Monthly Archives: April 2013

Mac ‘n Sweet Potato Cheesy Sauce

4 servings

SONY DSCOn the weekends growing up there was no better lunch for my mom than boxed mac n cheese. And us kids weren’t complaining! I can even remember how my mom would stand at the stove and scrape those last few little pastas into her mouth with a spoon.

I do love any kind of pasta with a cheese sauce, but I don’t want to serve my daughter something with so much salt, added color and goodness-knows-what-else that typically comes in the boxed variety.

So as I was peering into my fridge last week I decided to add pureed sweet potato as part of a bechamel sauce over pasta for my little lady. The dish turned out so good I decided to have a bowl right alongside my daughter. And in the end, we were both savoring the last spoonfuls of mac n cheese together.

What’s great about a dish like this is that you can really add and subtract according to your tastes. Instead of pureed sweet potato, you can insert butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin or spinach. It’s an easy, sneaky way to add a little more veggies into your life and also add additional creaminess to the sauce.


I also love the bright orange color that the pureed sweet potato turned the cheese sauce, without any “fake stuff.”


Mac 'n Sweet Potato Cheesy Sauce


1/2 lb mini shells, tubetini or elbow macaroni

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp flour

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup pureed sweet potato

1/4 cup greek yogurt

1/2 cup shredded cheddar or gruyere cheese

1/4 tsp nutmeg

reserved pasta cooking water

salt and pepper to taste


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed, around 8-9 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 1 Tbsp butter in medium saucepan over low-medium heat. When butter is foamy and almost completely melted, add 1 Tbsp flour and whisk around 2 minutes, to ensure the flour is cooked. Add milk, yogurt and sweet potato puree one at a time, whisking in between to ensure mixture is smooth.

Add 2-3 Tbsp of pasta cooking water and whisk some more.

Add cheese and whisk until completely melted and sauce is smooth once again.

At this point you can leave the sauce as is, or add a few more Tbsp of the pasta cooking water depending on how thick you prefer your mac 'n cheese.

Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Drain pasta and add pasta to cheese sauce. Mix together and serve.

Posted on April 29, 2013

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

Kosher Food News

woops macaronsIt seems like the Jewish world has sweets on the brain lately! I think the kosher world is continually striving for a greater variety of kosher desserts and specialty items, and it seems like we are slowly getting there which is pretty exciting.

I’ve long been saying that the moment of the cupcake has passed, and that other desserts are taking its place instead. I thought for a little while it might be replaced by the whoopie pie, or even the cake pop. But the macaron has really taken center stage over the past 2 years.

Macarons are not my personal sweet of choice – I don’t love the chewy texture. But a lot of people DO love them, and they are a great option for Passover or Shabbat, because they are often pareve and flour-free! Want to be bold and make your own? What Jew Wanna Eat’s Amy Kritzer has a recipe for (dairy) Raspberry Macarons with Cream Cheese Filling.

But for those of us less willing to put in the grunt work, Macarons and Cookies By Woops just opened a new location in the Garden State Plaza Mall in New Jersey! Check out their beautiful sweet on their website. And yes, they are kosher!

davids tea chammomileI adore a good pot of freshly brewed tea, especially made with high quality loose tea. A friend posted on Facebook this week that Davids Tea is now offering over 90 kosher certified loose-leaf teas! I am partial to chamomile and English Breakfast, but they also offer several oolang varieties, blueberry flavored black tea, chai, chocolate and sweet dreams, just to name a few of the 90 flavors! You can  place an order from on their website.

And in the Lakeview area of Chicago, a small sweets shop called Windy City Sweets has allowed members of the observant Jewish community’s nearby synagogue to create Shabbat accounts so that the the community can enjoy ice cream on Shabbat afternoon. The arrangement was so successful that Rabbi Asher Lopatin (the rabbi of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation) now uses the sweet shop to regularly host ice cream happy hours and post-holiday ice cream celebrations. Now that’s a community with its priorities straight! Read more about this from The Forward’s Jew and the Carrot.

Posted on April 24, 2013

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

Hearty Spring Veggie Soup

12 servings

SONY DSCI have been on a bit of a vegetarian streak lately and while I have not cut meat out of my diet, I am happily eating a mostly meat-free diet during the week. Which also means I am now on the lookout for tasty, satisfying, vegetarian-friendly main dishes.

