Monthly Archives: July 2013

Is that baby DELICIOUS or what!?


When my siblings and I were little, my mom used to grab our chubby arms and pretend to munch on them. She would take a few “bites” then tell us it needed some salt, and maybe some pepper too. Then proceed to munch a bit more. We loved this game and it always resulted in us erupting into giggles at her antics.

I’ve noticed during the past year the frequency which Jews (in particular) love to call my daughter ‘delicious,’ and I must confess that I am guilty of using this phrase to describe adorable children as well. Jews also use the Yiddish word “pulkies” to describe my daughter’s chunky (adorable) thighs, which is always said with tremendous affection. I only wish someone would describe my chunky thighs as adorable and edible. I am still waiting. But I digress.

But how did it come about to equate cuteness with edible-ness? In the case of the Jewish use of “pulkies,” which also means chicken legs, there is clearly a direct link between food and adorableness. Jews love food (doesn’t everyone!?), Jews love babies. I guess it makes sense. even has an entry for delicious, stating the  synonyms for delicious as “cute; loveable.” Well babies are definitely those things, or at least, most of the time.

I am hardly the first person who has posed this oh-so-important question relating to babies and the etymology of adorable edibleness. In fact, this dad writes not that it is a Jewish phenomena, but that is a way women one-up one another in describing just how cute a child is. There’s also an actual scientific phenomena called “cute aggression,” but I am not gonna touch that concept.

By saying that a child is so cute that we want to eat them, or taste them, we are really paying tasty food the highest compliment: there is nothing better than eating something yummy. I guess a close second is cute baby.

I would still love to know if there is any actual Yiddish connection to describing children as ‘delicious,’ so if you know of one please comment below and let us know!

In the meantime, happy baby nibbling. But not really (we hope)!

Posted on July 31, 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

Peachy Summer White Sangria

6-8 servings

Making fresh sangria is one of my favorite year-round drinks to mix up at home.The thing I love about sangria (or shangria as we like to call it in my home) are the endless combination of flavors you can create depending on your tastes, mood and what’s in season.

Last week a dear friend of mine was coming over for a long-overdue catch up. We had discussed going out for drinks and a bite to eat with my daughter, but as my eyes fell onto a bowl of peaches that were just slightly over-ripe, I decided we should stay in and I would whip up a batch of shangria instead.


Some might say you should be picky with the wines you choose for sangria. But I say: use whatever you have on hand! And in this case, I had a bottle of Baron Herzog Sauvignon Blanc leftover from a recent Shabbat dinner. It turned out to be a perfect base for a light, Summery sangria. Add some strawberries, a bit of orange-flavored liqueur and club soda or ginger ale, and you are ready with a light, fruity and slightly fizzy drink.

Want some inspiration to create your own perfect pairing? Here are a few recipes that caught my eye:

AMEX_COCKTAILS_34Watermelon Sangria

Cucumber Sangria with Honeydew and Mint

Tequila Sangria with Blackberries and Citrus

Need the perfect serving set for your sangria? I love this super affordable 7 piece set which includes glasses for all your friends too. Sangria isn’t meant to be enjoyed alone, after all.

Cheers! Or rather, l’chaim!

Peachy Summer White Sangria

Posted on July 30, 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 the Heck is a ‘Pop-Up Shabbat’!?

Last week I told you about the first pop-up Shabbat, “Shabubbe” which I had the privilege to provide challah and dessert for. But everyone has been asking me this week: “what the heck is a pop-up Danya smilesShabbat!?”

Pop-up Shabbat is the beautiful brainchild of Danya Cheskis-Gold, and to understand a bit about Danya is to understand how pop-up Shabbat was born. Danya is a natural community-builder and social connector with a warm smile a mile-wide. She’s been a national recruiter at Teach For America, a founding employee at Skillshare, a consultant for early stage startups, and is now the Director of Community at Spark Capital. In New York, she joined the boards of Jewish non-profits, tested out synagogues in Brooklyn and the Upper West Side, but above all the “Jewish stuff” she did, hosting potluck Shabbat dinners for friends was the most fun and meaningful. And so, this is how the idea for pop-up Shabbat came about.

