Parmesan Cream Zoodles

I am not especially crunchy. Maybe a little crispy around the edges, but certainly not crunchy. Vaccines. Formula. Gluten. These are things I have proudly taken advantage of. Essential oils and salt lamps…not so much. On the other hand I make my own baby food, I think kale is delicious, and we are planning to raise our own chickens soon. On a scale of marshmallow to granola, I’m about fried pickle percent crunchy on a good day.

I do, however, have plenty of friends who have their own versions of crunchiness, and I believe that when I host them I need to try and meet their preferences. Having religious observances that dictate certain food restrictions, I know the deep appreciation I feel when someone goes out of their way to make sure my dietary needs are met. It makes me feel cared for and honored, and I like knowing that perhaps I’ve made someone feel the same way when it comes to their concerns regarding food.

That is why I love finding delicious recipes that can meet various dietary needs. I love when I can serve a friend something that isn’t thrown together in a mediocre attempt to feed them within their barriers, but a dish that is enjoyable and tasty. Something that I would whip up for myself simply because it tasted good, regardless of whether or not I follow a particular diet.

While this dish isn’t for the vegans or dairy-free crowd, I did manage to throw together something the gluten free eaters would appreciate. As an added bonus I got to play with some kitchen toys (the spiralizer), which I love finding excuses to use.

Most importantly, however, I found a delicious meal.

Parmesan Cream Zoodles

Ingredients

5 zucchinis
1TBS butter
*3 cloves minced garlic
5TBS milk
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
Cherry tomatoes (sliced)

  •  my general rule for cooking is to take the amount of garlic in a recipe, double it, and then pour Eeven more in. If you’re not as crazy about garlic as I am, the 3 cloves are a good start. If you love garlic, toss in what you like.

Directions

  1. Spiralize 5 zucchinis and set the bowl aside. Heat butter in a skillet, and saute garlic until well browned.
  2.  Once the garlic is cooked, add milk and cream cheese to the skillet. As the cream cheese melts, stir the mixture to create a creamed sauce.
  3. Fold in the zucchin noodles until it is well covered with the sauce.
  4. Add tomatoes, and stir in the Parmesan cheese until it is well melted, and the noodles are sufficiently cooked.

Passover Recipe Ideas: Chocolate Coconut Mousse and Brisket

Food plays such an intensely important role in our lives, and it isn’t just the fuel required to sustain us. Taste is an enjoyable phenomenon that can bring happiness into any moment. Unique ways of preparing food is a cultural foundation for all people. When friends and family come together they usually gather around food in some way, whether it’s a dinner party or chicken wings during a football game.

When we celebrate an event there is food. When a person mourns they are immediately provided with food from their loved ones. It is the most instinctive way we care for those we cherish, and preparing a meal for a guest is a simple way to honor them. Taking the time to choose dishes you know to be someone’s favorite, or putting in the effort to creatively and deliciously meet the dietary needs and/or restrictions of others can be an incredibly touching gesture.

I love everything about hosting. I love having friends that know our door is always open to their company. I love providing a feeling that my home is their home. I love feeding people. I love the sound of children giggling together in the playroom while the parents enjoy some adult time. I love providing a space to worship G-d through conversation and fellowship. After all, doesn’t the Bible say in Matthew 18:20 “For where there are two or three gathered in my name, there am I among them“? My closest friends know that in my mind someone’s home can be their own personal ministry, and most people who spend significant amounts of time in my house know that I enjoy welcoming company, and I especially love feeding people. I don’t let you walk out of my door hungry if I can help it.

This is perhaps one of the reasons why Passover and Sukkot are my two favorite holidays. Both are home based festivals that encourage an open door (or tent flap in the case of Sukkot) for guests. They are an exercise in extreme hospitality, and I feel completely in my element when I prepare for these awesome celebrations.

Naturally, the details I tend to focus most on when it comes to inviting people into my house is food. What would they like? Are there any allergies or other dietary restrictions? What foods pair well with one another? Is this enough or should I throw in another dish? (Side note: I always have enough food). With Passover specifically it can be even trickier. Some guests may have varying levels of observance regarding their regular religious food restrictions. On top of that we have holiday specific dietary needs (no leavened foods), and even within those restrictions there are various levels of observances to consider. So every year I stick with relatively the same menu that I’ve perfected over time.

