Sunday, August 21, 2016

Gluten free pancakes

I am posting this recipe for my kids, who have been pushing me to blog again because they want to have access to their favorite recipes when they leave home.  I am also posting this for my friends, Rochelle and Yael, who have been looking for good gluten-free recipes.  Very recently, I have adopted a no-sugar, no-flour diet for health reasons which I won't get into here.  I actually did not think I could successfully give up sugar because I had tried before but the interesting thing is that when I gave up the flour too, it made me crave sugar less.  I don't know if this will last forever.  I know myself and I love to have treats. The real question is if I can find recipes such as this one which satisfy my craving for comfort foods, like Sunday morning pancakes.  

I made this recipe thinking it was for me and my kids wouldn't touch it but they did and they agreed with me that they were sweet enough to eat without syrup.  It's a nice little high protein treat I can hand them when they are getting on the school bus in a week.  

The recipe is very easy.  

Gluten Free Pancakes
1 banana, mashed
1 egg
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon coconut flour

I used frozen bananas because these are overripe bananas so they are super sweet.  You mash up the banana, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth. Then let the batter sit for about 20 minutes because the chia seeds soak up the liquid and it gets thick.  

I fried these in a cast-iron pan with some coconut oil but you could also use butter.  

  • You can easily double or triple this recipe.  
  • The first time I made these, I was nervous about using coconut flour because I have had bad experience with coconut flour and I thought there would be no way my kids would eat them with coconut flour so I made it with regular all-purpose flour.  It thickens like than coconut flour so I probably used about 3 tablespoons of flour.  These pancakes came out nicely too and my kids like them (but I didn't eat them).  You could probably swap in other gluten free flours as well in you don't have coconut flour. 
  • The chia seeds, once you allow them to soak, are not really crunchy but you will see tiny flecks of black. If your kids are finicky about things like that in their pancakes, you can chop in some chocolate in the batter and then tell them it's chocolate (which will be partly true - I never like lying to my kids).  
  • The coconut flour can make these a bit hard to stick together so I would go with smaller pancakes as you can see here in the picture.  This way you can fit the entire pancake in a spatula when you turn them over and they are less likely to break apart.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Shavuot 2016

I wasn't going to post because I have very little time but I felt compelled to after running into two friends yesterday expressing frustration about preparing for a three-day yom tov (holiday).  The holiday approaching this Sunday and Monday is Shavuot, during which we celebrate our receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.  I remember as a little girl feeling resentful that I was born a Jew.  I certainly didn't feel like celebrating that we, the Jews, received the Torah.  It felt like a big old burden.  If my ancestors hadn't received the Torah on Mount Sinai, I could watch TV on Shabbat, I could eat McDonalds and I could wear whatever clothing I wanted.  It didn't seem, at the time, like a gift or something worthy of celebration.  I have grown a lot since then.  I am THRILLED to be able to turn the TV (and all screens for that matter) OFF on Shabbat and holidays.  I also realize that McDonald's is actually not worth eating.  Further, I realize now that the spirituality that I gain from a life based on the guidance of the Torah makes me a happier person. It has nothing to do with any kind of afterlife.  I know how much I have grown and matured from the values of the Torah.  I also realize the importance of community and it is only through a strong commitment to a Torah lifestyle that community has become such a big part of my life.  Therefore, I am certainly not going to let the preparations for this holiday or any other prevent me from losing sight of what we are celebrating.  

One of the goals of this blog is to provide recipe and menu ideas that are SIMPLE and delicious.  That mothers who have jobs to go to and children to care for will still have time to put together a nutritious meal for their families.  

Here are a couple of important things to remember:

1. Don't compare your table with anyone else's.  It isn't a competition!!
2. You are allowed to cook on yom tov. Do not feel like you have to have everything prepared in advance!! You can make yourself crazy like that!
3. Simple preparations of fresh and healthy food can be even more delicious than an elaborate recipe!

So what am I doing for meals this Shabbat and for Shavuot? 