Pop-up Shabbat will be taking place a few times throughout the year, each with its own name (this time – ShaBubbe) , theme and location. The Shabbat dinner-evening-experience is designed particularly for connecting and is “Jewishly sourced,” which Danya defines as “inspired by Jewish culture but can be enjoyed by all.”

kvass cocktails

When guests first arrived, they were greeted by the music offerings of the Jewbadours, as well as a kvass, gin and orange bitters cocktail made by the talented folks from Gefilteria. And then Danya officially kicked off the evening with words of welcome, a dvar torah and Kiddush.

The first part of the meal itself were some small bites also from the Gefilteria, including pickled watermelon rinds and pickled string beans, as well as their traditional beet borscht.

Chef Melanie Shurka served a variety of Persian flavor-inspired dishes, including two stand-outs: “kuku sabzi,” fritters of fresh parsley, cilantro, tarragon and celery served with labneh yogurt and onions stuffed with ground beef, lentils, rice, herbs, tomato and lime.

Persian chicken

The evening took place in the Brooklyn space of Kitchen Surfing. I might have gotten lost once trying to get there, but thanks to my iPhone and a helpful cab driver, I made it in one piece, albeit a bit sweaty.

And of course, challahSONY DSC and dessert was provided by yours truly: rosemary and garlic challah rolls, “everything bagel” challah rolls, and a selection of macaroons. I would like to think they were enjoyed by all, at least from the generous compliments I received from those in attendance. Perhaps my biggest fan of all was the evening’s artful photographer Cait Oppermann who I noticed kept sneaking roll after roll. Thanks Cait!

This was first taste of what I hope will be many other Jewishly inspired Shabbat dinners with new flavors and new friends to meet.  In the meantime, if you are interested in hearing more about pop-up Shabbat make sure to like the Facebook page for updates or learn more on the website.

I will share that the most exciting part about this first pop-up Shabbat wasn’t even the food – it was celebrating Shabbat in a new way with a group of Jews I had never met before. Somehow we were all connected, either through a shared love of quality Jewish food, or through a social connection. But we were all connected.

For me personally, it’s nice to be out and about with people and my baked goods, as opposed to my usual role here: behind the keyboard. So while I love to connect online, it also feels good to have the chance to meet people, taste delicious, new food and collaborate with other like-minded Jewish-food lovers.

Posted on July 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

The Ultimate Gluten-Free Challah Recipe

The first bread I ever learned to bake was challah. My grandmother was a rebbetzin famous for her glorious displays of baked goods, including challah. Once I started baking myself, my favorite time of the week was Shabbat dinner, when we’d lift the cover to reveal my braided loaves. We would all sigh, stomachs rumbling.

A bite of challah

After a year of exploring the wonderful world of baking bread, my one-woman gluten fest came to a rather rude end. I’d been ignoring my chronic stomach pains and bloating, and though I tested negative for celiac, I decided to try a gluten-free diet just to see. Both to my dismay and relief, my pains subsided, my energy level increased, and I began to feel more like myself again. I swore off bread and wallowed in self-pity until I took a shot at baking gluten-free bread. I soon discovered wonderful and tasty gluten-free flours, some made from grains I’d never even heard of.

A pinch of challah

After crafting this basic gluten-free bread recipe, I went off to create a challah recipe that would make my grandmother proud and would even be worthy of hamotzi and hafrashat challah, the blessing over separating and ritually burning a small piece of bread, also known as “taking challah.” (See “Challah Back,” my rabbinic source sheet all about challah baking!)

Challah with salt

According to Jewish law, challah can only be “taken” if made from one of the 5 grains named in the Bible: barley, rye, wheat, oat, spelt. Bread made from other grains can be kosher, but you cannot say hamotzi over it, nor can you take challah from it. Guess what? Those 5 grains are the grains that gluten-free eaters avoid. Oats, however, can be gluten-free if grown, harvested, and processed away from wheat.* A rabbi I consulted suggested that while no teshuva, or responsum, has been written on the topic, the oat flour must be at least 51% of the flour in the bread.

Based on these requirements, I put together the recipe below (using this amazing Kaiser Braided Loaf Pan, and served on my beloved Triassic Industries cutting board). Enjoy!


Gluten-Free Oat Challah

Posted on July 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

Baking for “ShaBubbe”

What’s that saying – no rest for the weary!?

I got back from three weeks in Israel this past Sunday morning (during which time I was mostly working). Unpacked. Attempted to get back on New York time. And almost immediately was back to work in my kitchen baking batch after batch of macaroons and challah rolls for New York City’s first ever pop up Shabbat – “Shabubbe.”

