Archive | March, 2011

a remarkable birthday gathering

30 Mar

In addition to some of the hats I wear, I help to arrange a retreat for women, to benefit Keser Kavod, an organization that provides hairpieces for men and children with illness and hair conditions.  Our Winter retreat is an event that many women look forward to.  A good part of the camaraderie that unites these women of different ages and diverse backgrounds can be attributed to our star speaker, Mrs. Miryam Swerdlov.  In her very real way, with immense depth and witty delivery, she captures the essence of who we are and gives us the encouragement to accept and appreciate what we have, and to move on with our lives. “Look at life through the windshield, not through the rear view mirror”, is a typical Miryam phrase. 

So, we had our retreat February 22nd of this year, at which time Miryam invited us to her home for her upcoming Yom Holedes (birthday) on the 22nd of Adar. About 20 women showed up at her Crown Heights home yesterday afternoon, coming from Lakewood :), Boro Park, Flatbush, Williamsburg, Monsey & Monroe.  We can always count on our nucleus, the core of our group – the women that come with us year after year, to show up.  Miryam, single-handedly, set a beautiful dining room table, and transformed her kitchen island into an elegant buffet of food, even as dessert eyed us from the kitchen table.

We served ourselves from the wide array of food in the kitchen, which we carried to and ate in the dining room.  There were beautiful salads, sushi, bagels, lox, tuna & egg salad, roasted potatoes, hot soup, cabbage & noodles, and several types of crackers and breadsticks.  While we ate, we heard inspiring music from Morah Music, interspersed with words of wisdom and chizuk from Miryam, and spontaneous dancing.

After lunch, we sat or stood around the kitchen table drinking coffee and eating cheesecake, but mostly savoring these moments of friendship until the next time this wondrous group reunites, hopefully soon, with the coming of Moshiach, bimhaia b’yameinu, Amein.  (I guess my surroundings rubbed off on me!)


22 Mar

Ever since I can remember, my long time childhood friend has been talking about her grandmothers ikra.  I had never heard of it before (or since) from anyone other than members of this prominent family.  It is essentially a caviar spread made with carp roe and whipped into a mayonnaise consistency.  It is awesome on fresh challah and equally good with matzoh on Pesach.  My friends’ mother and aunts would make it, and the tradition is continuing in the ensuing generations.  One member of the family, living in Lakewood, makes a large batch of this on a weekly basis, puts it in containers, and then into a cooler on her porch for some of her favorite cousins to pick up on Fridays.  This family is so close, that she makes it, not for her own siblings, but for first and second cousins.  So long as she does, this dish will be a part of their family tradition. 

Here is the recipe, as I received it from my friend.  The measurements for the flavoring is not exact and requires some tasting and adjusting for each batch.



  • 1 cup raw carp roe (from summer carp – dark green only) (roe can be frozen and thawed)
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups oil
  • 1 raw onion, finely grated
  • 2 tsps lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. Rinse roe and pat dry. Place in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment.  Start the mixer on medium.  Slowly add oil, then onion, lemon juice and salt.  Increase mixer speed to high.  Whip for a while until the mixture becomes thick and white.  Taste to see if it needs additional salt, lemon or onion.  I find that I keep making adjustments until I am satisfied that the flavor is perfect.  First I add a little salt, then onion, then lemon, then salt, then onion, then lemon…..whatever it needs, until I love it!  Pour into containers and refrigerate.

a super burger

22 Mar

I had this grand idea to order a bread in the shape of a large bagel to fill with deli meat and serve at the Purim Seuda.  Somehow, the bakery misunderstood and made me a large 12″ round bread without a hole!  Well, it was no longer suitable for a deli sandwich so yours truly got out some chopped meat and made a super huge, fabulous, hamburger!!  I fried it in a frying pan while I cut and filled the bread with lots of ketchup pickles and lettuce.  The massive burger was cut into wedges and was the talk of the table!

yitzy’s adventure in the kitchen

22 Mar

Since this story is about me, my Mom said I should write it.  I am 9 years old. I found a recipe in a book, and thought I would try it out. It is a no bake recipe, called Chocolate Nests. It contains marshmallow fluff, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. I liked working by myself (even though my mother helped me a lot) . the best part is you don’t even have to bake it, and it’s great! I already packaged them to give to my friends for shalach manos.

Here’s where Mom takes over.  Since Yitzy has read all 7 Harry Potter books, and many other book series’ appropriate for his age, he is embarrassed to tell you that he found this recipe in the back of a Curious George Visits the Chocolate Factory Book.  We were at a neighbors’, and it was lying around and he chanced upon the recipe on the back page where he was checking out the Word Find.  He had a copy made and put it aside to make at this appropriate time.



