Totally Kosher: Cookbook #2!

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Pastrami-Style Gravlax

Oh my goodness. I cannot believe we are here. Cookbook #2, the one I swore I would never write, is very much alive, and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined! After all the blood, sweat and tears that I put into writing Millennial Kosher, which was released back in 2018, I was determined to never do it again! Don’t get me wrong, Millennial Kosher was more successful than I could have every imagined, topping the charts at #221 on Amazon and already in it’s 6th printing! But like after every baby, I needed a breather, and the cookbook fever set in again! So here. we. are.!

Philly Cheesesteak

How it all started

My amazing editor, Raquel Pelzel, the editorial director at Clarkson Potter (an imprint of Penguin Random House) , reached out in late 2019 about the possibility of writing a kosher cookbook for the book label. I was really excited about the idea of reaching a new audience outside of the mainstream kosher community, and most importantly, for the chance to demystify some of the stereotypes about kosher food to the world at large. Countless meetings, conversations and emails later, and thanks to my agent Stacey Glick, I was honored and elated to sign with Clarkson Potter for my second cookbook!

Unfortunately due to Covid and the unexpected changes that the world faced (and losing my sense of taste and smell!), the book schedule was pushed off, and I wondered if I’d ever be able to see it happen. But with much perseverance, the support and love of my incredible family and friends, and a truly amazing publishing team with Raquel at it’s head, I’m so glad that I soldiered on to see this dream come true. I tear up just looking through the pages of the manuscript, knowing the many challenges I faced to bring the book to life during such a difficult time, and I know that if was able to do that, I can literally do anything. I have never been more proud…. ok maybe just when birthing my children…. although many authors can attest that writing a book is akin to having a baby!

After what started as a year of recipe testing, that stretched into two, I tested and retested, wrote and rewrote, imagined and reimagined a range of ideas. Some were nixed, most blew my mind, and many become family staples. Recipes were tested and retested by some of my followers and friends and in January 2022, I started to gather all my props, ordered new ones, shopped for backgrounds from the amazing people behind Wood & Stone, updated my photography gear, and hired the talented Chaya Rappoport  as my food stylist, with Rachel Boardman on assist! I turned my dining room over into a photography studio and in just about three week, shot 150 recipes recipes with my amazing team! I am so incredibly proud of the beautiful photos in this book, they’re going to BLOW. YOUR. MIND!

Party in your Mouth Peppers

The Concept

Those who follow my blog or Instagram platform are familiar with my style – a mix of modern spins on traditional foods, recipes inspired by worldwide cuisine (and my travels!), and some of the classic traditional comfort foods of my youth. Totally Kosher is very much a reflection of that – a mix of approachable, family-friendly recipes, dishes for every day dinners, and festive recipes for the holidays.

Lemony Lentil Soup with Saffron

Millennial Kosher vs Totally Kosher

With the book coming out right before Passover, I’m going to ask the question “How is this book different from the other books?” ;)! Well, Totally Kosher introduces a few involved recipes for the more adventurous cook, like Pastrami-style Gravlax, Shlissel Jerusalem Bagels, Spinach Artichoke Khachapuri, and homemade Chili Crisp. Of course I “hold your hand” and guide you through each recipe, even including step by step photographs to make it easier! It also includes a chapter on traditional foods, since I’ve gotten so many messages over the years requesting recipes for the classics – like Golden Chicken Soup, Perfect Potato Kugel and Stuffed Cabbage! Totally Kosher also includes more gluten free and many allergy-friendly recipes so that they are Passover and diet-friendly. You’ll also find beautiful lifestyle photography by the amazing Lauren Volo and Naftali Marasow  with special moments that I’m so proud to share with you!

Simanim Potstickers with Pomegranate Soy Dipping Sauce

What’s in the book?

oh gosh, what’s NOT in the book?! I really tried to give you a little bit, and a lot!, of everything. From basic tools to tips and tricks, to a wide range of recipes, the book includes over 150 recipes, each with a beautiful color photo, including:

Basics of the Kosher Kitchen
I explain the basic laws and traditions in the kosher kitchen, a condensed version for those that are not as familiar with the intricacies of the kosher kitchen.

Top Ten Tools & Ingredients for the Kosher Kitchen
I share my favorite kitchen tools and the ingredients that can help transform your kosher cooking.

My Top Ten Kitchen Hacks
I’m all about the shortcuts and kitchen hacks and I include the ones I use over and over again, tried and true!

