Author Archives: Shannon Sarna

Shannon Sarna

About Shannon Sarna

Shannon Sarna is an avid baker, blogger and all around food-lover. Born to an Italian mother who loved to bake, a Jewish father who loved to experiment, and a food chemist grandfather, loving and experimenting with diverse foods is simply in her blood. When she isn't tweeting, eating, or tweeting what she's eating, Shannon spends her time in Jersey City, NJ with her daughter, her husband, and her rescue dog, Otis.

Double Chocolate Chip Challah

Yield:
One large loaf or two smaller loaves

I always say that I loathe Passover, but there is a part of me that also enjoys it. Or at the very least, appreciates its value. It’s a week where we are challenged to be even more thoughtful about the food we eat and where it comes from. And it’s almost like our own version of a Spring cleanse. Bye-bye carbs, hello vegetables and creative use of potatoes. I do feel lighter after a week without bread and pasta, despite my bitching and moaning all the way through. And believe me, my husband can vouch for my constant kvetching.

choc-challah-stamp2But the time has come to indulge in some carbs once again, and I can’t wait to get back to my Friday routine of baking challah with my daughter.

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And do you know what’s better than challah? Chocolate chip challah. And perhaps even better than chocolate chip challah? Double chocolate chip challah laced with cinnamon, vanilla and dark cocoa powder.

I swear by Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder and highly recommend you keep it stocked for cookies, cakes and sometimes even challah.

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Double Chocolate Chip Challah

Ingredients

1 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast

1 1/4 cup lukewarm water

1 tsp sugar

5 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 Tbsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1/3 cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

1 egg yolk

thick sea salt (optional)

Directions

In a small bowl, place yeast, 1 tsp sugar and lukewarm water. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.

In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and vegetable oil. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture. Mix thoroughly.

Add another cup of flour and eggs until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.

Remove approximately half the dough and place in a large bowl. Add cocoa powder and 1/2 cup flour and mix. Add half the chocolate chips another 1/2 cup-1 cup of flour and knead on a lightly floured surface until dough is smooth and elastic. Add more floured if needed. Set aside.

Add the remaining chocolate chips and 1/2 -1 cup flour to the plain dough and mix into dough. Add another 1/2 cup flour and continue knead on a lightly floured surface for around 10 minutes or until the plain dough is also elastic and smooth. Add more flour if needed.

Place both doughs in separate greased bowls and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise 3-4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combining dough from both the plain and chocolate challah, braid into one large loaf or two smaller loaves. If attempting a six braid, I like this video tutorial.

Allow challahs to rise another 30-60 minutes, or until you can see the the size has grown and challah seems fluffy and light to the touch.

Beat 1 egg yolk and brush liberally over challah. Sprinkle thick sea salt on top if desired.

Bake for 27-30 minutes, or until middle looks like it has just set, and the color is golden.

Posted on April 23, 2014

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

Nosher Seder Menus 2014

We know menu planning can be tough, especially at Passover, so each year we like to help make the Passover prep a bit easier by providing some of our favorite dishes.

Check out our three sample seder menus below. Make the whole menu, or pick and choose based on your taste and dietary needs! We know it will be delicious no matter what.

Chag kasher v’sameach and a very happy Passover to all our readers.

matzo balls2

Traditional Seder

Haroset

Marinated cucumber salad

Matzo balls and chicken soup

Passover rolls

Brisket

White wine-braised chicken thighs with tomatoes and potatoes

Mini potato kugels

Flourless chocolate cake

White-Wine-Braised-Chicken-Thighs-with-Leeks,-Potatoes-and-Tom-4

Vegetarian-ish Seder

Moroccan haroset

Homemade gravlax

Vegetarian chopped liver

Cream of carrot soup with roasted jalapenos

Eggplant casserole

Salat tapuz

Crispy asparagus with minced egg

Sweet potato pie with macaroon crust

 

candied-walnut-pom-haroset-

Unusual flavors seder

Candied walnut and pomegranate haroset

Cuban matzo ball soup

Tuscan chopped liver

Fennel celery salad

Short ribs with orange and honey

Coconut crusted chicken with plum sauce

Mashed sweet potatoes with shallots

Almond butter & jam mousse trifles

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Posted on April 10, 2014

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

Almond Butter & Jam Mousse Trifles

Prep:
24 hours

Yield:
6 mini trifles

During Passover each year, I really like to keep things simple. My husband and I make mostly the same dishes for our seder, stock the fridge with all our favorite produce and dairy products and try to keep things basic, fresh and delicious. But of course, I also rack my brain trying to come up with fun new ideas that are scrumptious but not too difficult to execute.

