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.

Soom Foods Chocolate Sesame Spread

Yield:
1 shake

I love all things that involve chocolate, sesame or taste like halva. Nevertheless I was skeptical when Soom Foods wanted to send me a jar of their Chocolate Sesame Butter. I have nutella already, and I like it just fine. But try it I did. And so did my two year old. Let me say: I am totally in love. It is rich, a little salty and I like to pretend its super healthful since sesame is supposedly so good for you.

I didn’t have a chance yet to bake it into anything yummy, but I am sure it would go great inside rugelach or make a fabulous frosting on cake. I did have time to try it out in a post-workout smoothie and it was divine. The result was a chocolatey, slightly savory smoothie that really satisfied my craving for a milk shake.

soom-foods-smoothieBut perhaps our favorite way to eat it was right out of the jar on slices of apple or mini pretzels as an afternoon snack.

And now through June 30th Soom Foods is running a “From the Jar” contest to feature their fans’ photos eating the chocolate sesame spread straight from the jar. You can enter on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter by using the hashtag #fromthejar with a photo of yourself or someone you love eating Soom Chocolate Sesame Butter straight from the jar.  So go ahead, get messy and have fun with those pics.

You can also check out Soom Foods’ full line of products and order straight from Amazon.

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Chocolate Sesame Banana Smoothie

Ingredients

1 cup ice

1-2 Tbsp Soom Foods chocolate sesame spread

1/2 banana

1/2 cup lowfat milk

1 scoop chocolate protein powder (optional)

Directions

Place all ingredients in a blender. Pulse until desired smoothness.

Serve cold with a straw.

Posted on June 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

Blogger Spotlight: Chosen Bites

Anyone who knows me (or reads this blog) knows I am not the biggest supporter of the gluten-free fad. In fact, I am actively and vocally pro-gluten. Not that I am insensitive towards those with special dietary needs, which is why I chatted recently with Rella Kaplowitz from Chosen Bites to better understand why and how one adjusts to such a diet.  Rella’s creations always look delicious, even despite the lack of gluten. So stay tuned for her gluten-free butternut squash mac ‘n cheese!

Rella head shotOk Rella: talk to me about gluten-free food, diet, and why you chose to jump on the bandwagon.

The short answer is, although I tested negative for celiac disease, gluten makes me really sick. I’ve had stomach problems my whole life, and up until about 5 years ago I figured it was just a way of life. Then a friend of mine mentioned trying a gluten-free diet, and within 6 months I was living “intestinal distress” free! I had also been severely lactose intolerant (like having to take 6 Lactaid pills to eat a scoop of ice cream intolerant) since I was about 15, and about 2 years after being gluten-free I was able to introduce dairy back into my diet. I’ve been eating loads of dairy ever since to make up for lost time.

 What do you think about the fact that gluten-free is now sort of trendy?

There are pros and cons to the gluten-free fad. On one hand, being gluten-free is so much easier now than it was 5 years ago. The market is inundated with gluten-free products, restaurants are catering to gluten-free diets. On the other hand, many people fail to understand the difference between people who are gluten-free by necessity (i.e. gluten makes them severely ill) and people who are gluten-free because it’s a lifestyle choice. When I ingest gluten, I can feel the aftereffects for a few hours or several days depending on how much gets into my system. It’s not a joke—but some people think being gluten-intolerant is fake and aren’t as careful as they should be (like restaurants who serve gluten-free pasta but boil it in the same water as gluten-full pasta).

Is there something you have tried to make gluten-free but just didn’t work?

I can’t seem to recreate a real, NY-style bagel that’s gluten-free. There is something about the crispy outside, chewy inside that just isn’t replicable. Which is very sad considering that is the ONE thing I truly miss since cutting gluten out of my diet. I did make a great pretzel roll recipe. And while it’s not a bagel, I love this coconut blueberry granola recipe as a satisfying breakfast.

coconut blueberry granola

Do you have resources you would recommend to others keeping a gluten-free diet?

There are so many good resources for people who maintain a gluten-free diet.

