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December 29, 2014 / 7 Tevet, 5775
 
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Third Time’s The Charm

When most people hear the word Chanukah they start thinking dreidels, latkes and jelly donuts.

Me? I start to contemplate polishing the menorahs, a job that I have to psych myself up for several weeks in advance. Sweetening the tedium of tarnish removal is a favorite winter treat:  leafing through the new drop of cookbooks, released just in time for Chanukah.  There is nothing like cracking open a fresh new cookbook, the pages still pristine and crisp and wondering what surprises are about to jump off the pages and leap onto your serving platters as they wait to be carried to your table and devoured.Eller-111513-Geller

If you’re anything like me, you have been waiting for the latest volume from everyone’s favorite cook, Jamie Geller, for a long time.  Her third cookbook, Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes, is bursting with tantalizing recipes and is clearly a labor of love that goes straight from Jamie’s heart to yours.

Part of Jamie’s success is that she is so real.  She doesn’t pretend she knows it all; she shares her triumphs, and kitchen mishaps, equally – and more than any other kosher cookbook author, Jamie is the girl next door.  In Joy of Kosher III, Jamie takes things to the next level, sharing personal stories about her life and family, as well as pictures of the entire Geller clan and suddenly Jamie, who describes herself as “an incurable hugger,” has become your best friend.   And honestly, wouldn’t you trust your best friend when she says, “you must try this recipe”?

In this case, Jamie’s recipes have split personalities with each of the 100 recipes presented two ways:  a quick and easy version for when you need to get food on the table ASAP and the other, a dressed up version, for those occasions when you want to serve something with a little extra panache.  Many of the recipes also include tips, timesaving suggestions, wine pairings and other helpful advice.  Published by William Morrow, Joy of Kosher III is aimed at the mainstream market and, using her engaging writing style, Jamie nimbly demystifies kashrus so that it doesn’t seem complicated or overly restrictive.

The recipes…ah, the recipes.  As I turn the pages, I have to restrain myself from heading to my kitchen and trying them out right now.  Garlic Wilted Spinach, which Jamie skillfully transforms into Wilted Spinach with Garlic Chips, is something that will definitely be on my Shabbos menu this week.  Somewhat Sephardic Chulent is intriguing with brown rice, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, eggs, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and allspice and becomes downright fascinating when upgraded to Puff Pastry Sephardic Chulent Cups. Chilled Coconut Berry Soup looks like the perfect appetizer for a Shabbos meal, and with the addition of Fruit, Flower and Mint Ice Cubes has the potential to be a real show stopper at your next simcha. Spiced Pumpkin Mousse, a dessert that you can actually claim has nutritional benefits since it is made with protein packed tofu and uber-nutritious pumpkin, looks mouth-wateringly easy and when you upgrade it to Cocoa Cream Pumpkin Mousse Trifles it graduates to sinfully delicious.  Add in ten different varieties of challah, Yom Tov menu suggestions and a four page recipe index of Pesach-friendly recipes and there is a whole lotta yumminess going on here.

With chapters titled  “Thursday: 4:30 a.m., I think” and pictures of the youngest Geller wearing a roll of toilet paper on her head while surrounded by miles of the unfurled white stuff, Joy of Kosher III is a unique volume that exudes warmth, humor and a sense that with our hectic schedules and the demands of everyday life, Jamie is truly one of us.  Half cookbook, half a delightful invitation into Jamie’s home and her heart, Joy of Kosher III is a seriously good read and a welcome addition to any kitchen.  Okay, Jamie, I’m ready for my hug!

 

The names Leah Schapira and Victoria Dweck are well known in the kosher food world and with the introduction last year of their new “Made Easy” cookbook series, the two have legions of loyal fans everywhere.  While I enjoyed their first two cookbooks, the first tackling Passover and the second shining the spotlight on appetizers and side dishes, it is their third volume, Kids Cooking Made Easy, that has me falling head over heels in love.

Eller-111513-Kids-cookingI can’t tell you why exactly kids’ cookbooks have always appealed to me.  Maybe it is the fact that they aren’t consumed with lengthy preparations or elegant presentations, two things that just don’t interest me.  Instead these books tend to deal with seriously good, basic food that is easy to prepare and tastes great.

Consider these creative culinary gems:  Pancake Sandwiches, which are made in a sandwich maker, letting kids cook without the inherent hazards of an open flame.  Panini Wraps, a great lunchbox idea, which involves smearing a wrap with cream cheese, filling it with fresh basil, roasted red peppers, avocado, cheese and lettuce and then popping the entire concoction into a Panini maker for quick grilling.  Ramen Deli Salad, which pairs romaine lettuce with strips of turkey breast and grape tomatoes, dressed in a vinegar soy sauce combo and finished with a Ramen noodle-slivered almond-sesame seed crunch.  Hot Dog Garlic Knots? Honestly, I think the name says it all and my only complaint is that the recipe makes just 36 pieces which is nowhere near enough.

The list of tempting treats goes on and on with dishes like Toasted Bow Tie Crunch, cooked pasta seasoned and baked on a cookie sheet, transforming it into a panful of heaven for those of us who like to pilfer the crunchy top off the macaroni and cheese when no one is looking.  Knowing how much kids of all ages love frozen blended drinks, Leah and Victoria have included a healthy and low calorie Skinny Berry Coolata as well as a totally decadent Iced Vanilla, the equivalent of a coffee-less frozen iced coffee and most likely the first recipe that I will be trying from this book.

