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My Favorite Mensch–My Dad

The summer I turned nine, my parents sent me to camp for the first time. That first day, after filing off the bus in our gingham shorts and sleeveless shirts, we new campers huddled together, nervous, excited, waiting for the camp director to call our names and send us to our bunks. Half way through the list of names, the director called “Tiger Mark,” but no one responded. Eventually, all the names were called, but I didn’t hear my name. Maybe I had gotten on the wrong bus?

“Tiger Mark,” the director called again and smiled at me. Then I understood. I recognized my last name “Mark.” My Dad, ever the jokester, had filled in my name on the camp form as “Tiger.” It was his nickname for me, his way of reminding me, even hundreds of miles away at camp, to set my eye on my goal and never give up. I raised my hand and smiled big. “That’s me,” I said.

Not giving up was the third most important thing my Dad taught me. The second most important? Be straight and clear and true with others. His straightforward approach never caused us to doubt him or question his meaning. Once, for example, when we asked him what death meant, he told us it meant you stopped breathing. So last summer, when he stopped breathing, we knew what it meant. There is a time to not give up, but there’s also a time to let go, my Dad seemed to tell me as he took his last breath.

Despite these profound lessons, one lesson transcends them both. The third most important thing my Dad taught me: love. He loved his family first and best; we always knew it, and we know it still. For his lessons and for his love, I remember and honor my father this Father’s Day. He is my number one mensch.

Who is yours? Please share a short story, essay, or remembrance of your favorite mensch on this blog. To read more about my Dad, Julian Mark click here.

Best, Jane (Tiger Mark) Moritz

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Counting in Hebrew, Just Like Riding a Bike

This morning, I got a call from a lovely man who wanted to order a cheescake as a Shavuot gift for his wife. After a few minutes of various questions and answers, he told me he was in the subway. I was impressed that his cell phone carrier was so competently keeping our call alive when we arrived at the point in the call where I needed to ask for his credit card info:

Me: “Is it secure there for you to give me your credit card number,” imagining him flanked on both sides by other riders.

Him: “Do you know Hebrew?”

Me: “Not really, but I’m probably ok at my numbers.”

So began the jogging of my memory to forage the ehad, shtayim, shalosh that I learned in day school so many years ago to obtain a Visa card number. It was actually kind of fun–he said a few numbers in Hebrew, I read them back in English. It was nice–we had formed a real partnership-2 strangers in a joint endeavor.

It was a very fruitful call: my customer’s wife is getting a delicious cheesecake and I am feeling empowered that I was able to remember my hebrew numbers–just like riding a bike! I hope you have a great day too.

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The Land of Milk and Honey

The phrase “land of milk and honey” is one that many of us have heard before. First mentioned in the book of Exodus as a description of Israel’s agricultural abundance, it was Moses’s destination while leading Jews out of Egypt.

Since then, it has become a visual metaphor for all things flowing and abundant. It is a term that conjures up pure pleasure including freedom, delicious, birth, fertility and more.

SHAVUOT TRADITIONS
The holiday of Shavuot is on June 8 and celebrates the giving of the Torah* at Mt. Sinai, and the season’s first harvest of fruits. It’s customary to eat a dairy meal on Shavuot, reminding us of the land of milk and honey.

Assorted Gourmet Mini Cheesecakes

My favorite dairy dishes are blintzes, lasagna, noodle kugel, cottage cheese pancakes and cheesecake. As a matter of fact, cheesecake has become the most popular Shavuot dessert.

* the Torah is the primary “Jewish document” showing Jews how to act, feel and participate in every aspect of life and death. It is the “blueprint” for Jewish life and death.

Marble Truffle Cheesecake

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Delectable Cheesecake Recipe

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot is approaching fast so we would like to take some time to slow things down and enjoy the dairy products this holiday surrounds us with!
Shavuot marks the first fruit harvest of the season, yet it is customary to enjoy a dairy meal to celebrate. And why not, the spring is a perfect time to munch on some dairy! Forget the meat! Therefore, we think a fun and delicious part of this holiday is the cheesecake!

Jane’s mom is an extraordinary baker (she is where Jane gets her culinary skills from!) and loved to make cheesecake. Jane has fond memories of this glorious cheesecake resting in the middle of their Shavuot feast! And you’re in for a treat as we reveal her favorite cheesecake recipe!

Now this recipe comes from the book The Wonderful World of Freezer Cooking by Helen Quat and is as follows:

CRUST INGREDIENTS

1 ¼ cup graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons ground almonds or walnuts
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground lemon peel
½ cup melted butter

(My mouth is already watering!)

INGREDIENTS FOR FILLING

1 ½ pounds soft cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon rind
4 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the crust ingredients (graham cracker crumbs, nuts, sugar and lemon peel) while stirring in butter till thoroughly blended.

3. Press mixture firmly against bottom of 9” spring form. Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

4. In a large bowl or mixer, beat cheese until creamy. At medium speed, add sugar gradually, then vanilla, lemon juice and rind. Blend well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat at medium speed for 10 minutes, until fluffy. Pour into pan on top of crust.