Top Ten Build Your Own Board Ideas
I love a good board for a party, Shabbat lunch and even a fun weeknight dinner. I share some of my favorites (hello Baked Potato Board, Sushi Board, even a Breakfast and Dessert Board!) including tips on how to build a board + what to include!

How I Master Dinner
Putting dinner on the table every day of the week can be daunting and I’ve taken the guess-work out of what to make for dinner with my basic plan.

Breakfast & Brunch
ohmygosh, this might be one of my favorite chapters, but seriously, can you have a favorite child? From Chocolate Cherry Granola, to Tahdig Toast with Herbed Whipped Feta & Harissa Eggs, what’s not to love? I want breakfast for dinner!

Appetizers & Finger Foods
There are so many fun and colorful recipes here that you’ll want to make for your next party! From a new Hasselback Salami variation, to the coolest spin on corn dogs that you’d never imagine – this chapter is chock full of fingers foods that you’re going to love.

Sammies & Tacos
I’m all about the carbs – just gimme a sandwich! So of course I collected my faves here from a Stuffed Boureka Sandwich to the most amazing kosherized version of a Philly cheesesteak – you’ll find great options for a hearty lunch or weeknight dinner here.

Salads
Gimme a big wooden bowl and I love to fill it up with greens and an array of colorful veggies, lots of textural components and a punchy dressing. Salads, to me, are a meal, and very much inspired by the seasons. You’re going to love my healthier spin on the broccoli salad so many of us grew up on (with a tahini curry dressing!), a Summer Slaw so fresh with an inspired dressing that won’t go bad in the summer sun, and a new age spin on Waldorf Salad with a poppy seed dressing. Yasssss!

Soups
Soup, to me, is about comfort food in a bowl and this chapter is truly exciting. From a humble lemony lentil soup to a Chestnut Latte Soup inspired by my trip to Paris, not to mention the Corned Beef & Cabbage Ramen that so beautifully graces the cover of the book… you’re gonna want that one!

Cholent with Quick Kishke

It’s Tradition!
This is new for me, because I’m all about putting my own spin on tradition. But for Totally Kosher, I really wanted to include some of the classic traditional dishes that are staples in many Jewish homes. From homemade gefilte fish, that is a treasured family recipe, to Golden Chicken Soup and cholent, you’ll have all the recipes you need to host a Shabbat meal.

Fins & Scales
I feel like fish can be intimidating to many, and I really want you to go out of your comfort zone here – so we’re talking homemade gravlax, crudo and whole roasted branzino. Get comfortable with serving fish other than salmon!

Just Wing It
This chapter is takes you around the world from a fun spin on Pad Thai to an Italian Chicken and Orzo Bake, a Yemenite-inspired sheet pan chicken and a Za’atar Turkey Roast that’s festive enough for Thanksgiving dinner!

Split Hooves
From approachable weeknight dinners like Taco Tuesday Pasta and Burger Bowls (with the most insane Umami Burger Bombs), to the perfect Cowboy Steak and Pucker Up Ribs, this chapter includes doable recipes for everyday and festive roasts for company.

Meatless Meals
You know I’m all about Meatless Mondays in my house – and I’m passionate about taking a break from animal protein. This chapter includes vegan fare like Chickpea Curry, the most amazing tofu dish and the crispiest falafel you’ve every had! There are also plenty of dairy delights that include a fun spin on latkes, an incredible shakshuka and a gnocchi that only dreams are made of!

Veg & Sides
Hearty grains, colorful veggies and flavorful fixings fill this chapter with new side dishes that complement any meal! Party in your Mouth Peppers are bold and beautiful, Herbed Farro Pilaf that packs in the greens (and flavor!) and addictive Japanese sweet potatoes are just a few of the recipes you’ll find here.

The Bakery
I’m so proud of the desserts in this book, I can’t even tell you! I feel like I’ve really evolved as a baker ever since my first cookbook, and the recipes here are reflective of that. From Baklava Palmiers to Brownie Bar Hamantaschen, and the most beautiful Harvest Bundt Cake that you ever did see. Plus cookies that will absolutely blow your mind and Kosher-for-Passover bars that you’ll never believe are gluten free!

Noshes & Nibbles
You know me, I’m all about the noshing, and we’ve got such a great collection here. From fun cocktails, to ice pops, sweet nuts and savory crackers and cracklings and jerky… so much yes.

