Thanksgiving Lunch on the Fly: Maple Syrup & Mustard Turkey Legs With Sweet Potatoes & Green Beans

Thanksgiving Lunch on the Fly: Maple Syrup and Mustard Turkey Legs with Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans

I am still cooking and still writing, but, for various reasons, unfortunately, not for this wonderful blog. I have missed the comradery of the blogging community!

It can be sometimes be challenging to balance working, my children’s special needs and the dietary guidelines of the Jewish faith. In an age of instant gratification, teaching my children to say “No” to delicious non-kosher food is not simple.

I want my daughters to enjoy our faith and feel committed to following our culture, even though they are unable to attend a yeshiva and they are in an environment with very few other Jews.

They are teenagers, and at the age where they want to feel that they belong to a group of friends or peers. It is hard to be different and not do or eat what everyone else is doing or eating.

Raizel was talking about the Thanksgiving school menu for weeks.  Her teachers were concerned that she might feel left out or deprived that she could not eat what all the other children were eating. They are so kind, that they bought a microwave that would only be for kosher food!

I made this wonderful crockpot turkey with sweet potatoes for the first time in years. It is fast, easy, all natural and delicious.

Paired with a super simple frozen green beans, Raizel was able to have a delicious thanksgiving lunch on the fly.

It occurred to me that this is a perfect simple menu for anyone!

Maple Syrup and Mustard Turkey Legs with Sweet Potatoes

 Ingredients

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in cubes

3 turkey legs, skinned

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup prepared mustard, of your choice

½ teaspoon garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, ginger

¼ teaspoon pepper, to taste

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt to taste.

Optional: Thicken broth with 1 tablespoons of tapioca.

 Directions 

Put sweet potatoes in the bottom of the pot. Add the turkey legs on top. Mix together the maple syrup, mustard and spices and then pour over turkey.

Stove top: bring to boil and let simmer until done. Adjust seasonings to taste, if necessary.

Crockpot. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours or on high-heat setting for to 3 to 3-1/2 hours.

In pressure cooker: 12 minutes to pressure and then use the quick release method by running cold water over the lid when done.

Easy Garlic Green Beans

 Ingredients

1 lbs. frozen green beans

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste.

¼ cup water (approximately)

Optional: 1 tablespoon of olive oil or margarine.

 Directions 

Place frozen green beans in a skillet. Add 1/4 cup water. Cover the skillet, then steam the beans until tender. Add crushed garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste. For an extra rich flavor, add oil or margarine and mix well.

Since I was not originally planning on posting these recipes, unfortunately, I only have 2 pictures:

 

The final product. Delicious!

Simple and easy green beans. Add extra oil for a richer taste. Raizel added toasted sesame oil. Yum!

I am happy to say that it was a success! Both girls, and even my husband liked it very much.

 

Enjoy!

 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

 

 

 

 

Coconut Flour Shortbread Cookies

For Purim, I made these Coconut Flour Shortbread Cookies with the leftover coconut flour from Passover.

These cookies are endlessly adaptable.

If you like citrus, they can be jazzed up with lemon, lime or orange zest.

If you want to make a fancy presentation, you could dip them in chocolate and add toasted coconut, nuts or sprinkles.

They can be made with almost “flour” — wheat, quinoa, banana, almond, or gluten free flour blend of your choice or starch such as tapioca or potato.

They are perfect for Passover or for anyone on a gluten free or nut free diet.

Coconut Flour Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup coconut flour

1 cup “flour” — wheat/quinoa/banana/almond/tapioca starch/potato starch, or gluten free blend of your choice

1 1/2 cups sugar.

Optional: If you it less sweet, you can use only 1 cup of sugar.

1 cup oil

4 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional: 1 teaspoon almond extract

Optional: 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Optional: lemon, lime or orange zest

Instructions:

Food processor: mix oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract.  Add the dry ingredients and process until it forms into a dough.

I usually try to mix the wet ingredients first and then add the dry ingredients to prevent over mixing.

Let the dough rest for a few minutes. Coconut flour is very absorbent.

