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Apr 9, 2014

No Potatoes, Please

If you are looking for filling dishes to prepare this Pesach that do not contain potatoes look no further than the bin located right next to the potatoes!

The sweet potato is not actually a potato, only a distant cousin. Potatoes are tubers; sweet potatoes are roots. The reason for the name may be found in the original Spanish name for sweet potato—“batata.” From there it was an easy change to potato and the mistake that the two are related.

It is thought that they originated in South America and native travelers spread this tasty root throughout the northern hemisphere as well. Currently, sweet potatoes are an important part of cuisines throughout the world.

Sweet potatoes can be baked, grilled, steamed, sautéed and roasted. Their mildly sweet flavor lends itself to both sweet and savory dishes. Bake up some sweet potatoes wedges with cinnamon and a sprinkle of sugar or add them to a gratin; sliced with leeks and pastrami bits—both dishes will please you family. The sweet potato has yellow or orange flesh, and its thin skin may either be white, yellow, orange, red or purple. Sometimes this root vegetable will be shaped like a potato, being short with rounded ends, while other times it will be longer with tapered ends.

When selecting sweet potatoes choose those that are smooth, plump, dry and clean. Always use a stainless steel knife when cutting a sweet potato or the flesh will discolor. It takes six to eight weeks after harvest for sweet potatoes to reach their peak in sweetness when baked. They can be stored at home for up to two months in a dark cool place.

RoastedSweet Potato Soup with Crispy Shallots

Roasting sweet potatoes will keep all the nutritional benefits and bring out their inherent flavor.

for the soup:
8 medium sweet potatoes, divided

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 leek, washed and chopped (white & light green only)
1/2 teaspoon cumin (optional)
1/2 cup apple juice
5 cups chicken broth or water
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

for the garnish:
8-10 shallots, peeled
2 tablespoons canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wash 6 sweet potatoes and cut them in half lengthwise.

Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cut side down. Roast 45 minutes or until soft. Removed from oven and allow to cool slightly. Heat olive oil in a 4-5 quart pot. Sauté leeks and garlic with cumin until softened and fragrant. Peel remaining sweet potatoes and slice them in rounds. Add sweet potatoes, juice and broth or water to the pot. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook over medium heat 20 minutes or until sweet potato slices are soft. Using a hand blender, puree the soup until smooth. Heat canola oil in a medium sized frying pan. Slice shallots as thinly as possible. Sauté shallots

in hot oil until browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Serve soup topped with a sprinkle of crispy shallots. Serves 6

¼ cup light olive oil
¼ cup dark brown sugar or granulated sugar
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 cinnamon stick
4 pounds sweet potatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment. 

In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil the oil, sugar, water, salt and ginger. Add the cinnamon stick and simmer 5minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cinnamon stick and discard.

Peel sweet potatoes and cut them in wedges lengthwise. Toss potato wedges with brown sugar mixture and spread on prepared pan. Bake 40 minutes or until tender, stirring once after 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

6 ounces pastrami or leftover roast, sliced thick & cut into 1/4” dice
4 tablespoons mild olive oil
2 large leeks, halved lengthwise and soaked
4-5 cloves garlic crushed
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock (soup)

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 eggs
2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise (purchased or homemade)
freshly ground black pepper
2 medium sweet potatoes
4 medium Idaho or russet potatoes

prepare the leek filling:

In a medium sized sauté pan, heat the olive oil.  Add the meat and sauté, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5-6 minutes.  While the meat is cooking, drain the leeks and slice them into 1/4” pieces.  Set aside.  Remove pastrami with a slotted spoon and set aside.  
Add the garlic and leeks to the saucepan.  Cover and sweat for 5 minutes over a low flame, stirring occasionally.  Don’t allow them to brown.  Add the broth, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes.  Add the, pepper and meat.  Allow to cool 5 minutes and beat in the eggs and mayonnaise.

prepare the gratin:Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Peel and slice the potatoes and sweet potatoes, 1/4” thick.  Lightly grease a 9”x13” or 2 quart casserole dish.  Arrange one overlapping layer of Idaho potatoes in the pan. Season the potatoes with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Spread 1/3 of leek filling evenly over the potatoes.  Arrange a layer of overlapping sweet potatoes over the leek filling.  Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread 1/3 of leek filling over the sweet potatoes.  Arrange the last layer of potatoes over the leek filling.  Season the potatoes once again with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Using your hands, or a large spatula, press down on the potatoes to compact the layers.  Spread the remaining leek filling over the top. 

