Rava Laddu

Rava LadduRava Laddu is a traditional sweet found in Western India. Authentic Rava Laddu is made using Rava (hence the name) which is a wheat husk product. This recipe calls for the use of semolina, as it is more commonly available in North America. This is a popular laddu prepared almost in every household for all the festivals. Rava laddu is a simple and easy recipe but still exotic. This recipe will make about 14 laddus.

Ingredients:

1 cup semolina/rava
⅓ cup coconut powder ᶲ
¼ cup clarified butter or ghee*
¾ cup fine sugar
2 tablespoons crushed cashews ᶲ
1 tablespoon raisins
¼ teaspoon crushed cardamom ᶲ
approx. ¼ cup milk, boiling hot*

Directions:

Heat one tablespoon of clarified butter in a small pan over medium low heat; roast the cashews for about 2 minutes until they are light golden brown. Add raisins and roast for another minute, raisins will be puffed. Turn off the heat and transfer them in a bowl. Set aside.

Heat the remaining clarified butter in a frying pan over low medium heat; add the semolina and roast until it changes the color lightly this should take 6-7 minutes. It is important to stir continuously making sure the semolina roasts evenly. Add the coconut and roast, stirring continually for about 2 more minutes. Add nuts, cardamom, and sugar stir until everything is mixed well. Turn off the heat.

Add about 2 tablespoons of hot milk to the dry ingredients. Mix it well to combine. The mix should be moist add more milk as needed. Allow the mixture to cool slightly.

To form the laddus, press about 1 ½ tablespoons of the mixture between your palms. Add little more milk if you are unable to hold the mixture. Press and squeeze to form a round golf-ball like shape. Let them sit for at least one hour before serving. Laddus can be stored in air tight container for about 10 days.

ᶲ If you can’t find coconut powder, crushed cashews or crushed cardamon, simply grind them in a coffee grinder or food processor. For the coconut, I would suggest using unsweetened coconut flakes.
* To make this recipe non-dairy, simply substitute margarine for the butter/ghee and use soy/almond milk instead of cow milk.

The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies

Chanuka Sugar CookiesThis is the perfect combination of a recipe AND a fun activity for the kids (or just those that act like kids). Prepare the dough ahead of time and keep covered in plastic wrap in the fridge. When company comes over, before the meal, set up a decorating station and have everyone cut out their own cookies and decorate as they please. Have bowls of sprinkles, chocolate chips and tubes of ready-bought icing for them to use. Just remember, the icing goes on AFTER the baking, not before :)

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups butter (or margarine), softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. If you prefer the slice and bake method, form into 2 thick logs and wrap completely in plastic wrap. If you are eventually going to roll out your dough, it’s easier to form them into 2 thick disks, and then again, wrap completely in plastic wrap. Chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight). Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. If you are rolling out the dough, do so on a floured surface, rolling to about  ¼ to ½ inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. If you are slicing the cookies from a log, simply cut with a sharp knife (you may want to wet it between slices) and cut slices about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely. Makes about 60 cookies.

Blintz Soufflé

Blintz SouffleIngredients:

1 dozen frozen blintzes, any flavour (cheese, blueberry, cherry, etc.)
1 ½ cups sour cream or yogurt (light or regular)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
4 eggs (or 1 cup egg substitute)
½ cup orange juice
cinnamon, as garnish

Directions:

Place blintzes in a single layer in a sprayed 9” x 13” glass baking dish. Using a steel blade, process sour cream or yogurt, with vanilla extract and sugar for a few seconds. Add eggs and orange juice through feed tube while machine is running. Process until smooth. Immediately remove bowl from the base of machine to prevent leakage. Pour topping over blintzes(can be prepared in advance and refrigerated.) Sprinkle the top with some cinnamon (it looks good AND it tastes good!). Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour, until puffed and golden. Serve with sour cream or a sauce that matches the blintz filling; e.g.: cherry, blueberry, etc.

Salmon en Croute

Salmon en CrouteIngredients:

1 salmon fillet (about 1 ½ pounds), skin removed
½ cup sour cream
3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill*
16 oz. fresh baby spinach or 10 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted and drained*
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup dry bread crumbs (plain or seasoned)
½ cup parmesan cheese (grated or shredded)
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 (17.3 oz) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet on medium-high heat, sauté the spinach, onion, garlic and lemon juice until the onion has become translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add about half of the salt and pepper to the spinach mixture and stir well to combine. Set aside, and allow the mixture to cool. In a small bowl mix together the fresh dill, the lemon zest, parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and remaining salt and pepper. Set this aside as well.

You are going to want to completely encapsulate the fish, so it is easiest working with two pieces of pastry dough, rather than one large one. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Lay one sheet out on a greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish or cookie sheet. Spread about a tablespoon or so of the sour cream on the dough. Then lay the salmon on the dough. Next, spread the remaining sour cream on top of the salmon. Then sprinkle on the bread crumb mixture over the sour cream. Then gently spread out the spinach mixture on top. Finally, finish with a layer of the chopped up hard boiled eggs.

