Sunday, June 15, 2014

Something New Popped Up

Yes, I realize my blog post title is "corny"... pun intended.  I will also admit to eating popcorn while I am writing this post... it seemed only fitting.

I recently found out about a fairly new company, based in Arizona, called Kettle Heroes.  Founded by brothers Rudi and Aaron Sinykin, Kettle Heroes makes many varieties of popcorn that are KOSHER. 20% of profits go to local nonprofits, including Boys and Girls Clubs and the Pat Tillman Foundation.  The popcorn is now available in the Tucson-area (Yay!!!) at Basha's, and coming soon at AJ's.

Rudi sent six different flavors to the Arizona Jewish Post for us to try.  I actually ran to meet the UPS driver when I saw the truck pull up, and made everyone at work stop what they were doing to come try the popcorn.  (I am the self-proclaimed social director at work, so a popcorn tasting party was in order.)  We sat around our board room table and tried each flavor, sharing comments and picks for each or our favorites.

We tried Cayenne Lime Kettle Corn (that flavor mysteriously disappeared from my house the night before Logan got her braces on), Movie Theatre Popcorn, Blue Note Cheddar Corn, Smoked Chipotle Cheddar, Original Kettle Corn and Cinnamon Sugar Kettle Corn.  Simon Rosenblatt has been asking me for nutritional info since I posted a teaser on Facebook.  Depending on the flavor, a serving, which is about 1 1/2 C., averages 130 - 150 calories.  Not bad for a snack food!  The amount of sugar varies by flavor, so there are definitely options for those on a no or low-sugar diet.

My favorite flavor is the Blue Note Cheddar Corn.  I like cheesy flavors in general, but sometimes they are too intense (or cheesy).  Blue cheese can be tricky too, as it is definitely one of the stinkier cheeses, and can therefore be overpowering.  What I love about the Blue Note Cheddar Corn is that the flavor is subtle.  It has a blend of aged white cheddar and "notes of blue cheese," so it has the nice zing and flavor of blue cheese, without being overpowering.

The Cinnamon Sugar Kettle Corn is also on my favorites list.  It reminds me of eating cinnamon-sugar toast (kind of Midwest thing, I think), without the messy, sticky result.  I think these two actually tie for my favorite... one savory, one sweet.

The Cayenne Lime Kettle Corn was a little too spicy for me.  It had quite a kick of back heat.  Logan really liked it though; that was her favorite flavor.  The Smoked Chipotle Cheddar is more my speed for a spicy snack, as the smokiness of the chipotle chili, along with the cheddar to mellow things out, gives the flavor just enough spiciness without being too spicy to enjoy.

Kettle Heroes does more than just packaged popcorn for retail sales.  They also have a food truck for making popcorn on-site for events and have fundraising options for nonprofits looking to sell their own unique product.  They will print custom labels for your organization, and set up web sales for you, which eliminates the need to go door-to-door.

All of the flavors are kosher certified, so it's a great product to consider for synagogue, religious school or Jewish youth group fundraisers and events.  Happy munching!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Got the Passover Blues?

Passover foods. Two words. Oy vey! I start moaning and complaining about Passover weeks before its arrival. Seder foods aside, which I actually enjoy, the intermediary days can be dreadful, as far as dietary restrictions are concerned. Besides refraining from eating gluten, grains, etc., I do not eat meat, and am allergic to eggs. I also try to avoid matzo as much as possible, as it does not do well with my digestive system (does it do well with anyone?). At times it can feel like there is absolutely nothing to eat, or at least nothing I want to eat.
This year I am determined to see Passover as a challenge I can take on, and have fun with in the process. I collected Passover-friendly recipes from some of the best local chefs in Tucson. Fresh, new ideas for Passover cooking is giving me hope that it won’t be such a miserable eight days.
Creating or modifying recipes that are Passover-friendly involve either substituting the ingredients that cannot be eaten during Passover or crafting a recipe that does not rely on a starch. There are five grains that can’t be eaten during Passover; wheat, rye, spelt, oats and barley, unless they have been turned into matzo. Kitniyot, which include rice, millet and legumes are a bit trickier. Jewish people of Ashkenazic descent (e.g. Russian, Polish, German, Czech) do not eat kitniyot during Passover, while Sephardic Jews (e.g. Spain, Morocco, Yemen) do not have this restriction.
The custom of prohibiting kitniyot during Passover originated, arguably, during the 13th century, although discussion on the topic can be found in texts from the Tannaim period, from approximately 10 – 220 C.E. While kitniyot are not mentioned in the Torah as prohibited during Passover, rabbis argued that rice and millet are so close to grains that they could be used to make matzo, and should therefore be avoided. Kitniyot are boiled and prepared similarly to grains, yet another reason that people might get confused. Some Conservative and Reform Jews do eat kitniyot during Passover, depending on which teaching or school of thought they follow.
I put a call out to local chefs, asking them to design recipes that would work during Passover. Their submissions range from traditional side dishes, such as Chef Albert Hall’s Passover noodle kugel, to cold dishes that would be hearty enough for a meal, such as Chef Ken Foy’s chilled cucumber and brie soup. For meat eaters, there’s a garlicky chicken dish.
Chef Kenneth Foy – Dante’s Fire
Chilled Cucumber and Brie Soup
½ white onion, diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stick of butter
1/3 cup matzo meal
3 cups heavy cream
¼ wheel of brie, skinned and cubed
2 cups vegetable stock
1 ½ cups sour cream
1 tablespoon dill
2 European or hot house cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine onions, celery, garlic, dill and butter and sweat over low heat.
Slowly incorporate flour.
Add vegetable stock and cream, bring to simmer. Add Brie.
Puree mixture using blender or emulsion blender.
Strain and chill.
After mixture is chilled, return to blender and add cucumbers and sour cream.
Season with salt and pepper.
Enjoy your soup!

Chef Jonathen Landeen – Jonathan’s Cork
Peruvian Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lime
3 T. olive oil
¼ C. lightly packed fresh mint leaves
2 T. kosher salt
6 med. garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 T. black pepper
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. sugar
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tsp finely grated zest and ¼ C. juice from 2 limes
1 Tsp. minced habanero chile
1 4 lb. whole chicken
Process all ingredients except chicken in blender until smooth paste forms, 10-20 seconds. Using fingers or handle of wooden spoon, carefully loosen skin over thighs and breast and remove the excess fat. Rub half of paste beneath skin of chicken. Spread entire exterior surface of chicken with remaining paste. Tuck wingtips underneath chicken. Place in gallon-sized zipper lock bag and refrigerate 6 hours or up to 24 hours.
Place on rotisserie and cook 1-2 hours, depending on heat.

Chef Albert Hall – Acacia
Noodle Kugel
1/2 pound wide kosher for Passover egg noodles
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 pound cottage cheese
2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
6 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Boil the noodles in salted water for about 4 minutes.
Strain noodles from water.
In a large mixing bowl, combine noodles with remaining ingredients and pour into a greased, approximately 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
Bake until custard is set and top is golden brown, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Chef Ryan Clark – Agustin Kitchen
Passover Chocolate-Walnut Cookies
1 1/2 cups walnut halves (5 ounces)
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast the walnuts until golden brown. Let cool and then chop.
In a large bowl mix together confectioners’ sugar, cocoa, chopped walnuts and salt. In a separated bowl beat the egg whites and vanilla until combined. Add the egg white mixture to the dry mixture and whisk until smooth.
Line a sheet pan with parchment and spoon the batter into 6 even mounds. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until the cookies are shiny and lightly cracked. Cool completely before serving.

Marianne Baines – Kingfisher
 Serves 10-12
Makes one 9-inch cake
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate chopped
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
8 ounces unsalted butter softened
4 eggs
1 ½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ cup finely chopped, roasted hazelnuts, pecans, or almonds
2 cups heavy cream
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces white chocolate, melted
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
1-2 cups toasted, finely ground nuts
12 (or more) perfect strawberries, stems on, washed and dried on paper towels
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and paper  a 9-inch cake pan. In a double boiler set over simmering water, melt both chocolates with the butter, stirring until smooth. In an electric mixer, whip the eggs and sugar together until a ribbon forms. Slowly stir in the chocolate mixture, then vanilla and nuts. Spread in pan and set the pan in a larger baking pan filled with hot water. Bake for 1 ½ hours, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove pan from the oven and water bath and let cool on a rack. Transfer to refrigerator and chill several hours or overnight until firm.
Make ganache: Place chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream to simmering and pour over the chocolate, whisking until smooth. Cool until firm enough to spread. 
When cake is chilled, remove from pan by heating pan slightly and inverting. Crumb coat the cake and chill for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes. Reheat ganache to pouring consistency and pour over cake, allowing the ganache to flow down the sides without touching it, to give it a perfect glaze. Drizzle the white chocolate over the cake in spirals or lines and draw a toothpick through to make a design. Chill until almost set. Press toasted nuts into side of cake if desired.
 Dip strawberries in melted dark chocolate and allow to chill until set. Make little rosettes with thickened ganache all around the cake and place a strawberry on each one.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vegan Pesto

We are trying to cut down on dairy this week, especially since Logan has had a touch of the crud that's going around, with congestion.  I had a craving for pesto tonight, and was trying to figure out what to substitute for the cheese... the answer is, you don't need to substitute something for cheese, just make the pesto flavorful and interesting, and you won't miss the cheese!
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro
3/4 C. toasted pecans (toast in dry frying pan or oven)
1/4 C. roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 C. sun-dried tomatoes
1 1/4 C. fresh basil, removed from stems
1 roasted green chili, skin and seeds removed
1 tsp. fresh chives
1 tsp. fresh oregano
1 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley 
2 Tbsp. very hot water (I used water from the pasta pot)
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
1/2 C. olive oil

Pesto is super-easy to make.  I put everything in my Ninja Blender (you could also use a food processor or a VitaMix Blender, although I'm not sure if a regular blender would work) and pulse until everything is chopped, and has a paste-like consistency.  The word pesto actually means "paste."  The hot water helps everything combine harmoniously.  

Combine with your favorite cooked pasta, or spread on toasted baguette slices.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Babka Like Your Bubbe Made

Mmmmmm..... Tastes like my Grandma Lil's baking!  This package of love arrived at my doorstep today.  The owners of the company Small Batch Baking Company actually sent me their product via 2-day delivery, but Tucson having lost a postal distribution center, these goodies didn't arrive for almost a week.  They offered to send out a new batch, as each batch is baked, packaged and shipped while it is still fresh.  

I am pleased to tell you that the babka are absolutely delicious, moist and very flavorful, so the shipping time was not an issue.  Small Batch Baking Company makes four varieties of babka: traditional chocolate, chocolate cappuccino, blueberry cinnamon and chocolate raspberry.  I tried the chocolate cappuccino first, and corny as it might sound, I was transported in time by sensory memory to my grandma's rugelach, which had chocolate chips and cinnamon in the filling.  While rugelach is more like a cookie, and babka is more bread or cake-like, the filling tastes so much like my grandma's baking... not overly sweet, but rich with chocolate along with the warmth of cinnamon.

So, what is babka, exactly?  According to the Small Batch Baking Company website babka is " Eastern European sweet, leavened bread made with a rich dough."  The dough is tender and buttery.  The most common filling is probably chocolate, at least according to Elaine Benes from Seinfeld.  In the episode, she wanted to buy a chocolate babka for a party, but had to settle for cinnamon when the bakery was sold out.  Cinnamon and chocolate pair quite well together, which is why I highly recommend the chocolate cappuccino flavor, but I enjoyed all three flavors I tried.

These babka are totally worth ordering.  While I am usually a proponent of baking something myself for special occasions, I could totally see taking these out of the packaging, putting them in my own container and letting people think that I made them... they really are as good as homemade.  Make sure you order two bags of your favorite flavor; one to eat and one to take somewhere when you need to bring a dessert.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bowl of Love: Pumpkin Soup

Nothing says "I love you" like a bowl of homemade soup.  My Grandma Lil always said the most important ingredient in any recipe is love.  Soup is no exception.  You can't rush it, and tasting throughout the cooking process is a must.  

When pumpkin is in season I chop and steam it, then keep bags of it in the freezer, to defrost for recipes as needed.  I leave the skin on when I freeze it.  When the pumpkin defrosts, the skin pulls right off.

  •  1 C. sliced yellow onion
  • 1/2 C. olive oil
  • 1/2 C. butter (separated into 1/4 C. segments)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 5 C. pureed pumpkin
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 2 C. diced sweet potato
  • 1 green chile, diced (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 C. almond milk
  • 32 oz. vegetable broth
  • 2 C. water
  • Garnish: pumpkin seeds and plain Greek yogurt
1. Saute sliced onions in olive oil and 1/4 C. butter with sea salt, over medium heat, until caramelized (in large pot). When onions are browned add chiles and cook until soft. 

2.  Add carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, stock and water.  Add all spices except maple syrup, brown sugar and yeast.  Cook over medium heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

3. When carrots and sweet potato chunks are thoroughly soft, add maple syrup, 1/4 C. butter, brown sugar and almond milk.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Remove half of the soup from pot and puree in blender.  Re-combine pureed soup with what is still in the pot.  Garnish with pumpkin seeds and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thanksgive-akah Preview: Pumpkin Challah Bread Pudding with Cream Cheese

This year Chanukah begins the night before Thanksgiving, on Wednesday, November 27.  Buzz all over Facebook and the blogosphere is to combine the two, making traditional Thanksgiving dishes with Judaic ingredients.  I made a pumpkin bread pudding with challah as the bread.  I used whole wheat raisin challah from Small Planet Bakery.  Small Planet makes the best challah I have ever had, whether you choose the white or the whole wheat.  They use organic flours and oils that are not overly processed.  

A note about using pumpkin - I highly recommend just buying a pumpkin and making your own pumpkin puree.  From one medium-sized pumpkin I was able to make a large pan of pumpkin bread pudding, two smaller individual tins, 1 batch of pumpkin muffins and five mini-loaves of pumpkin bread, with about 3/4 cup left over for some other project.  The easiest way to process the pumpkin is to scoop out the seeds, cut into 4" chunks and steam.  After the pumpkin cools you can scrape it away from the skin with a fork.  Puree in a food processor with a tablespoon or so of hot water.  You will still have all the great texture of the pumpkin, without the gelatinous, goobery texture of canned pumpkin.  It's much healthier, too!

3 Cups Milk (I used almond milk)
1 1/2 C. Pureed pumpkin
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. white or turbinado sugar
4 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
pinch ground cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
4 Tbsp. pure maple syrup (not the imitation stuff)
1 stick butter, melted
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened and cut into cubes
10 C. challah, cut into 1" cubes (I used whole wheat challah with raisins)

1. Toss challah cubes with melted butter, stirring until pieces are coated.
2. Whisk together milk, pumpkin, eggs, sugars, salt, spices and maple syrup.
3. Pour liquid mixture over challah and stir with rubber spatula until thoroughly combined.
4. Pour into greased 9 x 13 glass Pyrex dish or disposable aluminum pan.  (I had enough of the mixture left to make two additional individual-sized portions.)
5. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until firm and lightly browned on top.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


So, I've been a little slack on blogging lately, but starting two new jobs within a two-week period, plus a full course load... well, I've been overwhelmed, to say the least.  I am starting to crave Thanksgiving... not the foods, necessarily, but three or four days of sleeping in and staying in my pajamas all day sounds delicious.  

You can tell it's getting to be the fall season when you start seeing pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING at Trader Joe's.  I could eat just about anything with the word pumpkin in it.  A few of my pumpkin ideas for this season are ravioli, soup, bread, risotto and bread pudding made with challah.  

Yes, those are 3 cartons of pumpkin ice cream. 
Trader Joe's Pumpkin Ice Cream does not last long at my house.  I plan on picking up at least a few cartons every time I go to Trader Joe's so I can stockpile.  

This is an extra bag for the freezer... or pumpkin stockpile.
The pumpkin bagels are pretty amazing too.  Logan likes to eat them with pumpkin cream cheese, but that's a little much for me.  I'll do a sprouted grain bagel with pumpkin cream cheese, or a pumpkin bagel with plain cream cheese.

Yes, this is kosher too!

The ice cream, bagels and cream cheese are all kosher, by the way.  The bagels have 8 grams of protein per serving and are made with whole wheat flour, so they are not the worst thing to eat for breakfast.   For an extra nutritional punch try sprinkling some chia seeds on top of your cream cheese.

My next blog post recipe will be pumpkin bread pudding, made with challah and cream cheese.  This is a recipe I am playing with for Thanksgiving-kah, as Chanukah falls during Thanksgiving this year....that won't happen again until 2070.