First, I am very grateful that we were invited out for lunch on Shabbat and second day lunch.  Also, I make my challah and dessert well in advance of Shavuot since baked goods freeze well.  I bake whenever I find a free moment.  This time it turned out to be this past Sunday and it usually provides a fun activity for my children as they love to help me braid the challah.  It was a two-for-one for me this time as I made a 5 lb. batch of challah and used it to make 6 challahs and 2 chocolate babka so I could check dessert and challah off of my lists.  

So here is the menu plan:

Friday night
potatoes and zucchini 
sauteed spinach

Sat night 
This is a very late night so my plan is to serve my family bagels, cream cheese, lox with sliced tomatoes and onions and a big green salad (all of which is prepared that night).  I usually serve the family before yom tov starts and then we make kiddush and have some challah late after I put the little ones to bed. 

Sunday lunch - so this is my one big meal.  My guests offered to help and I was happy to take them up on their offer. 
appetizers: raw spinach dip with cut vegetables, baked brie with crackers 

the spinach dip will be made Friday afternoon when I literally just throw all of the ingredients into the blender:

5 oz of raw Spinach
1/4  Red Onion (or regular onion or scallion)
3/4 cups raw almonds  (I have used roasted in a pinch)
1/4 cup raw cashews  (I have used roasted in a pinch)
2 T olive oil
3/4 cup water (start with a little less and see if you want a thinner dip)
2.5 T cup of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 T Nutritional yeast (okay if you don't have)

2 garlic cloves
1 tsp sea salt

Takes 5 minutes tops.  The veggies are cut Sunday morning and I am biased towards veggies that are easy like baby carrots, sugar snap peas and then I might slice up some Persian cucumbers which don't need peeling.
The baked brie is very easy too. Open up package of brie, put in pan, pour over some kind of jam, cover and bake at 350 until warm which of course can be done after your guests walk in your house.

For the main meal:
baked ziti
salad (one of the guest is bringing)
2 side dishes (one of the guests is bringing)
quinoa kale super salad (this can be made Sunday morning)
cheesecake for dessert

Regarding the fish, I am not sure yet which one I am making.  If I make salmon, it is SUPER easy.  I would either sprinkle it with salt and pepper and bake it. yep, that's it. the only trick here is to make sure you don't over bake and to have VERY fresh salmon.  An alternative is to pour some teriyaki sauce over it, either homemade or store-bought soy vei, and then bake it.  If you have time to marinate it, great but no need.  You see what I am talking about when I say easy?? The cod is just salt/pepper and bake.  sometimes I add a white wine/butter sauce with capers but only if I am not stressed out!

I recently discovered that I can make baked ziti instead of lasagna. It tastes just as good but it takes a fraction of the time.  I boil some ziti or penne.  Then I add a jar of marinara sauce to the cooked noodles.  I pour half of the noodles into a 9x13 pan.  Then I take 1 cup of ricotta cheese, mix in 10 ounces of frozen chopped spinach, 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella cheese and season it to taste with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  I top the noodles in the pan with the cheese/spinach mixture.  then I cover them with the remaining noodles. Then sprinkle the top with a little shredded mozzarella cheese and a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese.  Then I bake it at 450 degrees until it is bubbling and browned on top.

that is it. that is all I am doing.  It isn't going to take me that long.  I hope my guests like my food but I will just make sure to keep serving plenty of red wine!

Sunday night    
leftovers from Friday night (yep, you read it right).  It's just family. we are already going to be overstuffed from the last two days. I don't need to make more food.  The kids are just thrilled to have dessert and sweet challah.  I am thrilled to not have too much work to do.  

