Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sukkot 2010/5771

Yom Kippor is a very serious day but the minute it's over the mood instantly changes and it's time to begin preparing for Sukkot . The morning after Yom Kippor J and Z went out to our building's court yard and built our Sukkah. Over the next few days the girls and I finished up the decorations, New Year's Garlands from Purl Bee (made with regular thread since I could get the clear thread to cooperate) and Paper Ornaments from Creative Jewish Mom and the cooking.

This year two days of Sukkot and then one day of Shabbat equaled a three day Yom Tov (holiday). A three day Yom Tov means that with the exception of being able to cook on the first 2 days of Sukkot there are 3 days in a row where you are observing the laws of Shabbat. In most ways it is an incredible experience. Not being "connected" to the rest of the world gives you and your kids a much needed break from blackberries, computers and TV but you need to make sure that almost everything is in place before sundown on the first evening of the holiday. For those of us involved in taking care of the home this means a lot of shopping, cooking and logistical planning. For those who are working it means leaving everything in order and hoping that everything will go smoothly with out you.

Since we are lucky enough to have our own sukkah in Manhattan that means we do a lot of entertaining. We invite our friends who don't have enough space in their court yard or who have an uncooperative landlord or co-op board. That meant preparing and serving six meals. Thankfully I had my babysitter come and help me with the cooking and the kids on the two days before the holiday because I would not have been able to do it on my own.

The meals turned out great and we all had a lot of fun. The grown ups and their friends especially enjoyed "dwelling" in the Sukkah while the kids and their friends played in the courtyard or upstairs in the apartment. It's nice to be at a point in our lives where we no longer have to chase after little kids.

When Sukkot ends on Wednesday we will be celebrating 2 more holidays Shmini Atzeret on Thursday and Simchat Torah on Friday. Then the holiday season will be over until the spring when we celebrate Pesach (Passover)!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Belated New Year's Wishes

I've been finding it really hard to find time to sit down and post lately. It's probably due to the fact that I've been really busy with the start of school and the holidays happening at the same time this year. I've also been suffering from writer's block. I have come up with many things I want to write about but when I sit down to write nothing comes out.

A week before Rosh HaShana I saw a powerful movie called A Film Unfinished. It's a documentary about film footage the Nazi's took in the Warsaw Ghetto for propaganda purposes a few month's before the Ghetto was liquidated and it's residents were sent to Treblinka. In one part of the movie survivors of the Ghetto were filmed while watching the footage. One of the women, now a grandmother, said something about her mother that I have not been able to stop thinking about. She said that her mother was a good mother. She made sure that everyday she and her siblings took a shower and brushed their teeth.

Simple acts but not when you are living in the Warsaw Ghetto. In comparison (and this may sound trite) I am always trying to be a good mother which for me means making sure that everything is going well in school, getting the kids to their after school activities, cooking them healthy food, paying attention to them, trying not to yell plus a million other things to numerous to list.

I feel so blessed to be living at a time where I have the luxury to worry about such things. I feel so blessed to be living in a time and place where my children can be joyful about life and joyful of being Jewish. I want to wish everyone a belated Shana Tova (Happy New Year) and a most likely belated Gmar Chatima Tova (may you be inscribed in the book of life for good).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Upside-Down Cake

This is the tweaked version of the Apple Upside-Down cake that I posted from last year. By adding some vanilla and salt to the batter I was able to give the cake more depth. I also decreased the sugar and increased the milk making the batter easier to spread and a tad less sweet.

Don't worry too much about tiling the apples. I have yet to make a cake look as good as I wanted to look and it doesn't seem to affect the taste! By the way for a real treat try making it with butter and regular milk. The dairy version makes a great breakfast cake for Yom Kippor.

1 cup softened margarine (I use Earth Balance because it's non-hydroganated) or butter
1 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar (for two 2/3 of a cup)
1 teaspoon or cinnamon
2 teaspoon vanilla extract (for two 1 teaspoons)
2 medium peeled, cored, and thinly sliced apples
1/2 a lemon
1 bowl of water
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup soy, rice, almond or cow's milk

1. Heat the oven to 325°F and grease an 8 inch square baking dish.

2. Peel, core and slice the apples and put them in a bowl of water with half a lemon squeezed in.

3. Melt 1/2 cup of the margarine in a saucepan over medium heat. When it foams, sprinkle in the first 2/3 cup of the sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the first (1) teaspoon of the vanilla extract. Stir over medium heat until sauce is smooth and a deep amber color (it helps to put some of the mixture in the spoon, raise the spoon a few inches and let the mixture drip back in to the pan).

4. Spread the caramel sauce evenly in bottom of baking dish and then tile the apple slices in tight rows over sauce.

5. Combine the flour, baking powder, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

6. Cream the second 2/3 of a cup of the sugar with 1/2 cup of the margarine. When creamed add the second (1) teaspoon of vanilla and then one egg at a time. Beat on medium speed until a batter forms.

7. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately and mix with the mixer until it is combined.

8. Transfer batter to prepared dish and spread over apples. Bake until a toothpick inserted in cake layer comes out clean, about 45 to 55 minutes.

9. Let the cake cool for 5 or so minutes and then invert onto serving platter and serve warm or room temperature.

Moroccan Inspired Rosh HaShana (New Year's) Challah

This challah was inspired by the Moroccan challah recipes I have found over the years. All I did was add the anise seed to my regular challah recipe and voila. The anise seeds taste great with a little New Year's honey on the challah. Here's a good tutorial on how to make the challah round. Just ignore the first part with the raisins.

If you want to do the mitzvah (commandment) of challah all you need to do is triple the recipe so you can use a 5 pound bag of flour.

2 teaspoons of active dry yeast (I really like Fleishmann's)
1 1/2 cups of warm water
1/4 cups plus 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of anise seeds
1/3 cup of vegetable oil plus a little extra to oil the dough
5 cups of all purpose or bread flour plus 1/4 on hand during kneading

1. Combine warm water, 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Lightly beat with a whisk (or fork) and wait about 10 minutes until it froths.

2. While your waiting for the yeast to froth, in a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs and then add the sugar, oil, anise seeds and salt and mix to combine.

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

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

5. Begin to knead the dough. It might be sticky. If it is sprinkle a little bit of flour on it and kneed 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 two round loaves

10. When the dough has doubled (it will take at least an hour) bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until loaves are golden. This will about 25 minutes. If you want an egg glaze to make the challah shiny beat one egg and gently brush the egg on the challah with a pastry brush before you bake it.

11. Let it cool on a rack or place them on your counter on a few paper towels


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