Last year I made Rachel Khoo’s cheese and potato nests with brie (no bacon) and this year I am going to make some zucchini noodles with a hearty Bolognese sauce (made with my new spiralizer – have you ordered one yet!?)

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And I also dreamed up a light but delectable new dessert recipe. Of course it isn’t really peanut butter & jelly, since I know most American Ashkenazi Jews don’t eat kitnyot. But it has the same richness as peanut butter and tastes like a bread-less PB&J sandwich. Adults and kids will love it, and it’s a nice break from all the flourless chocolate cake and macaroons.

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If you don’t have mini cups, you can use individual plastic cups to make the trifles or also use a large trifle dish for family-style serving. After all, Passover is definitely a holiday all about family. So grab a spoon and dig in!

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Almond Butter & Jam Mousse Trifles

Ingredients

For the pie crust:

1 cup sliced almonds

4 Tbsp melted butter or margarine

2 Tbsp brown sugar

2 Tbsp almond meal

¼ tsp sea salt

For the almond butter mousse:

2 14 ounce cans full-fat coconut milk, or 1 can coconut cream

¾ cup almond butter

¼ cup sugar

4 egg whites

2 cups raspberry or strawberry jam

Whipped cream (optional)

Fresh berries (optional)

Directions

Make sure to chill the coconut milk overnight.

To make the crust:

In a sauté pan over medium heat, toast almonds until fragrant, around 3-4 minutes. Be careful not to toast too long or almonds will burn and taste slightly bitter.

In a food processor fitted with blade attachment, pulse toasted almonds, butter or margarine, brown sugar, almond meal and salt. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand. Set aside.

To make the mousse:

Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the ¼ cup sugar, whisking until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Remove lid of coconut milk without shaking or tipping the can. Scoop out the solid cream and place into a chilled bowl. Leave the liquid in the bottom of the can and reserve it for soups, smoothies or other recipes. If cream has not come to top, put coconut milk through fine mesh sieve and discard liquid.

Using a hand mixer, beat until creamed together, around 1 minute.

Add almond butter one tablespoon at a time and mix until smooth.

Gently fold egg whites into almond butter mixture a few tablespoons at a time until incorporated. There shouldn’t be any streaks.

Layer individual cups or trifle dish with pie crust crumbles, then mousse, then jam and repeat.

Garnish with whipped cream and berries if desired.

Posted on April 10, 2014

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

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield:
2 dozen cookies

I love it when people taste my pareve desserts and say, “Wow—this is pareve!?”

It’s the same rule with Passover dishes and desserts. Which is why I am on a never-ending search for the perfect Passover desserts that are good enough to eat all year and just happen to also be Passover-friendly.almond-butter-chocolate-chip-stampIn one of my searches I came across this recipe for Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies which I realized could easily be made Passover-friendly just by swapping out the peanut butter for almond butter. I adjusted a few ingredients and the result is a super tasty, chewy cookie that is good enough to enjoy all year. Your guests are sure to ask incredulously, “Are you sure these are kosher for Passover?” Truly the ultimate compliment.

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup almond butter

1 egg

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

thick sea salt (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together almond butter, egg, brown sugar and vanilla.

Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Spoon out tablespoon-sized mounds onto ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with pinch of thick sea salt on top if desired.

Bake for 11 minutes, and then allow to cool for 5 minutes while cookies remain on the baking sheet. Transfer to baking rack to cool completely.

Posted on April 2, 2014

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

Latke-Crusted Chicken Breasts

Yield:
4 servings

A few years ago my dear friend and fellow food-enthusiast Rachel traveled to the Czech Republic to explore her father’s family roots. While there she experienced some amazing native and Jewish-inspired food including a chicken schnitzel wrapped in potato pancakes.

STOP THE PRESSES.CHICKEN WRAPPED IN POTATO PANCAKES. YUM.