So besides the challah and dessert which I am making in advance, all of the cooking will happen on Friday afternoon or on yom tov.  You can even make it easier on yourself by making chicken that is easier than chicken marsala, like opening a jar of some kind of sauce, pouring it over the chicken and baking it.  You can buy a bag of tiny new potatoes, wash, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake.  Veggies can be green beans which have already been trimmed so less work for you.  Then steam them and then heat some olive oil in a pan, add sliced almonds and then minced garlic. Add green beans and season with salt.  Or just roast the beans with olive oil, salt and pepper in a super hot over (like 450 degrees).  And it doesn't even have to be this.  The key is to find a way to not feel stressed and enjoy the holiday! You could even just order pizza! Just find some way to make yourself feel calm while doing something special for the holiday.  You could also just buy ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate syrup for sundaes and already it feels special.  

Hopefully, you are feeling more relaxed now.  Have a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pesach menu 2016

Putting together my Pesach menu again for this year and figured I would share them on my blog since I have received such great feedback in the past.  Feel free to check out my menus from last year and the year before.  You will notice that not too much changes and why should it?  I always cook things that I think everyone will like.  The last time the family saw these menus was a year ago so they don't remember them.  

If you want any recipes below for which there are no links, please ask in the comments section or on Facebook.  Breakfast and lunch ideas are identical to years' past.  

Breakfast ideas:  matza brei, matzah coffee, yogurt,  yogurt parfaits, fruit shakesgranola, eggs, quinoa cereal, apples or bananas with almond butter

Chol Hamoed Lunch ideas: bags of carrots, green salads, quinoa salads, sandwiches made from matza rolls with cold cuts, chicken salad, salmon or tuna salad or egg salad, matza pizza, hard boiled eggs, leftovers 

First night (Friday night)
Hard Boiled Eggs
Potato and celery for karpas
Horseradish (Maror)
Romaine lettuce
Chicken soup with matzah balls
hot dog matza bites
Chicken marsala
sweet and sour boneless flanken
potato/zucchini kugel
roasted asparagus
Mock chestnut torte

First day lunch
invited out!!

Second night (Saturday night)
seder plate stuff from above
Chicken soup with matza balls
roasted deckel
roast chicken Persian style 
mashed potatoes
sauteed broccoli
Chocolate chip cookies

Second day lunch (Sunday with company)
roasted salmon
eggplant parmesan
mini spinach kugels
strawberry salad with goat cheese and candied pecans and balsamic dressing
cucumber salad
sauteed spinach

Sunday night dinner
Egg salad
Salmon salad
On Matza rolls or matza
Cut up veggies

Monday night

Tuesday night
butternut squash soup
quinoa veggie burgers (I will sub whole wheat matza meal for bread crumbs) on matza rolls
green salad (lettuce, cukes, red onion, avocado with a lemon juice, olive oil, S&P)

Wednesday night
Cauliflower soup
Matza lasagna 
matza spanikopita
Broccoli with garlic and crushed red pepper
Baked sweet potatoes

Thursday night (first night of second days)
invited out!

Friday lunch (6 adults and 12 kids)
invited out!

Friday night (second night of second days)
cauliflower soup
smoked trout salad
broccoli quiche

Shabbat lunch
Yaptzik (potato kugel chulent)
Matza pie  (note the link is the recipe I plan to try but I can't vouch for whether it is actually good)
Quinoa super salad
Beet salad
Green salad
Flourless chocolate cake

Happy Pesach everyone and stay sane!!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Granola cookies

My Aunt Lynn made these cookies for me the last time she came to visit and I am totally hooked on them.  I feel like they are healthy enough to eat as my breakfast with a cup of coffee if I don't have time for something better.  These are vegan and gluten free if you use gluten free oats.  I make them with raisins but if you sub chocolate chips, you might even get your kids to try them.

Granola cookies
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup maple syrup, agave or honey
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup raisins, soaked in hot water
1/4 cup millet

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Put oats in a frying pan on medium high heat and cook, stirring until they start to turn a bit darker.  Pour the oats into a bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Pour the batter onto the cookie sheet and flatten as much as you can.  My aunt actually uses a rolling pin to make it as flat as possible.  I just use my fingers to push it down.  It will not cover the entire baking pan but will rather be a big circle in the middle of the pan.  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Turn off the oven and take the cookies out of the oven.  With a big knife, cut them into squares.  Put the pan back into the oven (should be still hot but it should be turned off) and let the cookies dry out in the oven overnight.  Because they are dry, they do pretty well sitting on the counter in a Tupperware container but you can also freeze them to last longer.

