Rosh HaShanah meals

11 September 2007

I’m hosting erev Rosh HaShanah dinner and second-day lunch. I’m also making desserts for the other four meals (1st day lunch, erev 2nd day dinner, Shabbat dinner, and Shabbat lunch).

Dinner Menu:

Butternut squash soup (from a box, plus frozen pureed squash, plus lots of curry powder)
Pastrami-wrapped dates [done]
Apricot chicken and apricot tofu (coat chicken with mixture of apricot preserves and mustard and bake 45 min at 350; garnish with aprioct halves) [done]
Brown rice with roasted pecan and garlic
Zucchini with cranberries and almonds (couldn’t find currants) [done]
Green salad
Carrot ring (my mother’s recipe, see below) [done]
Flourless chocolate torte [done]

Lunch Menu:

Sangria
Crudites [done, i.e. bought]
Stuffed artichokes (based on this, but quadrupled and slightly modified, including using canned artichoke bottoms) [done]
Chicken satay (based on the initial recipe here) [done]
Red onion and orange salad [done]
Rosemary potatoes
Green beans amandine
Chocolate mousse (see bottom of this post; of course I skipped the whpped cream since it’s a meat meal) [done]

Desserts for other meals:
Amaretto cake (this recipe minus 1/2 cup rum, plus 1/3 cup amaretto) [done]
Apple pie [done]
Strawberry angel trifle
Pavlova [done]


Mom’s Carrot Ring

3 cups shredded carrots
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup margarine
dash lemon [juice, I presume]
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°.

Mix all ingredients and pour into a well greased tube or bundt pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes.

I’m tired. Surprising, eh?


Busy-ness

15 August 2007

Karaoke was awesome. My friend Fun J organized it, and I invited Math Boy (remember him?) to join the fun. J., Math Boy, and a couple other friends of mine (and J.’s), including I. (who will come back into the story next paragraph) hung out — along with a LOT of other friends of J.’s, people I don’t know — and had a great time. I rocked, if I do say so myself. (And I do. Math Boy said it, too. And on a side note, I think he and G. in DC are the only two guys I’ve dated with whom I’ve stayed friends. Well, and rebound-J from college, who’s now married to my former (post-college) roommate A.) Anyway. It was a ton of fun. Yay for having a microphone.

Monday night was dinner with I. She’s someone I should have been friends with in college, since we ran in overlapping circles, but we didn’t really meet and get to know each other until a few years ago in LA. She’s pretty cool, and I enjoy spending time with her. Over dinner, she more-or-less said, “You should host a Shabbat dinner again soon. And you should invite me.” I laughed and agreed that she was right; both of those things ought to happen. So next week I will host dinner here. I am hoping for a table full of people who are not in relationships. So far I have 1 yes (Harvard Boy), 1 presumable yes (I.), two maybes, 2 nos, and one no-response-yet. I would like to have 6 or 8 total, though a coworker of mine suggested I should have an odd number, with the “extra” being a guy. That way, she says, the men will get competitive and fall all over themselves attempting to impress the womenfolk. Interesting thought.

I’d been e-mailing with a JDate guy who sounded promising; we’d e-mailed two or three times each when he disappeared. About a week and a half later (last Thursday or so) I sent him a follow-up e-mail: “Just figured I’d say hi once more, because you sound like someone worth meeting. Figured it was worth a shot before you get relegated to the ‘guys who disappeared’ folder…” And it worked! He apologized, explaining he’d been on vacation with his family in celebration of his 30th birthday, etc., whatever. And he sent me his phone number and asked for mine, which I gave him (after making him wait a few days – I’m not a complete pushover), and he just called this evening. We are meeting for coffee/tea Sunday evening. And he specifically said “after dinner,” so I don’t have to worry about going through that awkwardness again.

