayed with cooking spray.
  3. Take margarine or butter and place small dollops around the pan. There should be at least one small dollop on each fillet.
  4. Squeeze lemon(s) over fillets to sprinkle juice all around.
  5. Sprinkle dill all around fillets, then season with listed seasonings, using a light hand.
  6. Drizzle white wine around the pan, enough to ensure a thin layer on the bottom of the pan.
  7. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes until the Tilapia flakes when you try to take a little off with a fork. Serve hot (or cold. But better when served hot.)



The cake was a Duncan Heinz Dark Chocolate Cake Mix, made with a 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree and two eggs. Then I made my own chocolate icing which came out surprisingly light and delicious.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
  • 1/2 Cup of butter/margarine
  • 1 Cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 Cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Milk or Soy Milk
  1. Using a hand (or stand) mixer, cream the margarine.
  2. Add sugar, cocoa, and vanilla, and cream until incorporated.
  3. If the icing looks dry or too thick, add milk or soy milk about 1 tsp at a time until you get your desired consistency.


Th-th-th-that's all folks! Until we meet again. :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Internet and Anonymity

I was on a YouTube bender today and it got me thinking about the wonders of the internet. I mean, the web has opened up this whole world of possibilities for those with the talent and inclination to pursue them. I sometimes think about my talents, though they are few and unimpressive, and whether I have a chance to leave my mark in the world of webs which are wide.

As you may know if you've paid close attention to this blog, I have long considered starting a web-comic. I've actually drawn about 5 strips on Gimp, but I don't have the patience or the drive to keep going with it.

I've been pressed by some to commercialize the Bunny Box, getting an actual copyright on it and trying to sell T-shirts and things. But the problem is, unless there was some kind of background for it, I just don't think anyone, other than my friends, would buy it. But who knows? It could just be weird enough to become a meme if I gave it the chance (like Three Wolf Moon, maybe?).

But if there's one thing the interwebs has taught us, it's that memes are born, not manufactured (unlike terrorists. [see that? Self-reference! I'm halfway to fame already!]).

So this brings me back to YouTube. Could I make use of YouTube? I mean, look how big that whole "Trip to Miami" video got. (Did that get outside of the Orthodox world? No clue.) But I just don't know what I'd do. I'm not one for monologues, and I'm not crazy about the idea of a vlog. I don't have the talent or patience to produce any kind of REAL movies. The best I could manage would be to just play with stuffed animals in front of a camera, but somehow I don't think anyone would watch that. Not even my mom would watch that. Not even I would watch that.

So I'll stick to where I'm comfy.

The blogosphere: A place where I can drift in familiar anonymity. A place where I can write about whatever pops into my head, be it cookies, politics, crafts, or my megalomania. A place where the buffalo roam...that I can call home? Something like that.

As a wise sage once said, "If I don't see ya here, I'll see ya here."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Just 'cause

I'm waiting for the Huz to finish writing his paper so we can go to sleep, and I'm in the mood to write something myself.

Nothing in particular.

I don't really have anything to talk about.

But I guess I could just talk about Pesach cleaning.

Yaakov and I have a policy to keep our Pesach cleaning as simple as possible. We vacuum each room, make sure there's no actual chometz, and call it a day. Except for the kitchen, obviously, where more scrubbing goes on. But even there, we have a policy of "wipe with bleach and cover." In this way, we avoid driving ourselves crazy. Pesach cleaning becomes very doable.

So that's why I don't feel so bad about procrastinating today and completely avoiding my cleaning duties. I have two weeks. But I DO want to get started soon. It's not fun waiting until the last minute.

That said, I'm tired. Going to sleep. I hope this was as interesting for you to read as it was...for me to...write...~snooooooore~

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Something Crafty: A Journey To Bun




The undercooked bunny


The other day, I felt a sudden need to start some kind of project. Since the colder seasons are rapidly getting away from us (even if the weather is trying to convince us otherwise) it didn't seem practical to start on things likes gloves, hats and scarves. So instead, I thought, why not journey into the unknown? Why not try something new? Why not make a stuffed bunny?

