Archive for Jewish Traditions

Favorite Brisket Recipe, In Time for Passover

I used to be a brisket purist and saute a couple of pounds of onions and brown the meat while making a big mess of my kitchen. Now, here’s what I do and the result is just as good as the messy and laborious method:
-line a 9X13 pyrex dish with tin foil. Use enough foil so that it can be tented above the dish. A 6 inch tent will do. Place the brisket on the bottom of the pan, on top of the foil.
-shmear a generous amount of ketchup all over the brisket
-add 2 cut up onions and 2 cloves of garlic (or more of each–you really can’t add too much onion or garlic) on top of the brisket
-add water to the bottom of the dish so that it covers about 1/2 way up the depth of the brisket. You can add some left over coffee for extra flavor. I have heard of some people adding coca cola to their brisket.
-tent the foil above–you are essentially steam baking the brisket
-bake in 350 oven for 2-3 hours. Check every hour to be sure there is enough liquid. The liquid will be your gravy so you need enough.
-When done, remove from the oven and cool. Cut in thin slices against the grain and put into a clean baking dish (one that you can serve from would be nice) along with all of the juices. Refridgerate or freeze. The day you are going to serve it, bake for another couple of hours at 350. Be sure to taste the sauce to see if you need salt, pepper or other spices that you like.

Yum.

Jane Moritz

Challah Connection

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Sweeten My Year–Our All New Rosh Hashana Contest

For the Week of July 26, Enter to Win a Free Babka!

Share your favorite Rosh Hashanah traditions! Think about any ritual that you have enjoyed more than just once that is special for Rosh Hashanah — a favorite family activity, a special place you love to visit, a favorite holiday dish–or any that is meaningful to you! Post your entry on this blog or on Facebook (feel free to include photos!)

One lucky winner will enjoy this delectable 1.5-lb loaf of the densest, most chocolately chocolate babka.

All submissions are due Friday, August 6 and the winner will be announced on August 9. Click for more contest details.

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It’s Shavuot–I’m Cooking Dairy

It’s a rainy, disgusting day here in CT, but I am feeling sunny as I put together my ingredients for the homemade blintzes I am about to start making. First the crepes, then the filling–then the 2 together! We are not religious-here in my house-but we do love to celebrate the Jewish holidays, particularly the food traditions. Now that we are eating much less meat then ever, blintzes are going to be very well received. As you may have previously read in this blog, my kids have been shunning meat and chicken in favor of cremslach (yummy cottage cheese pancakes), challah french toast and blintzes. Recipes for all of these, plus many more dairy recipes at Challah Connection. Let me know what you’re cooking tonight–Chag Sameach!

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College Care Packages–Send Them At Your Own “Risk”

As you may have previously read in this blog, I have been sending kosher care packages to my son Sam, since he went away to college last year. This year, he moved into a fraternity house and lo and bohold, his brothers–many of them unfamiliar with “jewish” food–have been loving the care packages. It appears that Sam has taught them of the joy of challah, babka, rugelach, hamentashen and more. Feeling that he “wanted to take this to the next level” and as the Social Chair of the fraternity, Sam, aka Sambassador (to Jewish Culture), asked to me prepare a “Jewish Meal” for 50!! It was a truly momentus occasion as this was the very first time in Allegheny’s history that Hillel and Greek life have come together for an event. Here it is!

The kids were all so interested and appreciative. I got hugs from almost everyone! Even the next day at a fraternity picnic, they were kvelling about the great food and thanking me profusely.
Of course we could not have done this without help from so many people including my Mother, the “Brisket Maven”, my Mother in Law who makes the only kasha varniskes that I have ever liked (truly yummy), friend Elaine for the delicious cabbage and noodles and Gary,
the owner of Beth Haven Inn in Meadville, PA for supervising the heating of 20lbs of brisket. If you are wondering what I cooked, not to worry, I did my share: 4 briskets and potato kugel.
Allegheny College Jewish Lunch Menu
Also thanks to Solomon Sheena, the Allegheny College Hillel advisor whose love of an organized kitchen was invaluable last week as well as Allegheny College President, James H. Mullen Jr, who was a pleasure to have, and was a true sport as I draped the Challah Connection, Got Kosher? apron around his neck (seen in photo below).

The moral of this story is simple: If you want to send your child a kosher college care package, please log right on to our website, but please don’t say I didn’t warn you: they may soon ask you to cook a Jewish meal for 50.

