Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Crafts for Kids: Chinese Staircase Paper Chains for Sukkot

R came home from school a few weeks ago and showed me a paper chain that she had made in art class. I immediately recognized it as the chain that I used to make as a kid out of Juicy Fruit and Big Red wrappers. I thought that these paper chains would look great in our Sukkah. So far we have 12 feet of lavender and 12 feet of pink. They did not take a long time at all to make. I was actually surprised how quickly we ended up with over 24 feet of them.

I cut 1 inch strips from 9x12 construction paper using a clear plastic rule, a craft knife and a mat to protect my table (I cut about 5 or 6 pieces at a time). Then I folded the strips in half, opened them up and folded the ends into the center fold

When you have two pieces of paper that have been folded up you are ready to begin connecting them. Hold each piece at the end with the single V. Put the two corners on the top of one V through the 2 loops of the other V and pull it all the way through. Keep doing this over and over and over (you will alternate between putting it through the left side and right side) until your chain is the length that you want it to be! FYI, I would usually fold ten pieces at a time, connect them all and then fold up another 10 pieces

The Jewish Holiday Season

I have to admit that I really enjoy the Christmas holiday season. There are many things I like about it but the thing I like most are all of the decorations. Christmas decorations and especially Christmas trees can be beautiful. I am not the only Jewish person who feels this way. Many secular Jews have Christmas trees and decorate there homes during the holiday season for this reason. When I was about 21 I actually had a Christamas tree. I decorated it with plastic fruit that looked like it was made in the 1950's and rainbow lights.

As I became more involved in Jewish life I began to learn that the Jews actually have their own holiday season season that runs from Rosh HaShanah to Simchat Torah. Though I enjoy all of the holidays my favorite one is definitely Sukkot.

There are many reasons why I love Sukkot. I love having meals with family and friends and I love spending time outside in our sukkah but what I love most is having the opportunity to decorate our sukkah. Before I had kids I used to help decorate our synagogue's sukkah. The first year I helped out we covered the roof with cedar boughs and strung up pomegranates, small gourds and chili peppers. That was when realized I could channel that desire to seasonally decorate into something that was Jewish.

This year I had visions of really going to town with our sukkah. I had planned on making decorations that we would use year after year, using lots of greens and hanging white "Sukkot" lights. Unfortunately, since I am naturally disorganized and a bit of a procrastinator, I have not had time to make any reusable decorations. The plan now is to do a rainbow themed sukkah which the girls think is a great idea. We have been having lots of fun making paper chains and rainbow tissue paper flowers to hang in our sukkah.

This morning my husband is going to build our Sukkah in our building's court yard and the kids and I will begin to decorate it over the next few days. I can't wait to see how it turns out. I'll try to post a picture of it before the holiday begins this Friday night after sunset.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Delicious Spiced Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake Recipe (Parve/Dairy Free)

I found this delicious Spiced Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake on Jew and The Carrot. They partnered with to create a few Rosh HaShanah recipes. I made it last Shabbat and lets just say I had a hard time controlling myself around this cake. FYI, I made a dairy version of this cake for the Yom Kippur break fast. I just substituted the butter for the margarine and added 1/8th of a teaspoon of salt to the cake batter (and yes, everything is better with butter).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Interesting Apple Link: List of Apple Cultivars

I just found this Wikipedia link about apples when I was looking for some info on the macoun apples I picked today. I think it is totally fascinating.

Apple Picking and Cardamon Applesauce

Today I reluctantly went apple picking with D's nursery school class. I say reluctantly because my intention was not to go but when I found out that every single child in her class had someone coming with them I really had no choice. I was willing to be a bad mommy but I was not willing to be a really bad mommy.

It was hot and sticky in Rockland County today and it did not take that long to fill up a 1/2 peck bag (I actually bought another one to pass more time). D and her best friend T had a great time though. After they were done picking apples they picked some dandelions and other assorted "flowers". Then we had a picnic and we were thankfully back on the bus before we knew it.

Well now that I had these apple I needed to make something with them. I decided that I was going to make applesauce. One of the things I love the fall are new crop apples but I am not an applesauce lover. I have, however, always felt like I had just not found the right recipe. Well guess what? I did today! I was scrolling through the recipes for applesauce on Epicurious when I came across a recipe for Cardamon Applesauce. My version uses succanat instead of regular sugar Make sure you wait until it's totally cooled off because when it's warm the cardamon is over powering. When it's room temperature, though, it is just yum. By the way my kids liked this too.

Cardamon Applesauce

2 1/2 pounds of apples peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 pieces. I have used Macouns and Mutsus but I can't imagine this would not work with any all purpose apple.
1/3 cup of sucanut (you can also use regular sugar)
1 cup of water
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamon

Mix ingrediants together in a good pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer until apples are very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and mash with a fork. Let it cool and serve

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Choosing Easier

I have a tendency to make thing more complicated than they need to be. If there are two ways to do something my first inclination is to to pick the more difficult way. I have definitely gotten better at trying to take the easier path but it takes a lot of will power on my behalf and it is usually after I have spent a lot of time planning the more difficult version of what needs to be done.

Holiday preparations are the kind of thing that I can make way more complex than they need to be and that's exactly what I did this year. I spent hours thinking about what I was going to cook for Rosh HaShana. I looked at cookbooks and online. I wrote down recipes that I wanted to use and then changed my mind over and over again.