You’re so Extra!
I’ve definitely saved the best for last, because this chapter is just WOW. So many toppings and dressings and spice mixes and confit – staples to keep in your fridge and your pantry to liven up every dish – like Soy Marinated Eggs, homemade dukkah, a refreshing twist on pickled onions, candied jalapenos and an addictive coffee rub.

How to Plan Menus
Now that you’ve got the recipes, do you think I’d keep you hanging? Here, I guide you on how to plan an actual menu without overdoing it, plus recipe suggested for the holidays.

Skirt Steak Tacos

How to Order

Totally Kosher is available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Book Depository, Books A Million, Bookshop.org, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Penguin Random House, Powell’s, Target, and Walmart! You can also find the book in your local bookstore once it’s released on March 21st, 2023! I am so appreciative of your preorders, which really help for the sale of the books and help the stores determine how much to order.

Baklava Palmiers

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there mostly new recipes in the book or are they from your blog?
Oh my gosh, I don’t think there are actually any recipes in the book from my blog! You’re looking at over 150 brand new, never seen before dishes!

Do the recipes use hard to find ingredients?
It’s really important to me for the kosher cook to go out of their comfort zone and experience new flavors and cuisines. So yes, there is a small portion of recipes that include ingredients like tamarind paste, pomegranate molasses, miso paste, dried chiles or orange blossom water. These ingredients are all pretty easy to find these days, and I urge you to think outside the box and try them! That being said, I recognize that in some countries, these ingredients may be difficult to get kosher, and therefore, the majority of recipes in the book use common ingredients. Additionally, some recipes offer substitutions, where possible.

What can I expect to find with each recipe?
Clear and concise instructions that are easy to follow. Many of the recipes include variations and notes on how to simplify the recipe or prepare it a different way. Recipes also include a note if they are freezer friendly (with instructions when necessary). Many recipes also include helpful tips.

Are you available for book signings and cooking demos?
Yes! I love to bring my passion for reinventing kosher foods to audiences worldwide. Email imtotallykosher@gmail.com for more information on how to book a book signing or demo in your area!

Will the book be available in stores?
Absolutely! Look for it in your local Judaica shop, Barnes & Nobles and wherever major books are sold. If you don’t see it, ask your book seller to bring it in!

What is the cover photo of and why did you pick that one?
The cover photo is my Corned Beef & Cabbage Ramen. Those that know me, know how much I love a good ramen bowl and I felt this dish really embodied what Totally Kosher is all about – unexpectedly kosher, fun and reimagined food that is colorful, flavorful and influenced by world cuisine.

Got more questions about the book? Leave a comment below or email me at imtotallykosher@gmail.com.

Lighting Shabbat Candles with my Daughters

All photos from Totally Kosher ©Chanie Apfelbaum.

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Budapest!

Shoes on the Danube Holocaust Memorial

BUDAPEST

Budapest was never really on my must-see list, to be honest, but for the past few months, I had been hearing miracle stories about the holy tzaddik, Reb Shayele of Kerestir. His great-grandaughter, Chaya Suri of Spice & Zest had shared about her trip to his gravesite in the Tokaj region of Hungary with me and I was intrigued. So on a whim, I posted on my Instagram story one day, “Anyone here from Budapest”? Not 10 minutes later, I received a DM from Sophie Bassman, who along with her husband Tzemi and their adorable baby, run the CTeen program for young Jewish teens in Hungary. Sophie is the absolute sweetest and she encouraged me to come for Rosh Hashanah to experience the 10-person choir in the 200-year old shul in her community.

I happened to be free for Rosh Hashanah so I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it! Sophie put me in touch with Avi Klein, a longtime resident of Budapest with an immense knowledge of Jewish history and culture in the region. Avi helped plan my itinerary, and three of my girlfriends decided to hop along for the ride!

View of the city from the Museum in Mad

THE PLAN:

THURSDAY: arrive in Budapest, drive to Kerestir to Reb Shayale’s gravesite, visit the surrounding area
FRIDAY: tour of Budapest with Sophie and a tour guide
SHABBAT: stay in Obuda
SATURDAY NIGHT: the Castle District
SUNDAY: Szentendre
MONDAY-TUESDAY: Rosh Hashanah in central Budapest
WEDNESDAY: Return Home

Winery in Mad in the Tokaj region

KERESTIR

Avi picked us up from the airport and we began our journey to Kerestir (a 2 1/2 hour drive) as he shared with us stories about Jewish life in Budapest. As we neared Tokaj, the wine region of Northern Hungary, the view was breathtaking. We stopped in the city of Mad, which is filled with wineries, many of which used to be Jewish homes. We visited the 250 year old synagogue followed by the museum, right outside the synagogue, which is filled with historical artifacts. There is a hotel above the museum where you can stay if you are visiting. The views from the area are absolutely magical!

