Molasses Popcorn Balls 

I wanted to post this final recipe for molasses popcorn balls, while it is still fresh in my mind.

For Purim this year, in honor of this blog, I made them for the first time.

I liked the idea of molasses popcorn balls because they are relatively healthy, all natural and have no dyes, additives, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils.

The secret is to use a candy thermometer. It takes the guesswork out of when the candy as reached the correct temperature, especially if you are inexperienced, as I am.

Mollasses Popcorn Balls

Popcorn 

1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup popcorn 

Instructions 

Place oil in pot on high, with 3 kernels of corn. When the 3 kernels pop, put in the rest of the popcorn, and cover leaving the lid slightly ajar so that the steam can be released. 

Once the popcorn begins to pop, lower the heat and shake the pot occasionally to prevent burning.

Place the popcorn in a large bowl.

  

Molasses Syrup 

2 cups sugar
1 cup molasses
2 tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Instructions 

Boil first 3 ingredients until the syrup reaches 290*F or cracks when tested in cold water. 

Remove from heat and add baking soda. Beat briskly and pour over popped corn.

When cool enough to touch, shape into balls, and cool on parchment paper.

Source: “People’s Home Library”

Here are the pictures:

 Stirring the syrup:
  

Adding the baking soda:
  

Final product:
  

At the end, the bowl looked like this:

  

Cleaning up was relatively easy. I soaked everything in water, and the candy easily dissolved. After that, no problem.

My husband said, “I am so proud of you, this is a creative, all natural  treat!”

I hope that other people enjoyed them too.

Lazy Hamantaschen – Not

This year, in honor of this food blog, I made hamentashen for the first time. This is a recipe that I found on line. The title naturally appealed to me. 

It reminds me of my sugar cookies and I liked the fact that I didn’t need to roll out the dough. Other than that, hamentashen are not for the time challenged and best shared as a fun group and not solo activity.

Lazy Hamantaschen – Not

1 cup oil

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

4 cups flour

Instructions 

Using food processor:

Mix eggs, sugar in a food processor until blended. Slowly add oil through the feed tube and then add the vanilla.

Add flour and pulse until just blended.

I use plastic wrap to shape dough into 3 logs. I then wrapped them in parchment paper and foil and froze them until ready I was ready to assemble and bake them.

Before assembling the hamentashen, thaw slightly and slice dough approximately 1/4 inches thick.

I flattened the dough, placed the filling in center of dough and then pinched it together to create a triangle.

Bake at 350°F until done, about 20 minutes.

Source: “The Jewish Holiday Do-book”

This is my own recipe that I made up as a filling for the hamentashen.

Raisin-Date- Apricot Filling for Hamantaschen

2 cups pitted dates (approximately)

1 box (15 oz.) sultana raisins

1 cup dried apricots (approximately)

1 lemon zested and juiced

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts 

1/2 cup water (approximately)

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional, but I thought it made it taste better)

Instructions 

Boil all ingredients in a pot until soft. Be careful not to add too much water.

Blend using an immersion blender until smooth. The mixture should be quite thick.

Mixture can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for several days, or frozen.

Here are the pictures: 

Preparing the dough:

 

Shaping the dough into logs:

  

Slicing the dough:
  

This is the filling:

  

Et voilà! The final outcome:

  

Outcome: my husband’s response to the cookies was pretty funny. 

He said, “they may not look good, but they taste great!” 

Raizel said: “they are hard, but they taste great!”

In particular, Jay loved the filling. Any leftovers can be used as jam. 

Jay also thought that the filling would make a great glaze for chicken.

I was very happy that the cookies held their shape. I guess that’s why the dough is so stiff. Plus, since it was homemade, the ingredients were all natural with no dyes, additives or preservatives. 

Hopefully, others will enjoy them too.

My Mishloah Manot

My Mishloah Manot:

  
I do not do anything fancy. This year, I bought special bags with a Purim theme. 

Inside I put:

Tea (because tea is very important.)

Chocolate kisses of various types

Homemade Hamentashen (recipe to follow)

Assorted sugar cookies (recipes previously posted)

Raisins

Homemade Popcorn Balls (recipe to follow)

I sealed the bags with assorted ribbons.

