Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chocolate-Banana Bonbons with Toasted Pecans


We're richer than we think. At least that's what my children tell me.

Last August, driving home from camp, I asked my daughters where they wanted to go on a road trip. My younger daughter Ari blurted "Los Angeles!" While my older daughter Mimi screeched  ''Israel!" Besides the fact we need flights to these places, I replied "Sorry girls, mommy isn't rich you know.'' ''What are you talking about mommy?'' Ari responded, "ya mommy, what are you talking about?" Mimi followed, ''we're rich because we have each other,'' she continued,  ''and being happy with what you have is what makes you rich, and we're definitely rich,' Ari insisted. I could of hugged these girls a million times for giving me my own advice. That conversation truly made a lasting impression.

As a result I just want to spoil my delicious and genius daughters and I'm on a mission to scooping-up or cooking up healthier snacks for the munchkins to enjoy. Cooking with your kids is a great way to unwind and bond with your family, especially after a day of school. I made these banana bonbons for an afternoon Shabbat party and both, kids and mommies can enjoy these.

INGREDIENTS Makes a minimum of a dozen

12 oz of semisweet chocolate
2/3 cup of toasted almonds or pecans
2 bananas


INSTRUCTIONS


1. In a bowl set over  a pan of barely simmering water, melt chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth.


2. Remove pan from heat, but leave bowl of chocolate on top of pan to keep warm.

3. Place nuts in a shallow bowl. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.

4. Peel bananas and cut into ½ inch rounds. Drop 1 banana slice at a time into chocolate and turn to coat. Lift out with a fork tapping fork gently on a bowl edge to allow excess chocolate to drip back into bowl.

5. Place banana slice on baking sheet and sprinkle with nuts repeat to dip and coat remaining banana slices.
6. Freeze bonbons until chocolate is set, about 20 minutes, then transfer to airtight container and store in the freezer for up to one week.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Pecans, Maple Syrup and Green Onions




What makes a great woman? Is it her money? Her influence? Is it her devotion to her family or her ability to show grand restraint in times when her insides are fuming? A great woman means different things to each one of us, but at the end of the day, all definitions are linked to one simple notion, she is giving and kind. I feel privileged to be surrounded by amazing women, yes you.. the one reading this via Facebook ;) 

For the first time in years, I have a sukkah in my backyard. I didn't build this sukkah - I can't take that credit; instead, a young mother of four did. She lent me her sukkah and took time off her busy family schedule as a means to ensure my little family has a sukkah. That sacrifice, that act of selflessness, or her ability to care for someone she barely knows, is what makes her a great a woman. 

Today on the eve of sukkot, I ask, look around you, appreciate those women that we sometimes take for granted. 

I found this recipe in a new cookbook called Eating Well (yes, I'm trying). I thought we can all use a simple warm sweet potato salad this fall season. It's simple, yummy, and wholesome. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS Serves 4 | Prep time 40 minutes.
  •  3 lb, sweet potatoes
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  •  Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  •  ½ cup lime juice
  • 3-4 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ cup of toasted pecans
  •  ½ cup minced green onions
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheit. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch- chunks. 
  2. Put in a large baking pan, drizzle with 1 ½ tbsp. oil, sprinkle with ½ tsp salt and mix to coat. 
  3. Spread potatoes in a single layer and bake, stirring occasionally, until tender when pierced, 25-30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix lime juice, maple  syrup, and remaining  ½ Tbsp oil. 
  5. Add hot roasted sweet potatoes to lime juice mixture, along with pecans, green onions, and cilantro. 
  6. Mix well and season to taste with pepper  and additional salt. 
  7. Serve at once, or cool to room temperature and mix again before serving. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Honey Jar Challah



You never know who’s sitting right beside you. And you never know what story they have to share. Feeling grumpy, I headed for a manicure and happened to sit beside Golda, a 78 year old woman with lots of stories to tell. Golda was the only 11 year old Jewish girl remaining in Poland in 1945. 1,000,000 Jewish children were killed. She was three years old when the war broke out and from that moment on, most of her childhood consisted of a run for survival.  She had red hair and blue eyes, “I didn't look Jewish,” she said, “That’s why I survived.” 

In light of a heightened international anti-semitic stance, in light of extensive misunderstandings of Jewish essence and intensified Israeli heritage bashing, I was inspired by Golda and felt compelled to share excerpts of our hour long conversation at the nail salon.

