Archive for The Jewish Mother

Valentine’s Day: What Makes This Day Different From Any Other?

With 23 happy years of marriage under my belt and 21.5 of them as a mother of 3 beautiful sons, one of my goals is to shine my love on them everyday, as many times a day as possible. Naturally, given my humanness, I am not always successful and my own needs sometimes get in the way. But I do try. So, when Valentine’s Day comes around I usually invoke the old Passover idea: What makes this day different then any other? Honestly, not that much. But now that 2 of my sons are away at school, Valentine’s Day for me is largely an occasion to send them some love and we all know that the mailable version of love is FOOD. So, if you are like me and you need to send some love to those who are away, the 2 gifts shown here; the SweetHeart Valentine Tin (above) and the outrageously yummy Brownie Gift Box (left) are 2  of my favorite delicious choices. While we do have a Valentine’s Gift department that has more Valentine-specific items, just go to challahconnection.com–our entire site is filled with “Mailable Love.”

Love and kisses,

jane

P.S. To see all of our delicious food gifts, click here!

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The Mom Network—A Network of Super Powered Women

My 20 year old, Sam, is currently planning his senior year living arrangements. He is attempting to secure the perfect housing for him and his best buds, for their last year of college.

All was going swimmingly well for him, the independent kid that he is, until I got a call from the Mom of one of his friends. This Mom is particularly knowledgeable about the college town where the school is because 1) she lives 1.5 hours away vs. me who lives 9 hours away and 2) her father in law and brother in law live in the town and have been providing her with pictures and inside “scoop” on the house. MH, as I’ll call her, called to let me know that she “has serious concerns about the boys living in this house.” Well, I had already figured that it was a dump given that 4 20 year olds were choosing it. But MH gave me more info that indeed had me worried. I quickly grasped what she was saying and was now just as concerned as she. Here’s what happened next through the eyes of Sam as posted on his blog,The Crackers. (Please note that Sam, an avid blogger gives names to all of the people in his posts. The house is question is “Green Solace.” My name, well chosen is “Challah Queen”):

I’m sitting at the drive through of Burger King with Donkey Kong and Cheese Stache when my phone buzzes. The Challah Queen: “not sure how I feel abt you living in the whore house.”

(To clarify, there is a “for rent to six whole students” sign which hangs off the porch of Green Solace, one which during homecoming became the brunt of a drunken alumni’s edit. In permanent red marker, he squiggled in an “R,” replacing the “L” in “whole.”)

Initially perplexed (and slightly disgruntled) as to how my mom acquired photographic evidence of the spell change, I immediately called her.

But I was not at all surprised when I learned the source of her information.

The following is why I am sharing this with you:

Readers, as you’ve probably deduced from personal experience, moms have super powers. They can gauge the emotions of their children with frightening precision; can locate their children as if from a satellite chart; and, perhaps worst of all, they are able to infiltrate agendas of their children with ease.

Even while being hundreds of miles away, The Challah Queen still knows what is going on in my life.

How do they always know?

Part of it is The Mom Network.

An intangible cradle of information which transmits from mother to mother. A pot luck supplied by a matriarchal ring unified by their children. (The term “book club” is really just a facade for an appropriate forum for discussion.)

All you Moms who are reading this: don’t you just love this? We ARE super powerful and even they know it! As I explained to my beloved child, we don’t try to be this way, it’s just part of the MOMDNA. It’s not about snooping for info or trying to thwart them, it’s just that when you give birth to these creatures, even when they separate and live hundreds or thousands of miles away, we are still so connected, so full of innate understanding (until they do something really ridiculous in which claim no lineage whatsoever, right?).

While the MOMDNA allows for our steroidal intuition, it is also, as Sam has deduced, the network of mom-sisters who give us solid intelligence that either supports our intuition or puts in into it’s proper place (sometimes our imaginations/fears DO get away from us). Long live the MOM Network and us Super Powering Moms!

