Happy Holidays Everyone!

This year, for the first time in many years, Chanukah and Christmas both coincide with each other.

Today is the first day of Chanukah and it is also Christmas Day.

 

Originally, this was going to be the Chanukah holiday greeting for my blog:

Yaffa's art project.

Yaffa’s art project.

However, last night, we went to visit my sister, Raizel. We celebrated the first night of Chanukah together — we lite the candles, made doughnuts, sang songs and played with dreidels.

Traditionally, this holiday is celebrated by eating foods cooked in oil to celebrate the miracle of the oil which lasted for 8 days.  My sister is a fabulous cook and baker. She can pretty well do anything in the kitchen! I am hoping to post her recipe and the pictures later.

My sister’s neighborhood is a mix of many faiths and people from all over the world. Since it was also Christmas Eve, and she lives near a Church, everyone, Jewish and Christian, was out celebrating and immersed in the holiness of their celebration.

Just for fun, I thought I would post a few pictures.

Beautiful lights!

A view from the street.

Outside of a local church.

A different view from the inside.

 

Happy holidays everyone!

The Only Cake Recipe You Will Ever Need: The 1-2-3-4 Anything Cake & Optional Glaze

The Only Cake Recipe You Will Ever Need: The 1-2-3-4 Anything Cake

The road to parenthood was not simple one for us. So, when we granted the blessing of children, I was eager to celebrate their birthdays with a homemade cake, decorated with roses.

Just before their first birthday, with great excitement, I enrolled in a local cake decorating class.

The class was definitely a learning experience. But, not in the way one might expect.

I learned that cake decorating is really sugar art. The cake functions similar to the canvas of a painting.

The greatest lesson I learned, however, was that I do not like decorating cakes. I found it very time consuming and very labor intensive.

So, my days of cake decorating came quickly to an end. I have not touched an icing tip since.

This was the cake recipe that I used for my class. It is the perfect cake for the time challenged cook. It is fast and easy, only uses one bowl, and it is easily adaptable.

I have included all the multiple variations, so you see how this is really the only cake recipe that you will ever need.

The marble cake I just posted is also one of the many variations.

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar (white or brown or a combination)

1 cup oil

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla, almond, lemon, etc.

1 cup liquid (water, juice, milk, coffee, etc.)

3 cups flour — I used spelt, but you can use a gluten-free flour blend, almond flour, corn meal or any other flour too. The texture, however, may be slightly altered.

3 tsp. baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt (a “pinch”)

Optional Variations:

Chocolate Chip Cake: stir in 1 cup chocolate chips when mixed

As You Like It Cake: stir in 1 cup chopped nuts, dried fruit, etc.

Chocolate Cake: 1/2 cup cocoa for 1/2 cup flour for a chocolate cake

Spice Cake: add 2 to 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoons nutmeg, dash white pepper to dry ingredients

Lemon Spice Cake: add 2 to 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, dash white pepper to dry ingredients and, add 1 lemon zested to the wet ingredients. Do not add lemon juice for the liquid because then the baking powder will work differently. You could try adding baking soda instead, but I have never personally tried that.

Almond Spice Cake: add 2 to 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, dash white pepper and 1/4 cup ground almonds when adding flour.

Lemon Poppy Cake: Add 1 lemon zested to the wet ingredients and ¼ cup of poppy seeds to the dry ingredients.

Marble Cake: Pour ¾ of batter into the pan. Then, with the remaining batter, add 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Pour over vanilla batter in stripes. Gently swirl with a knife. Do not over mix!

Instructions:

By hand: beat eggs, and sugar. Add oil and vanilla. Alternate adding the liquid and the dry ingredients until blended.

With a food processor: Mix eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla in food process for 1 minute. Slowly add liquid until well blended. Add flour, salt and baking powder and pulse until just blended.

Stir in nuts, chocolate chips or dried fruit if using.

Pour batter into a greased, sprayed or parchment lined pan.

