Monthly Archives: April 2012

This Passover, Play With your Food!

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This year, you won’t have to bribe your kids to eat their vegetables. With so many colorful and exciting foods out there, they’ll be begging you for more! Can you blame them? With pictures of tri-color cauliflower, and dancing rainbow carrots, they’ll think dinner was created by Disney. Throw in easy-to-follow recipes and colorful pictures and watch out, they may even be cooking you dinner!

Magic Spaghetti Squash

What kid doesn’t love a good magic trick?! Especially one they can perform themselves!

And, for just under a dollar a pound, it’s really a win-win situation. If you haven’t already guessed from the title of this paragraph, I’m talking about spaghetti squash, all natural and so healthy! Kids love pasta (and this looks just like it), and combined with the fun of shredding it themselves in under a minute, they won’t miss the 200 calories they are saving by avoiding the real thing.

Ratatoullie, the Dish, Not the Mouse.

Kids are familiar with the cartoon chef named Ratatoullie, but, little do they know, it’s also a healthy and delicious food! Maybe they can use a French accent while they are eating it too!

Pop Goes the Quinoa

Children will watch in amazement as the water disappears and the quinoa pops out of its seed during the cooking process. A great source of protein and fiber, and it’s also light and fluffy!

Please Eat the Flowers!

Who knew you could eat flowers? With recipes like stuffed zucchini blossoms and flowering chives, you can encourage something out of the ordinary and provide a unique experience at the dinner table. This will stimulate your child’s curiosity and make them excited and interested about food they’re eating.

Crayola’d Cauliflower

With cauliflower available in colors like purple and yellow, your kids will think dinner was brought to them by Dr. Seuss.

Dancing Rainbow Carrots

rainbow carrots

Add a touch of whimsy to your table with these iresistable rainbow baby carrots. If that goes over well, you can introduce them to rainbow chard too!

And Finally, for Dessert…

Meet kiki-riki, the tznius banana lady!

 

banana lady

It’s not every day you see a lady with bananas on her head! Your kids will fall in love with this wild banana lady just like I did when I encountered her in a Jamaican jungle as she chased me with her machete. My recipe for banana muffins is so easy and a great way to introduce kids to baking. There’s no better way to incorporate the importance of Passover into their lives than through yummy food and hands on, interactive experiences.

Cajun Carrot Fries

Ingredients:
• 8-10 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin slices, like “fries”
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
• salt and black pepper, to taste 

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 450°.
2. Grease and/or line a large cookie sheet.
3. Toss the sliced carrots with olive oil, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper.
4. Arrange the fries in a single layer on your baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then flip the fries over and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until crisp. Serve warm.

Eggplant Parmigiana

Ingredients:
• 2 cups tomato sauce
• 1 large eggplant,
sliced into ½ inch thick round pieces
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup matzoh meal or ground walnut
(or half & half)
• 8 oz. mozzarella cheese
• 3 ounces goat cheese (if unavailable, substitute with additional mozzarella)
• salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Salt eggplant on both sides and leave for 30 minutes until liquid is released.
3. Crack and mix eggs in one bowl, and pour matzoh meal and/or ground walnuts and seasoning into a second bowl.
4. Dip eggplant slices of eggplant first in eggs, then in matzoh meal and/or ground walnuts.
5. Fry each slice in canola oil for 2 minutes on each side until soft.
6. In a 9×12 inch pan, create layers with eggplant, goat cheese, and tomato sauce (creates about 3 layers).
7. Top with mozzarella cheese.
8. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until mozzarella cheese is melted.


Both recipes can be found in The No Potato Passover (Brio Books; 2012 Hardcover $29.95)

Posted on April 6, 2012

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

The Lost Afikoman

Moshe Kasher is a stand-up comedian and the author of Kasher In The Rye: The True Tale Of A White Boy From Oakland Who Became A Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient…And Then Turned Sixteen This is a story of a Passover miracle. Or something. Readers should be advised of strong language and total immaturity…although it’s got a pretty great ending.

It is said that whoever finds the afikomen on Passover is granted a wish that cannot be refused by the master of the house. That wish, no matter how extravagant or unusual, must be fulfilled and until the lucky discoverer is satisfied that his wish has been granted, the seder cannot continue. This is the story of the night that went quite wrong.

