Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lasagna Soup

Yes, this is the third time I'm posting a lasagna recipe...

But in my defense, all three are very different! I mean, you have your traditional lasagna, your lasagna rolls when you're looking for something easier and fancier to plate and now I bring you lasagna soup!

 ...C'mon it's lasagna! And December! And it's a soup!

This is totally acceptable.

Not to mention it only includes placing a handful of ingredients into a pot, turning up the temperature and you're done! No boiling noodles and then trying to arrange them so that they fit into a baking dish. No sautéing, no layering, no work really. And you likely already have all of these ingredients in your kitchen. Have I helped solve the, "what's for dinner tonight?" question yet?

During Chanukah, with what seemed like a constant (amazing) amount of fried, heavy foods, we were looking for a lighter yet still hearty enough dinner option. This was ideal. It's a fantastic "comfort food" option and a lighter way to enjoy a favorite. The flavors blended seamlessly to create the perfect imitation of what you'd expect from a warm slice of lasagna. You can deconstruct your favorite lasagna recipe and fit it into the base of the soup as well, adapting it to include spices and vegetables particular to your taste. I hope to include elements from my Mom's traditional lasagna the next time I cook this - potentially ricotta and bread crumbs! This version is dairy, but the cheese can be eliminated in favor of adding seasoned ground beef! The possibilities are endless. I'd love to hear how you'd make this your own!

It takes very little prep work, although you should set aside just under an hour for actual total cooking time. It's a great option for a warm, winter meal after a long day or an innovative way to introduce a family favorite to a weekday.

Hope this brings a little extra warmth and ease to your winter menu!

Lasagna Soup  (Approximately 5 servings)
Adapted from The Country Cook

2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp seasoning salt
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
4 cups of water
4 tsp of pareve chicken soup mix
2 cups of zesty tomato sauce (*any tomato sauce will work, but I found this particular flavor of pasta sauce added a thicker consistency while boosting the flavor as well)
4 strips of uncooked lasagna noodles
2 cups of pasta (*whichever you'd like, I used fusilli)
3 cups of shredded mixed cheese (* I used a pizza blend)

In a large pot add water, pareve chicken soup mix, thyme, seasoning salt, salt and brown sugar. Stir.
Add tomato/ pasta sauce and stir well.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
Take the strips of uncooked lasagna noodles and break into small pieces.
Add pieces to the pot as well as the 2 cups of pasta.
Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Ladle the soup into bowls.
Sprinkle cheese overtop.
Serve warm.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pure Vanilla Donuts

Welcome to our first ever Hanukkah Blog Party, hosted by Leah of Cook Kosher and Miriam of Overtime Cook. It's traditional on Hanukkah to eat fried treats, most notably donuts and latkes, and we've got a fabulous array of Hanukkah themed recipes, treats and crafts from Jewish bloggers all over the world! Scroll down for links to all of the delicious treats. 

To help get everyone into party mode, we have a bunch of fabulous new cookbooks to giveaway! Leave a comment on this post for your chance to win one of:

2 copies of Susie Fishbein's new Kosher By Design Cooking Coach (sponsored by Artscroll)
2 copies of Leah Schapira's  Fresh and Easy Kosher Cooking (sponsored by Artscroll) 
2 copies of Esther Deutch's CHIC Made Simple (sponsored by the author)

Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM on Sunday, December 16th. Limit one entry per person per blog, so visit the other blogs for extra chances to win! 

Prizes can only be shipped within the US. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address in order to qualify.

How to enter: Leave a comment on this post telling us one new treat you'd like to try baking this Chanukah!

Contest is now CLOSED! Thank you for participating!

Chanukah is one of my very favorite times of the year. It's all the fun, celebration and meaning with a quarter of the usual chaotic preparation (not to mention you can run out minutes before a party to pick up those last minute forgotten additions!). And really, any holiday where traditional foods include donuts, fried potato pancakes (latkes) and essentially oil and more oil, is always going to be at the top of my list!

I'm so happy to be a part of this blogger party and contribute a special recipe to the mix! When I received Shauna Server's, Pure Vanilla, in the mail, I was incredibly excited and curious... For one it focuses on vanilla, and this itsy bitsy balebusta basically lives off of chocolate. Out of my comfort zone much? Then there was the beautiful cover and the stunning pictures inside. You know that whole, "don't judge a book by it's cover," thing..? Well I totally judge books by their covers. I really think the entire concept of advertising was created for people like me. Add something shiny, a nice font and a few gorgeous pictures and I'm sold! And this book is so beautiful that I was ready to part with my cocoa powder, chocolate chips and ganache and jump into the world of vanilla beans!

This recipe was simple. The dough rose absolutely wonderfully, doubling in size, light and very easy to roll out and manipulate. I actually went out and purchased vanilla beans for the first time in order to follow the directions exactly and was very happy that I did. I had never used them before, but the pure flavor within the dough was unmistakable and a worthwhile addition! I found a pod of vanilla beans at my local grocery store, in the baking aisle, underneath the spices. They were definitely in a different price range than your usual vanilla extract, however there are many things to consider here... for one, how cool is it to tell your guests you made, Glazed Vanilla Bean Doughnuts? Also, it's the holidays, if there's any time to add an extra special element to your baking, it's now! Also, one vanilla bean pod can be used in so many ways it's incredible. This recipe simply uses the caviar (what I came to learn, meant the inside of the pod) and what you're left with, if stored properly can be used again for other recipes!

Overall, the donut was fantastic! It's light, doesn't feel like the usual heavy, fried doughnuts, it all came together easily and fairly effortlessly and it definitely added a heightened flavor to my dessert table this Chanukah!

A Few Tips to Keep In Mind: As with any yeast recipe, leave yourself some time to make these donuts. They aren't too intensive in terms of hands-on work, but you'll need to set aside time for rising (twice) as well as frying in batches! As far as the vanilla caviar goes, a quick google search will bring up videos and tips on properly working with the vanilla bean. I will hopefully be posting soon on how to do so, with step by step directions and pictures, for those of you who are interested. Also, the recipe below has been adapted in order to be pareve. I found that the consistency and quality was in no way compromised! And now you can have it after any meal this Chanukah!

