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Let the Mavens Help With Your Mother’s Day Shopping

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How to Write a Sympathy Message

Writing a sympathy message is one of life’s most difficult tasks. Jane Moritz, Challah Connection owner shares with you give messages that customers have used over the last decade.

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Preparing for Passover, Beyond the Brisket

JaneChaibraceletFrom Jane Moritz, Chief Maven Officer, Challah Connection:
Now that our 3 sons are out of the house, my husband and I are cleaning out and packing up our house as we get ready for our next home in our next life phase. With the dumpster filling up outside our garage and my no-tchotcke-left-unturned focus, I was particularly moved when I received a recent email, “From Purim to Passover,” about preparing for Passover. The author, Nigel Savage, President of Hazon beautifully discusses prep that is well beyond the brisket. I wanted to share it with you and whether you are Jewish or not or religious or not, these are thoughts that we can all make use of. Here is an excerpt from his email:

From Nigel Savage, President, Hazon.org:
nigel-savage“I think of the period from seder night until Shavuot as a sustained reflection on the nature of freedom, and in particular about traveling from freedom from (want, oppression, slavery) to freedom to (make a difference in the world, exercise choice, restrain oneself in certain ways.)
The period from Purim to seder night is thus preparation for this. It’s the work we need to do to be able to start to leave our own enslavement and to think freshly and confidently about our freedom.

And the tradition’s great insight – hidden in plain view – is that a significant part of that process is about getting rid of stuff.
Certainly this involves removing chametz, traditionally understood – bread and beer and whisky and other fermented products. But the deeper gift of this period – certainly in our time, certainly in the west – is the deeper notion that we have too much stuff of all sorts, and that if we truly want to be free – if we want even to begin to imagine our true freedom – the road to doing so involves getting rid not only of literal chametz but of existential chametz – the superfluities that hinder our freedom.

So in our household we do kasher our home in the traditional sense; we keep a fairly strictly kosher kitchen and that is important to us. But as well as the traditional koshering, we take the opportunity to try to get rid of stuff. We take stuff to goodwill, or to the office. Give things to friends. Throw things out.” For Nigel’s complete letter, click here.

Happy Passover!

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Help Your College Student Celebrate Passover

JoinouremaillistSpring Break is early this year. Or maybe Passover is late. Either way, the eight-day holiday begins at sundown on Friday, April 3, about a week after classes resume. If your kids attend an out-of-town college, they may be celebrating without you.

SederEssLGCampus Hillel programs and other Jewish organizations do a good job of organizing at least one seder for students. You may want to do a little research in advance, to be sure your student signs up. If your kid tends to procrastinate, he or she might wake up on April 3 and realize that there is no place reserved at the seder table. And college students seldom have the facilities, ingredients – or frankly, the skills – to create a last-minute seder on their own.

PassMealLGHere’s one way to be sure that your college kids have a positive Passover experience at school: Send a seder in a box from Challah Connection. They get it all: the Haggadah, matzah, grape juice, dessert – even a seder plate. Everything is kosher for Passover, so they’ll have everything to make a seder, except the festive meal.

But wait! Challah Connection has the meal too! Order by March 20, and we’ll send your college student a complete Passover dinner on April 2, to feed four to six people: matzo ball soup, roast chicken, brisket, potato pancakes and tzimmes, a stew of sweet potatoes and carrots. This marvelous meal is an amazing treat for students – and you can order it for yourself, too! That way, you won’t have to spend all day in the kitchen before your guests arrive.

CandyMacPlatterLGIf your kids are anything like mine, they are eager to dig into those traditional Passover foods, as they ask the time-honored fifth question of the seder: “When do we eat?” They’ll stuff themselves, but they always seem to make room for those amazing desserts! Be sure your Passover order includes a platter of Pesadich cookies, candy and macaroons, or decadent, chocolate-covered matzo, to make their seder experience complete.

Visit www.challahconnection.com and browse our selection of kosher for Passover gift baskets, for your students, your family and for yourself. Join our mailing list, and receive holiday reminders, delicious recipes, and special, money-saving offers. Happy Passover!

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Passover Hostess Gifts Made Easy

JoinouremaillistSo, you’re invited for the seder! Mazel tov! Someone else will do the cooking and the worrying. You just have to show up. Right? Well, yes, but it’s so nice to bring a gift for your host or hostess.

So, nu? What should you bring? Passover hostess gifts can be tricky. If your hosts observe the holiday traditions, they have been working very hard to clean the house and banish all traces of chametz (leavening.) You may love to cook or bake, but they may not be in a position to accept home-prepared food items. Flowers are nice, but the first seder night is on Shabbat* so the Sabbath-observant hosts may not want to handle cut flowers after the sun goes down.