When I heard about latke-crusted chicken, I was enamored. In love. I had to recreate this masterpiece.

latke-chicken-3So as I was thinking about Passover and something new to make this year, it dawned on me that this chicken dish could easily be Passover-friendly. And while I don’t normally use matzo meal or potato starch in my Passover cooking, this recipe does require small amounts of both. But it’s so delicious, it’s worth it.

latke-chicken-1Flipping the chicken with the potato latke crust is probably the trickiest part, so just do it carefully using a good spatula and you will be fine.

Latke-Crusted Chicken Breasts

Ingredients

4 medium Yukon gold potatoes

1 small yellow onion

¼ cup matzo meal (or flour)

1 egg

2 tsp sea salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

Pinch paprika

¼ cup potato starch (or flour)

2 eggs, beaten

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Oil for frying

Directions

Using a food processor fitted with the shredding disk or a hand-grater, shred potatoes and onion. Place in a large bowl. Add egg, matzo meal, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Stir until combined. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Squeeze excess liquid out of potato latke mixture.

In a large pan, heat oil on medium-high heat.

Coat each chicken breast in potato starch, then beaten egg. Place thin layer of potato latke mixture on one side of chicken and place potato-side down in frying pan. Add additional layer of potato mixture on top of chicken while the first side is cooking.

Cook for around 4 minutes, or until potato side is golden brown and starting to crisp. Carefully flip to other side and cook another 3-4 minutes.

When both sides are golden brown, place pan into oven or place chicken onto a baking sheet and cook in oven 15 minutes or until cooked-through. This may vary depending on thickness of chicken.

Serve hot.

Posted on March 26, 2014

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

Passover Cookbook Roundup

There are no shortage of Jewish cookbooks out there these days, and Passover is no exception. With the holiday fast approaching, I am furiously recipe testing, menu planning and pouring over the stack of Passover cookbooks that has collected on my desk.

Here are a few of my favorites and a few new releases special for Passover 2014.

4 bloggers dish

4 Bloggers Dish, Amy Kritzer, Liz Rueven, Whitney Fisch, Sara Lasry

This e-book cookook exclusive is the collaborative effort of four prominent Jewish food bloggers including Liz Rueven of Kosher Like Me; Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat, Whitney Fisch of Jewhungry and Sara Lasry of The Patchke Princess. The photos are beautiful and the recipes are innovative. And at less than $5, you’re not likely to have buyer’s remorse.

Passover made easy

Passover Made Easy, Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek

The first thing I noticed about the Passover Made Easy cookbook was how beautiful it was. The second thing I noticed was that there is potato starch in nearly everything, which is not my my personal preference in how I approach Passover cooking.

I like some of the special touches in the cookbook such as a brief wine guide at the beginning, some pretty plating ideas for Seder dinners and a replacement index to provide alternatives to different ingredients. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of meatballs in blueberry sauce, which sounds like something my 2 year old might suggest for dinner, so I probably won’t be giving that one a try.

But the brisket egg rolls, citrus beet salad and potato flanken kugel sound like my cup of tea, so can’t wait to try them out.

No Potato Passover, Aviva Kanoff

Tired of potatoes during Passover? Aviva Kanoff was too which is why she wrote the No Potato Passover cookbook. The recipes are no frills, but simple enough for most cooks. The photos of Aviva’s recipes and travels are stunning. You can read more here about Aviva’s journey as a cookbook author and check out her recipe for Spaghetti Squash Kugel.

Taste of Pesach_dust jacket-2.inddA Taste of Pesach, multiple contributors

If your family loves meat and kugel, then this is the cookbook for you. There are so many kinds of roasts, steak and kugel in this cookbook, it will keep you busy all week long. The dessert selection features several mousse recipes, a personal favorite during Passover as well as an intriguing Tri-Color Sorbet Ring that is striking if only in appearance. And while many of the recipes seem like they could also have featured prominently in a Sisterhood Synagogue cookbook, there are also some surprising recipes like the White Velvet Soup with Honeyed Chestnut Garnish and Rhubarb Compote.

Posted on March 25, 2014

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

Blogger Spotlight: Aviva Kanoff

Aviva Kanoff, author of No-Potato Passover, and I have “known” each other for years, but never actually met until last week. I had followed her career as a cookbook author the past few years, partially because I loved her approach to fresh cooking for Passover and her mouth-wateringly beautiful photography, and also because we have several mutual friends in common – such a small world!