Et voila!

Enjoy!🎉

Happy Purim 🎭

 

Tonight begins the holiday of Purim. This is a fun filled day of celebration.

I very much want to share some of my recipes related to our celebration of the holiday.  

But, for people who may be unfamiliar with Purim and interested in knowing some of the background, I thought I would take a few moments to explain the significance and some of the traditions connected to this wonderful and joyous holiday.

I humbly submit that my area of expertise is in preparing kosher food, not on the finer points of Judaism. So, I am going to use my own words to explain Purim and then try to include references at the end of this post for anyone who might be interested in learning more about this Jewish holiday.

Briefly, the story of Purim occurred in Persia over 2000 years ago. Haman, the king of Persia’s top advisor tried to kill all the Jews.  

Through a complex series of events that were seemingly unrelated, the Jews were saved by the heroism of Mordechai and Esther. Queen Esther was able to reverse the evil decree, Haman was hanged on the gallows that he had created to kills the Jews and Mordechai became the Prime Minster of Persia in his stead.

The holiday is called Purim because that is the Persian word for “lottery.” Haman drew “lots” to determine the day, the 14th of Adar, that this heinous act would take place.

This holiday has 4 key rituals:

1. We hear the Megillah (Story or Scroll) of Esther 2 times, once at night and once the next day

2. Contribute to charity (Matanot LaEvyonim)

3. Give gifts of food (called Mishloach Manot ) to friends.

4. We eat a festive meal,

The day before the holiday (today) is a fast day, called the fast of Esther.

Children on this holiday dress up in costumes. This is an allusion to God’s hidden hand in the Purim miracle. Yaffa is planning on dressing up as a princess. This is the crown that she made:

  

Raizel’s costume is yet to be determined. She would like to be a grandma, but I wrapped a box and bought bows for her to be a present.🎁 

There is also a custom of making loud noises to blot out the name of Haman whenever his name is read during the Megillah reading. This is called a grogger.

Here is a picture of one that Yaffa made:

  
Needless to say, there are lots of opportunities for fun and pranks.

The overarching theme of this holiday is that what appears to be “bad” is really for our ultimate good and that challenges are really opportunities for growth and transformation.

  

This is one of those holidays that is a wonderful creative outlet. Some people give very artistic and even elaborate Mishloach Manot (Food to Friends.) 

Traditional foods include hamentashen cookies, which is a filled triangle shaped cookie. Kreplach, which is meat wrapped in dough are also eaten. The significance of kreplach is that our fate is hidden.

I usually do not make elaborate mishloach manot. Once I have my costumes and mishloach manot assembled, I will post them on the blog.

Thank you for reading.

Happy Purim!

  
References 



http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday9.htm

http://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/1362/jewish/Purim-How-To-Guide.htm

http://www.aish.com/h/pur/m/48968806.html

http://www.aish.com

 

 

 

 

Semi Off Topic: International Women’s Day & Tea

Today was International Women’s Day.

This quote was in the lobby of where I work. One of my patients stopped me in the hall to specifically point it out. He expressed how  meaningful it was for him, in light of our discussions during our weekly group.

I am also a tea lover and I was an unofficial women’s studies minor in university.

So, in honor of International Women’s Day, I thought I would post this quote.

 

Enjoy! 

Brazilian Black Beans

Brazilian Black Beans

This is something that my husband has been requesting for a while. I think I finally perfected it!


Ingredients
:

1 lbs. black beans

2 onions, chopped 

2-3 of garlic, crushed

3-4 bay leaves

Water: 3:1 ratio of water to beans if using pressure cooker; or to cover

1 can crushed or diced tomatoes 

1 tablespoon salt, to taste

Red hot pepper flakes to taste

Optional: pepper

Optional: meat

Instructions

Sauté onions with spices and beans, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes with the juice and water.

Stove top: bring to boil and let simmer until done. Add crushed garlic and adjust seasoning. 

In pressure cooker: 24 minutes to pressure and then released the pressure quickly by running cold water over the lid when done.

