Monday, December 16, 2013

Kosher Connection Link Up: Comfort Food!

For this Itsy Bitsy Balebusta the most uncomfortable aspect of comfort food is trying to limit it to one option! Some days nothing beats a doughnut! However, cookies are always comforting, from baking to gifting to of course, enjoying. Then there are days where a warm soup or stew is about as comforting as it gets. I went back and forth a lot trying to pick one recipe for this link up, but in the end there could be nothing more all-around comforting than the recipe I’m about to share.

If you aren’t aware of the whole behind the scenes story of this blog, it started as a way to cope with my grandmother’s illness almost two years ago. Translating her recipes into English and working to make them kosher, brought me comfort and closer to her and this blog continues to be a tribute to the woman, and now wife that my grandmother (and Mom and sister!) raised me to be. Every day is a learning experience with its own batches of burned cookies and the occasional gourmet success, but without these women behind me, it’d be a whole lot more bitter than sweet! While I still miss my grandmother everyday – and even more so now that life has changed so much in the last year and there’s so much happiness she would have loved sharing in, it’s recipes like this one that fill the house with her scent and memories and provide incredible comfort.

While this cake was in the oven, it really felt like I was back in her house, having run in just after school! It's absolutely amazing what baking can do to bring back memories. The quintessential "comfort foods" have nothing on this cake when it comes to this itsy bitsy balebusta!

I have to admit, while preparing the batter I was super hesitant that this would work out. So hesitant in fact, that my skepticism started before I even got into the kitchen. Two years ago, when I copied out this recipe for the first time, I couldn't help but laugh. The ingredients and directions were so minimal and bare that I was certain something had been left out. Before you criticize that, it's pretty much a fact that most of the recipes I have from my grandmothers are missing crucial components. Whether it's a critical method in preparation, oven temperature or length of baking time or even an ingredient, no matter how hard I try with some recipes they just never work out. 

Anyhow, when I saw that this recipe called for 5 eggs and 18 tbsp of water, I was sure something was off here. How exactly is that supposed to create a cake? I mean I had eaten it enough times growing up to know it definitely did exist, but it just seemed a little far-fetched…

Lesson learned. As always, Avo knew best, because not only did the cake turn out but it turned out exactly like her's and I barely had to put in any effort whatsoever! I used the KitchenAid she gave me our last holiday together, just to feel even more connected while baking it. I love that it only needs one bowl… well that and y'know 18 tbsp of water!

This cake is fantastic. Whether it's because it's a postcard from walking into her house every day after elementary school, to see it sitting on the counter under the cake dome, with all the condensation indicating how fresh it was (yes, I did the same thing! When M walked in after work, it was sitting under the cake dome, exactly as she would have prepared it!) or because it's just a wonderful recipe in and of itself, it doesn't matter!

It's similar in texture to a pound cake, and I'm working my courage up to experiment with various types of sugars and fillings. Now that I'm over the fact that it actually will turn out, I see it as the perfect base for all sorts of flavor combinations! It's perfect on its own, but it would be wonderful to adapt it to all sorts of treats and have a little piece of this tradition continued!


I hope you enjoy this as much as we do! It's brought me incredible comfort as well as the realization that sometimes it isn’t the ingredients or composition of the dish that establishes it as a comfort food. Anything qualifies. Whether it recalls Sunday family dinners, running in after school to find a warm treat waiting or just a scent that brings back a memory, food has an amazing ability to bring people together, and to keep their memory alive long after the dishes have been cleared!


Bolo D’Agua

5 eggs
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of flour
18 Tbsp of water
1 Tbsp of baking powder
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare a bundt pan.

Beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add flour and baking soda, followed by the water (by the tablespoon!).

Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 30 minutes – check frequently as it’s ready when it reaches a light golden color. A tester should come out with a few crumbs on it to indicate it’s ready!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How Sweet - Pinning & Doughnuts!

How weird is it that I feel so productive, going through my pins and boards on Pinterest and cleaning them out?

On second thought, don't answer that...

I have a problem when it comes to pinning - I pin everything. I have boards for my "someday" home, boards of quotes that struck a chord, or made me laugh, and a board entitled "Further Reading" - how far in the future I'll actually get around to reading those 100+ articles, no one knows. There are pins for cleaning, pins for gifts and crafts I'm 99.9% sure I have neither the ability nor the concentration required to make and pins for outfits that rival the cost of my "someday" home board. But most of all I have recipe pins.

So. Many. Recipe. Pins.

I love to cook and bake - pin something that has chocolate, bread or let's be realistic is just fantastic looking and chances are I'm going to re-pin in! The last couple of weeks though, I've really set out to evaluate this pinning obsession. Don't get me wrong, I don't sit at my computer or on my phone for endless hours pinning - I get on once or twice a week, between work and home and the million other things going on. But like laundry and dishes, they add up (albeit it, are much more fun!).