I hope you enjoy it and that you check out all the wonderful recipes that a group of amazing bloggers have put together for you! Have a wonderful Chanukah, full of light, warmth and happiness! Happy Chanukah!

Glazed Vanilla Bean Doughnuts
Slightly adapted from Pure Vanilla by Shauna Server

1 tablespoon dry active yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 cup soy milk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Caviar of 1/2 a vanilla bean
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup (half a stick) of margarine, melted and cooled
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted, plus more for kneading
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Vegetable oil, for frying

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together yeast, warm water, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Let stand until mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, soy milk, vanilla extract, vanilla caviar, egg yolks, and margarine. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and begin mixing on low speed.

Add flour and salt and mix for 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle often to keep the dough moving.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand, dusting with flour as needed. Place dough in a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. (Alternatively, you can let it rise in the refrigerator overnight, 8 to 12 hours.)

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to about 1/2 inch thick.

Cut out doughnuts with a 3 inch doughnut cutter (*I improvised an used a wine glass, dipped in flour, using a smaller glass to cut out the center.*) Place on a parchment- lined baking sheet, and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise for 30-45 minutes, or until doughnuts have doubled in size.

Pour 2 inches of vegetable oil into a 4 or 5 quart pot and heat it to 350 degrees F. Fry doughnuts in batches of no more than 4 until they are golden brown, 2 minutes per side, turning only once (turning too often can result in greasy doughnuts). Transfer to paper towels to drain.

For the Glaze:

1 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons soy milk
Pinch salt
Caviar of 1/2 a vanilla bean

Whisk together the confectioners' sugar, soy milk, salt, and vanilla caviar until smooth. Spoon glaze over warm doughnuts and serve.

Disclaimer: I was kindly provided a copy of this wonderful cookbook to review by Quirk Books. The opinions and views expressed in my review are completely my own.  

Stop by the other blogs and check out these Chanukah Themed Recipes:

Jamie from Joy of Kosher made Zucchini Latkes with Tzatziki
Daniel from Peikes Cookbook made Potato and Fennel Latkes Fried in Duck Fat With Chinese Five Spice Apple Sauce
Susan from The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen made Squash and Potato Latkes
Samantha from The Little Ferraro Kitchen made Ruby Red Beet Latkes with Cumin
Nechamah from TIforOA Food Ideas made Healthy Oatmeal Latkes
Liz from The Lemon Bowl made Traditional Potato Latkes
Yosef from This American Bite made Latkes & Brisket on Rye
Melanie from From Fast Food to Fresh Food made (I Can't Believe They're Crispy!) Baked Latkes
Laura from Mother Would Know made Three Variations of Sweet and Savory Latkes
Sarah from Crispy Bits and Burnt Ends made Kimchee Latkes
Shulie from Food Wanderings made Baked Panko Sweet Potato Leek Latkes

Donuts and Desserts: 
Miriam from Overtime Cook made Shortcut Cannoli with Chocolate Mousse Filling
Leah from Cook Kosher made 5 Minute Donuts
Estee from The Kosher Scoop made Tropical Fruit Fritters
Melinda from Kitchen-Tested made Sweet Steamed Buns
Amy from What Jew Wanna Eat made Homemade Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Gelt
Avidan from Baking It Up As I Go Along made Orange Olive Oil Cake
Tali from More Quiche Please made Glazed Chocolate Donut Holes
Amital from Organized Jewish Home made Mom's Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
Princess Lea from The Frumanista made Túrógombóc
Stephanie and Jessica from The Kosher Foodies made Beignets
Gigi from Gigi's Kitchen made Bunuelos: Mini Powdered Cheese Donuts 
Esther from Esther O Designs made Edible Menorahs
Patti from No Bacon Here made Hanukkah Oreo Balls
Shoshana from Couldn't Be Parve made Churros con Chocolate
Shaindy from My Happily Hectic Life made Inside Out Apple Crisp
Eve from Gluten Free Nosh made Gluten-Free Hanukkah Sugar Cookies
The Gluten Free maven made Gluten Free Vegan Cake Donuts
Amy from Baking and Mistaking made Mini Cream-Filled French Beignets
Sarah from Food, Words, Photos made Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
Victoria from Itsy Bitsy Balebusta made Pure Vanilla Donuts
Vicky and Ruth from May I Have That Recipe made Dulce de Leche and Eggnog cream filled mini sufganiot
Dena from Oh You Cook made Poached Pears in Pomegranate Sauce
Michele from Kosher Treif Cooking made Tiramisu Cheessecake
Sharon from FashionIsha made Sparkly Chanukah Cookies

Appetizers, Soups, Sauces, Drinks and other Hanukkah Food:
Laura from Pragmatic Attic made Caramel Spice Applesauce
Jessie from Bread and Butter made Honey Spiced Hanukkah Martini
G6 from Guess Who's Coming 2 Dinner made Sweet Potato Leek Soup
Claire from I Love Soup made Sweet Potato, Coconut & Lemongrass Soup
Jennifer from Juanita's Cocina made Kugel
Liz from Kosher Like Me made Ready, Stuff Roll!
Shelley from The Kosher Home made Hanukkah Crafts and Printables

This is the second of many fabulous Holiday Blog Parties. If you would like to be added to the mailing list to participate in future parties, please email

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Edgeware Better Zester

This review is part of an article featured on KosherScoop.  This product was sent to me for review by Edgeware via Kosher Scoop.  You can find this review & others over at Kosher

As an itsy bitsy balebusta, I happily welcome any kitchen tool that can help the ease and efficiency of preparing meals! Between being on the phone with my Mom trying to confirm recipe directions, or the occasional recovery of a dish gone wrong, all the while keeping an eye on timers, my kitchen is a hectic place. Small appliances and gadgets are essentially my assistants, helping me to prepare everything on time, with a little extra flair. Edgeware’s Better Zester is the newest addition to my team!

