Halloween is almost here, did you know? Hard not to notice with pumpkins, spiders and candy corn everywhere.
And Halloween actually falls on Shabbat later this week, which for some people, I know, will be problematic. Some Jews don’t think we should celebrate Halloween at all. And some Jews think American Jews can and should embrace the celebration.
I fall into the camp of celebrating and I just love making fun treats, especially now that I have a daughter to share in the fun. And last week I made cookies that are equal parts fun for kids and delicious for adults. I brought a batch of these cookies to my share with family this past weekend, and by Sunday, they were totally gone; even all the skinny, dieting women in my family devoured them.
I love baking with dark chocolate usually, but these milk chocolate and butterscotch cookies are seriously delicious. The dark cocoa powder sets off the sweetness of the milk chocolate. I also like to add a pinch of thick sea salt before baking, which really elevates the flavor.
This recipe is based on Martha Stewat’s Milk Chocolate Cookie Recipe, which can be found in her cookbook Martha Stewart’s Cookies: The Very Best Baking Treats to Bake and to Share.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 ounces good-quality milk chocolate chips (for melting)
3 ounces good-quality milk chocolate chips (for mixing)
3 ounces butterscotch chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
candy eyes (optional)
thick sea salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
Melt the 4 ounces milk chocolate with the butter in a glass bowl in the microwave for 30 second increments. Stir vigorously after each time until the chocolate-butter mixture is shiny and completely smooth.
Beat the chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs and vanilla together using a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Add dry ingredients.
Fold in milk chocolate and butterscotch chips.
Using a cookie scoop, drop dough onto silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets. Add candy monster eyes and sea salt if desired.
Bake 13-14 minutes, until cookies are flat and the surface cracks. Allow to cool 2 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Every year when the Jewish holidays roll around, we expect the frenzy of excitement, cooking and never-ending meals. And yet by the end, I am still pretty tired of standing in my kitchen cooking and baking.
Now that it is Shabbat again, and time to prepare yet another meal, the last thing I want to do is spend hours in my kitchen cooking, but I still want to have something homemade that we will all enjoy.
What’s a tired cook to do? My solution is to roast. I make a roast chicken, roasted vegetables and not much else. No frying, sauteing, mixing or other excessive patchke-ing in the kitchen. The abundance of fresh fall vegetables makes this as delicious an option as it is easy.
If you haven’t tried my easy, delicious citrus herb roasted chicken, you will see why I call it my BEST roast chicken. You can also try this version of roast chicken which includes veggies and chicken all in one delicious dish.
These sweet potatoes and carrots with apple cider and thyme is simple and delicious. But if even that seems like too much work? Just throw a bunch of seasonal veggies into a baking dish with salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees for around 45-50 minutes until caramelized. This is one of my favorite ways to prepare cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts and even potatoes.
Last but certainly not least: dessert! I find it hard to enjoy any meal without a sweet finish. My s’mores brownies are so easy, you can whip them up in 5 minutes. Yes, there will be some stirring involved, but you only need one bowl and a pan.
Next week I will get back into some more complicated cooking. Or maybe not. But for now I need a nice glass of wine and my couch for a little while.
Shabbat Shalom! Wishing you an easy, enjoyable Shabbat and weekend.
It’s autumn, and sure, we all love pumpkin. But there are also an array of other squash and seasonal veggies that are pretty exciting too, including the adorable acorn squash.
Growing up my dad would prepare acorn squash in a very simple way: cut in half and roasted with butter and maple syrup. Nothing bad about that.
But I have been searching for other ways to prepare the cute squash. Finally a few weeks ago I came across this recipe for Orzo and Cheese Baked in Acorn Squash and I thought: ok, I have to make this! Not only is it cheesy and easy, but making a stuffed dish during Sukkot was also Jewishly appropriate.
I didn’t have orzo, but I did have Israeli couscous, a favorite ingredient. I also wanted to get in a little extra vegetables in this dish, so I added some onion and pepper. Want to make this healthier? You could substitute whole wheat couscous, quinoa and even add some lentils.