A thoughtful seder guest does have some nice, worry-free options when it comes to Passover hostess gifts:

MoradDuoLgKosher wine is a welcome seder gift, as guests are obliged to drink four cups of wine during the ritual meal. Don’t worry, you are not limited to the syrupy-sweet Concord wines of your grandparents’ generation. Many stores now carry fine kosher wines to please the most sophisticated palate. Choices include Israeli imports, derived from Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay and other popular varietals. Choose a white wine to complement the gefilte fish, and a red to go with the brisket. Be sure the wine is clearly labeled “kosher for Passover.”

Passover Cookie Platter, Challah ConnectionPassover desserts also make a lovely gift. Never in the 3,000-plus years of Passover observance has a single Jew complained that there were too many desserts. Bring or send a basket of their favorites: rainbow cookies, macaroons, chocolate-covered matzah, seven-layer cake, candy, nuts, fruit and more. You’ll be invited back every year!

Passover Judaica items are the way to go, if you prefer to give a gift that will last beyond one evening, Challah Connection offers a beautiful selection of Passover Judaica. Trivets from Israel can be a beautiful addition to the seder table, and a decorative match box cover will remind them of you every time they light Shabbos and yontif candles, all year round. If the seder guests include young children, some Passover games and books will keep them engaged and make the seder a fun, educational experience for the kids and their parents.

Challah Connection will deliver your gift directly to the hosts’ home, so you don’t have to schlep. And every Passover gift basket at challahconnection.com is certified kosher for Passover. You can share the joy of the holiday and experience the freedom of knowing your gift will surprise and delight your hosts.

Visit www.challahconnection.com and order your hostess gift. Then buy a gift for yourself, too. Enjoy!

* Passover begins on Friday evening, April 3 in the year 5775 (also known as 2015.)

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A More Beautiful Passover Seder

JoinouremaillistThis year, Passover begins at sundown on Friday, April 3. Whether you are a host or a guest, chances are you’ll be attending a seder, as Passover is the most widely celebrated of all Jewish holidays.

The seder is so much more than a meal. It is an experience that engages all of our senses: taste is primary, but we also hear the ancient story and our favorite holiday songs, smell the horseradish, and lean on a pillow, as we raise up the matzah and seder plate for all to see.

MDSPLargeThere is a principle of Judaism called “hiddur mitzvah,” beautifying or enhancing the mitzvah. When we perform a mitzvah — a religious obligation – it is not meant to be unpleasant. We strive to enhance the experience, and to make it even more memorable in every way. For example, Jewish tradition tells us to refrain from eating matzah until the seder itself, so that we can savor that first taste — which is much improved when you haven’t eaten it in a long time!

One way to add to the beauty and enjoyment of the holiday is to purchase Passover Judaica – ritual objects and books that are unique to the holiday – and use them in your seder, this year and every year.

If you are hosting a seder this year, you will want to have a beautiful seder plate. If you have a seder plate, think about adding a special matzah plate and a matzah cover, Elijah’s cup, even a new serving bowl or decorative utensil, can add to your experience.

This could be the year to replace your mismatched Haggadah “set” that you picked up for free at the local supermarket, and finally buy a beautifully illustrated Haggadah – or a whole set – to use and cherish at this seder and all the ones to come.

HamTrivLGIf you already have a full complement of Passover Judaica, Challah Connection offers a beautiful selection of Judaica items that are suitable for any occasion. Trivets from Israel can be a beautiful addition to the seder table, and a decorative match box cover will enhance your enjoyment of Shabbos and yontif candle lighting, all year round.

If you will be a guest at the home of friends or family, consider bringing or sending a beautiful Judaica item as a hostess gift. Challah Connection will deliver your gift directly to the hosts’ home, so you don’t have to schlep.

Visit www.challahconnection.com and browse our Judaica items, as well as our marvelous selection of kosher for Passover gift baskets. And have a beautiful Passover!

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Mishloach Manot: A Delicious Purim Mitzvah

JoinouremaillistMishloach manot, or shalach manot, means “sending portions” of food to friends, and it is one delicious Purim mitzvah. On Purim, which falls this year on Thursday, March 5, friends exchange gifts of ready-to-eat food and beverages, to enhance the joy of the holiday.

TB1PURLGChallah Connection will assemble and send your Purim baskets, so you can relax and enjoy the holiday fun. Your mishloach manot should include at least two ready-to-eat foods or beverages, but you can exceed your friends’ expectations with Purim Traditions in a Box: cookies, brownie, chocolates, nuts, grape juice — all kosher, of course — and a noisemaker, all packed in a festive, Purim-themed package.

