Monthly Archives: June 2013

Recipes that Bring Back Memories

35-45 minutes

45 minutes

8-10 servings

I have countless recipes that I learned from the women of my family. Though today I mostly use websites and online documents to store my recipes, for years I cooked out of my mother’s recipe boxes, where recipe cards were squished in like sardines, and the recipes came in a variety of difficult-to-decipher scrawls. There was my mother’s handwriting, a loopy, tight cursive, and my grandmother’s a disciplined clear print, plus my aunt’s rounded letters, and some cards written by my Aunt Byrna, or a first cousin once removed. The cards were splattered with stains, and decorated with little pictures of ovens, strawberries, geese, or pies. Spanikopita

Flipping through those recipe cards brings back a tidal wave of memories. Each recipe is strongly associated with the woman whose handwriting is on the card. And there are even more recipes that I know by heart now, taught to me by one of these women. On days when I feel the loss of my mother, my grandmothers, or my aunt, I reach for my mixing bowls to make a recipe that they taught me. For the time that I spend in the kitchen, mixing, sauteeing, baking or kneading, I am keeping their memories alive, nourishing myself and my family with the legacy of food and love these women entrusted me with.

With my mother, it can be hard to choose which recipe to make to conjure up the best memories. But when I’m really yearning for the comfort I found in her kitchen I consistently end up making spanikopita, a dish she was known for making, and one of the first recipes I learned by heart. Crucially, my mom adapted a recipe from a cookbook so that it took significantly less effort than was originally prescribed, and these days I can whip up this wholesome dish in under 30 minutes (not counting baking time). If you find phyllo dough intimidating, or spanikopita sounds too labor intensive for you, this is your solution.

Spanikopita (adapted by Beverly Fried Fox from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen)

Posted on June 27, 2013

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Meatless Meals for the Nine Days with a Global Twist

When people think of the nine days they tend to panic. After all it’s hard to be creative and come up with meal ideas when chicken and meat are off the menu. I like to look at the nine days as an excuse to bring exotic flavors in my kitchen and experiment a little bit. There are so many wonderful cuisines that lend themselves especially well to vegetarian and dairy options.

I happen to love Latin inspired food and flavors, and of course tacos. It’s a great go to meal when you have kids and any ground meat can work. But Tacos are great without the meat as well. I recently started making tacos with black beans and corn, along with ½ an envelope of taco seasoning and a can of tomato sauce and they are delish. Garnished with some creamy avocado and chives or green onions this a healthy and tasty dinner. Serve it with Gazpacho for an authentic mexican feast.

black bean and corn tacos

Corn and Black Bean Tacos

  • 1 bag frozen corn
  • 1 can black beans
  • ½ an envelope taco seasoning (less if you’re sensitive to spice)
  • 1 small can tomato sauce (12 ounces)
  • 4-6 taco shells
  • sliced avocado or guacamole, hot sauce, diced tomatoes, chives, and green onions for garnish.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse beans and put all ingredients into saute pan/skillet, heat through. Toast corn tacos for 2-3 minutes until crisped. Fill tacos with bean and corn mixture, top avocado, chives, tomatoes, green onions or any topping of your choice.


Another easy Mexican inspired recipe is my Rice and Bean Bake. A one pot meal that’s delicious and so easy to make. Everything get’s thrown together, put in the oven, and baked until the cheese on top is bubbling. Serve with a fresh corn, tomato and basil salad.

Rice and Bean Bake

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 jar salsa
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 can roasted chili peppers (optional)

Rinse Kidney beans then combine with rice and salsa, spoon into a greased casserole and sprinkle with shredded cheddar and jalapenos if you like spice. Bake for ½ hour till cheese is bubbly, place under broiler for 5 minutes if you like the top browned.

Corn, Tomato and Basil Salad

  • 1 can corn kernels or 3 ears fresh corn shucked of kernels.
  • 2 roma tomatoes diced
  • 10-15 basil leaves, chiffonade
  • juice of one lemon
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • salt and pepper

If using fresh corn microwave for about 5 minutes with 1-2 Tbsp of water to soften the corn. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve immediately or keep chilled covered until ready to serve.