Shape dough into balls with slightly wet hands to prevent sticking and create a smooth shape.

Place onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. I find that my cookies are less likely to burn with a double insulated cookie sheet.

Flatten dough with a fork using a crisscross pattern. To prevent dough from sticking to the fork, dip the fork into water. It really helps!

Bake in preheated 400*F oven for 8-12 minutes, and the bottoms are slightly browned.

Cool slightly while still on the cookie sheet and then let cool completely on wire racks.

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Just before baking in the over. I used a silpat and double insulated baking sheets.

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Final outcome.

Coconut flour is different than wheat flour. But, I am happy to say that most people really liked them. The proof is that I brought them to our Purim seuda (festive meal) and they were all eaten. I consider that to be a ringing endorsement.

Enjoy!

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last year for Passover, I bought all these unusual flours that were kosher for Passover for the first time. I bought banana flour, quinoa flour and coconut flour.

I made a few things with them, with mixed reviews.

The consensus seems to be that the end results were no better than the traditional alternative “flours” like potato starch, tapioca starch, ground nuts and matzah meal.

Tonight is the holiday of Purim.  What this also means is that Passover is around the corner.

I still have so much leftover flours from last year. I couldn’t let them go to waste.

This holiday provides a unique opportunity to be creative. I thought: “why not bake cookies with the gluten-free flours from Passover to give away for my Mishloach Manot (Food to Friends.)??

Voila! Chocolate Chips Cookies with banana flour.

For a wonderful and funny explanation of Purim, please go read what Dolly wrote over at koolkosherkitchen.  Raizel and I really enjoyed it. Check it out!

 

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

1 ½  cups banana flour
2 cups rolled oats

Passover adaption: omit and add nuts, if desired.
1 ½  cup brown sugar
½  cup white sugar
1 cup oil
2 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

9 oz. chocolate chips

 

Instructions

Food processor: mix oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Add banana flour, oatmeal, baking soda, and salt until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. (If you want, you can stir in the oatmeal with the chocolate chips, but I did not).

Drop or shape dough using a teaspoon onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake in 350*F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Cool slightly while still on the cookie sheet and then let cool completely on wire racks.

I must have been tired by the time I made these. Unfortunately, I only have one picture of the final product:

Raizel thought that they were really good. My husband unfortunately thought that they tasted “passadik” (like Passover food.) I say, “that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

Today, there are more and more people who are gluten free. I think that these cookies are a great way to accommodate people on such a special diet.

Enjoy!

Happy Purim 🎭

Homemade DIY Bean Butter

Homemade DIY Bean Butter

The rise in nut and seed allergies in children has necessitated some old-fashioned culinary ingenuity on my part.

Up until recently, Yaffa’s favorite lunch was humus with almost anything or a peanut butter sandwich.

However, due to today’s severe nut and seed allergies, humus and/or peanut butter are no longer an option.

I needed to learn how to adjust and adapt: What could I make that is healthy, all natural, nut-free, seed-free, vegan and also suitable for a pack-n-go lunch??

My friend Malka suggested trying soy butter instead of peanut butter. That suggestion was quickly vetoed. No one liked the taste or the consistency of commercial soy butter.

In addition, I prefer to limit our soy consumption.  Soy is ubiquitous in so many products today. I worry that eating too much of anything, even if it is supposedly healthy, is ultimately unhealthy.

Malka’s suggestion, however, got my creative juices flowing. I thought: “If it is possible to make soy butter, why wouldn’t it also be possible to make something similar with different beans instead?”

Eureka! It worked!

The formula of 1 ½ cups roasted beans: 2 tablespoons of oil: 1 cup of water works with all sorts of beans. I have made this with black-eyed peas, kidney beans and white beans. Our current favorite is chickpeas.

The trick is to make the beans more “nut-like” by roasting them and then adding oil.

To save time, I make a large amount at one time and then freeze it in smaller amounts. This way I only need to defrost as needed. One batch can last for quite a while.

