Monday, November 03, 2014

Sharsheret Pie Bake Sale!

I've often mentioned my motivation for starting this blog. I initially used it as a place where I would work out my grief, where I could come to and write about recipes and the memories they recalled. My grandmother was an incredible person, who had a big hand in raising me and whose house, even well into my teenage years, I would still want to run away to! There are certain people in your life who you can't imagine not being around, certain people who are so much more than just their title. My grandmother was a second Mom, a teacher, a friend and always, always, always there. When she fell ill, I would travel to the hospital after work and on Sundays and spend countless hours sitting and just talking with her. It's amazing how little we ever really chatted before then. I learned so much about her. From her life in Portugal, to family dynamics and hilarious stories she'd share when she was alert. Her humor made those long afternoons fly by and when M would join me, she'd work so hard to speak English or ensure that she paused after each sentence so I could translate for him. She absolutely loved him and the fact that I was lucky enough to be able to not only introduce the two of them but also have them spend so much time together, means so much to me. It hurts so much that she didn't get to meet Y, but there's a very big part of me that knows that she loves him and is proud of him regardless. When it came to choosing a wedding date, although far off in the distance, all she insisted was that I pick my own date, since I had mentioned wanting to get married on her anniversary. In the end, a few years later when it was time to choose a day, we chose the day after their anniversary - that way we could still be connected, but it would technically be our "own day." Well, fast forward to Y's birth. Three weeks before his due date I had a doctor's appointment and while checking in with reception, was basically told I was in labor. A day later, Y was born. The day before the anniversary of my grandmother's passing. As far fetched as it seems, I feel like that was her small way of wanting to be connected but also wanting Y to have his "own day."

This past week, I received an email as part of a young wife/Mommy email group informing the group about an upcoming bake sale. While these emails are anything but rare, this one really struck me. It mentioned an organization I had never heard of and within 5 minutes of looking into their story, I was blown away and knew I had to share it with you! The organization is called, Sharsheret. They are a non-profit organization that supports Jewish women of all backgrounds suffering from breast or ovarian cancer. They are a community, a resource, a place to turn to for research, information and so much more. They help women of all ages, family and friends, caregivers and men. They know that a diagnosis affects an entire family. They even provide information for Health Care professionals, in terms of treating Jewish women! They have programs, information packets and so much more. It really is truly incredible, the breadth of comprehensive support this organization provides. When I learned of my grandmother's diagnosis, I was overwhelmed and terrified. I wish I had known of these resources. The hope is that no one will ever need this, but if you do, know that Sharsheret is there!

Which brings me back to last week's email. Pies for Prevention, is a pie bake sale, just in time for Thanksgiving, where funds are raised to support Sharsheret's Ovarian Cancer Program. You can place your order for a pie online until Monday November 17th, and pick it up at one of the locations across the U.S., in Toronto and Israel as well on November 26th! Pies include Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pie, Pecan Pie, Brownie Pie, American Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie and more! You're also able to make a separate donation if there isn't a location close to you! You'll be getting a delicious pie and supporting a fantastic organization!

So, if you're celebrating (American) Thanksgiving, what better way to show your gratitude for wonderful organizations, for your health and for people out there working to do so much good, than ordering a pie to share with your table? And if you aren't celebrating Thanksgiving this month, why not take the inspiration of the past month of Chaggim and put it into action. It's a delicious, simple way to make a difference!

I am not affiliated with Sharsheret nor involved in the bake sale. I recently came across this initiative and it hit home. I wanted to share it with all of my generous, wonderful readers and give you the opportunity to support such an important cause! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Eating the Bible!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 06, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Goodbye Summer!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Grilled Vegetables (Serves 2)

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

Place all of the vegetables into the pan

Drizzle approximately 2 tbsp of olive oil over the vegetables.

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

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

Serve immediately

Monday, September 29, 2014

New Year! New Look! New Adventures!

Shana Tova! A happy, healthy & sweet new year to everyone! 

I hope you all had a wonderful Rosh HaShanah, and that all of your prayers are answered for the good! 

What better way to start off the New Year, than with a fresh look and new adventures?! Welcome to the new Itsy Bitsy Balebusta! Since starting this blog almost 4+ years ago, so much has changed. I'm now wife to M, Mommy to a delicious baby boy and more sleep deprived/overwhelmed with love/ and excited about cooking than ever before! It was time that this portion of my life also had an update! 

