New Chocolate Chips On the Market

chocolatechip
I have good news, what I consider really good news! My friend Estee Kafra, of kosherscoop.com has packaged and created a new PAREVE CHOCOLATE CHIP, that is delicious, divine, and full of fabulous flavor. Finally, finally, we can all stop mourning the loss of Trader Joe’s chocolate chips.

These chocolate chips, called Best Ingredients For Best Results, semi-sweet chocolate chips, pareve, gluten-free, vegan, and no nuts are coming soon to your local markets (or go ask for them!) and now available on Amazon.com.

The taste is rich and chocolaty and they are made with 45% cocoa and 100% Barry Callebaut chocolate. No garbage ingredients, real tasty chocolate for baking, cooking, melting and just eating. I did all of the above! I made Aunt Cassi’s low fat Oatmeal cookies, Chili Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, added them to homemade granola, and made a fantastic Chocolate Chicken Mole (it calls for unsweetened chocolate but this made it really good).

These chips are a great new product and I am so excited for you to try them and to change your baking forever. There is no comparison to the imitation chips and other packaged chocolate chips currently on the market that are available. These are affordable and delicious. Way to go Estee Kafra, thank you for filling the needs of the kosher food community.

Chanukah Inspiration and Recipes by Paula Shoyer

HKBCover

Chanukah Inspiration and Recipes by Paula Shoyer, author of The Holiday Kosher Baker and The Kosher Baker

When I was writing The Holiday Kosher Baker (Sterling 2013) I included a spiritual message in every chapter introduction. The Chanukah one is my favorite, because the message is so universal. Chanukah teaches us that you do not have to have all your resources before you start a project. Many of us have great ideas, but do not pursue them because we are waiting to gather more information, be more prepared or just waiting for the right time. When the Jews found the small pot of oil in the Temple, they could have easily decided not to bother lighting the menorah at all. Instead, they decided to just go for it, and they lit the menorah just expecting it to be lit for only one day. The miracle happened and it should inspire us to take chances, even when we cannot imagine what we might accomplish. I try to remember this lesson when I start a new recipe: just try it out and see where it goes.

Here are two of my favorite Chanukah recipes, churros dipped in chocolate as a a change from doughnuts, and an almond and olive oil cake, if you want to celebrate the miracle of the oil without frying, Happy Chanukah!

Paula Shoyer
The Kosher Baker
www.thekosherbaker.com

“Gluten-Free Around the World”

Aviva Kanoff, author of No-Potato Passover, is back with a new book, Gluten-Free Around the World, which not only expands the culinary options for people who follow a gluten-free diet but gives the reader a fantastic taste of traveling the world. Her experiences have become her inspiration for creating great recipes in anyone’s own kitchen.

Gluten-free is not just a food fad, it’s a serious diet for people who suffer from celiac disease, anyone with wheat allergy or an intolerance to gluten or who suffers from any of a multitude of ailments ranging from digestive disorders, asthma or skin problems, may also benefit from a gluten-free diet. The challenge is how to prepare tasty, appealing gluten-free food. There are no simple substitutions, no easy fixes. If you’re kosher, the dietary prohibitions make it even more of a challenge. Aviva Kanoff, helps makes this easier with her new book, Gluten-Free Around the World.

It’s packed with recipes for tantalizing, creative foods she has tasted during her travels to such far places as Ecuador and India, Cambodia and Morocco and more. Recipes range from the enduring (Blueberry Scones) to the contemporary (Candied Fig and Goat Cheese Salad), from riffs on classics (Fish Tacos) to ethnic specialties (Beef Pho)..

Aviva is know as the “”the Indiana Jones of cooking” — an adventurer, world traveler and fearless hero on the ground, in any vehicle and anywhere with a cooktop. This is the kind of person I would like to befriend. Her globe-trotting has taken her to the far reaches of Peru and India, Italy to Israel, Croatia to Southeast Asia and then some, where she has tasted the local flavors, photographed the feasts and recreated the bountifully flavored dishes of these exotic places in her own kitchen. The photos and the recipes will make you feel like you have visited some of these places yourself. Try these sneak peak recipes:

Beef Tacos
Maple Ginger Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Check out her new book. It’s a great Chanukah gift too.
Available at Amazon.com for $29.99

 

Or GKC has one for one lucky winner, Submit to win!

Four Steps to Latke Love

latkes-blog
In my opinion, latkes are either great or not worth eating. One or the other. Crispy, slightly salty, no greasy aftertaste, and full of potato and onion flavor are what come to mind for a great latke. Over the years I’ve tried many recipes and techniques and honestly the recipes only vary in marginal ways, like using flour or matzo meal as a thickener, schmaltz or oil for the fat, baking powder or none, but generally potatoes, onions, eggs, salt and oil yield a great product if made well.

GKC top 4 tips to create awesome crispy, crunchy, delicious tasting latkes…

1. Squeeze out the liquid: Place the grated potato mixture in a kitchen towel and aggressively wring out as much liquid as possible. This concentrates flavor and prevents sogginess.

2. Switch up the fat: If you can find schmaltz (chicken fat), use it, it adds flavor. Blend it with vegetable oil (you need the oil’s high smoke point) for frying.

3. Test the temp: If your oil is too hot, you’ll burn the outside of the latke before it cooks through. If it’s too cool, the potatoes will soak up the oil. Medium-high heat is just right for achieving a beautiful crust. To tell, whether the oil is ready, drop, in a bit of the mixture. If it sizzles, start frying.