It’s also spring and therefore time to include peas, asparagus and other seasonal veggies in our cooking!

These were the thoughts swirling around in my head this weekend when I created this hearty, springtime veggie soup, chock full of white beans, peas, asparagus and bite-sized pasta.

Going gluten free? Leave out the pasta!

Like even more stuff in your soup? Add double the amount of peas, add 1/2 cup of corn or add a large handful of baby kale or spinach.

Don’t like cannelini beans? Swap them out for some chick peas or black eyed peas instead!

In short, you can put your own stamp on this soup so add and subtract away!


Hearty Spring Veggie Soup


3 quarts vegetable or chicken stock

1 cup cannellini beans, rinsed

1 cup fresh or frozen peas

1 1/2 cups asparagus, cut into small pieces

1 cup small pasta such as tubetini, orzo or small shells


Bring chicken or vegetable stock to simmer in a large pot.  Add peas and beans.

Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a separate medium sized pot. Add pasta and cook 8 minutes or until al dente. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add asparagus. Drain pasta and asparagus.

Add pasta and asparagus to soup.Allow to simmer 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Posted on April 23, 2013

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

Roasted Lemon & Mustard Brussels Sprouts

Last week as I was scurrying around trying to feed my dog, feed my daughter and also cook dinner for me and my husband, I had some culinary inspiration (by peering into my fridge) and put together this new recipe for lemon mustard brussels sprouts.


The husband loves most recipes that use mustard as a seasoning, and I love using fresh citrus when I roast chicken or veggies. The combination seemed like a perfect culinary, and marriage, compromise. It takes almost no time to prepare, but the mustard and lemon pack a big flavor punch, so its great for those weeknight, last-minute dinners, or for a super simple Shabbat side dish!



1 bag fresh brussels sprouts (about 3 cups)

juice and zest from 1 lemon

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp dijon or whole grain mustard

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut brussels sprouts in half and place on baking sheet.

Mix together olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Drizzle mixture over brussel sprouts and mix around with hands to ensure brussel sprouts are coated evenly.

Place lemon halves on baking sheet as well.

Roast Brussels sprouts for 35-45 minutes until desired crispiness.

Posted on April 19, 2013

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 Shabbat Menu

My sister was supposed to join us for Shabbat dinner this week, along with a fellow baker and tweeter, the (original) Jewish American Princess. But sadly, my sister has a commitment at college at the last minute and I had to reschedule until my sister is around to dine with the lovely tweeting princess!

So instead, my former roommate, acoffee-chipotle-brisket-sandwich hysterical, opera-singing Aussie, and my favorite Persian pal will be joining us for dinner and I wanted to make a super fun menu for them! What says fun more than build your own brisket sandwiches!? Almost nothing I think. Except perhaps for some build your own ice cream sundaes, but I think that will have to wait until Shavuot.

To start, I am serving a simple and refreshing Marinated Cucumber and Dill Salad, one of my family’s favorites, including my 10 month old daughter!

For the main attraction I am serving my Pulled Brisket Sliders served on fresh onion challah rolls. And how can you serve pulled brisket without some classic coleslaw!? Well I will be serving that too.

We need to balance out the the meat and carb factor with some more vegetables, so I will be serving a super easy and delicious side dish, Flash Roasted Broccoli Spears with Spicy Bread Crumbs.

And the sweet finish? I am going to make my classic, go-to chocolate cake from Hersheys. I make this pareve my substituting the milk for almond milk or coconut milk.

Posted on April 17, 2013

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

Shakshuka Pizza

4 servings

I love making pizza at home, and especially enjoy trying new flavor toppings. Some of our favorites include white pesto pizza with spinach, butternut squash and kale pizza and white pizza with fennel and kalamata olives. Ok, so I veer off a little from the “traditional” when it comes to my at-home pizza experimentation. My sister loves penne vodka pizza, and I have even tried that! Probably not the healthiest meal I have ever prepared…

During Passover I was thinking about Shakshuka, and what a great, versatile dish it is when it hit me: I needed to try shakshuka pizza!

SONY DSCLots of pizzerias around the country have combined eggs and some kind of salty meat as a topping for pizza. So why not a spicy tomato sauce, salty cheese and baked eggs!?