Work continues to rock. Moving to this company nearly 2 years (!) ago increased my quality of life by decreasing my commute and my hours. But switching to this new position has increased my quality of life even more qualitatively (oh, the redundancy) by making me a much happier person. Today I had lunch with the summer interns (along with a couple other fully-credentialed folk, one from my old department and one from a different area entirely), and one of the interns asked what was the most fun part of my new role. I started to smile and said, “Really, everything is so much fun.” I talked about how it was a much better fit and how I enjoyed doing this, that, and the next thing, and the girl who’d asked said, “Wow, I can see that you really are having fun. You just light up when you talk about it!”

This Friday night, the cool minyan (PE for short) is having a potluck dinner. I am making dessert…but I’m wimping out (shhhh, don’t tell) and making chocolate chip cookies from store-bought dough. In my defense, I’ve got rather a lot on my metaphorical plate at the moment:

1) reviewing High Holiday services (I’m leading about half the services at my synagogue), and learning 6 lines of Torah (with special High Holiday trope) for Yom Kippur. (RH is 13-14 Sept; YK is 22 Sept.)

2) studying (voluntarily!) for the first of a series of exams — before y’all try to throw me into one of those nice rooms with the soft walls, be aware that these exams are far, FAR easier than the ones I took for my profession. These are insurance-related exams, but the first one recommends about 30 hours of studying, at most, which is perhaps a tenth of the time I spent studying for those other tests. (Test is scheduled for 6 Sept; if I fail I have to wait two business days, then I can re-register for $150 and take it again. It will be humbling but not utterly defeating.)

3) writing a question for one of those other tests. I’ve made a decent start, but I don’t know if what I’ve written is too easy or not. (First draft is due 31 August.)

So it’ll be a busy month or so. But after that, things should be somewhat calmer…

Oh, and the brownie cheesecake recipe I promised (as noted, it’s my Mom’s recipe; my comments are at the end) —

Brownie cheesecake — 6-8 servings

Bottom:
* 8 ounces (1 Pkg) brownie mix + water, oil, & eggs as per package

Top
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1 large egg (I use egg beaters)
* 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
* 1/4 cup maple syrup

Grease pan and dust with flour. Prepare brownie mix as directed on package; spread 1/2 of batter evenly into 8×8 pan. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. (use reminder for brownies in another pan)

Combine cream cheese, sugar, egg, and maple syrup; mix at medium speed with electric handheld mixer until well blended.

Pour the mixture over brownie layer in the pan. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Chill. 

If you use pareve brownie mix and pareve cream cheese it’s pareve. Or use real cream cheese and it’s dairy.

I guess you could use a 9 x 13 pan and all the brownie mix and double the cheesecake part for a larger group.

my notes: I use a 9-inch round springform pan, and use the whole brownie package for the crust. I bake it for 20-25 minutes. I do not double the cream cheese recipe. I’ve made it twice; once I used half fat-free cream cheese and half whipped cream cheese; the second time I used 12 oz fat-free and 4 oz whipped. It has been a huge hit both times I’ve made it.


Cookin’ with gas

12 August 2007

Picnic last Saturday:

Broccoli Soup (recipe courtesy of my mother)
1 lb broccoli, chopped
3 Tablespoons margarine
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 carrot, sliced, a few sprigs parsley, 1 stalk celery, or whatever I may have around
2 1/2 cups pareve chicken stock
2 1/2 cups milk
Handful chives

Boil broccoli until tender in chicken stock with seasonings, veges.
Cool.
Food process/blend
Add milk.
Stir.
Sprinkle chives on each serving.

Spinach and Articoke Casserole

24 oz   artichoke hearts, drained
30 oz   cooked spinach, drained and squeezed dry.  (3 pkgs thawed frozen spinach)
12 oz    cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp  margerine, softened
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

(1)  Preheat oven to 350. Spread artichoke hearts in the bottom of greased casserole dish, in roughly one layer.
(2)  Top with spinach.
(3)  Cream  together  the cream  cheese, butter and cheese, and spread evenly on top.
(4)  Bake covered for 35 minutes, then uncovered for 10 minutes.

Next time I make this, I will make several changes: reduce cream cheese to 12 ounces, reduce margerine to 2 Tbsp, and mix the ingredients all together, instead of layering. I like the individual flavors, but would have preferred them blended. I don’t remember where I acquired this recipe, so I can’t attribute it.