4. Keep them crisp: Unless you want to stand at the cooktop while everyone eats, you will need to keep a few batches hot while making the rest. Place the cooked latkes on a wire rack in a 325 degree oven which prevents them from sitting in their grease and lets heat circulate to keep that crunch.

What to do with used frying oil?

Reuse it. I don’t reuse my frying oil but if yours remains clear and light in color, you can extend its life by straining out the crumbs and storing it after its cooled.

Discard It. Don’t pour used frying oil down the drain. Instead, let it cool, pour it into a biodegradable container, such as a paper milk carton, and throw it out with your regular trash.

Try this Heirloom Latkes recipe.

Hanukkah Recipes, Tips, Essentials, Wines and Articles

Hanukkah
Hanukkah o Hanukkah, is around the corner. Are your menorah’s polished? Are you ready for some frying? I feel like I just cleaned up from Succos and finished my pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving, but I guess that is what keeps us going, the celebrations that bring light and joy into our families and homes.

In order to get ready for Hanukkah, I’m often asked about recipes, articles and tips that were previously posted. I like to send at least one roundup piece so that you can find everything and anything you might need all in one place. So here goes…

Looking for:
Latke recipes? Latke recipe roundup right here
Latke Essentials, get all the tools and equipment for perfect latkes
Latke Freezing Tips
Hanukkah Cookies, Jewel cookies
It’s doughnut time, get the recipes here
Lighten Up, lighter doughnuts for all tastes, 3 different kinds
Doughnut making essentials, get all the tools and essentials here
Homemade Applesauce
Kosher chefs light up Chanukah with their favorite recipes
Eight Wines for Eight Nights of Chanukah AND more Chanukah Wines
Almond and Olive Oil Cake
The Dreidel Game, the official one
Chanukah Music by Sam Glaser

Guest Blog by My Friend Barbara Bensoussan, author of The Well-Spiced Life

an authentic food memoir that combines the best of pleasure reading with excellent recipes

Hello to all you Gourmet Kosher Cooks! A Moroccan Chanuka Menu For You…

Let me introduce myself: My name is Barbara Bensoussan, and I began my adult life as a mild-mannered Nice Jewish Girl from Philadelphia, working on a doctorate in psychology and minding my own business. But then, contrary to everyone’s expectations—mine included—my life took a 180-degree turn when I became Shabbos-observant and met and married a Nice Jewish Boy from…Casablanca.

Oy vey! We settled in Brooklyn, that crossroads of culture, and my cooking became a hodge-podge of cuisines from Morocco, Syria, Persia and yes, Eastern Europe. I spent the next twenty years absorbing new styles of cooking (quite literally—I have the pounds to prove it!) while raising a family. I’ve recounted the details of my often-bumbling foray into the world of Sephardic food and culture in a new book, The Well-Spiced Life (Israel Bookshop), sharing both experiences and recipes.

Below are a few samples from the Moroccan recipes, enough to make an entire menu if you add perhaps a little matbucha with the salads and some couscous with the chicken. With the fried eggplant and fried donuts, it’s perfect for Chanukah, the Festival of Oil!
Moroccan Carrot Salad
Fried Eggplant Salad
Chicken with Olives
Morrocan Sfeng (Donuts)

And if you enjoy the recipes, try the book! It makes a great Chanukah gift.

A “Chappy Chanukah” to all,

Barbara Bensoussan

Six Steps to Making Great Stuffing

  1. Start with Stale Bread: Use any type of bread, as long as it can get stale overnight. Drying it out overnight is key to flavor absorption and a good texture (soggy is not good). Torn bread instead of sliced promises extra toasty texture.
  2. Use some fat: You don’t have to add meat, but it does result in a nice savory stuffing. Brown the sausage or ground meat then use the drippings to cook the vegetables. This adds a nice kick and saltiness to the base.
  3. Use flavor-building ingredients: Sage, celery, and onion, leek, or shallots are nonnegotiable. These are the flavors of Thanksgiving. Cook until onions are golden brown.
  4. Deglaze away: Use a little wine or vinegar into the skillet, scraping and stirring to dissolve any crusted-on bits. Next, melt some margarine (this adds richness) into the mixture. This pairs well with the acidity from the wine.
  5. Stock is a must: Dry stuffing is awful and gummy stuffing equally as bad. Stock is a must, especially homemade if you have it. The bread should be moist with no dry spots but not sitting in liquid.
  6. Kick it up with add-ins: Now use your flair and palate. Look for balance when choosing add-ins. If you start with sweet cornbread, use tart dried cherries, or other dried fruit. Need crunch? Toss in nuts, pumpkin seeds, or chopped apples. I always finish it with some fresh herbs, like parsley, sage, basil or rosemary. And make sure you finish it with salt and pepper.

Need stuffing recipes? Try these stuffing recipes.

Kosherfest 2014

Kosherfest 2014 was fun, full of flavor and very fattening. From Jack’s Gourmet Sausage (you gotta try their new beef merguez, a show favorite by all), to gourmet choco- taschen ( pure caramel and chocolate shaped like a hamentaschen), they covered every food and flavor category. I skipped over a few granola, flatbread, and dairy-free, vegan baked goods because, it’s like candles at the gift show, just how many varieties are there? And instead saved my appetite for some new kosher products coming to your markets soon…and if you don’t see them, ask for them.

