Friday, January 25, 2013

Tu B'Shvat: Dates and Marscapone Cheese

Tu B'shvat, which falls on January 26th this year, is the Jewish New Year for the trees. One might ask why would a tree need a new year? They need one because of the many Halachot (Jewish laws) pertaining to agriculture in the land of Israel such as tithing produce. In many ways it is like an agricultural fiscal new year. Fruit that has already blossomed by Tu B'Shvat belongs to the previous year and anything that blossoms after Tu' B' Shvat belongs to the new year.

First mentioned in the Mishna (the Jewish Oral Law) Tu B'Shvat has a long history. In the times of the Gaonim (500 to 1038 CE) Tu' B'Shvat was a day of particular importance for the Jews in the land of Israel. In fact there was a special Shemoneh Esrei (the central prayer of any Jewish religious service) for Tu B'Shvat!

Today Tu B'Shvat has become a sort of Jewish Earth Day. It's a day to reflect on our relationship to the environment. One of the ways that we celebrate is by eating the 7 agricultural products that are singled out in the Torah: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

If you are interested in learning more about the relationship that we have with the environment you can listen to Rabbi Daniel Fridman's class To Cultivate and Preserve: Man's Relationship with his Environment.

Warning: This combination is addictive!

Madjool Dates
Marscapone Cheese

1. Split open and pit the dates.
2. Spread Marscapone cheese on top of the open dates.
3. Eat!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Potato Kugel (Kosher for Passover)

Kugel is the ultimate Shabbat food. It's delicious hot from the oven on Friday night or heated up on top of your cholent pot for lunch. Though I have loved potato kugel since I first tasted it I never made it until recently. It's really hard to get the right consistency and the thought of hand grating 5 lb. of potatoes was not appealing to me. Then it occurred to me that if I cut the potatoes into chunks before I put them in the food processor with the small grating blade that I might actually get the consistency that I was looking for. It ended up working and I have been making lots of potato kugel recently.

5lbs of Russet potatoes
1 1/2 lbs yellow onions
1/2 cup of potato flour or potato starch
1/2 cup of refined coconut oil (do not use extra virgin!) plus oil for the pan
9 eggs
2 teaspoons of salt
lots of fresh pepper
9x13 pan

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Generously grease the pan with coconut oil.

Beat the eggs and put them into the large bowl you will be mixing your kugel in.

Cut the onions into large chunks and grate them using the large grating blade.When you are done grating the onions squeeze out the extra liquid and mix them into the eggs.

Peel half of the potatoes and cut into chunks. Grate them in the food processor using the SMALL grating blade. Squeeze out as much of the water as you can with you hands. Combine the grated potatoes with the egg and onion mixture. Repeat with the other half of the potatoes.

Add 1/2 cup of coconut oil, the flour or potato starch, salt and pepper and combine.

Bake in the oven at 300 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours or until the kugel is golden

Friday, January 11, 2013

NYC Staycation

The last time we went away for December break was 7 years ago. J's parents took all their children and grandchildren to Disney world we had a really nice time but Disney World was very crowded and we ended up spending 7 hours on the plane ride home. As far as I was concerned that was the last time I was going away the last week of December. Since that last winter vacation in Florida we have been spending our winterbreak in Manhattan and we always have a great time.

Since J was taking Z to London for a mancation (they had an amazing time even though the Arsenal game was cancelled due to a tube strike!) it was going to be just me and my ladies. Before vacation started I planned out a few easy projects for the girls to do. I bought an origami kit and kite paper for Waldorf stars from Bella Luna Toys. We also did some sewing with wool felt I ordered from Weir Dolls and Crafts. This helped keep everyone busy through out the week and a half that we were home.

It took us a day to figure out how to make those little boxes.

I love how they look so happy together. FYI 10 minutes before this photo was taken all hell was breaking loose!

T's handy work 

In Manhattan many of the best after school programs run vacation camps that generally run from 10 to 3. This year R did 3 days of crafts camp at Jem Fabric Warehouse in Tribeca. T did 3 days of Writopia and spent much of the rest of her time at home working on her writing. D was happy just being home, though, on the one day that the girls' camps overlapped I did take her to the New York Historical Society where they have a great basement space for kids, an kid friendly movie about the history of New York City and of course the historical toys exhibit on the 4th floor.

Other activities we did were ice skating in Da Bronx at the new Van Cortland Park ice skating rink, a Saturday night staycation swim and pizza party at friends who have a pool in their building, going to the movies to see Life of Pi and of course 2 trip to D's beloved Little Shop of Crafts

Western "urban view" at Van Cortland rink

Eastern "park view" of Van Cortland rink

Little Shop of Crafts

It was not just a staycation for the kids! Mommy was happy as could be waking up at 9 instead of 7. We also ordered in dinner way more than we usually do. On New Years Eve J and I actually went out and saw the Fab Faux, a amazing Beatles tribute band with friends. On New Years day we had friends over for brunch.

I  loved being with the kids for 12 days just doing our thing and not being at the mercy of anyone else's schedule. When it was all over Wednesday morning I was sad. I really wished that they had given us the full 2 weeks off!


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