Bake 1 hour or until golden and crispy on top.  Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.  May be made 2 days in advance and reheated before serving.

Apr 2, 2014

Fast Food—For Pesach!

While some cooks like to have every meal cooked in advance others prefer to cook on Yom Tov. If you prefer fresh food your best friend in the kitchen can be the grill pan. While you may not equate grilling with Pesach cooking, it’s actually a great way to come up with innovative dishes using limited ingredients. You can grill your entire meal from chicken breasts and steaks to vegetables and potatoes on the side to fruit for dessert. Grilling is a quick and efficient cooking method that allows you to prepare fresh food on Yom Tov without a fuss. Nothing beats a grill pan for getting supper on the table in the shortest time when you get home late from your Chol Hamoed trips.

Traditionally grill pans have been made with non-stick coatings to allow you to use less oil and fat and to facilitate easy cleanup. Many cooks are unhappy with these coatings. The new stainless steel grill pans have no coating and do require a bit of oil to keep things from sticking. Better pans are constructed from multiple layers of metal, giving them superior heat conduct. As long as the pan is extremely hot and you don’t move the food until it’s had a chance to develop a sear, you will be able to move it easily.

You can serve these plain or add some homemade tomato sauce or duck sauce. Stop by our store or visit our website for our recipes.

4 skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoon oil

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

½ teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon paprika (optional)

Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Place them on your work surface. Holding your knife parallel to the countertop, slice through the thickness of each cutlet, yielding two thin cutlets. 

In a small bowl, mix oil salt and spices. Rub each piece of chicken with oil mixture and set aside. You can prepare this in advance and refrigerate until needed.

Heat your grill pan over medium-high heat until a drop of water sprinkled on it sizzles and disappears. Lower flame to medium and place the cutlets in the pan. Grill 4-5 minutes. Carefully flip cutlets over and cook 4 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

1 pound pepper steak, sliced into thin strips

1 cup pineapple juice

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 red pepper, sliced into strips

Rinse pepper steak and pat dry. Place the pepper steak in a non-reactive dish or a Ziploc bag. Do not marinate in a foil pan. Pour pineapple juice over the steak strips and allow them to marinate for 1-2 hours. 

Remove the meat from the juice and pat dry. Discard the juice. Season the meat with cinnamon and pepper.

Heat your grill pan over medium-high heat until a drop of water sprinkled on it sizzles and disappears. Lower flame to medium and place the steaks in the pan. Cook 8-10 minutes or until “grill marks” appear on the meat. Flip steaks and continue cooking a few minutes longer. Steaks may still be slightly pink in the center—that’s fine. They will continue cooking after you have removed them from the grill due to residual heat. Don’t overcook pepper steak or it will be tough.

Serve with grilled pineapple and peppers, pouring pan juices over the meat and vegetables.

If your minhag is not to use spices simply leave them out. These potatoes are delicious with just salt and pepper.

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes

3 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon coarse salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, checked and chopped (optional)

Peel or scrub potatoes according to your minhag. Slice into rounds, ¼” thick. In a pot of salted water, boil potatoes for 10 minutes. Do not cook them longer. Drain and allow them to dry a bit.

Add oil, salt and spices to the potatoes and toss to coat. Add parsley and toss once more.

Heat your grill pan over medium-high heat until a drop of water sprinkled on it sizzles and disappears. Lower flame to medium and spread the potatoes in the pan. Cook 5 minutes or until black “grill marks” appear on the potatoes. Using a large turner, flip potatoes and continue cooking until well browned.

Your grill pan has probably seen the likes of zucchini and eggplant but how about other tasty vegetables. Now that serrated peelers give us the option of conveniently using more vegetables than ever you can add to your recipe repertoire. Try peeling peppers with a serrated peeler then grilling them for a few minutes. The high heat accentuates pepper’s natural sweetness. Brush them with a bit of oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper for a low-fat side dish. Grill eggplant slices, thick-cut rings of onion and yellow squash along with the peppers for a colorful, non-potato side dish. Grill peppers and pineapple chunks to serve with the marinated steak above.

Grilled Vegetable Medley 

2 small zucchini

2 yellow squash

1 medium eggplant

1 large sweet or red onion

1 red pepper

1 yellow pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

Peel or scrub vegetables according to your minhag. Slice zucchini and yellow squash diagonally into ¼” slices. Slice eggplant lengthwise into ½” slices. Stack the slices and cut into sticks ½” wide. Core peppers and cut them into strips approximately 1 inch wide. Slice the onion into rings ¼” thick. 