  • The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has a wealth of information about celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and a gluten-free resource directory with tons of products and services to help support a gluten-free diet.
  • Gluten-Free Goddess is very kosher friendly since most of the recipes are vegan or vegetarian in addition to being gluten-free.
  • Gluten-Free Girl is an excellent resource for gluten-free baking.
  • Gluten-free products can be expensive, so I order all of mine online (especially gluten-free flours) mostly through Vitacost. Most grocery stores will have what you need but it could cost as much as 50% more.

The one thing I will add is beware of websites offering medical advice. There is a lot of bad advice out there, and you should ALWAYS consult with a doctor before doing anything that might have a health impact.

What’s the best thing to happen as a result of baking and blogging for you?

I love being in the kitchen—at the end of a long day, I find it cathartic to pull out a bunch of ingredients and create something delicious. People laugh when I tell them I de-stress after work by making dinner or baking a batch of cookies, but it’s true! And once I started blogging, it allowed me to share my gift of cooking and baking with others. There is also an unbelievably warm community of food bloggers, especially food allergy focused bloggers.

So…you sell gluten-free, kosher baked goods. What kinds of products do you offer?

You can see everything I offer on my website. I can customize most of my items—they aren’t just gluten-free, they can also be free of other allergens like dairy, soy, corn, tree nuts, and peanuts. Right now I’m primarily selling in the DC area, although I ship orders pretty regularly too.

ginger snap cookie

What’s next on the horizon for Rella and Chosen Bites?

I would love to grow Chosen Bites in to a bigger business selling delicious baked goods that make people forget they have food allergies. However, it’s still a hobby right now—I have a day job that takes up a lot of my time too! So I guess the answer is, I don’t know what’s on the horizon but I’m certainly open to riding things out to see where they lead.

Posted on June 17, 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

Egg Cream Float

Yield:
1 egg cream

A fond memory of my childhood is the New York-style egg creams my dad would whip up for me on Sundays during lunch. Sundays were the most relaxed day of the week in our home and I suppose a home-made egg cream was a sign we could all enjoy ourselves just a tad a more.

Egg creams are light, refreshing but still somehow a little rich. Chocolatey. Sweet. And according to my dad (and many other egg cream aficionados) MUST be made with Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup. My dad also taught me that the ratio of milk to chocolate syrup is very important for a good egg cream.

egg-cream-float-1

I had been thinking recently that adding a scoop of ice cream to an egg cream would be a great way to really take it to the next level. But why stop with ice cream? You could also add a shot of Baileys or Kahlua to make a more “adult” version.

Want to make it non-dairy? Use vanilla almond milk, or leave out the milk all together and add a scoop of your favorite non-dairy ice cream.

But my favorite touch to this updated egg cream was the colorful sprinkles. An extra touch of whimsy had me traveling back to the Sunday lunches of my childhood.

egg-cream-float-4

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Egg Cream Float

Ingredients

2 Tbsp U-Bet chocolate syrup

2 Tbsp milk

1 cup seltzer

1 scoop vanilla ice cream

Whipped cream (optional)

Sprinkles (optional)

Directions

Pour chocolate syrup into tall glass. Add milk on top.

Then add seltzer. Make sure seltzer does not reach top of glass or it will spill over. Using a spoon, stir chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer vigorously. It will be foamy on top.

Add scoop of ice cream, whipped cream and sprinkles if desired. Enjoy with straw.

Posted on June 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

Foodie Gift Ideas for Dad

When Father’s Day was just about buying my dad something and a card, well, that was a piece of cake. Well, actually it was usually a pair of new socks.

But now that I am married with a child, Father’s Day takes on a whole new meaning. And let me just say—my husband is really not the easiest person to shop for. In fact I really rack my brain each year to get him something he will love, something that is meaningful and something he doesn’t already have.

But your search for the perfect gift shouldn’t be as trying as mine. So with the help of some other daddy food bloggers, I have put together a list of some Father’s Day suggestions for the foodie dad in your life. Got other ideas? Don’t forget to post below!