Add crushed garlic and adjust seasoning when cooked.

Crockpot. Cook on low until done. Less water is required.

Add crushed garlic and adjust seasoning when cooked.

Here are the pictures:

  
  
  
  
 
I served the beans with rice and taco shells. 

Everyone loved it. 

My husband happily said, “I think you finally nailed it!”

Both girls ate second helpings!

Enjoy!

One Small Step For Yaffa

Yaffa’s art project

This may be slightly off topic, but, I must share my excitement. 

Yaffa used to be on a feeding tube. Weaning her off was a slow and difficult process.

Last night, for the first time, Yaffa ate a cheese stick!

I realize that to some, this does not seem exceptional or noteworthy. But, for Yaffa, it is extraordinary.

Up until tonight, we had never seen her do this!

I was so excited to see her do this I had to take a picture. 

It brought tears to my eyes.

   
 

Sometimes, it’s the little things in life that are major accomplishments and quiet miracles.

Go Yaffa!

  

North African Meatballs 

This is something that I made for the first time last night. Raizel is in love with cumin, so this is my attempt to satisfy her growing gourmet tastebuds.

Ingredients 

Meatballs:

2 lbs. ground meat

1/2 cup oatmeal 

1 egg

1 tablespoon North African Spice Mix, or to taste

1 clove garlic crushed 

North African Spice Mix:

1 tablespoon salt, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, garlic powder 

2 tablespoons paprika 

1/2 teaspoon pepper, cayenne, cloves 

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 

Sauce

1 onion, chopped 

3 cups water or broth 

1 can diced tomatoes 

3 oz tomatoe paste

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cloves garlic, crushed 

Optional: chopped fresh parsley and/or cilantro 

Instructions 

Place all the ingredients for the sauce in a pot. I usually add the crushed garlic at the end.

Blend all ingredients for the meatballs together. Shape into balls and place in sauce.

In a pot, bring to a boil and then simmer until done. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Last night, I cooked the meatballs in a crockpot on low. I adjusted the seasonings when I got up this morning before going to work.

Fresh herbs always add a gourmet touch, but I did not use any.

Here are the pictures:

  

 

  
Raizel tasted it and promptly ate some for breakfast. She said, “this is good!” 

Even Yaffa said, “the meatballs are so good, Mommy!” That is a true vote of confidence!

Enjoy!

Sheva Brachot Conscious Cooking & Time Management 

Sheva Brachot Conscious Cooking  And Time Management 

I wanted to take a few moments to share how I was able to manage working and hosting Sheva Brachot in our home.

It was definitely a group effort. My husband, his sisters and I paced ourselves to get everything done. Raizel and Yaffa were big helpers too!

Conscious Cooking

img_3488

Carol’s Conscious Cooking


For something like this, delegate where you can, and graciously accept all offers for assistance.
I believe that we are let in the directions of our intensions. So, before tackling a big project, I constantly try to clear my mind and set my intensions. With prayer and positive thinking, miracles happen. Some how, everything always works out beautifully. I call this “Conscious Cooking.”

The menu was very simple. Yet, everything was healthy, fast and easy, all natural and mostly homemade.  As much as possible, everything was prepared in advance and cooked a few hours before.  So, in the end, I only needed to take off about 3 hours of work on the actual day of the Sheva Brachot to set up and finish the preparations.

Chaim was very kind to get married on Valentine’s Day. Providentially, the day after the wedding was a federal holiday. So I did not have work, and the girls were home from school too. We did most of the shopping and preparations on those 2 days.

The tables and chairs were borrowed from a gemach (plural gemachim) which is a free loan organization in our community.

Pirke Avot (Ethics Of The Fathers) 1:2

Pirke Avot (Ethics Of The Fathers) 1:2

For those who may not already know, a gemach is an abbreviation for “gemilut chasadim” or “acts of kindness. “ Historically, a gemach was a free loan fund for members of a community in need of financial assistance. The concept of a free loan has now expanded to include the free loans of household items, clothing, books, equipment, services and advice. There are many gemachim though out the community where we live, and also in most Jewish communities.

