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Passover 2018 Seder Menu

This Passover, I will be the head chef of our seder. I have been training for the top spot for over 50 years, having been sous chef and chief chopper by the side of my mother, Becky, who passed away last month. “Mom-you have trained me well and I am ready to take on this important and esteemed position.”

Rebecca Israel Mark

It will be a bit dicey without mom to “negotiate” the menu and hope I can remember how she cooked the Sephardic sides that were the hit of every seder. But I know that she will be with me every step of the way including guiding my hand with the right amount of coffee to add to the brisket (her secret flavor ingredient), using chicken fat for her potato kugel and more. Here’s the menu, so far. Please chime in with any ideas as I will probably need some help.

Passover 2018 Seder Menu Draft:

Chopped Chicken Liver (don’t forget the chicken fat!)
Chicken Soup with matzo balls
Gefilteria gefilte fish

 

Brisket (click for recipe)
Chicken Marbella (Silver Palate)
Potato Kugel
Roasted asparagus or other green vegetable that looks good
Apple Matzo Kugel (recipe)
Spinach and Citrus Salad

Decadent Passover Brownies (recipe)
7 Layer Cake
Fresh Fruit
Walnut Cake

Chag Samech to you and please enjoy a truly Zissen (sweet) Passover with family and friends.

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Please Share a “Mensch Moment”

We don’t want to be negative, but the world is not always a kind place, right? But, there are so many wonderful acts of kindness happening all the time and rather then dwell on them (as does the news), we want to celebrate the mensches who are carrying out brave and often unpopular acts of kindness.

YOUR CHANCE TO KVELL

The acts we are talking about are not by big-named celebrities but the wonderful, generous acts by our family members, neighbors, pets (yes!) co-workers, baristas, supermarket check people, etc. What qualifies as a mensch-like act? Any act showing great integrity, or putting one’s needs aside for another’s. For International Mensch Week, January 22-29, we are asking you to share a “Mensch Moment”–an occasion when you observed someone do something very honorable, when they did the “right” thing, perhaps defended another with a weaker voice or helped someone who could not help themselves.

Here’s a “Mensch Moment” from Jane Moritz, Challah Connection, Chief Maven officer:

Recently, I was in my local Trader Joes doing some shopping before running to work. With my checkout complete, I reached for my wallet and found that I did not have it–I left it at home! I was not my most lovely-self and was frustrated and angry. However, the checkout person, who was one of the managers said, “no problem, I’ll put it on my card and you can pay me ‘whenever.'” Of course, I was incredulous and very touched. A hardened skeptic would say this is just great customer service, which of course it is, but it was also incredibly kind and trusting. This made my day! Whenever I see this very nice young man, I always give him a big smile. In my eyes, he is a mensch. -jane moritz

Now share yours and remember, it’s a mitzah to share!

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Gluten free and doing just fine!

I know you will find it hard to believe but the challah maven eats gluten free! I went gluten free about four years ago as a way to reduce inflammation which was causing some digestive issues. It took me a couple of months to find my footing but I have to say, I do not miss gluten and my medical issue is pretty much resolved.

I still love baked goods and have found plenty of gluten free options that fill the gap. First, there are the gluten free products we sell at Challah Connection—challah, babka and rugelach which really are delicious. I get my warm challah with butter fix, no problem. But I also bake a lot. I love King Arthur Flour gluten free flours including the cup for cup option which allows you to use ANY RECIPE you want with simply substituting the amount of flour with gluten free flour. That was a serious breakthrough in gluten free baking, in my opinion. On the other hand, I have found that there are so many low quality gluten free products on the market and I am diligent about staying away from them. They are loaded with sugar and other chemicals so I stay away from them, at all costs. Here are some of my new-found foods and recipes that keep me very happy since I went Gluten Free:

King Arthur Flour Pie Crust; for apple tart and my favorite Onion Tart by Alice Waters

Trader Joes Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Trader Joes GF Chocolate Chip Cookies

Really good chocolate!

And, since I got my Instant Pot a few months ago, I make lots of soups, stews and beans.

Trust me, I am doing just fine as a gluten free person!

Jane Moritz, Chief Maven Officer

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Thanksgiving Cooking Thoughts & Recipe

Jane Moritz, International Nosher

Jane Moritz, International Nosher

I recently read with relish the New York Times magazine section devoted to dinner parties. The premise is that there is nothing as soul-filling and community-building as sitting around a table sharing conversation while enjoying good food and wine. Since then my husband and I have had 2 groups of people over for dinner and it has been really lovely. We met one couple at a Leonard Cohen memorial service (Leonard was a loyal Challah Connection customer who I helped several times on the phone. He was a sweet and gentle person.) The couple, Gary and Dodo, are Israelis travelling the US and Canada for a year in a Winnebego. Pretty interesting! Others are neighbors who live on either side of us and this is the first time in 2 years that we have spent time with them. We will continue this new tradition which also gives me great opportunity to try new recipes and cook—one of my most favorite hobbies. As a matter of fact, I have started thinking of my kitchen as my artist studio since I feel like I am truly creating wonder.