Truthfully, seeing “zest” of any kind listed as an ingredient in recipes is always daunting. I’ve never had a proper zester and would more often than not skip the step altogether or resort to using a grater. Definitely not the best option.

Better Zester completely changes that. It is sheer convenience and ingenuity. The handle is comfortable to grip and allows the zester to remain stably in your hand, while the stainless steel v-etched teeth and non-stick coating allow you to effortlessly zest without having to pick out the pith! It also comes with a cover, which protects the gadget once it goes from use to drawer (although you’ll find so many instances to use it, I’m sure it’ll rarely reach the drawer!). There’s even a handy device that slides across the back saving you from having to run your finger along the zester to remove any zest clinging on. And my favorite feature is definitely the storage container attached to the back, which catches the zest AND is labeled with measurements. No more zesting for minutes wondering exactly how many tablespoons you’ve reached!

Overall, it’s a fantastic, innovative product that accomplishes exactly what the best kitchen gadgets should. It makes food preparation easy and enjoyable, while lending a hand to elevate the flavor and presentation of your dish. From someone that would previously skip the “zesting” step altogether, I now look forward to seeing it in recipes and even go so far as to add an extra bit of zest to icing or as a little extra something, when plating a dessert. It greatly enhanced the flavor and presentation of the lemon loaf that I made for Shabbat, while only taking a couple of mere minutes. After using it to zest the lemon into the batter, I was inspired to also add a bit of zest to the icing as well as garnish on the plate! Definitely a valued member of this itsy bitsy balebusta’s team!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Saying Thank You with Breakfast Nachos

Being a grown up takes some getting used to.

It seems like everything comes down to four letter words: work, rent, bill(s).

I vividly remember thinking it would be soooo much fun! Now, I feel like some old lady, when I can't help but look at my toddler class while they are doing whatever they can to avoid nap time, as I sit there thinking, "I would give just about ANYTHING for someone to include a two hour nap in the middle of my daily itinerary."

Then again... it isn't all bad.

The pro of being an adult can basically be summarized in two, very significant words.

Breakfast. Nachos.

As in, nachos for breakfast.

As in sheer brilliance.

I may have a mild obsession with Joy the Baker. You know how there's that random "dinner party" question... if you could invite any celebrities to a meal who would they be? Well my answer is simple:

Joy the Baker

Paul Rudd

Jason Segal

Yes. In my book Joy the Baker is a legit celebrity.

I am currently going through a phase where I'm baking and cooking just about everything on her website. Then M surprised me with her cookbook. Because he's awesome like that.

And how do you repay awesomeness?

With Breakfast Nachos, that's how.

M & I have had quite the adventurous month. In mid-October we travelled into Toronto for a simcha in honor of my niece, only to find out that my Uncle had just gotten engaged!

Then came the real adventure. Being Canadian and from Montreal more specifically, I really didn't put too much thought into how Hurricane Sandy would affect me. I mean a couple of weeks ago we had a super minor earthquake, if you can even call it that, and it was in the news for days. A storm of this magnitude just wasn't on the radar. Until I realized the date it was set to hit. October 31st. The date of our closest friend's wedding. In New York City.

I've only been to New York once before, and it was right after Hurricane Irene. Like right after. Like the two times I've ever been to New York have both been for less than 24 hours in total and no more than 2 days after a Hurricane (note to self: I don't think New York is the place for me...).

We were set to fly out of Vermont (yes, our journey began with the drive from Montreal to Vermont) and after incessantly checking flight schedules for days, and being assured they were still scheduled, the inevitable happened: on our way into Vermont, the notification on my phone alerted me to the fact that our flight had just been cancelled. We knew we couldn't miss this wedding. They aren't just our friends, we truly consider them our family. The "brother-in-law" and new "sister-in-law" I had always wanted. So we kept driving. The endless "this is closed," "it's too dangerous" messages came in, but M & I kept going. I can't even explain the sheer joy when the bridge we needed to get into town was open as we drove up to it. Ecstatic doesn't even cover it.

The spontaneous road trip in a hurricane wasn't over yet though. Not until a parking debacle, getting lost a few dozen times and then showing up to the hall four hours before anyone else was there! The wedding was such an absolutely beautiful event and really epitomized what a community, friends, family and love can accomplish in just a couple of days. Regardless of the fact that there had been venue changes, traveling issues and chaos, you wouldn't have known it when you walked in and felt the sheer happiness. It was one of the most beautiful, inspiring evenings we've had in a long time and it felt so amazing to be surrounded by family.

I should probably mention I can't drive. So basically M made sure we got there and back, all within 48 hours and that's no small feat with a hurricane in front of him and a total chaotic mess in the passenger seat... i.e. "LOOK at that cloud!!! That's a scary cloud!! Should we pull over?"

I'm fun.

So back to repaying awesomeness with Breakfast Nachos...

After going through all that, I knew Joy could help me find the perfect way to say, "thank you for not leaving me on the side of the road when I started screaming about scary clouds." And what could be a better answer than Breakfast Nachos?!

My version is inspired by Joy's, mixed in with whatever I had in the pantry/ fridge... because y'know when you come across a fantastic idea and you just HAVE to make it right away, even if you don't have all the ingredients and you've got no way to get a grocery store?

Just me... Oh, okay...

Here's to successful, awesome adventures and the best way to say thank you for being one big chaotic mess! Enjoy!

Breakfast Nachos (served 2... don't judge us...)
Inspired by Joy the Baker's Breakfast Nachos 

1 bag of corn tortilla chips (I used grilled red pepper and tomato salsa tortilla chips. AH-MAZING and totally kicked these nachos up a notch!)
1 can of corn, drained
1 can of mixed beans, drained
1 avocado, sliced
1 cup of sliced black olives
2 cups of salsa
2 sunny side up eggs
Shredded "pizza" cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
Place the tortilla chips on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Sprinkle cheese overtop, add another layer of chips and sprinkle more cheese.
Add the corn and beans and sprinkle cheese overtop.
Bake in the oven for 5 minutes. While in oven, prepare eggs.
Remove and add sliced avocado, eggs, olives and extra cheese.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November Kosher Connection: Stuffing!