Moving beyond the Americas, lets travel to the flavors of Thailand, where coconut and curry feature prominently. Mild flavored flounder soaked in a coconut milk infused with curry and then dredged in panko breadcrumbs accompanied by a sweet and sour rice is a delicious meal that even your kids will like. You can opt to leave out the curry for less heat.

coconut cod

Coconut Flounder

  • 4 fresh Flounder Fillets
  • 1 can reduced fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • panko bread crumbs
  • neutral oil such as canola for frying or cooking spray.

If oven frying preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine coconut milk and curry. immerse fish in milk mixture then dredge in panko then back in coconut milk and dredge again in panko crumbs, repeat with all remaining fillets.

If pan frying let oil get really hot and cook 2-3 minutes on each side till golden brown and cooked through. For the oven fry method. Place fish on a tin foiled cookie sheet and spray both sides liberally with cooking spray. Bake for around 20 minutes until golden turning over halfway through.

See recipe below for Sweet and Sour Pineapple Rice to accompany the Coconut Flounder.

Finally we finish in Italy with a whole wheat pasta tossed in a fresh parsley pesto served with a romaine lettuce salad tossed with a simple vinaigrette. The parsley pesto has a gorgeous bright green hue and a lighter, fresher flavor than a traditional basil pesto. If you want it cheese free you sub 1-2 anchovy fillets for the parmesan cheese.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Parsley Pesto

  • 1 box wheat pasta of your choice
  • 1 bunch parsley stems chopped off
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt

Cook pasta in salted water according to directions. Combine fresh herbs, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and parmesan cheese in a blender and pulse until smooth. Toss with pasta and a little pasta water to help it really coat every strand.

pesto pasta

These recipes are easy, healthy and delicious and you’ll find yourself using them even when it’s not the nine days!


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse beans and put all ingredients into saute pan/skillet, heat through. Toast corn tacos for 2-3 minutes till crisped. Fill tacos with bean and corn mixture, top avocado, chives, tomatoes, green onions or any topping of your choice.


Sweet and Sour Pineapple Rice

Posted on June 25, 2013

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Off to Israel!

Well, I am off to Israel tomorrow for THREE WEEKS. Yes, I know, very exciting. And perhaps most exciting is that I am bringing my one year old daughter.

I didn’t get the chance to travel to Israel until I was 21 (ten years ago!) when I went on a Taglit Birthright Israel trip. It was an amazing experience for which I am grateful and I have been back many times since, both for work and pleasure. But it feels like a true privilege to be able to bring my daughter at such a young age.

It probably goes without saying that by far one of my favorite parts of traveling to Israel is the FOOD. I love the fresh fruits and vegetables, the breakfast, the array of salads, the outdoor markets and the numerous bakeries offering dream-worthy pastry and breads. Rugelach, hmmmmm.


As it so happens, some of my daughter’s absolute favorite foods are quite Israeli: cucumber tomato salad, hummus, pickles and white cheese. I am excited to see my little lady enjoying her favorite foods in Israel during the next few weeks. And hopefully trying a few new ones too!

I am sure that I have some great foodie adventures in store while I am away, which I look forward to sharing with you. Want to share in my food adventures? Don’t forget to follow me on instagram and twitter for real-time food (and baby) photos and updates.

And in the meantime, I hope you enjoy some of my friends and fellow bloggers who will be sharing recipes, stories and all kinds of cooking tips while I am away including strawberry rhubarb ice cream, grilled artichokes and a slew of veggie-friendly dinner ideas to get you through the nine days.

Posted on June 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

What I’m Cooking for Shabbat

I am actually really excited about our Shabbat dinner tonight. I am trying out some new recipes, and experimenting with some gluten-free dishes now that my sister is on a gluten free and dairy free diet. My idea of Hell is a world where I couldn’t eat bread or dairy desserts.