I am so excited for this year and look forward to, Gd willing, watching Y continue to grow into the yummy boy he is, to M continuing to grow in his new role as an amazing Daddy & husband & to sharing the new lessons and adventures in our life with you! Of course bringing you more delicious recipes, reviews & more is at the top of the list as well!
I hope to add more to the Beyond the Kitchen section, from links and articles that keep me entertained and sane throughout long sleep deprived nights, to sharing little tips and tricks that I've picked up as a New Mommy! Posts with recipes and meal prep that make getting dinner on the table with an energetic little boy scooting around possible, are on the horizon as well!  

Thank you for sticking with me and for being a part of my journey! This blog started off as a way to cope with my grief and has flourished into a place of growth where I look forward to sharing all our good, bad, overwhelming and exciting moments! I can't wait to see what this year has in store for us and can only hope it's as delicious, cuddly and fulfilling as last year! 

Can't wait to share it all with you!

Friday, September 19, 2014

On A Stick!

Happy Friday Everyone!

Even though this is the first September since I went off to kindergarten, that I'm not going back to school, I still can't help but feel like summer fun is over! I've been incredibly fortunate to spend this summer with our new Little Man, going for walks, hanging out at the park and watching him grow every day! I'm in awe of all the parents and caregivers who balance taking care of everything at home and doubling up with work responsibilities too. Having said that, I have honestly realized that staying home is no breeze either. At one of Y's appointments last week, the doctor asked what my husband and I did and when I responded with, "I'm just home with the baby" he immediately stopped me and told me to remove "just" from my response, before continuing to tell me how important that role is. Needless to say, I was incredibly appreciative! It is a big task, and while there are days where the laundry just keeps piling and is only overshadowed by the pile of dishes, I'm learning to balance it all and to care less about the mess and more about the little bundle of boy who's now scooting everywhere and smiling brighter and brighter each day!

So, happy Friday everyone! Whether you've been surrounded by piles of memos at work, or piles of laundry at home, it's time for a treat! And what better than a cookbook that just screams, lay back, relax and enjoy!

Matt Armendariz's cookbook, On A Stick! is not only a perfect go to cookbook for the quintessential host/ hostess, but it's also perfect for bringing an extra element of fun to your family meals as well! So rarely is there a cookbook that really, really appeals to everyone. On A Stick!  has recipes that will appeal to anyone and the presentation is fun, friendly and leaves you with the confidence that you can create these party perfect treats!

While the cookbook appeals to a broad spectrum of people from host/hostesses to kids, the recipes themselves are equally inclusive. Yes there are plenty of recipes that require frying or breading, but they're balanced out with salads and healthy options as well! While there are Corn Dogs, there are also Caprese Sticks. This book balances out your traditional options, from fondue to the aforementioned Corn Dogs, while also providing new possibilities. Think Deep Fried Ravioli or Deep Fried Mac n' Cheese! If you'd prefer something not fried there are Antipasti Skewers, Stuffed Olives and Panzanella!

Also, I just have to mention the Pizza On A Stick recipe! Back at the beginning of our story, M treated me out to a day at the CNE (for those of you unfamiliar, the Canadian National Exhibition, or The Ex, is basically a theme park/ carnival/ show/ exhibition in Toronto from mid-August to Labor Day). I had never been, despite being born & raised in Toronto! While there were some memorable moments that we still laugh about today, one that stands out was walking past all the various food vendors and stopping in our tracks when we saw pizza on a stick! Not being kosher, we couldn't try it, but we were amazed. When I came across the recipe, it really solidified how much I enjoy this cookbook and how it really accomplished exactly what I think a great cookbook should. It provides recipes that bring back memories, help build new ones and help you create possibilities for conversations and memories as well as for your menu!

The recipes are innovative, fresh and fantastic! And it doesn't end with appetizers, sides and mains. You can also have dessert on a stick as well! The many sweet recipes appealed to me right away from traditional stick desserts such as Cake Pops and Frozen Bananas, but also Caramel Popcorn Balls, Chocolate Covered Cheesecake and Grilled Fruit Skewers!

I can't wait to take this book off of the shelf many, many times. Whether it's whipping up a quick weekday side dish to add a bit of fun to our plate, or creating various dishes for a dessert table, these recipes are as versatile as they are delicious!

