Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Classic Hummus

Some things just go together.

Peanut Butter & Jelly.

Chicken & Potatoes.

Chocolate... & well, everything.

And then there's Challah and Hummus. It doesn't matter what I've made for Shabbat, what I'm excited to try or what delicacies have been laid out, when that fresh Challah is cut and the hummus is passed around... happiness!

I had tried homemade hummus before, but it always tasted a little... off. I'm almost embarrassed to say it, but store bought hummus was always on the very top of my grocery list for Shabbat! Mainly due to the fact that it was incredibly expensive, one week I decided to look around online for recipes. I wanted something that I could quickly whip up in the food processor, while cooking the rest of Shabbat. I didn't want it to be a production and I wanted it to taste just as good if not better than what I had been buying. I knew that was a lot to ask for, but I started searching and a few recipes later I found my hummus!

It's fantastic on it's own and even better with a dash of paprika, or roasted peppers! It's adaptable to pretty much any preference! I make this every 2 weeks, and keep it refrigerated in a plastic container. One of my new favorite meals, is roasted sweet potato with 3 tablespoons of the hummus in a warm pita, mMm!!

You can find the recipe by going over to allrecipes.

Below you will find notes on my method of preparation!

 I place all of the wet ingredients + the garlic into the food processor first.

 The chickpeas go in next, after a good rinse (1-2 minutes under a heavy, cold stream of water, occasionally tossing the chickpeas by hand).

Then I puree for approximately 5 minutes, on low, stopping every once in a while to check on consistency (and give the motor a break!).

Simple as that! If you're ever not in the mood to run to the store to pick some up, looking for a quick snack or want to try out a homemade version, this is a great one to start out with! 


Sunday, June 24, 2012


The wonderful thing about baking, is that no matter how many times you make a recipe, more often than not, once you get into the kitchen and start mixing and stirring, inspiration hits and variations abound! Whether it's because you didn't have the ingredients you needed or you saw a new ingredient being used across your favorite blogs that you wanted to incorporate, there's plenty of potential for new wonderful things!

Recently I've been updating a few recipes, with either additional pictures or extra tips/variations and to ensure that you aren't missing out, I thought I'd organize them for you here!

To start off, I have updated the Onion Bun recipe! It's the perfect go-to for summer barbecues and get-togethers! If you're not prepared to carefully carry a dozen iced cupcakes or be responsible for bringing ice cream on a super hot day to a picnic, this is a great alternative that's sure to earn you all the admiration you could hope for! It's fantastic with burgers, meatballs or deli sandwiches (and so much more!). The update includes the elimination of honey, a longer rising time as well as an improved method to ensure they come out looking golden and ready for presentation!

I have also updated the Chocolate Cream Filled Cupcakes recipe. I've added an additional recipe for the ganache filling! I tried it out this past week and it was incredible! I'm not sure if the leftovers have spent more time in the container in the fridge or being re-warmed and used again on all leftover cupcakes, cookies and whatever other desserts are hanging around! It's held up great and after 15 seconds in the microwave, it's ready to go!

Finally, I just found this site not too long ago, Cooks & Books & Recipes, and they have an absolutely awesome resource for all those of you who are as obsessed with cookbooks as I am! They have a cookbook giveaway link up, where they list blogs and their giveaways! I spent the better part of an hour reading through blogs I otherwise may not have come across and entering fantastic giveaways! (Special mention to Tales of an Overtime Cook's "Fresh and Easy Kosher Cooking" review and giveaway! It's an incredible cookbook that I've made my way through in less than 2 months and her review helps to give you a great indication of what it's like!)

Here's the Cookbook Giveaway: June 2012 Linkup. Good luck!

Hope you're enjoying the weather and that this week is full of bearable temperatures, summertime fun & of course wonderful meals!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Stir Fry Noodles

When it comes to figuring out my Shabbat menu, preparations look something like this:

Narrow down the top 5 desserts I've found either on Pinterest or bookmarked from my favorite blogs

A day later find 6 more I need to try asap...

Narrow that down to 2

...And then it's Thursday and dessert is set but the rest of the meal... well dessert is set!

Instead of getting stressed out, I get to do one of my favorite things! Sit at the kitchen table and pour over endless cookbooks, then search through my pantry to see what I have to work with and finally, make my grocery list and head off to the grocery store.