“You can’t imagine the things I saw, you can’t even believe that such evil in the world existed… There were two trains, one heading east and one heading west. We were lucky; we grabbed the right one because the other train headed for death camps in Auschwitz…. In 1944, I remember our escape from a Russian prison, children were medicated to ensure they would remain quiet - yes, even children were imprisoned. We were placed in barrels and during the escape I heard gun shots…. we survived.”

Golda moved to Canada, got married had two children and, for 34 years, she volunteered her time in the comfort and discretion of her home. She provided rehabilitative support and advice for individuals with certain illnesses and addictions. “I loved helping people, it feels good to help others,” she shared, “no one knew what I was doing, and no one needed to know.” 

Tonight is Yom Kippour, it’s the only Shabbat of the year we cannot eat.  Yom Kippour is one of the most important days in our tradition, a day of reflection in the hopes of being better than we were last year. Throughout history, oddly, Jewish people survived because they gained strength from the very notion that someone in this world makes it their mission to kill us. Golda was outraged at the media’s role in fostering anti-semitism as a result of the recent war. Jewish survival was asked to be compromised by UN ‘headless chickens’ as too few empathized with our historically-based hypersensitivity and need for self-defense or preservation.

I made this challah with my friend Sandie for my children’s school Rosh Hashanah bake sale and grabbed the recipe from  Joy of Kosher's cookbook. I dedicate this post to Golda who inspired me, and I dedicate this beautiful challah idea to all Jewish baking mothers, it’s a clever way to avoid the challah-honey dipping messes. Not only is it practical, but it also symbolizes unity and sweetness, perfect for the holidays to come.Wishing you all an easy fast.

Le’Chaim
, to life!



INGREDIENTS Prep: 1 hour min | Yield 4 challahs, simply double the recipe to make 8.

You'll need 4 glass jars with a removable lid. The dollar store has a great selection and that's where I got mine.

  • 2 ounces active dry yeast + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 cups warm water, divided
  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 (6-pound) bag high-gluten flour
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups canola oil, divided
  • 2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup poppy seeds

INSTRUCTIONS

1. In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and 2 tablespoons of sugar in 2 cups of warm water, cover loosely with a towel and set aside.

2. Place salt in a huge plastic bowl. Add flour to bowl. Add sugar and egg yolks.

3. Yeast should now have bubbled/foamed and doubled in size, if yeast has not bubbled or does not seem active repeat the process again.

4. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and slowly pour yeast and sugar water mixture into the well. Then add the remaining 4 cups of warm water into the well.

5. Make sure the water is not too hot. It should be no warmer than you would use for a baby’s bath. Start kneading ingredients together and add a 1/2 cup of oil.

6. For the next 10-15 minutes, knead, adding another 1/2 cup of oil slowly during that time as needed to create a workable dough. Dough shouldn't be too sticky and also should not be dry. It should become one cohesive mass.

7. Loosely cover dough with a large kitchen towel and place in a warm spot in your kitchen for 15 minutes.

8. After 15 minutes, lightly oil your hand and knead again for another 5 minutes adding a touch more oil to the dough if necessary. The dough should now be easier to work with and will become smooth and satiny.

9. Rub a little oil over the top and around the dough. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel. Place covered bowl in a medium plastic garbage bag and place open ends of the bag loosely underneath the bowl, trapping in air.

10. Place in a warm spot and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Punch dough down and knead (lightly oil your hands if necessary), flipping it and releasing any air bubbles. Cover again, using the towel and the bag, and let rise 1 more hour.

11. Lightly oil your hands, and punch down again. With a sharp knife divide dough into 4 equal parts. Liberally spray 4 (9-inch) round baking pans or CorningWare with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

12. With lightly oiled hands, place 1 piece of dough on a smooth work surface. Play with the dough a bit, squeezing out any air bubbles. Separate into 5 equal parts. Roll each part into a round ball.

13. Place the jar base only in the middle of your round baking pan or CorningWare surround the jar with the balls of challah dough. Don’t worry if they don’t touch. They will rise into each other while baking. Set aside.
Repeat either method with remaining dough so that you have 4 challahs. Brush challahs with beaten egg and sprinkle with a combination of slivered almonds or poppy or sesame seeds. 

14. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes and then lower your oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes, until challah tops are dark golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before slicing.