Jane

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Sambassador to Greek Life

When my son Sam was born, we lived in New York City. I used to take him to the playgrounds in Central Park and it was only a matter of time before Sam would find another kid to build a sandcastle with or join in a game of tag. The great thing about those days was the variety of kids Sam played with, all reflecting the melting pot of New York City.

When Sam moved into a fraternity house this year, his sophomore year, it was like those playground days all over, with Sam becoming friends with a lot of peers from diverse backgrounds. Sam brought his own uniqueness to the mix as the only Jewish kid in his fraternity house.

I suppose it was the Jewish mother in me that relishs sending him packages of challah and holiday goodies to nourish not only his stomach but also his identity. For example, a couple of weeks ago, for Purim, I sent him a big package with one of our Purim Bakery Towers—6 lbs of Hamentashen, rugelach and mini black and whites, along with a Purim Candy Platter and challahs. And I dreaded the day when, in one of our weekly video chats, he’d say, “Mom, enough with Jewish treats!”

Imagine the thrill I got last night when he reported that he and his 14 house mates LOVED the stuff. Not only that, but Sam wants Josh and me to come to the fraternity’s family picnic in May. While visiting, he wants me to cook a “Jewish meal” for the house. He wants to help and thinks maybe some of the other guys will want to, too.

I’m fairly certain Sam has no idea how happy this invitation makes me. He’s an ambassador of Jewish culture by introducing Jewish food and traditions to his housemates. Some of them had never met a Jew before Sam, and now they are loving our culture and traditions (or just free food, and who wouldn’t?). Once again, in my Challah Connection journey, the universe has proven that no matter our religion or our background, no matter if we are from the Middle East, the Midwest, or the Upper West Side, we all come together over food.

Now I am planning what I’m going to cook and where I am going to shop in this small town in Western PA where the greatest shopping attraction is Walmart. So far I am thinking of challah, brisket, latkes, chicken soup, matzo ball soup, and noodle kugel. But first and foremost, I am planning a terrific Passover Gift to send to him—Passover Traditions in a Box–one of our kosher college care packages, along with a Decadent Dark Chocolate Covered Matzo Platter.

What are you sending your Sambassador? Email me and I’ll give you some recommendations.

Happy Jewish Mothering—whether you are a Mom or a Dad!

Jane

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Jewish Christmas Treats…wait, let me explain!

Jewish Christmas Treats.  Yes, you heard right.   You purists out there…allow me to explain.

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My friend Grace grew up in Idaho* and returns home there most Christmases.  In tow are her Jewish husband and children.  This family travels to the mill town of Lewiston with a menorah, dreidel, and other holiday items when Chanukah and Christmas overlap.

Grace’s family–dyed-in-the-wool Lutherans who live on the banks of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers–look forward each year to Grace’s homecoming not only because they miss her, but also because she brings loads of Challah Connection Jewish treats with her…the kind of treats, like babkas, rugelach, black and white cookies, savory treats, chocolates, and other fun goodies–that they were first introduced to when my friend married her husband.  The older relatives love to eat cinnamon babka warmed (and with margarine, my friend tells me!) while the young kids love gelt.   No offense to the good people who run commerce in Lewiston, Idaho, but it’s just not the kind of thing my friend’s relatives are likely to find in the local stores.

It turns out that Jews are not the only ones who welcome and enjoy “Jewish” baked goods at this time of year.  With small towns becoming increasingly international, it’s a welcome change of pace for noshers to receive something tasty, outside their usual comfort zone

I find it thrilling…another example of a world where we are allowed exquisite freedom to share in each other’s rituals, each other’s customs, each other’s foods, each other’s sweet holiday delights.  It makes for a far more delicious world! 

Happy noshing, Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

Jane

*fun fact: Idaho’s Moses Alexander was the first Jewish governor in the United States

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Ordinary Miracles

treelifemensmTonight is the first night of Hanukkah and, to be honest, I’m pretty exhausted. When my kids asked me at dinner the other night what I wanted, I was at a loss: new exercise clothes? More yoga classes? I must work so much that I don’t even know what’s out there to want!

But it is good work, and for that I am grateful. Here at Challah Connection, we have been working hard for the last few weeks to create and ship our best Hanukkah and holiday gifts yet! I’m so proud of our growth and accomplishment and thank all of you for this gift you have given to us.

But when I think about what the first night means to me, my first reaction is: it’s here AGAIN? The time is just going so fast!  I can remember when I had three young sons, each with his own particular interests, but all pretty much “male.”  I can remember wrapping dump trucks (in brightly colored pillowcases—I inherited Mom’s eco-friendly approach even before it was fashionable) and giant boxes of Legos.

