Archive for February, 2012

Bittersweet Deception: Chocolate Mousse Cake with Mocha Topping

February 24, 2012

Be happy, it’s Adar! This luscious dessert is lower fat chocolate mousse cake, topped with mocha cream (and I am pretty sure I can adapt it for Pesach).


South African Sweet and Sour Gefilte Fish Sauce

February 24, 2012

Me to husband: Oooh, “South African Sweet and Sour Gefilte Fish.” Doesn’t that sound good? Should I make that?

Husband: I like plain gefilte.

Me: The gefilte in this recipe is baked with a sauce made with apricot jam, vinegar, onions, ginger, golden raisins . . . .

Husband: I like plain gefilte.

Me: Well, I could make plain gefilte and make the sauce to serve on the side.

Husband: Fine. As long the gefilte is plain.

So, I made the sauce and served it on the side. And, guess what? Huge hit. Husband approved and asked for more (actually slathered on the sauce, which ended up being incredibly good).

The sweet and tangy, with a little burn from the spices, this South African gefilte sauce is a delicious alternative to the usual chrain.  It is kind of a chutney, and I imagine it might be a nice condiment or sauce for other dishes (chicken? meatballs? tofu?).


Mishpatim: N’aseh V’Nishmah Cake Crowns

February 17, 2012

“R. Simla lectured: When the Israelites gave precedence to ‘we will do’ over ‘we will hearken,’  six hundred thousand ministering angels came and set two crowns upon each man of Israel, one as a reward for ‘we will do,’ and the other as a reward for ‘we will hearken’.”

Shabbos 88a

The Slonimer Rebbe on “we will do and we will hear”:

Ari at Learning and Davening for Zack Englander:

“The Nesivos Shalom on naaseh v’nishmah says something unbelievable. He explains that by klal yisroel saying naaseh v’nishmah, they were telling Hashem that we accept you Hashem with whatever it is. That when we see You clearly , we accept you, and davka when we don’t see You , through the darkness, through the troubled times, we accept You then just as much.”

Aish, Rabbi Aba Wagensburg, “Three Rewards”:

“The Slonimer Rebbe (based on Me’or Einayim) shares three approaches in understanding what the Jewish people meant when they declared ‘na’aseh v’nishma”

(1) “[T]ruly accepting Torah involves doing the will of God not only when we are feeling confident and secure, but also during difficult and challenging times. This is what the Jewish people meant when they said, ‘Na’aseh v’nishma.’ Their commitment to following the will of God (‘na’aseh’) preceded their understanding of the Torah’s laws (‘nishma’).”

(2) “This commitment demonstrates the eternal love a child has for his parent – the desire to fulfill the parent’s will even when not specifically asked to do so.”

(3) “When the Jewish people declared, ‘Na’aseh v’nishma,’ they implied, ‘We can do even before hearing the will of God, because we have purified our bodies to the point where expressing the Divine will comes naturally.’ This purification takes place only when we are committed to performing the will of God even during the low points in our lives and even when we feel distant from the Divine.”

The project: bundtlets frosted with marshmallow fluff and decorated with jelly beans and sprinkles (can you guess which one was decorated by my daughter?)

Maida’s Famous Bran Muffins and a Variation

February 15, 2012

At the risk of gross oversimplification, there are basically two ways to make bran muffins: (1) with unprocessed wheat bran, and (2) with bran cereal.

You would think that cereal would be the more expensive option, but an 18 ounce box of All Bran Cereal costs about the same as a 14 ounce box of Hodgson Mills Unprocessed Bran. Some cereals have additives, like artificial sweeteners, but the above cereal is just bran, sugar, malt and salt. Comparing the nutritional information on the boxes, I figured out that 93 grams of cereal (about 1 1/2 cups) is the same as 75 grams of unprocessed bran (about 1 1/4 cups). So pricewise and nutritionwise, there isn’t too much difference.

The bran cereal is pre-cooked, which is a disadvantage is certain applications, but I think an advantage with something that is so briefly baked (muffins bake for 15-20 minutes). In fact, in doing a side by side comparison of bran muffins baked with cereal and unprocessed bran, I toasted the unprocessed bran before adding it to the batter to add some deeper color and flavor.

One more advantage in using cereal rather than unprocessed bran: you can readily eat up the leftover cereal for breakfast (well, over the course of many breakfasts), while the rest of the box of bran might linger in the freezer for a while.

Is there a taste advantage of one versus the other? I’m not sure. I made two batches of muffins and compared them side by side and the flavor was fairly similar.

So, the choice is yours. The below recipe  (adapted from Maida Heatter’s famous recipe) lets you choose either raw bran flakes or cereal. And, by the way, if you think bran muffins are dry and tasteless, you must try this moist, deeply flavorful muffin.