These free loan societies form the backbone of many acts of kindness within the community. My sister in law, Auntie Elle, as she is affectionately called by the girls,  has a gemach where she will babysit for a family during the night, if the mother gives birth. This way the father can accompany his wife to the hospital. She calls her gemach “The Mitzvah (good deed) Sleepers.” I have another friend who has a clothing gemach. The list is endless.

So, whenever we have a special event and need extra tables and chairs, we go to our local gemach. There is even a local gemach for tablecloths and servicing pieces. The kindness of other people is awe inspiring!

The menu:

Roasted carrot and squash soup

Lentil mushroom soup

Dips – humus and guacamole

Roasted chicken

Roasted baby potatoes

Brown rice with spinach and toasted nuts

Frozen peas and carrots

Salad

Cranberry Ice and cookies

Planning and Preparation:

On Sunday, I froze the chickens after they were spiced and prepared to be cooked. They were then defrosted on Tuesday night and cooked on Wednesday. I put them in the oven before I went to work, and Jay took them out of the oven after they were cooked. A team effort!

In between, we had an oven fiasco. The starter on our oven broke. Fortunately, we were able to get it fixed before the special event.

I roasted the vegetables for the soup on Monday in our second oven, which is parve and made the soups on Tuesday night after work. We have the relatively recent luxury of having 2 ovens: one for meat and the other parve, which means not used for dairy or meat. With 2 ovens, my cooking is done much faster!

I made the rice for the rice salad on Tuesday night and put rest of the ingredients in on Wednesday afternoon.

The potatoes as well as the carrots and peas were also cooked on Wednesday, after I came home from work.

The cookies were left over from the Kiddush that we had over the summer.

The cranberry ice was made on Sunday, frozen and then re-blended on Monday night after work.

The rolls were bought from a local bakery. While ordered on Sunday, they were picked up on Wednesday.

My husband and Raizel picked up the tables and chairs on Tuesday night. Together with my sister-in-law, they were set up by the time I came home on Wednesday afternoon.

When I got home, Raizel and my sister-in-law set the tables, with assistance and direction from me.

As I have shared, I am a cooker, not a cleaner. So for me, the cleanup is always the hardest part. I was responsible for washing the pots and serving pieces and putting the food away.

We all helped clear the tables and fold up the tables and chairs. My husband and Raizel returned them to the Gemach the following day.

It was a joyous celebration that will be treasured by our family for many years to come. Good times were had by all.

The bride and groom are extremely happy, and they have a wonderful group of friends to begin their new life together.

May Chaim and Rivkie be privledged to build a “bayit ne’eman b’yisroel” — “a faithful home among the Jewish people.”

img_3498

Reference:

http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/48923517.html

Click to access ToratImechaVolume4Number23ParshatEikev.pdf

https://www.naaleh.com/bayit-neeman-a-faithful-home-7-v2n23

pirkeiavos

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-gemach/

Lentil Mushroom Soup

During Sheva Brachot, I served 2 soups.  This was the second soup that I served.  It can be made with either red or green lentils. I find the red lentils have a finer texture, but the green lentils are more hardy.

Lentil Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

1 onion

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 celery stalks, sliced

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced

4 bay leaves

2 cups lentils, red or green

1 tablespoon salt, to taste

Optional: pepper and or garlic, to taste. I usually do not add either, unless the vegetables are not flavorful.

Water to cover

Optional: chopped fresh cilantro or parsley to garnish

Instructions:

Sauté onions and mushrooms. Add lentils, bay leaves, and salt.

Add water and then bring to a boil, cover and simmer until lentils begin to soften.

Next, add the celery and carrots. Continue to simmer until done.

Adjust seasoning to taste.

In pressure cooker: bring to pressure for 5 minutes. Released the pressure quickly by running cold water over the lid when done. Then, add carrots and celery and simmer until done.

Crockpot. Add all ingredients into crockpot. Cook on low until done. If desired, add carrots and celery half way through the cooking, and then continuing cooking until done. Less water is required.

It is important to add just enough water, but not have it be too thick or too thin.

Here are the pictures:




This was another hit!  Many of our guests requested second helpings.

Enjoy!