2 small acorn squash, halved and seeded
¾ cup water
¾ cup uncooked Israeli couscous
¾ cup water
Salt and pepper
½ onion, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
¼ cup milk
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice off a piece from each half of acorn squash so they will lie flat in the pan when baking later.
Place squash open side down in a baking pan. Add 3/4 cup water to pan. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and discard water. Turn squash open side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook another 15 minutes until tender.
Bring the ¾ cup of water to a boil. Add couscous and salt and pepper, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes.
In a large sauté pan add a few tbsp olive oil. Cook onions and pepper for 4 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and continue cooking until soft and translucent, another 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to a large bowl. Add cooked couscous, cheddar cheese, milk and 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese. Mix thoroughly.
Remove squash from oven. Spoon couscous cheese filling into each squash. Top with additional Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake until top begins to brown, around 25 minutes.
It’s no great secret that I hate pareve desserts. Or perhaps I should more accurately say: I hate bad pareve desserts. Some might even say I have made it my mission in life to dream up pareve desserts that don’t suck. And this brownie recipe is one of those.
While I generally prefer boxed brownie mixes (gasp!), this brownie recipe is nearly a match. But if you would rather use a boxed mix in this recipe, you can and should. No one will know you didn’t whip it up from scratch. If you do make it from scratch, you will be surprised how easy this recipe is to throw together, even at the very last minute.
I love enjoying these brownies with a relaxing cup of tea after dinner, with a glass of milk as an indulgent afternoon treat and they are especially delicious if you store them in the fridge so they are cool and fudgy. Did I mention these brownies are great when made nondairy? Your guests won’t even know they are pareve.
This recipe is based on Martha Stewart’s recipe for Fudgy Chocolate Brownies.
1/2 cup margarine or butter
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
4 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup marshmallow fluff
1/2 cup smashed graham cracker crumbs
thick sea salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line an 8x8 square with parchment paper or tin foil. Grease the pan with cooking spray.
Place butter and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 second increments, stirring well in between, until butter and chocolate is completely melted and consistency is smooth and shiny. Allow to cool slightly.
Stir sugar into cooled chocolate mixture. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla.
Whisk together flour, salt and cinnamon. Add flour mixture to wet mixture.
Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Spoon large dots of marshmallow fluff on top of batter and sprinkle with half the graham crack crumbs.
Pour remaining batter on top. Sprinkle remaining graham cracker crumbs on top and a light sprinkle of thick sea salt if desired.
Bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing into squares.
Next to pumpkin, apple cider might be one of my favorite flavors of fall. I like it hot and spicy, spiked with bourbon or just plain out of the container on a cool and sunny autumn day.
But I also love cooking with it. For the past few years I have been making a fall favorite apple cider beef stew which is perfect for Sunday supper or Shabbat dinner. But I am always looking for savory recipes to use this beloved ingredient.
This past week I came across this recipe for Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Carrots made with orange juice and herbs among other flavors. I thought, if you could roast root vegetables with orange juice, why not apple cider?
I tested it out, and it was a hit. This is a perfect side dish for any kind of dinner this time of year.
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 medium-large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
1 small red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 whole garlic cloves
1/4 cup apple cider
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place your cut sweet potatoes, carrots, red onion and garlic cloves on a baking sheet and spread them in a single layer.
In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Drizzle mixture all over vegetables and toss to coat evenly.
Roast for 35-45 minutes, until vegetables are caramelized to your liking. Serve immediately.
Whereas Rosh Hashanah is my favorite Jewish holiday of the year, Yom Kippur is one of my least favorite, only second to Passover when my beloved carbs are rudely snatched away from me for an entire week. Ah, the things we do for our heritage.
Not eating for 25 hours is hard. It sucks. And I am not good at it, despite the meaningful role I believe it occupies in observing such an important, reflective holiday.