I also stagger each step in the process. One night, I make the beans in the crockpot. The next day, I roast the beans in the oven. Up to a few days later, when I have the time, I mix everything all together. By chunking each task, it feels less time consuming.

Homemade Bean Butter

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups cooked and then roasted beans

2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons sugar (to taste)

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

Optional: Cocoa powder, cinnamon and vanilla

Directions:

Cook beans and then roast in 425*F oven. I add a bit of oil, so that they will get slightly crispy.

Soak roasted beans with water and oil until soft and most of the liquid is absorbed.

Pulse in food processor or an immersion blender until smooth, adding more liquid if necessary.

Add sugar, salt, cocoa powder, cinnamon and vanilla to taste. Process until smooth.

Here are the step by step pictures:

 

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Chickpeas after they were roasted

My new way of keeping track of what I cook. Make a picture!

 

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Soaking the beans until the water is absorbed.

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Pureeing with an immersion blender.

Pureeing until smooth

Final product. Adjust the amount of liquid until desired consistency.

I find that a little bit of sugar makes the spread more palatable. Malka suggests making a more savory version using salt, herbs and spices.

For people who need to avoid nuts and seeds, this is a healthy, yummy alternative.

Try it, you’ll like it!

Enjoy!

Cranberry Challah Kugelettes & True Giving

What would Walter Think? Cranberry Challah Kugelettes

 

I like to think that Walter would be flattered if he knew how much he inspired me by his off the cuff comment.

Interestingly, the other group members were also very amused by his comment. It seems as though it sparked a lot of discussion!

The group this past week was continuing to feel disappointed that there was no funding for a holiday party this year.

In order to address their disappointment, I initially suggested that we have a potluck party.  I received a lukewarm response.

So, then, we had a discussion on giving and receiving gifts. I asked them: “who do you give to?” And, “who gives to you?”

As the group members discussed the questions, they began to realize that true happiness comes from giving and sharing rather than getting or taking.

When we give to give, we feel love for others and loved by them. When we give to get, it is a recipe for resentment and disappointment.

Still, one group member asked: “But, what if you don’t have very much?”

I suggested that even if a group practices “musical giving” it creates more good will than if everyone just keeps for themselves whatever they have.

“Musical giving” is my term to describe when everyone keeps passing around even the same gift from one person to another. It is almost like the game “the wonder ball,” hence the name.

It might not make sense, but, the act of giving, even if it is not consumed and then subsequently passed onto someone else, creates a relationship and promotes spiritual growth and connection.

I am happy to say that by the end of the group, everyone agreed to have a potluck holiday party.

Hopefully, everyone will remember to bring what they committed to bring in.

 

 

Cranberry Challah Kugelettes

In the meantime, I am continuing to explore creative ways to use up leftover bread. This recipe is another adaption of my challah kugel.

At my mother’s suggestion, I decided to make them as cupcakes, so that they would be easier to handle and cook faster.

Ingredients:

16 oz. challah

Variations:  I have not tried it yet, but, try substituting crushed matzah or rice instead of bread.

1 ½ cups water

1 ½ cups milk (I used rice milk)

Optional: use orange juice for either or all of the liquid instead

1-1 ½ cups cranberries

6 eggs

1 cup sugar: I used brown sugar only this time

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons oil

Optional: orange zest

Optional: icing sugar sprinkled on top after it’s baked.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375* F.

Crumble or break up challah (or matzah or rice) into small pieces into bowl.

Combine water (or juice) and milk and pour over challah. Mix until challah is soft, but not too mushy. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Pour into cupcake pans lined with cupcake holders. Bake for approximately 1 hour or until done.

The texture is particularly creamy when it is baked in a deeper pan containing about 1 inch of water.

When I do not used a hot water bath, I bake it in a 350* F oven instead. It depends on how time challenged I am at that moment.

Serve warm or at room temperature and dust, if desired with icing (confectioners’) sugar. I did not, but I think it might be prettier with it.

This time, I put everything in the bowl and mixed the ingredients together.

Mix well.

Bake in muffin tins so they are easier to eat. No utensils required.

Fresh out of the oven.