Synagogue in Mad

We then stopped by the gravesite of the Kol Aryeh, and the Jewish cemetery, which sits amongst the most beautiful vineyards.

We continued on to Reb Shayele’s house, the actual home of Reb Shayele, which now acts as a guest house for those visiting, offering food, accommodations, Shabbat meals, an active synagogue and mikvah.

Reb Shayele, Rabbi Yeshaya Steiner, served as the Rabbi of Kerestir from the end of the 19th century until his death in 1925. He was known for his great hospitality and charity. The “Malva Malka” meal, held on the eve of Shabbat, was always a large affair. They continue that tradition today, where a feast is held every Motzei Shabbat.

The operation in Reb Shayele’s house is impressive – you can visit Reb Shayele’s original kitchen where he baked challahs and the expansive kitchen (they are currently building an even larger one!) where they prep meals for visitors around the clock, continuing in the tradition of Reb Shayele.

We prayed in the study where Reb Shayele met with people and gave them blessings and heard the shofar in the synagogue next door. And then we sat down to a beautiful meal that was served to us in the dining room upstairs. Finally, we were off to Reb Shayele’s resting place, just a short drive from the house. We were greeted with Jews of many different denominations dancing together, it was a beautiful scene and a spiritually uplifting experience.

They say that when you ask Reb Shayele for something, you must return back to say thank you when it comes true, so I hope to be back soon!

Jewish Cemetary overlooking the vineyards in Mad

Places to stay in Kerestir:

If you are considering visiting Kerestir, there are both Reb Shayele’s House (Rubin) and Reb Shayele’s Guest House (Friedlander) which offer meals, accommodations, a synagogue and mikvah. For a truly unique upscale experience, stay at Reb Shayele’s Hotel which boasts a jacuzzi, outdoor oven, wine cellar, luxurious and modern accommodations with a kosher kitchen, they even have a sauna!

Gravesite of Reb Shayale of Kerestir

BUDAPEST

Separated by the Danube River, Buda and Pest form the two halves of Hungary’s capital, linked by the famous Chain Bridge since 1849, forming Budapest. Buda is the quieter, more residential side of the city and Pest is more of a tourist destination. For Shabbat, we stayed in Óbuda (literally Old Buda), the oldest part of the city, where Sophie lives (her apartment overlooks a Roman colosseum!). The Romans built their capital, Aquincum in Óbuda, and we actually stayed at the Aquincum Hotel (it comes from the word aqua, in honor of the numerous thermal springs that Budapest is so famous for). While the hotel itself is nothing to write home about, the thermal baths downstairs, along with the sauna and steam rooms are absolutely incredible.

The Aquincum is literally next door to the Óbuda synagogue, a 200 year old shul that was restored 12 years ago by Chabad of Budapest. It had been used as a news station by the Nazis.

The Óbuda Synagogue

After settling in to our hotel, Sophie took us on a little walk through the neighborhood and then to have breakfast at Brooklyn Bagel, a cute kosher bagel shop that is housed in a magnificent Chabad house in the city. From there, we headed to the parliament, one of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest, followed by the Shoes by the Danube holocaust memorial at the Danube River. The memorial was one of the most poignant ones I’ve ever visited, in memory of the 20,000 Jews who were shot along the Danube River. The Nazi’s used to tie groups of Jews together, so they could save on bullets, and they would shoot one, causing them to all drown together.

We then met with our tour guide, Benjamin Keszler, at the Dohany Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe and the third largest in the world! Benjamin shared a lot of Hungary’s Jewish history with us as we explored the the stunning shul, the burial grounds right outside the shul, where 2771 bodies had been dumped in a mass grave by the Nazi’s as well as the many memorial structures around the area. We then walked around the Jewish Ghetto, stopping by several sculptures and historical spots in the neighborhood.

The Dohany Synagogue

Over Shabbat, we were lucky enough to spend time with Rabbi Koves, the fascinating Hungarian Chabad Rabbi who has made it his life’s mission to reclaim all the synagogues in the area and restore them. We had meals at the Óbuda shul, where everyone was so welcoming and the food was delicious!

