Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Double Chocolate Cookies for Passover

This year, the first day of Passover is on April 15 (first Seder is Monday night, April 14).  That means, in addition to cleaning our homes, changing over our kitchens, shopping for a whole new pantry, and cooking for multiple guests - we also need to make sure our taxes are done by then too!  Talk about stress!   Thankfully, I have a super easy - and amazingly delicious and decadent dessert for you to share at your Seder.... or maybe sneak one beforehand to relax and indulge.

This chocolate cookie is very simple.  Only 5 ingredients and a bake time of only 10 minutes.  There is no matzo or cake meal in this cookie, so it isn't heavy and doesn't taste like a traditional Passover dessert.  Be careful - they are addictive!

Of course, if cooking for Passover isn't your thing, come to Beth El for our community 2nd night Seder.  Call the office:  301-652-2606 to check for availability.  This year it will be lead by Hazzan Matthew Klein.  It is sure to be a musical exodus!

Double Chocolate Cookies
3 cups powdered sugar*
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-4 egg whites
1 cup chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Sift or whisk sugar, cocoa powder and salt together in a large mixing bowl.  Add two egg whites and mix.  Consistency should be similar to thick brownie mix.  If you need additional egg whites, add one at a time until the correct consistency.  I find that 3 egg whites works best, but it can vary.  Fold chocolate chips into batter.  Spoon batter onto cookie sheets.  Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, until cookies inflate slightly and tops crack.  Remove cookies from cookie sheet and let cool completely.  Makes 24 - 30 cookies. 

*Kosher for Passover powdered sugar can be found in kosher markets around town, or, it is easy to make yourself.  In a food processor, use the ratio of 1 cup granulated sugar to 1 tablespoon of potato starch.  Blend in food processor until mixture resembles powdered sugar. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Chocolate Peanut butter Hamantaschen

Purim is around the corner!  That is hard to believe since there is still so much snow on the ground.  I took advantage of this snow day and started baking.

Every year I try a new recipe for hamantaschen.  Some are cake-y, others dough-y, and others are more similar to a cookie dough.  They each have their loyal followers.  This recipe creates a delicate and crunchy cookie.  It is sweet, but it is not overly sweet, so it doesn't take away from your filling.  First, I made a classic hamantaschen with a peach filling.  Use whichever flavor you like the best.  [A little tip:  don't use jelly.  It gets very runny when baked.  Instead use pie filling or make your own.]

After I made the peach hamantaschen, I decided to shake things up a little.  I added cocoa powder to dough and filled the hamantaschen with peanut butter!  Even Haman would like these!

Hamantaschen Dough
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
* ( 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder) *

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk to combine eggs, sugar, oil, zest and vanilla in large bowl.  In separate bowl, sift all dry ingredients.  Slowly add dry ingredients to wet and mix.  Knead at the end to fully combine dough.  Lightly flour a clean dry surface and roll out dough.  You might need to add a little extra flour or a little extra water to ensure the dough is the correct consistency.  It should be moist, but not sticky.  Use a 3 inch round cookie cutter or glass to cut out cookies.  Fill with no more than a teaspoon of filling, fold up sides to create a triangle.  Bake for 18 - 20 minutes.

* Directions for Chocolate dough *
Add the cocoa powder to the dry ingredients and prepare as mentioned above.  When rolling the dough out, use a mixture of flour and extra cocoa powder.  Fill the circles with no more than 1 teaspoon of peanut butter (or filling of choice).  Fold, bake and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Lighten Up Brisket

This blog is titled Brisket and Beyond.  It is about time that I actually cook a brisket!  I normally only make brisket for Rosh Hashanah and for Passover.  However, I had a small brisket in the freezer and I had my Lighten Up dinner to host, so I thought it would be a perfect time to try a new recipe.

Lighten Up is our community engagement program where host families invite other members to their home for an informal Shabbat dinner.  The program promotes building relationships and friendships between member families.  Hosts are asked to invite one or two families to their house and have an opportunity to befriend new members through the warmth of the Shabbat table setting.  This is the third year that we have done this program.  Each year, I love getting the feedback from families. 

One family just wrote, "We had a lot to talk about and the kids played together nicely, so we actually had time to chat." 

A different family responded, " I don't think I would have gotten to know these families if it wasn't for this event.  What a great way to meet families and make a large synagogue feel smaller!"

