Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chocolate Mice

I made these for my husbands birthday party and they were a big hit. They're so adorable but their a snap to make,

1 cup of dark chocolate
20 cherries
20 oreo cookies
20 hershey kisses
40 almond flakes

Cover a baking sheet with wax paper. Twist the oreos so that cream remains on one half. Place those halves cream side up on the baking sheet. Save the rest for another purpose. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Dip a cherry in the chocolate and remove when it is coated. Attach a hershey kiss to the cherry on the side opposite the stem. Lay the entire thing onto one of the oreos. Attach two almonds as ears. Let set for at least one our in the fridge.

These last for up to three days in the fridge if the cherries you have used are fresh.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Puff Pastry Five Different Ways

I love puff pastry. It is one of the most versatile ingredients out there. You can buy it in sheets to roll to your preferred thickness or in convenient precut squares. It can be used in appetizers, entrees, even desserts! Here are some of my favorite puff pastry recipes, but I'm sure there are many more out there.

1) Deli roll - everyone loves this shabbat table staple. Roll out one package of puff pastry into a rectangle of medium thickness. Spread a thin layer of mustard on the dough and top with various cold cuts. Roll up the dough just as if you were making a deli roll. Bake at 425 until dough is nice and flaky brown (about 20-30 minutes). Slice and serve.

2) Mushroom puffs - Sauté a chopped onion and 12 oz's. of sliced mushrooms in some olive oil. Add in about half a cup of marinara, a tsp of salt a tsp of garlic powder and if necessary a little cornstarch to thicken. Use to fill puff pastry squares. Line them up on a baking sheet and bake at 400 until dough is brown and flaky. Save the extra mushroom mixture, heat it up just before serving and pour over the tops of the turnovers.

3) Palmiers - Roll one package of puff pastry to a rectangle of medium thickness. Spread a layers of ricotta cheese on top of the pastry. Sprinkle all over with parmesan. Then top with sun-dried tomatoes and a little more parmesan. Roll up lengthwise as if making a jelly roll and place in the freezer for half an hour. Remove from freezer and cut into slices. Place slices on a baking sheet and bake at 325 until flaky and golden.

4) Elephant Ears - Roll one package of puff pastry to a rectangle of medium thickness. Spread with melted chocolate or hazelnut spread. Top with a sprinkle of sugar and if desired, cinnamon. Roll up both sides lengthwise, meeting in the middle like you are folding a torah scroll and cut into slices (If dough is sticky, pop it into the freezer first). Place onto a baking sheet and bake at 425 for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

5) Strawberry Swirls - Roll one package of puff pastry to a rectangle of medium thickness. Spread with strawberry jam (or any other flavor you like). Roll up lengthwise and cut into slices. Place on baking sheet and bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guys at Bridal Showers

Is anybody else disturbed by this growing trend? Lately I've been to more and more bridal showers at which the groom was present. He's always the only guy in the room and trying not to look tortured. The girls are all milling about with their plates of baked zitti and mini pizzas oohing and aahing as the bride opens such wonders as an immersion blender and a whisk with an egg shaped handle. The poor groom is wondering what the heck any of those items are. Conversation sort of stutters and fumbles as he gets near and people try to come up with something non kitchen item, wedding planning related. He is struggling for something to say as well, trying to impress his wifes friends. Everyone is sort of wondering what he is doing there.

Most of the grooms I have actually asked have said their wife thought it would be sweet to have him there. Now sharing your wedding milestones together is nice, but if you're going to force him to come you should really have someone there for him to talk to. I applaud the thought behind wanting him to make friends with your friends but is throwing him solo in the middle of ALL you girlfriends during which time they are talking about kitchen appliances and changing diapers the best way to go about that? I vote no. If you're set on having there have some sort of joint party where his friends attend as well (yes, sacrilege in many circles since your girls and guy friends will mix. But if you think that' bad, then having your husband at the regular girls only shower is pretty bad too. After all your sexy friends are roaming around tempting him.). Your friends will meet his friends, there will be less pressure and who knows you might even make a shidduch. However, it will change the tone of your party. So if you want the traditional toaster-fest You shouldn't force your fiancee to suffer through it. You should also consider your friends feelings. If they are scared whit-less by large gatherings of guys you shouldn't torture them with your husbands friends, or even your husband, intruding on their girls only gathering. Just because your the brde doesn't give you the right to make anyone miserable. Including your friends and your husband.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What To Order on a First Date?