When I eat shakshuka, I like to add feta and have a plate of hummus with tahini on the side so that I can take a nice hunk of warm pita, dunk it into the tomato sauce, a bit of the egg, cheesy feta and tangy hummus. So that was the combination of flavors I was aiming for with this pizza.

This shakshuka pizza is the perfect dish to serve in honor of Israel’s 65th birthday this week. Serve it with some salatim, like Israeli salad and baba ganoush for a complete meal. Don’t feel like making your own tomato sauce? Swap the homemade tomato sauce for a chunky store-bought variety!

Shakshuka Pizza


1 store-bought pizza dough

12 ounce can diced tomatoes

3 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

pinch red chili flakes

salt and pepper

olive oil for brushing

2 eggs

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

fresh parsley

tahini sauce (optional)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If using a pizza stone, place in the oven to heat up.

In a large saute pan, heat 3 Tbsp olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and saute until they start to get soft. Add garlic and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes.

Add bell pepper, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes and tomato paste and saute another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add can of tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface.

Remove pizza stone from oven and place dough on stone. Lightly brush olive oil over dough. Spread tomato sauce over surface of pizza dough, leaving 1 inch border for crust. Crack eggs on pizza and sprinkle with feta cheese.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Drizzle with prepared tahini sauce if desired.


Posted on April 15, 2013

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

Dishes for Israel’s 65th

labne_hpIsrael is turning 65 this year and will be celebrating Yom Ha’atzamaut, or Israeli Independence Day next week. I love Israel – the feisty people, vibrant music, beautiful land and above all else: the food!

Israeli breakfasts are perhaps my favorite part of the cultural cuisine – a huge spread of different kinds of salads, cheese, freshly baked bread and juices. Mmmm. I love the bakeries in Israel, and the fresh borekas that come in dozens of different varieties.

But my absolute favorite dishes are labne, a thick yogurt spread (which I like to eat as a snack with pita chips), Shakshuka, a zesty tomato sauce with baked eggs and Sabich, an Iraqi sandwich with eggplant, hard boiled egg, pickles and tahini.

In the mood to celebrate Israel with some food? We’ve got tons of recipes for you and your family to enjoy. Here are some classic Israeli dishes for next week, and all year:

Roasted Garlic Hummus

Baba Ganouj

Israeli Salad






Wanna get inspired? Check out one of these beautiful cookbooks, Jerusalem and The Book of New Israeli Food which are filled with mouth-watering photos and fantastic recipes inspired by the people of Israel.

Happy Birthday Israel!


Posted on April 12, 2013

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

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Challah

2 medium loaves

SONY DSCChallah is sort of my thing. I’ve been baking my own and tweaking my recipe since I am 16 years old, and I love coming up with new combinations of flavors whenever I am inspired.

I generally prefer savory challah, since you can use the leftovers for sandwiches. But every now and then a sweet challah with chocolate chips, cinnamon, raisins or chocolate really hits the spot.

Not everyone loves the flavor combination of peanut butter and chocolate, and I consider those people crazy. What is better than peanut butter and chocolate!? Well, maybe peanut butter and chocolate in a challah. With crumbs on top. Served with a cup of coffee, and this is what my breakfast dreams are made out of.

There are a couple of other bloggers doing some exciting things with challah which I love to follow, including The Challah Blog and Adventures in Challah so definitely check them out to get inspired!

Tip: baking challah is not a 1 hour process, so definitely give yourself plenty of lead time. And don’t rush the risingthe longer you let the dough rise, the fluffier it will be.

Happy challah baking!


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Challah with Peanut Butter Crumbs


For dough:

5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting

1/2 Tbsp yeast

1 1/4 cup lukewarm water

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 Tbsp salt

2 eggs plus 1 egg for brushing

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For crumb topping:

1/2 cup flour

3 Tbsp margarine

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 cup peanut butter


Put yeast and 1 tsp sugar into a small bowl. Add lukewarm water, stir gently and allow to sit until foamy bubbles form on top, around 10 minutes.

In the meantime, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, peanut butter and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment. When yeast-water mixture is ready, add to flour mixture until it is incorporated.

Add eggs one at a time and another cup of flour. Mix thoroughly.

