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Why Ceremonial Challah at a Jewish Wedding?

The torrential downpours of the spring have subsided, flowers are in bloom and wedding season is upon us!  It’s such a beautiful time of year here in Connecticut, it makes us want to celebrate here at Challah Connection.  Speaking of celebrations, let’s talk about the very important tradition of the blessing of the challah (hamotzi) at a Jewish wedding, bar/bat mitzvah or brit milah.

We all know that challah is an important staple during Shabbat, but it is also very important during these Jewish milestone ceremonies, and for such occasions, the ceremonial challah is a wonderful choice.  Being that it is so large, the ceremonial challah allows everyone to come together and take part in the ritual.

Ceremonial Challah for Jewish Wedding

 

The hamotzi is given over the ceremonial challah after the ceremony has been completed and before the meal is served. Typically at a wedding, the ceremonial challah is served after the cocktail hour, and at a bar/bat mitzvah and the brit milah after the conclusion of the ceremony, before the food is served.  The prayer is usually given by a parent/parents or an honored guest. After the blessing, the challah is cut and distributed to all of the guests… a delicious and meaningful way to join in the celebration!

Have questions? Happy to answer them!! Please email or call us at 866-242-5524. Please order 2 atleast 2 weeks before your simcha.

 

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Gluten Free Salted Caramel Brownie Recipe

About a month ago, a friend came to our apartment for Shabbat and brought us a challah from the new Upper West Side kosher and gluten free “foodie spot,” Modern Bread and Bagel. I knew I had to get there to check it out as a possible new Challah Connection partner and for me personally, since I am a lover and baker of all things “Jewish baked goods” (challah, babka, rugelach etc) and I am also gluten free.

I went there on a Sunday in April, just before Pesach, shortly after it had opened. Needless to say, it was packed! I asked for the bakery manager and I met Orly, who is the owner and mastermind. She could not have been lovelier–and calmer!-given the maddening crowd around her. We are working on bringing our Challah Connection gluten free customers some of her delicious goodies but in the meantime, Orly has allowed me to share her recipe for these mouthwatering, delicious, gluten free brownies. Thank you Orly and I hope you all enjoy these as much as my family and I have.

Sea salt-speckled copper-colored homemade caramel is drizzled on a rich dark chocolate brownie. The rum gives the recipe the extra kick it needs for a batch of gooey, decadent, rum spiked brownies, perfect for dessert parties or a sneaky midnight snack.

Recipe yelds 9 large or 18 small brownies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 oz semi-sweet dark chocolate chips or squares
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
½ tsp coarse salt
½ Tbs vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 ½ cups Sydney Blend–this is a flour blend that Orly makes and can be purchased at Blends by Orly, or use your favorite all purpose gluten free flour
1/3 cup Rum

Caramel sauce:
½ cup sugar
1 ½ Tbs water
¼ cup cream
1oz Rum
Coarse sea salt

Heat: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9 x 9 inch baking pan.

Mix: Place butter and semi-sweet chocolate in a medium sized sauce pan and heat on low. Stir every few minutes until completely melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and transfer to a mixing bowl.  Stir in cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time until completely mixed in. Stir in Sydney Blend and then rum until completely mixed.

Bake: Using a rubber spatula, scrape batter into prepared baking dish and smooth the top. Place in the oven to bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Caramel Sauce: While the brownies cool, start on the caramel sauce. Add sugar and water to a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Do not stir.  Boil the syrup for 6-8 minutes or until a deep amber caramel forms. Remove from heat and stir in cream. Add Rum and stir until combined. Pour the caramel sauce into a heatproof cup and let it cool slightly.  If caramel gets too hard, place in the microwave for 10 seconds to liquify.  When ready to use, drizzle on top of the brownies and then sprinkle sea salt on top.

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How to Write a Shiva Gift Message

For many of us, writing the gift message to accompany a shiva gift is perhaps the hardest part of sending a sympathy or shiva gift. Because death elicits uncomfortable feelings, we are at a loss for words. Or, we often try to convey too much in the message. So, let me me teach you how to write a shiva gift message.

I always remind shiva gift givers that mourners are not scrutinizing their message. Why aren’t they? First, there is no time for this sort of critical review of your gift message since there is much activity during shiva. Second, mourners are not in a mental “space” to be critical of your words. They are pleased that you have thought of them with your gift and message. With that, here is some guidance for you when writing a gift message for your shiva gift:

  1. Keep your message simple. Don’t try to “jam” lots of thoughts into it. One key message is appropriate.
  2. Be authentic, heartfelt. Humor is not appropriate. Use your own unique voice.
  3. Don’t forget to sign your name. Your name or who sent the gift is truly the most important word(s) on the gift message.
  4. Here are some of our most popular shiva gift messages at Challah Connection. Feel free to use one or revise it to your own voice.

-With heartfelt sympathy
-Our thoughts are prayers are with you during this difficult time
-We are so sorry for your loss and send our warmest condolences to you and your family
-May [name of deceased] be a blessing to all who knew him/her
-May G-d comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem

Please call 866-242-5524 or email challah@challahconnection for any questions. Our FAQ will also provide more info and finally, here is a link to our shiva gift department. We ship nationwide.