As Robin from How I Met Your Mother so eloquently put it, "Thanksgiving in November. Weird."


As a Canadian, I say... Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated in October, in the midst of the Chaggim. As a food blogger, all I can say is, "YAY for American Thanksgiving!" Another chance, a month later, all on its own, for baking sweet potato pies, turkey and stuffing all in the name of recipe development!


I couldn't have been happier with the selected theme for this month's Kosher Connection. When it comes to Chaggim I don't have classic family recipes. I don't have any special honey cake recipes for Rosh Hashana or classic latke recipes for Chanukah. That isn't to say that I haven't been able to incorporate my Mom and grandmother's fantastic recipes into these meals! Being the first to celebrate all of the Chaggim, I've worked to fit my families classic recipes into my new traditions!

Thanksgiving is different. It's quite possibly, one of my favorite days of the year. It's the holiday where my family is able to come around the table together, and share in a "holiday" as one. Truthfully, I'm very lucky in the sense that minus the turkey and trimmings, any Sunday dinner has the same festive atmosphere!

So when it came to coming up with a recipe for stuffing, I thought it was best to stay within the traditional context, and started pulling all of the herbs I could find out of the spice rack. Given that it's the one traditional meal we celebrate together, I thought this was only appropriate!

Stuffing and cranberry sauce are my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal. It's rare that I have them the rest of the year (although for years, I ALWAYS had to have cranberry sauce with chicken, to "fool" me into thinking it was turkey or else I wouldn't eat it... Yes I was a picky eater. And yes my parents are absolutely awesome!). While the stuffing that I love comes from a box, I did try to make my own last year - the first year I prepared my own part of the meal for M and I! I was so excited to show up with my kosher turkey and trimmings, especially my made from scratch stuffing. What a disaster! It was awful and all I could do was long for the mix my Mom had, infused with the gravy and shredded pieces from her turkey! I tried to replicate this the next year but it failed again. Something about stuffing just didn't seem to be working out for me... Until this year!

This year I decided to look at stuffing for what it really is. Bread crumbs mixed with all sorts of herbs and essentially pieces of the rest of the meal. So I got into the kitchen and started putting together the herbs I knew were quintessential to stuffing as well as a few veggies that scream autumn (and a few others, y'know just because!). Feel free to add shredded turkey, cranberry sauce or for an extra special touch, roast the veggies separately (i.e. butternut squash drizzled with maple syrup etc.) before adding them to the main dish.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and that you have a chance to go through and incorporate the other Kosher Connection contributions to your Thanksgiving as well! Here's hoping that you and your friends and families have a wonderful Thanksgiving, that the sense of festivity and importance of family and appreciation continues long after the trimmings are put into their tupperware and that we're able to recognize and appreciate the incredible blessings we're given every single day!

Have a wonderful holiday (and an easy and calm prep!)

Traditional Thanksgiving Stuffing (Serves 4, easily doubled)

1/2 cup chopped frozen broccoli, thawed*
1/4 cup chopped frozen cauliflower, thawed*
1/4 cup chopped frozen butternut squash
6 slices of day old Challah
olive oil for drizzling
1-2 tsp garlic powder
1/8 - 1/4 tsp parsley
1/8 - 1/4 tsp basil
1/8 - 1/-4 tsp oregano
1/8- 1/4 tsp seasoning salt
1/4 tsp dehydrated minced onion
dash nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup pareve chicken soup broth

* you need not necessarily purchase frozen vegetables, you can purchase fresh however if you'd like to prepare the stuffing for a kosher meal, ensure that you check the broccoli and cauliflower thoroughly.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F

Cut the Challah into 1" x 1" cubes. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay out the cubed Challah in a single layer.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle garlic powder overtop.

Add the chopped vegetables to a dutch oven (if this isn't an option, a Corningware or covered baking dish works well, as well. Just be sure to increase the baking time!)

Sprinkle the parsley, basil, oregano, seasoning salt and dehydrated minced onion overtop of the vegetables

Add a dash of nutmeg and the bay leaf

Pour the chicken broth into the dish

Place the bread crumbs and the dutch oven (covered) into the oven and bake at 400 degrees F for 25 minutes

After 25 minutes, remove both from the oven and add the bread crumbs to the vegetable mixture. Combine and return to the oven for another 20 minutes.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Potato Salad

There are certain traits and quirks I possess that have, without a doubt, been handed down to me from my Mom.

For instance, I can't leave the apartment in the morning without checking every element, the oven, toaster oven and microwave to make sure they're all off - regardless of the fact that some of those appliances probably hadn't been used the night before anyway...

Or how I absolutely need bread in the house at all times. Bread and potatoes.

Or how there is no such thing as too many cake pans, yet definitely such thing as no drawer or cupboard that can house them all without testing your sanity when trying to remove just one.

The list does go on, but I don't want you to think I'm crazy to bore you, so I'll skip right ahead.

This week M came into the apartment, erev Shabbos, right before the last dish was removed from the oven and gave me quite possibly the best compliment ever:

"It's just like your parent's house in here, so warm... and it smells like olive oil!"

While the olive oil resonated from the cauliflower I was preparing (for the first time!) I did have another surprise waiting that was also a reminder of my parent's house.

I spent Thursday evening texting my Mom asking for her potato salad recipe, and then asking a few more questions until I felt more comfortable that I would be able to replicate it. M frequently asks for this potato salad or my Mom's macaroni salad and I thought this would be the perfect week to try it out. After a couple of tumultuous weeks, I thought a homey surprise would be welcome! ...More to come about that in the next post!

