I recently started my second round with a diet/food-cleanse called Whole 30, in which you eat nothing but unprocessed, unrefined, sugar-free food, while also cutting out entire food groups such as dairy, soy, and grains (oh and booze too). I am sure to many it sounds a bit crazy, but I will share that throughout the 30 days I woke up easier and stayed awake throughout the day, my body felt physically and mentally alive in a way it had not in years past and I felt stronger when I worked out.
Cutting out dairy, sugar, grains and booze? Ok, I could do it. But I could never do without my coffee, which thankfully you are allowed. In order to enjoy my one permitted cup of coffee, I needed to make my own almond milk since almost all sold in stores contain added sugar. I also wanted to find a natural way to sweeten the almond milk to make my coffee a little more enjoyable. So I added 1 medjool date when making the almond milk for the sweetness I craved with my coffee, but without any sugar.
I have come to love making my own almond milk so much that I do it even when I am not on the diet. There is something gratifying about knowing exactly what is in your food and drink. If you are going to try your hand at this I highly recommend buying a nut milk bag, but if you have a cheesecloth available that will work fine.
Homemade almond milk is for more than just crazy diets: it is great for baking, especially when making nondairy desserts, for making smoothies, in your cereal or oatmeal or just drinking too.
For the almond milk:
1 cup raw almonds
3 cups water
1 pitted medjool date
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
For the vanilla banana smoothie:
1 ¼ cup home made almond milk
1 ½ frozen banana
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp honey
To make the almond milk:
Soak the almonds in 3 cups of water for 12-24 hours. Drain the water from the almonds.
Place the almonds, 3 cups of water, the date, cinnamon and salt in a blender. Start on a low speed and quickly accelerate to high speed until all the nuts are completely pulverized. Pour the nut milk into the bag to strain.
Tip: Don’t waste the almond meal left after straining the liquid. Save it and dehydrate it. It becomes perfect almond flour.
To make the smoothie:
Place almond milk, frozen banana, cinnamon, vanilla and honey in the blender and pulse until smooth. Sprinkle some cinnamon or unsweetened cocoa powder on top.
Daily life can be so hectic, between keeping up with Netflix and waiting in line for your daily Pumpkin Spice Latte, so having a day dedicated to reflection and atonement (in between naps and binge watching The Food Network) is a meaningful change of pace. And of course, at the end of the day of fasting, there’s the food.
Our break fast spread was as traditional as they come. Kugels, coffee cake, an assortment of rarely-touched pre-made Italian cookies from the local Jewish supermarket, and the pièce de résistance, the bagel spread. When pangs of hunger set in during the final hours, this is what I focused on. Dozens of bagels, lox, red onions, tomatoes, capers, and an assortment of cream cheeses from chive to strawberry. While others were vying for an end piece of coffee cake, I went straight for the good stuff. Half of an everything bagel, never scooped, schmeared with plain cream cheese, lots of lox, red onions and capers. Always a delicious meal, but especially after a day of fasting.
This year, I decided to take all my favorite bagel toppers and put them in a quiche. I love quiche, but hadn’t made one since culinary school. The salty capers and smoked salmon paired with creamy tart goat cheese and sweet red onions is pretty magical. I highly recommend the homemade crust; the flakiness is worth the extra effort. The best part is (okay, besides the eating part) that you can easily make this ahead of time and serve at your break fast.
For the crust:
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, chilled in the freezer and diced
2-4 Tbsp ice water
For the quiche filling:
½ small red onion, cut into thin slivers
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp capers
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
½ cup heavy whipping cream
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
4 ounces smoked salmon, diced
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
To make dough, whisk together flour, salt, and sugar. Then add in butter and mix with hands until you have a coarse, crumbly mixture. (Alternatively, you can use a food processor.) Add in water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. Be careful not to over mix. Form dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Roll out dough on a lightly flowered surface into a 12-inch circle. Place it in a tart pan and press down to fit in the edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line dough with parchment paper and fill 2/3 of the way with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until crust is set, about 12-15 minutes.
Carefully remove paper and bake until golden brown, an additional 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large sauté pan, heat up olive oil over medium heat. Sauté red onions with a pinch of salt until the start to soften and brown, about 5 minutes. Then add capers and sauté for another 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, black pepper and nutmeg. Once crust is cooled, sprinkle half of the onion mixture, goat cheese and smoked salmon on the bottom of the crust. Pour over egg mixture and dollop with remaining ingredients. Bake until quiche is set but still slightly jiggly in the center, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve.
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.
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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1 cup ice
1-2 Tbsp Soom Foods chocolate sesame spread
1/2 cup lowfat milk
1 scoop chocolate protein powder (optional)
Place all ingredients in a blender. Pulse until desired smoothness.
Serve cold with a straw.
