Monthly Archives: December 2012

Puff Pastry Knishes

24 mini knishes

What’s the best way to ring in the (secular) New Year? With spiced meat wrapped in puff pastry of course!

Last year my husband and I planned to have a real New Year’s Eve out in NYC – which was probably a little overambitious for a 6 month pregnant meatball like myself. And so at the last minute I came to my senses and decided staying in with some close friends, food and wine was a wiser option. I hadn’t planned to cook anything so didn’t have too many ingredients on hand. I did, however, have some ground beef and puff pastry in the freezer and so – voila! Puff pastry meat knishes were born.

Everything tastes better wrapped in puff pastry, so throw some of these together as part of your party spread, or to nosh on before you head out on the town.

Happy 2013!

Puff Pastry Knishes


4 sheets puff pastry (1 box)

2 yukon gold potatoes

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp olive oil

1/2 lb ground beef

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 egg


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Remove puff pastry from freezer and let sit on counter for 20-30 minutes until it has softened a bit and can easily be unfolded.

Peel potatoes. Boil potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain water and mash potatoes using a masher, ricer or heavy fork. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 2 tsp olive oil to potatoes and mix.

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil. Saute onions and garlic until translucent. Add cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Add meat and brown until cooked through.

Drain excess oil and liquid from meat.

Lightly roll out puff pastry with rolling pin. Cut each puff pastry sheet into 6 squares.

On each square add approximately 1-2 tsp of potato and 1-2 tsp of meat mixture. Fold each corner of the puff pastry square up until they touch. Pinch and twist tips down to form the knish.

Brush with lightly beaten egg. Bake until golden brown, around 25-30 minutes.

Serve with spicy brown mustard.

Posted on December 31, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

New Year’s Moscato Punch

16-20 servings

cranberry moscato punch

What’s an easy and elegant way to serve a crowd some festive drinks? Punch! And in the spirit of the trends of 2012, I would like to suggest serving up some Cranberry Moscato Punch as you usher in 2013!

Last year at the holidays I made a rosemary-citrus infused punch that was subtle and sweet, but also more work since it called for an extra rosemary simple syrup. This year I am opting for something a bit bolder (and easier) with cranberry juice, lemon, triple sec and the sparkling wine.

Want to make your cocktails just a touch more special? Try freezing cranberries, mint, lemon or other herbs in square ice cub trays. We use these Tovolo Perfect Cube Trays for our rosemary and cranberry ice cubes last year.

Happy drinking!

Cranberry Moscato Punch


2 bottles Bartenura Moscato wine (or other sweet sparkling wine)

1 lemon, sliced

1 bag fresh cranberries

4 cups cranberry juice

1 cup orange juice

1/2 cup - 1 cup Triple Sec (or other orange flavored liqueur)

cranberry ice (optional)

mint for garnish


In a pitcher or large punch bowl combine moscato wine, cranberry juice, orange juice, fresh cranberries and lemon slices. Add triple sec and stir gently.

Serve over cranberry ice cubes, or regular ice cubes, and garnish with lemon slices and fresh mint.

Posted on December 27, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The Nosher Top 5 of 2012

It’s been a very special year, food-filled year for me in 2012 – my first child was born, a beautiful healthy 8.5 pound daughter. I ate my weight in citrus, frozen yogurt, kale chips and cake during my pregnancy; ate my way through Israel, New Orleans, Wisconsin and Florida, and tried out some great new recipes that I got to share with you all.

At Rosh Hoshanah I always take the time to reflect on my spiritual self and my relationships; but at the secular New Year, I like to take a look back and pause on all the special things that I did, places I went and of course, delicious things I ate (and cooked).

Best side dish: Za’atar Roasted Potatoes. Who knew that such a simple combination of Za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice mix) plus roasted potatoes could produce such an easy and delicious side dish.  My husband loves za’atar and so every time we go to Israel or one of our friends goes to Israel, he insists we need more za’atar. This recipe was born out of my desire to use up some of the excess za’atar that had accumulated in my cabinet – it was such a hit that it has become a regular in my dinner rotation.

Best Cookbook: Jerusalem. This year brought a ton of new cookbooks: the good, the bad, the redundant and then there was Jerusalem, the first cookbook by the London-based duo Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli and Sami Tamimi, a Palestinian. Not only is the cookbook visually stunning, the recipes are a delight for those looking to branch out. The husband and I have already starting making our way through the book, and so far haven’t found  a recipe we didn’t like. I highly recommend!