I'm not sure if the majority of people need a recipe for potato salad the way I did, but as the itsy bitsy balebusta, and learning more about cooking and baking every time I step into the kitchen, it's nice to have the basics down for reference sometimes.

I think potato salad and salads in general - wait is it bad that I put potato salad in the same category as leafy salads? Well, you want me to eat a salad, a surefire way is to put some potato in it!... anyway as I was saying, I think potato salad and salads in general, are a very personal thing. Essentially, you add what you want, eliminate what you don't and toss!

So here's to the basics, to recipes sent via texts from incredible Mommy's, to comfort food and to always having enough potatoes around to make a happy home! A trait I'm happy to have inherited!

Potato Salad

5 medium sized yellow potatoes
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 stalk of celery
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper
1 tsp of salt
dash of pepper
dash of onion powder
dash of garlic power
optional 1 boiled egg, mashed (in the same style as if you were making an egg salad)

Chop potatoes into medium sized cubes
Bring water to a rolling boil and add potatoes
(If you wish to add the boiled egg, prepare it at this point)
Boil for 10 minutes
Drain and allow to cool for 5 minutes
Meanwhile, chop celery and red pepper into small cubes
Finely chop the onion
Add potatoes to a large bowl (if you wish to include the boiled egg, add it at this point)
Add celery, onion and red pepper
Add salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder
Add mayonnaise and lightly toss to coat
Refrigerate before serving


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kosher Connection October Link Up: Root Vegetables!

About 7 years ago, around the middle of December, my family decided we were going to get a dog. I don't remember whose idea it was, who decided it was a good idea or who put the plan into action. I do remember driving quite a distance from our home to be subjected to a trial run with a puppy. I remember going into the room and standing on a chair terrified and my siblings telling me I had to suck it up or they would never give us the puppy. I must have done a fantastic job of pretending to be calm, because a little while later our puppy was on his way home with us. The next few weeks were spent with me standing on top of tables, couches and chairs, terrified that it was going to come for me, but eventually I calmed down. 

Annually however, it seems our dog, Bruce, enjoys destroying one of my winter hats. Or mittens. He's even eaten a scarf or two. 

And when it comes to dinner, he seems to have a preference for kosher food, because if I turn my head for even a split second, he'll take the food right off of my plate without showing any interest in the rest of the food my family has prepared.

What has this got to do with anything?

Well, if nothing else, Bruce knows one thing, and that he knows well.

Do. Not. Touch. My. Potatoes.

My Mother and I could literally live off of potatoes and bread. The first time I tried a Hermes (a fantastic bakery in Toronto) Kugel at a friend's house for Shabbos, I knew I had to get one to my Mom as soon as possible. We have tried our fair share of fantastic, gourmet food, but nothing, and I mean nothing, beats a good potato and/ or fresh bread.

And Bruce knows this. He knows that we can forgive him taking food but that potatoes are WAY off limits. 

When this month's Kosher Connection Link Up theme was announced as root vegetables,  I somehow managed to convince myself not to use it as an excuse to cook (and subsequently eat) endless amounts of kugel, roasted, mashed and/ or baked potatoes, in the name of recipe development.

But a girl can only go so far beyond her comfort zone! 

There's something about puff pastry that will make me eat my vegetables happily. Maybe it's the flakey, warm dough. Maybe it's the fact that I can't see the vegetables I'm eating so it's almost like they're not there.

Yes, at heart I'm about 5. 

This is a great recipe to make for a snack on the go (vegetables for a snack? Is that a sign of growing up? Am I a grown up now?!), to serve hot or cold on Shabbat or as an appetizer with a dollop of hummus! It's fantastic, simple and barely requires any mess. It's also versatile, and can include whichever vegetables you prefer! 

The preparation, utilizes one of my favorite kitchen companions these days, my KitchenAid dutch oven! Just when I thought they couldn't get more awesome after my mixer settled comfortably onto my counter, this dutch oven proved me wrong! It is to vegetables and meat what the mixer is to cake and cookie batter! It eases the preparation unbelievably, quickens the cooking time and produces moist, flavorful results every time! 

I hope you enjoy my contribution to the link up and be sure to take a look at the other posts as well! 

Vegetable Bourekas (Yields 6)

1 package of puff pastry dough, defrosted
1 sweet potato
1 carrot
2 yellow potatoes
*for additional flavor I added the following, not necessarily root vegetables...
1/2 red bell pepper
1 small zucchini
5 mushrooms

Olive oil
1 clove of garlic (minced)
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp melted margarine

1 egg yolk
1 tsp water
dash of salt
2 tbsp sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F
Chop the vegetables into 1 inch cubes and place into dutch oven (or a baking dish)
Drizzle with olive oil, covering all vegetables and add garlic, rosemary and sprinkle with salt
Pour melted margarine overtop mixture
Bake in oven covered for 1 hour at 425 degrees F
Roll out the puff pastry dough to an inch and a half thickness and divide into 6 even squares
Remove from oven and allow 15 minutes to cool
Scoop vegetable mixture into centre of puff pastry squares
Fold each square into a triangle
Combine the egg yolk, water and salt and brush over each triangle
Take a small fork and dip into egg wash. Press down around edges, occasionally dipping the fork into the egg wash again
Sprinkle sesame seeds overtop each boureka
Bake on a parchment paper lined, baking sheet at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes
Brush egg wash overtop the bourekas again
Bake for another 5 minutes
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September Kosher Connection Link Up: Honey, Honey, Honey!

I feel like I've been preparing for Rosh Hashanah for the past seven months. Although it probably feels like it takes that long to prepare all of the meals, what I mean is that in March, deciding to start on a new adventure, deciding to really look at and evaluate life and work towards growing every day (whether in courage, knowledge or happiness), has helped to make this Rosh Hashanah one of my most meaningful. The quote, "nothing makes you more productive than the last minute," could certainly apply to me. In terms of papers in University, getting that last Challah into the oven on Erev Shabbos or taking a minute to evaluate before the Yomim Noraim, last minute is usually my go-time. While I may still rush to get the Challah done and now last minute papers have been replaced by final lesson plan tweaks on the way to teach, evaluating where I am has taken a prioritized place in my life everyday.

