In my last post, I revealed that I recently turned the big three-o. It should come as no surprise then, that back in 2008, I celebrated my 10 year high school reunion. Together with my friend Dina (our self-appointed class president :)) and Raizy, we organized the reunion for several months, collecting recipes from our classmates and printing a professional cookbook from Morris Press Cookbooks. The reunion was a huge success, with most our class in attendance. We had the evening catered, but for the dessert table, we had several girls chip in and make some things. One of the most talked about cakes of the evening was this Mocha Bundt Cake. Since it was not included in the class recipe book, we emailed it to everyone the following day. The cake has lots of coffee, so I would recommend going with decaf. It’s moist and delicious, great for a party, or for Shabbos morning with a steaming cup of, you guessed it…coffee :)
Mocha Bundt Cake
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup of coffee diluted in 3/4 cup of hot water
1 cup oil
2 scoops vanilla sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa
Beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy. Add the coffee and oil. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add to the wet ingredients. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan and Bake at 350 for (approximately) 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
3 teaspoons coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 tablespoons oil
1 1/2 – 2 cups of confectioners sugar
Mix coffee, oil and 1 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar. Add more slowly, if desired, until you reach desired consistency.
Last year, we spent Purim in Asheville, North Carolina, by a friend of my husband. We drove about 12 hours to get there, the longest drive we have ever taken by car. It was actually not as bad as I thought it would be, but by the time we got there, I was definitely happy to be able to stretch and sleep! Lucky for us, our friends, the Rabbi and Rebbetzin of Asheville, had set up warm and comfortable accomodations. Purim in Asheville was a lot of fun. My kids enjoyed the Purim party, a magic show, and an adorable play put on by the Hebrew school kids. Even better was the delicious food that the Rebbetzin, Chana, prepared during our stay. One evening, she prepared oven baked organic sweet potatoes as a side dish. This was not new to me, as my mother always made them growing up. However, the organic part definitely was. I was never into the whole organic trend. It’s expensive, hard to find in my neighborhood, and since I turned out fine until now, I figured I’d take my chances. But Chana had recently given birth to twins, and she wanted to eat clean and healthy during her pregnancy, so she adopted a diet rich in organic fruits and vegetables. Being as I grew up eating oven baked sweet potatoes, I knew how they were supposed to taste. So when I put a spoonful of the organic stuff in my mouth, I immediately tasted the difference. It was so fresh tasting, full-bodied, and over-the-top sweet! It felt like eating a decadent dessert! Ever since then, whenever I plan on making oven baked sweet potatoes, I make it a point to buy organic ones. I really taste the difference!
I wouldn’t exactly call this a “recipe” because there is honestly nothing to it. I just find that sometimes we get so hung up on finding “recipes” for things that the star ingredient ends up getting lost. We’re busy taking delicious, wholesome, healthy sweet potatoes, adding butter, brown sugar, eggs and cream (amongst other things) to make sweet potato pie. What happened to baking a sweet potato just as it is? It is so sweet and delicious, it literally needs nothing! Don’t get me wrong, just a few days ago I took perfectly delicious baked salmon and mashed it up into salmon patties. I do it too. But I’m just saying, we definitely live in a “kugel” society and it’s nice to eat a vegetable purely for what it is every once in a while!
Oven Baked Organic Sweet Potatoes
Remove the stickers from the sweet potatoes, wash well (so you can eat the fiber-rich skin later) and dry. Put in a 9×13 pan. Place in a 400 degree oven. (I used to individually wrap the sweet potatoes in foil but I find that they come out a bit more watery that way). I can’t tell you exactly how long to bake them, since it depends on the size of your sweet potatoes. I go by the smell test. When the smell of sweet potatoes starts wafting through the house, I know they are almost ready. It should take about 1 1/2-2 hours to bake. Just give them the squeeze test with your hand, and when they are very soft, and you can see the delicious syrup has started dripping out of it, they are ready!
Since we weren’t home to give out shalach manos last year, I made Purim cards and sent them to family and friends, letting them know that we gave a donation in their honor in lieu of shalach manos.
My friend Dina and I have been friends since childhood. Growing up, we lived around the corner from each other, and after getting married and moving, we still do! We’re always swapping recipes and oohing and ahhing over the fabulous food we see on the food channel. Between the two of us, I am more of the cook and Dina is more of the baker. Whenever I see a great cake recipe, I send it her way, hoping that she’ll make it so that I can get a taste (she usually sends over a piece!). On a lucky day, she’ll invite me around the corner for a hot cinnamon bun and some coffee. One such day, Dina brought out these delicious rugelach. I thought they must be a patchke to make since they looked so good and tasted even better. But they are super easy and require only 3 ingredients! I have made them more than once when having company over at the last minute. They are totally floored when, without advanced notice, I manage to put out piping hot chococolatey flaky goodness!
Thaw puff pastry in the refrigerator overnight. It is easiest to work with when it’s chilled. With a knife, cut each square into 3 even strips. Smear with chocolate spread and roll up. Place on a cookie sheet seam side down and bake at 350 until browned, approximately 25 minutes. Let cool and dust with powdered sugar.
Note: you can brush with egg-wash if you’d like, however, since you are dusting them with powdered sugar, it is not neccesary.
