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!

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Challah Kugel

Challah Kugel 


ואל תאמר לכשאפנה אשנה, שמא לא תפנה

It is written in Perkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers): Do not say, “When I have leisure time, I will study,” for you may never have leisure. (2:4)

According to the commentaries, this means that “one must consciously set aside time for study and spiritual growth.”

Now, I would not like to imply that blogging is on the same spiritual level as learning Torah.

But, with respect to blogging, I have extrapolated the above quote to mean: If I wait for things to calm down to blog, I will never blog.

As I shared in May, I am a big believer in the importance of rigorous self-care. As the primary caregiver for my family, I find blogging to be a fun and wonderfully creative outlet. Since blogging helps me cope, it’s time to post!

Challah kugel is a great way to use up leftover challah. Kugel in general is one of Yaffa’s favorite dishes, and this kugel in particular is especially yummy.

Challah Kugel

Ingredients:

16 oz challah

1 ½ cups water

1 ½  cups milk (I used rice milk)

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

4 eggs

1/2 – 1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons oil

Optional: ½ to 1 cup raisins, crushed pineapple or sliced apples

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375* F.

Crumble or break up challah 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 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.

Variations: This recipe is really my basic formula for any sweet kugel. During Passover, I used crushed matzah instead of bread. To make it gluten free, I use rice, and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.

All the ingredients mixed in the pot.

 

In the pan, ready to bake.

Final outcome.

 

I consider this to be one of my signature kugel recipes. It is always a hit!

Enjoy!

 

In A Hurry Nut Drop Cookies

This is another recipe from my mother. While we were visiting, my mother had one of her various meetings. This recipe was her contribution.

My mother said that this is her go-to cookie recipe when she is short on time and wants to serve something simple and yet spectacular.

These cookies have an added panache, as you can adapt the flavor with different spices. And, they are also kosher for Passover!

 

Ingredients

1 lbs nuts or seeds. My mother said that “peanuts are the best, but any combination will work.”

1 egg

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

Optional: coriander and cardamom

Instructions

Beat egg with sugar and spices. Add nuts. Shape into cookies, drop on parchment line pan.

Bake in 325*F oven until set.

Optional, sprinkle with icing sugar when done, but my mother thinks they are sweet enough.

To give as a gift, place gently into a glass mason jar. Cover and decorate with a nice ribbon or bow.

Mixed and ready to drop.

Mixed and ready to drop.

Drop with a spoon onto parchment paper.

 

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

In a jar to give as a gift.


Fast, easy, sophisticated and yum!

Enjoy!

Cinnamon Muffins

Cinnamon Muffins

For some reason, Raizel has been obsessed with cinnamon. My niece, “Yo-Yo” (this is short for Yocheved) gave me a great recipe for Cinnamon Pull Apart Buns when we went to visit my sister 2 weeks ago for Chanukah.

I have to share how much my niece, Yo-Yo is growing up to be a delightful young woman. Similar to my sister, Raizel, Yo-Yo has developed a passion for baking. The 2 of us enjoyed reading and discussing various cookbooks and recipes. She is truly my sister’s daughter.

However, since I am time challenged, I decided to experiment with this faster Cinnamon Muffin recipe instead. Hopefully, it will satisfy Raizel’s craving for cinnamon. If not, stay tuned for Yo-Yo’s Cinnamon Pull Apart Buns.

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour (I used spelt)

1 cup sugar (I used slightly less)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

Alternative: use water, coconut or nut milk instead. I used rice milk

½ cup oil

2 eggs

Instructions:

By hand: combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Mix the eggs, oil and liquid in a bowl. Making a well in the center, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until blended.

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

Pour batter into a greased, sprayed or parchment lined cupcake tin.

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

Cinnamon Glaze

For fun, I thought I would experiment with making a glaze similar to the one used for the doughnuts, and with cinnamon added as well.

Ingredients

Equal amounts of water and sugar, i.e. 1/4 water and 1/4 cup sugar.

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:

To make the glaze, place equal amounts of sugar and water and the cinnamon into a small pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook the sugar, cinnamon and water over high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is completely dissolved.

For a thicker glaze, continue to cook the glaze and stir occasionally until it reduces to a thicker consistency, or add more sugar.

When the muffins are done, dip them into the simmering glaze and then place on a serve plate.

Here are the pictures:

Fresh out of the oven!

 

Cinnamon Glaze

Cinnamon Glaze

Glazed and ready to eat.

The girls are back at school today, so, it is too soon to tell how much they like them.

However, I love the smell of cinnamon. To me, it is the scent of Ha-Olam Ha-bah (The world to come or heaven).

Postscript: Raizel came home from school today and said, “These are awesome! Wow.” She then spontaneously said, “They still don’t compare to Cinnamon Buns. Can we make them on Sunday?”

I had to laugh when she said that. So much for fast and easy delicious muffins. It looks like we will be exploring Yo-Yo’s Cinnamon Buns recipe next.

Enjoy!