It was the first night of Pesach and Shmulie slumped down at the head of his Seder table with a great relieved sigh. The week was finally over. He’d been running around all week, shopping for matzah and matzah meal and matzah-based beverages and other moshe kasherassorted constipation aids. Shmulie was exhausted.

“Why are you sitting down!?!” Pessy yelled from the kitchen, “Get the door!”

How his wife even knew he had just sat down was beyond Shmulie’s grasp. Pessy had a kind of second sight that tuned right into Shmulie’s attempts at rest. Anytime he took a deep breath she would yell, “Don’t breathe!” He didn’t know how to comply.

Pessy was the boss, always had been. Mostly, Shmulie accepted it, as she seemed able to know all of the things that he didn’t quite know how to do. She was his queen and it didn’t matter to him if she only rarely treated him like a prince. For her, he would be a pauper — he would be a page.

“GET THE DOOR!!!” Pessy shrieked from the kitchen.

“Pessy, no one is at the door!” Shmulie tried to sound reasonable.

Just then the door bell rang. How had she known!?!

Shmulie ended his one-breath-long vacation and got himself up and sauntered into the hall to welcome the Pesach guests. One step at a time the plastic runner in the hall buckled beneath his big feet. He made his way to the door.

One by one the guests trickled in. Shmulie didn’t know any of them, but he greeted each of them with a big fake smile and a warm “Chag Sameach!”

He’d done this before. This was the seventh year in a row they’d hosted a seder for the neighborhood. A sea of strangers washed into their dining room and ate as much as they could then leaked out into the streets. Shmulie hated it. He hated strangers and it was odd to him that some of the people Pessy invited were non-Jews. Why would they be invited to Passover? Sure the Hagaddah says “Let all who are hungry , come and eat!” but they couldn’t have meant let all who are hungry, right? Hungry goys too?

Oh well, Pessy knew best. Shmulie repeated this to himself for the ten thousandth time and got to the business of beginning the seder. At the far end of the table was a Laotian family who clearly didn’t even know what they were doing there. Confused looks were exchanged when Shmulie dipped the parsley into the salt water and splashed the water on his face to show them that they were tears.

“Tears get it? Like boo hoo?”

“Why are they tears?” Bok, the youngest Laotian boy, asked.

“ Because we remember the tears our people shed in the desert , toiling for the Egyptians in the hot sun,” Shmulie recited, as if from a script.

“ In Laos, we cried too… do you want to know why?” Bok asked.

“Not really, no.” Shmulie just wanted to get through this meal.

“Shmulie! Don’t be rude.” Pessy turned to the seder guests. “Sorry about him, he’s been emotionally off lately. We think its gluten. Thank goodness for Passover, the original lo-carb diet!” She shrieked disgustingly and turned to Bok and said, “ We’d love to know why you cried.” Pessy’s face scrunched up in compassion in that singular way that only white women sympathizing with brown people can manage.

Bok spoke, “In Laos we cried because we didn’t have a floor. Our hut was lined with dirt…”

“Well that’s horrible, sorry about that Bok, back to Passover…” Shmulie couldn’t stand stuff like this.

“I’M NOT FINISHED! We ate worms and grubs. We had one well, but it was filthy and we had to drink it anyway. My father died of dysentery.”

“Is that everything?” Shmulie was losing his patience here. He hadn’t signed on for an address at the United Nations. He just wanted to eat that f–king afikomen and be done with this thing.

“No. It is not everything.” Bok then began a 45 minute speech about that hardships of life in Laos that was so painful to listen to that Shmulie imagined he now knew exactly how it felt to be a slave in Egypt, or in fact, a boy in Laos.

Eventually Pessy gave up on the ritual aspects of the meal altogether and just started serving the food in between Bok’s exaggerated sobs, never once betraying any annoyance or a lack of interest in hearing Bok’s tale of woe which was superseding what was supposed to have been the tale of the woe of the Jewish people. Goddamn it, this Laotian kid was stealing Passover with his sad little life. Shmulie had had about enough of this.

“Ok, that’s it. We are doing Afikomen now.” Shmulie’s voice was terse and annoyed.

“Shmulie! We have to finish hearing Bok’s story!” Pessy snapped back.

“I’m almost done.” Bok smiled.

“No! No, I’m putting my foot down. I’m sorry Bok, I am. Laos sounds sh-tty. I’m sorry your father is dead and I’m sorry you had dirt floors and I’m sorry there is a sauce in Laos made of cow shit. It really sounds bad but right now, it’s Passover. And it’s midnight and we are moving on to the afikomen and then I’m going to bed and then I am going to have sex with my wife!”