Oh the grocery store. I used to detest going anywhere near one. It was my least favorite place to go and I would practically beg my parents to let me stay home. When I realized there was no way out and I was going, I either stayed put in the book/magazine section or sulked the entire time, wishing we were home already. Where exactly I thought we got the cereal or cookies I always ran to the pantry for, I'm not sure, I just knew the grocery store wasn't for me. Now? It's my Toys R Us. And why stop at one grocery store? I frequently visit 2 or 3 to do my Shabbat and weekly groceries. Endless aisles of ingredients and inspiration! The baking aisle always gets a visit, regardless of whether or not I actually need anything and I'm pretty sure the next time I have to select paint colors, I'll take my cues from the produce section. Nature's color palette, with a fresh dusting of mist and countless bundles of variation, it has to make you smile! Add to that the bakery section with warm pastries and freshly decorated cakes, store coupons and point cards, and it's my happy place.

Although I am often enticed to buy half of the store, I do my best to stick to my grocery list. While this definitely has its upsides, a couple of weeks ago I discovered a downside. After making the appetizer, main and dessert, I started preparing the side dish for Shabbat. With a little over 3 hours to go I was feeling Super Balebusta-ish and excited at the thought of being able to actually vacuum and get ready without too much rushing. That's precisely when my side dish decided it had other plans. I've made noodle kugels before, but this time the caramel, noodles and pie dish itself were all intent on my defeat. After spending way too much time trying to salvage what I had attempted to create, I decided to move on. I was now left with half the amount of time and because I hadn't anticipated needing an extra side, I didn't shop outside of my grocery list (probably for the first time ever, but as things usually go it had to be this specific week I jumped that obstacle!). I started looking through the cabinets and freezer and somehow created my new favorite side dish. I enjoyed it so much that I made it again 2 days later for dinner and it barely spent any time in the fridge between being taken out to snack on and supplement other meals!

It's super easy and basically utilized ingredients I already had on hand. I didn't follow a recipe or directions of any sort, it came about in more of a "throw everything in the pot, close it and hope it works" sort of mad rush. Luckily for me the ingredients were left in a neat pile on the counter, so motzei Shabbat I knew what I had used and could attempt to recreate it again! I was pretty excited it came out so well considering the fact there almost wasn't a side. It would also serve as a fantastic base for sauteed vegetables, chicken and countless other options!

Do you have a favorite dish that came about by accident or because of a kitchen disaster? I wouldn't suggest it, but it's a great way to get a quick confidence boost after taking a hit!

Here's hoping all of our kitchen fiascos turn out for the best!


Stir Fry Noodles (4 servings)

3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ketchup
1/4 tsp honey
1/8 tsp lemon juice
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of paprika
pinch of sea salt
pinch of white sugar
220 g stir fry noodles (I found these in the freezer section of the local grocery store. Luckily they were sitting right at the front of the freezer when I went searching for options, and they were perfect in this dish!) 
1 tbsp oil

Follow the directions on the package, to prepare the stir fry noodles. Following you will find my variation of the directions on my package.

I placed 220g of frozen stir fry noodles into a pot of boiling water. Return the pot to a rolling boil and allow to boil for 4 minutes. Keep an eye on it, the starch in the noodles causes the water to become super frothy and risk over flowing. Drain the water and fill with cold water. Drain the cold water. Repeat this process two more times. 

Add 1 tbsp of oil to the pot and over medium heat stirring the noodles occasionally to prevent them from becoming crispy.

In a medium sized bowl, add all of the remaining ingredients and stir. 

Add the noodles to the bowl and using two forks, combine until all of the liquid has been absorbed (I drained the remaining few drops of liquid)

You can refrigerate and serve cold or serve immediately! In the two weeks since I made this for the first time, I've made it an additional 3 times, and either hot or cold they're great! 


Saturday, June 16, 2012

UPDATED: Onion Buns

You know when you find a recipe that you love so much that when it starts to run out you get all anxious and start compiling the ingredients to make it all over again?? Well within the last few weeks I've made these buns over 4 times! They used to be a treat when we went grocery shopping until I realized that if I could make challah at home why not try out onion buns?

Speaking of challah, you can probably tell from a previous post that I am obsessed with the Gatherings cookbook. Upon the advice of a friend, I tried out the challah recipe in it recently. I don't know why I never attempted it! Maybe I was just used to my usual recipe and still trying to perfect it that I didn't pay attention to any others. Gatherings has yet to let me down so I figured the suggestion to try it out wouldn't hurt. The outcome? Well... it was pretty epic. I adapted it to accommodate my sweet tooth, but besides that it was my ideal challah recipe. One bowl, 15 minutes to prep and no mess!

Which brings us to the onion buns. M loves onion buns, LOVES them. The first time I made this recipe he barely waited until they were out of the oven before juggling them around to cool off - is there any better compliment than barely waiting for food to cool to want to devour it?!