Change to dough hook on mixer, or if working without a mixer, continue to mix in a large bowl. Add chocolate chips.

When the dough is too difficult to stir, flour a working surface and start kneading. Add remaining flour and knead for 10 more minutes.

Grease a large bowl and add dough to bowl. Cover with warm, wet towel. Let dough rise for 2-6 hours, punching down at least once.

To make the crumbs, add flour, brown sugar, salt, margarine and peanut butter to a bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut ingredients together until small-medium size crumbs form. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

When challah has risen, braid challah into two medium sized loaves. Place loaves on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Allow challah to rise 30-60 minutes extra.

Brush challah with beaten egg and sprinkle crumbs on top.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until outside is golden, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.


Posted on April 10, 2013

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

Perfect Peas!

peasPeas are the kind of dish your mom makes you eat, right? Or peas are the part of the fried rice you eat around. And sometimes peas make a brief yet unwanted appearance in soup?

The truth is peas can take the center stage of Springtime meals and be delicious – not just a boring side dish. Peas can even be a sweet dessert – like in these beautiful Sweet Pea and Ricotta Cupcakes I came across from The Cupcake Project!


Here are a few of the most interesting ways I have seen to serve up some fresh (or even frozen) peas this Spring:

Minted Pea Puree Crostini from Claire Robinson

Spring Pea Frittata

Savory Sauteed Sweet Peas from The Overtime Cook

Green Pea Guacamole

Pasta with Fresh Herbs, Lemon and Peas

Minted Pea Soup

Sweet Pea Cupcake with Ricotta

pea Cupcakes 04





Posted on April 8, 2013

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

Post-Passover Debriefing

Passover is (finally) over and that means that…it’s time to start preparing for next Passover.

Boxing up the Pesach supplies

Boxing up the Pesach supplies

Okay, now before you kill me for saying that, I just mean that now is the time to evaluate how your food prep held up this year, so you’ll be able to ensure that you’re better prepared next year.

As you’re putting away your Passover pots and pan, or simply throwing out half-used boxes of matzah farfel, here are some questions to jot down answers to. Email the answers to yourself, or put them in a google doc, and you’ll be able to plan next year with the full knowledge that came with this year’s celebration.

What was your shopping list this year? And what were your seder menus?
This will help you get a baseline of what you were shopping for, and how much you got. If you happened to keep receipts and know how much you spent, that is also helpful to know (and I commend you for being way more organized than I was).

What did you have left over at the end of the holiday? This will help you gauge if you need to buy less of something next year. I also personally feel fine saving, say, an unopened box of matzah meal, for next year. My mother was notorious for saving Pesach spices over decades, which I don’t personally plan to do, but it’s an option.

What was the best thing you made or ate this Pesach? Perhaps it was an old classic, that you make and love every year, or maybe it was something new or recently tweaked. For me, it was this no-bake chocolate mousse cake made with avocado. It’s pareve (vegan, even) and devastatingly delicious. I made it twice over Pesach, and the second time I added a teaspoon of cinnamon, which I highly recommend.

This brings me to What adaptations did you make to recipes, and how did they turn out? Besides the cinnamon to the cake, my friend Andrea and I did some major revamping of a stuffed onion recipe, and the results were fantastic. Thankfully, Andrea wrote up what she did after the seders and emailed it to me so that we can use it to go off of next year. I also remembered to write down that while making my aunt’s frozen mousse cake, there is a part where the batter starts to seize up, and while this is terrifying while it happens, it has no negative ramifications on the way the cake actually comes out.

What did you make that’s not worth making next year? Might as well cull the menu now, when you remember how disappointing that kugel was.

What kitchen utensils, pots or pans would you like to have for next year? Since this was my first year making Passover by myself, I bought a whole set of dishes, pots, pans, and utensils. I was thrilled with everything, but wish I had thought to get a colander, a rubber spatula, and a few wooden spoons. I’ve already added them to my shopping lists for next year, and can be on the lookout for those items at sales.

What are some recipes that you didn’t get a chance to try, but would like to try for next year? Did you not get a chance to try everything on our communal seder menu? Collect recipes and links in one place so you know where to start looking next year.

With all that done, and your dishes packed away, you can leave Pesach behind―for about another 10 months, before next year’s Pesach frenzy begins.

Posted on April 3, 2013

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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