This can be made in a greased and lightly floured Bundt pan, or two 9″ layers, one 9″x 13″ rectangular cake or 24 cupcakes.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven until done and when inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Although I didn’t intent to add a glaze, Raizel made a special request. How could I say no?

Optional Glaze

Ingredients:

1 cup icing sugar

4 teaspoons of milk or liquid (I use rice milk, but lemon juice also works)

Instructions:

Pour icing sugar in a bowl. Add the liquid 1 teaspoon at a time and stir until desired consistency.

Drizzle over cake, while slightly warm.

This cake also freezes well, with or without a glaze.

Here are the pictures:

 

Yaffa decided to help take pictures and took this one all by herself.

This is my picture, attempting to avoid shadows.

 

Fresh out of the oven, ready to frost😉

 

Raizel REALLY wanted it frosted.

Raizel approved!

 

Raizel, as you can see loved it. I gave her a piece fresh out of the oven.

After not baking a cake for quite a while, Raizel has come to the realization that homemade, from scratch cakes are REALLY yummy!

Raizel said, “I really missed homemade cakes.”

I am also very grateful for my trusty oven thermometer. It is making such a big difference!

Hurrah!

Enjoy!

Taiglach or Honey Dough Balls

Taiglach or Honey Dough Balls

This year, I thought I would try to make taiglach for the first time with Raizel. 

The word “taiglach” is Yiddish for “little pieces of dough” which are cooked in honey. 

Growing up, this was a very special holiday treat that we only enjoyed on Sukkot. Taiglach are traditionally served on holidays which emphasize sweetness and joy. Some people have the custom of eating them on Purim as well.

I have very fond memories of eating taiglach in the sukkah as a child. I looked forward to them every year! 

Raizel was very excited to try this. 

I was excited that she was excited. 

Aside from Mommy time, making this also gave Raizel an opportunity to practice using her hands and develop her fine finger dexterity. 

Since my oven is still not working well, there was the added incentive that taiglach can be made on top of the stove. No oven required! So, it’s a win-win!

Dolly from koolkosherkitchen.wordpress.com graciously made this recipe at my request. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it until after I made the version below. Happily, our versions are slightly different. Experiment with which one you like best.

According to Dolly, her family made them with raisins and almonds and piled the taiglach up in a mound. However, growing up, our taiglach were made in a single layer and made without raisins or nuts. Instead, they were sprinkled with coconut.

Please check out her blog and wonderful explanation on this delicious treat.

https://koolkosherkitchen.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/silver-chair-polygamy-and-mount-sinai/

Ingredients

Dough

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons oil

About 1 ¾ cups flour

1 teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla

Syrup

1 cup honey. (I think that this is 1 lbs of honey, but I only had 12 oz so I added more sugar instead.)

1 ½ cups sugar.

2 teaspoons ginger

Optional: ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons boiling water. This is critical, because otherwise the syrup will become too stiff and hard when it cools.

Optional: 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, pecans, blanched almonds or hazelnuts

Optional: ½ cup coarsely raisins or minced candied fruit.

Optional: shredded coconut to sprinkle as desired.

Instructions:

To make the dough: Combine the eggs, vanilla (if using) and oil together until smooth. Add 1 cup of flour, baking powder and the salt. Gradually stir in enough flour to make a soft, workable dough. If the dough is too dry, add a small amount of cold water. Place on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. The dough should be soft, and not sticky.

Traditionally, the dough is divided into 4 and rolled into a rope until it is approximately .5 inches thick. Then the dough is cut into .5 inch pieces. Some people then tie them into loose knots and tuck the ends underneath. 

This dough, however, is very flexible. It can be cut into squares, or rolled into balls instead of twists. The pieces can even be baked or fried first for added crunch.

Since I am time challenged, I cut the dough into 36-40 pieces and then rolled them into balls. Some people like to add a few raisins inside the balls. Feel free to experiment. 

Syrup: Combine honey, sugar and spices in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil.