Purim is all about fun, food, and drinking, along with a public reading of the Megillah (scroll) of Esther, the young Jewish woman who captured the heart of the King of Persia and saved her people from destruction. It’s a long story, and that gives the word “megillah” the connotation of unending tedium. In fact, Purim is anything but boring. It’s a crazy, fun day that even has its own cookie: hamentaschen (Yiddish for “Haman’s pockets”) are a fruit-filled pastry folded in a triangle. Fun fact: In Israel, they’re called “oznei Haman” or “Haman’s ears.” We hate Haman, but we love those pockets!

On Purim, children — and many adults — wear costumes, eat sweets and party their brains out. Give them some extra Purim fun from Challah Connection. This great package includes masks, games and noisemakers, so the little ones can enjoy the holiday spirit, plus a variety of fruit-filled hamentaschen for mishloach manot.

Another entertaining aspect of Purim: drinking! Adults are expected to get tipsy enough so they can’t tell the difference between Esther’s nobleMoradDuoLg cousin Mordechai and the villain Haman, whose name is blotted out by booing and noisemakers during the Megillah reading. Show off your deep understanding of Purim tradition by sending your friends two bottles of fine Israeli wine, along with a platter of hamentaschen.

A key Purim mitzvah (obligation) is giving gifts of food to the poor, so they can celebrate too. Challah Connection is your Purim partner. We will be donating challah and our delicious kosher baked goods to our local food bank for our local friends to share and enjoy.

So, nu? Order your goodies from Challah Connection already, and have a very happy Purim. Enjoy! It’s a mitzvah!

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The Essence of Purim: Mitzvot, Hamentashen & Shalach Manot

JoinouremaillistFrom start to finish, Purim delivers on fun. It’s one big ‘ol party, dedicated to celebration, storytelling, tumult-making, and costumed festivity. The holiday celebrated on March 4th this year (2015), on the 14th of Adar (marking the day of a great battle, as told in the Book of Esther).

The complicated tale of Purim commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination. It’s a story of triumph over evil, strong women, and serious chutzpah. Talk about wonderful lessons! No wonder we live it up on this happy day. Beyond the fun and games, though, this holiday comes with responsibilities…a to-do list, if you will. Nu? What did you expect! According to Jewish tradition, there are four important mitzvot to fulfill at Purim (frailach celebration included!):

1. Hear the Book of Esther (The Megillah) read aloud:
The Megillah is read twice on Purim. This is part of the fun, often spilling over into community plays and pageantry. During the reading, people stomp their feet and make noise when HAMAN, the name of the story’s evil villain, is mentioned. Groggers (Purim noisemakers) help everyone whoop up a racket to drown out the terrible name.

2. Give gifts of food (Shalach Manot).
Items of immediately edible kosher food are given on Purim day. Fruits, nuts, and hamantaschen are traditional. Hamantaschen are tasty filled pastries, known for their triangular shape. They resemble the 3-cornered hat of villainous Haman (boo!). In Israel, hamantaschen are called Oznei Hamen (Hebrew: אוזני המן‎) for “Haman’s ears”. Filled with poppy seed, fruits, chocolate, caramel, or cheese, they are fantastic gifts, enjoyed and recognized by all who celebrate. Olives, crackers, rugelach, Babka, and smoked salmon are other examples of geshmak (delish) food gifts to share. Challah Connection has a variety of Purim Gift Baskets, brimming with happiness.

3. Offer Purim gifts to the poor.
Remembering the poor (Matanot l’evyonim) means giving to people less fortunate than you. This is a year-round mitzvah, but on Purim, it’s an obligation. The gift of food is a lovely, generous way to do good and give back to the community.

4. Have a festive meal on Purim Day.
Eat, drink, and be merry! The Purim feast is to be filled with lots of good food and kosher wine. The whole atmosphere is fun and even raucous–a gift of pleasure to our bodies and souls. Challah Connection can provide a beautiful feast, with chicken soup and matzah balls, brisket, roast chicken, latkes, tzimmes, and challah for 4-6 people. A traditional holiday dinner is a marvelous mitzvah indeed! Add a kosher wine basket, too? Never a bad thing!

The Purim to-do list is all about giving and receiving joy. So, think spring! Think Purim! Think happiness! When it comes to a gut yontiff, that’s the whole megillah!