The girls LOVED them!

Final product.

I am happy to say that it was a big hit!  Enjoy!

Now, I have to see if it meets Walter’s approval.

Related image

Semi-Off Topic: DIY Detox Bath Salts

DIY Detox Bath Salts

For obvious reasons, giving gifts on Christmas is not something that comes naturally to me.

Although Chanukah and Christmas both occur around the same time of year, they are each unique holidays with their own rituals, aesthetic beauty and spiritual relevance.

Growing up, we did receive and give presents during Hanukkah, but it was never in mass quantities that people seem to receive today.

Chanukkah card that I made this year with Yaffa’s art.

Consequently, this time of year is sometimes a struggle for me.

I do want to express my appreciation and gratitude to the people who help me, and create cheerfulness and comradery with the people I work with. But, I do not want to succumb to the conspicuous consumption and rampant materialism that I often see going on around me.

My solution is to create DIY gifts which are both personal and practical.

This year, I felt inspired to make DIY Detox Bath Salts.

It is surprisingly fast, easy, all natural and even relatively economical to make. The trick is to make a nice presentation to doll it up.

In the back of my mind, I wanted to give the bath salts in a urine cups and specimen bag and label this DIY Detox (not U-tox) Bath Salts. When I told the other nurses I work with about it, we all laughed.

This is the gift presentation that I did not make:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, I decided to play it safe and give the bath salts in a small mason jar with a nice label and a colorful ribbon.

Ingredients

2 parts salt: Epsom salt, Himalayan salt, Magnesium Chloride, Dead Sea Salt

½ part baking soda

Optional: ¼ part bentonite clay

Optional: ¼ – ½ part finely ground oatmeal.

Note: I would categorize the bentonite clay and oatmeal with the baking soda. Otherwise, it might not dissolve as well.

Optional: 20-30 drops essential oils of your choice.  I used lavender, which is my favorite!

Optional: food or soap coloring. I did not use any coloring.

Optional: Cinnamon, ginger or tumeric could also be used to give it some colour and additional therapeutic properties, but, I am not sure if they would dissolve properly. Then, you might have to wash out the tub, which is something that I do not find relaxing.

Instructions:

In a large bowl, mix to combine the salts and baking soda. Add essential oils and stir until well-blended.

The appearance of the Bath Salts can be changed by adding a few drops of food coloring to the salt mixture until you reach the desired shade you would like.

If anyone would like to make their own natural food dyes, here is a great link.

This recipe can be easily scaled up, which I did to make lots of gifts for everyone.

It is not very colourful, but here is the picture of the bath salts in the large jar I used to mix up everything in.

Without dye, the only colour came from the Himalayan salt.

I also added Silica Gel Packs to prevent the salts from sticking together. It really helped!

Here are the various ways I tried to present the gifts so that they seemed festive and personalized:

Overall, the gifts were very well received. Even the men I work with wanted some despite the fact that it smelled like lavender.  Next time, to make it more unisex, I might use patchouli oil.

I got very creative and below are various samples of labels one can use:

 

 

 

Happy Holidays everyone!

 

Chocolate Challah Kugel

I’m back!

The picture of the adorable cat above, is the latest addition to our family.

At the end of this post, I will share more about him.

Stay tuned!

I have missed blogging, but, for some reason, I uncharacteristically found myself with nothing to say for the past year.

I hope that I have found my voice again, and this is a new beginning!

Part of my inspiration to renew this blog was an off the cuff comment by one of my patients.

During one of my groups at work this week, “Walter,” said, “Carol doesn’t look like someone who likes to cook.”

At first, I thought his comment was completely off base, and I felt slightly offended. To me, he was making an unsubstantiated assumption.

Upon reflection, it occurred to me: perhaps “Walter” was really trying to communicate something else?

Is it possible that “Walter” was really expressing his disappointment that this year there is no funding available to have a holiday party?

Maybe what he really wanted to say was: “does Carol care enough about us that she would make us a party and do all the cooking?”

I am still thinking about the incident, as you can tell.

