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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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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Surviving Chanukah

TBHAN-Large-1

Raising three sons is not unlike living on the Galapagos Islands–you know–where Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest is demonstrated best? Those finches with the really sharp beaks are a whole lot better at cracking open nuts than their round-beaked cousins.

Sometimes the competition to survive in our household was akin to that. Instead of beaks, picture head locks and other wrestling games that required the weakest to scream “uncle” repeatedly.

So I wasn’t all that surprised–even on the day after Thanksgiving –that the usual competitive urges were being demonstrated for my benefit. Now, instead of head locks, there was a bit of verbal jousting going on as we sat around the table eating delicious leftovers. My youngest son Mike rubbed it in to my oldest son Sam that he, Sam wouldn’t be home for the first night of Hanukkah. Sam, Mike explained, would miss out on the following:

1. Mom’s challah stuffing
2. Harry’s crispy Golden Latkes complete with home-made apple sauce and cold, delicious sour cream.
3. Roasted Chicken
4.blue and white cookies.
5. Gelt
6. The first night gift.

“Too bad for you,” Mike said through a mouthful of leftover Thanksgiving turkey. “Aren’t you going to be taking finals that week?”

Sam nodded glumly.

“All the more for me,” Harry chimed in. “Mmmm, I can’t wait to hog down some latkes. Last year I think I set a record.”

My husband Josh said, “I think you made it to 12. It was kind of horrifying to watch.”

“I can’t help it if I appreciate my own cooking,” Harry protested, helping himself to more cranberry sauce.  It was true; Harry had become an expert latke maker, cooking golden brown latkes to perfection in an enormous frying pan given to our family by none other than my mom, Becky Mark.

Sam, 19 years old and usually high up there on the whole Survival of The Fittest thing, was looking pretty upset.

It was time for an intervention.

“Actually, Mike, Harry…I happen to have a lot of great Hanukkah presents for college students. And I’m pretty sure Sam will be getting something in the mail. Cookies to keep his energy up while he studies, plus lots of other goodies to help him celebrate.”

Sam instantly brightened.

“Thanks, Mom.”

I still hadn’t delivered my coup de grace. “And Sam, remember you mentioned your hillel was having a Chanukah party? We’re actually sending blue and white cookies for it. And challah.”

“Cool!”

Mike looked up from his plate. “Mom! There’s not going to be enough left for us.”

I smiled sweetly at him, my round-beaked finch. “Well, Sam is out there on his own. We have to make sure he’s taken care of.”

It was Mike’s turn to look sad.

I relented. “But there are plenty of Chanukah goodies for everyone.”  han56mirlg

It was Westport, after all, not The Galapagos Islands. We could do more than survive Chanukah. We could share the celebration, even hundreds of miles apart.

Happy Chanukah!

Jane

p.s. And sure enough, Sam headed back to college with a carload of challah and blue and white cookies!

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The Original “Green” Mom

Going green is the buzzword of the day.
But I hate to break the news to you. My mother was green long ago…and she didn’t even know it. She called it “cooking.” She’s Old School, where nothing but nothing goes to waste. To understand, you’d need to peek into my mother’s freezer. I once did. Then never again. In there, Mom had orange peels, egg shells, fish heads, chicken…things, bananas beyond the deep brown suitable for banana bread.

Don’t get me wrong. My mother is an intuitive, fabulous cook. Her all American name, Becky Mark, is in contrast to her Sephardic (Mediterranean) roots–half Greek and half Turkish–but her knowledge of spices is proof. Her kitchen is fragrant with spices–turmeric, garlic and onion mingle with cinnamon and mint in heavenly combinations. Invitations to dine at her table are coveted and fiercely lied about among my four siblings.

“What are you doing for dinner on Sunday night?” my sister might ask me on the phone.

“Oh, nothing, maybe some Chinese,” I might reply evasively, trying to cover up the fact that I plan to be gorging myself on one of my Mom’s luscious eggplant lasagna.

I love her cooking now, and I loved in when I was growing up in the 1960s. Every single night my mother served a delicious meal. She went through phases, too. One of my favorite’s was her chicken phase. Just saying the phrase Chicken Marbella (yes, the famous Silver Palate recipe) makes my mouth water, and I will cancel plans if she tells me she’s making Chicken Veronique. She also had a delicious beef phase (Julia Child’s Beef Bourgignon as translated by Mom was to die for) as well as an Italian phase (fresh tomato sauce, herbed meatballs).

I’m grateful to my mother for not just feeding me but teaching my sisters and me how to cook. Of course, none of us approach her mastery, and when she’s cooking, clear out of the kitchen (you wouldn’t ask Einstein to share his chalkboard or Elvis to move off the stage, right?).

Even though one time Josh and I cleaned out her freezer (shudder) when my parents were away, I’m proud of Mom for being able to transform orange peels into duck a la orange, potato peels into steaming broth, and me, a hungry child, into a Mom who can nourish her own family with good food.

Below, Mom has graciously allowed me to share the recipe for her Easy and Delicious Fruit Tart. Enjoy!

Best,

Jane Moritz, Challah Connection Owner

Becky’s Easy and Delicious Fruit Tart

Becky is my Mom, who is a truly excellent baker and cook. Her challah, brisket, bourekas, spanikotopica (she is Sephardic), apple pie and this tart are some of my favorites.

Prepare a 10″ (11″ ok too) pan with removable rim by buttering bottom and sides. Preheat oven to 350.