Best Shabbat Chicken Everyone has a go-to for Shabbat dinner, and mine is citrus-herb roasted chicken. While my husband opts for a roasted chicken marinated in a host of dry herbs, I think the natural citrus juices, fresh herbs and olive oil keep the chicken super-moist. While I didn’t create this recipe during 2012, I still think its worth to include in my round-up of the year. I hope it will become one of your go-to recipes too!

Best dessert trend: homemade pop tarts! Oh pop tarts – you bring me back to childhood. I am quite certain you are filled with nothing but things that are bad for me, so I have been happy to come across a new dessert trend: homemade pop tarts! I had my first pop tart treat in New Orleans earlier this year at a charming little cafe called Velvet Espresso Bar. Hankering to make your own? You can buy a pop tart mold from Williams Sonoma.

Best creative twist: Pumpkin pizza. As I have written many times (so many times you are probably bored hearing about my love of the pumpkin) – I love pumpkin, and I am always trying to find new ways to use my favorite, seasonal ingredient. Coming up with this recipe for Pumpkin Pizza with ricotta, sage butter and crispy shallots was definitely one of my finer culinary moments this year. Creamy, savory, slight sweet with some crunch from the shallots – its like an explosion of flavor in your mouth. But this recipe is probably best to make during the Fall/Winter when pumpkin is in season – I wouldn’t recommend trying this one with canned pumpkin.


Posted on December 26, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Same Restaurant, New Attitude?

Over the Summer a new restaurant made waves all over the New York area media – a new, super-chic kosher restaurant called Jezebel was opening in Soho. This was going to be the restaurant to eat at, to be seen at and the kosher restaurant to finally break the mold  – as trendy as a non-kosher restaurant; as delicious as a non-kosher restaurant; and as expensive as any other restaurant in the Soho neighborhood attracting a hip crowd, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

I tried to get a reservation at Jezebel, and couldn’t. So I just showed up, and was rudely told I wouldn’t be able to order anything at the bar. I asked around, and didn’t hear rave reviews about the food (or the treatment of staff) from my fellow bloggers and Jewish foodies, and so I just moved on. While I don’t exclusively eat in kosher restaurants, I have sampled enough kosher fare in NYC, LA, Washington, DC and Israel to know the difference between the kosher restaurants that will last, and the ones that will open and close as fast as you can say chutzpah.

My own preferences for kosher establishments in the New York area include Soom Soom (UWS and midtown), The Hummus Place (multiple locations), and Chopstix in New Jersey – places that are unpretentious, consistently good and where you can get a decent, kosher meal for less than $15.

I recently had an email exchange with the PR manager from Jezebel, and he shared that the restaurant had made some significant changes since their rocky opening over the summer and I should come and give them a second chance – new chef, lower priced menu (no more $18 cocktails!) and what seems like a new attitude.

So in the spirit of the holidays, forgiveness and new beginnings, my husband and I are heading there this weekend to see for ourselves. Date nights being scarce in our house with a 6 month old…I am hoping our night out will be worth it! Stay tuned for my update next week.

In the meantime…Shabbat Shalom everyone!


Posted on December 21, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Chocolate Peppermint Bundt

I have written a number of times about my favorite, go-to pareve chocolate cake, which is the Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate cake recipe. Once you try this recipe, I can guarantee you will never need another recipe for cake or cupcakes. And just recently I started making a special holiday version that my husband, friends and family keep devouring each time I whip up a new one.

The recipe calls for one cup milk, but I substitute this with one cup vanilla almond milk and you would never know the difference. The cake always comes out perfectly moist! You can also substitute the milk for soy milk or coconut milk, I just prefer using vanilla almond milk.

How to make this Chocolate Peppermint Bundt cake? Use the recipe as linked above and mix cake batter according to directions. Add 2 tsp peppermint extract to the cake mix, and bake according to directions, 350 degrees for around 40 minutes.

Allow to cool in the pan 15-20 minutes and then carefully remove from pan. Once cake has cooled, dust with powdered sugar and garnish with crushed candy canes. Perfect for a holiday gathering or just dessert for Shabbat dinner!



Posted on December 19, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

On Tragedy, Family and Food

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I am not the kind of person who likes to keep their head in the sand; in fact quite the opposite. But as a new mom, I’ve actually tried to put earmuffs on during the news over the past few days since the horrific shooting in Newtown, CT. I really haven’t wanted to hear the details, it is too horrible to wrap my head around.

And somewhere in my attempts to not think about this tragedy I had what I consider perhaps a random thought: every year these families will associate holiday time with this tragedy. Their holiday will forever be tainted. And then I realized – if you lose your child to a shooting, does it really matter if Christmastime will hang under a cloud? And whether the shooting happened or not during this season, holiday time is always difficult when you have experienced such loss.