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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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It’s A Pancakes-For-Dinner Night

I have been cooking Shabbat Dinners for my family since my first son Sam was born–that is almost 20 years of Shabbat dinners. As my mother taught me, I have always thought that the “appropriate” Shabbat meal is brisket or roast chicken, challah and all of the rest of the side dishes. In the “old” days–up until about 5 years ago–my Fridays were structured around challah baking and the rest of the meal. Since Challah Connection is busy, busy all 5 days (actually 7+), little by little I have been chipping away at my Friday tradition. First to go, unfortunately, was the challah baking. However, I realized that while my husband Josh loved my home baked challah, my kids were actually perfectly content with the challah that we sell here at Challah Connection. Next to go was the hours of shopping and prep for the rest of the meal. To be honest, I have been feeling a little lost on Fridays without a traditional meal to prepare. But, here’s the interesting and very good news…

A couple of months ago, I learned from Harry and Mike (my only 2 at home now, ages 18 and 14 respectively) that they are not liking meat too much anymore and what they really love are dairy meals like my challah french toast, matzo brei, blintzes, pancakes and omelets. Great!! Those are easy to make, don’t require any prep time, are “Jewish” in nature and best of all they really love them. The only problem with this is that it’s not really what Josh and I want to be eating, but we can handle this one night a week.

I’m pretty excited about what I’m making tonight. This is a recipe from Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking: Cottage Cheese Chremslach. They are pancakes made with cottage cheese and matzo meal (recipe below), fried in oil and topped with sliced strawberries and confectioners sugar. The picture looks scrumptious and best of all, I think my kids are going to love them. Will let you know if this recipe passes the test!

Cottage Cheese Chremslach
From Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking
Note: Technically, this recipe is a Passover recipe hence the matzo meal and Grapeseed or Passover oil. For non-Passover, I plan to use matzo meal and canola oil.

Makes about 18

4 eggs
1 cup 4 percent cottage cheese (you could use low fat if you prefer)
3/4 cup mile (whole or low fat)
3/4-1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 cup matzo meal
Grapeseed or other acceptable Passover oil or 2 tablespoons butter for frying

In a bowl, with a fork, beat together the eggs, cottage cheese, milk, salt, and sugar. Stir in the matzo meal. Set aside for 10 minutes.

In a 10-to 12-inch skillet, over medium heat, heat enough oil to cover the bottom by a scant 1/8 inch. When the oil is hot, pour a scant 1/4 cup of the batter into the skillet. It should form a pancake about 4 inches in diameter. If it is too thick to spread this much, add a little more milk. The pancake should sizzle immediately. Fry until the first side is golden brown, 60-90 seconds, depending on how hot the oil is. Turn the pancake. The second side takes less time, about 30 seconds.

Drain the pancakes on paper towels or brown paper and serve while still very hot.

Variation (Jane’s opinion–this is a worthwhile step)
For a puffier pancake, separate the eggs, beat the yolks with the milk, then beat the whites until they form peaks and fold into the batter.

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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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Challah Connection Supports Haiti Relief

Beginning today, January 20, we will be donating 10% of sales to the American Red Cross to support the people of Haiti who are suffering after last weeks earthquake.

american red cross logo

We hope you will support our efforts to send as much aid as possible. Shop NOW at Challah Connection and we will send 10% of your purchase to American Red Cross.

We encourage you to think creatively about gift giving. Is there someone you have been thinking of gifting but haven’t had a chance? Please consider to whom you can send a
kosher gift basket, shiva gift, kosher bakery gift, Jewish book or CD, Judaica, Gluten-free gift basket, Jewish Baby Gift, Kosher College Care Package, Jewish Birthday gift and more.

Shop NOW at Challah Connection.

We appreciate your support at this crucial time. Please tell your friends!

Jane Moritz, Challah Connection Owner

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“Stuck” in the Kitchen With 3 Sons–How Bad Can it Be?