But the one thing that makes it better? Breaking the fast of course. So get creative with your break-the-fast menu and try some new dishes this year. Here are some menu suggestions to make that fast a little easier.
Dips and Salads
Everyone loves pumpkin these days, eh? Every cafe carries their own version of a pumpkin latte and pumpkin-themed candies overflow on supermarket shelves this time of year. ‘Tis truly the season of pumpkin, and I am not really complaining.
I love finding news ways to cook and bake with pumpkin including white pumpkin cheddar ale soup, pumpkin pizza and pumpkin corn ricotta enchiladas, which is a perfect dish this time of year when pumpkin is first coming into season and fresh corn is still in abundance at local farmers markets. Some other fun pumpkin recipes to try? Pumpkin Flan, pumpkin challah and of course some classic pumpkin bread.
As with many recipes I dream up, I was merely staring in my fridge when a leftover can of pumpkin puree sparked the idea: pumpkin babka!
Well, I whipped up a batch of babka dough, impatiently let it rise, and filled it with pumpkin puree, brown sugar and cinnamon. After 35 minutes of baking, my apartment smelled like a perfect piece of autumn heaven, and a new pumpkin recipe was born.
This babka is perfect to serve at your Yom Kippur break-fast, brunch gatherings or just with a cup of coffee for breakfast. Because you can use canned pumpkin, you can make this recipe year-round, so you can enjoy a little slice of pumpkin spice even when pumpkins aren’t in season.
For the dough:
4 ½ cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
½ cup lukewarm water
¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted
½ cup milk or almond milk
2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground clove
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
For the filling:
1 ½ cup canned pumpkin or pureed fresh pumpkin
¾ cup brown sugar
1 ½ Tbsp cinnamon
For the syrup:
2/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 whole cinnamon stick
Place yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Add lukewarm water and set aside until foamy, around 5-10 minutes.
In a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix together flour, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove and allspice. In a separate bowl, mix together melted butter (or margarine) and milk (or almond milk).
Put mixer on low and begin adding the water yeast mixture, then the butter-milk mixture. Add the eggs one at a time.
When the dough begins to come together, after about 3-5 minutes, raise the speed to high and mix for another 5-10 minutes until the dough is shiny and elastic.
Place dough in a greased bowl with a damp towel on top. Allow to rise until it has doubled, about 1-2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut dough into three equal parts. Roll out dough until it is a rectangular-like shape. Spread with ½ cup of pumpkin, ¼ cup brown sugar and ½ Tbsp cinnamon. Working from the longest side, roll up dough using quick fingers, like you would in order to make cinnamon rolls.
Once the dough is a long log, cut it straight down the middle so the filling is exposed. Secure the ends on one side, and twist both the pieces. Pinch and secure at the other end.
Repeat with two additional babkas. Place in a greased loaf pan.
Bake for 35 minutes.
While the babka is baking, combine 2/3 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and 1 whole cinnamon stick in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat and swirl around to ensure all the sugar is dissolved.
About 20-25 minutes into baking, spoon about half the syrup onto the baking babkas.
When you take the babkas out of the oven after they have baked completely, immediately brush extra syrup on top of all three babkas. You may have syrup leftover.
I think everyone has their favorite holiday—you know, the holiday that gets you giddy and excited. And my favorite Jewish holiday is upon us: Rosh Hashanah.
My family didn’t always celebrate all the Jewish holidays growing up, but we always gathered at my grandmother’s house for Rosh Hashanah. The smell of chicken soup and the site of a beautifully set table always fills me with warmth.
Aside from the family memories, I enjoy Rosh Hashanah because I love the idea of starting new: taking a breath, resetting and focusing for the coming year. I wouldn’t go so far to say I make resolutions each year, but I do try to set goals that are realistic and will better myself.