Roasted Tomato and Feta Salad
inspired by this recipe

2 pints pearl tomatoes (couldn’t find cherry tomatoes that looked good)
16-18 fresh basil leaves
crumbled semi-soft white goat cheese (or feta cheese)
handful of pine nuts
salt and pepper

Preparation:
1. Arrange tomatoes in a single layer in a greased/sprayed baking dish (cut in half if cherry tomatoes) and roast 1 hour at 250 degrees. Cool for 30 minutes, then put in bowl.
2. Cut basil into thin strips and add to tomatoes.
3. Add cheese and gently toss.
4. Add pine nuts and gently toss.
4. Season with salt and pepper.

Last-Minute Fruit Pie
1 store-bought 9-inch crust
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1 pint blueberries
1 can boysenberries (or, 1 pint blackberries)
1/3 c flour
1/4 c sugar (or less, I may have only used 1/8 c)
cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375.
Toss berries with flour and sugar. Pour into pie crust. Sprinkle cinnamon on top.
Bake 35-40 minutes. Cool.
Could top with whipped cream, if you remembered to take whipped cream to picnic.

And for this Shabbat, I made two desserts: a chocolate-raspberry pavlova, and my Mom’s chocolate brownie cheesecake. Recipe to follow, but right now I have to go get ready for karaoke.


Day one, or One day at a time

30 May 2007

Today was my first day at the new job. It was fine — not particularly good or particularly bad. I had to run down to my old spot to move something from my computer’s hard drive to a network drive so I could access it from my new computer. While I was there, Miss Congeniality (my coworker who’s a major reason why I left the department) walked by my cube twice, on her way to and from the water bubbler. And she didn’t say a word. Not “hi,” not “back so soon?,” not a single word. Whatever.

One of my closest friends, G. — the one I stayed with in D.C. before the AIPAC conference — came to visit over the long weekend. Much fun, and a much-needed break from reality. I introduced him to R. and J. (my best LA friend and her husband, who are soon moving to the DC area), and now G. and R. are plotting to kidnap me and take me to DC so they can both hang out with me a lot more often.

Oh, and I cooked what was meant to be Friday night dinner, but ended up being Saturday dinner since G.’s plane was over-full and he got bumped…so instead of arriving at 7.30 Friday evening, he got in at 1.30 Saturday morning. At any rate, I made:

penne alla vodka — next time, I will let the vodka reduce for more like 8-10 minutes, rather than 2-3 minutes, since the taste of the vodka was very strong; and

mushroom-artichoke gratin – started from this recipe but was too lazy to stuff the mushrooms, so instead I sliced them and tossed them in with the other ingredients, in an 8×8 pan, and baked for, I dunno, 15 to 20 minutes? Then I broiled it for 5 or 6 minutes to brown the cheese. I skipped the nutmeg since I didn’t have any, and used dried parsley instead of fresh. Oh, and I used half the recipe. If you used the whole recipe, you’d want a 9×13 pan, and you’d probably want to bake (and perhaps broil) a bit longer.

Monday night I had a first date with Dr. X, one of my speed-dating matches. It was fun, though it got a bit awkward when he asked about my political views, and we quickly realized we’re on rather opposite sides of the spectrum. But he did e-mail me last night to say he’d had a good time and he’d like to “hang out soon,” to which I responded that I also had a good time and would love to meet up again. We shall see.

And this weekend, I will see my bestest friend in the world, for the first time since her wedding. VERY exciting. And maybe the next weekend, I will catch up on sleep. I hope.


Overdue recipe post

24 March 2007

So I hosted Shabbat dinner over a week ago, and promised to post recipes. Let’s see what I can remember…

Appetizers:
*Stuffed mushrooms. I looked at some recipes and ultimately came up with my own. (See below.)
*Hummus.
*Giardiniera (store-bought)

Main Course:
*Roasted tomato salad. (Notes: I skipped the first step of peeling the tomatoes; skipped the garnish; and used dried basil rather than fresh.)
*Mashed potatoes (instant, ’cause I’m wimpy like that).
*Green salad.
*Ribeye steak with the best marinade ever. (Notes: I used ordinary brown sugar, and simply broiled the steaks for about 5 minutes per side, since I don’t have a grill.)