The same thing was happening with my Sukkot preparations. Since becoming more interested in crafts this year I had visions of a beautiful, lush, green sukkah. I spent hours on line looking at silk ivy garlands trying to figure out which ones to buy. I was also spending a lot of time figuring out what we should hang from the roof of our sukkah (things like gourds, apples, pine cones, and of course lots of hand made decoration). I just couldn't get that vision of what I though our sukkah should look like this year out of my head.

It occurred to me as I was making a shopping list today that all this was ridiculous. All that was going to happen was that I was going to overwhelm myself and start the upcoming holidays overworked, resentful and in a really bad mood.

Thankfully I realized this just in time to stop myself from making this mistake. I decided that I would try one new recipe for a somewhat easy apple cake and make a tray of brownies for the rest of our meals. I have also decided to just do a rainbow themed sukkah with the girls. They will love it and it will be much easier to do. Now tomorrow won't be a disaster. I can do a little cooking, hang out with the kids and make colorful sukkah decorations with them and most importantly if I don't make things difficult for myself I will definitely be in a much better mood for the New Year.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Somewhat Easy Challah Recipe

This is my go to challah recipe. Since you are using a 5 lb bag you will be able to perform the mitzvah (commandment) of challah with a bracha (blessing). You will end up with about 6 loaves of challah. You can just freeze any of the challah that you don't use right away.

2 packs of active dry yeast (I really like Fleishmann's)
4 cups of warm water
3/4 cups plus 1 teaspoon of sugar
6 eggs plus 1 egg for glazing
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 cup of canola oil plus a little extra to oil the dough
1 5lb bag of all purpose or bread flour plus 1 cup on hand during kneading

1. Combine warm water, 1 teaspoon of sugar and 2 packs of yeast. Lightly beat with a whisk (or fork) and wait about 10 minutes until it froths.

2. In a very, very large bowl (I actually use a dish pan) lightly beat the eggs and then add the sugar, oil, and salt and mix to combine.

3. Add the frothy yeast to the large bowl and mix to combine.

4. Add the 5 lb bag of flour and mix with a big spoon until it becomes too difficult to mix.

5. Begin to knead the dough. It will be very sticky. When the flour and water are combined sprinkle a very little bit of flour on it and kneed until it in to the dough. Keep adding flour until the dough is still slightly sticky but not so sticky that it sticks to your hands in pieces. You will have better success with slightly sticky dough than slightly dry dough.

6. Now knead the dough until it is smooth and the dough springs back after you make an indentation with your finger.

7. Roll the dough into a large ball and smooth a little canola oil all over it. Put it back in the bowl and cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size. This will take an hour or more depending on how warm your kitchen is.

8. When the dough has doubled take the dough out of the bowl and punch it down.

9. Shape the dough in to loaves or rolls and let them rise until they double in size again. If you want to make round challahs for the holiday here's an easy way to do it. When you roll out the dough to coil make one end much thicker than the other end. Start the inner part of the coil with the thickest end and just coil it around. Don't forget to tuck and pinch the thin end when you are done so it does not unravel when baking.

10. When the dough has doubled (it will take at least an hour), glaze the loaves with a beaten egg and pastry brush.

11. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until loaves are golden. This will take anywhere from 18 to 30 minutes depending on their size. For example when I make a round challah that is 1 1/2 pounds (I weigh the dough on a kitchen scale) I bake it for about 27 minutes. Rolls will take about 18 minutes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Only 10 days till Rosh HaShanah? Yikes!

Well it's hard to believe that Rosh HaShana is just 10 days away. Have I done any planning? No. Have I done any cooking? No. Every time I sit down to try to figure out what needs to be done I get distracted. Maybe one of the kids needs me or our new dog Molly looks really cute and I just have to get up and pet her. At least I no longer sit and look at the dogs on Petfinders for hours on end. Of course I also spend a lot of time reading my favorite blogs and wondering how everyone else manages to post and get lots of stuff done.

My big kids just got on the bus to go to school so it's just D and me today until 4pm. It will be really strange not having all the kids around today. I wonder if it will make things easier or harder. With her siblings around D always had someone to play with so I was able to get some things done around the house.

Today my plan is to make some round challahs for the holidays and and plan my meals but first I need to play with the dog.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Our New Smelly Beast

We are dog people. We are the kind of family that stops dogs on the street to pet them. We also tend to comment on all the dogs that we walk past. You might hear us say something like "Oh look, there's Blackie" if we pass a black dog on the street. We had a dog for 13 years named Sally. She was a great dog but totally crazy. Think a smaller, black and tan, female Marley. Until she was 10 years old people assumed that she was still a puppy.

Sally died about 3 1/2 years ago. At the time D was about 5 months old and we had our hands full so we decided that we would wait to get a new dog. Recently the kids began to lobby hard, especially Z, for a dog and since we want them to grow up with a dog we decided the time was right for a new one. We decided that we were going to rescue an adult dog so we would know exactly what kind of dog that we were getting (we also wanted to adopt an older dog because they tend to be harder to find homes for). My mom, who rescues deaf Australian sheepdogs, suggested that we check one of her fellow dog rescuer's website LABRN rescue.

We spent about a month looking at the dogs on the website. There was a brown lab that we were interested in but there was also this cute little black and tan dog that I kept going back to. When we found out she was a great dog we took the plunge. Now we have a new dog Molly. She is quiet, sweet and very mellow. She is also unbelievable with kids. On her first afternoon with us we had 8 girls between the ages of 3 and 10 all over her and she was so good with them. She also seems to get along well with other dogs which makes life much easier in Manhattan since there are so many other dogs on the street. We are just getting to know her and we like what we are learning. It will be interesting to see how things develop with her!


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