Pull the edges of the dough up around the sides of your salmon pile. Then top with your remaining piece of dough, using your beaten egg to help seal the two pieces together. Use the remaining beaten egg as a wash over the top of the pastry. Cut a few slits to allow steam to escape, and take the opportunity to decorate the top of the pastry with slits or designs to your liking. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with a cucumber dill or tartar sauce.

* click here to see how to properly clean fresh dill and baby spinach.

Chanukah Food Traditions

Chanuka FoodsOkay, so I’ve now covered why we eat fried food on Chanukah, and why we eat dairy foods, but why the particular dishes that we associate with Chanukah? Why Latkes? Why Sufganiot (jelly donuts)? There are plenty of foods that fit into the fried/dairy category, so why these ones?

Over time, different Jewish communities throughout the world have found a variety of ways to incorporate both oil and dairy into their Chanukah meals. One of the most famous, Israeli sufganiot, may actually derive from a yeast dough pastry mentioned in the Talmud (the written edition of the oral Torah). These pastries were cooked in oil and called sufganin (absorbent) because they absorbed a lot of oil in cooking. They did not contain milk, but were sweetened and perhaps even filled with honey and the fact that they were cooked in oil led to the pastries becoming a Chanukah staple early on.In Spain, Jews added cheese to these pastries—and from this twist on an old tradition evolved the many cheese doughnuts, fritters, and other fried cheese pastries popular among Sephardim. They may have influenced the cheese pastries popular in some Central European communities as well. A jelly-filled version evolved among German Jews, who brought it with them to the Land of Israel in the 1930’s.

In more Northern communities, where olive oil was scarce and expensive, goose or chicken fat often had to be used for frying. Potato latkes, apple fritters, and other non-dairy fried foods became the norm, although today when olive (or other pareve) oil is affordable and commonly used in preparing latkes, etc., dairy is often added—usually in the form of a dollop of sour cream on top of a latke.

So there you go, you now know the whys, so go and check out the recipes for the hows! Chag Samayach everyone!

Best Mac and Cheese – Ever

Baked Mac N Cheese

This recipe comes from my Mom. It is AMAZING! In fact, she often gives it as a bridal shower gift given with a casserole dish. Yes, you can use that idea for your next shower… it’s a good one, and she gets royalties 😉

Ingredients:

½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
½ cup all purpose flour
2-3 boxes of mac & cheese (we like using wacky mac, but whatever is your favourite)
1 – 1 ½ lbs. or more of different cheeses, shredded
5 cups of milk
Salt & pepper
Bread crumbs (optional)
Pam, butter flavoured

Directions:

Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. When butter bubbles, whisk in flour. Mixture should be think and pasty. Slowly whisk in milk about a cup at a time. You have to use a whisk or it will get lumpy. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

When the mixture is as thick as melted ice cream, start adding cheese. Use the cheese packets included with the mac & cheese, and any other sharp flavoured cheese, such as cheddar, kashkeval, or goat cheese. A blend works best. Taste and add cheese until it is delicious! Season with salt and pepper to taste. As the mixture cooks, it may become too thick – just add some more milk. Stir often, and/or turn down the heat so that it does not burn.

In the meantime, boil pasta from the boxes according to the directions. Drain well. Mix the cheese sauce and pasta together – it should be very saucy.
Pour the mixture into a baking dish sprayed with Pam. At this point, you can sprinkle the top of the pasta with breadcrumbs. Spray the top of the pasta with butter flavoured Pam and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the top is all browned and bubbly.

Latkes – 3 Ways

Potato LatkeRegular Potato Latkes

Ingredients:

4 medium potatoes
1 onion
2 eggs
½ cup flour or matzo meal
1 teaspoon chicken soup mix (bullion)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Oil for frying

Directions:

Shred potatoes in a food processor. Rinse and drain the potatoes shreddings very well. Take half of the shreddings and puree them along with the onion. Add the eggs, flour, chicken soup mix, baking powder, salt and pepper to the puree. Mix the puree together with the remaining portion of shredded potatoes. Pour oil to about ⅛” depth into a large skillet. When hot, drop in potato mixture by large spoonfuls to form pancakes. Brown well on both sides. Drain well on paper towels. Yields about 2 dozen or 5 dozen miniatures.

Sweet Potato LatkesSweet Potato Latkes

Ingredients:

2 lbs. sweet potatoes or yams
2 tablespoons matzoh meal or flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 – 2 teaspoons cinnamon (to taste)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
Oil for frying

Directions:

Shred potatoes in a food processor. Rinse and drain the potatoes shreddings very well. Take half of the shreddings and puree them. Add the eggs, flour, baking powder, and spices to the puree. Mix the puree together with the remaining portion of shredded potatoes. Pour oil to about ⅛” depth into a large skillet. When hot, drop in potato mixture by large spoonfuls to form pancakes. Brown well on both sides. Drain well on paper towels. Makes about 18 – 20 pancakes.