This recipe is an adaptation based on the Gatherings challah recipe and Norene Gilletz's "Best Ever Onion Buns" from her cookbook, "The Food Processor Bible" *A quick note about this book: It's awesome. If you have a food processor and have been reluctant to try it out or feel like you aren't really getting the most of out it, this book gives you 500+ opportunities to change that! (Since I've been spending my days recently on an intense job hunt, I've found the most effective way to wind down has been to pour over cookbooks. Luckily this has meant great things for this corner of my world!) After the success with the challah and coming across this onion bun recipe, I was ready to merge the two and see what I could make. The result? Warm, fluffy onion buns!

One last thing - a moment of truth. I am not a fan of onions. Yes I know, I've heard it all. Onions are crucial to all cooking, onions provide flavor, onions are basically where it's at. I'm just not a fan. C'mon 1. It's a veggie, people are allowed to be hesitant with veggies 2. Any veggie that makes you cry just trying to prepare it has to be some kind of warning, no? Having said that, M has been working quite diligently to change my opinion. I've accepted sauteed onions and even had a full bowl of French onion soup two weeks ago! The scent alone of this bread, fresh out of the oven may be enough to give me that last push into total acceptance. They're that good.


Onion Buns (makes approximately 10-12 medium sized buns)

*Adapted from "Gatherings" pg. 105 & "The Food Processor Bible" pg. 268

2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 c very warm water (110-120F)
3/4 c white sugar
1/4 c oil
1 egg
1/2 onion
1/2 c bread crumbs (My secret ingredient: I use the Pereg brand "American Seasoned" The flavor of the breadcrumbs enhances the entire flavor of the buns and adds an extra kick! If you can't find these, using a food processor and day old bread pulse 2-3 slices with seasoning salt, oregano, onion powder and sesame seeds until fine)
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
dash of finely ground black pepper
1 egg yolk with 1 tsp water and 1/4 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, combine the yeast, 1 c + 2 tsp of flour, and salt.

Slowly add the warm water, honey, oil and egg. Stir until you have a smooth mixture.

Gradually add the remaining flour, 1/2 c at a time until a soft dough has formed (I stop at around 2 l/2 cups and leave the remaining half cup for kneading/ dusting the prep surface)

Knead the dough and form into a ball. Cover and set aside for 25 minutes.

Dice the onion and place in a small bowl. Add the bread crumbs, oil, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Lightly knead dough on a floured surface for 1 minute.

Separate the dough into 8 portions (More or less, using your discretion depending on how large you'd like the buns to be. 8 buns results in one's about the size of a hamburger bun. Just a head's up, they don't rise too much, so you're most likely looking at about a quarter larger than the dough you leave to rise).

In the center of each bun, make an indentation with your finger. Add one tbsp of the bread crumb mixture. Fold up the bun, from the sides so that the center is embedded. Using your hands roll the dough into a ball. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat until all the dough is used.

Sprinkle the remainder of the breadcrumb mixture over top of the buns, approximately 1 tsp each.

Cover and allow to rise for 3 hours, in a warm area (I usually place mine on a baking sheet on the stove top with the oven on, very, very low)

Brush each bun with the egg wash

Bake at 325F for 20 minutes

Quickly brush over once again with egg wash

Return to oven for 5 minutes

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

CookKosher Back to Basics!

No one makes breakfast like my Dad. Sunday mornings are epic. Pancakes shaped like cartoons (before all the appliances came about that make that so much easier!), trays of toast, buns, fruit, eggs made to your liking and French Toast. Oh, the French Toast. While I'm not one to say no to chocolate chip pancakes, there's just something about French Toast that can't be beat. Whether it's the aroma it releases into the kitchen or the feeling of a warm, fancy breakfast - it's always been a fave.

I must admit, the first time I tried making French Toast I was beyond confused at how all of these elements were supposed to come together. I remembered there being a bowl of eggs involved, bread and a frying pan but my first few endeavors resulted in the egg not soaking enough into the bread. The final product kinda looked like scrambled eggs trying to break out of a slice of bread. Yup, disaster. Aside from having to do the dishes to start again, I was determined to get it right!

Same with egg salad. Who really wants to ask anyone how to hard boil an egg? I love my Mom's party sandwiches on weekend afternoons - and then y'know after you've eaten the equivalent of 10 full sandwiches you stare in awe at the empty platter and how deceiving those little sandwiches can be. Or maybe that's just me... Either way, egg salad was another totally confusing experience. I'll admit it. I'm proud of my itsy bitsy balebusta-ness because learning how to hard boil an egg didn't just mean I could make egg salad, it meant I could garnish Bacalhau too! Learning how to make french toast meant that making a dish with french toast, goat cheese and chocolate spread was a reality and not just an idea! When you learn the basics you gain the confidence and the ability to grow!