VARIATION: You may also use nutella, jam, or any other filling of your choice.
I figured since we just passed Purim Katan, and shalach manos giving is right around the corner, I should share some shalach manos ideas. Two years ago, I made these yummy chocolate dipped pretzel sticks. A week or two before Purim, I started shopping for the ingredients. It’s lucky I did that, because for some reason, every single store was out of pretzel rods. I must have gone to every kosher supermarket in all the five boroughs until I found them. I bought so many bags that we were eating pretzel rods (sans coating) for the next couple of months!
To create these crunchy confections, I would recommend that you prepare a large working surface. This is a messy job! Make stations for the different coatings and cut sheets of wax paper to lay the pretzels. Make sure not to touch them until the chocolate has fully set. When you are done, you can mix up all the broken pretzels pieces with the leftover chocolate, sprinkles, nuts and nonpareils. Spread on a sheet of wax paper for an instant pretzel bark. That was the best part!
Crunchy Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods
Semi sweet real chocolate chips
White chocolate chips
Small glass vases or cups
Melt bowls of black and white chocolate (separately) in a double boiler, or in the microwave. Set up bowls of toppings. Dip half the pretzel rod in chocolate, and then in the topping. Lay on wax paper. Once the pretzels have fully set, fill each vase with 5 different pretzel rods. To set them in place, fill the vase with chocolate chips. Tie with cellophane and deliver in costume to your grateful recipients!
White chocolate with black sprinkles
White chocolate with nuts
White chocolate with nonpareils
Dark chocolate with colored sprinkles
Dark chocolate with nuts
In the spirit of Chodesh Adar, I decided to throw a Sunday Fun Day Party here, with a recipe for delicious light and fruity sangria, and some kick-off-your-shoes music! First things first…the sangria! Sangria is a chilled Spanish drink, typically made using red wine, sugar, juice and seltzer. It is sometimes laced with brandy and/or liquor. It can be made with a range of fruits to soak up all the delicious flavors. I wanted to make something for the ladies out there so I played around with measurements, and this one isn’t too heavy or too sweet, it’s just right!
1 bottle of Matiz Rioja (Spanish table wine) or any fruity dry wine
1/2 cup brandy
1 shot of peach shnapps
1 cup orange juice
2 cups ginger ale
1/4 cup simple syrup – How to make simple syrup
1 mango, diced into small chunks
1 apple, diced into small chunks
1 orange, segmented – How to Segment an Orange 1 cup grapes, halved
Sliced lemons and limes for serving
Sangria requires the use of simple syrup. Simple syrup is a liquid form of sugar which can also be referred to as sugar syrup or sugar water. It’s a sweetening agent used by bars and coffee shops, and is best used when making cold homemade beverages that require a sweetener (since sugar can’t dissolve easily in a cold beverage).
Cut up fruit and add it to the pitcher. Pour wine, brandy, shnapps, orange juice, ginger ale and cooled simple syrup into pitcher. Refrigerate to chill and allow flavors to blend. The longer the Sangria sits, the better it tastes (try refrigerating it for 24 hours!).
To serve, spoon some fruit into a glass. Pour Sangria over fruit and garnish with a sliced lemon in the cup and a lime on the rim. If you choose, you can add the lemons and limes into the pitcher. I prefer not to do this, because if it sits for too long, the bitter rind seeps into the drink and it becomes undrinkable.
Now for the music! Where oh where do I start. It’s Adar and I’m sure you’re all familiar with the phrase “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’simcha.” I’m not sure how literal I’ve taken that in the past few years (or since I’ve been a teenager). Adar nowadays has me scurrying about for Shalach Manos for family and friends, gifts for teachers, costumes and shalach manos for the kids. When do I ever take a minute to breath and just, I dont know…dance?! Yeah, that’s right, dance! And I’m the type who barely dances at weddings. Someone has to pull me by the hand and drag me into the middle of the circle for that awkward moment when you dance with the kallah, and you have nothing in the world to say to her (you ALL know what I mean!). I’m the one standing outside the circle, trying to look busy, or out searching for a bottle of wine! So, you know what? Being as I’m such a horrible dancer (I once took “wedding dance classes” and when everyone was following the instructor to the right, I was going to the left), the one place I can let loose is at home, where no one over the age of four can see me (and yes, even my four year old dances better than me!).
Now what can get me, the ultimate bad dancer to kick off my shoes and move to the beat? Some unbelievably good music. And that’s what I got! My amazing sister-in-law, Chanie, just bought me the new EIG8TH DAY CD, CHASING PROPHECY. I’m a huge fan of Eighth Day and their eclectic music. It’s bluesy and chassidic all at the same time. And their poetic lyrics are so full of soul! Chasing Prophecy is by far their best CD yet. I love EVERY SINGLE song. I have been listening to it over and over and over again, and I just love it more and more with each time. And yes! It made me kick off my shoes and dance! Like a little girl, I swirled around, and grabbed my kids by the hands. They looked at me like I fell off the moon. Because for once, just once, I let all my inhibitions go, and I danced like a free bird with not a care in the world. And you know what? it felt SO GOOD! As for my kids, they giggled and giggled and are wishing on their lucky Adar stars that these happy months of candy, costumes and dancing mommies never come to an end. And so too, am I. Happy Dancing!