Now this brings me back to my recent "productive" cleaning out sessions. I've gone through recipes removing ones I've made that just didn't work out and even better, discovering things I've pinned months to a year ago that I never got around to making that I suddenly HAD to. Like 8am standing in the kitchen on a Friday, have to make. 

And that's where this recipe comes in. With Chanukah a couple of weeks away, there's no shortage of doughnut recipes floating around - and you won't find me complaining! Doughnuts are our favorite. M will surprise me with one from time to time, they're our go to Shabbos treat, they're at the center of all of our celebrations and the ideal remedy for a pick me up! Who can forget my Birthday Bakery Hopping day, where the only rule was that if the bakery had doughnuts that was the first purchase!

These were incredibly easy to make, took me less than 40 minutes. start to finish and were picture perfect! M loved them and I couldn't pass them on the table without grabbing one...or two. I can't believe I pinned them over a year ago and never got around to actually making them!

I absolutely love, Jessica over at How Sweet Eats. I visit her blog all the time and leave with not only fantastic recipes but also laughing hysterically. She's awesome. And she makes awesome doughnuts (and pulled chicken sandwiches, and soups...). You can find this particular recipe over at How Sweet Eats 

I found them a little cakey, but definitely better than the kosher "doughnut hole" variety I've had the past couple of years. The glaze was perfect (I substituted soy milk in both the glaze and actual recipe other than buttermilk to keep it pareve, and honestly early on Friday morning I just wanted doughnuts, not a science experiment to make a buttermilk pareve replacement, but that's just me). Also, since I had already made a batch of cookies for Shabbos, I halved this recipe and it was more than enough for 2 people. Using a tablespoon measurement to scoop out dough, I had about 20 doughnut holes! Lastly, I actually used a thermometer to measure the temperature of the oil and make sure it was at 350 before starting. Hate to admit it, but usually I wing it - definitely not when it comes to doughnuts though! I was happy I did and they only needed about 2 minutes in the pot (timed with a timer to avoid the charred eggplant episode from a couple of weeks ago...), turning once with a slotted spoon before they were done. I let them cool for about 15 minutes then all food blogger like, placed them on my cooling rack and started the glazing process! I used a fork and spoon to roll each doughnut hole around in a bowl of glaze and them placed them on the cooling rack- super fancy, eh? I found this provided the highest glaze to doughnut ratio and completely covered the entire surface! 

These are super easy, delicious and barely take any time (to make and eat!). The perfect addition to a Chanukah menu that's already stressed!


Just in case the above link doesn't work here you go:

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Shabbos Menu #3

As I was searching the apartment last night for a pen – those things are almost as elusive as M’s single missing Shabbos sock that just evaporated, I found an old Shabbos list that really made me stop in my tracks. It wasn't a a grocery list or a sample menu or anything like that. It was a list of items to pack, directions and “to-do’s” before I left. You see, I spent every Shabbos for 4 years hopping from host family to host family. Everything I learned about keeping kosher came from helping these families prepare their meals Thursday nights. Everything I learned about keeping Shabbos, I learned from being a part of these families’ meals and tables. Whether it was the chaos of covering light switches, getting kids bathed and dressed or setting the table and putting the food to warm, it was this hands on practice and experience that helped to make me the itsy bitsy balebusta that I am today.

I will forever be grateful to the families who opened their doors to me. Although now when I set my table, setting one extra plate is no trouble at all, the impact that extra plate had on my life a year ago, is indescribable. Sure, it wasn't always easy packing up a bag, getting on a bus and navigating my way through new neighborhoods to meet families who I had at most only heard of, but who I was assured would be happy to have me. There were a lot of ups and downs, it took it’s toll, but the experience made me a stronger, more understanding and appreciative person. I still have to pinch myself every week, as I prepare Shabbos in my home, no gym bag or bus ride necessary.

This week I’m going back to a quiet menu for two – a Shabbos at home with my husband. Packing and schlepping replaced with setting timers, washing the last few dishes and making sure everything is ready. The power of having all those tefillahs heard for four years, reflected in my candles next to our table. To those of you packing up and calling around to finalize your plans tonight, I can’t wait until you have your own table and if you ever need to vent or need some extra courage to get on that bus, feel free to email me ( And to those of you who have the incredible privilege of celebrating Shabbos in your own homes, if you can, set an extra plate tonight.

Good Shabbos!

Shabbos Menu #3

Homemade Challah (Gatherings)


Caesar Salad

Teriyaki Salmon

Sweet & Sour Salmon


Sweet & Sour Chicken


Zucchini Bread (More Please, page 261)
This was absolutely fantastic! We really, enjoyed it. I made two loaves, one with chocolate chips and one without. Of course I loved the one with chocolate more, but even without it was fantastic (seriously!). It was a great side to tone down and compliment the flavors of the chicken as well as the previous course!

Steamed Green Beans


Chocolate Fudge Bundt Cake with Chocolate Glaze