Now, with the boys ranging from teenage to young adult, the gifts are more subtle, not so easy to stuff into a pillowcase.  One wants to donate funds to help inner city kids.  Another wants to go on a trip.  The youngest still wants tangible things, but they’re smaller and come with a computer chip.

But they’re still my boys.  That hasn’t changed.

Hanukkah is not a religious holiday. It’s a commemoration of a fantastic miracle and that’s the part that I plan to dwell on. I am thinking about all of the miracles and blessings I have in my life: my wonderful and supportive husband, my 3 beautiful children, my healthy parents and mother -in-law, my friends and my fun and growing business. These are my miracles.

Tonight when we eat latkes and light the menorah for the first time this year, I will be looking across the table at 3 faces that I love; Josh, Harry and Mike (Sam will still be at school) and I will feel so blessed that I have them to share these events—and my life—with. What are your miracles?

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Happy Hanukkah–The Best Latkes are Your Very Own

A few years ago my friend Shari and I decided to pool our latke-making skills and begin what has become our neighborhood tradition of “Shari and Jane’s Latke Party.” All our friends look forward to this. Having been taught by “the master” (my mom) I thought my latkes were pretty good—potato taste with just the right amount of crisp. What I didn’t expect was that there was an aspect to what made a great latke: it’s even edges.

Shari and Jane Making Latkes

When Shari (in white shirt) came to my house our first year, with her pans of latkes to stick in my large freezer, I was kind of amazed and perplexed. Her latkes definitely were much prettier then mine! I had prided myself on the funky, jagged edges of mine (maybe how I see myself with my funky curly hair? But her hair is even curlier then mine!). Whatever the reason, I took on the challenge to see if I could “clean up” my latkes and see if I could make them prettier. I have succeeded to some extent. Shari taught me that the key is to compress them onto a large spoon and glide them off the spoon into the oil then press them gently. It has definitely made a difference.

But the interesting thing about this is that I realized that we all cook our latkes differently—loose, tight, with sour cream on the side, without, with onion, without, etc. But in the end they are all yummy and do the job. To me, the most important part is that we are making them ourselves, from scratch.

Sherry and her girls

Sherry and her girls; Newly Minted Latke Mavens

Just before Thanksgiving, Sherry (Challah Connection Director of Customer Service) came to work looking forlorn. Her mother in law was visiting and had asked Sherry if she had any jobs for her while Sherry was at work. Sherry asked her if she would make 4 dozen latkes—“No” was the answer (actually—it was a tall order). When I asked Sherry why she was so upset by that, she confessed to me that she had never made latkes and was actually a bit intimidated by the process. I was fairly surprised since she and her daughters are great cooks who make lots of ambitious recipes. I offered my extra large pan and gave her a pep talk: I knew she could do it. Sure enough, Monday after Thanksgiving she came to work with a new confidence about her—her aura was different. She had conquered her latke fear and made 4 dozen perfect latkes!

Harry

Harry--His cooking specialites are eggs and latkes

Tomorrow night, we will be going to my parents’ house for a pre-Hanukkah party while my brother and his 4 kids who live in Israel will be visiting. My 17-year old, Harry, will be manning the latke pan while the rest of us admire his work and pop them in our greedy mouths. Whatever shape your latkes are, I know they will be great and you’ll be so proud that you made them yourself!
Happy frying and here is Shari’s recipe. By the way, we have a perfect apron for the occasion: our chic latke apron.

Latke Apron

Grandma Anne’s Latkes
Simple, but the best traditional latkes. She always threw in a little of this and a little of that, but when pushed for exact quantities, here’s what I got-and they are delicious!
For a crowd-serves about 12
15 big white potatoes of your choice
3 large or 4 medium brown or yellow onions
6 large eggs
1 cup flour or matzo meal
3 tbl salt
1 ½ tbl white pepper
-Peel potatoes and place in cold water to retain color
-Grate onions and potatoes in batches, squeezing out and draining excess water as you go, but don’t take out the water from the last batch
-Add the eggs and mix
-Add flour, salt and pepper and mix well
-To cook the latkes, drop large spoonfuls into a pan of ¼ inch of very hot oil. Using the spoon, quickly and gently press the potato mixture to form a flat oval shape, then loosen from the bottom if it sticks slightly. Turn once, cooking until each side is golden brown. Remove to drain on a baking sheet covered in paper towels
-Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree oven
-To make ahead, freeze latkes in a single layer, then place frozen pancakes in a plastic freezer bag. To reheat, place on a cookie sheet in a single layer and heat for 7 minutes at 375 degrees