On Saturday night, we headed to the Castle District and Fisherman’s Bastion which is famous for its Medieval, Baroque, and Neoclassical houses, churches, public buildings, and monuments that date back to the Middle Ages. They are in the process of excavating the site of the synagogue of Buda there that was built in 1461! You can also find Houdini’s house in the area (did you know he was Jewish? His name was Arik Weiss!).

Fisherman’s Bastion

After the castle, we headed for some drinks to 360° rooftop bar, followed by a trip to the popular bathhouse Szechenyi, because the bathhouse experience is a must if you’re visiting. Just don’t go on Saturday night, trust me. You’re welcome!

We finished our night at Gozsdu Udvar, which is the main hangout area in the city (ironically found in the Jewish Ghetto) filled with gastropubs, bars and lots and lots of karaoke joints!

Street in Szentendre

SZENTENDRE

After settling in to our beautiful Prestige hotel in central Budapest, we took a Bolt (Uber) to the artist colony of Szentendre. It was a rainy day, but nothing could put a damper on the cute and colorful town on the banks of the Danube. The town features many unique little shops, where I picked up the cutest gifts for my kids (I even found an apron with a goulash recipe written in Hebrew!) as well as the world’s smallest synagogue! We visited an award-winning potter, many lavender stores (the Tihany lavender fields are a popular Budapest destination), handmade jewelry shops, toys, trinkets and more!

ROSH HASHANAH IN BUDAPEST

It’s hard to put it into words, but the Jewish New Year in Budapest was a truly special and inspiring experience. It all felt so divinely orchestrated – where the holiday took us, the people we met and the places we visited.

On the first night of the holiday, we joined Rabbi Raskin of Keren Or Chabad for his festive holiday dinner at the Marriott hotel. It was filled with over 1000 Jews from around the world, mostly Israelis. At our table, there was a French businessman who had come in for work that morning, and an Israeli family on vacation. At the table next to us, sat a group of secular Israelis with mohawks and tattoos. Everyone was greeted with love and open arms, and we all did the seder simanim together and sang songs in Hebrew. It was so special and meaningful to be a part of it and to see the amazing work of Chabad, knowing that most of the people there would not have celebrated the holiday if not for them.

To me, it was a reminder that A JEW IS A JEW IS A JEW. When the Nazi’s rounded up the Jews on the banks of the Danube, they didn’t care how religious they were, or what sect of Judaism they belonged to. And being in that room, you could feel the Jewish pride and unity.

Shoes on the Danube Memorial

For the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we walked all the way back to Óbuda , an hour and 15 minutes each way, to experience the 10 person choir that Sophie had told me about and boy was it worth it! To be praying in a historical synagogue, with the most soul-stirring songs of prayer echoing around us, was truly special. I began to cry, and an old lady sitting next to me came over and gave me a hug. She told me how her grandmother had died in Auschwitz, and how she had no family left. “Don’t cry”, she said, “everything is going to be ok.”

On our walk back to Budapest, we stopped at the Shoes on the Danube memorial to do tashlich. What a touching experience!

The second night of Rosh Hashanah, we went to the Pesti Shteebel, with Rabbi Oirechman, who set up beautiful tent outside the small shul that had been vacant for 50 years! When they opened it, they found an open newspaper and a pair of glasses just sitting there. We heard a first person account from someone who had been raised as a catholic only to find that he was Jewish when his mother left her passport on the table and he saw a Jewish name. For years he refused to acknowledge his Jewish identity and he would go to the synagogue but leave whenever the Rabbi started to speak. One day, someone tapped him on the shoulder and asked him, why do you leave? He answered, I have 6 million reasons! And the man responded, Hitler is smiling right now. Right then and there, the man decided to become a practicing Jew. He runs the organization in Hungary that cares for holocaust survivors.

After an inspiring dinner, we headed to the Dessewffy synagogue, a small shteebel that is over 250 years old and hosts a karliner congregation.

Stumbling Stones, memorials marking the homes of Jews who perished in the holocaust

The 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah, we went shul hopping, starting off at the magnificent Rumbach shul, which was converted by the Nazis to their radio station headquarters but later restored. Just as we were walking in, the small group (just over a minyan!) was starting Avinu Malkeinu. We got a chance to kiss the Torah and pray with the grateful congregation. After that, we headed to the breathtaking Kazinczy shul which the Nazis converted into horse stables but was later restored. Just as we walked in, they began the blessing for blowing the shofar! We stayed for the shofar blowing in the mostly empty synagogue, taking in it’s beauty and Moorish design.