This year we invited a new family over.  They also have a baby son!  It was so nice to meet them and bond over being new parents and connect.  And of course, eat brisket.  This recipe is very delicious and so easy! 

Sweet BBQ Brisket
3 - 4 lb brisket
3/4 Cup BBQ sauce
1/4 Cup soy sauce
2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 Cup water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Take very large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil and place into roasting pan.  Place brisket onto foil.  Mix all above ingredients in a bowl and pour over brisket.  Wrap the foil over the brisket, making a pouch.  Leave a small opening in the foil to allow steam to vent.  Bake brisket for about 4 hours, until tender.  Cut and serve.

I served mine with kasha and asparagus.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken and Fennel

When I bought my first slow cooker, its sole purpose was to make cholent, the traditional stew that cooks all night to be served during Shabbat lunch.  Growing up, my mother never made cholent, so for me, eating cholent was a real treat; I love the warmth and richness of this humble stew.  Until recently, the only action my slow cooker had was in the winter when I made the occasional cholent. 

However, now that I am a working mom, I am finding that the slow cooker can really help me get dinner on the table mid-week as well as on Shabbat.  I have been reading a lot of slow cooker recipes in magazines and on Pinterest (did you know you could even bake a cake in one!?!).  I got inspired to try something new. 

This dish is a perfect one pot meal.  It has a protein (chicken), a starch (brown rice), and a vegetable (fennel).  It works great as a weeknight meal, as a Shabbat dinner entree, or as a cholent replacement for Shabbat lunch.  Don’t be scared away by the fennel.  This licorice tasting vegetable gets very sweet and tender when cooked.   In fact, it is quite child friendly: my one year old son gobbled up the fennel faster than I could get it on his plate!

Slow Cooker Chicken and Fennel
(This recipe is an adaptation from Real Simple magazine)

2 lbs chicken thighs and legs, bone-in, with as much skin removed as possible
1 cup dry brown basmati rice
2 fennels, sliced.  Reserve some fronds for serving
½ onion, sliced
2 ½ cups water mixed with 1 scant Tablespoon bouillon (alternative could be 2 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth)
1 Tablespoon paprika, divided

Place chicken in bottom of slow cooker.  Sprinkle some of the paprika on the chicken.  Pour dried rice on top of chicken and layer onion and fennel on top.  Sprinkle remainder of paprika over vegetables.  Pour water/broth into the crockpot.  Cover.  Cook on low for about 7 hours or high for about 4 hours.  Garnish with fennel fronds.  Serve with a green vegetable or salad.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Roasted Parsnip and Mushroom Soup

Baby, it's cold outside! 
While most American's are listening to this Dean Martin song to get into the Yuletime spirit, for us, it is just cold outside!  Nothing warms you up better than a hot, rich soup.

This past Shabbat I was feeling like soup was in order.  I wanted to do something different - I always feel the need to make something unique when I have guests.  This roasted parsnip and mushroom soup was perfect.  It is rich and creamy (without cream - it's parve!).  I happen to love parsnip and I am always looking for new ways to use it; and when it is all blended together, the parsnips create a thick creamy texture to the soup.  I roasted the parsnip first to release all of its sweetness and the mushrooms complement the earthy taste.  My husband, who does not like mushrooms, loved this soup - and went for seconds! 

Roasted Parsnip and Mushroom Soup

4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into rounds
1 onion
1 package sliced button mushrooms
1 package sliced crimini mushrooms
4 - 5 cups water
3 - 4 tbsp. chicken flavored bouillion
1 - 2 tsp. oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley for serving

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Peel and slice parsnips.  Arrange on baking sheet and roast in oven for about 30 minutes, until soften and sweet smelling.  Meanwhile, chop and sauté onion until translucent, add mushrooms and continue to sauté until browned and the mushrooms reduce in size.  Add roasted parsnip and sauté briefly to blend the flavors.  Add bouillion to boiling water to dissolve and add to the mushroom and parsnip mixture (alternatives are to use prepared chicken broth or vegetable broth.  I find the bouillion to be salty which is why I use more water and less bouillion than recommended on the package).  After vegetables have cooked in the water for a few minutes, turn off heat.  Using an immersion blender, blend soup to a thick puree. 

If you prefer more texture to your soup, remove some of the cooked mushrooms before adding broth.  After pureeing, add the mushrooms back to the pot. 