When I saw Leah, from CookKosher tweet regarding which basic dishes we actually needed a recipe for, I couldn't help but respond. I was honored at being given the opportunity to guest post on CookKosher and share a few of my favorites - yes, that means French Toast & egg salad! If you've never visited CookKosher before, head over there. ASAP! Not only is the layout beautiful and user friendly, the recipe search option is comprised of a comprehensive and extensive database, accessible by a detailed search option. You can add filters for everything from popular posts to course, preparation, ingredients, cuisine and so much more! The wonderful community atmosphere is an added bonus! Personally, I'm a huge fan of the Fresh and Easy cookbook by Leah, and currently, if you head over to the site, join the community and share some of your recipes, you'll be entered to win one of your very own!

You can find my guest post there, entitled, "Back to Basics"!

Do you have a most memorable "basic recipe" moment?

Is there one you're working on now?

Hope you've found this helpful!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Candy Pretzels

A while back I saw this posted on Pinterest and immediately added it to my "to-bake" list! I have no idea why I didn't get around to it until recently! It's exactly the type of recipe this itsy bitsy balebusta loves: quick, easy, no mess (the melted candy ooziness is not counted as a mess in my book!) and the perfect balance of salty and sweet!

A couple of months ago, while driving around trying to sort out moving details and packing, M stopped to get gas and I couldn't resist running into the convenience store to grab a quick candy bar. Instead, 15 minutes later, he found me staring in wonder at this new snack display. I honestly can't remember the actual name of the treat, but I know it was called something along the line of "chocolate covered- peanut butter cream-salted pretzel-cookie sandwich-snack". Actually. For days after that we'd randomly say it out loud, trying to manage the name in one breath. As if the treat itself didn't bring enough happiness with its myriad of flavors, the name itself always brought about a smile!

This recipe doesn't have the million & 1 flavors that snack did but its simplicity is what makes it so wonderful! And it has 3 steps and 3 ingredients! Totally awesome. Not to mention once you break through the sweet soft candy coating, you're treated to a crunchy salty treat! Add a few sprinkles (side note: always add sprinkles. To all desserts. Always.), whichever sundae topping you have on hand and you've got yourself a little party in a bowl!
This is a great, quick snack to pull together in the afternoon when you're looking for something sweet, but the sink is already full of dishes and you can't bear to add more to bake anything else. You can find the recipe over at Sugar Cooking's blog! I followed it exactly as she outlines (with Wilton candy melts OU Dairy). I placed my parchment paper lined tray, in the fridge for 40 minutes after coating them, to harden the candy shell a bit.


Mommy's Bacalhau

This past week, I was incredibly thrilled and flattered to have had the opportunity of being featured in the Blogger Spotlight over at the Joy of Kosher website. If you've never visited the site, it's a must! Clear, concise, quick and easy recipes for everything from appetizers to the most flavorful desserts! There are menus, holiday guides, videos and much more to help you make the most of your time in the kitchen!

I was super excited to have had the opportunity to share one of the most quintessentially Portuguese dishes I've tried my hand at so far - Bacalhau. Imagine cod fish, fried potatoes and egg all assembled the same way you would a lasagna! You can find the complete recipe and directions over at Joy of Kosher. Below you will find a picture of what it should look like once it is in the pan, preparing to simmer. Do not worry if it is runny or you think there is too much liquid, what doesn't evaporate becomes absorbed in the fish with the excess being absorbed by the potatoes!
Bacalhau is one dish that indisputably renders memories of my grandmother's kitchen. Truth be told, it took years for me to even try the dish, but once I had, it was clear why it was such a concrete traditional dish in not only my home but in those of all of my friends growing up as well! Potatoes, fish, hard boiled eggs... it really couldn't get any more Portuguese! I can clearly remember my grandmother preparing it and placing it on the counter, in it's glass tray and my grandfather enjoying it for dinner with a glass of wine.

The first time my Mom made it I was mesmerized. You know when you're young and you think that teachers live in the school and that your Mom really has no idea when you sneak those vegetables off of the plate? Well I was also under the impression that there were some things only my grandmother could do! My Mom has this amazing ability to take my grandmother's recipes and make them fool proof for me. She retains all the steps, flavors etc but clarifies everything and walks me through each step. I've always been hesitant to try cooking this dish myself, but with my newly clarified directions, I was ready for the challenge.

When I took the bacalhau out of the oven, the aroma not only carried me back into my grandmother's house, but the pride of being able to take pictures and send them to my Mom was incredibly gratifying. I felt like I was initiated into a special circle of Balebusta's in my family, bringing a dish that's been made in all of their houses, to my table too!