Toss vegetables with oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.

Heat your grill pan over medium-high heat until a drop of water sprinkled on it sizzles and disappears. Lower flame to medium and spread the vegetables in the pan. Cook 7-8 minutes or until black “grill marks” appear on the vegetables tossing once during cooking.

More tasty Pesach recipes next week!

Mar 26, 2014

Clean Sweep

Cleaning out your freezer only to discover a large bag of leftover challah? You are not alone. Using up your leftover challah can be as simple as French toast for dinner tonight. But if you are a creative cook you will want to try one of our delicious recipes.

Strata is essentially a savory bread pudding, and lends itself beautifully to variations like spinach, mushrooms, or peppers.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large Spanish onion, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 cups frozen spinach thawed or fresh, checked spinach, cut in ribbons
8 cups challah, cut into 1 inch cubes
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
9 eggs
2 3/4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons Dijon or yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and then add the onion, cooking until it’s soft and translucent. Stir in the spinach and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook for three minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.

Butter a 9 x 13 x 3 inch casserole dish. Layer the bread cubes, cheeses, and cooked spinach mixture, making three layers.

Whisk the eggs and milk together, and then add the mustard, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour over the strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill, for several hours or overnight.

Set the dish out to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until the edges have browned slightly and pulled away from the edges.

1 pound challah, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for dish
1 pound assorted mushrooms (such as cremini, oyster, shiitake), cut into slices
4 medium leeks, washed, halved lengthwise, then cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon chopped dried thyme
6   large eggs
2   cups heavy cream
1   cup whole milk
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. On a baking sheet, arrange bread cubes in a single layer and bake, stirring once, until light golden brown, about 12 minutes; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add leeks, garlic, 3/4 tsp salt and the thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Transfer to a bowl; let cool. Butter a 2 quart baking dish; set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, milk, cheeses, pepper and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Add bread and egg mixture to mushrooms; stir to combine. Transfer to prepared baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap dish; bake until golden brown and egg mixture is set, about 50 min. remove from the oven and let stand 20 minutes before serving.

Panzanella is an Italian salad made of bread cubes and tomatoes. It is thought to have been invented to use slightly stale bread—kind of like what we’re looking to do here!

For the salad:

3 tablespoons good olive oil

6 cups challah, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 seedless cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
A small red onion, thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, checked and coarsely chopped

For the vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.

For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

This recipe makes a delicious dessert that can be served Shabbos. It can be milchig if you prefer. Simply substitute milk chocolate for the bittersweet and heavy cream for the topping.

½ pound good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup praline paste
10 slices challah
5 large eggs
2 cups whipping cream or topping
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3-4 Tbsp. butter

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. Stir in praline and mix until combined.

Grease a 9”x 13” oven-to-table dish.

Spread chocolate praline mixture over five of the challah slices. Top with remaining slices to make five sandwiches. Place the sandwiches in the prepared dish.

Whisk together eggs, topping, vanilla and salt. Pour over the challah. Using tongs or your fingers, turn to make sure sandwiches soak up egg mixture. Fit them all into the pan. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake casserole about 45 minutes or until well browned and edges are crispy. Serve warm.

Mar 12, 2014

Purim Project

While most cookies baked for Purim are created to fit a theme or match a costume, we thought it would be nice to make some cookies that match the “Purim Theme.” Megilla, crown and gragger cookie cutters are easy shapes to decorate. Chose icing colors to match your table or shalach manos wrapping.

Cookies that range in size from 2 ½ to 3 ½ inches are easiest to work with and are large enough to show off your handiwork without being overwhelming. Try our favorite cookie recipe—it will become your favorite too. Always roll out cookies on a Silpat, parchment paper or other mat that can be directly transferred to a baking pan. Roll out dough to ¼”—a little thicker than usual—for sturdier cookies. Baking on commercial cookie sheets or jelly roll pans will yield cookies that are evenly colored and well baked. Lightweight disposable pans do not spread heat evenly and will allow the cookies at the outer edges on the pan to bake more quickly than those in the center. In addition, many have patterns and bumps on the bottom that will result in the same bumps on the bottoms of your cookies.

