My heart is always eased a little when I see that you have been with family…both our blood relatives as well as the family we have created over the years. Knowing that you seek out the blessings of family…where love and connections are the undercurrent of everything, where life’s milestones are celebrated and traditions are transcended and where food and kitchen secrets are shared…is a comfort to me. Most of all, I am comforted to see you safe and surrounded by love and friendship.
My comfort was short-lived when I heard about your day trip to Ramallah. I am all for a girl’s day out at the spa…but Ramallah?! You tell me it’s safe. Everyone else tells me, you are out of your mind! I remind myself that you are responsible (most of the time), you are not really a wild risk taker (calculated risks only, I pray) and that you have traveled the world and survived (pooh, pooh, pooh!). I still get scared. I know that your life is beyond my control and I pray fervently, everyday, for your safety, your health, your well-being, your happiness…and a strong dose of mazel. Prayer is a pretty flimsy substitute for control, but it’s all I have and I’m counting on it. But just in case, would you mind just being a little more cautious with your life…for my sake (and your father’s)?! I am counting the days until you get home for Passover. I am only truly at ease when you are right under my nose.
I am working on planning our concurrent Birmingham/Israel Shabbat dinner….Birmingham parents with kids living in Israel sharing Shabbat here while their kids share Shabbat in Jerusalem. It’s a great idea…now let’s see if we can pull it off. You need to let me know what’s on your menu so I can introduce the parents to a taste of what their kids might have eaten at your house eight hours earlier.
Dad is on a ski trip with the boys and has chosen yoga over skiing as his sport of choice on this trip. Along with his drum sticks and practice pad, I am certain he will entertain himself and get an adequate workout. I feel like I am a yoga evangelist. I am glad to hear that you are now enjoying your new yoga class. Now if you can only learn to spare your poor feet a little…a ten and a half mile run…no wonder your feet hurt!
I have been working on taxes (my annual descent into receipt madness) and baking (my go-to avoidance activity) hamentaschen for Purim. I made over 250…half for the Chesed Committee at temple and the rest to enjoy and give away. Dad’s favorite is cherry, even though I made some chocolate-peanut butter chip-caramel just for him. There will be a few waiting for you in the freezer to enjoy before we begin our Passover cook-a-thon.
Please take care of yourself…remember all my eggs (and I only have one) are in one basket…and you are the primary bearer and caretaker of that basket!
Bubbe’s Hamantaschen Revisited
Dairy or Pareve
Yield: about 40 to 60 depending on how large and thick you make them
Prep time: 2 -4 hours (includes chilling, rolling and baking)
Cooking time: 14-16 minutes per batch
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup butter (1stick), shortening or pareve margarine
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup orange juice
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 4 full cups unbleached all purpose flour plus more flour for kneading and rolling dough
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups of filling or 2 twelve-ounce cans of prepared filling or jam
Options: poppy seed, cherry, strawberry, chocolate chips, prune, raisin and nuts, almond filling or your favorite jam.
Make your own: combine fruit (prunes and raisins work well) with a little orange juice and sugar and cinnamon to taste and cook over low heat until thickened. Nuts may be added. Be creative!
Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Cream the sugar and butter in a large bowl. Add the vegetable oil and eggs and beat until blended. Add orange juice, zest and vanilla and mix together.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl and mix together.
Mix dry ingredients into the large bowl with wet ingredients. Knead dough into a ball. Divide into 4 balls of dough and wrap in clear plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Dough may be kept in the refrigerator for a week or may be frozen for up to a month for later use.
Preheat oven to 350°
Work with one ball of dough at a time, keeping remaining dough refrigerated. Roll out dough on floured surface to ⅛ inch thickness. Cut in 2 ½ to 3 ½ inch circles (the metal lid band from a wide-mouth canning jar or the jar itself make the perfect size cookie cutters). Put a rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Pinch the sides and top together to make a triangle shape. You can use a smaller glass or circle cookie cutter and less filling for smaller hamantaschen.
Place on an ungreased baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 14 to 16 minutes until edges are lightly browned.
Chinese Brisket Chili
I am not really a meat chili person, but this was so intriguing that I had to try it and it was delicious! Not to mention that it turned out to be the perfect thing for those weird cold days we had this winter. You will probably never make this dish, but some of your meat eating friends might want the recipe anyway. This dish made me fantasize about having a chili party next winter…White Chili made with chicken, Chinese Chili made with brisket and our family classic…Vegetarian Chili made with tofu. It’s a thought….
This recipe is adapted from one Dad found in the newspaper…of course I had to add a few of my own touches. It makes enough to feed a crowd!
- 3 pounds lean brisket
- 1/3 cup soy sauce, more to taste
- 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
- 2 – 3 large onions, chopped
- 12 – 16 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 3 – 4 carrots chopped or sliced
- 2 green or red peppers, seeded and chopped
- 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
- 1 habanero or other hot fresh chile (to taste), seeded and chopped
- 6-8 cloves fresh garlic, chopped or minced
- 1 3” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoons five-spice powder
- 16 ounces of beer
- 2 cans or boxes of crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
Chopped cilantro for garnish
Start with a 8-10 quart dutch oven or soup pot. Trim the fat off the brisket reserving a small piece (about 2 tablespoons) of fat. Throw any remaining fat away. Lightly brown the reserved fat on medium-high heat in the dutch oven to slick the bottom (this piece of fat can be discarded after being browned). Cut the trimmed brisket into 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch cubes. Add the chunks of brisket to the pot and cook until the meat loses its redness. Transfer the seared meat and juices to a bowl and toss with soy sauce and hoisin sauce and let stand while preparing the vegetables.
Reduce heat to low and add onions and mushrooms to the Dutch oven. Sauté until soft. Add carrots and peppers and continue cooking. Garlic, ginger and hot peppers can be finely chopped together in a food processor and added to the vegetables. Add spices and beer and bring to a simmer. Add tomatoes. Add meat with marinade and juices. Cover and simmer until meat is tender and flavors are well blended. This could take 3 hours and tastes even better the next day.
Stir in vinegar and adjust seasonings with soy sauce and salt.
Garnish with cilantro and serve with black beans and brown basmati rice.
This dish gets better the longer it cooks and can be made a few days ahead of time. It also freezes well.