As my daughter gets older (she is now a little over 2 years old) it’s not so easy to pull a fast one on her. I need to curtail my cussing, for fear of scornful looks from her preschool teacher; I need to be diligent about things like bedtime and routine; and I have come to realize that when it comes to cooking and eating, I need to practice what I preach. She wants to do everything that mommy does, and that includes what mommy is eating.
How can I eat junk food or less-than-healthful foods around her, if I don’t want her to mimic that behavior? Well, I can’t. And I shouldn’t, not for her or myself either. As a result of this realization, one of my goals for the coming year is to make sure that I am modeling good eating behavior for my daughter. If I wouldn’t let her eat it, well then I shouldn’t eat it either.
One of the things I have been doing quite regularly is bringing her to pick-your-own farms in New Jersey so we can pick fresh fruit and vegetables together. We both love this activity, and I have seen how it has impacted both of us: I spend more time cooking vegetables, and she absolutely loves eating fresh fruit right from the source. She has even been known to take a bite out of a whole pepper or eggplant.
The other thing we have done together is: cook. I have a step stool in my kitchen, which she has firmly claimed as her own, and she stands with me and serves as my “helper.” Sometimes it’s frustrating, most of the time it’s messy, but I can see how much she enjoys actively taking part in this process. And how can I not schep nachas that she wants to be just like me?
So the hardest part? Resisting the urge to order greasy take-out after a long day, and instead, make a colorful salad or roast some vegetables. Here’s to a better, sweeter and healthier year for us all.
Dreaming up crazy flavors of challah like pastrami sandwich challah, balsamic apple date challah or gruyere and pesto stuffed challah is one of my greatest joys as a baker. But sometimes I do long for a simpler challah, and have even been known to make whole wheat challah. Yes, it’s true. I hope you were sitting for that.
I use a half whole wheat, half all-purpose unbleached flour ratio when making my whole wheat challah. Yes, you could try to use all whole wheat flour, but challah is supposed to be light and fluffy, and whole wheat flour is simply more dense. Because the whole wheat flour is denser, I make sure to be particularly patient when letting it rise: for the first rise I allow 4 hours, and for the second rise another 1 1/2 hours. It may seem like a lot, but the result is worth it. My mother-in-law even commented about this challah, “this is sinful.” Whole wheat challah? Sinful? Well, I will take it. And especially from my mother-in-law!
I also like to add ground flax seed in the challah for a little extra dose of healthiness which is impossible to detect. And inspired by the beautiful, Israeli challot of Breads Bakery, I love to add pumpkin seeds, whole flax seeds, oats, sesame seeds, black sesame seeds and even sunflower seeds on top for a fun and healthy crunch.
This honey whole wheat challah is perfect for Rosh Hashanah. And instead of a savory topping like the ones I just mentioned, you could add a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top for an extra sweet, and healthy, new year ahead.
1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
1 ½ Tbsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 ½ cups all purpose unbleached flour
2-2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
½ Tbsp salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
2 egg yolks + 1 tsp water + 1 tsp honey
Whole flax seed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds (optional)
Thick sea salt (optional)
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 the whisk attachment, mix together ¾ cup whole wheat flour, ¾ cup all-purpose flour, salt and sugar. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil and honey. Mix thoroughly. Pro tip: use the same cup to measure the honey as you used for the oil which will allow for easier clean-up of the sticky honey.
Add another ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup regular flour and eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
Add another 1 ½- 2 cups of mixed flour, mixing thoroughly and then remove from bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead remaining ½ cup flour into dough, continuing to knead for around 10 minutes (or however long your hands will last).
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise at least 4 hours, punching down at least once if possible.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Braid challah into desired shape. Allow challah to rise another 90 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown and challah seems light. This step is very important to ensure a light and fluffy challah.
In a small bowl beat 2 egg yolks with 1 tsp water and 1 tsp honey.
Brush egg wash liberally over challah. Sprinkle with seeds and thick sea salt if desired.
If making one large challah, bake around 28 minutes; if making two smaller challahs, bake 24-26 minutes. When making round challot, make sure the middle has cooked through, which might require an extra 1-2 minutes baking time.