Monday, June 8, 2015

This week's menu

It's been hard for me to find the time to post my recipes.  I find that people like to see pictures and I just don't have the time to snap photos while I am cooking. This blog is my hobby, not my full time job. Meanwhile, my oldest daughter keeps commenting that I must post this recipe to my blog or that recipe to my blog. For her, this is the cookbook she'll have when she leaves for college (yikes! just three more years!).  So at the very least, I am going to share some of my menu ideas with links to the recipes around the web or on my recipes blog.  Every recipe here are my standard "go-tos".  Everyone likes these recipes and they are pretty easy to put together on a weeknight with some planning and/or help from the bigger kids.  

Barley lentil soup (click here for recipe)
sweet potato burritos (click here for recipe)

pasta with peanut sauce and roasted vegetables (click here for recipe)
vegetable soup (put every vegetable in your house in a pot, add vegetable stock and a can of diced tomatoes.  Season with salt)

sauteed spinach with garlic
roasted salmon

This is my oldest daughter's favorite. I make the ratatouille with sauteed onions, garlic, zucchini and yellow squash. Then I add tomato paste, diced tomatoes in a can and season with fresh oregano (dried works too but I have the fresh in my garden), salt and pepper.  Then I serve it with the spinach, topped with the ratatouille and then sprinkled with goat cheese on top.  The salmon is more of a side dish to this meal.  You can take the leftover ratatouille and spinach and put it in a tortilla for a yummy sandwich.  

leftover vegetable soup
chickpea burgers (click here for recipe) 

I got this veggie burger recipe from my brother and I tried it last week.  These are the best veggie burgers I have made and they hold up well enough to grill. Unlike other veggie burgers, they have no bread crumbs in them and they don't get crumbly.  This week, I plan on making a bunch and freezing them for later.  

I haven't figured out Shabbat yet.  But now that I know the week's menu, I can go shopping after work.  

Please feel free to add your ideas in the comments section so I know what to make next week.  Also, feel free to ask any questions too since the recipes were a bit vague. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mom's Cheesecake

Shavuot is coming up so it's time for me to post my favorite cheesecake recipe.  This recipe is my mom's.  My love of cooking did not come from my mother. In fact, it was likely specifically because she was not that into cooking that made me learn to cook. My mom was actually a very good cook but she just wasn't very imaginative or creative.  We had the same menu every single week.  As a foodie, I quickly got bored of the same food.  By the time I was in high school, I kicked her out of the kitchen and took responsibility for much of the cooking.  My mother was more than happy to be relieved of the responsibility.  As much as she didn't like trying new things, my mother did have her repertoire perfected with lots of great recipes.  Her cheesecake being one of the best.  It's funny that now I find that on holidays I revert to my same tried and true, well loved recipes.  For me, it isn't Shavuot without this cheesecake.  

When most people think of cheesecake, they think of dense New York City cheesecake with loads of cream cheese.  That kind of cheesecake is great and I am not going to knock it.  It is absolutely delicious.  However, my mother had another take on cheesecake.  Hers was made with a combination of cottage cheese and cream cheese and there are whipped egg whites in there too making it a light and scrumptious alternative to the heavy cheesecake you might be used to.  I really love this cake and I love when Shavuot rolls around so that I have an excuse to make it.  It isn't really healthy but compared to your typical cheesecake, it is practically like eating a salad.  

When my mom used to make this, she made a small cake in an 8x8 pan but we always found that it was never enough so I started making about 50% more and putting it in a 9x13 pan.  I will include the amounts for both and you can decide what you want to do.  