Shabbat Marble Cake With Optional Glaze

Shabbat Marble Cake With Optional Glaze

When the girls were little, I baked almost everything from scratch. As Raizel was on the Feingold Diet, I made everything with all natural ingredients, and without dyes, additives or preservatives. With time, I have collected a small repertoire of fast and easy baking recipes. Nothing fancy, but I figure, “done is better than undone.”

Ironically, the highest compliment that I usually receive from Raizel is, “this tastes as good as store bought,” rather than the other way around!

My oven is also still not working properly. To compensate,  I have started using an oven thermometer, which I am finding very helpful. 

Armed with my trusty thermometer, and with the day off for Thanksgiving, I had time to make this Shabbat Marble Cake. This is the first cake that I have baked since we moved to our new house.

For those who may not be familiar, a Shabbat cake is simple, fast and easy cake that one makes especially for Shabbat and those moments when one has a lot of cooking to do and limited time. Perfect for the time challenged cook.

Ingredients

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup oil

1 cup liquid – I used rice milk but juice is also good

2 teaspoon vanilla

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 altered slightly.

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt (a “pinch”)

3 tablespoons cocoa powder: Add at the end to only 1/2 – 1/3 of the batter

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.

To assemble marble cake:

Pour ½ – ¾ of batter into a greased or parchment paper lined pan, or use a Bundt pan.

If using a Bundt pan, lightly flour the pan after it is greased to prevent sticking.

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!

This can also be made as 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.

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 liquid 1 teaspoon at a time and stir until desired consistency.

Drizzle over cake, while slightly warm.

Since I am time challenged, I was only able to take 2 pictures:

 

Fresh out of the oven.

I took  this picture just before Shabbat.


Although she will never admit it, I think that Raizel is finally missing home baked goods. She said, “this is great! It is even better than store bought!

I am happy to say that between her, Yaffa, and her friend Kayla, I have only 2 pieces left. I consider that to be a ringing endorsement.

Enjoy!

 

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.

Shlishkas: First Time Experiment

Shlishkas is a very traditional Eastern European Ashkenazi dish.  I have never made it before and in fact, I only just discovered what it was recently. It took me 2 weeks just to learn how to pronounce the name.  For the record, it is pronounced sh’lish-kas.

So, I asked my mother if she knew what shlishkas is, and of course she does. According to my mother, this dish is not traditional for Jews who are from Lithuania, which is where my family is from. So, that explains why I had never heard of it before.

I consider this to be Jewish gnocchi, served with toasted breadcrumbs and sautéed onions.  My friend Devorah is the one who told me about this initially. She uses dried gnocchi to make this dish. That is a definite time saver, but, I thought I would try and make it from scratch.

This recipe is from The Jewish Spice and Spirit Cookbook. This cookbook was given to me when I got married. I consider it to be one of the best cookbooks available. 

I am sure that it is possible to make this gluten-free, but for the first time, I decided to follow the recipe as it was written.

 

Ingredients:

4 large potatoes, cooked and then peeled

3 cups of flour

1 egg

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon salt

2 onions, chopped

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon oil

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Cook potatoes. I made them in the pressure cooker, 10 minutes to pressure.

Peel the potatoes, add the flour, egg, oil, and salt and then mash together.

I read somewhere that it is best to grate the cooked potatoes, and one should definitely NOT use a food processor, or else it will turn to mush. I used a regular food masher, and my shlishkas still came out OK.

Roll dough out onto long ropes onto a floured board. Cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Drop into boiling water for 10 minutes until they float to the top. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Sauté the onions in oil. When they become translucent, add the breadcrumbs and continue to sauté until the breadcrumbs are toasted and the onions are translucent.  Add the shlishkas and cook until well blended.

Raizel and my husband liked them very much. I will have to see what Yaffa thinks tomorrow.

NB: To make gluten free and kosher for Passover, I think that it is possible to use potato or tapioca starch and/or ground almonds or matza meal. For the breadcrumbs, I think that matza meal and or ground almonds or panko flakes/crumbs could also be used. I recommend using equal proportions of each. However, I would use only 1 ½ cups to start and then gradually add more, depending on the texture and the potatoes used. I suspect that there is a definite art to making this, and that there are no hard or fast rules.

I also think that for Passover, this might be just as good with sautéed onions, and pesto or even olive dip.

I also read that the shlishkas can be frozen, uncooked and then boiled later.

First I have to see how the family likes them. I also think that with practice, they get easier, but so far, the rolling out of the dough and cutting them makes this a little time consuming.

Here are the cooked and peeled potatoes:

 

My husband was kind enough to take of picture of me kneading the potato dough:

  

Dough, once it was made:

 

Here is the final product:

  
Yaffa had some today, and she liked them too. 

I showed this post to my sister, Raizel (they are both named after the same person) and she said that they are not shaped correctly. Since she is a chef, I am inclined to take her word for it. Apparently, they are supposed to have a more twisted rope-like shape. 

But, it was still a successful attempt. Two days after I made them, they were all gone. So, by my calculations, they were a hit!

This is not a recipe for the time challenged, but, it is very good and everyone liked them.