I lost my mother when I was sixteen years old and each year I find myself in sadness during this season. My mother loved Christmas, loved the family time and loved holiday traditions. Each year I would help her decorate cookies, an activity I gave up because it reminded me too much of her. Last year, however, I started making holiday cookies again for my husband’s office and it brought me so much joy its hard to put into precise words.

My mother always made Thanksgiving, and my fondest memories of holidays happened in our dining room, a folding table pushed up against our not-quite-large-enough dining room table. I would wake up on Thanksgiving morning to the distinctive smell of turkey roasting. And the sound of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade would follow shortly after as I lay in bed hoping to get just a few more precious moments of sleeping late into my day.

We always went around the table to say what we were thankful for.  Being an extraordinarily precocious child my goal was always to find a snarky response that would elicit a laugh from my older cousins. One of the most memorable Thanksgiving dinners was when my mother lit the entire front of her sweater on fire, a story we still love to recount, exaggerating it a bit further each time. There were two kinds of stuffing, two kinds of cranberry sauce, three kinds of pie and a large basket of Pillsbury biscuits.

I had somehow forgotten about those buttery, canned biscuits until my pregnancy cravings got the better of me last Thanksgiving and I had a tearful meltdown that I MUST have Pillsbury biscuits. Immediately. My husband dutifully went to the supermarket with me mere hours before dinner at his mother’s, where we bought three cans of the biscuits. They were gobbled up as quickly as I had remembered from my childhood, and I was brought back instantaneously to my dining room table. We ate Pillsbury biscuits again this year, and I hope it will continue to be a tradition from here on.

These memories have come flooding to me as I think about what the families of Newtown will experience on Christmas, New Years, Passover, or Rosh Hoshanah. This year, next year, and for many, many years.

After fifteen years since my mother passed its a blessing to find joy once again in these holiday memories. I pray for the many families affected this week that one day they will be able to find joy in happy memories, family traditions and holiday gatherings.

Posted on December 18, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Cookie Season

3 dozen cookies

‘Tis the season of….cookies! Jewish or not, I love a time of year that embraces cookie baking, cookie decorating and cookie consumption. And you don’t have to celebrate Christmas to enjoy celebrating cookies.

Each year I put together a platter of assorted cookies for my husband’s office. Last year I baked the classic Peanut Butter Kiss cookies, snowflake butter cookies with blue and white icing, chewy ginger cookies and chocolate chocolate chunk cookies.

For our own Hanukkah-holiday party that featured a meat menu I also made a batch of pareve, star-shaped “butter” cookies that I decorated with icing, sprinkles, dark chocolate and crushed candy canes. How can you recreate these cute pareve treats?

Make a batch of pareve “butter” cookie dough. Roll out onto a floured surface and cut desired shapes. Bake for 9-10 minutes in 350 degree oven. Allow to cool completely before icing.

To make cookie icing: mix 1 cup confectioners sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 tsps almond or soy milk and 1 tsp light corn syrup. Add food coloring. Using icing bag or the back of spoon, spread icing on cookie and cover with sprinkles. Allow to dry completely.

For chocolate dipped stars: Melt 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate in microwave for 30 seconds, then stir, then another 30 seconds, stirring again; repeat until until completely melted. Dip cookies in dark chocolate, removing excess chocolate as you work. Place on wire rack and sprinkle with crushed candy canes, sprinkles or chopped nuts. Allow to cool completely before moving.

This year I’ve been trying out some new cookie varieties to include in my holiday cookie platter, and I finally settled upon Chai Spiced Cookies, Salted Fudge Brownies and my newest creation: Salty Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe for Double Chocolate Coconut Cookies. These salty-sweet cookies have great crunch from the peanuts, and just enough sweetness from the peanut butter chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Happy cookie baking and happy holidays!







Salty Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup peanut butter chips

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped, salted peanuts

coarse sea salt




Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter and sugar together until creamy and smooth. Add in eggs one at a time and stir in vanilla.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Add dry ingredients into butter mixture until well combined. Stir in peanut butter chips, chocolate chips and peanuts.

Scoop small balls of dough onto baking sheets and top with a pinch of coarse sea salt.

Bake for 10-11 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.

Posted on December 13, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Hanukkah Brunch!

Every year at the holidays it seems like our lives get busier and busier and so we have to find creative ways to get all our friends and family visits in during Hanukkah. This year is no different, in fact it was even busier now that we have a new baby!

So in order to fit in a visit with some of our close friends we decided to host a Hanukkah brunch -latkes for breakfast, my favorite kind!

Last year for our latke-breakfast combo we served my classic (amazing) latkes with smoked salmon and poached eggs. But this year we wanted to do something slightly different.