My son Harry is a high school senior and is applying to college. He specifically wants to go to art school. Unlike the rest of the family, he is an incredible artist. All but one of the schools he’s applying to require a portfolio of artwork. This one, Parsons School of Design in NY requires what they call, “The Parsons Challenge”. Basically, this exercise asks the applicant to observe some everyday aspect of their lives that has been overlooked and then to interpret it both visually and in written statements.

Well, it turns out that Harry is doing something that has to do with me, Challah Connection and baking—I guess. He hasn’t told me exactly what aspect of “me” he is focusing on but needless to say, I’m flattered that he feels I’m something of value that’s been unduly overlooked.

For the Challenge, he needs to take pictures of me baking challah. This past Saturday, was finally the day. However, instead of challah he approved a cinnamon bread recipe that we all really love and is much quicker then challah as it doesn’t require a sponge (45 minutes) or 2 risings and then a third after the braiding. It was a beautiful day and I wanted to go for a long walk in the frigid, but sunny weather. Being stuck in the kitchen all day hadn’t been my plan.

Well, I got the bread started and then my 2 others were beckoning me to make them French toast. It was a perfect moment to teach them how and to give them my favorite French toast recipe (key ingredients: challah, egg, milk, cinnamon, vanilla. Key cooking features: soak the challah REALLY well and saute in combination of butter and canola oil). They did a great job. Sam is now ready to go back to school and cook challah French toast for all of his housemates.

Then, the best laid plans: I took on 2 other cooking projects since I had the ingredients and wanted to use them before they went bad. Roasted root vegetables (just cut them up, place on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, kosher salt & pepper. Roast till done.) and cabbage and noodles (in Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking) were next on my list. This was a great day of cooking, teaching my boys and a great walk with Sophie, the dog.

What wasn’t planned to be a cooking day turned out to be a great one!

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Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

NPR reported that holiday traffic deaths are down from last year. Yes, that’s good news. But any sentence with holiday and death together gives me the heebie-jeebies. You see, I am the parent of a college-aged kid. And every parent of a college-aged kid has what I call the “nervous wreck” days.

The nervous wreck day is when you are going about your business–doing down dogs in yoga, getting to the office, checking your email, etc.–but all the while you have one, all-consuming thought. That bedeviling, anxiety-provoking thought:

“____(fill in the blank with your child’s name) is _____(driving home, flying home, taking the bus/train home) today, just in time for ____(Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas). I hope (he, she) will have a safe trip!

You get used to your child being hundreds or thousands of miles away, going to college, and you try not to think too hard about how you spent some of your college days (me: sound asleep and drooling on my Biology textbook during a 7:30 a.m. lecture).

What I think you don’t get used to are the travel days.

Take my son, Sam, for example. Sometimes he flies. That’s okay, although I breathe a sigh of relief when I know he’s on the ground again. Sometimes he drives with a friend. It’s an eight hour drive from his liberal arts college in western Pennsylvania. During that entire 8 hour journey, I’m not exactly throwing up with anxiety, but I’m not relaxed.

What I’m warming up to saying is this: Sam came home last night for the fifth night of Hanukkah. Every hour leading up to his bursting through the door, dragging a duffel bag full of dirty laundry, I thought of him and sent out a Mom’s heartfelt wish for his safe return.

Enough oil to light a lamp for eight days–it’s a wonderful miracle.

But I’ll take the ordinary miracles, too. Sam’s grinning face as I sling him a blue and white cookie, as he peels back the gold foil on the gelt, and, alas, as the doorbell rings–it’s his high school friends come a calling. There they go, driving off into the night.

Soon after that, my son Harry is standing before me, jingling the car keys.  He has just gotten his night-driving permit.  Great.  “You’ll be home by eleven, right?  You’ll drive carefully, right?”

Harry smiles; he nods.  Then he, too, is gone.

On this sixth night of Hanukkah, I wish you all ordinary and extraordinary miracles and many happy homecomings.

Best,

Jane

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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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