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Enter to win our Dairy Maven Recipe Contest

Challah Connection Spring 2019 Dairy Maven Recipe ContestAfter a long winter of heavy, belly-warming foods, we welcome Springtime, when we enjoy light meals, many containing dairy. Some of our favorite dairy foods are fresh cheeses, yogurts and creamy ice creams. Dairy meals are also perfect for Spring holiday…blintzes for Father’s Day (mmm, delicious), creamy cheesecakes for Shavuot (is your mouthwatering yet?) and lox and bagels for Sunday brunches are some top choices.

So, just as the flowers are bursting and the grass is shooting up, let’s get our culinary juices flowing. Dust off the cookbooks or family recipe trove and send us up to 3 of your favorite dairy recipes. All of the details are below, and be sure to keep your eye on the prize: First prize: Free Lox with a Schmear, Second and Third Prizes: Chocolate babka, all from Challah Connection(read on for details).

How to enter: Send us your favorite dairy recipe(s). What recipes qualify? Any recipe that makes dairy (ie cheese, cream cheese, cream, butter, yogurt, etc) a key ingredient. Recipe ideas: blintzes, crepes, cheesecake, lasagna, manicotti or other similar dishes, ice cream/ice cream sundae, fruit tart, quiche or vegetable tart, kugel, cake.Challah Connection Spring 2019 Dairy Maven Recipe Contest

First prize: FREE Lox with a Schmear (a $39.99 value, feeds 2-4) Includes silky smoked salmon, our classic cream cheese and six toasting bagels.

Second & Third Prize: Chocolate babka (a $16.99 value, feeds 6-8).

Deadline: All entries due 6/4, Winners announced 6/7.

How to enter: Email your recipes to challah@challahconnection.com. Include “Recipe Contest” in the subject line.

Questions: Email any questions to challah@challahconnection.com. Include “Recipe Contest Question” in the subject line.

Challah Connection Spring 2019 Dairy Maven Recipe ContestRules:

-Recipes cannot include meat

-3 recipes maximum per entrant

-Winner must be agreeable to sharing recipe on social media and to challah connection customers via email and blog. Complete name will not be published for privacy reasons.

-Recipes must conform to standard format: 1) Recipe name 2) Ingredients with measurements 3) Procedure in clear, easy to understand language. If you have an image of the cooked/prepared recipe that you have prepared, please send! A picture of you holding your creation would be terrific.

Good Luck and Bon Appetit!

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My Mother’s Day: Just “hanging” with the boys

Jane Moritz international nosher

My sons asked me what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day on Sunday. To be honest, I don’t really want to do much. No fancy meals, no theater tickets, no massage or foot rub. I’ve gained a deep appreciation for actively doing nothing. Sure, I love walking, yoga, biking, cooking and eating great food but more and more, I like to just “hang.” So, this Sunday, I’m looking forward to “just hanging” with my boys (correction: MEN) and eat something delicious (MUST BE DELICIOUS, ALWAYS). If the weather is nice, exploring a new NYC neighborhood and finding an interesting hole-in-the wall for noshing sounds like a great day.

What are you going to do this Sunday? If cooking is on the agenda, here are some terrific recipes that we’ve curated over the years. Here’s a couple of recommendations for dishes I would make if I were cooking this Mother’s Day:

 

 

Cremslach–Cottage Cheese Pancakes

Makes about 18 pancakes

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup 4 percent cottage cheese (you could use low fat if you prefer)
  • 3/4 cup milk (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.

Click for Complete Recipe

Tomato & Onion Tarte

Submitted for our Dairy Recipe Contest by S. Urist

Ingredients

  • 2 large onions (about 1½ pounds), sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • butter pastry dough for a single crust 12 inch tart (recipe follows)
  • ½ pound dry Jack or Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • ½ pound plum tomatoes cut into ½ inch wedges
  • ½ pound medium yellow tomatoes (about 2) or ½ pound plum tomatoes, cut into ½ inch wedges
  • ¼ cup Niçoise olives, pitted

In a large, heavy skillet cook onions with salt to taste in oil, covered, over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 20 minutes. Remove lid and cook onions, stirring occasionally, until golden and any liquid evaporates. Remove skillet from heat to cool onions slightly.

Click for Complete Recipe

Whether you cook or are fed by loved ones, I wish you a very happy Mother’s Day.

Jane Moritz

Chief Maven Officer

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Challah French Toast Recipe

Passover ended last night and there is nothing more perfect to eat this morning than Challah french toast! Heat up the skillet and let’s get started with this easy recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large loaf of challah
  • Unsalted butter
  • Vegetable Oil

To Serve:

Pure Maple Syrup, heated Your Favorite Preserves (optional) Sifted Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Preheat Oven to 250 degrees.

In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, orange zest, vanilla, honey and salt. Slice the challah in ¾ inch-thick-slices. Soak as many slices in the egg mixture as possible for 5 minutes, turning once.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a very large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the soaked bread and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Place the cooked french toast on a sheet pan and keep it warm in the oven. Cook the remaining soaked bread slices, adding butter and oil as needed, until it’s all cooked. Serve hot with maple syrup, raspberry preserves and/or confectioners’ sugar.

 

Enjoy!

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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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