Thursday, October 30, 2014

Eating the Bible!

From Rosh Hashanah through Simchat Torah, followed appropriately by last weeks unifying Project Shabbat, this past month has provided us with many opportunities for change, growth and inspiration. With the countless meals and planning that went into the Chaggim behind us, it's time to take our enthusiasm and infuse it into the fresh new year before us!

Change doesn't have to mean a large, overwhelming leap. Oftentimes it's the smaller steps, the little additions or alterations here and there, that make the biggest difference. When looking where to start, what better place than right at home?

Personally, with a nine month old and the chaos of keeping up with him and schedules and everything else going on, finding the time and energy to implement any more change to this new version of life, is difficult. Then this cookbook arrived...


Receiving a cookbook is always exciting and I'm always appreciative of the opportunity given to really work my way through something that others have devoted so much time and energy to. Having said that, when this particular cookbook arrived in the mail, I knew it was exactly what I needed and could use, to start implementing baby steps of change!

Rena Rossner's Eating the Bible, was absolutely made for this time of year. It's been sitting on my shelf for a little while and I've been holding out until now to dive in! Not only is it a wonderful collection of recipes, this cookbook goes above and beyond and is truly a companion, from the moment you take out your pots to start cooking, all the way to when you sit down at your Shabbos table. It's full of everything this season is already infused with - inspiration, spirituality, and fun!

The layout of the cookbook is very clean, organized and clear, making it user friendly. Each recipe begins with a thought on the week's Torah reading. This is followed with a recipe that is closely related to the parsha, with accompanying questions and conversation starters, to share with your family, while sitting at the table partaking in the dish! It doesn't end there though! How many times during cooking, do recipes call for breaks? While the water boils or while the vegetables are sauteing, I frequently take a moment to check Instagram or emails. Rena recognizes the lapses in time during recipes and has provided food for thought during these moments - questions, commentary and perspectives, to keep you immersed in the spirituality behind the dish and Shabbos preparations! There is even a "Biblical Ingredients" section as well as a glossary of terms/ food used throughout the cookbook!

While recipes are usually the highlight of any cookbook, here they are almost secondary. They serve as a way to materialize what you are learning and provide a tangible, tactile connection and conversation starter. The concept of "Parsha Desserts" is familiar to many (for instance, a rainbow cake in honor of Parshas Noach). Rena goes above and beyond this concept. The parsha is infused in not only dessert, but in main courses, appetizers, soups and more! At times the connection is apparent (i.e. lentil soup) at other times it's more discrete, really encouraging conversation and connections. Each recipe includes questions and alternatives concerning presentation and preparation, and even at times no bake options that still help you incorporate the parsha on your table if you're short on time.

The recipes themselves are straightforward, concise and appetizing. They fit in seamlessly with a Shabbos menu and provide a fair balance of healthy options with salads and seasonings as well as delicious desserts. I also love that for the slightly more complicated recipes, there are step by step pictures, spanning two pages at times, to really help with preparation. For the most part, the recipes are classic and simple - it really is about the message behind the dish. Finally, something super important, the recipes feel achievable! You feel like you can make them and have them look just like the book, which encourages you to try it and immerse yourself in the experience! You're not struggling or adding in extra effort to your Shabbos preparations. It's right there for you, accessible and encouraging, which helps motivate you even more to incorporate dishes and conversations into your meals.

I would have appreciated the inclusion of sources, although I appreciate Rena's distinction in saying that this was done in order to keep this a cookbook and not a scholarly work. Clearer titles/ labeling of which parsha is which (rather than the verse at the top of each page), would have also been helpful. Having said that, it is undeniably a source that I will return to time and again to help with Shabbos preparation, both in terms of menu and conversation. This week I'll actually be incorporating the Eternal Dust "Earthy Seasoning" into our menu, in honor of Lech Lecha!


All in all, this cookbook provides it's readers with a comprehensive experience. It brings the parsha into the kitchen and subsequently onto the table! Not only are you literally getting a taste of the parsha, but you're also being encouraged to participate in conversation about it! A great cookbook to start off the year and carry through inspiration and excitement week after week!

Special thanks to Skyhorse Publishing for generously providing a review copy of Eating the Bible. The review and opinions expressed within are completely my own.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving* is one of my favorite days of the year. It's pretty much the only "holiday" that we're able to celebrate with my family, and for lack of a better word, I'm incredibly thankful that we are able to do so!

It's unbelievable how much has changed in a year! This year, there's a new baby, a lot less sleep, a lot more love and fewer hands and time to prepare everything! Last year, I took upon myself the task of making my first Thanksgiving turkey, trimmings and pie while also about five months pregnant. Granted it may not have been the wisest decision. Surprisingly, trying to find a turkey to cook was more difficult than actually cooking it! It required a four hour excursion with M, to a variety of grocery stores, club stores and more, until we finally found the elusive bird. Turns out, there was a kosher turkey shortage in our city last year. Fun times... By the way, you know what you don't want to do when you're five months pregnant? Go on a wild turkey search, after a whole day of work, with less than a week to go to Thanksgiving... Y'know, just in case you were wondering!

The Elusive Bird!
Anyhow, we found the bird, and after many, many, many phone calls and texts to my Mom and google searches (not to mention the mild panic attack when I learned the number of hours required per pound of turkey, to defrost the thing, with a clock ticking down to dinner) Thanksgiving dinner was a success! My Mom stepped in and helped me with the turkey prep, I very proudly made my first pie & M proudly carved his first turkey. Overall the day was memorable and being able to spend it with family, and immersing ourselves in all we have to be thankful for was just as amazing as always! It's a true testament to how epic my Mom is, that even though we're there for Sunday dinner every week, she's always able to make holiday dinners feel that extra bit special. Whether it's a certain tray, place settings or just the scent of food throughout the house specific to the day, I hope to be as graceful as she is and provide Y with memories in the same way!