Grilling  and grilling accessories is an obvious choice, says Yosef Silver of This American Bite. So he suggests the Big Green Egg Grill. You can also pick up the corresponding Big Green Egg Cookbook.

Dani Klein of YeahThatsKosher.com suggests a night out to a great steak place, and he even compiled a list of New York-area steak places. I know my husband enjoys a good night out with steak and scotch, so I that was also a great idea too.

scotch collage

For the Whiskey Lover

Scotchy Scotch Glasses

Scotch rocks

coffee collage

For the Caffeine Addict

French Press Travel Mug

Milk Frother

Coffee and Spice Grinder

Cold Brew Coffee Set

deli collage

For the Deli Lover

Indoor/Outdoor Stovetop Smoker

I Luv Pastrami Mug

The Mile-End Cookbook

beer glasses

For the Beer Lover

Home-Brewing Set

Beer Glass Sampler

fun gifts collage

Other Fun Gift Ideas

NYC Travel Mug

Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food

Mensch Mug

Best. Dad. Ever. Apron

 

Posted on June 9, 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

Shavuot Menu Ideas (Blintzes, Cheesecake, Ziti – Oh My!)

June is a tricky time for a holiday like Shavuot. On one hand, I love having an excuse to make dairy-centric meals. But on the other hand, I don’t want to eat heavy, cheese-laden food this time of year. As we approach Shavuot I have put together some of recipe ideas that include some lighter fair perfect for outdoor eating and warmer weather. Hope this inspires you! Tell us what you’re making below, and submit any questions if you’re looking for input or advice.

wedge-salad-1

To start:

Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing & Challah Croutons

Labne Watermelon Corn Salsa Spinach, Blueberry & Goat Cheese Salad

Chickpea Arugula Salad with Tahini Dressing

Cucumber Avocado Soup

Creamy Roasted Beet Soup

tomatoes 2

For the main event:

Cauliflower Tomato Bake with Basil & Parmesan

Grilled Eggplant Mozzarella Stacks

Green Lasagna

Classic Blintzes or Gluten-free Blintzes

blintzes-stamped

Strawberry Rhubarb Blintzes

Baked Salmon with Caramelized Onions

Baked Ziti Cupcakes

SONY DSC

And for cheesecake…

Classic Cheesecake

Lavender Cheesecake

Black and White Cookie Cheesecake

Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake

rhubarb-cheesecake-3

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Posted on June 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

Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake

Yield:
8-10 servings

When I look at rhubarb, it reminds me of some sort of alien plant. It’s not really appealing, and yet it is so coveted for spring cooking. I will admit: it does some wonderful things when cooked despite its unusual appearance.

rhubarb-cheesecake-4

Others may say that this simple vegetable has genius qualities and a beautiful color. Which is does of course. On its own it can be bitter, but when paired with fruit, especially springtime strawberries, it balances perfectly in many combinations.

Since rhubarb has been in abundance at my local farmer’s market, and because I love trying new things, I decided it was high time I conquered my apprehension around rhubarb. Also my husband loves it, so it’s an easy way to shut him up for a bit.

rhubarb-cheesecake-1

Shavuot…rhubarb abundance…it was clear a strawberry rhubarb topped cheesecake was only natural for this time of year.

Some of my other favorite strawberry rhubarb recipes to highlight?

Strawberry Rhubarb Blintzes from Leah Koenig

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream from Naomi Sugar

Rhubarb Rugelach from Tamar Fox

rhubarb-cheesecake-2

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Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake

Ingredients

For the topping:

2 cups rhubarb, sliced

1 cup strawberries, sliced

2 Tbsp orange juice

¼ cup water

1 Tbsp cornstarch

For the crust:

10 whole graham crackers

¼ cup melted butter

1 tsp sugar

¼ tsp sea salt

For the filling:

3 8 ounce packages of full fat cream cheese

2 cups sour cream

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp fresh lemon zest

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse graham crackers, sugar, salt and melted butter until crumbs form.