Peel 4 large apples [about 4 cups or so] or pears or peaches or combination of any fruit you’d normally want to bake. If it’s more than 4 cups it’s okay…

Put in the bowl of a cuisinart:

1/2 stick of unsalted butter

1 cup sugar + 1 cup flour

1 ts baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt

Pulse a few times until it has an oatmeal consistency, then add 1 large egg and pulse to mix.

Dump the entire mixture into the prepared pan and push it around until it covers the bottom of the pan. Now put the fruit on top (if you have the patience you can do a concentric circle, but this is not necessary) and push some of the fruit into the mix.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes

For the topping, which is put on after the tart has baked for 45 minutes, mix in the food processor:

1 egg

1/2 stick of butter

1/3 cup of sugar

1 rounded tsp cinnamon

Bake and additional 1/2 hour.

If you use wet fruit, such as blueberries and peachs, bake a bit longer, especially on the second round.

Copyright 2009, Challah Connection

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All I want for Hanukkah is…

Jewish mothers, step right up and be heard if you, like me, suffer from Christmas envy. Come on, you’ve seen the ads on TV at that time of the year. Women in pink robes unwrapping gifts by the fireside, a steaming mug of cocoa nearby. There’s usually a diamond pendant or maybe a really nice cashmere sweater. The music alone on these commercials is enough to make you sob with envy.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy for these women, being honored by their families, and celebrating their holiday. Good for them!

It’s just…Hanukkah in my family has always been about the kids. Eight nights times three kids…I don’t need to do the math. I’m pretty sure it’s engraved on my brain. Even if we do simple gifts for seven of those nights, I’ve always wanted to mark each night with something special. For them.

Now, let me just add that I have sons. For those of you with daughters out there, it may be a different story. But for me, there hasn’t really been a Hanukkah where I have sat with a mug of cocoa. It’s more likely that I’ll be standing in with a spatula. Yelling. As in, “How many latkes can one person eat, Harry?”

I have never unwrapped a cashmere sweater under a tree or even nearby my Ficus plant.

Since my boys are now 19, 17, and 13, and since we live in an eco-friendly household where a daily attempt is made to keep trash to a minimum, we don’t really wrap presents anyway.

And over the years, my husband has given me many wonderful presents (thanks, dear!).

So if I don’t want a nice big box covered in wrapping paper, what do I want?

As I am pondering this question, my youngest son Mike comes crashing into the room, home from school. He’s so excited about something I can barely understand what he’s saying. He jumps up and down. Finally he calms down enough so that I can make out what he’s saying.

He got a part in the play.

And I got the answer to my question.

I guess (sigh) that’s what all mothers–Jewish and Christian and Muslim–want. A look of joy on her child’s face.

Hope today brings you and your family some joy,

mike2

Mike, our budding actor, in Anything Goes

Jane

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Necessity is the Mother of Invention…and Our New Get Well Basket

As a Mom to 3 sons, I’ve done my share of taking care of sick kids. From a little case of the sniffles to a full-blown case of chicken pox, my kids have brought out the Florence Nightingale in me. When the sick kid makes an appearance, I’m ready to dispense medication, put a cold washcloth on a feverish brow, and make sure he drinks plenty of fluids.

Call me confident. Call me cocky. I thought I had a handle on taking care of sick kids. M.D.? Who needs one when you have a mother’s instinct? When you can drop everything, take off from work, do what it takes to nurse your child back to health.

But what happens when your baby goes to college? What happens when you’re 1,000 miles away instead of in the other room? I have to admit, I didn’t see this one coming. Last week my oldest son Sam called me from school. “Mom,” he croaked. “I don’t feel good. I think I have the flu.”

“Have you been to the Health Center?” I asked him, trying very hard to keep the panic from my voice. Meanwhile, my husband shot me a look. What was going on?

“No, should I do that?” My son. He had gone off to college knowing how to balance a checkbook, do laundry, write a term paper, speak passable Spanish, and solve a calculus problem. But he didn’t know enough to take himself to the health center when he was sick.

“Yes, take some ibuprofen and then go to the Health Center.”

“I B what?”

“Take some Tylenol.”

“I don’t have any.”

“Okay, just go to the health center and tell them your symptoms. They’ll give you what you need.”
Two anxious hours later—after I told my husband what was going on and after he persuaded me NOT to hop in the car and drive 8 hours to our son’s campus—Sam called back and told us what was going on.

Correction. He called, dropped the phone and ran to the toilet. We could just make out the sounds of him throwing up in the background. He came back to the phone, where I was quietly hyperventilating. “Okay, I feel better. The Health Center nurse told me to go back to my dorm and “self-isolate” and drink lots of fluids and rest. She said not to leave the dorm till I was fever free for 24 hours.”

Sam promised to call when he woke up and let us know how he was doing. After I hung up, I ran out and put together a care package.

I’m happy to report that 3 days later, Sam’s feeling MUCH better, and so am I. It was really hard to be so far away when he was sick, but I was glad to be able to talk to him on the phone and coach him through the flu. He loved the care package and said it really helped. The Teddy bear now rests on his bed, a reminder that Mom (and Dad) are always there for him, even if we are a few thousand miles away.

Strangely enough, a customer called just yesterday. Her daughter in college also came down with the flu. Did I have a gift basket especially for someone sick?

As a matter of fact…yes!

May you and yours be healthy and happy,

Jane
Samjane709

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