Having said that, this year, I'm hoping we find the bird quickly because the only challenge I'm prepared to face, is trying to pull this off with a delicious 8 month old getting into trouble everywhere! With about a week to go, I'm getting my menu and game plan set and thought I'd share a peek with you.



This Apple Cranberry Pie, requires 2 ingredients for the base plus a handful for the crumble - exactly what you want to keep your grocery list from going overboard with all the trimmings and desserts! It's super quick to put together and is absolutely delicious! People frequently comment that it's "more of a dessert" but I was introduced to it as a side, and that's where it has stayed on my menu!

You can't have Thanksgiving without sweet potato, and this Sweet Potato Pie is always a hit! It does require a bit of work, but it's totally worth it! And if you're already making the Apple Cranberry Pie, just double the crumble and that's one less component to think about!

Speaking of essentials, what's Thanksgiving without the Stuffing? I'm not gonna lie, growing up my favorite stuffing was the one from a box, but there's definitely something to be said about making it from scratch (if you have the time!).

If you're looking to change it up a bit, why not add these Vegetable Bourekas to the menu? Pastry dough hides the veggies and helps the kids (or y'know an itsy bitsy balebusta...) feel like they're having a treat when really they're getting sweet potato, red pepper and more!

I'll be making Thanksgiving during Chol Hamoed, right before starting to cook for second days, so it should be a wild adventure over here! An adventure I couldn't be more grateful for. I am thrilled to be able to not only share a holiday with my family, in the midst of so many, but also to share our first Thanksgiving as a family with Y this year. While there have been many sleepless nights, tears (from us both) and roller coaster moments, there's no doubting that these past eight months have been the most filled with awe and love I've ever experienced and I couldn't be more thankful! Although, I wouldn't say no to a little more sleep, but for now, I'll smile through the yawn and head out to find that bird!

*For those who may be slightly confused, Monday October 13th, is Thanksgiving in Canada!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Goodbye Summer!

As much as I absolutely love Fall, I'm actually sad to see summer go this year! I was fortunate enough to be able to spend long, sun filled days, outside with our beautiful baby boy, watching him discover the trees and leaves for the first time on our many walks, enjoying the breeze between his toes (I just can't seem to keep his socks on him!) and finally getting out and about after months of colic and being stuck indoors!

While Fall may scream pumpkin spice, apples and cinnamon, I come from a family where besides the addition of a soup here and there, the menu doesn't change all that much. Regardless of the temperature, come rain or shine, snow or warm breezes, my parent's barbecue is always lit and ready to go! Living in an apartment, we look forward to Sundays when we visit my parents and fire up the grill in their backyard, that they generously gifted M!

My two favorite parts of the week are Friday afternoon, when M gets home from work and we have a whole Shabbos and weekend ahead together as a family & Sundays, when we visit my parents, siblings and niece and spend time together amid laughter, food and catching up over what happened throughout the week! With an 8 month old, it's incredible how much can change in seven days!

I've often stressed how large a role meals and food play in my family. When I was younger we would alternate between my grandparents houses every Sunday, and join them for a large family dinner. Now I'm so proud to bring our little boy down to his grandparents house each Sunday, continuing that tradition in our own small way! Sundays recharge us for the week. It isn't just the incredible food, the time spent preparing it in the kitchen with family or watching everyone ooo and ahh over the grandkids. It's being together. It's not worrying about to do lists, bills, messes to tidy or messages to respond to. It's about being present in the moment and taking it in and making sure it lasts us the rest of the week! I like to think  of it as our bonus Shabbos!

Of course, while the smiles, laughter and fun are amazing, what would Sunday be without the food?

All year round, the barbecue at my parents house is lit up and in action. Whether it's a Tuesday after work, or a snowy Sunday dinner, there's nothing stopping us from our grilling! There is something extra special about it in the summertime though. Being outside, watching my Dad & M, beer in hand, preparing dinner, while I play with baby Y & our niece, or catch up with my Mom & sister (because it's not like we don't already text each other a thousand times throughout the week...) makes being outside in the stifling weather, worth it! With the cooler weather upon us, we savor the flavor of the barbecue to bring back the warm memories!



Having said all that, I want to share a super quick, simple and flavorful recipe. And if I can make it with Y in the kitchen, in a few minutes, while M & my Dad wait outdoors, you know that description is accurate!

This is completely adaptable to your taste and whichever vegetables are in season! We use a non stick, stir fry pan from Kitchen Stuff Plus (more on my love for them coming soon!) and we found that placing a sheet of aluminum foil in it before adding the vegetables garnered the best results! It's a fresh and easy way to easily infuse the flavor of summer and grilling, into your meal all year round!

Enjoy!

Grilled Vegetables (Serves 2)

2 cups of green beans, ends trimmed
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 8 oz package of mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
garlic powder
dash of salt

Place all of the vegetables into the pan

Drizzle approximately 2 tbsp of olive oil over the vegetables.

Generously sprinkle garlic powder over and add a small dash of salt

Place on a heated barbecue for approximately 20 minutes, turning occasionally to prevent burning (when flipping, adjust time to suit your preference in terms of how well done the veggies are!)

Serve immediately