So I did. It took up my free time for about 2 days, and the result is, well, kinda adorable. Right now, I only have one picture of the finished product because my camera battery died, but when it's recharged I'll take a couple more. I was just really eager to share. The picture up top is the bunny before getting it's ears and nose. I think it looks a little like Gir from Invader Zim.

But behold the finished product!



The pattern I used can be found here.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Animals and Personification

As many of you are well aware, a horrific tragedy occurred in Israel this past weekend. Five people (a mother, father, and three of their six children), were stabbed to death in their home in an Israeli settlement. For more information, go here.

Since these attacks, I have heard a lot of people expressing outrage. And why shouldn't they? These were outrageous attacks on innocent people.

But one theme that I've noticed in this outrage is the comparison of the murderers to animals. I'm not comfortable with this. Not because I think it's wrong to compare humans to animals or because I feel any goodwill towards these butchers. Rather, because I think that to compare human beings committing horrific acts to animals is to undermine just how terrible the act truly was.

I want you to imagine, just for a moment, that this act was actually committed by an animal. Imagine that the Fogel family was preparing to go to sleep that night when suddenly a mountain lion jumped through their window and killed 5 of them before finding its way back out. I imagine the scene which their 12 year old daughter walked in on would have been much the same. Mud all over the floor, and bloody horrors in the bedroom.

There would have been grief from family, friends, neighbors. People would read about it and say, "Oh, how awful!" But there would be no anger. How can you be angry at a lion simply doing what is in its nature to do? Perhaps it was rabid or starving or merely confused. It certainly had no way of understanding that by killing these people they were murdering someone's children. After all, it's just an animal. It may be hunted down and killed, but no one would be expressing outrage over the acts committed by a lion.

Now let's get back to reality. The perpetrators of this act were not animals. They were human beings. When they broke into that home late on Friday night, they knew what they were doing. They were deliberately going in with the intent to butcher 5 other human beings, whom they neither knew nor cared to know. All they knew was that these people were Jewish Israeli settlers, and that was enough to justify their actions. They entered the home, and stabbed to death the mother, the father, and the two older children, then slit the throat of an infant. I'm sure there were screams. Screams that would turn the stomachs of "weaker" men. But these men went forward with their "glorious" mission. And when they escaped that night, back over the fences which are meant to protect the settlement of Itamar, I'm sure they felt noble and victorious.

This is not the act of an animal.

This is an act so horrific that only humans are capable of committing it.

So why do we tell ourselves these are animals? Why do we take away our own right to rage? I think it's because our minds can't comprehend how someone so human, so much like us, could do these things. We need to denounce it as inhuman, because admitting that they're human is admitting that we have that same capacity for despicable violence in us.

And the fact is we do. The fact is that we'd like to believe that, had we been raised in Nazi Germany, we would have been above the propaganda and intimidation and would have saved lives. We'd like to believe that there was something wrong with the people who followed Hitler. That maybe they were something less than human. But they weren't. They were humans brought up in a society that taught them to hate Jews from a young age and to love their country, so when one charismatic man came along and appealed to both of those deeply ingrained parts of their upbringings, they did what humans do: They believed and they put their passion into it. Animals couldn't do that. But we can.

So please, do remember that these murderers, and their supporters, are as human as you and I. Hold them liable for their actions and know that these men were not born animals, they are manufactured butchers.



*Disclaimer: Don't mistake my support of anger towards these murderers as any kind of license to go around declaring war on every Arab/Muslim/Palestinian in the world. I still strongly believe in the need to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent. These men are guilty, but that doesn't mean we can declare everyone of their race/religion/nationality guilty by association. If we could, we'd all be guilty of money laundering and fraud on behalf of Madoff (and the unfortunate myriad of others who have committed such crimes, and behind whom the Jewish community have inexplicably thrown their support.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Post of Something Different

I started off posting this as a comment over at A Blob of Something Different in response to this post, but then it got so long that I figured I'd just post it on my own blog. It's an old post, but I'm sort of new to the blog, so I hope to be forgiven for my delayed reaction.