“No you aren’t,” Pessy sneered.

“Then I’ll have sex with myself!” Shmulie had never spoken to Pessy like this. It felt really, really good.

Bok frowned, sad. “Alright. I’m sorry. I apologize. I didn’t mean to ruin your holiday with my sad story. Lets move onto the Afi…what did you call it?”

“Komen. THE AFI-KOMEN. Let’s do.”

Shmulie cut the awkwardness in the air with an uninspired speech about the Afikomen and the rewards it wrought. Then he screamed “Go!” and began the hunt. Nobody moved.

Slowly, at the end of the table, Bok stood up and calmly walked directly over to the spot where Shmulie had hidden the Afikomen earlier, underneath a copy of Bob Marley’s album, “Exodus” which Shmulie had felt to be a great joke but , watching Bok flip it over and grab the Afikomen without emotion or recognition had taken all the joy out of it. Bok lifted the Afikomen up.

“Great Bok, you win. You got the Afikomen. What the hell do you want for it.”

Shmulie knew. He got it then. Anger surged into him. This was a set up. A con to peel a couple grand from him. Somehow Bok knew all about the Afikomen and had set this up to ruin his Passover. All the joy he’d felt when he’d stood up to Pessy was now gone. He looked over at her, frowning, her glare accusing him – HIM! – of ruining the seder. At that moment, Shmulie knew one more thing- he hated his wife.

“What do you want? Let me guess a grand? Five thousand bucks? Just say it and let’s end this fucking night.”

All the guests got silent and shifted uncomfortably. Everyone wanted to leave.

Bok looked up, smiled and said quietly, “I want your life.”

Shmulie looked back, confused.

“And,” Bok continued, “I want you to have mine.”

And that was how Shmulie and Pessy Bornstein moved to Laos. Since then, Shmulie has made his living repairing old sneakers at the market in town and Pessy caught tarantulas in traps she made and set in the woods. She would sun-dry them and sprinkle garlic, soy and MSG on them and sell them on sticks to travelers.

Their home was small, and the floors were dirt and when the rains came, they hoped that the leaks wouldn’t make too much mud. They’d tried to have kids but something in the drinking water seemed to have turned Pessy’s womb. But mostly, they were happy. Pessy had softened. Shmulie had found his voice. When the afternoon suns came and the pale streams of light stole through the lattice of the hut they lived in and shone on her brow, she glowed, radiant, pure and perfect. And, one afternoon as that Laotian sun danced on her face, Shmulie looked over and realized that he loved his wife. He loved her very much. Crowned with a crown of pure sun, once again, she was his queen.

At that very moment of realization, the postman came, squeaking down the dirt road that led to their village on a bike so creaky and rusty – it defied the laws of logic to see it’s wheels turn. The postman, Chantos, handed Shmulie a letter. The letter , thick papered and tied down the middle with a single red ribbon, held in place with a red wax seal, sat , heavy in Shmulie’s hands. It seemed to vibrate there, singing with an invisible music. Shmulie realized his hand was trembling when he broke that seal and he called Pessy into the hut as he opened the letter. It read, in a simple script:

You can have your life back now.
Yours,
Elijah The Prophet

Posted on April 5, 2012

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 for Non-Bolivians (and a Recipe!)

By now, most people have heard of quinoa, the superfood. With plenty of fiber, protein and vitamins it sounds like a super idea. The problem arises when the time comes to actually prepare this somewhat unfamiliar item and poses a special problem during the upcoming holiday of Passover. Jewish people tend to favor foods from their particular part of the Diaspora during these eight days. And really, how many Jews are actually from Bolivia?  But never fear, we Jews are a glorious melting pot! We may have been kicked out of many places but we wind up taking the menus with us.

Quin-what?

I have recently traveled around the country to do cooking demonstrations in response to my new book, The No-Potato Passover, and I have found that people have a fear and mistrust of this simple Bolivian staple.

But what exactly is quinoa?

Is it a grain? A seed? A vegetable? Help!

Quinoa (pronounced “keen-whah”) is often mistaken for a grain, but it’s actually a seed — one that originated thousands of years ago in the Andes Mountains. Dubbed “the gold of the Incas,” it’s treasured because of it’s nutritive value. Quinoa actually has more protein than any other grain or seed and offers a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies can’t make on their own. It’s also a great source of calcium and is high in lysine, the B vitamins and iron. To top it off, the seed is easy to digest and gluten free! If you are counting carbs or just want to eat healthier quinoa is your new best friend.