We finally had the chance to sit down for coffee together last week so I could hear about her latest project, Gluten Free Around the World and talk all things Passover.

Aviva Kanoff1

Where did the idea for No-Potato Passover come from?

Several years ago I came up with the idea to do a no-potato Passover challenge with my family. I thought: what would happen if we didn’t use ANY potatoes this year during Passover!? And because I am the kind of person who likes to really do things full-force, this wasn’t going to be just a Passover with limited potatoes: it would be literally no potatoes. When I told my mom she had a heart attack. But finally she came around. I did let my family have a few potatoes for carpas.

When I went shopping for the no-potato Passover Seder, it was like I was seeing color for the first time: green brussel sprouts! Purple eggplants! Red beets! Prior to that year I had had potato tunnel vision.  I felt very excited at this challenge. It was like an adventure.

So how did the book come about?

no-potato-passover-coverI actually have a degree from the French Culinary Institute, but it wasn’t necessarily something I wanted to pursue professionally. At least not being a restaurant chef. But I also would never have pictured myself as a cookbook author. Now in hindsight it makes perfect sense; it seems so obvious. I love cooking, food, travel and photography. Writing a cookbook really combined all my passions.

After that first no-potato Passover with my family, I gave myself a year to write the book and said if I could get it done I would try to publish it myself.

How has the cookbook influenced you and your cooking?

I actually now want to be a food educator after writing these two cookbooks. I have realized that I love turning people on to new foods that they never would have tried otherwise. My family didn’t even eat brussel sprouts until two years ago, and now they love them!

Too many people think that healthy eating is expensive and time-consuming. I want to educate people about accessible, healthy eating. I think people don’t want to believe that healthy cooking is so simple because then they don’t have an excuse.

I mean, my dream is to swim around in a large pot of pappardelle pasta with butter. But who can do that?! Just because it’s yummy doesn’t mean it’s good for you. And I want people to choose more foods that are good for them.

How do you plan your Passover menu?

I always have a tentative menu, which I print out and put up on the front of the fridge. But even after I write it up, it varies. I will leave room for changes and improvising especially because I like to see what’s fresh at the supermarket. I will go shopping and get carried away with beautiful artichokes or purple cauliflower, and then suddenly we have an addition to the menu. I get distracted by beautiful produce like a kid in a candy shop.

I also like to make sure my menus are inclusive. I am sensitive towards special diets and preferences, so I always try to incorporate dishes that everyone can eat.

coconut chicken

What’s your favorite dish to make during Passover?

My coconut-crusted chicken with plum dipping sauce. I was always envious when I saw coconut-crusted shrimp and so I wanted to make a version I could eat. The plum dipping sauce is a great way to use up fruit that is starting to go bad so it doesn’t go to waste.

So what’s next in the world of Aviva Kanoff?

My next cookbook is coming out in June 2014 – Gluten Free Around the World. With this cookbook I wanted to create something beautiful for people with gluten free diets. But I didn’t want it to be negative. I wanted this to be a gluten free “adventure” instead of “dealing with your disease.”

Posted on March 18, 2014

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

Rainbow Hamantaschen

Have you seen the gorgeous rainbow hamantaschen making its way around the internet in time for Purim? I first noticed the beautiful and innovative hamantaschen on the instagram feed of Kitchen Tested and also featured them in my own round-up of Sweet, Savory & Booze-Inspired Hamantaschen. What a beautiful and creative labor of love.

Rainbow-Hamantaschen-finalAnd just this week one of our friends over at the Keshet blog decided to try her hand at making the colorful treats. Check out Jordyn’s version—not too shabby for a non-baker!

KeshetPurim-1-of-1-131What do you think: Are you daring enough to try your hand at this?

KeshetPurim-1-of-1-7Make sure to check out Jordyn’s adventures in rainbow hamantaschen-baking!

Posted on March 12, 2014

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

Coconut Cheesecake Hamantaschen

Yield:
2 dozen cookies

Some things don’t require a lengthy intro, and these hamantaschen are precisely that. I made them last year and was determined to recreate them this year in time for Purim. With only a few days until Purim, I got to work late last night and I am happy to share that they are as delicious as I remember!

coconut-cheesecake-haman-3The filling is creamy, with a hint of coconut inside, and the perfect amount of toasted coconut on top. Tip: note in the directions to chill the assembled cookies before baking them. This will ensure your filling doesn’t leak out and the cookie remains intact.

coconut-cheesecake-haman-2Want to take these totally over the top? Melt some dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and drizzle on top. Allow chocolate to cool and harden completely before serving and eating.