Press crumbs into bottom of springform pan. Bake for 7-9 minutes. Allows to cool completely.

In a large bowl beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add sour cream, vanilla and lemon zest. Mix in eggs.

Pour cream cheese mixture into prepared graham cracker crust. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until middle is just set but jiggles slightly. Allow to cool on a wire rack and then chill in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

To make the topping, place rhubarb, strawberries and orange juice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook 7-10 minutes, until the strawberries and rhubarb start breaking down. Combine corn starch and water and add to rhubarb-strawberry mixture. Continue cooking another 5-7 minutes until mixture is thick and strawberries and rhubarb are completely broken down and soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

After the cheesecake and topping have both cooled, spoon strawberry-rhubarb mixture on top of cheesecake. Serve chilled.

Posted on May 30, 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

Green Lasagna

Yield:
6-8 servings

I grew up eating lots of very traditional Italian-American lasagna, baked ziti and anything else you could cover in homemade tomato sauce and cheese. And I loved it – I mean who doesn’t!? Garfield the cat was even one of my heroes growing up. I always appreciated his feisty-ness towards his sibling (Odie), his appreciation of napping and of course his love of lasagna.

green5

In the past few years I have yearned for lasagnas with a little more flair, and a little less sauce. I have made a white pumpkin lasagna, and a white lasagna with spinach and pine nuts. I have included a béchamel, and left it out. I have even experimented with different kinds of cheeses.

As the greens of spring have taken over at my local farmer’s market, a lasagna recipe was once again creeping into my head. Peas, fresh herbs…something was simmering.

green6

When I suggested a puree of spring peas with herbs basked into a creamy lasagna, my husband was less than enthusiastic. He responded to the idea saying, “Um..ok. I guess let’s see how it turns out.”

I love it when my husband has to admit he was wrong, and in the case of this lasagna, he had to concede defeat as he shoveled another bite into his mouth. And though I actually hate peas, this lasagna is absolutely out of this world, creamy and full of fresh spring flavors. It’s also perfect for a Shavuot celebration. Pair with a crisp glass of white wine and a simple mixed green salad and you have a complete meal especially appropriate for a June lunch.

green3

I actually ended up making this recipe two ways. Once with regular, store-bough lasagna noodles which was delicious. And a second version with homemade spinach noodles. You can try either – they were both creamy, lighter than you might think and really yummy. It really depends on the amount of work you want to put in. Making your own noodles is delicious, but much more time consuming.

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Green Lasagna

Ingredients

8 ounces whole milk ricotta

8 ounces mascarpone cheese (or another 8 ounces of ricotta)

12 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated

¼ cup grated parmesan

1 egg

2 cups fresh or frozen peas

2 Tbsp butter, melted

1 Tbsp fresh mint

1 Tbsp fresh parsley

1 Tbsp fresh basil

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

12-15 lasagna noodles or homemade spinach noodles

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Boil a large pot of salted water. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to the pot as the water is coming to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles as directed, around 7-8 minutes. Drain water and layer noodles on a baking sheet drizzled with a smidge of olive oil to prevent sticking. You can also put sheets of parchment paper in between noodles.

In a food processor fitted with blade attachment, pulse peas, herbs and melted butter until desired smoothness.

In a large bowl mix together ricotta, mascarpone, all but 1 cup of the grated mozzarella, parmesan, fresh herbs, egg and the pea mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix until just combined.

Drizzle bottom of a 9X13 baking with olive oil. Layer lasagna noodles so that they overlap just slightly on top of one another. The bottom layer should be 4 noodles. Layer about a third of the cheese-pea mixture on top and smooth using a spatula or back of a spoon.

Repeat with three layers. On top of the third layer of noodles, add the remaining grated mozzarella, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and another drizzle of olive oil.

Cover with tin foil.

Bake for 25-30 minutes covered. Remove foil. Bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese on top is melted and slightly bubbly. Allow to cool before cutting.