So what’s on deck for this week’s Shabbat menu?

When I saw this recipe for Indian Barbecue Chicken, I knew I had to make it! Instead of using chicken breasts, I am going to make a whole roasted chicken and then serve the barbecue sauce on the side.


My sister has decided she is going to make some Shaved Zucchini Noodles with Kale Pesto. I am eager to see how they turn out. While searching for recipes I also came across this recipe from Whole Food Diary for Zucchini Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes and Kale Pesto. It looks incredible, gluten free or not. This recipe has also inspired me to look into buying a “spiralizer” to make cool, uniform veggie pasta!

angel-food-zb-12I have been drooling over this recipe from Zoe Bakes for Citrus Angel Food Cake with Peaches, but I think it is going to have to wait a little while. Frown.

Instead I decided to make this recipe from Whole Foods for non-dairy Rice Pudding, made with coconut milk and cinnamon. I also added a tsp of vanilla extract and star anise for a little extra punch. It smells divine and I can’t wait to serve it to my sister.

Shabbat Shalom and happy cooking!

Posted on June 21, 2013

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Chatting with The Hester, Orthodox Speakeasy Mama

Have you heard about The Hester? Operating out of the Ditmas Park, Brooklyn home of Itta Werdiger Roth and her husband, the writer Matthue Roth, The Hester is part speakeasy, part pop-up locavore restaurant, part music club and 100% kosher. Crain’s called it a “Secret Schmooze club” back in December.

But what is it exactly? How does one go? Where did it come from? And what is in store for its future?

This week I had the chance to chat with Itta and learn more about how The Hester was born and what lies ahead for the one-of-a-kind kosher food venture.

IttaMelbourne-born Itta comes from a large, Lubavitch family for whom “community entertaining” was just part of her upbringing. Itta is one of seven children and credits her love of entertaining to her large family who was always opening up their home for celebrations, including a large Purim party they held for their community each year.

“I feel like I was just born into it,” she shared. “The act of opening up your home. A lot of people grow up that your home is a private place, but that’s just not how I grew up.”

But what makes The Hester unique isn’t just about the space it’s operating in: it’s also very much about the food, which focuses on local, seasonal items. “It’s a celebration of really good vegetables” says Itta. The menu features dishes that are dairy but also items catering to those with special diets. At one of their last events they featured a seasonal rhubarb cocktail, and Itta herself has been churning out homemade ice cream in flavors such as lavender vanilla. Drinks and music are an integral part of The Hester experience, but Itta herself focuses on ensuring the quality of the food that is served.


Like her love of entertaining and opening her home, Itta credits her love of cooking and fresh ingredients to her family, especially her mother and grandmother.

“I always had an interest in food, especially eating it. Everyone in my family was a good cook. My mom is a great cook and grows fresh herbs in her garden. Freshness is one of the biggest things I learned from my mom, in fact, I cannot even remember a dish that she used dried herbs for.”

It may seem like a big leap to go from a general love of food and entertaining, to running a kosher speakeasy out of your home. But Itta makes it sounds like it was the most natural of evolutions.

Itta accidentally fell into a personal chef type of job and it ended up suiting her quite well.  She went on to have a number of different food related jobs including working at the Brooklyn kosher restaurant Pardes, which she credits for teaching her about how a restaurant runs and the importance of presentation of food.

IMG_1325-420x420After moving into their Ditmas Park home, Itta started putting the pieces of The Hester together, talking about her vision for the project, collecting random things like extra wine glasses and tables and chairs from local restaurants. When Itta’s cousin, who is a musician in Melbourne, told her he was coming to NYC and was looking for a venue to perform, Itta exclaimed, “I know just the place.”

They had no idea how many people would show up on that first evening, but in the end there were over 100 people crammed into Itta and Matthue’s home, definitely too tightly packed in, but having fun all the same.  “The food was great. The music was great. People had a great time. I kept thinking, ‘this is totally where I want to be right now,’” said Itta.