I am so excited (and nervous) to be included in this first Shabbat pop-up restaurant and honored to be among so many culinary creatives. In fact, some of the same talented people, including the folks at Gefilteria, who brought you The Kubbeh Project earlier this year, will also be participating in tonight’s first pop-up Shabbat restaurant. Personally, I love the idea of finding new ways for Jews to meet one another, celebrate Shabbat and enjoy amazing Jewish food.


So what am I making? It may not seem like the season for macaroons. But I really love the traditional Passover treat. In fact, I first fell in love with chewy, coconut macaroons….at the movies! When I was in high school I used to frequent a small movie theatre nearby in Connecticut. It was the only movie theatre featuring a multitude of foreign films and documentaries (yes, I am a HUGE nerd). The movie theatre also featured – you guessed it – huge, moist coconut macaroons that were half dipped in chocolate. I was used to the canned variety my grandmother would buy at Passover, and could only wonder why all macaroons didn’t taste as good as the ones sold at my favorite movie theatre,

Well, fast forward, and I would like to think I have perfected recreating this childhood favorite, and even added my own spin.

So for ShaBubbe tonight I made two different kinds – macaroons with mini chocolate chips dipped in dark chocolate, and plain macaroons with dark chocolate and salted caramel sauce dirzzled on top.


How to make your own?

I like using this recipe from Martha Stewart! Try drizzling some melted chocolate on top along with this recipe for salted caramel sauce. The best part about the caramel sauce? It makes a big batch, so you can use the leftovers for an ice cream topping. Or to dip fruit. Or heck, just dip a spoon in it and enjoy.

Maybe next week will be quieter. But for now I have to get back to baking challah!

Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom, however you will be enjoying it.

Posted on July 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

Farm Fresh Watermelon Corn Salsa

When summer comes around, I love to take inspiration from the amazing fresh seasonal produce to create light and healthy dishes. The juicy melons and brightly flavored veggies work wonderfully to create sweet and crunchy salsas, tangy chutneys and colorful salads.


Picking your own produce at a U-Pick farm is a great way to spend a Sunday with the family. My kids relish the opportunity to pick blueberries from bushes and corn from the ground. We take home our amazing bounty and enjoy the farm fresh taste of just-picked fruits and veggies. If you’ve ever been to a farmers market, you know that there is no comparison between freshly picked produce, and the stuff sitting on the shelf in your grocery storkitchen-tipe.

Using bright and sweet farm fresh produce requires little preparation. I usually dress my salads minimally with olive oil and citrus, allowing the fresh flavors to speak for themselves. This watermelon corn salsa is a great example. I’ve made it with both raw and cooked corn – each is equally delicious.

TIP: A great way to remove corn from the cob, is to cut the corn over a bundt pan, allowing the kernels to fall into the bowl, instead of all over your counter.

For more recipes from Chanie check out her blog Busy in Brooklyn.






Watermelon Corn Salsa

Posted on July 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

Eating My Way Through Israel

Hi everyone – I am back from Israel! Hope you have been enjoying all the amazing guest posts while I ate my way through Israel the past few weeks!

We landed yesterday morning at 5:30 am, and the first thing I am missing? You guessed it – Israeli breakfast! Is there anything more delicious to the eyes (and mouth) than a huge spread of salads, freshly baked breads, cheeses and fruit!? The Israelis sure know how to do breakfast.

Coming back from Israel always has a bittersweet feeling to it. On the one hand, you are eager to return home. And on the other hand, you feel like you are leaving the other part of your ‘home’ and family behind. In some ways this is an appropo feeling to be carrying with me for the next 24 hours, as we commemorate a number of tragedies that befell the Jewish people on Tisha B’Av.

I will be missing the beautiful beaches and sunsets of Tel Aviv; and missing the rhythm of a Jewish week: the excitement and busy-ness before Shabbat, and the quiet, calming atmosphere that takes over even Tel Aviv. And most of all, I will be missing the wonderful food of Israel.


So what did we eat? I imagine you have been waiting to find out. More accurately? What DIDN’T we eat!? I will share the highlights.