  • 1      7oz. jar of marshmallow cream (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2      tablespoons butter or margarin, melted
  • 1      5oz. can chow mein noodles (about 3 cups ), use the thinnest you can find
  • 1      cup chocolate candies or pieces
  • 25-30 round or oval chocolates
  •      powdered sugar (optional)


  1. Mix marshmallow cream, peanut butter, and butter until well blended. 
  2. Add noodles and chooped chocolate candies.
  3. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookies sheets; shape with greased fingers to form nests.  Let stand until firm.
  4. Dust bottoms of nests lightly with powdered sugar, if desired.
  5. Fill with round chocolate candies (to look like eggs) before serving.
  6. Makes 10-12 nests

the fast of esther and the feast that follows

17 Mar

I was quite organized this week so I got all my baking orders for Purim and deliveries out of the way.  Today, Tannis Esther is a nidcheh (pushed off) as it is usually a day before Purim (Shabbos this year), and we do not fast on Shabbos unless it is Yom Kippur.  So that leaves me with a free day to make what I’d like for the breaking of the fast tonight, and for Purim.  My plan today is to make hamantashen, which I have only made once in my life when I tried it in a dairy variety, dairy chocolate bobka and rugelach and Aranygaluska.  Wikipedia defines Aranygaluska as Hungarian sweet dumplings.  In actuality, it is balls of a rich yeast dough dipped in oil and rolled in ground walnuts.  It is then layered and baked in a tube pan and traditionally served (at least in homes of Hungarian background) on Purim.   We always had a (slightly overbaked ;)) Aranygaluska straight out of the oven on Purim.  It is similar to monkey bread which is a pull apart type of round shaped bread.  When I googled Aranygaluska, I saw a picture of one which had lekvar (prune jam) filling in each ball.  Although not authentic in my mother’s home, I think I will make it that way today since I love the lekvar filling and look for opportunities to use it.  I think the best option would be to freeze it raw and then thaw and bake it fresh on Purim morning.

This is a recipe that was printed in the Family First Magazine in March 5, 2008.  I tried it that year and must have been in one of my organized moments, because I found it just where I thought it would be and in a protective plastic sleeve. I am glad I was able to find it now.




  • 6 1/2 cups (2lbs + 4 oz) or 1 Kilo flour
  • 1 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice (use milk if making it dairy)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt



  • oil
  • 3 cups choppped/ground walnuts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla sugar


Place the flour, margarine, and sugars into a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, pour the lukewarm water over the yeast and wait 2-3 minutes.  Add this to the flour, along with the apple juice, egg yolks, and salt.  Mix together until it forms a dough.  The dough should be soft and pliable.  Tranfer the dough to a bowl sprinkled generously with flour.  Cover and let the dough rise for 45 minutes.

After the dough is risen, transfer it to a work surface and roll it out gently to a 1/2-inch thickness.  Use a glass with a 3-inch rim and cut out circle.  Cover the circles and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Prepare two bowls.  Pour some oil into the first; in the second one, combine the walnuts with the sugar and vanilla sugar.

Lightly grease two tube pans with removable bottoms.  Working quickly, dip the dough circles into oil and then coat them with the nut/sugar mixture. Put the coated balls inside the pan to form layers.  Sprinkle additional nut mixture on top of each completed layer, until you have three layers in all.  The cake should reach about 3/4 of the height of the pan.  Repeat the same process with the second pan.  If using lekvar filling, put a teaspoon or two of the jam in the center of each round.  form into a ball, enclosing the filling.  Then dip in oil and nuts and described above.  Rise 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake for 45 minutes.  Let cool.  Use both hands to carefully remove the cake from around the tube.  Serve whole on a cake plate, and expect the balls to be pulled apart for eating.

yield: 2 cakes

coconut meringues

15 Mar

Yesterday, I received a really nice phone call from a woman who used to read my column in the Esra Magazine.  She said she was going through her stuff and had come across some of her favorite recipes, the ones that she uses repeatedly, and called to tell me that she misses my column.  

“What would Rosh Hashana be”, she said, “without your honey cake recipe? The chocolate thumbprint cookies have become a staple in my house!  And what about the delicious caramel apple tart?   Granted some of  the recipes you printed were too complicated for me, but most of them were so doable and I’ve made them over and over again!”  Where are you???

So thank you, Mrs. K., for your kind words, and I promised you a recipe on the blog, so here goes.  This ones a keeper!



  • 6 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 6 cups corn flakes, crushed by hand or with a rolling-pin
  • 2 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips


  • chocolate for decoration


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 

Beat egg whites with electric beaters on high-speed.  Add a pinch of salt as it starts to froth.  Slowly add all of the sugar until it is thick and glossy.  Reduce speed to med-low and add the rest of the ingredients.  Use a tablespoon or melon ball size scoop to drop cookies onto the cookie sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Drizzle with melted chocolate.