You do not need to be a professional decorator or even very artistic to make these cookies. Follow our instructions and photos to help you create these fun and timely cookies


1 cup (2 sticks) margarine

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon baking powder, optional

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of your mixer, cream margarine and sugar for 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl if necessary. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined. Add the flour and optional baking powder one cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Dough will be stiff.     

Roll out the dough, cut the cookies and lift the scraps. Never move the cookies; cookies that are lifted and moved to a pan will inevitably be misshapen. Rolling out your dough on a Silpat will prevent this. Slide the Silpat right onto a cookie sheet and place it in the preheated oven. This method is particularly helpful when making sandwich cookies because the tops and bottoms will match up perfectly.

Bake the cookies 6 to 8 minutes or until they are lightly browned at the edges. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool. Place the cookies on a rack to continue cooling. A cooling rack is a large metal grid that allows air to circulate preventing baked goods from “sweating” as they cool. Wait for cookies to be completely cooled before decorating.

Royal icing is a pure white icing that dries to a smooth, hard, matte finish. Besides its smooth, finish it is also easy to color, which makes it a favorite of professionals who use it not only for cookies, but also for intricate piping of decorations like flowers, borders, and lettering. It is simply a mixture of confectioners’ sugar, cream of tartar and egg whites but due to the risk of salmonella when using raw egg whites, most people use meringue powder. Meringue powder is made from dried egg whites and is used to replace fresh eggs. 

3 tablespoons meringue powder

1 pound confectioners’ sugar (1 box)

3 tablespoons water

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder until combined.  Add the water and beat at high speed until very glossy and stiff peaks form (5 to 7 minutes). See above information about proper consistency for outlining cookies.

The icing should be stiff enough that a knife drawn though it will leave a distinct separation and not fall back together. If your icing is not that stiff, add confectioners’ sugar by the ½ cupful until you have achieved that consistency.

Before coloring, remove a portion of icing for outlining. To the remaining icing add water, half a teaspoon at a time to the remaining icing until you reach the proper consistency for covering the entire surface of the cookie. To cover or 'flood' the entire surface of the cookie with icing, the proper consistency is when you lift the beater, the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface of the icing for a few seconds before disappearing. You will need both consistencies to completely cover the cookies with icing.

 Decide what colors you will need for your cookies. Separate royal icing into small bowls and color each as necessary. For best consistency, use paste or gel food colors since liquid food color will make your icing runny. Add colors slowly as they are very concentrated. Stir well to completely incorporate color into the icing. To make black or dark red icing you will need to add more coloring to thoroughly saturate the color. Cover each bowl with a damp paper towel to prevent icing from drying. The icing forms a crust very quickly and any bits of crust that get into the piping bag will clog up the tip—very frustrating!

Prepare as many piping bags as colors you have made. Place a #2 or #3 decorating tip in a 12” piping bag. Fill with 3-4 tablespoons of icing and fold down the top of the bag. Cover the tip as well to prevent icing from drying inside. You can also pipe royal icing using plastic squeeze bottle fitted with a small decorating tip. Piping royal icing from a lightweight baggie is not really ideal.

Place your cookies on a parchment- or foil-covered work surface. Holding the piping bag at a 45 degree angle, outline each cookie with stiff royal icing. When you’ve outlined the whole cookie and reach the beginning of the outline, use a damp toothpick to blend the seam. Allow the outline to dry.

Fill the outline in with the thinned icing, using a small offset spatula, spoon or piping bag. Gently push the icing into all the corners and at the edges. The outline will keep the thin icing in place. If you are using more than one base color, such as for apples with leaves, flood the larger area first and once it’s dry, flood the small area.

For added interest, sprinkle colored sugar crystals on royal icing before it has completely dried. The icing and the sugar will enhance each other. You can also write on dry icing using food coloring markers as we have done here. Allow royal icing to dry completely before storing cookies. Once dry, the cookies can be layered with sheets of parchment or waxed paper and frozen in an airtight container.

Wishing all ah freilichen Purim!

Mar 5, 2014

Not in the Mood to Bake?

If you not really a baker but refuse to send store-bought nosh for mishloach manos, the solution is in your kitchen. No-bake treats are easy, tasty and enjoyed by all who receive them. Most use ingredients already found in your pantry while others require some added components. No-bake delicacies are easily packed for giving and can be made in advance and frozen. We’ve got a few tasty ideas for you to try this year. As an added treat, print the recipe on a pretty card and include it with your shalach manos so your recipients can enjoy these treats in their own homes all year long.