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Just Do It… Yourself Basket

balsmmendocinosmyidmugsmHave you ever had that dream?  You know, the one where you’re a kid in a candy store and you’re  filling up a huge bag full of your favorite candies?  Hmm, maybe it was just my post-Willy Wonka dream.  I think it was the inspiration behind  Challah Connection’s  Do it Yourself Basket .  With this basket, you get to choose what you want to put in it.  It’s all the same kosher yumminess you’ve come to know from our gift baskets, but you’re the design team.  You know Aunt Rachel dies for blue and white cookies but rugelach…not so much?  Pile on the blue and white!  Or that Mom is a chocoholic but could take or leave raisins? Chocolate, we’ve got.  Lots and lots of chocolate.

Not to pat myself on the back, but it’s really a brilliant idea.  It’s not as crass as sending cash and a lot more tangible than a gift card.   Recently I saw the Do it Yourself Basket really go to work for an interfaith couple friend.  George recently called me, in a bit of a dither.  George is not Jewish but his wife Leah is, and this year, after 17 years of marriage, George wanted to surprise her with a plethora of Jewish treats.  Sad to say (correction: George was sad to say), he didn’t really know which ones were her favorites, and he wanted it to be exactly perfect.

“George,” I said. “My advice is to give the woman what everyone woman wants.”

“Jane,” he said. “I think you should just forget about Johnny Depp and stick to kosher gift baskets.”

“No, no,” I corrected him. “I mean, give Leah something to drool over…that fits in a basket.”

“That’s why I called,” he whined. “She loves it all.  Chocolate babkas, cinnamon raisin rugelach, blue and white cookies.  Also, last year I broke her great-aunt’s menorah.  I don’t think you make a basket that big.”

“First of all, we can do whatever you want, but why not let Leah make her own basket?

“She could do that?”

“Yes, George! Just tell her to follow our “6 Easy Steps to Create the Perfect DIY Basket.

George realized he was onto something.  While on the phone, he instructed me to put together a gift basket for his six-year-old nephew, his mother-in-law, and his boss.  All customized, all do it yourself.  George was very pleased with himself.

Now, if only there was a Do It Yourself Basket at Neiman Marcus…

Happy Shopping,

Jane

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The Year of the Pickle

It’s a famous Jewish tradition: Chinese food and a movie on Christmas. Who knows how it all got started? Years ago, some enterprising Jewish family must have ventured out into the empty streets–with all the stores shuttered- on Christmas Day and discovered a light glowing in the distance. Hurrying closer, that Jewish family stood under the light and saw that it said “Sakura.” After stuffing their faces, the family headed out into the empty street and saw another light. “Cineplex” it said.

Thus a tradition was born (reversing the order is optional) and my family has certainly partaken of that tradition. But my love of Chinese food isn’t limited to Christmas alone. During any season, but especially during cooler weather, my family has been known to happily decamp to our favorite Chinese restaurants in Connecticut and New York and enjoy all of the savory delights. While shoveling in all this delicious food, I’ve noticed and been fascinated by the Chinese Zodiac imprinted on the placemat. You know–Year of the Dragon, Year of The Rat, etc. I’ve thought: Why not a Jewish tradition like it?

Imagine, then, my excitement, when I came across some wonderful new products that playfully combine Jewish food and Chinese culture–Seth Front’s The Jewish Zodiac.

Of course it’s not “The Year of the Ox” but “The Year of The Lox” I’m talking about! I love anyone who can make me laugh–and Seth’s products are just hilarious.

Here at Challah Connection, we’re proud to offer these fun, new products like The Year of the Pickle t-shirts and Year of The Black & White t-shirt. (My husband is sporting one now, but has yet to fess up to whether he is on the black side of the cookie or the white). I chatted with Seth at the recent Kosherfest where I asked him which of the amazingly creative shirts is the most popular. It’s the Year of the Pickle–that must be a new way to refer to our current economic problem. (Maybe I’ll send a shirt to President Obama and his speechwriters.)

While I love the shirts, since I am really kitchen person, I also love the Jewish Zodiac Placemats. Jewish Zodiac Placements

Last night, we set the table with these fun placemats and I could have sworn that my salad pizza had a distinct taste of broccolli with garlic sauce.

Instead of being born in the Year of the Rat or Year of the Sheep, find your Jewish zodiac sign. Were you born under the Year of the Egg Cream, Year of Pastrami, or Year of the Schmear?

Happy Shopping!

Best,

Jane

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