Why has this tiny seed brought forth such huge confusion?

For starters, misinformation, or don’t believe the bag!! Typically, the label will state to boil for 15 minutes. In my experience, quinoa is not ready for consumption before 20- 25 minutes of cooking time. Only when the seed “pops” and it is soft, is it ready to be eaten.
But it doesn’t taste like anything.
A-ha! That’s where you come in. The wonder of quinoa is that you can make it taste like anything you want. Think of the biblical mana that fell from heaven.
Do you like savory flavors? Reach for the pepper and garlic. Middle Eastern more your style? How about cumin and safron?  Use different colored vegetables and tangy fruit to add more texture and “zing” and soon you too will be singing the praises of quinoa. It will supply the wonderful canvas to bring out your inner culinary artist.
Mixed Berry Quinoa with Roasted Almonds



Ingredients:

• 1 cup red quinoa
• 1 cup slivered almonds
• 1 cup white quinoa
• 5-6 medium mushrooms, chopped
• 1 cup golden raisins
• 1 Vidalia onion, diced
• 1 cup Craisins
• 2 tbsp. canola oil
• salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Cook quinoa according to package.
2. In a separate skillet, sauté onions in canola oil until golden brown.
3. Add chopped mushrooms and sauté for one minute.
4. Add raisins, craisins and almonds, and sauté for another minute.
5. When quinoa is ready, add to pan and mix with other ingredients.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe from The No Potato Passover (Brio Books; 2012 Hardcover $29.95)

Posted on April 4, 2012

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

Moshe Kasher Responds to Critics

To whoever is reading–

I’ve had some complaints regarding my recent appearance on Conan, promoting my new book, Kasher In The Rye: The True Tale Of A White Boy From Oakland Who Became A Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient…And Then Turned Sixteen. Some Jews (I’m assuming here) were a little offended by my poking fun at my experiences with childhood Haredi life. I said they looked like fat Amish penguins and that they were weird. But seriously, I mean is any of that in dispute?

 

Now, normally, I try and pay anonymous complaints no heed as I have long since come to terms with the fact that when you make jokes, especially sharp prickly ones, you will invariably bruise the tender sensibilities of someone and that the anonymous and instantly accessible nature of the internet gives those bruised peaches an instant platform to lodge their grievances. But I’ve been thinking about it and I thought, since I’m being asked to blog for MyJewishLearning and Jewish Book Council, that I might try and clarify myself and my jokes and my Jewishness.

I grew up in a bifurcated existence, floating between the supernatural realms of Chassidus and the concrete pragmatism of secularization. I’m an anomaly. A rare breed that is both “frum from birth” and “off the derech” in sharp strong veins that ran, right next to one another, interweaving themselves into a confusing rope almost long enough to hang myself with.

My father moved to Seagate, and married into a Satmar family when it became clear that my mother – who took us on a “vacation” to Oakland early in my life — was not going to return. He was a unique man, a brilliant dynamo who painted and performed in the Lower East Side and according to family legend was asked by Marcel Marceau, seeing his pantomime genius, to join him as a “mime in training.” All the messy blurs of the art world were turned into sharp edges when he found Chassidus and returned to the shtark world of frumkeit.

My mother, who stole us away in the night, kept that mess and turned it into kindling for a bright jumbled fire that illuminated our home and kept us warm. Her relationship with Judaism was casual and ambivalent, no doubt poisoned a bit by her rocky marriage to my father.

I was born in the middle ground. To my left was modernism, to my right was minhag. The runoff of both experiences was churning white water that I had to learn how to paddle down, desperate to keep my head above water. Eventually, I learned how to make jokes about all of it and those jokes became flotation devices. They buoyed me and kept me breathing.

And though, if you read the book you will see how deeply and severely I sank later on, I used those jokes to keep me as afloat as I could be, even as I got smacked around on the rocks. Kasher In The Rye is a book where I expose my soft underbelly to the world and tell the tale of my teenage descent into drug addiction, violence, insanity and crime. But it’s a comedy. How can such dark fodder be funny?

My God, how can it not?