Thanksgiving will give me a broader palette while at the same time injecting some serious constraints: We will be hosting at our house and it will be primarily family but within this 11 person group, I need to consider my kosher-eating niece and her husband from Israel, a vegan friend of one of our sons, my gluten free preference and the rest of the meat-eating traditionalists. We have etiquette questions such as “is it ok to have butter/dairy on the table or is that in appropriate to our kosher family?” (Answer is we will not). Cooking for so many preferences has become like running an obstacle course!

recipe and photo: Liz Rueven, Kosher Like Me

Thanksgiving Recipe: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Miso Tehini Glaze

While commiserating about Thanksgiving food preferences of our guests with my friend and colleague, Liz Rueven, of the blog Kosher Like Me, Liz had a brilliant recipe and I am happy to share it with you. Her recipe Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Miso Tehini Glaze is a winner for our table; vegan, gluten free & kosher! If you aren’t familiar Liz’s blog, take some time and check it out. Liz’s view of food and eating is so inspiring! See below for the recipe or click here:

 

 

Josh Moritz, Pickler-in-Training

Josh Moritz, Pickler-in-Training

Pickling: No Experience Necessary

My husband Josh has recently taken an interest in pickling and is really enjoying what he calls his “science experiments.” Jeffrey Yoskowitz of Gefilteria fame, has been his pickling mentor so Josh is in good hands. For Thanksgiving, he has some carrots and cucumbers “cooking” but here he is decanting radishes, cucumbers and more. We sampled these last week and they were delicious! If you’re interested in pickling, try this link for help.

All in all, it’s a world full of edible beauty with various challenges along the way but none that some good cooking can’t cure. (Well, I wish all problems could be cured by good food, but alas, I concede–not possible.) Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Miso Tehini Glaze, Kosher Like Me

Ingredients:

2 C. Diced and Peeled Sweet Potatoes
1-2 Tbs. Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
3 Tbs. White or Yellow Miso Paste
3 Tbs. Tehini
1 Tbs. Lemon Juice
3/4 C. Water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place diced sweet potatoes in a single layer on a sheet pan, and drizzle with olive oil and salt.
Roast for 25-30 minutes. Carefully turn halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning.
While the sweet potatoes roast, combine remaining ingredients to a saucepan and turn heat to medium-low.
Whisk over low heat until smooth. Add a bit more water as needed.
Drizzle potatoes with sauce before serving.

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Gather a Special Bouquet for this Rosh Hashana

I love Rosh Hashana because it’s a moment to rethink, reset and restart.

I ponder: How did my year go? Where am I going with my life? How can I be a better, happier person?

We hear it alot, but I really do think it all begins with gratitude. This means to me, gratitude for the simplest things: that I woke up today! that my husband, family and dog did too! Oh and those gorgeous bananas waiting for me for breakfast! Simple things that make me kind of giddy. With each birthday I realize the value of these simple things and honestly,  I think I am happier than ever (please don’t think that I don’t have my struggles and worries, I do!).

For the upcoming year, 5778, I plan to keep working on my gratitude quotient as I know I could have even more. I am also inspired to learn more about the world (reading, travelling, talking) and seeking out more diverse people with whom to learn and interact. I am so inspired by this sentiment below written by a young woman who had just returned from an awe-inspiring trip to Israel:

Most of all, I have learned that to have a beautiful bouquet of flowers, you need variety. Different kinds of personalities, different people in your life, and various streams of religion and beliefs, and when you tie your bouquet with a ribbon and bring all of these differences together, life is beautiful. 

These words really resonate with me, perhaps you too. Shana Tova!

 

Jane Moritz

Chief Maven Officer

Challah Connection

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Woman of Valor Mother’s Day Contest

If you’re like me, there was atleast one woman in your life who did or said something that changed the course of your life. Maybe it was a passing comment or maybe it was a significant event but either way, it positively changed the course of your life. With Mother’s Day coming, we are challenging you to think about a woman in your life who has led you to be the completely unique and perfect being that you are.

Enter our Woman of Valor Contest!

First place prize is 4 months of favorite Challah Connection baked goods.

Each month for 4 months, we will send the winner or his/her Woman of Valor (your choice) a favorite baked good including challah, babka, rugelach, mandelbread.