Sesame seems to be enjoying a moment in the spotlight recently and I couldn’t be happier. Halva was always a staple in my house growing up, and now as an adult I am always looking for ways to include it in baked goods (like my halva swirl brownies) and other dishes. Earlier this year I was introduced to a sesame-based spread that my daughter and I both really enjoyed. In fact the jar has long been licked clean.
The newest halva spread business on the block is Brooklyn Sesame, started by native Israeli and expert “raw halva” maker Shahar Shamir who has been making and serving his all natural spreads for years for friends and family. Shahar actually never intended to start the small food business. Rather, he wanted to open a café, but when met with several challenges, his friends suggested he started selling his halva spread instead. And so Brooklyn Sesame was born.
In Israel it is common to eat halva or tahini with breakfast, as a snack or for dessert. And while the fat content of tahini has been a turnoff for some Americans, that perception is starting to change as it is more widely acknowledged that good fats from items like nuts and sesame can produce long-term health benefits and even help with weight-loss.
Shahar himself admitted that he gained 7 pounds this last holiday season when he took a break from making his halva spread. There weren’t any open jars lying around, and so he was eating less of the super food. “When I eat my halva, I am not eating other junk and I believe sesame and honey are great for digestion,” Shahar shared.
Brooklyn Sesame’s spreads come in six different varieties including pistachio, cocoa, black caraway seeds and toasted coconut. The high-quality spreads with a “Brooklyn sensibility” have even caught the attention of The New York Times, Food and Wine and Real Simple among many others.
Have a halva craving? The halva spreads are available in more than 25 stores in the New York area, one store in Massachusetts or you can order from their website.
You can also try whipping up one of Shahar’s signature recipes this holiday season and use some rich, sweet halva spread to usher in the New Year.
The following recipes are courtesy of Jörg Thoene, Leah Koenig and Shahar Shamir.
Apple and Coconut Halva Baklava Tarts
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
6 sheets thawed filo dough
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted (or substitute vegetable or coconut oil)
1/4 cup Brooklyn Sesame Halva Spread with Toasted Coconut, divided
Honey, for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set aside a 12-cup muffin tin.
In a bowl, stir together the apple, lemon zest, lemon juice, and brown sugar; let stand for 10 minutes until it gets juicy. Stir in the pistachios, walnuts, cinnamon, and cardamom.
Place 1 sheet of filo dough on a cutting board (cover the remaining sheets with a damp towel so they do not dry out), and gently brush all over with the melted butter. Place a second sheet on top of the first and continue in this fashion, alternating brushing with butter and stacking filo sheets until there are 6 layers. Use a sharp knife to cut the filo sheet into 12 squares. Arrange 1 square into each well of the muffin tin, pressing it into the bottom and sides.
Spoon 1 teaspoon of Halva Spread into the bottom of each cup, then fill two-thirds of the way with the apple-nut mixture. Brush edges of each pastry with a little more melted butter; bake until the pastry is golden, 15-20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then carefully remove tarts to a wire rack. Just before serving, drizzle each tart with a little honey.
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 pounds lamb stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped, optional
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/2 cup dry white or red wine
1 1/2 cups beef or vegetable stock
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, with their juice
1/4 cup chopped dried dates
3 Tbsp Brooklyn Sesame Halva Spread with Black Caraway Seeds
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Finely chopped fresh parsley, for serving
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat.
Working in batches (do not crowd the pan), add the lamb cubes and sear, turning with tongs, until well-browned on all sides. Transfer browned lamb to a plate and set aside.
Add remaining tablespoon of oil to the pot, then add onions, carrots, if using, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
Add the meat back to the pot along with the wine, stock, and tomatoes; bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked through, about 1 hour.
Stir in the dates and Halva Spread, turn heat up to medium-low, and continue cooking, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until fruit softens and the stew thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. (It will continue to thicken as it cools.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, transfer stew to a shallow bowl, sprinkle with parsley.