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!