Month 1: ChallahMonth 2: Rugelach
Month 3: BabkaMonth 4: Mandelbread

Second Place: Chai bracelet

Bring some zing to your step when you wear this cheerful and stylish bangle with the Hebrew word for “life” subtely inscribed with crystals and gold beading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Place: Woman of Valor coffee mug

The whimsicla and soulful drawings by artist Jessica Sporn will bring sweetness to both your coffee and your day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To enter our contest, choose one of these options:

Post a picture of your Woman of Valor on Instagram or Facebook, include #challahconnection #WomanofValor and a description your Woman of Valor and what she did to change your life.

Write one paragraph about this person; what she did that changed your life, what was/is your relationship to her, include photo and email to jane@challahconnection.com with #WomanofValor in the subject line.

Submissions due Monday, May 8, 5PM, EST. Winners will be selected by Wed, May 10 and will be notified that day.

About the Woman of Valor:

Woman of Valor is a biblical poem also known as Eshet Chayel in Hebrew. It describes a woman who is very capable and strong yet able to be loving and compassionate.

Prize Rules:

  • Prizes shipped only in the US
  • Submissions sent via email may be shared in social media
  • Contestants may choose to have prize sent to themselves OR their WOV but must be same recipient for duration of prize (referring to first place prize)

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Favorite Passover Recipe: Carrot Citrus Horseradish from Gefilteria

We have asked nicely, begged and cajoled our friends at Gefilteria to produce this outstanding horseradish, as they did several years ago. Unfortunately, it’s not in the cards, but they have made the recipe available and we are pleased to pass it on to you. Naturally, it goes beautifully with Gefilteria, the nouveau take on gefilte fish (which we LOVE).

Feel free to play with the ratio of carrots to horseradish for a milder or spicier final product. If you don’t have a food processor, don’t be deterred. You can make this recipe by finely chopping the carrots, grating the horseradish on the small or medium holes of a box grater, and mixing it all together in a large bowl with the other ingredients.

Makes about 1 quart
1 pound carrots, halved
1/2 pound coarsely chopped peeled horseradish root
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup cold water
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
3 1/4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  1. Place the carrots in a saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to boil over high heat. Boil for about 5 minutes, until the carrots are cooked through but not soft. Drain the carrots, and place them in a food processor along with the horseradish pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the sugar, vinegar, and cold water and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat.
  3. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt to the food processor bowl. With the motor running, slowly pour in the vinegar-sugar mixture. You do not want the mixture to be soupy, so add the liquid a bit at a time and stop at the point when the carrots and horseradish are fully coated, shiny, and moist. You may need to stop and stir a few times to ensure that the horseradish is fully ground. Run the processor until the horseradish and carrots are evenly ground and as fine as your processor can get them.
  4. Transfer the horseradish to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving. Horseradish relish will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 months.

 

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Seder in a Box—What’s Behind this Bestselling Passover Gift Basket

Seder In a Box Challah Connection

We have been selling our “Seder In a Box” Passover gift basket for over 10 years and every year it is one of our top sellers. What’s the concept behind it and how did this gift come to be?

We learned early on that our customers seek out Jewish holiday gifts to send to kids and grandkids far away to remind them that the holiday is here. Afterall, we don’t live in Israel where Jewish holidays are mainstream and for many Jewish-Americans, a reminder is the key to even the smallest holiday observance. In the same vein, how do you learn how to make a seder? Well, if you are from a family (like mine) who held seders at home, you may know some basics. But there are many (most?) people who have never been involved in creating a seder and there is so much to know. For starters: what goes on the seder plate? How do you lead a seder? What kind of wine to serve? What is the afikomen? What to serve for the “festive meal?” These are just a few of the questions that need to tackling when seder preparations.

Our Seder in a box is an attempt to provide the novice seder holder or holiday observer with the basics. Of course there is so much more to it, but we consider this gift to be the first step. Our thinking is: get the matzo, haroset, grape juice, macaroons, holiday candy and hagaddah in their hands and the rest will flow from there. And for people like us who learn through eating, Seder in a Box is a terrific teaching aid. Happy Passover!

-Jane Moritz, Chief Maven Officer, Challah Connection

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Exploring Cuba–notes on my recent trip

Blue CarMy husband Josh and I recently returned from 9 days in Cuba. We went with a group of 8 friends on a “people-to-people” trip. We had a fabulous time and would like to go back to explore more of the country. However, if you’re curious and thinking about going, please know that it’s not for the “faint of heart.” It’s a country filled with friendly, nice people, great weather, fascinating history and terrific music as well as lines for everything (restaurants, changing money are 2 examples), poverty, stray dogs, cats and chickens (some of which are dead on the side of the road).