Zucchini LatkesZucchini Latkes

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini
1 large potato
1 small onion
3 tablespoons matzoh meal or flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Oil for frying

Directions:

Shred the zucchini and potato in a food processor. Rinse and drain the potato shreddings very well. Remove the excess water from the rinsed potato shreddings and the zucchini shredding as well (you can put them in dish towel or cheesecloth and squeeze out moisture). Take half of the shreddings and puree them along with the onion. Add the eggs, flour, baking powder, and spices to the puree. Mix the puree together with the remaining portion of shredded potato/zucchini. Pour oil to about ⅛” depth into a large skillet. When hot, drop in batter mixture by large spoonfuls to form pancakes. Brown well on both sides. Drain well on paper towels. Makes about 12 – 18 pancakes.

Endings and Beginnings

Vodka-Kaluha Cake

Vodka & Kahlua Cake
I got this recipe from my little sister, Mrs. Shuli Schwechter, who in turn got it from her friend’s mother, Mrs. Kleinman. It is a great recipe that my family makes quite often. A note on the Kahlua. According to the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc), whom COR recognizes as a reputable kosher authority, only Kahlua BOTTLED in Mexico is recommended. If you can’t find this type, any other coffee flavoured liqueur will do. Other alternatives are using a hazelnut or orange flavoured liqueur instead.

Ingredients:

1 package of yellow/white cake mix
1 package of chocolate instant pudding mix
1 cup oil
¾ cup water
½ cup sugar
¼ cup vodka
¼ cup Kahlua/coffee/chocolate liqueur
4 eggs

Icing:
1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon coffee/chocolate liqueur

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, mix together the oil, water, vodka and liqueur. Combine the wet and dry ingredients together. Adding 1 egg at a time, stir in each egg until fully incorporated. Grease and flour a Bundt pan. Pour in the batter, and then bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick entered comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, and then remove cake from pan and cool on a cooling rack. To make the icing, blend all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Once icing/glaze has come together, pour over the cooled/room temperature cake.


 

Deli Roll

Deli Roll

Ingredients:

1 package puff pastry
⅓ cup mustard (e.g.: yellow, Dijon, deli, etc.) I recommend using a blend of different types.
½ pound white deli meat (e.g.: Turkey, turkey pastrami, etc.)
½ pound dark deli meat (e.g.: corned beef, salami, etc.)
1 egg
Sesame seeds/poppy seeds (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a clean work surface, roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle. Cut off a thin strip of the dough, and set aside. Using a pastry brush, spread out your choice of mustard(s); then lay out the light coloured deli meat. Add another layer of mustard, and then lay out the dark coloured deli meat. Repeat layering mustard and meats, so that you have either about 4 layers, or run out of meat. Taking long side of the dough, roll the pastry into a log. Place the roll onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Using the dough that was set aside, and create a nice pattern on top of the log, such as a vine or flowers. Baste the log with the egg, and then sprinkle on the sesame or poppy seeds. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust golden brown. This can be served warm or at room temperature.

Mushroom Stuffed Beef Rouladen

Rouladen

For this recipe, I suggest using shoulder steak. Have your butcher tenderize it for you, or if you don’t have that option, you can go at it with a meat mallet. I hear it’s a great stress reliever!

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 pound assorted mushrooms (brown, Portobello, button, etc.), thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup bread crumbs
8 (3 ounce) pieces shoulder steak, pounded thin
¼ cup dry red wine
2 ½ cups beef stock
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Directions:

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic, onion and mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms and onion have softened, then stir in dried thyme, remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cool, season to taste with salt and pepper, then mix in the beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Evenly divide the mushroom mixture among the top round slices. Roll each Rouladen around the filling into a tight cylinder and secure with a toothpick. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the Rouladen, then transfer to an 8×8 inch baking dish. Pour wine into the hot skillet and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, stir the beef stock into the flour, and mix until smooth. Pour the beef stock into the skillet and return to a simmer. Cook until thickened, then stir in the Dijon mustard. Pour this sauce over the Rouladen. Cover, and bake 60 to 75 minutes in the preheated oven, until the meat is tender. This recipe makes 8 Rouladen. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes or wide egg noodles.

Hoshanah Rabbah

Well, with the first half of Sukkot finished, and now moving into the second half, we bring special attention to the seventh day of the holiday known as Hoshanah Rabbah, meaning “Great Salvation”. According to tradition, our verdict that G-d has decided for us, that was written on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur, is now handed down by the Heavenly Court. To celebrate this, we circle the Bimah seven times while holding the Lulav and Esrog, while reciting special prayers for prosperity. It is also the custom that during the course of the morning prayers, to take a bundle of five willow branches and beat them against the ground five times. With all this circling and beating, one can work up quite the appetite. As mentioned in past postings, we eat foods during this time that are wrapped, or encircled. These are symbolic for many different things: The wrapping up of one year of Torah reading, and beginning again. The wrapping up of our prayers and the judgment for a brand new year. And of course, the wrapping, or circling of the Bimah, now with the Lulav and later on Simchas Torah with the Torah itself. So with that in mind I thought a rolled entree would be appropriate. Just make sure to put down your Lulav before picking up your meat!