Matzo ball soup. Salad. Roasted vegetables. Curried fruit. A potato dish. Matzo kugel. Salmon. And a delicious brisket.

This year I finally figured out that a chocolate coconut mousse was the perfect dessert to go along with our Seder meal. It requires only a couple of ingredients, is very easy to whip up, and most importantly it is light, fluffy, and delicious. It will definitely appear on future Seder menus.

So, if you’re looking for a dessert that will feed people with any number of dietary restrictions, this mousse is perfect. If you’re planning a special dinner and want to share something nice and tasty with your guests, this brisket is great choice!

Chocolate Coconut Mousse

Ingredients

2 13.5 oz cans coconut milk
2 tbsp powdered sugar
5 tbsp coco powder

Directions

  1. Scoop the cream at the top of the coconut milk into a bowl, and discard the rest of the liquid. Add sugar and beat together using a hand mixer until creamy and thick.
  2. Fold in the coco and continue beating. The mixture will begin to have a more fluffy texture.
  3. Place in the refrigerator to chill in order to give it a little more form, otherwise it can be served immediately

 

Brisket

*NOTE: I have three necessary rules about cooking a brisket. First: You cook the meat with the fat on it. This is crucial for maintaining flavor. Second: Baste every 30 minutes. It will give you that nice fall apart texture. Third: You should cook the brisket a day ahead, and serve reheated. This gives it time to soak in the juices and takes in as much flavor as possible.

Ingredients

1 4lb beef brisket
6 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (needles taken off of the stem and chopped)
1/4 cup olive oil
Black pepper
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3 celery stalked, cut into chunks
4 red onions, chopped
1 bottle of dry red wine (or about 2 cups)
1 16oz can of whole tomatoes (hand crushed)
a handful of fresh parsley
3 bay leaves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Stir together garlic, salt, and rosemary. Combine with olive oil and set aside.
  2. Season both sides of the brisket with a decent amount of salt and pepper. Place the brisket into a dutch oven or pan over medium-high heat and sear both sides until browned.
  3. Transfer to a roasting pan (or keep it in a dutch oven if there is room). Arrange vegetables around the pan, and pour the garlic rosemary mixture over the entire brisket. Pour in the wine and tomatoes, and add the parsley and bay leaves.
  4. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, or the cover of the roasting pan. Bake for 4 hours, basting every 30 minutes.
  5. Store the brisket in the refrigerator over night (keeping it in the pan with the juices). Reheat in a warm oven before serving (I started on 350 until it heated through, and then left it at 170 for a couple of hours before we were ready to serve).

Rose Jelly

I have been working with some unique flavors lately.  First it was the lavender cupcakes with honey frosting, and then it was the lavender cookies with rosewater icing. Both recipes gave me an opportunity to work with interesting ingredients, and they turned out to be quite delicious.

Since my husband and I conducted a few experiments with pectin in the kitchen one night, I have been wanting to try my hand at making my own jams. There was one jelly in particular I was looking to try, but I was missing one of the core ingredients.

Today, however, as I stepped outside on my way to the store I noticed that my rose bush was starting to bloom. How is that related to our jelly experiments in the kitchen? Well, it’s the ingredient I have been missing for this new recipe I wanted to try.

I love adventures, and that includes the kind I experience standing over a stove, so the idea of using flower petals in cooking was something I was more than willing to try.

And the great thing is that it turned out to be pretty delicious! My toddler and I shared some on a piece of toast, and he declared it to be “so yummy” and his “favorite” (along with the millions of other things that are currently his “favorite”, but hey, he’s still learning what that word means).

Ingredients
2 cups rose petals (fresh, and not treated with chemicals)
2 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 oz liquid pectin (2 pouches)
2 tbs rosewater

Directions

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Tale pan off heat, and pour in petals. Cover and let steep for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, strain the water into a medium sized sauce pan. Discard the petals. Add sugar and lemon juice to the water. This is a good time to put a spoon in the freezer, which will be explained later.

Bring the water to a boil, and let boil for two minutes. Add in the pectin.