Coconut Cheesecake Hamantaschen

Ingredients

For the dough:

½ cup butter

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 Tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

For the filling:

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup heavy cream or coconut milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup shredded coconut

3 Tbsp sugar

extra shredded coconut

Directions

Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add egg, milk, and vanilla until mixed thoroughly.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry mixture to wet mixture until incorporated.

Note: if the dough is too soft, increase flour amount by ½ cupfuls until firm.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

To make the filling, combine cream cheese, vanilla, heavy cream or coconut milk, shredded coconut and sugar until smooth.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Dust surface with powdered sugar or flour to keep from sticking. Roll the dough to about ¼ inch thick.

Using a round cookie cutter, cut out and place onto cookie sheet. To keep the dough from sticking to your cutter, dip in powdered sugar before each cut!

Fill each round with the coconut cream cheese filling, and using your favorite method, pinch corners together tightly. Add extra shredded coconut on top.

Place in fridge for 10 minutes before baking.

Bake for 7-9 minutes.

Posted on March 11, 2014

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

Adult-Approved, Kid-Friendly & Kosher

I love when friends and family send me baking or cooking questions – it always gets me excited! And just last week a friend on Facebook reached out to me seeking ideas for recipes that would satisfy both her daughter and her and her husband. I mean, isn’t that always the question for busy parents? What can I cook up quickly that my kid will eat and I can enjoy as well?

So to answer her question, here are a few of my favorite cookbooks, blogs and recipes that have proven crowd-pleasers for my family.

When my daughter was first born my friend Sara sent me a copy of Parents Need to Eat Too, from writer Debbie Koenig, Not only does this book contain a host of great recipes, it really got me thinking on how to cook things that could be adapted for both kids and parents. I loved reading through this book and highly recommend it as a great starting point for the busy parent who likes to cook.

ParentsNeedToEatToo-pb-c

Some of the ways this book got me thinking was around how to use one ingredient or dish several ways. For example, a simple roast chicken (bought or made) is one of the most versatile items you can cook weekly in order to satisfy all your family members. Chicken breasts can be sliced and put on top of a hearty salad, mixed in with veggies and pasta or made into chicken salad. And now that my daughter is almost 2, she loves getting her little hands on a drumstick. When she was younger we might mix up some finely diced chicken with rice for a yummy dinner.

Steamed broccoli and diced, roasted sweet potato pieces are another favorite to keep in the fridge. Broccoli gets eaten plain by our daughter, and we can use the broccoli to put on top of pizza or served alongside a weeknight entrée.

Weelicious is one of my favorite kid-focused blogs where I get inspired. And while I originally started making these Broccoli Cheese Patties for my daughter, my husband now covets the bite-sized morsels.

Broccoli-Cheese-PattiesI have also made their Green Macaroni and Cheese which I am happy to admit I could not stop eating it was so good. The site also features an entire section dedicated to Family Meals. Check it out!

Speaking of family-friendly macaroni and cheese, my Mac ‘n Sweet Potato Cheesy Sauce is another recipe I created specifically for my daughter, but it turned out so delicious that my husband, me and even my brother can’t help but dishing out a bowl of it for ourselves too.

Another blog I love that has family-friendly recipes is Two Peas and their Pod. Sure, they feature lots of cookies (who says that isn’t family friendly) but I also love their simple, healthful ideas for meals like Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Sandwich. Yum!

smashed-chickpea-avocado-salad-sandwich2Looking to get interactive with your kids in the kitchen? Then you may want to try Susie Fishbein’s Kosher by Design Kids in the Kitchen cookbook. I love involving my daughter in the kitchen with me, whether it’s “mixing” or rolling out dough, Ella loves standing next to me no matter what I am whipping up. So don’t be nervous – just pull up a kid-safe stool and let your kids help, even if they do make a mess.

mommy and Ella in the kitchenWe always want to hear from you – got some family-friendly recipes to share? Post below!

Posted on March 10, 2014

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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