Posted on May 29, 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

Dishes for Memorial Day Weekend

The long weekend is finally here and I am ready for some relaxing. I am also ready for the start of outdoor picnics, barbecues and other summer gatherings.

Struggling with what to make? We’ve got some ideas to wow your guests all weekend long. So turn on the grill, open some wine and take a deep breath, And maybe a big sip of a cocktail.

strawberry lemonade martini

Strawberry Lemonade Martini

Peachy Summer White Sangria

grilled artichokes 1Grilled Artichokes

Israeli Salad

Spring Quinoa with Pesto and Greens

Watermelon Corn Salsa

salsa

Spinach Steak Salad with Mango Peach Salsa

Fried Chicken

Ultimate Kosher Burgers

Roast Chicken with Spicy Honey BBQ Sauce

bbq-honey-chicken-2

Pretzel Ice Cream Pie

Berry Crumble Pie

berry crumble pie1

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Posted on May 22, 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

Roast Chicken with Spicy Honey BBQ Sauce

Yield:
1 whole chicken

Summer is almost here. I can feel it. Every time we get a warmer day the women of NYC are giddy with sandal wearing and summertime accessories. The flowers are blooming, the farmer’s markets have returned and the season of grilling is almost upon us.

Growing up, BBQ sauce-slathered chicken was a staple, probably only because covering chicken in a sticky, sweet sauce was a surefire way to get the kids to eat it. But at some point I fell out of love with “BBQ chicken.”

bbq-honey-chicken-2

That is until I started making my own sauce. I have had some great bottled BBQ sauce, and I know some people swear by their go-to brand. But for me, making it from scratch makes all the difference between good chicken, and chicken people can’t stop talking about.

This spicy honey BBQ sauce is really quick to whip up and is inspired by this recipe from Taste of Home, one of my go-to places for tried-and-true home cooked dishes. I kept the coffee in, which really adds just a subtle flavor and balances out the sweetness of the honey and ketchup well.

This chicken is perfect for Shabbat and also for a summer BBQ. I promise, your guests will not stop talking about it.

Note: if you don’t have an upright chicken roaster I recommend investing in one like this. They are really cheap (less than $10) and make such a difference making a super moist chicken with crispy skin.

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Roast Chicken with Spicy Honey BBQ Sauce

Ingredients

For the chicken:

1 whole chicken

¼ cup orange juice

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, smashed

Salt and pepper

For the BBQ sauce:

2 Tbsp olive oil

½ medium onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup ketchup

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup plus 2 Tbsp honey

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup strong brewed coffee or espresso

Generous pinch red pepper flakes or 1-2 small dried chilies

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a medium bowl mix together orange juice, olive oil, garlic cloves, salt and pepper. Place chicken in a large, ziploc bag and pour marinade over chicken. Allow to marinate for at least one hour in the fridge or up to 3 hours.

In a medium saucepan, saute onions until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in ketchup, vinegar, honey, soy sauce and coffee. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low-medium. Simmer for 35-45 minutes stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roast chicken upright using an upright roaster for 50-60 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees when inserted. About halfway through roasting, brush some of the BBQ sauce all over the chicken and place back into the oven until cooking time is complete.

Allow the chicken to rest long enough to cut into quarters. Drizzle additional BBQ sauce on top and serve.

Posted on May 21, 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

Jewish, Japanese, and Delicious

I am all too familiar with a story like Francesca Biller’s, who shares this week what it’s like to be Japanese and Jewish, especially where the kitchen is concerned. As an Italian-Jewish hybrid myself, I love exploring how to create mash-up combinations of classic Jewish food with Mediterranean flavors. Balsamic Apple Date Challah anyone?

Francesca-(Udon)

Franseca grew up with charoset and mandelbrodt served alongside chicken gyoza and udon noodles. What a lucky lady!

And we are lucky too, because she shared two of her family’s Japanese-Jewish mash-ups on the Jewish& diversity blog this week, including Chicken Udon Noodle Soup. Just when you thought chicken soup couldn’t get any better.

Posted on May 14, 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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