If I hadn’t learned to laugh at it, all of it, it would have swallowed me whole and I’d probably not be your blogger this week. I’d likely be dead. So you’ll forgive me if I laugh at you. I’m really just laughing at myself. It never occurred to me that my childhood wasn’t my own to joke about. But I see now that, when bringing that childhood into the public for everyone to enjoy, and hopefully to relate to, that I’m joking about your childhood too. If I offend anyone with my gallows humor, please know that I was born on a gallows and and I’m telling jokes to stave off execution. If you’d like to take my place up here you are welcome.

This isn’t an apology. God forbid. I’m not sorry at all for turning my experiences into jokes, it’s what I do. This is a clarification. I love Jews and Jewishness. I love Chassidus and tradition. I love it sincerely and I love to make fun of it too. Honestly if you don’t think there is anything hilarious about living in 21st-century America but pretending fashion wise that its 1820′s Hungary, then you take yourself too damn seriously. I think the Baal Shem Tov would probably agree with me but who the f*ck am I to speak for him? I’m just a clown. But I think we need clowns as much as we need rebbes.

Posted on April 3, 2012

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

Waiting Too Long to Teach about Israel

I had an all too familiar conversation with someone the other day who was talking about a community Jewish high school that offered only one course on Israel, in 12th grade, that was optional. Several years ago, when my kids were in day school, I had been shocked to learn that I was paying a fortune for a Jewish education that I took for granted included courses on Israel but had only one poorly taught elective course on Zionism offered the semester before graduation. After that epiphany, I learned that this was common in many day schools. And parents wonder why Jewish students are ill-equipped to respond to Israel’s detractors in college.

The truth is the Jewish community has been asleep at the wheel for decades. Since at least the 1960s, people have written about the lack of preparation of our young people and yet little has been done since then to educate them. In the last ten years, especially, the community has thrown a lot of money into Israel advocacy training for college students. This has been very important; however, it is also very late to first introduce young Jews to the Aleph-Bet of Israeli history, politics and culture.

It is certainly not the kids’ fault that they are ignorant. Where would they get the necessary background if not in day schools? They certainly don’t get it in public schools or after school Hebrew schools that barely have the time to teach basic Judaism.

I recently attended a meeting of educators and donors that seemed to, at long last, recognize the crisis in Israel education. Not surprisingly, there is a multiplicity of opinions as to how to address the problem. Still, a few areas of consensus were clear. These included:

• The need to integrate Israel education in an age-appropriate manner from kindergarten through high school.

• That Jewish summer camps offer opportunities to teach Israel to large numbers of students, especially those who do not attend day schools.

• The importance of training teachers to teach about Israel.

People have certainly talked about teaching Israel for a long time and a lot of curricula have been developed over the years. Shockingly, however, no textbooks were available to teach basic Israeli history to high school students. A typical course would be in a loose-leaf binder and contain a hodgepodge of information, articles and maps. The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles used something like this in a unique program they developed for educating students in Catholic schools about Israel. The organizers of this Holy Land Democracy Project recognized that something more was needed and asked me to write a book that would cover what everyone should know about Israel.

Having written the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East Conflict, I had experience in explaining the complexities of the history and politics of Israel for a lay audience. My goal with this new book was to help readers get to better know Israel and Israelis, to teach them the essential history, lay out some of the dilemmas the nation faces and to ensure they have the information they need to feel knowledgeable. Of course, one book cannot provide all the answers. The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise publishes the book Myths and Facts to address more specific issues that frequently arise on college campuses such as attacks on Zionism, critiques of Israeli security measures and canards about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

The new book, Israel Matters: Understand the Past – Look to the Future (Behrman House), does provide an overview and context that enables readers to understand how history, politics, religion, geography and psychology influence Israelis and the policies of their government. Through profiles of important figures in Israeli history, and descriptions of typical young Israelis, I hope that readers will also get a better sense of the people who live in Israel.

One of the problems with Israel education has been to present an idyllic portrayal of the Jewish State. Students today are too sophisticated to see Israel through rose-colored glasses. They are sensitive to what appears to them to be propaganda. They are correct in recognizing that Israel is a complex place that aspires to be a light unto the nations but is not perfect. Part of our challenge as educators is to give them the background they need to wrestle with Israel, to see it, warts and all, and to reach their own conclusions.

Given the proper education, I am confident that young Jews will become passionate Zionists who will know how to respond to the detractors inside and outside college classrooms and, ultimately, become active members of the pro-Israel community.

Posted on April 2, 2012

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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