Taking things one step further is a fabulous section titled Sweets and Crafts which includes recipes for button candy, a working solitaire game made out of a giant cookie and Zours candies, candy spray, edible sand art and an erector set made out of marshmallows and colored toothpicks. I mean, really, who doesn’t love playing with their food?

Another very important component of Kids Cooking Made Easy are lots of helpful tips and advice.  Kids are shown how to slice, french, dice and sauté onions and how to mince, crush and slice garlic.  A step by step guide to melting chocolate in the microwave is welcome and practical and a conversion guide helps young chefs understand the relationship between measurements, with practical tips translating tablespoons to cups, teaspoons to tablespoons and even identifying just how big a pinch really is.  All recipes are marked with icons showing what appliances are needed and cooking tips and definitions are sprinkled liberally throughout the book.

Distributed by Artscroll, Kids Cooking Made Easy is one book you might want to buy for your kids.  Then again, you might just want to keep it for yourself.

* * * * *

Cardamom-Scented Chanukah Cookies

Kosher Status: DairyEller-111513-Cookies

Prep: 10 minutes; Chill: 30 minutes; Bake: 12 minutes; Cool: 10 minutes; Total: 1 hour 2 minutes; Yield: About twenty-four 2-inch cookies.

 

I really feel like a good mom when I bake with my kids, especially for the holidays. Chanukah cookies can be a lot of fun to make, but they’re usually so blah and one-dimensional, no one really craves them. With just one touch of cardamom, this recipe immediately transforms those bland little cookies into something super special. You don’t even need to decorate them. Just pile ‘em on your party tray and watch ‘em go!

Ingredients

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
Blue sugar or sprinkles, for decorating

Directions

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and ginger in a small bowl. Beat together the butter, and granulated sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and orange juice and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly flour your work surface.

Flour your rolling pin and cookie cutters. Roll out the dough to ¼-inch thick on the work surface. Cut into desired shapes and place them on the prepared baking sheets. Reroll the scraps and continue until all the dough has been used. Bake until the edges are just golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then more to a wire rack to cool completely.

Place the confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and whisk until a smooth, thick but pourable consistency is reached. Drizzle the frosting on the cookies and decorate them with blue sugar or sprinkles.

 

VARIATION: Use 1 cup all-purpose flour and ½ cup whole wheat flour, or ¾ of each.

DRESS IS UP: Black and White Chocolate – Dipped Chanukah Cookies: Our go-to Chanukah activity is cookie decorating. The kids love to pile on mountains of sprinkles, fluff, licorice, chocolate chips, mustard, and glue. (I threw those last into see if you’re listening. If you’re like Hubby, you’d be noodling and going, “Fine, fine.”). And when our cousins Samara and Ilana come over to create their masterpieces, our humble cookies become candidates for the Kid’s Cookie Hall of Fame. But we grown-ups deserve our day, too, so I recently added this slightly more refined chocolate ganache version to the mix. I mean, how many rainbow sprinkles can a person eat?

To make Chocolate Ganache¸ bring 1 cup of heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Place 4 ounces chopped milk chocolate in a small bowl and 4 ounces chopped white chocolate in another small bowl. Pour half of the warm cream into each bowl. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir with rubber spatulas to melt the chocolates. Let cool slightly before dipping your cookies. Divide the cookies into two equal batches. Dip the cookies in one batch in the milk chocolate, covering each cookie halfway; dip the cookies in a second batch in the white chocolate, dipping each cookie halfway. Sprinkle the frosted parts of the cookies with gold and silver decorating sugar.

MAKE IT PAREVE: These are so easy to make nondairy: just sub margarine for butter. Because it’s traditional to eat dairy delicacies on Chanukah, and I rarely have occasion to make dairy desserts, I seize the opportunity to use butter in this recipe. But it’s a great quick cookie recipe and shouldn’t be relegated to Chanukah – just use cookie cutters that are not holiday themed.

* * * * *

Pizza Soup
Yield: 4-6 servings

IngredientsEller-111513-Pizza-soup

2 Tbsp oil or butter
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic powder
2 cups milk
¼ cup water
½ cup shredded cheese, plus more for garnish, optional

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Using a wooden spoon, sauté until onion is soft, 5-7 minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes and cook for 8-10 minutes. Add sugar, salt, basil, garlic powder, milk, and water and stir to combine. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Add cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Ladle soup into bowls to serve.

Garnish with additional shredded cheese (optional).­­

* * * * *

Hot Dog Garlic Knots
Yield: 36 knots

IngredientsEller-111513-Hotdogbites

1 ¾ cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbsp. oil
2/3 cup water
6 hot dogs, each cut into 6 pieces
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. parsley flakes
pinch salt

Directions

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, sugar, yeast, oil, and water. Knead until smooth. Add 1 additional tablespoon of water if necessary. You can use your hands or knead the dough with an electric mixer.

Grease a bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel, and let rise for 35-40 minutes. You can keep it in the mixer bowl or place it in a separate bowl.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Divide dough into 4 parts. Cut each part into 9 pieces. Stretch each piece into a rectangle and wrap it around a piece of hot dog. Tie a knot at the top, and tuck the two ends underneath. You can also simply wrap the dough around the hot dog. Place wrapped hot dogs on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 18-22 minutes until golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine olive oil, garlic powder, parsley, and salt. Toss hot dogs in garlic mixture as soon as they come out of the oven.

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