To assemble: Drop the pieces of dough into the syrup one at a time. Reduce the heat to low, and let them rise for 2 minutes. Cover and simmer for 15-30 minutes, without stirring. Then, stir the dough pieces occasionally so that all the pieces will cook evenly. Simmer (up to 45 minutes) until golden brown and the dough sounds hollow when lightly tapped.

Add boiling water and remove from heat. Spoon onto lined cookie sheet or pan in a single layer to cool. If desired, roll in chopped nuts or sprinkle with coconut. Pour some of the honey syrup over the taiglach if you would like them to stick together.

Save the rest of the sauce for a recipe that calls for honey. I am planning on using it to make chicken.

When cool, place in a sealed container. Do not refrigerate. 

The taiglach can remain at room temperature for several weeks, but hopefully they will be gone before then.

I was only able to take a few pictures:

A few left in the saucepan.

Raizel rolling them in nuts.

All done and ready to eat.

 

Raizel and Yaffa LOVED them!

I was particularly overjoyed when Raizel said, “the only reason why these taste so good is because we davened (prayed) while we made them.”

That was the first time that she validated my beliefs that prayer and love are critical to successful cooking!

It was “Yiddishe nachas!”  For those who may not know, Yiddishe nachas is a term which refers to the inner warmth and pride one feels when one observes the transmission from one generation to the next of one’s spiritual values and traditions.

True bliss on so many levels.

Enjoy!

 

 

Surprise! Happy Birthday!

I wanted to share this adorable story about the girls.

Yesterday was their birthday. Unbelievably, Raizel and Yaffa just turned 15 years old!

 

img_5721

However, I did not plan any celebrations. Between all our recent (and ongoing) holidays, and various illnesses, I thought I would wait until their Hebrew birthday. Only a few weeks away, I thought it would be easier to plan something special for them then.

I believe that you can never have too much joy, but I thought this was funny!

However, God clearly had other plans. He was clearly determined that the girls would have their birthday party on their secular calendar date as well.


It just so happened that we were invited out for lunch yesterday, on their actual birth date. But, I neglected to mention to our hosts that that it was also the girls’ birthday in advance. So, we were all very surprised when we got to our friends’ house and it was full of birthday balloons.

img_5729

I asked my friend, Marcie – “Who are the birthday balloons for?”  Ironically, it was the birthday of another one of the other guests, Aimee. It seems as though several other families were also invited for the meal.

It was such hashgacha pratis (Divine Providence) — on so many levels!

Aside from the obvious, there is a little history involved.

When the girls were born, Yaffa was very sick and was frequently hospitalized.

Our routine in those days was that I would spend the morning at the hospital with Yaffa. Then, I would arrange for different people to stay with Yaffa at the hospital so that I could go home and spend the afternoon with Raizel.

In the evening, after my husband came home from work, we would have dinner together.  Then, one of us would go back to the hospital to be with Yaffa, while the other would stay home with Raizel.  This way, we were able to minimize the amount of time that Yaffa was left alone in the hospital and have someone at home with Raizel too.

Aimee, the other guest, whose birthday was also being celebrated, was actually one of the women who used to stay at the hospital with Yaffa. And now, it seems as though she also has the merit of being the harbinger of the girls’ birthday party. Unbeknownst to me, they all share the same birthday!

The girls had birthday balloons, a birthday cake (actually 2 different birthday cakes) and everyone sang happy birthday to them.

God,  in His kindness, orchestrated a perfect birthday for Raizel, Yaffa and Aimee. He arranged for the girls to have a birthday party after all – with many of our dearest friends too.

Does it get any better than that???

img_5724

 

Tonight also begins the final days of the holiday of Sukkot. I want to wish everyone a beautiful and joyful Sukkot.

IMG_1371-0

 

Just for fun, in honor of the new year, I thought I would post this inspirational quote as well:

img_5734

Happy Birthday Yaffa and Raizel and Aimee!