With the Summer Israel heat, keeping cool and refreshed is a top priority, and so one of my favorite uniquely Israeli treats I enjoyed was an iced limonana. Limonana is a minty lemonade very common throughout Israel. But the iced limonana was so refreshing, I just couldn’t get enough – it was like a slushy! Thankfully The Shiksa has a recipe so I can recreate it at home soon! Want to take it up a notch? Add a shot (or 2 – hey I won’t judge) of Arak, also known as Raki, an anise-flavored liquor.

Since it opened, I have heard so much about the famed restaurant Mahane Yehuda, inspired by and close to the Mahane Yehuda market (shuk) in Jerusalem. The restaurant is not kosher, in fact, there are many obviously treif (or non-kosher) items on the restaurant’s menu. But it’s actually one of the things that I think is so cool about it. Not everything in Israel is kosher, not all Jews keep kosher, but we can all be inspired by the same culinary influences of Israel.

The food itself is incredible and diverse. And equally stand-out is the atmosphere – an open kitchen allows you to experience the food from start until it hits your plate; loud, lively music pipes through the restaurant while the host and waiters dance along smiling; and the décor inside includes baskets full of fresh fruit and vegetables, reminding you precisely of the shuk nearby that inspired.

There were so many dishes to choose from, but we chose three items that were either highly recommended or seemed a bit ‘different’ from typical Israeli fare, including creamy truffle polenta, sautéed sweetbreads with malawah and a Persian stew similar to gormeh sabzi, made with swiss chard instead of spinach!


Heading to Jerusalem and want to check it out? Make sure to make a reservation well in advance! We actually got lucky, showed up early for lunch and they were able to seat us. They may have regretted that decision after our daughter ran around the restaurant and I kept snapping photos. But we enjoyed, so thank you!

When I was in Israel a year and a half ago, a friend recommended I visit the Olia stand at Ha Carmel market in Tel Aviv – and wow was I happy that I heeded that advice! I came across their Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette which is addictive as a salad dressing. So on this trip, I made sure to send the husband to stock up some of our favorite products including three different kinds of olive oil, the fig balsamic and a pomegranate balsamic. Hoping this will last us, at least until the next trip! But you don’t need to go all the way to Israel to enjoy – you can actually order Olia products online too.


There are so many other amazing treats we enjoyed on this trip, but they will have to wait for now. For those fasting during Tisha B’av, I wish you an easy fast. I will definitely be thinking about Israel in the coming days as we reflect on Jerusalem.

Posted on July 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

Helping in the Kitchen

People often ask me how I learned to cook, and I never know how to answer. I didn’t ever have cooking lessons, go to culinary school, or anything at all organized or professional. I don’t even have many memories of my mother or anyone else really teaching me how to do anything cooking related―I was just expected to help from a young age, and that somehow resulted in my knowing how to cook and being comfortable in the kitchen.kidsinkitchen

Now that I have a step-daughter, I’m a lot more aware of ways to subtly teach her to cook and to be comfortable in the kitchen. I don’t want to do any kind of formal teaching, but we make a big effort to include her in cooking whenever we can. Here are some of my favorite ways to include a kid in cooking:

Dumping and mixing
Even kids who are too young to measure out ingredients themselves can dump premeasured ingredients into a bowl, and mix them around.

Vegetable prep
Young kids can help with some kinds of veggie prep. The more advanced can peel vegetables, but if your kid isn’t quite there yet, he or she can shell peas, or trim green beans (just snapping off the ends) pull the trunks out of mushrooms, and break broccoli or cauliflower into florets. Bonus: helping with veggies often makes kids more likely to eat the veggies.

Greasing pans and garnishing
Little things like spraying a pan with cooking spray, or adding a dollop of yogurt to a bowl of soup, can be fun and easy ways for kids to help with low stakes.

Anything involving dough
Braiding challah, rolling out pie dough, and using cookie cutters on cookie dough are all fun for people of all ages.

I also like to give kids cookbooks that they might get into. I’ve heard great things about Mollie Katzen’s Pretend Soup and I’m a big fan of this British young man’s cookbook for kids Sam Stern’s Cooking Up a Storm. It’s for teens, technically, but I’ve found younger kids like it, too.

Posted on July 11, 2013

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The Best Mini Kitchen Tools

Even though I live in what most non-New Yorkers would describe as a tiny city apartment (600 sq. ft.), I have a nice size kitchen and have not been shy about filling its drawers and covering its counters with cooking tools and gadgets. Of course, everyone has accumulated items that after months of ignoring they realize maybe weren’t so useful after all (i.e., herb cutter).