My seminary took the topic of dating very seriously. We had an entire class full of marriage tips and ways to prepare yourself for dating and marriage. This mostly included such pearls of wisdom as 'have the kids tucked in and ready to be kissed goodnight when your husband comes home' (god forbid he should see them awake every now and then), "constantly strive to grow and take your husband with you on that journey" which conflicted with the ever important "don't push him too hard, he needs to believe everything is his decision". We even had a field trip to the Brooklyn botanical gardens since it is a 'popular date spot' and we should know where the restrooms are as well as the different humidity conditions in the glasshouses so we could protect our perfectly ironed hair.

We even had guest speakers on the topic. One ancient looking women gave us an entire speech on how to approach the dating process. She wanted us to make lists of what is important to us. She wanted us to make lists of what is essential in our shidduch. She wanted us to make sure our parents were ready for us to get married in six months. She even had all sorts of tips about what to ask about - his yira'as hashem, his feelings towards torah, his feelings on the ever popular topic of 'growing' spiritually together. When she wrapped up this crash course and informed us that we were now fully prepared to go on shidduch dates she asked us if we any questions. Most of us stared at her like she was crazy, a few girls stared at her like she was god and one girl nervously raised her hand.

When the women noticed the hand she asked the young lady what was on her mind. The girl, clearly distraught, blurts out "What do you order on a first date? I have one tonight and I have no idea and no one else seems to have any idea. I don't even know which restaurant we're going to". Finally! Someone was being honest and practical during this class. Well, the woman did not have much advice for her. In her ideal schedule a first date involved the two parties sitting across from each other in suits, at a hotel lounge, with a drink in betwen them that no one drinks but you have to order so as not to be defrauding the lounge. (Like one drink for two people sitting there for two hours is really a simulation of the typical hotel loung clientelle). By the time the two people see each other eat there is all ready a high level of commitment implied. This date was going off the grid in a big way.

Many of us were wondering what the answer to the question would be and were disappointed about the lack of one given. After all, if everything was charted out this way and we were supposed to read into everything so much, shouldn't there be some 'normal' person thing to order? What if we ordered something that signalled we were crazy?

When she arrived the next day we all crowded around to hear what she had chosen. She happily told us that she went with the grilled chicken and it went very well.

Lesson learned? Sometimes you have to think for yourself. I've gone with the grilled chicken, sometimes I've gotten the salmon. I've even been bold enough to get a salad, with the crucnhy leaves and messy dressing (and the risk that the guy thinks your anorexic). The one thing I've never done is gotten the spaghetti. Even I'm not that adventurous.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Shabbat Picnics

One of the best ways to beat the heat and break up these long summer shabbat days is to have lunch outside. How do I manage this when I live in an apartment building on the upper east side? Our building has a lovely terrace on the second with tables and chairs that is usually relatively empty on shabbat afternoons. Since it wasn't raining today (a rare occurrence this summer) My husband and I packed up our usual picnic supplies and headed down to th terrace for a nice lunch in the sun.

Since we are regular outdoor eaters we have a pair of melamine plates and cups for eating outside. This is kind of dish that shopright or walgreens has in their big summer aisle for one or two dollars. It's my way of being earth friendly and not using paper. The plates and cups also have more weight than paper so they will not blos away as easily. While we carry down a few hot dishes the best summer outdoor foods are room temperature or cold. This corn salad is a great addition to any outdoor meal.