And, a happy and joyful Sukkot to all!

A Safe & Meaningful Fast To All

img_5186

I like to acknowledge on this blog the holidays that we celebrate and offer a brief description of how they are observed. My expertise, however, is in preparing kosher food, and not on the finer points of Judaism. So, I am going to use my own words to explain this holiday.

Today is the holiday of Tisha B’Av (9th of Av), our Jewish national day of mourning. This holiday commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and many other national calamities.

There are many customs that are observed during the 3 weeks which precede this holiday and in particular from the first day of the Jewish month of Av.

For the past 9 days, we abstained from eating meat, drinking wine, doing or wearing freshly laundered clothes and listening to music.

On this day, we fast as well as observe various other aspects of mourning.

Some people might have difficulty wondering why we mourn for something that was destroyed so many years ago.  When the Temples stood, on a spiritual level, the world was different.

Back then, we had an opportunity to connect directly with God. We could feel enveloped by His presence and directly experience His immanence.

Today, we must struggle through prayer and meditation to catch a glimmer of the Divine Presence that we once felt and experienced as a palpable reality. God is here, but we must work harder if we want to connect to Him and feel His protection and care.

img_4468
The hope is that through fasting and diminishing our physical pleasures, we will be motivated to look within, improve our character and our relationships with other people. When we see the spark of Godliness not only in ourselves, but in other people as well, we will act and relate to others from a God-centered place. We will thereby create a closer relationship with God and merit to rejoice in the rebuilding our Temple.


May we all be blessed to feel that God is always present and actively involved in our life and intimately connected to everything we do with joy and gratitude.

My friend, Tzippy wrote this wonderful post about this holiday in more detail, for anyone who would like to know more. Please check out her blog! It is well named, simpletowow.com. Tzippy is very talented, and makes everything beautiful!

 

On the Hebrew lunar calendar, today is the tenth of Av. Since Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av) fell out on Shabbos this year and we do not mourn on Shabbos, we commemorate the mourning of the destruction of our Holy Temple today, the tenth of Av. It is a day of sadness, mourning and […]

via The Tenth of Av: The Day Our Family Cries — simple to wow

She also wrote another post on this holiday, but, I am not able to copy the link for some reason.

 

A Night Of Firsts 

The title of this post was suggested by Raizel. This week, we had a night of firsts. Both of the girls are growing up!

Raizel made scrambled eggs all by herself!

As I have shared, I have an airborne egg allergy. I have been waiting for the day that she could make her own eggs.

Raizel even initiated making the eggs on her own. She cracked the eggs into the glass to check them one at a time. Then, she scrambled the eggs up, and placed them on the hot grill.

On the griddle and ready to flip.

The first time that Raizel used a spatula on a hot stove.

The final product.

For those who may not know, eggs are kosher as long as they are from a kosher bird and do not have any blood spots.

When cooking with eggs, each egg is opened into a clear dish or glass and checked for blood spots before it is cook or combined with other food. If a blood spot is found, the whole egg must be discarded, and the cup or dish should be immediately and thoroughly washed with cold water.

When boiling eggs, it is customary to boil at least three eggs at a time. Some people have a separate pot just for boiling eggs.

If a blood spot is found in a boiled egg, the whole egg must be discarded.

Eggs are also pareve, which means they can be eaten with dairy (milk) or meat.

I couldn’t believe that on her own, Raizel knew to check the eggs for blood spots before cooking them!

Raizel was very proud! Even the next morning she was still glowing with pride that she make scrambled eggs all by herself. I am even prouder.

I guess we are all in love with the new grill!

In addition, it cleans up very easily. I just wiped it off with a damp sponge.

Our second moment of firsts was that Yaffa opened up a cheese stick all by herself.

Taking the cheese stick in her hands.

Success! Pulling the plastic down.

Success! Able to eat it all by herself!

It was hard work and she got a little frustrated, but she did it! She even went back to fetch a second one.

It’s amazing was a little motivation can achieve!