Sometimes the name of a band or restaurant is completely random. But that’s not the case with The Hester, whose name has an awesome story behind it. Itta explained to me that it was pretty close to opening night, and they still didn’t know what they were calling the new endeavor. Itta started researching the names of different speakeasies and Jewish gangsters for inspiration. And pretty soon her sister discovered a woman named Kate Hester, a real woman, who had owned a saloon in Pittsburgh that continued to operate even after a ban on liquor. Kate operated the saloon illegally, and whenever her patrons would get too rowdy she would say, “speak easy boys.”

Itta says “she was like the mama of speakeasies.” And thus the name, “The Hester” was born. But the name is also a biblical reference to Esther as well as a nod to Jewish Eastern European immigrants who settled in New York on Hester street. Any way you slice it, a pretty cool name.  And Itta is a pretty cool kosher speakeasy mama in her own right.

When I asked Itta about her and her husband, who is a writer and video game designer, and whether she thinks they are out of the box for the orthodox community, she pushed back, saying, “There’s lots of different kinds of people, and some of them are orthodox. Maybe we are unique in some ways, and maybe we aren’t so unique also. But it’s time that people stop stereotyping. There are a lot of Jews who think that what we are doing is just for kosher people, but it’s not. It is a unique experience for everyone, not just kosher-keeping Jews.”

So what’s next for The Hester? Itta shared that she is ready for her vision to move from operating out of her house and into a more permanent space. And while she has thus far operated without official kosher supervision, she recognizes that it won’t be practical not to have a hechsher moving forward.

She has enjoyed hosting small sit down dinners of 20-25 guests in the past couple of months and aims to do more of those, while still hosting larger events from time to time. Not surprisingly, the smaller events are more manageable for Itta and her staff and take less out of the busy mom.

Check out The Hester’s website and Facebook page to stay tuned about their upcoming events. I know I can’t wait to see what Itta does next.

Posted on June 20, 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

Going Gluten Free (and dairy free too!)

No, I am not going gluten free. I remain the self proclaimed queen of challah and all delicious carbs. But my sister was recently diagnosed with a gluten and dairy allergy, and so researching and coming up with creative meal and snack ideas for her has been my latest project.

It suddenly seems that everyone has a gluten allergy and that gluten free baking and eating and packaged foods are everywhere, no? I am not sure I buy into it. But it’s not my stomach, I love my sister and so I will do whatever I can to be supportive.

Last week week Chocolate-covered-Frozen-Banana-PB-Bites-1024x1024we made a version of these Chocolate Covered Frozen Banana Peanut Butter Bites. Ours didn’t turn out quite as beautiful as these, but we will be working on round two this weekend and I remain hopeful. We also decided to sprinkle a tiny bit of sea salt on top of each one. You know I love anything sweet and salty! And regardless of how pretty they were (or were not) they were delicious!

In my recipe searching I also came across a recipe for these Gluten Free Vegan Banana Peanut Butter Chip Cookies which look simple and yummy.

On Whole Foods website, as well as others like Epicurious, you can search recipe according to ingredients and special diet, which is how I came across this Dairy-Free Rice Pudding recipe.

Friends and foodies have been sending me ideas for recipes for my sister including Spaghetti Squash Bolognese and this Vegan Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili, both sound hearty and healthful, And while I keep suggesting different combinationsof entree salads, my sister insists salad can get boring after awhile, and so I am now on the lookout for non-salad lunch and dinner options. (got any good ones? send them my way!)

I fully recognize my shortcomings in the area of a restrictred diet such as this, but I did find a great list of bloggers who ARE the experts. Check out this list of 10 Inspiring Blogs for Gluten Free Food & Cooking from The Kitchn.

You can also get specifically kosher, gluten free recipes from Rella Kaplowitz of The Penny Pinching Epicure including her recipe for Mini Yogurt Muffins featured on The Nosher last week!