5. Bake at 250 degrees for 35 minutes. When 35 minutes is up, turn off the oven and leave the oven door ajar.

TOPPING INGREDIENTS

1 pint ice-cold sour cream
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla

1. Combine sour cream, sugar and vanilla and whip for 10 minutes until foamy. Spoon over top of cake. Bake in 250 degree oven for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cool*. Wrap. Freeze.

Serving Day: Remove from spring form and thaw in refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours.

* To serve without freezing, refrigerate for 2 hours or more before unmolding.

This recipe is delicious, but if you don’t have time to bake you can always fulfill your craving of cheesecake with the equally delicious display on our website!

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Bring New Meaning to This Year’s Passover Seder, Share your “Seder Secrets”

What do you do at your seder to make it meaningful and fun? Our Challah Connection community would really like to know! Please share your traditions and how to’s for a lively and meaningful seder. I wish you a sweet and Happy Passover.

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Today, Honor Your Favorite Doctor

Honor your favorite Doctor today–National Doctor’s Day–with these beautiful artworks.
The physician’s prayer is an emotional plea by the healer for guidance. The twelve tribes, a mortar & pestle, medical herbs, and Moses’ brass serpent symbolize the art of healing. This gorgeous piece makes a wonderful gift for your favorite Jewish medical school graduate, doctor, and any medical professional. Framed 18″x18″

Healing Arts Prayer Framed Art for a Medical Professional
This lovely artwork makes a beautiful gift for your favorite Medical School graduate or any medical professional. Adapted from Maimonides’ Prayer, this Prayer for the Healing Arts features the following text:O Compassionate G-d – Thou hast chosen me to watch over the health of Thy creations. I now apply myself to my calling. Support and strengthen me in my task so that I may aid those in need.
Framed size is 9″x13″. Mahogany frame with Royal Blue mat.

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Not The Same Old Hagaddah

Shocking news on the hagaddah front–have you heard? Maxwell House is “modernizing” their hagaddah–the seder staple at many a home. One change is gender neutralizing. For example, the Four Sons are now going to be Four Children (a little weird in my opinion). But there are other changes too, including the Starbucks coupons (just kidding). You can read it all here at The Jewish Week. Better start brushing up on the four questions. This year one of them will be about the best way to brew your coffee!!

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Marshmallow Hamentashen? What’s YOUR Favorite Flavor?


Put Your Baker’s Hat On and Dream…

In today’s New York Times, Joan Nathan describes Israeli’s love for exotic hamentashen flavors: marshmallow, amaretto, marzipan, halvah, chocolate chip cream, sweet red wine and cinnamon to name a few. Interestingly, Challah Connection partnered with a local baker several years ago to create our own hamentashen recipes: Sour Cherry with Semi Sweet Chocolate Drizzle and Lemon Poppy Seed.

What’s YOUR favorite Hamentashen flavor? Do you have a great idea for a new exotic flavor? We want to know! Please click here and post your idea on our blog. Maybe it will be next Purim’s biggest rage!

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It’s Purim–Time to Party

I was visiting my friend Gail a couple of weeks ago and we were chatting about the overall malaise that seems to have infiltrated our lives. No surprise, given the amount of snow we’ve had here in the Northeast and the dismal economy that is keeping too many people from finding jobs. But, Challah Connection is always a bright spot in any conversation, and when we spoke about Purim, it felt like spring, or a time to be happy.
Purim Pure Essentials
Purim is all about freedom, rejoicing and PARTYING! And even better, it’s a mitzvah (good deed) to celebrate Purim with food, drink and merriment! Who can argue with a party dictated by your rabbi? Gail, who is not Jewish, brought up a great point–that Purim is just a plain old good time to party–Jewish or not! Yes, kind of like Mardi Gras.

I remember the Purim parties of my growing up years: bland expressions of festivity in the last 15 minutes of Hebrew school with some dry hamentashen and grape juice served in solo paper cups.
In contrast, the Purim parties of today are sophisticated gatherings with gourmet food, music and fun. As a matter of fact, while writing this, I received an email invitation for a “Purim Prohibition Party” at a super-cool hotel on the Lower East Side in New York. I’ve seen some other fun sounding events which I’d love to attend, but I will actually be in Berlin on Purim. I’ll be visiting my son Harry, who is spending his “gap” year between high school and college on an amazing voyage that has taken him from Portland, OR to Israel and Eastern Europe. It will be my mission to see how Berliners observe this terrific holiday of freedom and celebration. In the meantime, before I leave, it’s all business here at Challah Connection, making sure that your Shalach Manot and Purim gift baskets get out on time. Chag Purim Sameach!

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Valentine’s Day–Jewish or Not?

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, it seems that everyone has an opinion as to whether it is appropriate for Jews to celebrate. Our feeling is that the days of the pagans are so far removed from the current day tradition of chocolates, champagne and romantic dinners that it has simply become a day to share gifts of love. Whether you call it Valentine’s Day or Monday, February 14, it is just another day to show your love. I don’t think there’s anything “un-Jewish” about that, do you?

Speaking of gifts of love, check out ours at Challah Connection.

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