I married at 19. I was lucky. I never had to shidduch date because my husband and I were close friends and never dated at all. But had I not been in that position, I wouldn't have felt ready for marriage for a very long time. In fact, in the weeks leading up to my wedding, I felt EXTREMELY unprepared for marriage. Terrified of it, even. I remember calling up my best friend in tears on multiple occasions asking her if I was making a huge mistake. In the months following my marriage, as my husband and I went through the normal adjustments that newlyweds must endure, I questioned my readiness some more. Thank G-d, I DID make the right choice, and clearly I WAS ready for marriage because we've been mature enough to get through the growing pains and ups and downs that wedded bliss inevitably entails (I say "we" but the truth is, I think it's all Yaakov. Ask him about my use of the "reverse royal We" in other contexts, like chores).

All of that being said, I will state the obvious: Pressuring 18-19 year old girls to marry, out of fear that they will become old maids at 21, has resulted in a lot (this being the scientific measure of choice for such precise statements) of failed and unhappy marriages, or broken engagements (if they're lucky). Obviously MANY happy marriages have also come out of this (I would even say that MOST of these girls end up happy). But we should never push aside the concerns of a girl who doesn't feel ready.

On the other hand, we really can't blindly accept it, either. It's important to find out WHY the girl doesn't feel ready. It may be something vague and difficult to put in words, or it may be something specific. In either case, there are a lot of valid reasons why a girl may feel unprepared, but that doesn't mean she should just sit and wait for them to resolve themselves. If she says, "It's really important to me to finish college first" and she's actively working towards that goal, then wonderful. But if she feels that she doesn't know herself well enough and is simply waiting for an epiphany to hit, we have a problem.

I may be biased because I'm a social worker in training, but I think therapy is an extremely useful tool for just about everyone, not just the so-called "damaged goods" among us. That's not to say that everyone should always be in therapy, but I believe that there comes a time in every person's life where they would benefit from a therapy relationship. It's my personal opinion that shadchanim should recommend therapy to young men and women submitting their resumes. Shidduch dating is an emotionally turbulent experience, and it can be helpful to have someone impartial to help you process everything that's going on. Obviously, there are those who have enough support from friends and family that this may be unnecessary, but I think they represent a minority of very lucky people.

And while I don't believe that a girl who feels unready for shidduchim is "sick", I do believe that such a girl may benefit from having someone who can help her work through those feelings. So while it shouldn't be about "convincing" her to be ready, I think it is important to offer her support so that she can resolve whatever concern may be holding her back.

Now I'm fully aware that in the shidduch world, the word "therapy" can become a stigma and, as a result, many in the community have developed a phobia of entering into such a relationship. But that, my friends, is another post.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Quinoa Waldorf Salad (and a great corn salad, too!)

This past shabbos, I was expecting to have guests and was trying to plan a menu which would include the apples I had in my fridge. I was considering a waldorf salad, but it seemed too boring. Then it hit me: What if I made a waldorf salad...WITH QUINOA?! I know what you're thinking. "Woah, Sara! Don't go crazy now!"

But I made it.

And it was wonderful.

And you will love it, too.

Quinoa Waldorf Salad

Ingredients
  • 1 Cup uncooked Quinoa
  • 1 and 1/2 Cups apple juice
  • 1/2 Cup water
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, cubed
  • 1/2 Cup Craisins
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • candied pecans (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pour the quinoa, juice and water into a saucepan and cook according to package directions.
  2. Let the quinoa cool, then mix the oil, vinegar and sugar and add to quinoa.
  3. Mix in all other ingredients. Eat and enjoy. :)

Corn Salad (Recipe from Talia)

Ingredients
  • 2 cans of yellow and/or white corn
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow or green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 purple onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 scallions (if you have them), chopped
  • 1/2 Cup vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup oil
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp pepper
Instructions
  1. Mix vinegar, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper.
  2. Mix vegetables with dressing.
  3. Let it marinate (I marinated it overnight, but you could probably just marinate it for a few hours)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pumpkin Gnocchi (Kinda...)