We finished our tour and prayers at Keren Or, where we joined Rabbi Raskin for the final holiday meal.

After the holiday, Avi took us for one last tour of the city, stopping at different memorials as well as the Anantara New York Palace hotel, where Titanic was filmed. We finished our tour back in the Jewish Ghetto, at Kazinczy street, where we checked out some of the Hungarian street food vendors at Karavan. Of course it wasn’t kosher, but it was interesting to see the different types of Hungarian food, including Goulash, of course!, Chimney Cakes (Kürtőskalács!) and Lángos!

Karavan, local food trucks serving Hungarian classics

The next morning, we headed to the airport, stopping just 10 minutes away at the gravesite of the holy tzaddik and Rabbi of Budapest for over 50 years, Rabbi Shimon Oppenheim (he lived to be over 100!).

While I only got to see a fraction of Budapest and it’s surrounding areas, I’m so grateful for the deeply inspiring and beautiful experience I had there over the holidays. If you love Jewish history and culture, it is definitely a worthwhile visit!

If you have some time, I would definitely recommend visiting Slovakia, which is very close by, as well as Vienna, just a short train ride away.

The Parliament

TRAVEL INFORMATION:

If you’re looking for help planning your Budapest trip, or visiting Kerestir, or you’d like to stay at Reb Shayele’s Hotel, contact Avi Klein +972 52-720-0300 or DM @reb_shayeles_kerestir

Kosher in Budapest:

Brooklyn Bagel, dairy, Újpesti rkp. 1 · In Zsilip Synagogue
Tel Aviv Cafe, dairy, Kazinczy u. 28
Hanna, meat, traditional Hungarian, Kazinczy u. 29
Carmel, meat, Middle Eastern, Kazinczy u. 31
Hamsa, new high-end restaurant 2 hours away, Debrecen, Piac u. 5-7, 4025 Hungary
Kosher market, very well stocked with dairy, meat, bread, and imported packaged goods, Kazinczy u. 28

Shabbat meals at Keren Or Chabad can be reserved at the Chabad House here.

How to get around:

There is Uber in Budapest – it’s called Bolt. Just download the app, it’s really easy!

Money:

You would be surprised but many vendors did not take credit card, so make sure to exchange money at the airport and have it on hand with you.

The Castle District

Some Main Attractions to Visit:

The Parliament
The Castle District
Fisherman’s Bastion
Budapest Eye
Széchenyi Thermal Bath or Gellért Spa
Margaret Island
The Opera House
Shoes on the Danube Memorial
A few of the grand synagogues (Dohany, Rumbach, Kazinczy)

Simanim Plov

I’ve been working on so many recipes for #yeswecanchag initiative including this sheet pan chicken and tzimmes, this 6-spice Moroccan stoup, and this Israeli couscous with beef.  My fellow bloggers and I also got together and created THIS MENU of bonus budget-friendly recipes! I hope these recipes help you scale down your cooking this Chag while still bringing showstopping dishes to the table!

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Denver, Colorado to host a cheese-board-building demonstration at The Jewish Experience 20th annual wine & cheese event. The event was set up beautifully, and they even served my Mile High S’mores Pie in the Mile High City to celebrate, how fun?!

Since the demonstration was late in the week, I stayed in Denver for Shabbos at the home of Rabbi & Mrs. Zeldy Engel of Chabad Cherry Creek. Zeldy was so warm and welcoming, and she happily took me around the neighborhood hot spots, even driving out to Red Rocks for a breathtaking and scenic view of the mountains.

Zeldy prepared many of my cookbook recipes from her well-worn copy of Millennial Kosher and her sister’s recipe for Moroccan fish that smelled like actual heaven. But the star of the Friday night meal was PLOV. Zeldy hosted two Bucharian sisters, Aliza and Sharona, who came over earlier in the day to prepare this labor-intensive dish. By Friday night, the smell was intoxicating, and the huge pot was painstakingly transferred onto a huge round platter in middle of the table. Not only was the dish beautiful, it’s flavor was absolutely mindblowing – savory, spicy, with a hint of sweetness from the carrots and heat from the jalapenos. As I was eating it, my mind started wandering in a million directions on how I could “trash it up” (as I like to say!) and put my own spin on it. Wish Rosh Hashanah approaching, I thought it would be a great idea to incorporate some of the simanim, or symoblic foods that we eat on Rosh Hashanah, so I replaced the onions with leeks, and the jalapenos with apples, and finished it off with pomegranate seeds for a colorful one-pot-meal worthy of your holiday table. Yes. We. Can. Chag!