Easy, Inexpensive Vegan Burgers

February 14, 2012

Vegetarian “burgers” can be pricey and some have very processed ingredients. These lentil burgers are incredibly cheap and fairly easy to make. You boil lentils until tender, saute onions, and then mix the drained cooked lentils with the sauteed onions, breadcrumbs and some seasonings. Shape, bake and serve.

The only thing to bear in mind is that the recipe is a bit time consuming–mostly hand-off time while you wait for the lentils to cook (about 45 minutes) and then bake (another 45 minutes). The actual preparation of the burger mix goes fairly quickly. Just plan on making this recipe when you have other stuff to do around the house for a couple of hours.

The recipe is adapted from the recipe for Lentil Loaf in The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Austism Cookbook, which in turn adapted it from the Clarksville, Maryland  Great Sage Restaurant (the meatloaf doesn’t seem to be on the menu anymore, but here is a review by Richard Gorelick that describes it as follows: “Great Sage’s take on the classic vegan ‘meat loaf’ ($13.99) combines seasoned lentils, walnuts, and grains with a moistening barbecue sauce. Sides of mashed potatoes arrive ladled with homemade onion gravy, and lemon-sautéed broccoli sprinkled with sesame seeds. I liked the dish’s assertively peppery seasoning and the way the loaf held together.”

I’ve made this recipe twice (so far). The first time I cut corners and left out the cooked brown rice and walnuts from the recipe. The second time I added those ingredients. The burgers tasted pretty much the same. Both ways, these burgers were a huge hit at my house.


Sweet Chili Lime Mushrooms with Collards and Quinoa

February 13, 2012

I had collards that I needed to use up. Originally, I was thinking of making a recipe from Food52 for kale and quinoa, and then I saw this recipe at VeganYumYum for Sweet Chili Lime Tofu with Wok Steamed Collards and Quinoa. The only problem was that I had no tofu and I needed to use up a box of cremini mushrooms and some portobellas.

It occurred to me that the tofu marinade (sugar, lime, soy, garlic, red chili flakes) would work perfectly with grilled mushrooms. The resulting mushrooms were spicy, sweet, hot and tangy. A nice change from the usual grilled portobellas.

The mushrooms are worth making separately from the collards and the quinoa if you are looking for a side dish instead of a vegetarian main course.


Yitro: Har Sinai Cake

February 13, 2012

I have been remiss about posting my parsha desserts. I’ve been making them, but not posting. Here is the cake for Yitro. And here are some other ideas for making Har Sinai cakes:

Challah Crumbs Har Sinai Cake

Hands on the Parsha Har Sinai Cake and also Luchot Cake

ParshaCakes Har Sinai Cake

Babaganewz Har Sinai Cake

What is my cake made from? It is Abby Mandell’s Boule de Neige (chocolate snowball).


Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup Like Trader Joe’s

February 8, 2012

This is a variation on my earlier posted cream of tomato soup. It is basically that soup, but with some pureed roasted red pepper added in. The results are startlingly like the Trader Joe’s Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper soup, except fresher tasting.


Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

February 8, 2012

You won’t believe that these are gluten-free. They taste intensely peanut buttery, but they have a texture very much like regular cookies. A day after baking, they are still a little crispy on the edges and chewy in the middle.

The ingredients list will also surprise you: peanut butter, sugar and egg. No gluten-free flour, no extra butter or oil. There are some tweaks in the form of chocolate chips, coffee powder and vanilla, but the recipe works without them. This recipe has been around forever (well, not really forever, but a really long time–I first saw a version of the recipe about 15 years ago and I doubt it was new then).

When the batter is first mixed together, it looks quite wet and impossible. Not to worry. The starch in the peanut butter absorbs the moisture as the batter sits, and the mixture becomes less sticky.

The next time I make this, I am going to try adding some cocoa powder to turn these cookies into double chocolate chip peanut butter cookies. Another option is using chocolate peanut butter  (or any flavored peanut butter, for that matter).


A Better Cream of Tomato Soup

February 1, 2012

This isn’t one of those involved, gourmet recipes. There is no cream in this soup, no fresh tomatoes and herbs. There is no chopping and sauteeing and pureeing. Effort-wise, it is only a small step up from dumping out the contents of a box or can into a pot and heating it up. Flavor-wise, it is very similar to what you get from the boxed soups (like the Trader Joe’s), but (a) it is a whole lot cheaper and (b) it is a whole lot more convenient.

Yes, you heard right. This recipe is even more convenient that pre-made soup. Why? Because all you need is a can of tomato paste, milk, flour, oil/butter, water, salt and pepper. All things you keep on hand all the time anyway.

Here is all that you have to do to make this soup:

Heat a little butter and flour in a saucepan. Add milk and stir until thick. Add tomato paste, water and some seasonings.  Heat through and serve with grilled cheese sandwiches or open-faced cheese toasts.

It is amazing that you can get so much flavor from these modest ingredients, but I have been experimenting with cream of tomato soup recipes for some time now, and this is my favorite so far.