First, we decided to make two different kinds of latkes – my husband tried out a recipe  for Balkan Potato Leek Latkes from Janna Gur’s The Book of New Israeli Food. These latkes are made by cooking, then mashing the potatoes, dipping in egg and flour and then frying them. They tasted like a mashed-potato fritter. They were good, but we decided we liked our classic shredded style latke better.

And to accompany my more traditional latkes we decided to make two different condiments: tzatziki and Amy Kritzer’s cranberry-applesauce. The cranberry applesauce was so good there wasn’t a drop left! If you are still frying up some latkes during the rest of Hanukkah I definitely recommend whipping up a batch – its very easy and doesn’t take long at all on the stove.

Last weekend the husband and I were watching Rachel Khoo’s “Little Paris Kitchen” on The Cooking Channel (sidenote: what a great show! definitely check it out) when we came across her “Croque Madame Cups,” where she butters white bread, sticks it in muffin tins and then bakes eggs (ham) and bechamel for a heavenly little egg cup. We knew at once we HAD to make them.

And thank goodness we did – they are absolutely our new favorite recipe. We did not use any kind of meat product, but you could substitute spinach, mushrooms or even smoked salmon for the ham she uses. They truly are two-bites of rich, creamy delight-fulness.

Also included on our Hanukkah brunch table? Mimosas, Israeli salad and some homemade cookies for dessert.

Hope everyone is enjoying Hanukkah, whatever time of day you serve the latkes!







Posted on December 10, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

My Favorite Holiday Things

Every year I love scouting out great foodie gift ideas and the newest holiday (especially Hanukkah) products that come onto the market. This year I have loved seeing more and more mainstream Hanukkah items, even if the Christmas stuff still outnumbers us by a long shot.

My first purchase this year was this “I  Luv U a Latke” mug which I bought for my husband (it’s a good thing he never reads my blog) from…Target! Fill this mug with gelt for a cute centerpiece at your Hanukkah party – or bake some fresh cookies and pile them high in this mug for a super sweet present.

From the shlocky to the practical…as soon as I saw this Tablet Stand from Williams Sonoma, I knew it was a must-have! I love listening to music and reading a recipe on my husband’s iPad while I tool around in the kitchen, and this gadget is perfect for anyone who spends a lot of time in the best room in the house.

Crate & Barrel has a number of great Hanukkah items including this Hanukkah Cookie Cutter Set – roll out some butter cookie dough, set out some fun sprinkles and you have the perfect Sunday afternoon activity for the kiddos.

Ok, ok I know that peppermint is a Christmas sort of thing – but I can’t get enough of Trade Joe’s peppermint extract and peppermint bark pieces! I have put peppermint extract in my go-to chocolate cake and even cookies, and then topped both with the bark pieces for a sweet, festive finish.

Everyone loves the classic milk chocolate gold coins we were all given as children on Hanukkah. But how about a more sophisticated version of this childhood treat? Veruca Chocolates has made Hanukkah Gelt in multiple flavors including dark chocolate with sea salt, milk chocolate with cocoa nibs and dark chocolate with espresso, just to name a few.

And when the latke-frying and present-wrapping is done….time to make your nails pretty! I can’t stop laughing at these Hanukkah Nail Decals Set from Modern Tribe – a perfect way to celebrate in style.

Happy Hanukkah, and happy holidays!






Posted on December 7, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Chocolate Covered Hanukkah Oreos

12 cookies

I have to give credit where credit is due, and while I maintain that I am the supreme cook in my house, my husband does often inspire my creations. And today’s recipe came straight from him: “Hanukkah” decorated chocolate dipped oreo cookies.

I often lament how this time of year Jews really get the short end of the stick – there are so many fun Christmas candies, treats and decorations, but no equally-festive Jewish equivalent.

And while these oreos can’t quite compete with, say, gingerbread or chocolate-peppermint whoopie pies, they are cute and SUPER easy!

Looking for some good sprinkles? I came across these “Judaica sprinkles” at Bed, Bath & Beyond! Although I used a mixture of white and blue sprinkles I already had laying around – I like Williams Sonoma Sanding Sugar, and Wilton sprinkles.

Chocolate Covered Hanukkah Oreos


12 oreo cookies

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tsp butter

sprinkles or other blue and white cookie decorations


In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate and butter together in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until completely melted. Stir well to ensure no lumps.

Dip oreo cookies into the melted chocolate, making sure to cover the sides. remove the oreo from chocolate using a fork and put on baking sheet covered with tin foil or wax paper.

Scatter tops of chocolate covered cookies with sprinkles of your choosing.

Place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.

Posted on December 4, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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