But even within the more practical category, I seem to return to the same few tools over and over again. Much like the way I wear the same clothes week after week, despite a closet-full of pants and shirts (some with the tags still on them). I am a working mom with a toddler, so while I am not regularly opening pop-up cafes, or even cooking full meals every single night, I seem to always be in the kitchen and always using these items. Only after creating my list did I realize that all of them are small versions of larger ones.

Still, I insist, these recommendations are not only for fellow New Yorkers (or dollhouse owners), as I am confident I would continue to use the same favorite utensils if I lived in a massive home (anything over 800 sq. ft.).

All items are under $10 and can be purchased online or in most kitchen and home good stores.


1. Serrated pairing knife: If I were on a cooking Survivor-like reality show and was allowed to take only one knife, it would be this one. I am absolutely certain I use this knife in more ways than Victorinox ever intended, and quite certainly do not execute any sort of proper technique with it. However, this is the knife I reach for when I need to cut a tomato, a cucumber, a challah roll, a block of semi-hard cheese, a cupcake (of which I am pretending I will only eat half), or when I need to slice through the top of a plastic bag of salad greens. I own three.

2. Small spatula: I am persistent, and I ask a lot of questions. Some might call me nosy. I am also just a smidge anal-retentive (just a smidge). But, really, I just like to get to the bottom of things…like peanut butter jars, cream cheese containers; and get every last remaining cholesterol-filled drop of mayonnaise. This spatula does the job, and does it well. I also use it a lot when mixing up small batches of sauces, spreads or glazes.

3. Small scoop colander: Whether it is for my son or myself, this is so handy when rinsing off a serving or two (or three) of fruit, and even pasta, and other cooked items. There is also the kind that collapse flat but I like this one by the brand Arcitec in particular because of its more ergonomic design, ya know, it’s “scoopiness”.

4. Mini whisk: This one could easily be dismissed as nonessential but it truly is the best tool for whisking a quantity of eggs suitable for a Sunday morning breakfast. Larger whisks cause the viscous egg to sloppily fling over the bowl’s sides, and a fork simply doesn’t efficiently combine the whites and the yolks. Anyway, at $1 price tag, this whisk is no risk. (Note: whisks do come even smaller. I had one of these whisk keychains once and actually used it successfully. For some reason I am proud of this.)

5. Small offset spatula: Even if you only bake the occasional box-mix brownie (which I will not judge but say simply that brownies from scratch are so fast and easy you really should think about); or, to be honest, you just like spreading cream cheese on your bagel like it’s a mini birthday cake, this off set spatula is super handy. I actually use it in almost every baking recipe I make, including real birthday cakes.

Posted on July 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

Butter vs. Margarine

Despite growing up in the Midwest, mine was a margarine house growing up. The only time we had butter in the house was during Passover, when we bought whipped butter to spread on matzah. The butter was kept in the fridge, and as a result was incredibly hard. Trying to spread it on matzah was like trying to spread a piece of cement. Mostly you ended up with many tiny pieces of matzah with butter crumbs on them.butter

My parents bought margarine for two reasons: it was pareve, so it could be used to make desserts for nights we were eating meat, and the conventional wisdom of the time said that it was healthier than butter.

For desserts, margarine worked just fine. I can remember my mother and her friends wondering why the local kosher bakeries couldn’t make good pareve cakes, when they were so easy to make at home using margarine. We made sugar cookies with margarine, and all manner of cakes and pies.

But sometime around grad school, I was making a recipe that called for butter. And I realized that since I was a vegetarian, and didn’t ever need to worry about dairy after a meat meal, there was no reason for me to buy margarine. So I bought butter, and I was completely blown away by how much better it was—as an ingredient it performed better, and the taste. Oh, the taste.

That’s the key argument in the butter v. margarine debate: butter has a taste, a flavor. If you use margarine instead, you’re losing that flavor. Margarine is tasteless. It may function the way you need butter to function in a recipe, but ultimately you end up with something weaker. That’s part of the reason so many kosher cooks now look for recipes that use other fats instead of butter, so that they don’t need to substitute margarine.

As for margarine being healthier than butter…it depends on the margarine. And it depends how worried you are about transfats. (Butter, like everything else, should be consumed in moderation, particularly if you are worried about your heart health.) But I’ve been converted to butter, and I’m never going back.

Posted on July 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