Like so many of my peers, Jewish summer camp played an integral role in my Jewish identity. It’s where I developed my appreciation for Israeli dancing, a deep respect for my surroundings in nature, and not to be outdone, my love of Shabbat breakfast. Every Saturday morning, before all the campers joined for services, we’d convene in the dining hall for a plentiful feast of crumbly and perfectly spiced coffee cake. It wasn’t elaborate, but it sure was special, and it was certainly on the list of things I looked forward to year after year as I awaited summer’s arrival. If I ever longed for a little taste of home while I was at camp, I just had to wait until the end of the week, since the combination of cinnamon and sugar in the crumb topping would remind anyone of home. Because of this experience and because it only gets better the day after it is baked, to me, coffee cake is synonymous with Shabbat morning, summer vacation or not.
Of course, as an adult, summer camp is no longer really in the cards for me anymore. These days, when we get through hiking the trails of all the nearby national forests, my husband and I long for a more tropical getaway. Since our next vacation seems light years away, I came up with a recipe inspired by my Cuban heritage that will be sure to satisfy until we can get ourselves to the nearest island.
With its taste of the tropics, my Pineapple Coconut Coffee Cake hits the spot for a Shabbat morning treat. It has the cinnamon and sugar that I always remember from my camp days, but its layer of crushed pineapple adds a mild zing and just the touch needed to keep this cake moist for days. The coconut added to the crumb layer, suggested by my friend Dolly, acts as a tropical kiss and adds a nice crunch.
Next time you’re in the mood for a reminder of Shabbat mornings at camp, or you’re longing for a quick getaway, try a bite of this coffee cake, and you won’t be disappointed.
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For the cake batter:
2 cups all-purpose OR cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp table salt (not kosher salt)
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup sour cream
1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 20 oz can of crushed pineapple, well-drained, and juice reserved
For the crumb topping
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup grated coconut
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
For the glaze:
3 oz cream cheese, softened
⅔ cup confectioners' sugar
3-4 Tbsp. of the reserved pineapple juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch tube pan, and line with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs, one by one, and mix well. Stir in the sour cream and vanilla extract.
Combine the dry mixture into the wet mixture in three batches, and mix only until incorporated, and set aside.
Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients of the crumb topping, and cut in the butter using a fork or a pastry cutter. Set aside.
In your greased tube pan, spoon in half of the batter, and use the back of the spoon to even the layer. Sprinkle on half of the crumb topping in an even layer. Spoon the drained pineapple over the crumb layer. Top with second half of cake batter, and spread to even the layer. Add the remaining crumb topping, and bake for 45-50 minutes.
Once the cake is golden brown, remove from oven, and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. After the initial 10-minute cooling time, remove the cake from the pan, and cool the rest of the way.
Once cooled, glaze the cake by whisking together all the glaze ingredients, and using the prongs of a fork to drizzle over the cake. Let the glaze set before slicing.
Having leftover challah has never been a bad thing. Sunday morning brunches, Shabbat afternoon sandwiches; the options go on. Since I am hosting most Friday nights and am constantly left with challah I decided I needed to be a little more creative with the leftovers.
This past weekend I also happened to have a bowl of mixed berries left over and knew right away this was the week to leave my comfort zone and make stuffed challah french toast using both these delicious remains.
French toast is one of my favorite foods and eat it any time of day. And now that I have created this challah masterpiece, I may never stop. I even went as far as to make homemade blueberry syrup to go on top, but you can leave this step out if you prefer plain maple syrup.
For the French toast:
1/2 loaf leftover challah
½ cup mixed berries
4oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp maple syrup
½ cup milk
Butter or oil for pan
For the blueberry syrup
½ cup of sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
½ cup water
½ cup of fresh blueberries
½ tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp butter
Pinch of salt
To make the French toast:
Slice the challah into 2-inch thick pieces. Using a paring knife, cut a deep slit across the top in the middle of each slice, approximately 4 inches long - This will form your “pocket.” Once you’re done, set the bread aside.
Put the room temperature cream cheese, vanilla and mixed berries in a bowl and combine using a wooden spoon. The berries will crush a bit and that is good. Mix well.
In a separate bowl, add 2 eggs, cinnamon, maple syrup, and milk. Mix well.
Take the fruit-cream cheese mixture and stuff into the "pockets" of the challah.
When done stuffing each piece of bread, completely coat each piece in egg mixture. Make sure all sides are covered.
Put butter or oil into a hot skillet and melt completely. Add the stuffed challah to the skillet and cook roughly about 3-6 minutes on each side, until it reaches a nice golden brown. You want to make sure the cream cheese mixture heats through.
To make the blueberry syrup:
Combine sugar, cornstarch and water over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the blueberries and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the butter, cinnamon and salt simmer for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Top the stuffed French toast with berry syrup.