Jane Moritz is Owner and Chief Maven Officer of Challah Connection, the premiere online purveyors of traditional kosher gifts for Jewish holidays, shiva, Jewish birthday celebrations and all Jewish gift giving occasions. Her company has been “Creating Kvells Since 2002.” www.challahconnection.com

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Kosher Gift Baskets –Baskets of Jewish Tradition For All Your Friends & Family

JoinouremaillistKosher Bakery Classics Care Package Challah Connection has been shipping kosher gift baskets since 2002. In that time, we have learned what people want in a kosher gift basket. Simply put, they want delicious, edible tradition. Jewish baked goods such as challah, babka, rugelach, rainbow cookies and black and whites are the core of our most popular kosher baskets. Whether for Jewish holidays, birthday, shiva, college care package or other occasions, kosher bakery favorites resonate deeply with recipients. We have found that whether or not the recipient keeps kosher, most Jewish people—and non-Jews as well–love these kosher bakery favorites. Other Jewish favorites such as lox and bagels and kosher deli are also treasured.

Many of the bakery favorites were brought to America by immigrants from Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century and have tremendous nostalgia value for many Jews. They have become traditional favorites by many who “grew up” with them and now want to share them with their own children. Here are some quotes from our customers when they were asked to share thoughts and feelings about babka (the loaf shaped coffee cake-like dessert shown above, that is one of our best sellers):

NYC Brunch Basket, Lox and Bagel Basket-“Babka represents family and holidays”
-“Kosher baked goods are so important”
-“My grandmother, from Germany, would make the best babka, and every time I eat it I think of her”
“I remember my grandma rolling out the dough on the kitchen table, and the smells that went thru the house”
-“Babka=Jewish. It symbolizes Bubbee and is a good Jewish staple that most people love.

Through these quotes you can see the deep connection people have with Jewish foods—foods with rich traditions that are included in our kosher gift baskets. A kosher gift basket will bring your Jewish friend or family member a deeper connection to your gift and therefore greater appreciation for your generosity.

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Babka is the Darling of the Kosher Bakery

JoinouremaillistIf there is a darling of the kosher bakery, it is the beloved babka. Babka-a cross between a yeasted bread and coffee cake is typically baked in a loaf shape and with chocolate or cinnamon flavor “veining” throughout. It is rich and delicious with coffee, tea or a glass of milk for afternoon snack, dessert or breakfast.

Babka
is a dessert full of soul and history. We can trace babka’s roots to Eastern Europe where the balaboostas (cooks) baked their family recipe for Shabbat and Jewish Holidays. Now, in the 2000’s, you will find babka in kosher bakeries and Jewish stores throughout Europe, Israel Babka, Chocolate Babka, Challah Connectionand the US. It is written about, talked about on TV and radio and is loved by both Jews and non-Jews alike.

At Challah Connection, babka is our customers’ favorite baked good (although rugelach, challah and black and whites are close seconds) and is a key ingredient in our most popular kosher gift baskets. Curious to understand what makes the babka so adored, we sent our customers a brief survey and found some interesting information:

Chocolate babka is without doubt, more popular than cinnamon babka. 64% of recipients prefer chocolate babka vs 36% who prefer cinnamon (remember Elaine on Seinfeld calling cinnamon the “lesser babka?)

When asked what they specifically love about babka, 69% of respondents cited the flavor while 33% stated texture and for another 31%, it’s a reminder of European ancestors.

When we asked our customers to share any additional thoughts, memories, cherished recipes or ideas about babka, we got some truly touching responses:

-A lesser babka, I don’t think so : )

-Babka represents family and holidays

-Brings back the “Old Country

-Great college finals pick me up and reminder that no matter the outcome, we love you

-It’s always a crowd pleaser…even if someone didn’t grow up on Babka, it becomes a favorite

-Just like I used to have when my Mother bought it in the 50s and 60s YUM

-Kosher baked goods are so important

-My grandmother, from Germany, would make the best babka, and every time I eat it I think of her
Kosher Bakery Classics Care Package

-babka is synonymous with shabbes cake and takes me back to summer camp days

-just the yummiest thing ever!

-the more butter and chocolate the better! (note there is no butter in Challah Connection babka; it’s pareve/non dairy)

-There is nothing better than my family standing around the kitchen and slowly eating the babka up while standing! No plates, no seats, no forks needed!

-Babka, like kugel, is quintessentially Eastern European Jewish

-Babka, for me, is a fusion of Jewish and Eastern European (former Soviet Union in my case). If made right it is not too sweet but just right with tea. And of course who can forget the babka that was so prominently featured on an episode of Seinfeld???

-I remember my grandma rolling out the dough on the kitchen table, and the smells that went thru the house

-Babka=Jewish. It symbolizes Bubbee and is a good Jewish staple that most people love. The cinnamon is also good but I find most people really like the chocolate ones.

We find these quotes heartwarming and beautiful. Imagine that a simple baked good carries so much meaning and joy for so many people. We thank our customers for sharing their thoughts and also want to share that our non-Jewish friends also love babka and send it to their loved ones for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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