Got a good gluten free, dairy free recipe for us? Please comment below and let us know! We are on the lookout and can’t wait to get some more creative ideas to stay satisfied and healthy.

Posted on June 18, 2013

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Gluten Free Mini Yogurt Muffins

I like to say that baking is chemistry, and gluten-free baking is a science.

The secret to baking gluten-free goodies that are very close to the real thing lies in producing the “stretch factor” without gluten and using the right mix of gluten-free flours.

Creating the Illusion of Gluten

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt that creates the “stretch factor” in batters and dough. Adding xanthan gum, guar gum, or psyllium husk to the mix helps create the same stretchy properties, and results in a chewy rather than crumbly baked good.

The Right Mix

In general, a mix of gluten-free flours will always be better than a single gluten-free flour. This is because no gluten-free flour can closely mirror glutinous all-purpose flour.

The gluten-free flours I use most frequently are sorghum, millet, brown rice, and tapioca. To add richness, I also sometimes add almond or hazelnut meal into the mix. A lot of my recipes have been developed through trial-and-error, but there are also many resources online for gluten-free baking.

I buy my own flours separately and combine them in different ratios depending on the recipe, but there are also some great gluten-free flour mixes out there: My favorite brand for all of my gluten-free flours is Bob’s Red Mill and Namaste is a close second. You can find gluten-free flours at most mainstream grocery stores these days, although it is usually cheaper to order them online.

Gluten-free baking is a bit more complex than glutinous baking, but I promise the results are so much better than store-bought gluten-free baked goods.

Cranberry pistachio yogurt mini-muffins

These yogurt mini-muffins are the perfect grab-and-go breakfast or snack, packed with whole grains and protein. I offer two mix-in options below (coconut-chocolate chip and cranberry-pistachio), but feel free to add other nuts, dried fruit, or sweet morsels of your choosing. This is recipe is adapted from the Kitchn.

Gluten Free Mini Yogurt Muffins

Posted on June 12, 2013

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Broken Bundt Chocolate Mousse Trifle

8-10 servings

I always advise people never to try new things when you are bringing something or hosting a meal. And what did I decide to do? Try a new cake recipe to bring to someone’s house who I had never met. This past Thursday night, I opened my trusty copy of Kosher By Design Entertains and decided to make a simple vanilla and chocolate swirl cake recipe for Shabbat dessert. Easy enough, right? Wrong!

The recipe itself was great – the cake batter was awesome! I mean, obviously I licked the spoon. And then disaster struck: I let the cake cool 15 minutes and removed the cake. And it broke. Broken Bundt. #fail. So now what!?

Well, at 11:00 pm I decided to make another dessert. This time I would make my tried-and-true, always-a-hit salty doubly chocolate chip cookies. Except that somehow I under-baked them too much, and they were more like slightly baked cookie dough rather than perfectly chewy cookies. Yet another fail!

What was going on with me!?

Whenever I am whipping something up in the kitchen, I always post the photos to Instagram (are you following me yet? well why the heck not! Follow me here!). And on Thursday night I posted the photo of my poor, poor broken bundt. And lo and behold, a fellow pareve baker suggested I turn the cake into a trifle. Genius!

And that’s just what I did.

mousse trifle2

Now, the cake recipe is really the least important part. So to make this trifle you can use the same recipe from Kosher By Design Entertains, or you can use a store bought angel food cake or you can even use brownies if you want to be really indulgent.

For you dieters out there….you can actually leave out the cake entirely and simply layer different kinds of fruit together with chocolate mousse and some slivered almonds for crunch. Like a dessert parfait, but with chocolate mousse. Ok, ok, not exactly diet food. But slightly less carb-heavy.

For the trifle I made I used this recipe for the chocolate mousse. But truth be told, usually I live and die by this recipe for Olive oil and chocolate mousse from The New York Times. You can use any mousse recipe that suits you.