With all of this introspection, Rosh Hashanah already carries with it an abundance of extra meaning for me this year. However, what has made it even more incredible is the excitement and curiosity I have seen so acutely displayed in the past week or so, while teaching my toddler class. The sheer awe in the presence of a shofar or the excitement of picking apples to dip in honey, has made Rosh Hashanah seem so much more of a tangible experience than merely a day that creeps up after the long leisurely days of summer have passed. I didn't have the Jewish day school experience, so getting to prepare Shana Tova cards and learning songs about the New Year, have elicited as much excitement in me as it has in my students. This year Rosh Hashanah isn't merely a Chag. This year Rosh Hashanah is a day where I hope to experience the awe felt by a two year old and the introspection and evaluation I've been working up to for so many months now.

Having already mentioned my tendency to procrastinate, it should come as no surprise that I have only just finished planning my menu (or this version of it at least) and won't even get around to grocery shopping until Thursday. Yes, I am leaving myself one evening, Motzei Shabbos and Sunday to cook for Rosh Hashanah.

What can I say, I'm still learning.

And I love a challenge!

When this month's Kosher Connection Link Up instructed the use of honey in a recipe, I jumped at the chance to bake something that could help usher me into the company of all those who have been sharing their Rosh Hashanah menus for the past few weeks - to which, all I've had to contribute as of yet has been... oh what's the word... Panic. Yes, sheer panic.

Honey is an ingredient I use year round, and almost daily. I add it to sauces for chicken, it's an ingredient in most of my noodle recipes and honey on a fresh croissant is one awesome snack. Having said that, there's just something different about it when the Chaggim roll around. Its flavor seems almost enhanced and comforting, a true testament to its presence during this time of year. This recipe has three elements and each feature honey as a main ingredient. It binds, connects and enhances on each level, respectively, without being overly sweet! I prepared this in ramekins, but it would also be great in mason jars, where each layer would be granted greater visibility!

In classic Itsy Bitsy Balebusta fashion, I've prepared a recipe for you that will help get you into all of those apple and honey baking conversations, with only small bowls to prep, barely any clean up and individual desserts all served up before you even have the chance to check Facebook or Twitter again and become more overwhelmed at everyone else's ever growing, "finished cooking" list!

Enjoy, be sure to check out the other posts in this month's Link Up and don't worry - someway, somehow all of this cooking is going to get done (...right??).

Wishing you and your loved ones a year full of the very best of health, happiness, and growth, and that you have the strength and courage needed to really look within and go forward!

Shana Tova Umetukah!

Honey, Honey, Honey! (Yields 2 Ramekins)

1 apple
2 tsp confectioners sugar
1 tbsp honey

4 tsp pareve cream cheese
2 tsp honey
dash of cinnamon

1/4 cup oats
1 tbsp brown sugar
dash of cinnamon
honey to bind

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Chop the apple into small pieces and place into a medium sized bowl. Sprinkle confectioners sugar over  the apples and drizzle with honey.

In a separate bowl, whip cream cheese. Add honey and cinnamon.

Divide apple mixture into the two ramekins. Fill in gaps with the cream cheese mixture.

In the same bowl used to prepared the cream cheese mixture, add the oats, brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix to combine. Add enough honey to bind the mixture and ensure it isn't dry.

Drop the crumble topping by the spoonful over top of the mixture in the ramekin. Using the back of the spoon, spread evenly, coating & covering the mixture underneath.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.


Sunday, September 09, 2012

Desserts in Jars

With summer drawing to an end, and an abundance of posts urging us to all capitalize on the final long days of sun and warm weather, one specific memory of my grandmother keeps coming up...

During one of our regular hospital visits to see Avo last year, she shared with me & M, a story that I can't help but think of all the time. The hospital was located right on the waterfront, and that particular visit, she looked out the window at the lake and started laughing. She then proceeded to tell us, what it was like when she and my grandfather would plan a day downtown. It would look something like this:

They would talk about it all morning then make their way to the bakery or local take out restaurant and put together a meal. Then they'd go back home, load up the van with a cooler, blanket and umbrella (just in case!) and then make the 20 minute drive down to the harbourfront. They'd then proceed to take everything out of the car, set up their picnic on a blanket and then look at each other and say...

"So much effort! We could be eating at our table at home! I'm ready to go, you?"

I cannot even begin to tell you how this could just as easily have been me & M. We spend hours trying to figure out what we're going to do, only to spend even longer putting everything we need together and once we get there, all we want to do is go back and we can't even figure out why we wanted to go in the first place! 

I know...

We're super cool.

If nothing else, every time it happens I can't help but laugh and think that we're carrying on a bit of my grandparents traditions!

It's only fitting that, the author behind the fantastic blog, Food For My Family would create a cookbook that led to an evening of enjoying dessert while reminiscing about memories of my grandparents. Thanks to Shaina Olmanson's fantastic cookbook, Desserts in Jars I was able to prepare an ideal picnic treat that would have made them proud (or at the very least, laugh!).

This beautiful cookbook, makes preparing desserts, treats and gifts a simple and enjoyable experience. The presentation is timeless and the jars are more than a simple novel container. They are multi-purposeful, eco-friendly and aesthetically pleasing as well. With canning season in full swing, mason jars are available everywhere from your local vegetable market to Walmart! Also, if you aren't completely keen on the idea of searching out mason jars a week before Chaggim, don't despair, I found that a few of the recipes utilize the jars mainly for presentation purposes with the elements baked individually on their own and then assembled into the jar.

