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!

Under the Weather

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Well dear readers, it turns out that despite wishing that one doesn’t get sick doesn’t actually prevent one from getting sick… who knew? That dreaded bug that has been going around claimed me on Monday, after taking down three of my loved ones. You would think that a cold bug would have more respect for the high holidays! So again I find myself in the strange position of NOT cooking for the holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I am appreciative of those doing the work for me, but as I’ve stated in the past, the joy for me comes from preparing, not the eating. I know I’m strange

Another Holiday?!

Succah

Yes folks, we’re now on the home stretch. After Rosh HaShanah, and Yom Kippur, not to mention the regular celebration of Shabbat, we’ve been action packed lately with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to holiday feasting! But now we wind down to the last of the season, Sukkot! The combination of fine dining and an al fresco atmosphere, what’s not to love? During this 8-day holiday (or 7-days in Israel), we get to reenact the journey that B’nei Israel took, as they wandered the desert for 40 years after the exodus from Egypt. Things were a little different then… They had Ma’an to sustain them, so no planning menus, grocery shopping, or dishes to wash up; and instead of a man-made structure of wood or cloth, they had the Heavenly protection of clouds to surround and protect them from the elements. They were also in the desert, and not in Canada in October! So for us, who are not as fortunate to have G-d provide the food and shelter, He has provided us with the creativity and desire to make this temporary dwelling a warm and welcoming atmosphere, to sit and enjoy with family, guests, and a few Spiritual visitors! (click here to learn all about the Ushpizin). While there are not specific foods inscribed to eat during the holiday, it is traditional to eat foods of the fall harvest, as well as stuffed or wrapped foods, such as cabbage rolls and kreplach (meat dumplings). We’ve got 2 ½ days to go, so let’s get on with the cooking! Unless of course G-d would like to send down some more Ma’an… I always wondered what it would taste like :)

Post-Fast – Indulgence!

Creme Brulee

Crème Brûlée French Toast

I know this goes against what I was saying about not gorging yourself after the fast, but if you’re ever going to eat something rich and calorie loaded like this dish, this is the time to do it! What’s even better about this dish is that it’s even better if you prepare it the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight, having the bread soak up all the flavours, and then bake it right after the fast and eat it hot! This recipe will make 12 servings.

Ingredients:

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons corn syrup
1 large challah
10 large eggs
3 cups half-and-half or whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons orange flavoured liqueur or orange juice concentrate
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In a small heavy saucepan melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth and pour into a 13×9 inch baking dish, making sure that the pan is at least 2 inches deep. Cut the challah into large cubes. You can remove the crusts or keep them, it’s a matter of personal taste. Arrange the bread cubes in the baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit. In a bowl whisk together eggs, half-and-half/milk, vanilla, liqueur/juice concentrate, and salt until combined well and pour evenly over bread. Do not toss, as you want the sugar/syrup mixture to stay on the bottom of the pan. At this point you can let the dish sit for 15-20 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the egg and milk mixture, or you can refrigerate the bread mixture, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit, and if you’ve chilled the dish, bring bread to room temperature. Bake bread mixture, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot french toast immediately. TIP: When you serve this, turn the piece upside down on the individual’s plate, to allow the caramel-y goodness (and the Crème Brûlée aspect of the recipe), run down over the toast!

Fasting 101 – Dos and Don’ts – The Day of the Fast and After!

Yom Kippur Seal

The Day of the Fast:

  • Avoid wearing clothing that will make you perspire, as this will cause your body to lose water.
  • Try (and it is difficult!) not to talk or think about the food you’ll eat after the fast, as this will cause your body to begin preparing itself for a meal.
  • Take an afternoon nap between prayer services. This will pass some time, and some people also experience a feeling of fullness after a short nap. Admittedly, this is not for everyone as some have the custom not to nap on Yom Kippur.
  • Some people find that sniffing spices such as cinnamon or cloves helps ease the hunger. Again, this is not for everyone as some have the custom not to benefit at all from items such as these on Yom Kippur.

Post-fast . . .

Now comes the easy part, which most of us will have little trouble with! However, there are a few pointers to keep in mind so as not to shock your body back into eating mode.

  • Be sure not to eat food too quickly at the post-fast meal. Begin the break-fast meal with a drink of milk or juice; this puts sugar into the bloodstream and occupies space in the stomach, discouraging you from eating too rapidly.
  • Begin with eating a simple food, such as a piece of honey cake or crackers. It is advisable to wait some time before sitting down for a full meal, in order to give your body a chance to begin digesting foods again. I imagine most people are willing to run the risk of a stomach-ache by eating without delay, but it is still a good idea to keep in mind, even if you postpone your meal by only a few minutes.
  • Drink lots of water, and avoid salty foods, since you will still be a little dehydrated and need to replace your fluids.
  • Many people vote for a dairy meal (i.e.: cream cheese and bagels), as it is lighter on the system.
  • Avoid gorging yourself. The body protects itself from starvation when you are fasting by slowing down the rate at which it burns food. Therefore, the calories you consume right after a fast will stay with you a lot longer than those acquired on a normal basis (sorry!).

Most of all, “!גמר‏ חתימה טובה” or “May You Be Sealed for a Good Year (in the Book of Life)!”