Here are some highlights and favorites this year…

Rugelach
Rugelach by Marzipan, what’s new here? Really rugelach? YES, really, these rugelach taste and look like “Israel shuk rugelach”,…you know the ones that come out of the oven oozing with chocolate or cinnamon. They are packaged tightly on a tray, warmed in the oven, and voila, Israel in your own home. Seriously, delicious.

teapops_frozen_treats_packaging_hero
Teapops, by Deebeesorganics.com, organic super fruits and teas, without refined sugar, then made into frozen delicious flavored ice pops. I loved the mango and coconut flavors. I’m definitely stocking these next summer in my freezer.

lovefruit
Move over Matt’s Munchies, hello, You Love Fruit. Better tasting dried pure fruit snacks, shaped in heart-sized bites in tons of flavors. Everything you expect like mango coconut, peach, Pomberry Acai, and more too, like key lime, passion fruit and carrot ginger. Coming soon.

moradwinery
Morad Winery not only brings us Pomegranate and Passion fruit wine but now also lychee and limoncello flavors. Gorgeous and delicious, and the friendliest owners ever.   GKC readers loved the wine for Rosh Hashannah, try some new flavors this winter too.

photo-blends
My gluten-free favorite item was easily, BLENDS, by Orly. She ingeniously created and packaged gluten free flour blends specific to the type of baking you are doing. She has a blend for breads, one for cookies, another for cakes, brownies and another for pizza doughs. Each is a special blend depending on the density and final consistency needed for your baking. Use as a one-to-one substitute to gluten based flour in all your recipes. I can’t wait to try it this week!

Tri-State party makers…try Toss It, Gourmet Salad Bar. Suri Engelberg, creator and chef for this company has created over 30 take-out salads in 2 different sizes for parties, Shabbos, weekday or anytime. Green salads, pasta salads, cabbage salads, grain salads and fruit salads are available, and the menu looks great. I tasted a few and really enjoyed the dressing and unique ingredients. Deliveries in some areas too. Check out her menu and pricing, it’s a great alternative to catering. Suri Engelberg 347 401 1920, no website yet.

A few other items, I’m looking forward to are the black truffle pate by La Rustichella , and the red curry paste by Thai Treat. I love Thai and Indian food so red and yellow curry pastes open up a world of flavors and recipes.

I’m looking forward to your feedback and what you liked at the event too. It’s a great food blogger meet and greet too. I loved sharing the day with Naomi Nachman, the Aussie Gourmet, Paula Shoyer, bestselling author of The Holiday Kosher Gourmet, my new friend Malkie Gordon from Kiss the Kosher Cook, Estee Kaffra from Kosher Scoop, Sara Lasry, best selling author of The Dairy Gourmet, Miriam Pascal from the Overtime Cook, Shifra Klein from Joy of Kosher magazine, and Leah Schapiro from CookKosher, and author of the The Made Easy Series, of Artscroll published cookbooks. Thanks fellow foodies and friends!

Thanksgiving Recipes, Tips and Wines

I’m a Thanksgiving lover as I’ve mentioned in previous years. I love the low-key happy nature of the holiday, the playing in the leaves, the football games, the delicious tastes and smells of the meal, and the leftovers too! Some years we get together with family and friends and some years I make the Shabbos meal Thanksgiving themed. Whatever your take on it is, no one can deny that the fall colors and ingredients in Thanksgiving cuisine are beloved by all. Check out all the Thanksgiving ideas and recipes from GKC.

And if you are new to GKC or just need a reminder, I’ve got lots of Thanksgiving and Turkey roasting tips and hints. Check out these past favorites.

Get Prepped for Thanksgiving, Perfect Turkey Roasting Tips and Tricks
Is a Kosher Turkey Really More Tasty?Thanksgiving Wines, What are you serving?3 Thanksgiving Wines we recommend
Win a Chefalarm, and check out all the best Thermometers from Thermoworks.

In addition to the new recipes for Thanksgiving, make sure you check out the
Turkey recipes
Stuffing recipes
Cranberry Sauce recipes
Mashed Potato recipes
Squash recipes
Green Bean recipes
Pie recipes

Or some leftover turkey ideas too:
Quick Chili with Leftover Turkey
Minestrone Soup with Leftover Turkey
Turkey Salad
Turkey Pie with Cranberry Thyme Crust

My New Favs From Thermoworks

It’s no secret, I love the Thermapen and use it all year round for perfect meat and turkey roasting, and indoor and outdoor grilling. It’s on my ultimate kitchen essential equipment list and it will accompany me to all of my Thanksgiving cooking classes. But Thermoworks, the creators of the Thermapen, do not stop with this master thermometer.

Thermoworks has created some of my newest favorite kitchen electronics just in time for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. These are perfect gifts and gifts that give back. Thermometers make every cook better. From meat and turkey to yogurt and candy, kitchen thermometers help you cook with accuracy so foods are moist and delicious and never under or over cooked.