Tonight for dinner, I decided to try out a recipe for making pumpkin gnocchi. Gnocchi is another one of those blogosphere fads that's going around right now (kind of like the flu) and it looks pretty easy compared to other pastas and also sounds really tasty.

I have never eaten gnocchi and have certainly never made it myself, but I decided to give it a try anyway as a starter recipe for pasta-type-food-things.

My experience with this recipe was kinda "eh." The result was tasty, but nothing truly phenomenal. The texture was soft when hot and pleasantly chewy when cold, but it really didn't impress me any more than just plain ol' pasta. It's definitely denser and more filling then regular pasta, and had that subtle pumpkin/nutmeg flavor, but it just really wasn't anything to write home about. Now granted, my dissatisfaction may have come from my reluctance to pair it with a fresh, homemade sauce. Many of the recipes for pumpkin gnocchi recommend using a brown butter sauce of some kind, but since Yaakov was fleishig and the thought of "brown margarine sauce" was just too awful to consider, I opted to just make the pasta and try it with various sauces already in my fridge (pasta sauce, parmesan cheese, etc.) or just eat it plain.

The other issue I had was in the actual process of making the gnocchi. The recipe calls for 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups of flour and I found that until I had put in about 3 cups, the pasta dough really failed to come together as a proper dough. Even once I got it to a manageable point, it still seemed too sticky to work with. I just decided to use a very well floured surface and managed to form them into small dumplings that way. However, the dough was still too soft to properly roll out or to keep ridges. I just free-styled it after a bit and started making small shapes (like tortellini or just plain little dumplings) and it turned out alright.

So the question you're probably asking is, is it worth trying? It's hard to say, because I've never had pre-packaged gnocchi and I don't know if the dough was the texture it was meant to be or if I messed up somewhere. What I do know is that while it was slightly frustrating, it wasn't incredibly hard to make (the whole process took about an hour) and was tasty and unique. I'd say it might be worth a try if you're into that kind of thing, just for the experience.

Pumpkin Gnocchi taken from Closet Cooking

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups pumpkin/squash puree {I used canned pumpkin}
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups flour {This turned out to be three for me}
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch nutmeg (optional)
  • {I added some ground allspice and cinnamon, too}
Instructions:
  1. If your pumpkin puree is really wet, simmer it in a sauce pan to dry it out a bit and then let it cool down. {I did not do this, which may have been my problem}
  2. Mix the egg yolk into the pumpkin puree.
  3. Mix the salt and nutmeg into the flour.
  4. Mix enough of the flour into the pumpkin puree to form a soft dough that is not too sticky to work with.
  5. Knead the dough for a minute and then roll it out into 4 long thin rolls about 1/2 inch thick.
  6. Cut the rolls into 1/2 inch pieces and then roll the pieces in flour lightly shaking off any excess.
  7. Roll the pieces over a gnocchi board or a fork to give them the ridges.
  8. Cook the gnocchi in boiling water in small batches until it floats to the surface, about 2-3 minutes, remove and set aside to drain.
  9. Use as desired.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

For a long time, I've been hunting for a simple, slightly sweet butternut squash soup recipe. After hunting for a while, finding recipes with obscure ingredients and trying others that came out too savory or, even worse, too bland, I decided to create my own recipe.

I took a look at some of the common ingredients used in these recipes and picked out some of my favorites, throwing in a few of my own along the way. I came up with the recipe below and tried it out tonight.

The soup came out just the way I like butternut squash soup to taste. It was just slightly sweet, a little bit savory, warm and creamy.

Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup
Yields: about 10 servings (depending on the size of your bowls)

Ingredients:
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small chunks
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and sliced
  • 2 medium size carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 inch cube of ginger, sliced
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 C pineapple juice
  • 4 C water
  • 1 C Sweetened MimicCreme (or sweet soy milk or real cream)
Instructions:
  1. First put the olive oil into a soup pot and heat. Add in the onions and saute until translucent.
  2. Add in carrots, ginger, and parsnip and saute for about 4-5 minutes
  3. Add in Butternut Squash and continue to saute until it starts to soften (about another 4-5 minutes)
  4. Pour in water, pineapple juice and brown sugar.
  5. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft.
  6. Take the soup off the heat and blend with an immersion blender (aka - stick blender) until all the lumps are gone.
  7. Add in MimicCreme (does not need to be a full cup. Do it to taste.) and mix it in.
  8. Serve and enjoy! :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Simple, Delicious, Non-Greasy Pizza

When you read as many food blogs as I do, you begin to notice food trends that everyone writes about. Around December, everyone is writing about gift-able recipes like cookies, fudge and various candies, all with seasonal ingredients incorporated in (like ginger, peppermint, etc.). You also notice non-seasonal food trends, like baking certain types of breads or utilizing newly popularized ingredients.

Right now, one of the popular trends seems to be homemade skillet (or pan) pizza. This style of pizza is made using a homemade dough and is cooked in a cast-iron skillet, often with toppings like olive oil, vegetables, marinara sauce, and sparse cheese. My theory is that these have been popularized by the recent movie, "Eat, Pray, Love" which featured a scene in which Julia Roberts ate just such a pizza.

Somewhere along my ramblings through the blogosphere in the past few weeks, I stumbled across a recipe for a pizza fitting the above description that appealed to me simply because the presentation was so beautiful. I have been hunting all over my usual haunts trying to find this post so I could share that picture with you, but I've been unsuccessful. :(

However, it inspired me to try it out for myself. Since I don't have a cast-iron skillet (and if I did, I'm not even sure I'd be able to lift it to the stove), I took out my non-stick frying pan. I knew from the start that this wouldn't quite work out the way I wanted it to, but I was honestly more interested in making the toppings work than in making the skillet idea work. So, in preparation for the inevitable failure of my frying pan method, I preheated my milchig convection oven.

I drizzled a small amount of olive oil in the pan (more for flavor than for lubrication since it was a non-stick pan) and started putting my toppings on. It quickly became apparent that, as I had feared, the bottom was going to cook and the toppings wouldn't even warm up. So I slid my pizza onto a spatula and moved it quickly to the oven to finish cooking. I decided to do this with each pizza because I found that when I allowed the crust to begin cooking in a pan, it was actually possible to transport it to my oven without it falling apart en route.

When they finished baking, the pizzas were delicious without being overly heavy or greasy. I wouldn't call it the healthiest dinner in the world, but it's certainly a step up from your average pizza, and you FEEL healthier when eating it.

That said, I would like to apologize for failing to get pictures. It was just too delicious to last that long!

Non-Greasy Pizza

Ingredients:
  • Homemade Pizza Dough (see here for my recipe)
  • 1/2 container of Ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 C mozzarella cheese
  • Basil (ideally fresh, but I only had dried and it worked)
  • Marinara Sauce (preferably one with basil and Tomato chunks)
  • Veggie toppings of your choice (I used canned corn, because it's what I had on hand. I recommend trying spinach, or similarly light toppings. Avoid imposing flavors like green olives)
Instructions:
  1. Roll out your dough to be no larger than your frying pan. (If necessary, portion out into smaller pizzas) I recommend rolling it out pretty thin since it will probably puff while baking.
  2. Mix the mozzarella and ricotta cheeses together.
  3. Drizzle a light amount of olive oil into your pan and begin warming it on the stove at a medium temperature.
  4. When the pan is warm, put your crust in the pan and begin topping it. Spread the sauce in the middle, going until 1/2 inch from the edge of the crust. Sprinkle some basil on top of the sauce, along with any toppings you choose, and place dollops of the cheese mixture around the pizza. Important! Do not put too much cheese on the pizza. You want to have the sauce showing through. Place the small dollops at least an inch apart from each other.
  5. Top with more basil.
  6. Using a spatula, remove the pizza from the pan. The crust should be partially cooked. Enough so that it won't fall apart when it is removed from the pan.
  7. Place the pizza into an oven at 425 degrees farenheit until the cheese and crust start to just brown around the edges. (5-10 minutes)
  8. Remove from the oven and serve. Enjoy!