Synagogue

As we always do when we travel, Josh and I sought out Havana’s Jewish community and food. Like many places in Europe, where Jewish communities once thrived, Havana’s Jewish scene is fairly light. Before the revolution in 1959, there was a significant Jewish community however most of the Jews of Havana left for Miami or Israel, leaving a very few (200 or so?) who currently live there. The Jewish food scene also is sparse. There are 2 “Jewish food” items I saw: “Grandma’s Chicken Soup,” which is on many restaurant menus and it is described the way we think of it but without the matzo balls. The other is “Cuban humous” which is made with black beans and possibly tahini (not 100% on this). If you can consider rum a Jewish food, then it’s abundant and possibly the best I’ve ever had (I am now a champion pina colada drinker and missing my daily double).

pretty building
There are atleast 2 synagogues in Havana and one day we took a cab (one of those American cars that are long overdue in the car cemetery, in my opinion) to the Vedado section of Havana to find Congregation Beth Shalom. Vedado is also the area where University of Havana is located, which we were interested to see but was unfortunately closed for the official mourning day of Fidel’s death. We then started our navigation to the synagogue, which was not completely straightforward on the map, but a really pretty walk in an area very different from Havana Vieja (old Havana) where we were staying. In Vedado, the houses were large, beautiful and mostly old Spanish-style with palm trees and greenery. We sat in a pretty park and decided that this part of town was the Upper West Side of Havana (like NYC’s UWS) and Old Havana being more like Times Square.

Sign

Once we were about 10 blocks from Beth Shalom, we started to see signs for the synagogue like the one above, which we found comforting, not just for the obvious reason but also as it signified Havana’s respect for the synagogue and Jewish community. We found it and unfortunately it was closed BUT as we were leaving, someone ran after us calling us to come back. This kind man worked there and wanted us know that there would be a Shabbat service on Friday at 6:30 and we should come since “this is our home.” We were delighted by his friendliness and warmth and came back 3 days later for Shabbat, arriving just before 7.

When we walked into the sanctuary, we were taken aback by the almost-full sanctuary—200 or so people. This was not what we expected given the history. The bima was full of Virginia Tech students who were completing their week long community service trip with a final prayer from the Rabbi. Another group was there from a Minneapolis synagogue plus many local Havanites.

Unfortunately the service had actually started at 5:30 so we missed it almost entirely, which we were extremely disappointed about. But we met several of the people there and they could not have been more friendly. It was a lovely reminder of the Jewish solidarity that can be found anywhere in the world.  When we returned to our travel buddies (sipping their mojitos–great rum!!!!), they were all excited to hear about our excursion and genuinely disappointed that we missed most of the service. As we had already learned several times already on the trip: “It’s Cuba,” which is travelese for “go with the flow.”

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Heros and Heroines: Hospice Caregivers

I recently read a fascinating article in the New Yorker about something I knew nothing about: care givers in hospices. As part of life, I have witnessed the loss of 2 close family members; my own father and my father in law. Both died in the hospital so I have never had the occasion to go or learn about hospice and the amazing people that work in them.

Fruit and Friends Comfort Crate | Challah ConnectionSimply, hospice is where people go to die. Whether a patient is suffering from an incurable illness or has suffered a stroke or accident that will lead to death in the next few months, it is often hospice where they go. Dying, is often a difficult and drawn out process and can be one or more of the following: boring, painful, scary, easy, ugly or more. Unlike the role of a nurse or Dr. where the job is to restore to health, the hospice worker is there to smooth the road to death and that road is often very bumpy. There are unresolved issues and anger that won’t allow the dying to let go and die. There is the looming birthday that keeps one hanging on. There is fear. There are difficult family members and unresolved family fighting. There are patients who are made happy only by certain music. The list goes on but these amazing caregivers act as stewards to the next life by doling out support however they see fit: acting as therapist, or as great listener, birthday party organizer, bedpan cleaner and so on. They seem to have an innate ability to understand what is needed for each patient while never forgetting the mission: to usher them with kindness and respect into the next phase.

I am in awe of these dedicated and hardworking caregivers and am so grateful to the author, Larissa Macfarquhar, for writing this piece. These caregivers seem to be almost a step or 2 above the rest of us with their ability to see the present and the future so easily. There are no gifts that could truly honor their almost G-dlike work but I think we should start with some essentials to keep their nourishment up and to show the immense gratitude for their dedicated and courageous work. Here are some gift ideas from Challah Connection for your favorite care giver, whether they are caring for someone in hospice, at home or for your favorite childcare provider. We always feel happier when we acknowledge others and show them gratitude.

-Jane Moritz, Chief Maven Officer, Challah Connection

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