The cookbook provides a comprehensive tutorial on baking your treats in jars. Everything from important tips regarding hot and cold temperature fluctuations, to how to fill the jars, as well as how to choose the correct jars for each specific type of dessert. After just two paragraphs within the introductory pages, you're set on how to safely bake in jars! My favorite aspect of the introductory pages is that in every instance from describing equipment to various sizes of jars, recipes from the book with a corresponding page are included and used as examples. I appreciated the ability to flip to the recipe to better understand why that specific size jar was more applicable than another and so on. The information was directly pertinent to recipes I would be embarking on rather than a general overview of the what, whys and hows. I also can't help but love the quick tips on using ready made ingredients in recipes to further increase convenience, for instance in the Pain au Chocolat recipe (yes, that's made in a jar!).

Although the portability of the jars makes them ideal for picnics and outings, their versatility expands far beyond the summer. Imagine the ease and elegant presentation of individual "Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Gingersnap Crust" at your Thanksgiving table or apple pies in mason jars adorned with a ribbon! You'll be amazed at the variety you can create and the elevated level your biscuits, cupcakes, rolls and cheesecakes will be brought to when presented in their own special, individually portioned jars. The recipes yield large quantities, easing your dessert preparation for large gatherings and can be stored superbly (both aspects which are ideal for Chaggim!). I easily divided quantities when baking as well to produce fewer jars and the desserts turned out beautifully.

On that note, not only is the presentation elevated, but these seemingly traditional recipes are as well! If you're looking for a cookbook that appeals to everyone from the novice to the expert baker, this one will definitely have your guests applauding your efforts. Even the simple recipes stretch your imagination! Many of the recipes encourage you to expand on your palette - for instance Cinnamon Buns with Cardamom, Orange White Chocolate Cheesecake with Cranberry Sauce or Ginger Mascarpone with Caramelized Apricots. Not to worry, there are classics thrown in as well - think vanilla cupcakes in mason jars for a birthday party or Neapolitan Cakes and of course Strawberry Shortcakes! The ingredients are also staples in the kitchen and are fairly simple. In order to make Cinnamon Spiced Affogatos only four ingredients are required!

The book ends with a section of mixes that can be gifted in the jars with accompanying recipe tags. The Spiced Hot Chocolate would not only make a great quick gift, it would also be a fantastic staple to have within the pantry for those chilly fall evenings. The thoughtfulness and ease with which these gifts can be prepared and given are a parting, telling testament to Shaina's understanding, appreciation and ability to help you simply and skillfully assemble food for your family.

Overall, this cookbook provides recipes which are unique from taste to presentation! The pictures are absolutely beautiful and further solidify the ability of mason jars to elevate the presentation of any dessert. The elimination of rough slices, messy custard fillings or crumble are eliminated within the self contained, layered mason jars. The sweet, concise intros to the recipes are void of any extras and are simply comprised of beautiful write ups of the recipes as well as words to inspire you to stretch your imagination. There are 152 pages encouraging you to think outside of the 9"x13" pan so to speak, and test the boundaries of your baking and presentation skills!

As I made the Strawberry Shortcakes I couldn't help but think of how Avo felt there was no need to get all packed up and go out to have a picnic. With mason jars in hand, M & I sat on the balcony of my apartment and enjoyed fantastic desserts in jars to celebrate the end of summer without having to pack up the car yet retaining all the novelty and flavor of a summer picnic! This cookbook is a must for anyone looking to bake elegant homemade desserts for parties, dinners, as gifts or simply to make some extra special food for your family!

Disclaimer: I was kindly provided a copy of this wonderful cookbook to review by The Harvard Common Press. The opinions and views expressed in my review are completely my own.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

August Kosher Recipe Link Up: Grilled!

Welcome to the second month of the Kosher Recipe Link Up! I hope you enjoyed reading through all of the Frozen Desserts posts last month and created some memorable summer moments full of sweet, cold treats!

This month's theme provides ample opportunity to create a few final memorable summertime moments, albeit in a warmer fashion...


While barbecuing and grilling are main methods of summertime cooking, growing up it was something that happened all of the time - rain or shine, winter or summer, hot or cold. My parents prepare dinner on the grill at least 4 nights a week, all year round, culminating in a special family dinner every Sunday. Setting up the vegetables or marinated meat to take outside or making sure that the trays are washed and ready for the food to be brought in, are all common activities in the kitchen late Sunday afternoon!

I absolutely love the flexibility grilling provides. You can make everything from meat to fish to vegetables outside and with the help of a little aluminum foil and a marinade you're good to go! No fuss and dinner ready in under an hour. And to top it all off, all the cooking, splashing, smells and mess take place outside, so the kitchen stays clean and all throughout dinner there's no lingering prep strewn about!

Since moving into my apartment, I can tell you barbecues have been missed dearly. Visiting my parents and standing outside by the barbecue in the backyard, drink in hand, spirits high and the smell of the food on the grill is my favorite way to spend summer evenings. I am incredibly, incredibly blessed to have such awesome and accommodating parents. In order to make sure that everyone gets to take part in Sunday dinner, my parents invested in a small charcoal (my favorite!) barbecue for me and M so that we could prepare the kosher variety of whatever the rest of the family is having for dinner! If they have steaks, my Mom makes sure we have kosher steaks as well. Same goes with everything else!  The bylaws for the area I live in restrict the use of barbecues, so this post is for those of you who are also missing out on backyard bbqs and are looking for a way to bring that summer staple into your apartments or homes! For this recipe, I used my handy Grilla which is fantastic for safe, indoor grilling!

At my parents house, grilling usually means steaks or vegetables. When I was trying to decide what I would share in this link up I was overwhelmed with all of the meat and vegetable recipes I've become so accustomed to. So I decided to challenge myself. I don't know what my parents will say about this, but I decided to work on a grilled dessert! (Truthfully, it most likely won't come as any surprise seeing as how dessert is my main contribution to Sunday dinners and usually all my weekly dinners comprise of!).