The upside of his comment is that it reminded me how much I really do miss blogging.

And just in case his comment could really be taken at face value, I was motivated to actually sit down and write a new post on my sorely neglected blog.

My motives might be a little immature, but, I really do have so many recipes to share on juggling special diets, special needs and time challenges!

Chocolate Challah Kugel 

This recipe is really a recent adaption of my challah kugel. I am trying to come up with creative ways to use up leftover bread.

I am happy to say that it was a big hit!

Ingredients:

16 oz. challah

1 ½ cups water

1 ½ cups chocolate chips

1 ½ cups milk (I used rice milk)

1/2 cup cocoa

6 eggs

1 cup sugar: ½ cup brown sugar and ½ cup white

2 teaspoons vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons oil

Optional: icing sugar sprinkled on top after it’s baked.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375* F.

Crumble or break up challah into small pieces into bowl.

Add chocolate chips.

Combine water, milk, cocoa, eggs, vanilla, salt and oil and whisk until smooth and well-blended.

The sugars can be added to the bread and chocolate chips, or to the liquids. This time, I did both. The white sugar I added to the bread, and the brown sugar was added to the liquids. I think it might be better to add the sugar to the liquids so it can dissolve more easily and be more evenly distributed. This recipe is very flexible!

Pour liquid over challah and chocolate chips.

Mix until challah is soft.

Pour into a parchment lined pan and bake for approximately 1 hour or until done.

The texture is particularly creamy when it is baked in a deeper pan containing about 1 inch of water.

When I do not used a hot water bath, I bake it in a 350* F oven instead. It depends on how time challenged I am at that moment.

Serve warm or at room temperature and dust, if desired with icing (confectioners’) sugar. I did not, but I think it might be prettier with it.

Variations:  I have not tried it yet, but, I wonder if this would be good with crushed matzah instead of bread?

Alternatively it might even be made with rice too. Depending on the desired texture, it might be better to lightly blend the rice mixture with an immersion blender before adding the chocolate chips. The goal is to have the mixture slightly smooth but not mushy.

Now that I see how adaptable this recipe can be, I am hoping to explore other variations too.

Here are the pictures:

Bread, chocolate chips and white sugar.

Whisking the sugar, cocoa, eggs, liquid and vanilla

mixing wet and dry ingredients.

The last few pieces. I forgot to take a picture when it was first done.

Enjoy!

As promised, here is the story of our new cat.

Last spring we acquired an outdoor cat, Ari.

I love cats, but, my husband, unfortunately is very allergic to them. So, when we met, I sadly had to give my 2 cats away.

Over the years, I would frequently remind Jay of the tremendous sacrifice I made to marry him. My husband would always joke, “What’s better, having a husband or 2 cats?” He would then add: “Don’t answer that!”

When we first married, I used to be able to find a local stray cat to befriend and share a “Positive Cat Experience.” Over the years, however, that changed. It seems as though there were no longer any stray cats around.

So, as an act of true love, Jay suggested that perhaps I could have a cat again, with the stipulation that the cat was not allowed to come in the house.

It was a tall order, but, with the help of Google, I discovered that there is a local program by the SPCA called “Back Yard Buddies.”

Cats adopted through this program are feral cats that have been spayed/neutered, given their shots, and microchipped. They are not supposed to be indoor cats, and the SPCA gives you all the equipment one needs to train the cat that you will be his/her new feeding source.

It seemed like a win-win for everyone!

My brother was very skeptical when he heard about it. Dov said, “It sounds like taking on a charity project.” I suppose on one level it is.  But, the cat we received is the friendliest feral cat one could ever hope for.

Naturally, life is never how one expects.

Although I am the one who takes care of Ari, ironically, my husband is his chosen person. Ari greets my husband, spontaneously hops up on his lap, and otherwise in general seeks him out.

It is truly very funny.

One of my friends suggested that I sue for alienation of affection, or get another cat who will be MY cat. So far, my husband has vetoed that option.

I am truly enjoying this cat. It is so nice to have a Positive Cat Experience on a daily basis. I just had to share!