*note:  Shehakol is said on these cookies

homemade granola

14 Mar

My good friend, Sarah Lasry of Tastebuds’ fame, introduced me to homemade granola as I know it today.  Before she opened her cafe in 2003, she had an intimate gathering around her dining room table for the purpose of tasting the dishes to be served at the restaurant.  I was one of a select few people chosen, whose criticism and approval she sought.  One of the items Sarah served us was this homemade granola with just enough plain yogurt on top to moisten and hold the ingredients together.  In the restaurant, it was taken to a new level with fresh sliced strawberries, fresh blueberries and perhaps a few slices of banana on top.  The granola was always in high demand in the store and was sometimes sold in gourmet bags to go.  Here is the original recipe as printed in Sarah Chases Nantucket Open House Cookbook.  Sarah Lasry printed it with a variation in her Dairy Gourmet Cookbook.

Granola is one of those things that are easy to make and a treat to have on hand for those occasions that you need a little extra something on hand.  It’ll dress up a breakfast, a shalosh seudos and even an impromptu visit by a friend for coffee.  I usually do not add the dried fruit to the granola.  I like to decide what I want to add with regard to dried or fresh fruit when I am serving it.  This recipe makes a large amount but freezes well.  I have given this for mishloach manos once or twice and received great feedback! 



  • 9 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 4 cups shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups whole hazelnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups slivered or sliced almonds
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates, optional
  • Other diced fruit like apricots, figs, prunes can be added or substituted.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Toss oats, coconut, and nuts in a large roaster pan or cookie sheet.  Whisk honey & oil in a small bowl.  Pour over oats and mix till coated.  Bake 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, till golden.

Remove from oven and aerate by mixing several times while it’s cooling.  Add dried fruit, if desired.

Note: I’m not sure if you want this information, but at one point, I figured out the calorie content of this recipe.  I included 1 cup of raisins and 1/2 cup of dates in the nutritional facts.  The results were as follows: there are 770 calories per cup of granola which translates to 48 calories per tablespoon.  The total fat per cup is 41g, sat fat 11g, carbs 90g, fiber 12g, sugars 33g, protein 17g


Ina Garten has a granola recipe which was inspired by the one above.  It is equally delicious and of a lesser quantity.  I also prefer the dried cherries and cranberries to the raisins, which you can switch in the above recipe as well. You can see it here


  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 cups sliced almonds
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup good honey
  • 1 1/2 cups small diced dried apricots
  • 1 cup small diced dried figs
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted cashews


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the oats, coconut, and almonds together in a large bowl. Whisk together the oil and honey in a small bowl. Pour the liquids over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated. Pour onto a 13 by 18 by 1-inch sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even, golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Add the apricots, figs, cherries, cranberries, and cashews. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container.

a trip to the city

7 Mar

To a Brooklyn girl like me, Manhattan will always be known as “the city”.  How I love the city!  I love the noise, the excitement, the hustle and bustle, the shopping and the shops.  I had to be in Manhattan briefly today and found a parking spot within a block of my destination.  I struggled with the muni meter and noticed I had parked in front of a bake shop called “Crumbs” on Amsterdam and 77th Street.  This area is traditionally known as the West Side.  I made a mental note to check out the shop before heading back to New Jersey.  The sign in the window said <strong>CUPCAKES, Made by hand, baked with love</strong>.  Little did I know that this was one of close to 20 stores bearing the Crumbs name!  An hour later, as I stepped into the store to view the selection, I noticed an orthodox kashrus certificate in the window.  I called my friend Y. who lives on the West Side to ask her about it and she said “some people eat there, and some don’t – just so you know, they are open on Shabbos”.  I thought, ‘Ok, not for me, but at least I can walk in!’ .  There was a nice long counter filled with the most appetizing looking pastries, each accompanied by signs with enticing sounding flavors, and the number of calories per serving!  Now that is daring, but it doesn’t seem as though it affects business.  the shop had a steady stream of customers some staying to sit and have a cup of coffee and others on the run.  Some of the cake flavors included, Rainbow Sprinkle, Squiggle, Red Velvet, Black-out (one of my favorites), Carrot Cake, and the most adorable 4″ birthday cake with chocolate frosting and 6 deflated icing balloons on top.  They had whoopie pies in Chocolate and Red Velvet, and cupcakes in innovative flavors and in 4 sizes ranging from the mini to the colossal.  Naturally, I didn’t try any of these delicacies and although I was able to see their kitchen through the door, I learned that the pastries were not made on the premises but came from a wholesale outfit in the Bronx.  Nevertheless, the store’s clean look and updated ambiance created a nice coffee shop atmosphere and I am pretty sure that the pastries were equally good.