Friday, January 7, 2011

My First Chocolate Fudge and Goals for 2011

A while back, I discovered a new substitution for heavy cream that, supposedly, can be used in any recipe where one would normally use cream. The ingredient is called Mimiccreme and is a non-dairy (and pareve) nut-based cream. Shortly after discovering it, I mentioned it to my father who checked it out online and discovered that their warehouse in Albany was changing the packaging for their sweetened version and as a result were selling the old packaging for a $1 per carton. Considering that this stuff usually sells for closer to $5 per carton, it was a no-brainer that if I planned on experimenting with this stuff, it would be useful to get it dirt cheap! So naturally, when I heard that my husband's uncle would be coming down to visit from Albany, I asked him to bring me a couple cases.

Unfortunately, the week he was supposed to come he got into a nasty car accident while driving through New Jersey. While he was fine, his car was destroyed (along with one of my poor containers of Mimiccreme), so the trip was postponed. However, he came in last week, delivering my 23 cartons of cream substitute and I was overjoyed! (Thanks, Uncle Richard!)

So now I was faced with a decision of what to make first. According to the website, the sweetened MimicCreme is similar to sweetened condensed milk and can be used to substitute in recipes calling for sweetened cream. Great!

My first stop was fudge!



Let me begin by saying that this was actually my second attempt at making fudge, but I don't count the first because I suspect the recipe I used was actually intended for making a hot fudge sauce (which is what it produced, to my dismay!) and never hardened. So for all intents and purposes, we'll call this my first attempt.

I used a recipe for basic, no-fail fudge from about.com. They have a photo tutorial, which is helpful. I went ahead and replaced the sweetened condensed milk with MimicCreme and left out the nuts. Other than that, I followed the recipe to a T.



The good news is, it produced a nice solid fudge. The bad news is, it was fantastically mediocre. The fudge was overly sweet (even The Huz felt it was sickening and has refused to touch it after day one) and was also pretty grainy. It just didn't turn out the way I remember the fudge experience.

The fun part of this is that a lot of the fudge crystalized on the sides and bottom of the pan. When I scraped this bits off the pan, I ended up with a nice crumb topping for my fudge.



Ultimately, it was okay fudge. Very "meh" but edible. I also found that after refrigerating it over night, the fudge tasted significantly better.


Okay, all that said, it's time for part II of this post.

My Goals For 2011
  1. Buy a pasta maker: This goal may sound small, since a basic, manual pasta machine can cost as little as $30, but I've been wanting this for a long time. The food blogs I read are constantly tantalizing me with recipes for homemade pasta which give you the opportunity to make pasta in whatever flavors you want. Pumpkin pasta? Yes, please! Sweet potato ravioli? You betcha! The problem is that it's one of those expenses I can just never justify. Why spend money on a pasta maker when there are more important things to spend it on?


  2. Make a perfect fudge: I think the reasoning here is obvious.


  3. Make homemade caramels: I keep seeing recipes for homemade caramels and they sound oh, so good! This year, I'll try it myself.


  4. Start seriously saving up for that dream camera: People have told me that the pictures I put on here are pretty good, but to be frank they could be a LOT better. I think that if I have the right equipment, I could really step this blog up a notch.


  5. Host more shabbos guests: The Huz and I are prone to going out for shabbos meals, mostly because I'm a little lazy about shabbos cooking, but also because most of my friends have kids and our apartment just isn't kid-proof. Part of this goal involves buying one or two baby-gates so my friends will feel more comfortable coming over.


  6. Get my webcomic moving: I've been talking about my webcomic for a while. It's time to get it going. I need to come up with ideas and story arcs and start drawing. Once I've got a solid archive built up, I can start posting them. The next step? Merchandising, of course!



Happy 2011 everyone!