Pre-Fast Meal – Main Course

Lemon Chicken

Roasted Lemon Chicken with Root Vegetables
I got this recipe from my sister Ellie. She is an excellent chef in her own right and a much better baker than me!

Ingredients:

3lb. Chicken
2 small/medium sized lemons, washed
6 cloves garlic
2 ½ teaspoons coarse salt, divided
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 ½ cups of chicken broth
3 Potatoes, cut into wedges
3 Carrots, cut into ½ inch discs
3 Parsnips, cut into ½ inch discs

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the giblets and any fat from the chicken cavity. Roll the lemons on the counter with your hand to soften, then prick with a fork, going all the way through the rind of the flesh. Cut one of the lemons in half. In a small bowl, mash the garlic with 1 ½ teaspoons of the salt until a paste forms. Rub half this paste inside the chicken and then stuff one and one half of the lemons into the cavity. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil to the rest of the garlic paste and rub the mixture on the outside of the chicken. Place the cut up vegetables in a roasting pan, tossing with the remaining salt and oil, and form a make-shift rack for the chicken to rest on. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and pour the broth into the bottom of the pan. Squeeze the juice from the lemon half into the broth. Roast for 60-65 minutes, basting with the pan juices halfway through the cooking time, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees Fahrenheit, juices run clear when pricked with a fork, and the drumstick moves easily in its socket. Cover the chicken and let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve with the pan juices.

Fasting 101 – Dos and Don’ts – The Day Before The Fast

Yom Kippur Shofar

The day before . . .

  • Hydrate! I cannot emphasize this enough! Drink as much water as possible before the fast. Although you may feel you’re about to float away, it will be worth it by the time the fast is well underway. Beware of caffeinated beverages, beer or other alcoholic beverages; they will only dehydrate you. Water or diluted fruit juices are the safest options.
  • Don’t over-stuff yourself before the fast. For some reason, people seem to think that eating a lot the day before will compensate for not eating on the fast day. This will actually make you hungrier. You are not a chipmunk! You cannot stuff your cheeks with food for later! Eat a proper meal that emphasizes carbohydrates, some protein, and foods high in oils and fats, since they delay the emptying of the stomach, thus prolonging the effects of your pre-fast meal. Consuming carbohydrates (e.g., potatoes, pasta) will be very effective, as they bond with water that your body will make use of during the fast.
  • Avoid salty or spicy foods. Salt causes a person to feel thirsty despite having a “normal” amount of water, because extra water is required to absorb the extra salt. For this reason, you should refrain from processed foods containing lots of salt, such as pickles or cold cuts. Most tomato sauces, canned fish and smoked fish should also be avoided.
  • Salads and other high-fibre foods that are so important in one’s normal diet should be de-emphasized for the pre-fast meal, since they travel quickly through the digestive system. Fruit, despite its high fibre content, is worthwhile, since it carries a lot of water in a “time-release” form.

Tomorrow: What to do the day of the fast!

Pre-Fast Meal – First Course

Brocoli Soup

Broccoli Soup

A nice vegetable soup like this will stick to the ribs, without being overly filling. You can substitute other vegetables for the broccoli if you like, such as cauliflower, carrots or squash.

Ingredients:

1 package frozen broccoli florets (equal to 1 head of broccoli)
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots
4 cups hot water
4 teaspoons chicken soup powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dill
2 tablespoons margarine
1 ½ cups soy milk or water

Directions:

In a large soup pot, sauté the onions in the margarine, until golden and translucent. Rough chop the remaining ingredients and add them to the pot, along with the water and the spices. Cook on high/medium-high for 30 to 45 minutes. Once cooked through, pour mixture into a food processor, blender, or use an immersion blender, and puree the mixture until smooth. Add the soy milk/water, and serve warm.

 

Fasting 101 – Dos and Don’ts – The Week Before The Fast

Yom Kippur Ahead

Well, after the marathon of eating from Rosh HaShanah and Shabbos, one would think that a fast would be welcomed, but we never seem to be fully prepared are we? For me, the killer is not the lack of food, but the lack of liquid, as it is with most people. The human body can go for quite some time without food, but withhold liquid, and we’re outta here! In preparation for Yom Kippur and this mammoth fast (c’mon people, it’s only 25 hours!) I thought I’d provide some tips on what to do and what NOT to do when fasting:

I should point out that everybody’s body is different, and everybody reacts differently to fasting. These tips may or may not work for you. Above all else, you should listen to your own body and do those things that tend to make you less hungry while avoiding things that tend to make you more hungry.

A Week Before Yom Kippur

You can ease your fast by preparing your body about a week before the fast.

  • Taper off on coffee or other caffeinated beverages about a week before the fast. Sudden deprivation on the day of Yom Kippur may produce caffeine withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches. Cutting back on coffee, or drinking decaf, may ease potential withdrawal. It is also advisable to cut back on cigarettes, refined sugars, or anything else that you eat habitually or compulsively, that you long for when you can’t have it.
  • In the preceding days, try to vary your meal schedule. If you normally eat at the same time every day, your body clock will automatically prepare to digest as lunch time approaches . . . By varying your meal schedule, you may find that it eases the hunger you might normally experience at mealtimes.

Tomorrow: Tips to do the day before the fast!