Related Recipes:

hummus simanim
simanim fritto misto
simanim pasta
simanim holiday salad

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#YesWeCanChag Yom Tov on a Budget!

Times are tough. With rising food costs and growing expenses, shopping and preparing for countless meals and guests for the holidays is more difficult than ever. I’m on a mission to help! Together, with some pre-planning, smart thinking and budgeting, YES. WE. CAN. CHAG. L’chaim!

I started the hashtag #YesWeCanChag over on Instagram as a community initiative to help us all create delicious and holiday-worthy dishes this Chag on a budget. I believe that the High Holidays should be a time of reflection, introspection, joy and love. They shouldn’t have to be a time of stress – and it all starts with perspective. Why are we here? We’re here to bring our family and friends around the table to celebrate our traditions and heritage. It doesn’t matter what we serve, so much as how we serve it. Set a beautiful table. Set a beautiful tone (relax!). Make everyone comfortable. The food is secondary. Yes. You read that right.

So, realistically, how can one budget when there is meal after meal, night after night?

For starters, my fellow bloggers and I have put together a menu of budget-friendly recipes which you can download here!

sushi nachos, Millennial Kosher, page 68

COMPOSE A BALANCED MENU

First things first, do away with the 3-4 course meals. No one can eat that much. It’s costly. It’s hard on the cook….There are so many reasons to scale back. Instead of a three course dinner with fish, multiple salads and dips, assorted proteins and sides and then dessert, serve a balanced meal without the fuss. To do this, imagine you’re in a restaurant – you order an appetizer – one or two at most, and then your main, which comes with a protein and two sides – then dessert. This is how you serve! So lets plan a holiday meal:

APPETIZER (choose 1-2): salad, assorted dips, hummus with toppings, sushi/tartare/crudo, nachos, tacos

ENTREE (choose 1 main, 1 starch and 1 vegetable or 1 main, 2 vegetables) : main (fish, chicken, meat), starch (rice, pasta, potatoes, couscous, farro), vegetable (cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, brussels sprouts, salad)

DESSERT: (choose 1) mousse, cake, cookies, fruit, sorbet, ice cream

fall harvest roast, Millennial Kosher, page 182

CHOOSE BUDGET FRIENDLY CUTS OF MEAT

Instead of following a recipe for a specific cut of meat, shop what’s on sale. Many cuts are interchangeable! The important thing to understand about how to cook meat is whether you DRY ROAST or BRAISE it. Tough cuts of meat require low and slow cooking in a braising liquid to help tenderize the meat, until it’s soft and falls apart. More tender cuts are cooked at high temperatures for a shorter period of time to firm up the muscles fibers. They’re usually served rare or medium rare, with a pink interior and a chewy texture. Therefore, if you are following a recipe for a braised brisket, but brisket is $21.99/lb., you can substitute a chuck eye roast at $15.99/lb. for any braised recipe. When it comes to braised meat – the simple rule to follow is that it’s ready when it’s fork tender – so put your fork in it and if it feels soft as butter, then it’s ready! If it’s still tough, keep cooking it for another hour, and check again. If you’re a meat novice, you’re definitely safer going with a braising cut, whereas dry roasted meat need more precision so as not to overcook (and a meat thermometer is recommended). It’s hard to overcook braised beef – 325 degrees for 3 hours is a good rule of thumb for a 3 lb. roast. Tougher cuts like 2nd cut brisket can sometimes use an additional hour or two.

Read my Guide to Purchasing and Preparing Kosher Meat for more information about different cuts of kosher meat. If you are unsure, ask your butcher if it’s a “braising” or “dry-roasting” cut.

Another great way to make the most of cheaper cuts of meat is to cook it in an instant pot/pressure cooker or to cook it sous vide – which tenderizes cheaper cuts.

Aside for purchasing budget friendly cuts, you can also get more bang for your buck by braising meat until pull-apart tender and then serving it in tacos, on a flatbread, or over nachos to stretch a small roast to serve many!

Additionally, you can get creative with the most budget-friendly cut – ground beef – and turn it into a festive appetizer or entrée. Some holiday-worthy ideas include: meatballs, single-serve empanadas or meat knishes with a mushroom sauce, spaghetti Bolognese, stuffed cabbage, shepherd’s pie, kofta kebabs, beef flatbread, moussaka.

sukkah onigiri

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX (OR BARN!)