Now, she is asking to eat cheese sticks all the time!

I am so proud of both of them!

 

DIY Anti-Frizz Hair Spritzer 

I am into fast, easy, all natural, healthy, kosher cooking AND living.

This past Shabbat, Aunty Elle, my sister-in-law came over. We were very excited! She was our first guest in our new home.

The weather, however, was hot and humid. 

Raizel, Aunty Elle and I all have different types of curly hair. In humid weather, our hair becomes hopelessly frizzy.

Aunty Elle bought herself an expensive hair spritzer to make her hair less frizzy.

When I heard how expensive it was, I just about fell over. I thought, “why not adapt my DIY hair conditioner to use as leave in conditioner?”

This is my first attempt at making anti-frizz hair spritzer, or leave in conditioner. 

Ingredients 

2/3 cup boiled water (distilled is better, but I didn’t have it handy)

1/4 teaspoon coconut oil, melted 

1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum

Optional: essential oil of your choice.

Instructions 

Place water, oil and xanthum gum in container. Blend until thickened with immersion blender. Store in spritz bottle.

I used it on Raizel this morning and it worked well. 

Aunty Elle said that it worked really well too. She said that her hair was soft and manageable. 

The disadvantage was that her hair was less stiff than with the commercial product. 

The advantages were: no additives, dyes, chemicals or preservatives. 

In addition it is also environmentally friendly, biodegradable and economical. 

I think that is definitely worth it!

It is possible to add essential oils, for an aromatheraputic effect. 

I personally do like like perfume. But, it could be easily added, according to your preference.

Here are 2 pictures:

final outcome, ingredients and supplies

first batch that I gave to Aunty Elle

I am giving out samples to my co-workers and our therapists.

So far, everyone likes it. Dawn, Raizel’s therapist says, “I can work with this.”

I am on a roll!

Enjoy!

Reference

This is the original link to the post on DIY homemade conditioner:

http://pistachioproject.com/2012/03/homemade-conditioner.html

DIY Hair Conditioner Recipe 

This week I experimented with making homemade hair conditioner.

My husband jokes that I am really “Miss Moosewood” — a reference to the popular cookbooks originally written by Mollie Katzen.

So, in my travels through Pinterest, I found this recipe for homemade hair conditioner.

It is surprisingly easy, fast and it works!

Essentially, this recipe is coconut oil, emulsified in water with xanthum gum.

There is a difference between using this and regular conditioners. 

The first time I used it, my hair, which is thick and curly, came out great. Raizel fell in love with it right away. But, she is a curly girl like me. 

Yaffa, on the other hand, woke up with greasy looking hair.

The next time I used it, I used much less. Yaffa’s hair came out looking shiny and beautiful. My hair also came out soft and manageable. 

So, more is not better and use sparingly!

Ingredients 

2/3 cup water. Distilled water is recommended as it has fewer impurities. I am sure it’s true, but since this was a first time experiment, I used boiled bottled water instead.

1 teaspoon coconut oil, melted. Since I used boiled water, it melted in the water. The amount can vary depending on how dry your hair is.

1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum. The original recipe called for guar gum. But, xanthum gum was available in a little small packet at my local supermarket, so I used that instead.

Optional: essential oils of your choice. 

Instructions 

Place ingredients in container. Using an immersion blender, mix until well blended.

Store in a container of your choice. I am using an old shampoo bottle.

According to Brittany, this should only be made in small batches. It usually only lasts for up to a month. 

Since I didn’t use distilled water and there are no preservatives, it remains to be seen how long this batch will last. 

In general, I do not like the smell of coconut. Nevertheless, I didn’t add essential oils, which could give it a more pleasant smell. Maybe next time, if this experiment is successful?

Here are the pictures:

blending in immersion blender

final outcome in bottle with some of the ingredients and utensils

Overall, this has been a successful experiment. 

It is fast and easy, all natural, no chemicals, dyes or preservatives and uses easily available ingredients  

Raizel declared it “awesome!” However, she would like essential oils added to make it smell nicer.