DOT
dot
The DOT is engineered to do one thing really well. Set your target temperature with the up or down buttons, insert the probe in your food, and DOT beeps when it gets there. Simple as that. Hit any button and the beeping stops. The display still flashes till your temperature drops below the setpoint. What’s really cool too is that has only two buttons to learn – Up and Down! No complicated programming, Just $39 at thermworks.com

THERMOPOP
thermopop
I promise I really promise that I love these products because they are more than cute! They work, they really work, accurately, quickly, and effortlessly. The Thermopop is the best pocket thermometer around, and it comes in 9 colors to match whatever you are wearing (no joke, I have a few depending on what I teach in J Now for the cool part, it’s the first rotating display pocket thermometer. A simple button press rotates the display in 90 degree increments. Hold the ThermoPop in either hand or read it when it’s upside down. Any angle is convenient! Available for $29 at thermoworks.com

THERMAPEN
thermoworks
Of course the THERMAPEN, continues to be a must-have item and I recommend it in all my classes. Currently, Thermoworks, is selling some outrageous special edition patterns. This one seems like a great gift!

CHEFALARM
And we cannot forget about the CHEFALARM (Hurry! I got one to giveaway, submit to win!)

thermapen
This is a professional oven thermometer that has been Rated #1 by a leading Cook’s Magazine. ChefAlarm delivers features not found in “houseware” cooking alarms. Some of these great features include; the main temperature digits are big and easy-to-see from a distance, backlight button to read the display in the dark and dual use, fold flat and use the magnetic back on a metal surface or tilt the display up and use it on a counter. It comes with one Pro-Series High Temp Cooking Probe which ensures your dishes reach the right temperature. Available online for $59 at thermoworks.com

SUBMIT TO WIN A RED CHEFALARM

Last Tuesday was National Chocolate Day, Let’s Celebrate Chocolate!

chocolate-heart

Did you know that Tuesday October 28, was National Chocolate Day? Did you miss it or get a chance to indulge? I actually didn’t know we needed a National chocolate day to celebrate that luscious, divine ingredient. I’m personally okay with celebrating with a little chocolate on almost any day but okay, let’s refill our chocolate drawer at work, grab a box on the way home and make a killer chocolate dessert to enjoy before, or after, dinner. And since the official day was last week, let’s just keep it going, maybe National Chocolate Month?

Although I will help you find a few good chocolate recipes this week, and answer your pressing chocolate questions, I also must first tell you that all chocolate is not created equal. Though many chocolates are tasty, they are not exactly what connoisseurs refer to as quality chocolate. With an array of chocolates available at convenience stores, markets, specialty shops and chocolatiers, those with a chocolate craving are sure to come across plenty of disappointments on their quest for superior chocolates. Additionally the quality of the chocolate used in a recipe can often determine the end product. I use good quality chocolate for everything, eating, baking, shavings, and even in hot cocoa.

A few tips to buying good quality chocolate…

Let the price tag be an indicator of good chocolate. Good chocolate will cost more than commercial grade chocolate, as it should. If you are looking for top quality chocolate, expect to pay more for the quality.

Look at the ingredients. Good chocolate will have cocoa solids (the actual chocolate) and cocoa butter (the creaminess of the chocolate) as top ingredients. If you browse the list of ingredients and see a bunch of things you do not recognize and cannot pronounce, skip purchasing it.

Check the date the chocolate was made. Dark chocolate is recommended to be used before 1 year, milk chocolate within 6 months and white chocolate within 8 months. The date is located on the package.

Smell the chocolate. Chocolate should smell like…chocolate. No smell to the chocolate indicates old or poor quality chocolate. Chocolate that smells of anything else means it has not been stored well. Chocolate absorbs the odor and flavor of its environment, so pay attention to whatever is on display nearby.

Good chocolate has a glossy surface.
If you open the package and it has a foggy appearance than it is probably made with imitation chocolate ingredients. I would not use this in baking or eating but instead of it going to waste, melt it and add it to warm milk for hot chocolate.

AND I’m often asked these questions about chocolate:
In chocolate, what does bittersweet mean versus semisweet?

Typically, semisweet chocolate has lower cacao content and is sweeter than bittersweet chocolate. However, the only FDA requirement is that something called dark, bittersweet, or semisweet chocolate contain at least 35 percent cacao and less than 12 percent milk solids (more milk solids, and it’s required to say it’s milk chocolate).

Bittersweet chocolate contains sugar, but generally not as much as semisweet chocolate, although, by government standards, they could contain practically identical amounts of chocolate liquor and sugar and still retain their bittersweet and semisweet labels. What this means is that one brand’s bittersweet chocolate could be close in sweetness to another brand’s semisweet chocolate, and vice versa.
Because of this, bittersweet and semisweet chocolate could be used interchangeably in most recipes; unsweetened, obviously, could not because it contains no sugar.

What does % cacao mean on the package?
When you see “% cacao” printed on a label, it refers to the total percentage of ingredients by weight in that product that come from the cocoa bean, including the chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. The term is found most often on premium chocolates, especially dark chocolate.
It’s a guide to specific flavor intensity. The numbers point to milder or deeper chocolate flavor. Finding this number on the label can help you choose a chocolate that matches your taste preferences or your recipe’s needs.

What do the numbers indicate? Higher cacao percentages equal the following:
• Greater Flavor Intensity: In general, a higher “% cacao” lends a more intense chocolate flavor.

• Less Sweetness: A higher “% cacao” means less added sugar. For example, a 72 percent cacao dark chocolate has roughly 12 percent less sugar than a 60 percent cacao dark chocolate. Unsweetened baking chocolate is 100 percent cacao with no added sugar, and it is very bitter.