This is where the spoon will come in handy. Let the water boil for about 5 minutes. Take the spoon out of the freezer for the “chilled spoon test”. Give the pan a quick stir with the spoon. If the mixture runs off of the spoon, it isn’t done. If some of the mixture sticks to the spoon, but is still runny, it needs a little more time. If it completely sticks to the spoon like jelly, it’s done.

Give the mix as long as it needs on the stove, conducting the spoon test every 2 minutes or so.

When the jelly is finally done, take the pan off of the heat and stir in the rosewater. Pour jelly into prepared mason jars and allow the mixture time to harden into jelly.

Enjoy!

Blogging For Books: The New Sugar and Spice, by Samantha Seneviratne

Ever since receiving a copy of The New Sugar and Spice by Samantha Seneviratne, my mouth has been watering! This cookbook is filled with unique dessert ideas that blend both a sweet and spicy flavor into one dish. There are so many recipes I want to try from this book, and I’m sure that with a number of pot-lucks coming up I will have a chance to jump into them very soon. I’m almost certain they will be a hit!

Many cookbooks these days have a number of personal stories to go along with the recipes. Seneviratne beautifully depicts the significance of food throughout her life (in particular dessert), and it somehow helps to enhance the quality of the recipes she provides. Although I’m not a huge fan of storytelling cookbooks, I appreciate the fact that she took the time to expose the passion behind her food.

I do, however, wish there were more photos to go along with recipes. This book in particular seems to lack photos, which makes it a little less enticing than it would had someone taken a moment to snap a picture. The pictures that do exist, however, are beautiful, and make me want to get started in the kitchen.

For those who love to bake, and especially those who like to experiment with flavor, I would recommend this book in a heartbeat.

For those who want something simple, straightforward, and quick, this is maybe not your cookbook.

For those (like me) who need pictures to go along with their recipes, I would still recommend this one, but with the suggestion that you read over the recipe carefully so as not to miss out on really great recipes simply because there wasn’t a picture to catch your eye.

For those who love to read about people’s personal experience and passion with food alongside the recipes they provide, than this is definitely for you.

Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

Coconut oil seems to be all the rage right now. It’s on everyone’s health radar, and is currently expected to save the world if I had to guess based on the massive coconut oil advocacy out there. Like most health food fads I reacted rather critically at first, and eventually found myself somewhere down the middle of the spectrum.

As it turns out coconut oil really does provide a lot of benefits, some of which could help my family’s specific health concerns. On the other hand I also find it super important not to get carried away.  It isn’t a cure for a chronic illness, and although virgin coconut oil isn’t the same type of coconut oil that was once said to raise cholesterol levels back in the 80’s, there is a concern over what it could do as far as it’s contribution to heart disease. As with most foods in life, moderation is the key factor.

With that said, let’s be honest about my true feelings regarding coconut oil: It simply tastes good.

I cringe at the idea of going gluten free. I have no desire to even imagine going paleo. And I’m not going to start slashing certain ingredients like dairy and sugar out of my diet (again, moderation is key). So I tend to be the odd one out among my crunchy friends.

With coconut oil I can at least look like I’m somewhat crunchy, and little do they know my true intentions have nothing to do with health, but everything to do with taste.

These cookies are an example of that….

 

Ingredients
3/4 cup melted coconut oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 pkg vanilla pudding (unprepared)
1 tsp baking soda
1 bag of chocolate chips

Directions
1) In a large bowl, beat together coconut oil, sugars, egg, and vanilla.

2) Slowly add flour, pudding mix, and baking soda. Beat together. Dough will be dry and shaggy, which is fine.

3) Fold in chocolate chips.

4) Scoop dough out of the bowl (about 1/4 cup at a time) and compress into mounds with your hands. If dough is too crumby and you cannot form it drizzle in some melted coconut oil, but be careful not to make the dough too sticky and oily. Place cookies on a plate, cover with foil or plastic, and place in fridge for 3 hours (or up to 5 days).

5) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake cookies for 11 minutes, and them let them cool on cookie sheet for another 10 minutes (it’s a good practice to slightly under cook cookies in the oven, and let them finish cooking on the baking sheet outside of the oven).