First, you make the graham cracker crust.  You start with a single package of graham crackers for an 8x8 pan or 1.5 packages for the 9x13.  These are the standard honey maid crackers from the store.  I have also made them with Trader Joe's graham crackers which are a little bit healthier. They don't come in a standard package size but you can look at the weights for the substitution.  

You then put the graham crackers in a blender or food processor.  I make the whole thing in my Vitamix because it is dairy but if you have a food processor that is dairy, that works too.  I let the blender run until the graham crackers are crumbs.  

You then dump the crumbs into the pan.  This large oval casserole is my proxy for a 9x13 pan.  For this size pan, you add 1/3 cup of softened butter.  For an 8x8 pan, you add 1/4 cup of butter.  You then mash the butter into the crumbs until it is well combined and mashed into the bottom of the pan.

Then you add the egg yolks, cream cheese, cottage cheese and vanilla to the Vitamix or food processor.  By the way, if you don't have a dairy blender or dairy food processor, you can always smash the crumbs in a ziplock bag and then blend the other ingredients with beaters.  I think you really need something electric because it is the only way to really beat the cream cheese and cottage cheese.

This is how it looks once it is all mixed together.  Nice and creamy.  The curds from the cottage cheese are gone.

Then you beat the egg whites in a clean and dry bowl.  Once it starts to foam, slowly add the sugar and keep beating until stiff.  I remember when my mom first showed me this, she showed me that you can turn the bowl upside down and the egg whites won't fall out.  See my picture below.  I have to say that I especially love this picture because you can see how helpful my dear husband is emptying the dishwasher.  He is especially patient constantly cleaning up the messes I make in the kitchen from all my cooking.

Once the eggs are beaten and stiff, you slowly fold the eggs with the cheese mixture until just mixed.  Do not use the blender or the beaters for this. You want to do it gently by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon.  Add the cake to your pan with the graham crackers.  There is no need to grease the sides of the pan because you want the batter to be able to cling to the sides of the pan and grow as the eggs expand in the oven.  This is how it looks as I first put it in the 350 degree oven.

This is how it looks when it is done.  It usually takes 30 to 45 minutes.  You want it just golden around the edges and slightly cracked.

After you wait a bit, it collapses and becomes more cracked. I know. It isn't that pretty. Trust me, you won't care. It is so light and delicious.

Mom's cheesecake
1 package of graham crackers 1.5 for a 9x13)
1/4 cup of softened butter (1/3 cup)

3 eggs, separated (5 egg yolks, 4 egg whites)
1/3 cup sugar (1/2 cup)
1 cup cottage cheese (1 1/2 cups)
8 ounces of cream cheese (12 ounces)
1 tsp vanilla (1 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp lemon juice (1 1/2 tsp)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Ingredient amounts are for an 8x8 pan.  Ingredient amounts in parentheses for a 9x13 pan.
Grind graham crackers into crumbs using a blender or food processor or by putting them into a ziplock bag and smushing it into crumbs.  Pour the crumbs into ungreased pan.  Add the softened butter.  Smash the butter into the crumbs using a fork until even mixed and then smash the crumbs evenly onto the bottom of the pan into a crust.

Separate the eggs.  Mix the egg yolks, cottage cheese, cream cheese, vanilla and lemon juice with beaters or in a blender or food processor until creamy.  It's easier if everything is at room temperature before you start but it's okay if you don't especially if you are using a blender.  In a clean dry bowl, whip egg whites until foamy, then slowly add the sugar and beat until stiff.  Slowly fold the egg whites into the cheese mixture by hand until combined.  Pour the batter onto the graham cracker crust in the prepared pan.  Bake for about half hour to 45 minutes until golden on top and just a little cracked.  Once it cools, refrigerate.  Serve cold.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Pesach menus 2015

My menus from last year have recently made their way around the internet but here are my updates for this year.  They are literally the ones I am using so they work for me and my family but they can provide ideas for you.