These are milchig and are amazingly tasty! 
25 vanilla cookies

1 sleeve chocolate graham crackers

¾ cup dulce de leche

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

½ cup shelled hazelnuts, toasted and chopped, divided

Line an 8 inch square pan with foil and grease foil.

Crush vanilla cookies and chocolate graham crackers in a food processor. Add the dulce de leche, melted bittersweet chocolate and 1/4 cup of the chopped toasted hazelnuts; pulse until smooth.

Press into prepared pan. Press 1/4 cup more nuts on top. Chill until firm, then cut into squares.

Everyone loves chocolate chip cookie dough—we dress it up and make it perfect for shalach manos!

1 1/2 cups margarine

3 cups of oatmeal

6 ounces chocolate chips

3 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 cups coconut flakes

1 tsp vanilla extract

Sanding sugar for decorating

Mix all ingredients aside from the sanding sugar in a large bowl by hand or with a pastry blender. Form into small balls and roll in sanding sugar. Keep refrigerated.

An easy version of a classic treat.

8 ounce almond paste

zest of 1 orange

3 tablespoons orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ pound vanilla sponge or pound cake, crumbled

½ teaspoon almond extract

Red and green food color

12 ounces bittersweet coating chocolate

Pulse together almond paste, orange zest, juice and extract in a food processor until combined. Add crumbled cake and almond extract; pulse until combined.

Divide the mixture into 3 equal portions and tint two of the parts with food coloring; 1 red, and 1 green. Leave the third part yellow.

Pat each color into a flat 5 1/2-inch square and stack on top of one another. Cut the stack into 3/4-inch squares. Melt 12 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate. Dip the squares in the chocolate to coat. Chill until set.

This traditional treat is easy to prepare with the right tools. Stick with silicone.

16 ounces honey

1 cup sugar

16 ounces chopped walnuts or a combination of other nuts like pecans and almonds

In heavy saucepan, over low heat, cook honey and sugar until completely dissolved. 

Add chopped nuts and simmer over low flame for an additional 20-30 minutes stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent burning. Cook until the mixture turns medium brown or reads 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Drop tablespoonfuls of the hot mixture into a small-portioned silicone muffin pan to achieve pieces that are attractive as well as delicious.

If you prefer to spread and cut the noont, try one of our heavy-duty exoglass cutters. Made of strong nylon, embedded with glass fibers, these cutters will easily cut through the sticky candy. Using a 1 ½” cutter will yield the perfect size candy. Be sure to grease the pan before spreading the candy or use a silpat non-stick mat to ensure your noont does not remain stuck to the pan. Cut the noont while still warm.

This sweet poppy seed candy is a Purim tradition in many parts of the world. Most historians agree that the reason we use poppy seeds or mohn in our Purim cooking is because of its similarity to the name of Haman—the Purim villain.

1 cup poppy seeds

1 cup honey

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger

1/2 cup chopped almonds or walnuts

Wash the poppy seeds several times and drain overnight in a cloth-lined sieve.

Prepare a silpat or sheet of greased parchment paper on your counter top. In a saucepan, combine the honey, sugar, and ginger. Cook over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat. Stir in the mohn and chopped nuts. Return to the heat and bring to a slow boil, stirring constantly to prevent the honey from scorching. Cook for about 10-13 minutes, until a drop of the mixture forms a small ball when dropped into cold water. Spread the mixture on the prepared silpat or parchment using a wet knife or spatula.

When slightly cool and hardened, cut into diamond shapes with a wet knife or cookie cutter. When cooled completely, use a spatula to lift the candies off; wrap in cellophane or wax paper.

This tasty treat includes two or our most popular ingredients—praline paste and chocolate.

2 cups sugar

4 tablespoons cocoa

½ cup butter, margarine or canola oil

½ cup milk or non-dairy substitute like soy milk or almond milk

½ cup praline paste

4 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2½ cups old fashioned oatmeal

Line and 8 inch square pan with foil or parchment paper and grease the paper.

In a heavy saucepan, bring the sugar, cocoa, butter and milk (or non-dairy substitutes)to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Then add in praline, melted chocolate, vanilla, and oatmeal. Mix until well combined.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Put in fridge to harden.

These are best eaten cold, so keep them in the fridge until serving.