You don’t need to make meat the star of every meal! Consider serving a dairy meal with shakshuka, frittata, quiche and a cheese board or serve a classic chicken paprikash with dumplings! You can do falafel or sushi in the sukkah. Themed meals are super fun over the course of the holiday.

ramen bowls, Millennial Kosher, page 182

MAKE IT A ONE-DISH-MEAL

With so many holiday meals, you don’t have to be so formal. Consider a one-dish-meal one night in the sukkah – like build your own ramen bowls (you can even use leftovers here!),  Yemenite chicken soup with freshly warmed pita, some schug and hummus, Unstuffed cabbage with little meatballs or a hearty mushroom barley soup.

leftover chicken soup pot pie

REPURPOSE YOUR LEFTOVERS

With meal after meal during the Chagim, waste not! use leftovers to your advantage. Here are some ideas:

•leftover roast can become: nachos, tacos, bourekas, pulled beef pizza/flatbread, shepherd’s pie, pulled beef sandwiches, eggrolls, wontons

•leftover chicken can become: chicken pot pie, chicken tortilla soup, chicken tacos, ramen bowls, chicken Caesar salad, Pad Thai, chicken wraps

•leftover fish can become: sushi salad, fish patties, fish tacos, fish nachos, salmon pasta salad, summer rolls

•leftover rice can become: fried rice, rice pancakes, arancini, risotto, tomato rice soup, bibimbap

•leftover pasta can become: pasta salad, kugel, minestrone soup, Asian noodles
•leftover mashed potatoes can become: shepherd’s pie, bourekas, gnocchi

USE THIS NOT THAT

Remember that recipes are just guidelines, you don’t need to follow them to a T (unless you’re baking, then it’s another story!). Substitute cheaper ingredients when you can. For instance, instead of getting sushi grade tuna for sushi salad, consider using kani (mock crab sticks). Use barley instead of farro or apples instead of figs and sliced almonds instead of pine nuts.

SHOP ON SALE

Be flexible with your menu and buy what’s on special. Most types of white fish are interchangeable in recipes, and as mentioned above, you can substitute many cuts of meat in a recipe as well.

drunken figs

BUY SEASONAL PRODUCE

Seasonal produce is cheaper because it’s abundant and more local  (when produce is out of season, they need to ship it in from tropical climates, making it more expensive).

HOST A POTLUCK

Invite over some neighbors or friends and have them bring a dish or two! Everybody wins!

Got more ideas for cooking Yom Tov on a budget? Comment with them below!

How to use Tajin


If you’re a fan of Trader Joe’s chili lime seasoning, you should know that it was inspired by the OG – Tajin! Tajin is a chili lime spice mix native to Mexico. You’ll find it used by street-side vendors throughout the region, sprinkled over tropical fruit like mangos, papaya and pineapple. Tajin has become a popular worldwide and is kosher certified.

Tajin Classico is their classic blend made from dehydrated chili, lime juice and sea salt. They also sell low sodium and habanero varieties as well as sauces to be drizzled over fruit and veggies. Tajin adds zing to fruit, veggies, popsicles, eggs, fish and poultry – it makes your mouth pucker with a bit of heat that is really refreshing. You can even get mini ones and attach them to gift jars of tropical fruit, like I did one year for Purim!

Here are some great ways to use it!

-Rim your cocktail glass with it. It pairs especially well with tequila!
-Sprinkle over fruits like watermelon, mango, peaches, papaya, pineapple, apples.
-Sprinkle over crunchy vegetables like jicama, cucumbers and carrots.
-Sprinkle over popsicles or sorbet like mango, lime, or coconut.
-Sprinkle over eggs, sunny-side-up style, deviled or soft boiled.
-Brush fresh broiled corn with mayonnaise or butter and roll in Tajin.
-Sprinkle over salmon before cooking.
-Make a dip with mayonnaise, tajin, garlic and lime juice.
-Add to panko or breadcrumbs for chicken fingers or fish sticks.
-Sprinkle over fried tortilla chips.
-Sprinkle over guacamole or avocado toast.
-Sprinkle over roasted chickpeas, cauliflower or potatoes.
-Sprinkle over popcorn.
-Mix into tuna salad.

Related Recipes:

vegan elote seasoning blend

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