I am in a little bit panicked this year because I actually have to travel for work Monday through Wednesday during the week before Pesach.  These are days that I would normally count on being home in the evening and getting ready, doing more shopping, etc.  Blogging about how I will make it through is my therapy.  The only way I can do it is careful planning and not making myself crazy.  In the not-making-myself-crazy department, let me say that I rely on a book called Pesach Made Easy by Rabbi Mordechai Tendler.  In this book, Rabbi Tendler explains that you really do not need to make yourself crazy months in advance.  There is spring cleaning and there is Pesach cleaning and he suggests that we focus on Pesach cleaning.  You can also go to my friend's Ruchi's blog for more guidance on how to clean for Pesach in one day.  So that's cleaning.  As for shopping and cooking, I try to do lots of planning (hence the menus below) and keep it simple.  You will notice that I generally don't have multiple mains and sides.  It is just too much work.  My shopping menu is based on past purchases and also on the specific menus I am making for this year.  I create a pantry shopping list (which includes things like cheese which can sit in your fridge for a few weeks) which I buy about a week or two in advance.  I also create a produce shopping list (includes milk) which I put together now but I will buy on Thursday before Pesach.  And, I have a list for the butcher so I can put the order in advance and I can pick up on Thursday before Pesach.   

If you want any recipes below for which there are no links, please ask in the comments section or on Facebook.  

Breakfast ideas:  matza brei, matzah coffee, yogurt,  yogurt parfaits, fruit shakes, granola, eggs, quinoa cereal, apples or bananas with almond butter

Chol Hamoed Lunch ideas: bags of carrots, green salads, quinoa salads, sandwiches made from matza rolls with cold cuts, chicken salad, salmon or tuna salad or egg salad, matza pizza, hard boiled eggs, leftovers 

First night (Friday night just 2 kids/2 adults)
Hard Boiled Eggs
Potato and celery for karpas
Horseradish (Maror)
Romaine lettuce
Chicken soup with matzah balls
Chicken piccata (dredge chicken in cake meal or potato starch instead of flour)
Carmelized brussels sprouts
Mashed potatoes

First day lunch (Shabbat with company)
Yaptzik (potato kugel chulent)
Beet salad
Cucumber salad
Green salad

Second night (Saturday night with 6 kids/2 adults)
Same as first night but I added some roasted asparagus and maybe another dessert to keep the kids happy. 
Roasted asparagus 

Second day lunch (Sunday)
Invited out!

Sunday night dinner
Egg salad
Salmon salad
On Matza rolls or matza
Cut up veggies

Monday night
Leftovers from yom tov

Tuesday night
Cauliflower soup
Matza lasagna or matza spanikopita
Broccoli with garlic and crushed red pepper

Wednesday night
Matza pizza

Thursday night (first night of second days)
Broiled Salmon (just salt and pepper sprinkled on top - key here is not to overbake. since it is yom tov, you can cook it right before you eat)
Baked potatoes (I cover each potato with a layer of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast at 350 until soft. I don't prick with fork because then the outside gets crusty which I love but if you leave them in too long, there is a risk that they explode.  I serve with sour cream, butter, cheese.  Kids love this.)
Flourless chocolate cake

Friday lunch (6 adults and 12 kids)
roasted portobello mushroom caps (burgers for the vegans at the table)
matza rolls
quinoa salad
Cole slaw
Green salad

Friday night (second night of second days)
Roast deckel* 
Sautéed spinach
Roasted sweet potato fries
7 layer matza cake (without the nuts)

*it’s like brisket but what my Bubie used to make.  Grate 1 onion and 5 cloves of garlic to make a paste.  add paprika.  cover the meat with this paste and marinate over night.  you can also bake right away if you don't have time.  Put in a pan, cover tightly with foil.  Bake at 350 for 3 hours or until very soft.  If liquid evaporates, add a bit of water at the bottom of the pan.  The meat should make plenty of its own sauce if it is sealed tightly enough.  Slice and then reheat in the sauce.

Shabbat lunch
Invited out!
bring a green salad

Happy Pesach everyone and stay sane!!