What type of chocolate should I use in baking?
For melting or baking use chocolate with more than a 32% cocoa butter (I prefer the brands with 52%) but less than 32% will not melt to a proper workable fluid state. When melted it will be thick and be completely unusable for most dipping and other types of uses. Personally, I like bittersweet chocolate in everything but buy and eat whatever you prefer.

And now, chocolate recipes to enjoy…
Brownie Chocolate Chip Pie
Chocolate Almond Ripple Cake
Chocolate Biscotti
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Bars
Chocolate Meltaway Cake
Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes

And for a huge assortment of chocolate recipes to choose from check out the CHOCOLATE INDEX

School Lunches

Back to Life, back to reality, back to MAKING SCHOOL LUNCH…

It’s strange how the regular less stressful parts of life can get so stressful. Things like running errands, paying bills, making dinner, and any mundane part of our life can derail our day if it lacks order or organization. The same is true for the dreaded, making school lunches! I get lots of emails from people asking for new ideas and hints on how to get nutritious and wholesome lunches into our children’s diets. I’m not a miracle worker but do have some success with this. Here is my strategy that saves time and aggravation…And don’t forget to see all the lunch suggestions at the bottom.

soupinthermos1-of-1
Make a list of options: With your kids, make a list of 20 potential lunches that make both you and the kids happy. See some samples below.
Plan the Week: Consult with your kids and make a plan for the week. Yes…the whole week of lunches. Choose from your list of options.
Shop: Make sure you have the ingredients and items you need in the house. No running out for ingredients on Tuesdays or picking up Sushi (that must be on the plan for that day already)
Involve: We divide up the week. I take 1-2 nights (depends on their schedules) to prepare lunches and each child alternates and takes a turn to help or take care of the lunches. My little boys participate too.
Variety: Change your list, add and delete items, but give variety!
Tip: Make sure you have the essential equipment that will help your kids enjoy the lunches. I love the resuseit insulated lunch sacks and the insulated and leek-proof food jars and thermos options. Keeping food an appropriate temperature is crucial. How would you like a cold quesadilla?

Lunch Ideas:
grilled-chicken-club-sandwiches
Meat sandwiches: My boys love leftover grilled or fried chicken in a sandwich. I use leftover challah or challah rolls and add thousand island dressing and lettuce. For the more adventurous, try spicy mayo, lettuce, tomato, or grilled onions or other meats, like meatballs, meatloaf, even chicken from the chicken soup, mixed with a little BBQ sauce makes a great sandwich. Sloppy Joe style cooked meat is good too.

Bagel with fix-ins: Ya know, cream cheese, lox, tomato, avocado, butter. Or add scrambled eggs and send in an insulated bag to keep it warm.

Wraps: Not the store-bought variety. This is great for homemade leftovers. We stuff them with leftover brisket, chicken, steak, meatballs, then add rice or quinoa, any dressing and a little greenery. Chummos or cooked mashed beans are delicious as add-ins too.

blog-photo
Yogurt Parfait: Invest in some jelly jars to make it look great. Fruit, layered with yogurt, granola or cereal, repeat it all. Looks so gorgeous all their friends will ooh and ahhh.

Quesadilla with cheese and beans: Open can of beans, simmer with a little water and salt, then mash. Melt cheese in a tortilla with some beans. Wrap in foil to keep warm-ish and send in an insulated bag.

Any and all day old soups or Chili: Soup makes awesome leftovers. Send a bag of chunky croutons alongside a thermos of soup. Pour in the top cup of the thermos, add croutons to make it a little more filling. Same for Chili.

Stuffed baked potato: Stuff a baked potato with great fillings, melted cheese, broccoli, mushrooms, salsa, or go the meat route, and add chopped deli meat with veggies. Wrap tightly in foil and send in an insulated bag.

Sushi Salad: Sushi rice mixed with imitation crab, chopped cucumber, and drizzled with both sushi sweet sauce and spicy mayo. Mix and serve. Its great room temp or cold. Keeps for days in the refrigerator.

Salads: This is my girls favorite lunch. We mix it up by using lots of different types of lettuce from romaine, kale, arrugula to cabbage and bok choy. We add lots of toppings, like veggies, cheese or grilled chicken, roasted or grilled vegetables, quinoa, brown rice, egg whites or whatever is leftover from the salad the night before. Makes lots of extra dressing.

Falafel: Stores sell it pre-made or there are many mixes available. Add chopped lettuce and tomato, and some tahini dressing. Send in an insulated bag.

Veggie Burgers: So many brands and flavors available. Great way to get some protein into a salad without being fleish. Or send it on a bun in an insulated bag.

Sushi: We usually treat ourselves one day every other week to sushi lunch, store-bought the night before.

Oatmeal: Great protein packed oatmeal cups are available now and made by many manufacturers. Send a thermos of warm water. Kids just add water and stir. I sometimes send in chopped fruit or granola to add to it to make it a little more hearty.

A few other items that are not a meal but make great additions include:
Chips and dips: salsa, guacamole, chummos, cheese, bread, veggies
Tuna fish on anything: my kids don’t like it but great in wraps, sandwiches, Bagels or atop a salad
Cheese and crackers: And add sliced apple too
Pickles: add to wraps, salads, sandwiches, who doesn’t like pickles?
Peanut butter: If your school allows this, well, you have nothing to complain about, PB&J, PB& marshmallow fluff, PB& banana, crackers, pita, celery, you name it, PB is good on it.