restaurant review

7 Mar

Tonight being Rosh Chodesh Adar II, we took some of our children out to Rimon Steakhouse in Lakewood.  It is generally an American steakhouse with some of the appetizers having a Mediterranean accent.  We had reserved a table for 6  and were given a round table which was conducive to nice table conversation.   There were sliced Israeli pickles on the table which we munched on hungrily.  My husband and I had arrived before the kids so we took the initiative to order appetizers for the table so they wouldn’t have to wait to eat.  We ordered Moroccan cigars with tahini, a portion of sliders (3 mini hamburgers and french fries), a meal on its’ own, BBQ chicken wings, and a beef chummus platter.  We washed on warm mini pita rounds and small warm dinner rolls.  The appetizers arrived just as our crew got there, and they were happy to dive in.  The cigars were good but likely not made in-house and the tahini was a bit too watery for my liking.   The sliders were great!  Each one had 2 mini hamburgers on one of their small round dinner rolls smeared with Russian dressing and held together with a toothpick.  A half of a slider was more than enough for each of us as we all wanted to sample a bit of everything.  The chicken wings were decent but there are two parts to a wing.  There’s the mini pulka and “the other” part.  Most of us prefer the mini drumstick part since it is easier to eat and more fleshy.  This portion only had the “other” part.  The beef chummus platter is a winner!  This is a large portion of delicious, smooth chummus with tasty, cooked ground beef in the center.  You want to get it all when dipping your piece of ripped pita into the chummus, and top it off with pickles for super flavor!  Again, chances are the chummus is not made in-house but so long as they know where to buy one of good quality, who cares?

Now for the mains:  Truthfully, I only tasted my own but the restaurant was very accommodating with regard to switching side dishes and sharing a dish.  They happily brought an extra plate and steak knife for the shared portion.  I ordered the Entricote Steak Au Poivre, which means black pepper encrusted.  It came covered in freshly fried thin rings of onion, with sides of  halved mini red potatoes and grilled vegetables.  The dish was plentiful with a mediocre presentation.  I ordered the steak medium-rare and it was done to perfection.   The potatoes were also cooked to my liking – baked to a crisp on the outside and soft on the inside – yet they were small enough that there wasn’t too much soft potato on the inside.  A bit more attention could have been paid to the grilled vegetables.  The peppers and onions were on the large side,  the zucchini ok.  The other 2 portions of steak ordered at the table were a bone-in Rib Steak, and a London Broil.  They were equally done to perfection and as ordered , medium-rare.  My daughter and SIL ordered salad with grilled chicken strips and grilled dark chicken respectively.  They were likewise happy with their choices.

There’s more to restaurant dinners than the fare.  Service, likewise, plays a big part and it is here that Rimon Steakhouse fell a bit short.  When we arrived, we were brought glasses with ice cubes, however, the waiter never came around with water or asked us what we’d like to drink.  Also the dirty appetizer plates stayed on the table for longer than I would have liked, and in fact were not even removed before the main dish arrived!  Suddenly the waiter appeared with our steaks and was scrambling for room to put it down.  We ended up rounding up the dirty plates on our own and giving them to him the next time he came by.

All in all, our experience was good and I would definitely go back.  The entrees range from the low $20’s to the high $30’s and our meal for six cost a little over $200.  Although we didn’t have wine or dessert (we were pressed for time!), we did enjoy 5 appetizers and 5 main dishes.  Located on Route 9 and Chestnut Street, Rimon’s ambiance is decent, with a Mediterranean accent.  I would recommend this restaurant for a casual dinner and I am confident that you will not be disappointed.

sunday musings

6 Mar

Our living room is usually not used during the week for casual entertaining.  But I do like to sit on my couch to say tehillim and to daven.  Today, my mother knocked on the door as I was saying tehillim and joined me on the living room couch.  I offered her something to drink – a coffee or perhaps some carrot juice?  She said she can’t “afford” (to drink) carrot juice.  We shmoozed for a bit, when my sister-in-law E. happened by and joined us.  After a few minutes she went to “the cabinet” where unsellable baked items are placed for family enjoyment.  You never know what you may find in “the cabinet”.  It usually has biscotti, but today she found butter cookies.  These are traditional Hungarian butter cookies or vajas pogasca.  They are round cookies, about 1/2 inch thick, with a grid design on top, traditionally baked on a high shelf in the oven so it can bake through without burning the bottoms.  They are dry with a rich buttery flavor, perfect with a coffee.  Mom’s eyes lit up.  “Now we’re talking”, she said and asked for a coffee to go with it.  Isn’t it interesting that the carrot juice is “unaffordable”, but the butter cookies and coffee are fine!  I guess the cookie just didn’t do it for E. or she had her mind on something else because she asked if I had any chocolate chip cookies.  “Sure” I said.  “In the last freezer on the left, on the second shelf , there’s a box  which has an opening on top that will fit a hand.  Please bring me one while you’re at it!”  And that is how it happened, that on a random Sunday morning I entertained my Mother and SIL with cookies and coffee in the Living Room.