Disclaimer: This cookbook was generously provided to me by the kind people at Quirk Books. The thoughts and opinions presented in the review are solely my own.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Challenge Accepted, Little One!

The reason you haven't seen many recipes around here lately is pretty simple... I've barely had time to eat never mind actually develop anything new! Our beautiful little bundle of loves-to-be-held makes getting anywhere near the stove quite the challenge! Well little one, challenge accepted!

I realize now, recipes I had dubbed, "easy" or "quick" are accurate if you're alone in the kitchen, with access to both hands & minus 14 adorable pounds sitting on your hip. Also using the words, "easy" or "quick" before the word Menu, is almost hypocritical! Getting one dish done is a success, getting through a whole menu is worthy of celebration!

That's where this one pot meal comes in handy now! My Mom got us this large pan and it's been a great addition to our kitchen! My Mom uses it for everything & I'm just starting to pull it out of the cupboard more often. When we go over to my parent's home on Sundays, we're incredibly fortunate to be able to enjoy our steaks or salmon but there's no denying the incredible aroma of what my family's preparing! A few weeks ago my parents made a stir fry and before we had even reached the kitchen, M had already requested that I find out what smelled so good & find out how to make it. I was super relieved to discover it was simple! 

*I want to be sure to mention that since we're not using a wok here, boiled the pasta & used a little more oil than traditionally used in a stir fry, I use the term loosely!*

Feel free to include whichever vegetables you prefer. Just be sure to add them to the pan in order of longest to shortest cook time! You don't want burnt mushrooms & peppers that are still raw!

We made it as part of Shabbos dinner a few weeks ago & loved it! Hope you do too!


"Stir Fry" (Serves 4)

3 handfuls of Spaghettini (apparently I now measure ingredients Avo-stylez haha!)

1 Onion

1 Red Bell Pepper

1 10oz package of Mushrooms

1 medium size Zucchini

Canola Oil

1-2 tbsp Soy Sauce

Sesame Seeds (optional)

Boil Spaghettini as per package instructions. Drain, remove from pan & strain.

Slice onions into long and wide strips.

Peel & slice 5oz of mushrooms thinly. Peel & quarter the remaining 5 oz.

Finely slice the zucchini.

Slice the red pepper into long strips. Cut the strips in half.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large pan over medium heat (add more or less depending on your preference).

Add the onion to the pan, sauteing until translucent.

Meanwhile add the red bell pepper, zucchini & mushrooms. Be sure to add each vegetable once the previous one is already partially cooked to avoid burning or raw pieces in the end.

Return the spaghettini to the pan. Add soy sauce (just enough to lightly coat) and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if you prefer! Toss, remove from heat & serve!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Thank You, Y

On my first Mother's Day as a Mommy, I want to celebrate Y. Celebrate him for making me a Mommy. For adding an infinite amount of overwhelming love to my life. For adding sleep deprivation, the biggest smiles, the 2 am tears (from both of us), the quiet moments, the really loud moments and everything in between. Thank you for pushing me. Pushing me to love more, to be more patient, to slow down and accept that holding you all day is my new to do list and everything will get done. Eventually. Or it won't. For pacing around for hours willing the crying to stop and for rocking back and forth for hours willing the little cooing and giggling to continue forever. For those bright eyes first thing in the morning staring at me, depending on me. For making me so much more appreciative and in awe of my Mom. For making me so grateful & overwhelmed with love for M, when I see the two of you together - my whole world. For teaching me what comes first & what will always come first. For the tears of joy, fear, exhaustion and wonder. 

For everything. For the most amazingly terrifying and incredible adventure of my life. 

Thank you, Y for making me a Mommy.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

An Itsy Bitsy Surprise!

What better time than Mother's Day to share our big, itsy bitsy, news!

The bun's out of the oven! With overwhelming gratitude to Hashem, M & I are so thrilled to share the arrival of our beautiful baby BOY! He has the most amazing smiles, is incredibly cuddly and is absolutely delicious! Our little man has brought so much sweetness to our lives! 

I'm just about ready to get back to posting and sharing new recipes, stories and the new lessons I'm learning everyday, in this new chapter of balebusta-hood! I hope to share more insights in to what being a balebusta means to me now, and it goes way beyond the kitchen! Hope you'll join me for this amazing-exciting-overwhelming-sleep deprived roller coaster ride and follow along for a new dimension to the blog & even more yumminess thanks to our Little Man!