Feb 26, 2014

Chocolate Molds 101

Creating chocolates for your Purim mishloach manos is easy if you keep a few simple things in mind.

1. Water and chocolate do not get along. Chocolate is an oil based food. Moisture from water or steam can cause it to have a dull finish, and may cause it to clump so it will not pour and mold properly. Likewise, adding liquid food color to chocolate will cause it to “seize” and never melt again. Special, oil-based candy color must be used to color white coating chocolate. The best method for adding food color to chocolate is by removing a small portion after the chocolate has been melted and stirring in the color until the desired shade is reached. Then add that portion back into the rest of the chocolate. This will ensure your chocolate colors evenly.

2. Too much heat will ruin your chocolate. Chocolate melts between 88 and 100 degrees F. This is very easy to remember because it just so happens that your body temperature is normally 98.6 degrees, which means if you hold chocolate in your hands, it will melt. Chocolate doesn’t like being boiled any more than you do. So avoid overheating chocolate.

Using baking or “coating” chocolate will help avoid the problems associated with overheated chocolate. This coating or “baking chocolate” is not real chocolate and is not so temperamental if heated to higher temperatures. There are lots of different qualities in coating chocolate. Choose one that melts well and tastes good.

3. If you treat chocolate right it will last and last and last. That means you can store it for long periods of time and reuse it, melt it and re-melt many times over. Any chocolate left from a project can be wrapped in paper or plastic and stored in your pantry or anywhere far from the stove.

4. How much chocolate do you need? An average mold or lollipop uses less than 1 ounce. A bite sized mold uses 1/2 ounce. Therefore, since 16 ounces equals 1 pound, which we’re sure you remember from school, you will get about 16 lollipops or 32 bite size chocolates from a pound of chocolate. It is a good guide to start with 1 pound. Remember, whatever is left over can be left to harden and remelted for another use.

5. There are 2 methods of melting chocolate and neither one of them is melting it in the oven in a foil pan! 

A. Melting in a microwave

Put 1 pound of chopped chocolate in a bowl. Microwave on half or medium power for 1 minute, then stir. It will not be all melted at this point. Do it again. Repeat the process until most of the chocolate is melted and just a few chunks remain. Continue stirring the chocolate until it is all melted. Remember don't overcook your chocolate.

B. Melting in a double boiler

Put 1 pound of chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler or a heatproof bowl and set it on top of another pan that has the water in it. Heat the water on low--do not bring it to a boil, and stir as it starts to melt. This will take around 15 minutes, so you need to be patient.

6. Filling Molds. You can spoon melted chocolate into the mold cavities, pour it from heat-proof measuring cup or gently squeeze the chocolate out using a squeeze bottle (this is definitely the easiest). Then hold both sides of the mold and tap it lightly on the table top. This will level out the chocolate and remove any air bubbles. If you are making lollipops, now insert the lollipop sticks into the mold, and with your finger roll the stick in its mold position. This will coat the stick all the way around with chocolate so the lollipop will not fall off when being eaten.

To make molds using different colors, melt Kandy Melts and use a small paintbrush to carefully fill in just the areas of the mold where you would like that color to appear. Tap the mold as directed and allow the color to harden before adding any additional colors. Do each color separately using a clean brush. Or you can use white chocolate you have colored as directed above and paint each color as directed.

7. Put the filled mold into the freezer on a flat surface. Small candies or bite size items will be ready to remove in about 5 minutes; larger pieces in about 10. Leaving it in the freezer longer than necessary is no problem at all. A freezer sets the chocolate quickly, makes it easier to remove the chocolate from the mold and gives a shiny surface finish.

When you take the mold out of the freezer turn it upside down and gently tap it on the table. The candy should drop right out.

8. Clean molds in soapy water, rinse thoroughly and dry. Molds are NOT dishwasher safe! Remove excess chocolate from containers and squeeze bottles while still melted, then place the containers in freezer until the chocolate is hard. The chocolate will come away cleanly when the container is flexed or bent.

9. Store extra chocolate in a cool dry place, not in the refrigerator. Remember you can reuse chocolate many times.

Feb 19, 2014

Marvelous Mushrooms

Contrary to popular belief, mushrooms are not vegetables. They are part of the fungus family and contain almost 80% water. Most mushrooms were originally discovered growing wild in forests. Some species like morels and chanterelles are still harvested from forests today. Others, such as the white button mushroom, cremini or portabella are cultivated on mushroom farms for sale.  

