A few months ago I was having lunch at my favorite Midtown NYC pizza spot – Pizza By Cer Te (no, it’s not kosher sorry) when I witnessed a culinary treat never before seen: a “lasagna cupcake.” I was determined to recreate this creative morsel, and I thought what better time than for Shavuot when it is traditional to eat dairy!
I love serving dairy meals, a bone of contention between me and my husband, who would prefer to consume meat at most meals. I even hosted a Shabbat dinner for my birthday a few years ago where everyone was challenged with bringing a dish that included my favorite ingredient: mascarpone. It was super dairy-rific and fun to see the creative ways people incorporated the creamy, Italian cream cheese into dishes like artichoke dip and lasagna.
This recipe was super easy to prepare, but looks cute and impressive. Truth be told, the most challenging part was locating these aluminum cups, which I bought at a special baking supplies store. You can also use individual ramekins, or even bake them in muffin pans and remove them once baked.
The best way to serve these if you aren’t serving them right away is to wait to pipe on the cream cheese-ricotta mixture until ready to serve. First, reheat the ziti cupcakes until heated through. Once heated, pipe the ricotta-cream cheese mixture and pop back in the oven or preferably under the broiler for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with dried or fresh basil and serve!
For the baked ziti:
1/2 lb penne or ziti pasta
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1 cup plus extra tomato sauce
For the "frosting":
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
In a large pot bring water to boil for pasta. Cook pasta as directed, around 7-8 minutes or until al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Meanwhile, mix together ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, beaten egg, dried herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Once pasta is drained, add sauce, pasta into the cheese mixture and mix together. This doesn't have to be totally incorporated, in fact, its better if not.
Spray each aluminum cup or ramekin with cooking spray.
Place pasta mixture into each cup until it reaches just the top of the cup. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Add extra sauce if desired.
When ready to serve, mix ricotta with cream cheese in small bowl. Place mixture into piping bag or large ziploc bag. Snip the end of the piping bag or the tip of the ziploc bag and pipe ricotta mixture on top of ziti cups in a switl pattern.
Place cups under broiler or in oven for 2-3 minutes, until cheese is set, but before the cheese starts to melt too much.
Sprinkle top with fresh or dried basil and serve.
Salads can be boring. In fact, every time I try to eat a salad for lunch I feel disappointed – like an opportunity for something delicious has been robbed from me. Which is why I am the queen of fun salads in my house, and am always looking to create new ways to put together my favorite fruits, veggies and nuts.
This is a recipe I haven’t made for YEARS but thought it was time to bring it back into the rotation, especially in time for Shavuot! You can serve this as a side salad for any dairy meal, and it’s perfect for a Shabbat lunch dish. Want to make it into a full meal? Serve it with some simply grilled or poached salmon and you are sure to feel some salad salmon satisfaction. Want to serve it with a meat meal? Just leave off the goat cheese!
I like making my own dressing, but you don’t have to – just pour on your favorite bottled dressing or drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
For the salad:
1 package pre-washed spinach
1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup chopped seedless cucumber
1/2 cup shelled edamame
1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
For the dressing:
2 tsp whole grain or dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Place spinach leaves in large bowl. Add blueberries, cucumber, edamame, goat cheese and macadamia nuts.
In a small bowl combine mustard, lemon juice, honey, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle in olive oil and whisk until dressing comes together.
On the weekends growing up there was no better lunch for my mom than boxed mac n cheese. And us kids weren’t complaining! I can even remember how my mom would stand at the stove and scrape those last few little pastas into her mouth with a spoon.
I do love any kind of pasta with a cheese sauce, but I don’t want to serve my daughter something with so much salt, added color and goodness-knows-what-else that typically comes in the boxed variety.
So as I was peering into my fridge last week I decided to add pureed sweet potato as part of a bechamel sauce over pasta for my little lady. The dish turned out so good I decided to have a bowl right alongside my daughter. And in the end, we were both savoring the last spoonfuls of mac n cheese together.
What’s great about a dish like this is that you can really add and subtract according to your tastes. Instead of pureed sweet potato, you can insert butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin or spinach. It’s an easy, sneaky way to add a little more veggies into your life and also add additional creaminess to the sauce.
I also love the bright orange color that the pureed sweet potato turned the cheese sauce, without any “fake stuff.”
1/2 lb mini shells, tubetini or elbow macaroni
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup pureed sweet potato
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or gruyere cheese
1/4 tsp nutmeg
reserved pasta cooking water
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed, around 8-9 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt 1 Tbsp butter in medium saucepan over low-medium heat. When butter is foamy and almost completely melted, add 1 Tbsp flour and whisk around 2 minutes, to ensure the flour is cooked. Add milk, yogurt and sweet potato puree one at a time, whisking in between to ensure mixture is smooth.
Add 2-3 Tbsp of pasta cooking water and whisk some more.
Add cheese and whisk until completely melted and sauce is smooth once again.
At this point you can leave the sauce as is, or add a few more Tbsp of the pasta cooking water depending on how thick you prefer your mac 'n cheese.
Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
Drain pasta and add pasta to cheese sauce. Mix together and serve.
I have been on a bit of a vegetarian streak lately and while I have not cut meat out of my diet, I am happily eating a mostly meat-free diet during the week. Which also means I am now on the lookout for tasty, satisfying, vegetarian-friendly main dishes.
It’s also spring and therefore time to include peas, asparagus and other seasonal veggies in our cooking!
These were the thoughts swirling around in my head this weekend when I created this hearty, springtime veggie soup, chock full of white beans, peas, asparagus and bite-sized pasta.
Going gluten free? Leave out the pasta!
Like even more stuff in your soup? Add double the amount of peas, add 1/2 cup of corn or add a large handful of baby kale or spinach.
Don’t like cannelini beans? Swap them out for some chick peas or black eyed peas instead!
In short, you can put your own stamp on this soup so add and subtract away!
3 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup cannellini beans, rinsed
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 1/2 cups asparagus, cut into small pieces
1 cup small pasta such as tubetini, orzo or small shells
Bring chicken or vegetable stock to simmer in a large pot. Add peas and beans.
Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a separate medium sized pot. Add pasta and cook 8 minutes or until al dente. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add asparagus. Drain pasta and asparagus.
Add pasta and asparagus to soup.Allow to simmer 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Last week as I was scurrying around trying to feed my dog, feed my daughter and also cook dinner for me and my husband, I had some culinary inspiration (by peering into my fridge) and put together this new recipe for Lemon Mustard Brussel Sprouts.
The husband loves most recipes that use mustard as a seasoning, and I love using fresh citrus when I roast chicken or veggies…and so this recipe was born!
It takes almost no time to prepare, but the mustard and lemon pack a big flavor punch, so its great for those weeknight, last-minute dinners, or for a super simple Shabbat side dish!
Happy cooking everyone and Shabbat Shalom!
1 bag fresh brussel sprouts (about 3 cups)
juice and zest from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp dijon or whole grain mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut brussel sprouts in half and place on baking sheet.
Mix together olive oil, lemon zest, ,lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Drizzle mixture over brussel sprouts and mix around with hands to ensure brussel sprouts are coated evenly.
Place lemon halves on baking sheet as well.
Roast brussel sprouts for 35-45 minutes.
I love making pizza at home, and especially enjoy trying new flavor toppings. Some of our favorites include white pesto pizza with spinach, butternut squash and kale pizza and white pizza with fennel and kalamata olives. Ok, so I veer off a little from the “traditional” when it comes to my at-home pizza experimentation. My sister loves penne vodka pizza, and I have even tried that! Probably not the healthiest meal I have ever prepared…
During Passover I was thinking about Shakshuka, and what a great, versatile dish it is when it hit me: I needed to try shakshuka pizza!
When I eat shakshuka, I like to add feta and have a plate of hummus with tahini on the side so that I can take a nice hunk of warm pita, dunk it into the tomato sauce, a bit of the egg, cheesy feta and tangy hummus. So that was the combination of flavors I was aiming for with this pizza.
This shakshuka pizza is the perfect dish to serve in honor of Israel’s 65th birthday this week. Serve it with some salatim, like Israeli salad and baba ganoush for a complete meal. Don’t feel like making your own tomato sauce? Swap the homemade tomato sauce for a chunky store-bought variety!
1 store-bought pizza dough
12 ounce can diced tomatoes
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
pinch red chili flakes
salt and pepper
olive oil for brushing
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
tahini sauce (optional)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If using a pizza stone, place in the oven to heat up.
In a large saute pan, heat 3 Tbsp olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and saute until they start to get soft. Add garlic and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes.
Add bell pepper, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes and tomato paste and saute another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add can of tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Roll out dough on lightly floured surface.
Remove pizza stone from oven and place dough on stone. Lightly brush olive oil over dough. Spread tomato sauce over surface of pizza dough, leaving 1 inch border for crust. Crack eggs on pizza and sprinkle with feta cheese.
Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Drizzle with prepared tahini sauce if desired.
I generally prefer savory challah, since you can use the leftovers for sandwiches. But every now and then a sweet challah with chocolate chips, cinnamon, raisins or chocolate really hits the spot.
Not everyone loves the flavor combination of peanut butter and chocolate, and I consider those people crazy. What is better than peanut butter and chocolate!? Well, maybe peanut butter and chocolate in a challah. With crumbs on top. Served with a cup of coffee, and this is what my breakfast dreams are made out of.
Tip: baking challah is not a 1 hour process, so definitely give yourself plenty of lead time. And don’t rush the rising – the longer you let the dough rise, the fluffier it will be.
Happy challah baking!
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
1/2 Tbsp yeast
1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 Tbsp salt
2 eggs plus 1 egg for brushing
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
For crumb topping:
1/2 cup flour
3 Tbsp margarine
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup peanut butter
Put yeast and 1 tsp sugar into a small bowl. Add lukewarm water, stir gently and allow to sit until foamy bubbles form on top, around 10 minutes.
In the meantime, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, peanut butter and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment. When yeast-water mixture is ready, add to flour mixture until it is incorporated.
Add eggs one at a time and another cup of flour. Mix thoroughly.
Change to dough hook on mixer, or if working without a mixer, continue to mix in a large bowl. Add chocolate chips.
When the dough is too difficult to stir, flour a working surface and start kneading. Add remaining flour and knead for 10 more minutes.
Grease a large bowl and add dough to bowl. Cover with warm, wet towel. Let dough rise for 2-6 hours, punching down at least once.
To make the crumbs, add flour, brown sugar, salt, margarine and peanut butter to a bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut ingredients together until small-medium size crumbs form. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
When challah has risen, braid challah into two medium sized loaves. Place loaves on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Allow challah to rise 30-60 minutes extra.
Brush challah with beaten egg and sprinkle crumbs on top.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until outside is golden, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
A few weeks ago, as I was in the midst of testing out new Passover recipes, my dear friend Mat pleaded: “Please come up with ideas to bring for lunch!” I love a Passover challenge. It feels like my very own game of Iron Chef: Passover Edition.
Passover lunches. A real quandry. I mean, how much matzah + cream cheese should one person be expected to eat!? I say NONE! My eggplant tomato & mozzarella stacks are like a deconstructed eggplant parm that are healthy, delicious and best part? No matzah required!
Tuna Nicoise Salad is an ideal lunch choice either for at home, or bring to work. And what better way to use up those extra boiled potatoes and hard boiled eggs from the Seder!? Note: use whatever Kosher for Passover salad dressing you prefer.
Some other Passover-friendly lunch options:
Eggplant, Tomato & Mozzarella Stacks (recipe below)
At home or have access to a kosher-for-Passover microwave?
1 medium eggplant
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large tomato
4 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil (optional)
Cut a brown paper bag and lay out on the counter or table. Slice eggplant into 1/2 inch slices and lay out on top of paper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and allow eggplant to sit for 1 hour. Flip eggplant slices and let sit for another hour.
Blot eggplant with towel to remove excess water.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray baking sheet with oil.
Lay eggplant slices in one layer and roast for 12-15 minutes, or until just brown.
Stack eggplant, tomato, mozzarella and repeat. Drizzle small amount of balsamic vinegar and olive oil on each stack. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with fresh basil if desired.
Chicken soup is not one of those recipes I learned from my mom, dad or even grandmother. Rather, it’s a recipe I have tried multiple ways, researched and tweaked until I have been 100% happy with the results. Even my husband agrees it’s great, and he is usually my toughest audience.
We serve chicken soup all year round: when one of us is sick, for special Shabbat meals, or sometimes when we just want a simple dinner in a bowl. But, it is Passover time, so of course we are readying ourselves to make a large vat of soup and matzah balls for our Seder.
Everyone asks me – how do you get such fluffy matzah balls!?
Well, first, I have a set of tips for the fluffiest balls. But my other secret comes in a little white and blue box: I use the Manischewitz matzah ball mix! I follow the directions, don’t overmix too much and add 1-2 tsp of chicken fat, or schmaltz. Tried and true, and never fails me. And I am not even embarrassed to admit this fact.
If you’re looking for the perfect chicken soup recipe,look no farther. This always comes out flavorful, slightly sweet and deeply satisfying.
6 quarts of water
1 whole chicken + extra package of wings
2 large carrots, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 turnip, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
1 bunch of dill
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
1/2 Tbsp whole peppercorns
few sprigs of thyme
salt to taste
Place chicken and vegetables in a 16 or 20 quart pot and cover with 6 quarts of water.
Make a bouquet garni with the fresh dill, parsley, peppercorns and thyme. Add bouquet garni to pot.
Bring pot to boil and let simmer for 1 hour.
Remove chicken from pot, and remove breast and dark meat from bone. Put bones and other parts back into pot and let simmer another 1-2 hours on low-medium, covered.
Allow soup to cool, and place in fridge. Skim the fat off the top (I suggest saving the fat to put it in your matzah balls, or chopped liver)
Reheat to serve. Add chicken, matzah balls and desired vegetables.
These toffee squares are a part of my family’s yearly Passover repertoire. After eating them at a close friend’s seder for years, my mom finally asked for the recipe so we could enjoy them year-long. It turns out that the recipe originated in the kitchen of a woman who had deep roots in Akron (my hometown) and who loved to share her recipes with others.
They make a great addition to a dessert buffet, but my family makes them to keep on hand as a snack. Beware—they go quickly! We usually end up making more than one pan to last us the entire holiday.
1 cup butter or magarine, softened
1 large egg
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup matzo cake meal
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 cup chopped pecans
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter, sugar and pinch of salt until light and fluffy. Beat in egg very well. Add matzo cake meal gradually, blending well. Dough should be stiff.
Lightly grease a 10x15 jelly roll pan. Evenly spread the dough in the pan, making sure to reach the sides and corners. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Spread with melted chocolate, the sprinkle with the chopped nuts, making sure to press the nuts gently into the chocolate so they stick. Allow to mostly cool, and then cut into squares. Store in an airtight container.