Corn Salad:

2 15 oz. cans of corn niblets
i small red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
3-4 cucumbers or pickles, chopped
1/3 cup vinegar
1/3 oil
1/2 cup sugar
dash pepper
1 Tbs. salt

Place the vegetables in a dish. In a small bowl mix the dressing ingredients together. Pur over the vegetable/corn mixture and let marinate.

The longer the salad marinates the better it gets, so there's no need to worry about what to do with leftovers.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Makeup: There is such a thing as too much

Lately I can't help but notice all the women running around sweating in the heat of the summer with a full face of makeup on. Do they really think foundation running off their faces makes them look more attractive?

I used to be into makeup. It was bred into me. Once you hit twelfth grade you could not enter a shul on shabbat without a full face of makeup on or your shidduch would be ruined. Once you graduated high school You could not leave the house for fear that someone would spot you and word would get out that you did not "take care of yourself". I wasn't really happy with foundation and layers of base, but I gave into my mothers exhortations and wore the eye shadow, blush and lipstick. After all, if I went to college without it, I was doomed to a life of singledom.

That was until I started dating my husband. I admit that I had been falling off the makeup bandwagon at the time, but I was still applying the blush or the eyeshadow. One day I must have entirely forgotten and he commented that I looked nicer than usual. I wondered what was different until I realized I had forotten the excessive makeup. I took a little poll of guys I know and it turns out NONE OF THEM liked the googy globbed makeup popular with girls in hte shidduch scene. The "ruin your shidduch" myth is because the shadchan wants to see the makeup, she assumes the guy wants it.

Think about it ladies, if someone approached you with enough maeup on to paint your house wouldn't you wonder what she was hiding under there? Sometimes a little subtelty goes a long way. A nice natural look lets them know you took some time to prepre for the date but are confident in your looks. It'd pleasanter, more apropriate for work, easier to maintain and will make you look wa more atractive.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What's for Lunch? Kibbeh neye

Many people are familiar with kibbeh, the bulgar wheat shell filled with meat that is a traditional item at many sephardic homes. However not that many people are familiar with Kibbeh neye, it's vegetarian cousin. This meal is great for the summer since it requires no oven time and packs a light but delicous flavor. The original kibbeh neye involved use of raw choppen meat but today it is made in vegetarian fashion.

Kibbeh Neye:
1 pepper (color of your choice)
1 tomato
half a bunch of parsley
1/2 cup red lentils
1 and 1/2 cups water
2 medium sized onions
2 Tbs. oil
1 and 1/4 cup fine bulgur
3 oz. tomato paste
1 Tbs. cumin
1 Tbs. coarse salt
pinch of red pepper

Clean red lentils to remove any stones. Drain. Boil red lentils in 1 and 1/2 cups water and let simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Chop onion and sautee it in the oil until the onions are clear and soft. Chop the tomato, pepper and parsley in your food processor. Wash bulgur in cold water and drain out any excess liquid. Add the vegetable mixture, onion and the hot lentils to the bulgur and mix well. Mix in the tomato paste and seasoning. Place mix in fridge for half an hour to firm up. Then shape into 2-inch long torpedo shapes.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Spruce up birthdays with cupcakes!

Tired of brithday cake? Want to take your birthdays to the next level? I for one wanted to try making something a little more special out of cake, but was not ready to decorate and sculpt a giant cake. I also did not have the proper (super expenssive) equipment. That's when I discovered Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack. It gave me simple instructions to make adorable cupcake creations with supplies I al ready had in the house. The book does call for some non kosher candies but you can easily replace those for a kosher variety. And with a little creativity you ca go beyond the bok and make cupcake designs of your own.

These things are super impressive. If your having one of those wars with your sister in law over who can seem like the best happy home maker and impress your mother in law, this will guarantee you the win. (Although I do not have a sister-in-law I still enjoy the book. I like cake!) It's like becoming Martha Stewart, minus the insider trading and divorce. Here are the cupcakes I have made so far to the delight of my family. (Never tell them how easy it is).