The French actually learned to grow white mushrooms in the early 1700’s. It took decades for others to catch on to the taste of these versatile fungi.

For many years white mushrooms were only available canned or jarred, leading to their well deserved rubbery reputation. Today, the abundance of mushroom varieties found in supermarkets and groceries bring new dimensions to their uses. White mushrooms, sautéed with shallots or onions, make excellent additions to quiches, soups and sauces. Of course, combining white mushrooms with other varieties like cremini, oyster and portabella adds depth of flavor to the simplest of recipes. Here’s what to look for when buying mushroom varieties:

Cremini--small to medium brown mushroom with slightly open gills (dark part under cap) are a good choice for inexpensive flavor.

Portabella--mature creminis left to grow up to 6” in diameter, with gills that are completely open. Portabellas have an earthy, meaty taste that stands up to grilling and roasting.

Shiitake--flat-topped mushroom with long stems. These are sold fresh and are very flavorful. Trim and discard the stems before cooking and add to any recipe. Shiitakes caps are also available dried and can be refreshed by soaking in water.

Oyster--now found in supermarkets, this mild flavored mushroom has a leafy looking cap. The unusual shape adds eye appeal to any mushroom dish.

Enoki--these long-stemmed, oriental mushrooms with tiny white caps are often used for garnish as they are very delicate.

Morel, Chanterelle and Porcini—the most expensive mushroom assortment and only available in season. These varieties are sometimes sold dry and adding a little to a recipe will crank up the flavors of the other mushrooms.

Whatever variety you are purchasing, always choose firm mushrooms that are not wrinkled or spotted. Most mushrooms need not be peeled and can simply be wiped clean with a damp paper towel. If you must wash them, do so immediately before cooking as they will quickly turn slimy.

All mushrooms can be used interchangeably or better yet, combine them and experiment with our favorites. But remember, if you find blue or red mushrooms in the woods, leave those alone!

Duxelles is the French name for a mixture of diced mushrooms that is sautéed and used as a filling for turnovers and other pastries.

8 tablespoons butter or oil, divided

¼ cup shallots, minced

1 clove garlic, crushed

½ pound shiitake or porcini mushrooms, chopped

½ pound fresh white button mushrooms, chopped

¼ cup white wine

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, checked and chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

8 full-sized sheets phyllo dough

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic. Sauté until fragrant. Add mushrooms and continue sautéing until most of the moisture has evaporated. Add wine and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and allow the mushroom mixture to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a sheet pan.

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Allow to cool slightly. Place one phyllo sheet lengthwise on your countertop or Silpat. Brush lightly with butter, beginning at the outer edges and working toward the middle. Cover with another sheet of phyllo. Brush once again with butter. Repeat twice more until you have 4 sheets stacked.

Cut the stack of phyllo sheets crosswise into eight equal strips. Place one tablespoon of filling near one end of each strip. Lift up one corner diagonally to cover the filling. Fold the point of the filled corner so it meets the opposite side of the strip and forms a triangle. Fold the triangle straight so the filling is completely enclosed. Continue folding the triangle onto itself, until you reach the end. Brush the outside of each triangle with melted butter. Repeat instructions with the other 4 sheets of phyllo and the rest of the filling.

Place the triangles on a baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes or until golden. These can also be frozen raw and baked as needed. Makes 12-16 appetizers

A jalousie refers to a pastry that is made of two layers of dough, surrounding a filling. The edges of the two layers are pinched together by hand, or crimped with the tongs of a fork. Before baking, slits are cut in the top crust. This will allow steam to escape during baking and also create decorative windows in the crust—like a jalousie window.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, chopped

3 potatoes, peeled and cubed

¼ cup mayonnaise

Salt and pepper

Pinch of nutmeg

36 puff pastry squares, thawed slightly

1 egg, slightly beaten

Boil potatoes until soft; about 20 minutes. Drain well and mash.

In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil. Sauté onions until limp. Add mushrooms and sauté until liquid evaporates. Add potatoes, mayonnaise and seasoning. Mix until smooth.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place 1 puff pastry square on your floured work surface. Place 1 heaping teaspoon filling in the center. Brush egg on border. Take another square, dust with flour and fold lightly in half. Cut 6-7 parallel slits to the fold, cutting through the fold, leaving a narrow border all around. Unfold square and place on top of the filling. Press edges down with fingers to adhere. Bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Jalousie can be prepared in advance and frozen raw. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden.