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Portobello Tuna Melts

Monday, May 8th, 2017


Bedtime. Every mom knows hows loaded that word can be. Especially when I’ve got five kids under ten to tuck in at night. Why won’t kids just go to bed? Aren’t they tired?

It was 10:00 last night and the house was quiet. I sat on the couch and took a deep breath. Finally, some peace. I could put my feet up and relax. So I did what any mommy blogger would do…I went live on Instagram. 2 minutes in, and only 30 minutes after finally falling asleep, my baby wakes up. Because I’m a mom. And that’s just how life works. So I struggle though this “show” of sorts, taking 1 minute commercial breaks to calm my kid and get her latched without showing 6000 people more than they came for. That’s mommy blogger life right there.

Did I mention my husband was away since Friday and I’ve been holding down the fort through the longest Shabbos on planet earth all on my own? Yes. Life with kids and a CEO husband is hard. So when said husband encouraged me to go on a health and wellness retreat last week, I frantically packed my bags before he could change his mind and ran out the door (OK that’s not true, I argued with him about the what, when, where for each kid and the logistics of leaving a 9 month old who’s nursing around the clock and a 9 year old who’s out of school for weeks because her teachers are on a strike that seems like it will never end. And then I sorted and arranged three days worth of clothes for each kid, prepared a menu for the week, filled the house with all the essentials, restocked prescriptions for everyone who needed and bought enough bottles and pacifiers and sippy cups to last us for months. Then I broke down and cried about leaving my kids. And then I picked myself up and walked out the door).

I went live last night to discuss this wellness retreat because I got so many messages while I was away asking me about it. But Instagram Live is just that – live – and there is so much going on, so many comments and questions happening while my baby is kvetching and I just don’t know if I got the whole picture across. So I decided to write about it. That’s the good thing about having a blog.

The health and wellness retreat was put together by Beth Warren, a local Brooklyn nutritionist and author of “Living a Real Life with Real Food” with a focus on eating healthy, exercise and practicing self-care. Just what I needed. There were about 15 of us in total and we carpooled to our destination in Lenox, MA, also known as The Berkshires. We arrived at Brook Farm Inn, a Victorian home in a historic town with lush trees and quaint shops. We carried our luggage to our rooms (no elevator in this vintage Inn!) and gathered for lunch of a make-your-own-salad bar. Then we went off for a tour of Ventfort Hall – a historic mansion that was built by Sarah Morgan, daughter of J.P. Morgan, the famous banker. Next up was a circuit training workout at Lenox Fit, a snack of crudites with homemade hummus, and finally, a much-needed 15-minute massage back at the inn. Still in our exercise gear, we stretched and centered ourselves with a yoga class and then showered for dinner in pajamas (my fave!). Dinner was a light and healthy baked salmon with black rice, green beans and vegetable soup. We finished off the day with a talk on self-care and a quick demo on stuffed dates for an after-dinner snack. Lights out!

The next day, we woke up early, donned our exercise gear and headed to Kripalu, a yoga school and center for health, just a few minutes away from the Inn. The place was huge, with 4 floors and lush grounds in a beautiful mountain setting. Kripalu is a serious yoga retreat with ongoing classes, hiking trails, a spa and more. With our daily passes, we were free to explore the programs of our choice (I chose a deep-tissue massage ‘cuz G-d knows I’m no yogi!) and then meet up mid-day for lunch and a hike. Salads of black bean burgers were prepped for us , so we lunched on the patio with breathtaking views and then geared up for a hike around the property. After we headed back, we had a bit more time at Kripalu, but I went to explore Tanglewood, a popular Berkshires attraction, with some of the ladies. Tanglewood is a summer hot-spot with music festivals and shopping, so we walked around the mostly-empty town, exploring some of the fun shops around. After making a few purchases (we’re ladies after all!), we headed back to the Inn for a post-hike yoga class and dinner of chicken breast, roasted vegetables and sweet potato fries. Beth gave us an inspiring nutrition talk during dinner and we finished off the long day with a healthy baking class and an essential oil workshop. Lights out!

Wednesday morning we wrapped up with another yoga class and a breakfast parfait bar filled with oatmeal, chia seed pudding, yogurt, fruit and toppings. We packed up some leftovers for lunch and we were off. Two jam-packed days behind us, and lots of fuel to get back to the daily grind of mommyhood.

I, for one, needed that fuel. I spent the early morning hours whispering into the phone as my son back home was having an asthma attack. I was helpless and worried and felt so. far. away. I had my mom go to the house to take care of the kids while my husband rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. It was every mother’s worst nightmare, being away during such an emergency, but my husband reassured me over and over that everything was ok, and skyped me from the hospital so I could see for myself. My three-year-old spent the next two days in the pediatric ICU and I was so thankful that I had taken that break so I could be there for him, my family, and myself, fully and healthy.

Going away was hard (I had to pump every four hours on the road!) but it’s something I didn’t even know I needed. Taking a break from the daily grind allows you to regroup, center yourself and feed your soul. It reminded me that being a mom doesn’t just mean taking care of others, it means taking care of myself – and that neglecting that need doesn’t make me a martyr, it makes me resentful and unhappy. I needed that wake-up call because every day is a nonstop marathon of giving and feeding and caring for others and it’s hard. G-d is it hard. And every night as I go to bed, I pray that tomorrow will be easier – but it’s not. Because being a mom is a full time job that will never end. Going away inspired me to learn to take time for myself – to nourish my body with healthy food and exercise and nourish my soul with a good book and a relaxing massage. I’m making an effort to do something for me, and it’s ok.

The retreat really gave me the kickstart I needed to start eating healthy again. It’s been a while. I’ve put on a whopping 20 lbs. since I had my baby, 9 months ago (I always put on weight when I nurse!) and it’s finally time to lose it the healthy way – with diet and exercise. I whipped up these delicious low-carb portobello tuna melts last week, and I’m super excited to share the recipe with you! Eating healthy doesn’t have to be about deprivation, especially when you get creative and think outside the box.

This one is for all the Mom’s out there. I salute you.


This post was sponsored by Natural & Kosher Cheese. Follow them on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, or via their Blog

Related Recipes:

spicy tuna melt twice baked potatoes
baked portobello shakshuka
portobello pizza

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Three-Cheese Rollatini Rose Pie

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Ever since I was little, my mom’s been making the same Shavuot menu each year. It includes her amazing lasagna, homemade potato and cheese blintzes, French onion soup and an array of store-bought cheesecakes. For the second day meal, she switches up the lasagna for eggplant rollatini, or what she likes to call, rollantini.

I probably pack on about 10 lbs. in those two days, but it’s always worth every bite. Until the weather gets hotter, my skirts are a tad too tight around the middle, and I’m cursing out that creamy slice of cheesecake.

Which is why, when I started cooking up my own Shavuot meals, I decided to come up with healthier variations of some of my favorites. That’s when my spaghetti squash baked ziti, cheesy stuffed mini peppers and pasta-free spinach manicotti were born.

Some time later, I added my cheesy zoodle marinara, broccoli parmesan poppers, portobello pizza and roasted eggplant parmesan. I barely even miss the pasta anymore (ok, maybe just this).

I skip the heavy French onion soup, and go for a lighter chilled strawberry rhubarb soup and simple sides like summer tomato feta salad, pesto baked salmon, and eggplant chips with whipped feta. I might have a small bite of cheesecake, but my skirts still fit after the meal and everyone’s happy!

Which is why THIS happened! I may be expecting baby #5 this summer, but I’ve been packing on the pounds like I’m about to go into hibernation! I’ve got to ease up on my carb intake, so, I did what I always do when I’m looking for pasta alternatives, I go for zucchini. If I’m not eating cheesy zoodle marinara (an absolute staple in my kitchen), I go for a riff on my spinach lasagna roll-ups, made with zucchini strips. This time, I decided to turn those rolls upside down, and add in yellow squash and eggplant, for a pretty rose garden look. Shavuot, after all, is known as “the feast of the roses”, so how very apropos.

Vegetable ribbon pies and rose spiral apple desserts are all the rage right now, so I was more than happy to follow the trend with a savory holiday-worthy version.

Of course there are lots of variations that you can do with this dish – from adding spinach to the filling, using carrots for rolling, or baking it all into a pie crust. But I just love that this is gluten free and no-carb, so why mess with perfection, am I right?

With all my lighter spins on heavy pasta dishes, I’ve come to realize that a lot of what we eat is all in our heads. When I started subbing zoodles in for my spaghetti, a funny thing happened. I didn’t miss anything! I was full, satiated and most importantly, I felt like I had actually eaten pasta! It made me realize that we really have the ability to trick our brains into thinking we are eating something else – if only we can create the same taste, similar texture and mouthfeel, you barely notice the difference. The scale however, definitely does.

So, I’m hoping I’ve inspired you to lighten up your holiday meals, even if only with one dish. If I were you, I’d make it this one!

Do you have any other tricks to lightening up your favorite pasta dishes? I’d love to hear! Share them with me in the comments below!



This post was sponsored by Natural & Kosher Cheese. Follow them on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, or via their Blog

Related Recipes:

spinach lasagna roll-ups
cheesy zoodle (zucchini noodle) marinara
roasted eggplant parmesan
cheesy stuffed mini peppers

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Nut Omelette

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

This is going to sound pretty ridiculous considering all the things I learned to make in culinary school, but the humble omelette is what really got me. It wasn’t so much the technique as much as flipping the thing. A well-made omelette is fluffy and moist, so when you’re ready to flip, it’s a jiggly mess. I can’t tell you how many omelettes I went through (actually I can, it was 5) until I was able to flip one properly on omelette day.

You can’t begin to imagine what the kitchen looked like after Hurricane Omelette came through. Even Chef Wiseman’s shoes were covered in scrambled eggs. The stovetop was a complete disaster, with bits and pieces of sticky eggs stuck to every crevice. And guess which lucky individual was assigned to clean it all? That would be ME. Miss-goofed-up-with-5-omelettes-till-she-got-it-right.
Nisht gut.

I was determined to get that flipping action down, so for the next couple of days, my husband woke up to a fluffy 3-egg omelette for breakfast, and my kids got their choice of quesadillas for dinner. I was flippin’ paper clips, candy, and yes, I was flipping myself…out.

By the time our practical test came at the end of the semester, my omelette was spot on. I flipped it on the first try. Couldn’t be better. I wish you could have seen the smile on my face when I put that fluffy omelette on the plate. Priceless.

But I’ll share a little secret with you all. I’m not above another omelette flipping disaster. When I went to flip the dessert omelette in the photo, the yolk splattered all over me. I was covered in Passover nut omelette batter.
Nisht gut.

So now that I’ve shared my omelette hall of shame, I’d be happy to share some secrets to making the perfect fluffy American omelette (French omelettes are creamier and are not browned or flipped).

#1 Add a splash of milk to your eggs and season with salt and pepper.
#2 Whisk the mixture well to incorporate some air into the batter.
#3 Make sure your nonstick pan is greased and hot so you get a nice brown finish on the egg.
#4 As soon as your batter hits the pan, stir with a spatula from the inside out and quickly scrape down the sides. Repeat several times until the omelette is beginning to set.
#5 Sneak some butter or oil under the edge of the omelette and shake the pan to see if the omelette can slide. If not, add a bit more fat and test again. Once you are sure the omelette can slide on the pan, you’re ready to flip.
#6. Slide the omelette towards the sloped end of the pan and FLIP. Try not to get egg batter all over your face.
#7 This is where you would add your fillings of choice.
#8 Fold the omelette by one third, starting from the right side.
#9 Turn the pan towards you [like how someone might stab themselves (thanks to The Wise Man for that awful metaphor!)] and flip the pan over onto a plate, so that it sits seam-side-down.
#10 Garnish with fresh herbs or your garnish of choice.

The process sounds long, but it shouldn’t take more than 1 1/2-2 minutes total, from start to finish.

Now that I’ve given you some tips on making the perfect omelette, lets talk a little bit about nut omelettes. Huh? Yes, I said nut omelettes. Why would anyone want to eat a sweet omelette? Well, they might be on a strict no-carb diet. Or, it might be Passover, and they might not be fond of eating chocolate cake made out of potato starch for breakfast.

When I was growing up, my mom would scramble up this sweet nut omelette batter for us whenever we felt sick of the heavy Pesach food (which was pretty often). Last year, I even managed to convince my toddler that they were pancakes (she hates eggs!) and she gobbled them down.

So before you make a face at having a sweet omelette for breakfast, just imagine that you’re almost having a crepe – only fluffier. And you get to skip all the crepe-making. Which is a lot harder than it looks BTW. I should know, I went through a LOT of them on breakfast day.
Nisht gut.

For more Passover dessert ideas, check out the Kosher Connection Link-Up below!

1 year ago: tater tot chicken nuggets
2 years ago: orange chicken

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The No-Potato Passover Cookbook Review & Giveaway

Friday, March 8th, 2013


The concept of a Passover without potatoes has been a long time in coming. I’m so glad that Aviva Kanoff has embraced it in her cookbook, The No-Potato Passover. Aviva takes us on a journey of food, travel and color, allowing us to think outside the spud with her internationally-inspired menus. Her recipes span the globe, from Jamaica to Morocco, Croatia to Hungary, and so many places in between. As an avid traveler, Ms. Kanoff takes us along on her travels through colorful pictures and unique recipes that are great for Pesach and all year long. With recipes like pesto chicken “pasta” and eggplant “lasagna” and desserts like chocolate chip biscotti and hazelnut cream cookies, you’ll almost forget you’re on the Passover diet!

Instead of the traditional carb-laden Pesach fare we are used to having, The No-Potato Passover cookbook focuses on healthy options, making use of quinoa, spaghetti squash, parsnips and other creative ingredients to give you original dishes that you will relish and enjoy. While Aviva’s recipes leave me truly inspired, I am personally unable to make most of them on Pesach due to my family’s dietary customs. Still, I look forward to making some of dishes throughout the year, including her heirloom tomato salad with honey basil vinaigrette, roasted garlic soup with flanken, stuffed zucchini blossoms, southwestern sweet ‘n spicy meatballs, strawberry glazed chicken, salmon croquettes with wild mushroom sauce, and coconut cream pie in a macaroon crust.

While The No-Potato Passover Cookbook is filled with colorful & vibrant imagery, I don’t feel that the design is up to par with today’s sophisticated & modern cookbooks. That aside, I think the recipes are truly unique and delicious. Many make use of hard-to-find Passover ingredients (like imitation soy sauce or mustard), however, they are easily adaptable during the year using readily-available ingredients.

The No-Potato Passover cookbook is the winner of The Gourmand Award for the Best Jewish Cuisine in 2012. It has been newly revised and edited just in time for Passover 2013.

As my Passover gift to you, Busy In Brooklyn is giving away a free copy of The No-Potato Passover Cookbook! To enter the giveaway, you must:

1. Share you favorite Passover recipe in the comments below.
2. Follow Busy In Brooklyn on Facebook.

Winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, March 13th at 10:00 PM.

FREE SAMPLE RECIPES FROM THE NO-POTATO PASSOVER COOKBOOK:

Related Recipes:

spinach matzo ball minestrone soup

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Spaghetti Squash Baked Ziti

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

This may come as a surprise to you, but Pesach doesn’t have to be all about chicken and potatoes. Or meat and potatoes. Or steak and potatoes. If you try and think outside the Passover matza box, you’ll find that there are lots of other healthy options available to cut through the 8 day food-fest. Spaghetti squash is a great example. You can use it in place of pasta in lots of different preparations.

My simple baked ziti recipe is a staple in our house. My kids absolutely love it, so I usually make it every Thursday night for dinner. I often prepare this healthier version for my husband and I, substituting spaghetti squash for the pasta. It might not taste like the real thing, but it’s still an easy, quick and low-carb meal that makes you feel like you’re not entirely missing out. This dish would work wonderfully for Pesach chol hamoed dinner. Add in roasted veggies like zucchini, eggplant or mushrooms for added flavor and nutrients.

Other spaghetti squash recipes:

spaghetti squash bolognese
spaghetti squash with leeks, spinach and mushrooms

1 year ago: pizza omelette
2 years ago: lemon & garlic whole roasted chickens

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Cheesy Stuffed Mini Peppers

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012


At one of our Chanukah parties recently (was Chanukah really that recent? It feels like ages ago!), my sister in-law decided to bring over some food for the low-carb dieters at the party. I was really intrigued by her idea of making stuffed shells without the pasta. Mini peppers stand in as a great replacement, adding color and sweetness to the dish. I decided to whip up my own variation by peppering up (pun intended!) a version of my mom’s famous lasagna recipe. Truth be told – I still made some stuffed shells for my pasta-loving kids, but I was more than satisfied with my lighter and lower-carb variation.

1 year ago: spinach pasta

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