Don’t have a trifle dish? You can use just a big glass bowl! I bought mine from Target! But you can also order one from Amazon like this one.

Well, happy broken bundt baking everyone!

Broken Bundt Chocolate Mousse Trifle

Posted on June 11, 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

Chorosh Sabsi

8-10 servings

Chorosh Sabsi, or Persian Herb Stew with Dehydrated Limes, is pure goodness! I was very excited to share this recipe when Shannon Sarna told with me that it is her favorite Persian dish.

The meat of choice should be lean. Bison is a very lean meat, but unfortunately it is hard to find. Veal is a fine choice as well. All those greens will do wonders for your body! Make sure to get your portions right. Your protein (in this case meat) should be about the size of a deck of cards while your complex carbs (the vegetables) should be two handfuls. You get plenty of that in this stew. The beans, if you chose to use them, will also be an additional source of protein. In fact, if you are a vegetarian, you can either replace the meat for seitan or you can exclude it all together and double the kidney beans. Sour grapes are really hard to find, so don’t worry if you can’t add them…the lime is the one that does the magic!

Chorosh Sabsi

Tricks of the trade

Keep in mind that Shirazis do not add red kidney beans, while Tehranis do. I personally add them for a splash of color! Also, the dehydrated limes give it a great taste and authentic look, but you can get away with not adding them too. If all you have available are ground dehydrated limes, use 1 tablespoon instead. You can order dehydrated limes online from under lemon omani.

Persian Herb Stew with Dehydrated Limes (Chorosh Sabsi)

Posted on June 7, 2013

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Outsourcing My Daugher’s Birthday Party

choc cupcakesAfter our daughter was born, the number of people who told us “it goes by soooo fast” was too many to count. And they were right. A year has passed, and I can’t believe our daughter is a walking, babbling one year old little lady.

When I started thinking about my daughter’s first birthday party, which was quite literally 6 months ago, I knew that I didn’t want to be too stressed about an event that would be far more about us and our family than about our daughter. After all, how much will she possibly remember!? And I have seen many friends stay up all night obsessively decorating cakes and cupcakes for their child’s first birthday party, and I knew I did not want to be doing that!

Being a baker and food blogger I have a lot of friends who share my passion for baking and, well, food. And so instead of stressing myself out I asked my talented friends to make their “specialties” for the birthday party.

I was blown away by what they produced! Chocolate covered strawberries in several varieties made by my dear friend Laura; chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting and pink sparkly sprinkles from Sara Bakes Cakes; Strawberry Sugar Cookies by Brittany the Baker; Mini Panna Cottas with Macerated Strawberries and Tuiles from my dear friend and trained pastry chef Danielle Feinberg; and the most stunning strawberry and lady bug themed cake by my dear friend Kim Stoll. Not only was the cake beautiful to look at, but it was also delicious: fluffy white cake with a delicious strawberry buttercream made just for Ella, since strawberries are her absolute favorite.

Ella bdaycake1

And while I tried to sit back and truly not make anything, I had to whip up just one thing for my little lady’s birthday. I decided to go simple and classic with a homemade funfetti cupcake topped with my favorite new sprinkles: confetti sprinkles! I think the sprinkles add a fun, modern twist on the classic birthday cake. And you can order your own confetti sprinkles in several varieties on Amazon! (Yes they are kosher!) And for you fellow bakers out there I used an 8B tip, also from Wilton, to make those cool swirls with the icing.

birthday cupcakes

In typical Jewish mom fashion I was worried for weeks whether there would be enough to eat…and now I will be eating birthday cake for the next week. But hey, I am not complaining. I mean, who doesn’t want to eat a delectable slice of birthday cake before bedtime!?

We’ll probably scale back on the party, and the number of desserts, for next year. But this was a super fun way to celebrate our lady turning one with our friends and family. I was so proud of the beautiful things my friends created and so honored that instead of me staying up till 2:00 am decorating, they were willing to do it for me! Those are some good friends!

strawberry cookies


Posted on June 5, 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