Top with a generous amount of chopped parsley to serve.  The parsley give the soup a burst of freshness that cuts through the richness of the soup nicely. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013


We've been hearing about this for months now, the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide (we light candles starting Wednesday night).  This hasn't happened since 1888 and won't again for over 70,000 years.  So it is fair to say that this is the only Thanksgivukkah any of us have, or will, see.  And that is something really special!
Blogs, Pinterest boards, clothing and other merchandise have all popped up about Thanksgivukkah.   My favorite aspect of this upcoming holiday is the food.  And I'll be the first to tell you that I am looking forward to having cranberry sauce, instead of apple, on my latkes. 
Since Thanksgivukkah is fast approaching, I started to test a recipe that I want to use for Shabbat, the day after Thanksgivukkah.  I think the recipe will be great with leftover turkey and stuffing without it looking or tasting like you are using leftovers.  I tested this recipe with ground turkey, because I didn't have time to roast a turkey too.
Thanksgiving-stuffed Acorn Squash
1 package of seasoned stuffing mix * can use leftover stuffing
1 lb ground turkey *can use leftover roasted turkey, chopped or shredded
3 acorn squash
1 onion
3-4 stalks of celery
3-4 carrots
1 cup craisins
Chicken broth or water, as needed for stuffing mix
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
Microwave acorn squash (1 at a time) for 2-3 minutes.  This makes it a little easier to cut the squash.  With a large knife, cut squash in half, de-seed (save the seeds to toast if you like them).  Place the squash, cut side down, on a large baking sheet.  Bake until tender, but not soft, about 25 - 30 minutes. 
In the meantime, brown turkey (or chop leftover turkey) and prepare stuffing as directed on package.  If the package does not mention, add sautéed onion, carrots and celery.  After turkey is browned and stuffing is made, combine the two and add the craisins. 
Take out acorn squash and flip over.  Fill stuffing mixture into the squash and re-heat for another 10 minutes until squash is soft.  Top with toasted squash seeds (or even a little leftover cranberry sauce). 
This makes 6 over filled squash halves for large portions.  However, if you will be eating this with other dishes, you might want to cut the halves again and serve quarters.   

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Tu b'Shevat Treat - Seven Species Challah

Although Tu b’Shevat, the birthday for the trees, was this past Shabbat, after a Sunday full of Tu b’Shevat themed programs and eating, I am inspired to pass along an amazing recipe for the holiday – or for any Shabbat.

When I think of Tu b’Shevat, I think of the 7 species of Israel.  These are the 7 fruits and grains that the Torah tells us are grown in Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.  Many people are familiar with the Tu b’Shevat Seder which, modeled after Passover Seder, involves drinking four glasses of wine, but with varying percentages of red and white wine.  The different colors of wine represent the different yearly seasons.   The Seder also involves trying different types of fruits and nuts such as fruits that have an inedible outside and an edible inside (such as pomegranates or pineapple), an edible outside and an inedible inside (such as olives, dates, or apricots), and fruits that have an edible outside and inside (such as grapes, figs or kiwis). 

There are lots of recipes that you can make that would involve a few of the above mentioned species.  However, to find a recipe that includes all 7 is very impressive!  Here is a recipe for 7 species Challah.  Some of the ingredients are unique for Challah – but I promise it is really worth trying!!
Seven Species Challah
2 packages dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup honey
1 Tablesppon salt
3/4 cup olive oil
4 eggs
1 cup dried fruit (1/2 cup chopped dates, 1/4 cup raisins, 1/4 cup chopped figs)
1 cup barley flour
7-8 cups bread flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water and pomegranate juice in a large bowl.  Add honey and let stand 2 minutes until yeast foams.
Add salt, oil, eggs and mix well.
Gradually add flour, 2 cups at a time mixing after each addition.  About ½ way through, add dried fruit to mixture.  As mixture gets stiff, use floured hands and begin kneading.  Knead for seven minutes turning dough over often.
Let rise in greased bowl until double in size.  (Approximately one hour.)
Punch dough down.
Divide challah into thirds.  Shape each 3rd as desired (braided for traditional, can also do a round or pull apart challah).   Let rise again until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Brush with glaze. (one beaten egg).  Bake 30-45 mins. Or until brown.  Remove from pans and cool on racks.