Thank you Brittany for this great recipe!

Enjoy!

Reference 

http://pistachioproject.com/2012/03/homemade-conditioner.html

If anyone is interested in the cookbook by Mollie Katzen, here is a link:

Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention: Fast & Easy DIY Facial Scrub & Deodorant

Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention: Fast & Easy DIY Facial Scrub & Deodorant

 

Necessity is truly the mother of invention. I am visiting my mother in Toronto now. I traveled by myself and left the girls home with my husband. Risqué, without a doubt.

But, no matter how old I get, going home to Mom, is going HOME. I packed my bag, and traveled very lightly. I figured any toiletry items that I might need would surely be available at Mom’s.

Well, times change.

I think that I am growing up, but I forget that my mother is growing old.


When I got here, I saw that she did not have any facial scrub. Why would she? She doesn’t use it.

And, Mom lives alone now. She has only one stick of deodorant. At this stage of the game, Mom is not too comfortable sharing.

So, I decided to make fast and easy DIY Facial Scrub & Deodorant.

Fast & Easy DIY Facial Scrub

Ingredients:

1-part sugar

1-part baking soda

1-part borax

Optional: by mistake, I added 1-part coarse salt (Kosher salt). It still worked.

Instructions:

Blend together and store in a covered jar. I used an empty pill bottle.

To use: pour into palm of your hand. Add enough water to desired consistency, and gently apply to face using small circular motions.

Rinse well.

When I came out of the shower, my skin felt very smooth. My mother has agreed to try it during her shower, and she will give me her personal opinion.

For fun I made this picture:


Fast & Easy DIY Deodorant

Ingredients:

1-part corn starch (any starch is good, but this is what was available.)

1-part baking soda

Instructions:

Blend together and store in a covered jar. I used an empty pill bottle.

To use: pour into palm of your hand, and apply as needed. It would have been nice to use a make up sponge, but, since I didn’t have one, I made do.

Just for fun, I made this picture as well:


Voila, fast and easy DIY beauty supplies. They are practically edible and no additives, preservatives or chemicals. Both look the same too: white. So, be sure to label the container so that you can tell them apart.

I was pleased with the outcome. Simple and easy, and I only used easily available ingredients.

Mom and I are cooking in the kitchen together now. It is so nice.

I am so happy that I could get away and spend some alone time with just her. I treasure these moments.

Enjoy!

 

Off-Topic: Happy Father’s Day 

While I was contemplating what to post on Father’s Day, I had an interesting conversation with my husband and girls on the phone. (I am working today and I am writing this on my lunch break.)

Neither my husband nor I grew up with much fanfare around Father’s Day. 

Both my parents believed that everyday was Father’s and Mother’s Day. My mother-in-law (A”H), however, LOVED Mother’s Day. 

So, I asked my husband, Yaffa and Raizel, “why do you think that Mother’s Day was so important to Grandma, and Father’s Day was not so important to Grandpa?”

Raizel’s interesting response was “because Grandpa loved Grandma.”

It was almost like she intuited this quote:

My husband’s response was interesting: “because fathers do not need the same things as mothers. Mothers need more acknowledgement for what they do.”

Hmmmmm…….. It made me think that perhaps there was some merit to Freud’s statement, “biology is destiny?”

Clearly mothering and fathering cannot be limited by biology.

Traditionally, men are the initiators and providers and women are the nurturers and builders. However, I believe that anyone who nurtures and provides for the growth and development of another is both a mother and a father.

Raizel, my little cutie ended the call saying, “Happy Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to both of you!”

I laughed. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

On a more personal note, my father (A”H) was an extraordinary person. I want to take this time to say, “Thank you Dad for everything! I am truly blessed to have you as my father.”

Just for fun, I also thought I would share this funny picture that a friend sent me:

Happy Father’s Day to everyone who creates and initiates and provides for the growth and well-being of others!”