Send me your ideas too so that I can share them with others!

What is Best to Eat Before a Fast, Plus My Pre Yom Kippur Menu Ideas…

I wrote this a few years ago, but a few newspapers and magazines run it each year plus many people requested it again. So back again,

What is Best to Eat Before a Fast, Plus My Pre Yom Kippur Menu Ideas…

What is it about fasting that makes us all so obsessed for days before the fast? I am not referring to the spiritual side (as that is worthy of the obsession) but the food aspect. Did you know that most healthy adults could survive many days and up to a month without eating? Regardless, days before the fast, I am reducing my caffeine intake and worrying about how I will manage. I have heard of all sorts of “fast survival” techniques, from caffeine suppositories, extra strength Excedrin without water (that’s my personal favorite), drinking coffee right before the fast to fool your system and give it caffeine for the morning, eating 2 tablespoons of honey before the fast, and crazy carbo loading. Everyone has their own strategy; tell us what yours is so we can share it with our readers.
GKC consulted with the experts (now who is an expert faster???) and here are our tips and recipes for a successful fast.
- Lots of Water. The discomfort from fasting is actually not from fasting but from lack of fluid. Super hydrate before the fast. Drink a great deal a day or two before as well and then really fill up with fluids before the pre-fast meal.

- Reduce caffeine intake. The headache associated with fasting is from caffeine withdrawal. One week prior to fasting start reducing your caffeine intake to about 1 cup a day or drink decaffeinated teas and coffees to fool your system. If this is too tough, seriously consider the caffeine suppositories or an aspirin before the fast to rid yourself of those headaches.

- Eat Normal Sized Meals. Overeating will not stave off the effects of hunger and may make you more uncomfortable. The excess fluids needed for your body to process large meals may also lead to dehydration which is counter productive. So while we eat numerous meals before the fast and a pre-fast meal, do not overeat.

- Eat carbs; yup, it’s true. Complex carbs like those in pasta, breads, rice, fruits and vegetables, are best for maintaining energy levels during the fast. The also help your body absorb water more efficiently so eating carbs will help you stay hydrated. Whole-grain products and fruits and vegetables with fiber are best because they digest slower and keep you feeling full longer.

Sweet Challah
Minestrone Soup
Citrus Marinated and Roasted Chicken
Oven Baked Saffron Rice OR Quinoa with Black Beans and Corn OR Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Zucchini Kugel
Roasted Mixed Vegetables
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Assorted Sorbet and Fruit

Freeze Flat for Compact Storage and Quicker Thawing

freezingsauces

Many people are beginning to get a few items cooked and stored for the upcoming holidays (I’m behind already!). I like this freezing tip, freeze soups, meats, sauces, and sides in zip-lock freezer bags as flat as possible. Not only will they stack more neatly in your freezer, but they will defrost much faster because they are thinner. When freezing liquids, lay the bag flat while holding the zip-top end up a bit so that the liquid stays in the bag. Force out as much air as you can, seal the bag and freeze it on a flat surface. I like to put a tray down to catch any leaks. Also, remember to place food in the freezer when it is room temperature or cold. If you freeze warm food, it will create condensation and ice crystals and excess water will end up defrosting into your food.

Energy Boosting Foods for Back to School

edamamedip

There are no miracle foods in the energy equation, but smart food choices really boost your day. For example salads with both dark greens, packed with iron to keep your brain alert throughout the day, and whole grains, like quinoa, filled with amino acids, can keep your stomach full and your body full of energy. Back to school is a crucial time to treat your body well. Days are longer and you need more energy and hydration to stay perked up for learning. I’m keeping my refrigerator full of kale and arugula for interesting salads and making some homemade snack bars to keep the kids happy. I’m also preparing edamame beans to toss into salads, make into a salsa or using it in the Nutty Edamame Spread for a flavor and energy boosting appetizer.

More recipes:
Cherry-Almond Energy Bars
Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Fresh Vegetables
Homemade Basic Granola

Know your Dessert Salts

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Whatever your dessert needs, a sprinkle of one of these will get the job done, but don’t use table salt!!!!

Kosher salt: These crystals dissolve quickly and evenly in cookie dough’s, tart and pie crusts, and caramels, introducing salt to ingredients without clobbering them.

Flaky Sea Salt: Preferred for their light, crunchy texture and delicate pyramid-shaped flakes, sea salts like Maldon or Himalayan Sea Salt, provide the ideal finishing touch on cookies, ice cream and apple pie. I like to use this one in Umami Ice Cream Bars.

Coarse Sea Salts: These salts (like fleur de sel) work with assertive flavors and textures. Like Maldon, their grains are crunchy but don’t
dissolve as quickly.

Homemade Granola

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Crunchy, toasty, a little sweet and totally addictive, homemade or even store-bought granola is a favorite of mine. Granola is definitely on my breakfast menu a few days a week, tossed with Greek yogurt and seasonal fruit, but it’s also in my pantry for other great uses, like snacking, a dessert topping, added crunch as the topping for sweet potato soufflé or noodle kugel, or a less sweet type for a salad mix-in.

Granola is easy to make which is amazing because home cooks can save money (granola, especially the ones in the artisanal packages, is quite pricey, and most importantly gives you the ability to control the taste, more salt, more or less sweet, amount of crunch, with coconut, dried fruit, or pepitas? Make it your way with the basic guidelines below.