Dessert:
*Chocolate amaretto cake, which started from a recipe I found online but was adapted somewhat. (See below.)

Oh, and on Thursday night, as part of my effort to use up some things before Pesach, I baked a loaf of “Spice Bread.” It started with this recipe, which I basically destroyed. My version is below.

Stuffed Mushrooms
3 pints white mushrooms (I would have preferred bigger mushrooms – mini-portabellas or something – but couldn’t find them)
1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth
1 shallot, minced
1 to 2 T. minced garlic
1 to 2 t. fat-free mayo
1 c. cooked and cooled long-grain rice (I used half of a Near East rice box)
dried basil
saffron (the original recipe called for tarragon, which I didn’t have, but I did have some leftover saffron)
2 t. olive oil
paprika

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop the stems finely. In a nonstick frying pan over high heat, bring the broth to a boil. And the shallot, garlic, and mushroom stems. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine everything from the frying pan, rice, mayo, and saffron.
  4. Wipe out the frying pan with a paper towel. Add the olive oil and mushroom caps; saute 20-30 seconds. [Note: next time I’d skip this step entirely, and just spray the baking sheet with olive oil spray.]
  5. Arrange caps, open end up, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Mound rice mixture into each cap. Bake until mushrooms are tender but still hold their shape, about 10 minutes.
  6. To serve, dust each cap lightly with paprika. (Or, forget this step until the mushrooms have been devoured, as I did.)

Serves 8.

Chocolate Amaretto Cake
1/2 c margerine
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
2 eggs (or 1/2 c eggbeaters), well-beaten
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c flour
1/4 c amaretto liqueur

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Grease an 8×8 pan or a 9-inch round pan (or an 8×11 pan, like I did, and end up wiht cake that’s about 1 cm thick!).
  3. Melt margerine and chocolate in microwave for 45 seconds; stir until completely melted; set aside to cool.
  4. Stir eggs into cooled chocolate mixture. Add sugar and flour, mix well.
  5. Pour into prepared pan and bake 35 minutes. Cake will still be soft. Cool cake.
  6. Poke holes all over surface of cake with a fork; pour amaretto over top of cake. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Since my cake was so flat, I cut into individual servings, plated it, and served each with a scoop of pareve chocolate Rice Dream (non-dairy “ice cream”).

Bastardized Spice Bread
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp Italian seasonings
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c eggbeaters
1 c honey
1 c skim milk

Standard quick bread instructions:
Mix dry together in large bowl; mix wet together in small bowl; mix wet into dry. Stir until completely blended.

My batter was way too liquid-y, so I added another cup of flour. It was still pretty goopy, but I was afraid to add any more flour.

Put into non-stick or sprayed (small) loaf pan and bake at 375 F for 50 min…or until the middle bounces back when lightly pressed down.

Mine is good, but a bit runny (under-cooked?) in the middle.


Hidden kisses

15 December 2006

1 c margarine, softened — this is one recipe where I actually use some margarine, not just applesauce
1 c applesauce
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
4 dozen chocolate kisses, unwrapped
Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Cream margerine (beat with electric mixer ’til it’s creamy). Gradually add applesauce and sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add vanilla; mix well. Add flour and cocoa, mixing well. Chill dough at least 2 hours, or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Wrap 1 Tablespoon of dough around each chocolate kiss; roll in your hand to form a ball. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 12 minutes. Let cool slightly on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack to let cool completely. If desired, dip tops in confectioners’ sugar when slightly cool. Can be frozen.

Yield: About 4 dozen cookies…except when I made these yesterday, I only got 2 dozen. Not sure what happened.


Chocolate raspberry pavlova

29 November 2006

Baked this tonight. Well, am currently baking it, to be precise. I’m taking it to Shabbat dinner at a friend’s house.