My absolute favorite aspects about the Kosher Recipe Link Up are the sense of community it provides as well as the encouragement and challenge to your creativity! When you know that so many wonderful Kosher Food Bloggers will be posting a recipe under one theme, you're pushed to go beyond the typical and that's what I tried to do here! As much as I love my grilled vegetables and steaks, dessert usually takes precedence!

In the spirit of the ease and relaxed nature of grilling, I've created a recipe that takes less than 15 minutes from initial prep to plating, requires barely any mess at all and provides all the smokey and summer flavor you could hope for! This can be served on a toasted baguette (bruschetta style!) as an appetizer before dinner or in a dessert shell as a fresh and sweet treat following your main course! You can find pre-made dessert shells in most large grocery stores, saving you that extra step of prep and allowing you more time to focus on the sun, company and memorable moments!

After walking around the produce section at the market, I realized that besides watermelon (which would be a bit too challenging to attempt to grill) peaches are the quintessential summer fruit! To fill 4 dessert shells, you'll only need one peach so not only is this a time and indoor grilling friendly recipe, it's also budget friendly!

Love it!

I started off by cutting a peach in half and scooping out the center.

I then diced half of the peach and sliced the other half.

Next it was time to make the crumble! This adds texture, flavor and a cohesive element to the dish, allowing everything to come together and meld, just like the best family barbecues! 

After mixing the crumble and diced peaches together so that the peach is completely coated, transfer the mixture to your grill! (If grilling outdoors, transfer onto aluminum foil, fold it up and place it on the top level of the grill). Add the sliced peaches to the grill at this time as well. They'll pick up the flavor without having been coated themselves. 

That's all there is too it! After 7 minutes of grilling, the peaches are ready to be transferred to their dessert shells or to a baguette!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I enjoyed working on it! Be sure to take a look at the contributions to this month's link up and here's hoping they end up helping you to create a few final summertime memories! 

Grilled Peaches (Yields 4 Dessert Shells)

1 peach
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp quick oats
2 tsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla
Drizzle honey (approximately 1/2 tsp)

Cut the peach in half and scoop out the center.

Dice one half and slice one half.

In a small bowl, mix the white sugar, oats, brown sugar and vanilla. 

Drizzle honey over the crumble mixture.

Add the diced peach to the bowl and mix to coat.

Warm grill over medium heat.

Transfer the mixture to the grill. As mentioned before, if grilling outdoors, transfer onto aluminum foil, fold it up and place it on the top level of the grill. Add the sliced peaches as well.

With the oven on medium heat, grill the mixture for 7 minutes. Stir every once in a while to prevent them from sticking to the grill. Flip the sliced peaches occasionally, so that you maintain even grill lines.

Transfer the grilled peaches with a spoon into the dessert shells or onto a baguette. 


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lasagna Roll Ups

Sometimes you've spent an entire day grocery shopping, tidying up, catching up on work (and y'know, blogs, Twitter and the like) and before you know it the, "what's for dinner?" question comes up... aaaand you're stuck.

At this point I discreetly hide my iPhone which has had me enthralled for the past hour or so, and quickly move to the kitchen to figure out what I can whip up quick that looks like I've put in some effort.

If it were up to me cereal would automatically be the answer to that question.

Or cake.

Cupcakes too, I don't discriminate.

But, alas not everyone (always) feels that way, so sometimes I need to make real food. Boo.

Now imagine this:

You start looking for "dinner recipes" online and classics come up that you love but the weather is a bajillion degrees and you don't want to turn on the oven for hours. Oh and you kinda don't have hours to make dinner either. And then, this brilliant idea presents itself, with all these wonderful promises in tow. For instance, let's say, whipping up a lasagna, start to finish in hmm 45 minutes or so.

Yes. Wonderful promises.

I came across an image on Pinterest that inspired me, and led me to Homemade by Holman's blog. The idea was there... but  my kitchen was lacking the ingredients.

I decided to start pulling what I could use out of the fridge and shortly thereafter I was well on my way to lasagna for dinner!

This dish is fantastic for a variety of reasons. It elevates the presentation of a slice of lasagna, is significantly easier to plate, and makes you feel all fancy and put together (a la chocolate cream filled cupcakes - yeah I'll be celebrating that one for a while). Also, it takes a fraction of the time to prep and cook, and this is quite possibly the first time I didn't have leftover lasagna! Additionally, I made this in my awesome toaster oven. I use this as my dairy oven and absolutely love it. With the temperature being as high as it is, it's great to place these lasagna rolls into the countertop oven, set it and wait to hear that fantastic ping without having to heat up the entire kitchen by turning on the oven!

You can adapt these to your liking! Opt for pareve cheese and add ground beef, sauteed in spices perhaps? Maybe even opt for an all veggie filling, sautéing your favorite vegetables, then rolling them up! My version was based on the ingredients I had on hand (and my preference for a dairy lasagna). It's completely adaptable to your liking - use the recipe I've posted below as a way to kick start your fantastic, super quick and easy dinner!


Lasagna Roll Ups (5 Roll Ups)

1 c marinara sauce
1/2 c ricotta, crumbled (I placed the ricotta in a small bowl, and using a fork, stirred slowly to crumble the cheese)
1/2 c shredded cheese (I used a "pizza" blend mix)
1/4 c cream cheese
1 tbsp milk
1/8 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
5 lasagna noodles, boiled (make sure you haven't completely boiled them, keep an eye on it so that it won't be adversely effected when it goes into the oven)

Preheat oven to 350F
Place the boiled noodles in a bowl of cold water, to prevent them from cooking any further
In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients until combined
Lay the noodles out flat on a cutting board or clean surface
Place 4 tbsp of the mixture along the length of the noodles (you're welcome to add more or less, just be careful not to overload the noodles or else you'll be left with a mess when you start rolling them up)
Picking up the corners of the end furtherest from you, roll the noodle towards you fairly loosely (basically not so tight that the mixture spills out)
Transfer rolls to a prepared baking sheet
Place a tbsp of the mixture on top of each roll as well as a pinch of shredded cheese
Bake in oven at 350F for 25 minutes