Don’t forget to send me your pictures and homemade versions on facebook, twitter or instagram. I love seeing reader recipes and their creations!

In the meantime, play with this simple step by step guide or try some of the other ideas below.
Homemade Basic Granola
Quinoa Granola
Yael’s Granola

More Grilling Tips and Tricks

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I’m teaching a lot of grilling classes this summer so I thought I’d share some grilling tips and tricks and important details so that everyone can become a better griller. Grilling can be fun, easy, and super delicious but it’s not fool-proof and definitely requires thinking and attention. Here goes…

Advance planning: At least an hour before grilling or even that morning, marinate meats (see recipes below) and chicken. I rub my steaks with olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper if I’m not using another dry rub or marinade. The salt, draws out moisture and begins to break down the tissue of the meat and therefore tenderizes it. Be careful though, kosher meat already has been salted so it’s definitely possible to add too much salt. If seasoning more than an hour ahead of time, place in the refrigerator (uncovered) until ready to use. Always grill room temperature meat.

Good Equipment: Grilling requires a few items, like tongs, a basting brush, a grill brush, a thermometer, hot pads, and a good spatula. Invest in the good stuff.

Choose your cut well: Ask your butcher to help you if you are unfamiliar with meat cuts. But remember that fat equals flavor. Steaks with even marbleizing, naturally bastes the meat as it cooks.

Timing: Use the time and temperature chart for best cooking results.

Indirect heat is essential: For gas grills, indirect heat is a great tool. I like to sear over direct heat for 2 – 4 minutes then move meats to indirect heat, cover the grill and cook “low and slow” to finish cooking, keeping the meat moist and tender. Alternatively, turn down burners and cook over lower heat.

Let the meat rest 5-10 minutes before slicing, making sure the juices redistribute throughout the meat and do not end up on the cutting board.

Use a marinade for cheaper cuts of meat. I’m often BBQ’ing for large groups and that makes certain cuts just too expensive. I like to use flank steaks, minute steaks, split London broil, and skirt steak. These cuts grill well after they are marinated. The best marinades are made with a fat, like olive oil, an acidic element, like juice, or vinegar, and seasonings to deliver flavor. Best quality meats are excellent with nothing more than olive oil, salt and pepper. Spice rubs are great flavor enhancers too. Make a combination of any flavors you like and rub all over the meat. It creates a great crust when grilled. See recipes and suggestions below.

Oil or grease the grill: Everyone loves grill marks, nice brown ones, not black ones. Either spray the grill with non-stick cooking spray made for high heat or brush grates with oil. Your meats will not stick to the grill and the grease will create that perfect grilled appearance.

Don’t get distracted: Although grilling is so easy, don’t wander too far from your grill. You would be surprised how quickly the perfectly seasoned meat can become very overcooked.

Cooking temperatures:
Here is a guide
125 – 134 degrees Rare
135 – 145 degrees Medium Rare
Over 150 Well (well – don’t! That is a good way to ruin a good steak!)

Simply Great Grilled Steaks
Good quality grilling steaks
Olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper

Season a thick steak with kosher salt and black pepper. Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour.

Light all grates in a gas grill on medium-high and then turn off one or more of the burners. Grease grates. Place steaks on direct heat (hottest part of grill) for 2 – 4 minutes, flip and sear on the other side.

Move to cooler part of the grill, cover grill and cook to your desired doneness, see cooking temperatures above. This will take 5 minutes to 20 minutes depending on thickness of meat. Let rest 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

Try these:
Grilled Steak with Rosemary Garlic and Onion Marinade
Teriyaki Chicken Marinade
Grilled Steaks with Peach BBQ Sauce
Dry Rubbed BBQ London Broil
Coffee Cajun Dry Rubbed Steaks
Thai Peanut Sauce
Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

How to Thank Israeli Soldiers In Israel?

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So many people are doing wonderful things to collect for and support the IDF. If you would like me to share your ideas with our readers please post your thoughts on the GKC facebook page or email me at ekurtz@gourmetkoshercooking.com. GKC readers are eager to help so please share your personal efforts or local collections.

A few other ideas that came this week include;
Thank Israeli Soldiers, sends packages and assistance to the soldiers on the front line. Donations can be made online.

Check out Indiegogo, Support our Soldiers in Israel, social media campaign to raise money for the basic necessities of Israeli soldiers. Their mission, “Help us raise money to support to our troops, they are missing so many basic things such as towels, socks, necessities, medical equipment and so much more. Your genorosity counts, it  will count to accomplish this task. It’s our thank you to our soldiers, for risking their life so we can live in peace in Israel.” Give or repost their efforts on your facebook pages.

Get IDF gear, t-shirts, pens, luggage tags, bags, etc. and still help fund Friends of the IDF. Or to their Rapid Relief Fund.

Rabbi Gradon in Los Angeles spoke of the immediate need for bullet proof vests for the Israeli soldiers. Checks are being collected and Rabbi Gradon is personally involved in this assistance. Checks should be written to Tzedekah Fund (receipts will be provided) and mailed to :
Joan Steinberg
1138 Cardiff Ave. #4
Los Angeles, CA 90035

Let me know what you are doing in your neighborhoods!

2014 Nine Days Recipes and Ideas

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The Nine Days are here, have no fear…I have so many suggestions, you won’t miss your fleishig one bit, or not that much

From fish, to pasta, to quiche, make this a week of new recipes, flavors, and adventure in the kitchen. Here are a few ideas and older posts that might help.

- Want to make pasta just right? Not sure what type or sauce works well together…try these pasta recipes and cooking tips

- Like Salmon? Try these salmon burgers, Poached Salmon, Teriyaki Salmon, or Dozens of other Salmon Recipes

- Tired of just salmon? Try Flounder with Lemon Caper Sauce, or Pretzel Crusted Fish,, Halibut in Puttanesca, Olive oil Poached Cod with Zucchini and Tomatoes or how about endless other fish recipes too

- A few personal favorites…Pan Seared Cod with Cilantro Vinaigrette and Creamed Corn, Sea Bass with Balsamic Reduction, Salmon with Apple Corn Curry Sauce

- Quiche? Try these quiches, or my preference, Mushroom and Spinach Frittata

- I don’t wait for the nine days to make the Caramelized Onion Boursin Cheese Pizza, and these pizza recipes are great ideas too.

- Nine Days wrap up from years past, recipes, tips, menus, and more

Juicing is So Popular and Nutritious!

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Juice bars and are popping up all over, and it’s is a big food trend. Juice bars puree vegetables and fruit and turn them into liquid drinks. What’s the rage all about? First, it has great nutritional value. Juicing the vegetables retains all the vitamins and minerals of the ingredients in the juice. You can drink more nutrients than you can eat in one sitting. And many people prefer to drink kale or spinach juice mixed with something sweet rather than eat a few servings of it. This gives people a shot of energy and better overall wellness.

Juicing has its critics though. Juices can be high in sugar and calories depending on the type of fruit or vegetable used. And juice cleanses can leave people without certain important nutritional needs, like proteins and carbohydrates.

Juice bars can be pricey, some are about $8 a drink, ouch. Here are some at home options and tricks for making them for far less money.
Tip 1: Always include one item that will give lots of liquid, like grapes or oranges. Kale is great nutritionally but produces only a little juice.
Tip 2: For vibrant juice, choose fruits and vegetables in the same color family. Otherwise, you can end up with less-than-appealing brown juice.
Tip 3: Keep fruits and vegetables chilled. Your juice will be more refreshing and you won’t need to add ice.

Green Juice
Blueberry, Kiwi, Strawberry and Mint

Other great combinations, proportions don’t matter, just tinker with taste):
Strawberry, Carrot, and Spinach
Pineapple, ginger, banana
Papaya, carrot, apple
Kale, green grape, parsley
Cucumber, mint, orange
Strawberry, blueberry, beet

What is Brain Freeze? And Yum, Lots of Ice Cream and Sorbet Desserts

Ever wonder, what that ice cream headache really is? That painful, sudden headache that occurs when eating something cold is commonly referred to as brain freeze. It’s caused by rapid temperature changes in your mouth. When you take a big bite of cold ice cream, book vessels in the roof of your mouth constrict to reduce blood flow and heat loss. After you swallow, the vessels quickly rewarm and dilate, increasing the book flow and stimulating nearby by pain receptors. Then the brain sends out pain signals along the largest cranial nerve and you experience pain behind your eyes and cross your forehead, your jaw and the back of your head. To prevent this, just SLOW DOWN. Savor ice cream slowly in small bites. Or I you’ve already pressed a big, cold bite against the roof of your mouth and then swallowed it, drink something cool to slow down the rapid rewarming of your blood vessels. At least now you know what is happening!

M & M Ice Cream Sandwiches
Ice Cream Bon Bons
Ice Cream Tart with Crunch Topping
Watermelon Sorbet
Strawberry Orange Honey Sorbet
Sorbet Tart

Grilling Season is in Full Swing!

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Grilling season is in full swing! I’m a bit obsessed and never tire of great grilling foods. One night I grill chicken, another marinated meats, and then break it up with some Cedar Planked Salmon. Don’t forget to watch my how-to video and recipe for Cedar Planked Salmon too.

There are many keys to great grilling success (print my grilling guide for times and temperatures) but one reason I love it and never tire of it, is because I prepare so many different types of chicken and meat on the grill, that all come out with a different flavor profile. Yes, I love traditional bbq sauce too, but that would get boring, night after night. I like to make interesting marinades and use different types of chicken and meat, on the bone, cutlets, full minute steaks, and individual steaks, etc.

So this week, a few successful and fool-proof marinades and a new BBQ sauce too for chicken and meat that will jazz up your grilling repertoire.

Balsamic and Rosemary Marinade
Lemon and Shallot Marinade
Soy and Ginger Marinade
Herb Marinade
Espresso Barbeque Sauce

Cold Summer Soups

Summer is time for fresh fruit, lighter foods and cooler appetizers. I often serve Tuna Tartare, or Smoked Salmon in a Spinach Salad. I also love to serve a refreshing summer chilled soup, like White Grape Gazpacho with Toasted Almonds or Super Flavorful Mango Curry Soup.

This week, I bring you a few more cold soup options. Sweet and/or zesty but all super infused with flavor. All choices are refreshing and make a great summer appetizer.

Try these:
Melon Gazpacho
Cold Cucumber Dill Soup
Tomato and Avocado Soup
Carrot Soup with Cucumber Pistachio Relish
Sweet Summer Fruit Soup