Sunday, November 30, 2014

Friday Night Dinner Project: Rosh Hashanah (New Year's Eve)

If you are looking for a menu to serve at a fabulous New Year's Eve dinner party, look no further.  This is it.  For this week's installment we cooked the Rosh Hashanah menu.  The Jewish New Year has already passed, but if you are celebrating the Christian calendar New Year I highly recommend this selection.  This dinner is truly special.

This menu is also special because for the first time (literally) in the almost eight years we have been married I had to send my husband out to do the grocery shopping.  He described himself as "a lost boy" trying to find things like smoked trout, fresh tarragon, and pomegranate molasses in the store.  He survived and came back with an interesting assortment of items.  

Let's dive in....

First up is a beverage, Sparkling Pomegranate Sangria.  Soooo good.  This is a very refreshing drink.  I would love to serve this at a holiday party, I even brought out my Christmas glasses to drink it in.  We made the non alcoholic version, using orange juice concentrate instead of orange liqueur and soda water instead of sparkling wine.  The other adjustment was that instead of pomegranate juice, I used blueberry pomegranate juice.  This was not on purpose - my beloved grabbed the wrong kind on his adventures in Longo's.  It was still very good.

Next up:
Egg and Smoke Trout Salad with Capers
I wasn't sure how I would feel about this, if it would be too's not.  It's very nice.  Bonnie recommends serving this on challah, or gourmet breads.  I decided to put on crackers, garnished with fresh chives, to make a bite sized appetizer.  I liked it.  I am actually packing some for my lunch tomorrow.  Oh, and I do think it would be excellent on challah as well.
Yemenite Chicken Soup
I am going to have to update this post later.  I have made the soup (pictures below), but I haven't actually tasted it yet because I am letting it sit overnight so I can scrape the fat off tomorrow.  Here are the pictures, I can't comment on the taste quite yet.

The Entrée:
Rib Roast with Garlic Mustard Rub
Excellent.  Just excellent.  We made it using a sirloin roast and the flavours the Garlic Mustard Rub infuse through the meat are just wonderful.  I cooked it until well done instead of medium rare, simply because I knew we would have leftovers and I like well-done meat for leftovers.  You can find the recipe here.

Country Mash
This.  Is.  Amazing.  It is so simple, essentially a mashed potato mix with white potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots.  It tastes absolutely wonderful.  I could eat a lot of this.  If your kids do not like eating their vegetables, this is what you should be making!!!

Rib Roast with Garlic Mustard Rub, Country Mash, a small piece of Ratatouille Tart, and Spinach Salad
Roasted Ratatouille
This is a beautiful, colourful dish.  The eggplants, zucchini, peppers, and cherry tomatoes really create a lovely pop of colour.  What really makes this recipe, for me, is the roasted garlic.  I have to be honest and say that neither of us are huge fans of these vegetables, so I knew that serving it on its own as a vegetable side probably wouldn't work in our house.  Instead, I served it first on top of pasta and sprinkled with mozzarella.  It was good.  Then I used the leftovers to make the Ratatouille Tart that Bonnie includes in the sidebar of her book.  Essentially, it is the Roasted Ratatouille in a pie shell, topped with Swiss cheese and an egg and milk custard.  This was very good and I really enjoyed it.

A slice of Ratatouille Tart with Spinach and Orange Salad with Honey Orange Dressing

Spinach and Orange Salad with Honey Orange Dressing
Never would I have though to pair oranges with avocado as Bonnie does in this salad, but it is a great combination.  I am not a fan of citrus-y salads, so I did not think I would like this but I was wrong.  It was quite good and the citrus flavour is mild.  The dressing calls for pomegranate molasses but I did not have any on hand so I used some maple syrup instead.  The dressing is quite light and refreshing.  Again, Bonnie Stern offers up a delicious homemade dressing recipe that could easily be used to make many different salads.

Ruthie's Apple Cake
Ruthie's Apple Cake is without a doubt the best apple cake I've ever tasted.  Hands down.  I would eat this cake over apple pie any day.  Any day!!  It reminds me of a pie (it is a layer of batter, topped with loads of fresh apples, then topped off with a thin layer of batter), but it is so much better.  Truly divine.  This recipe will definitely become a staple in our house!!  I served it with French Vanilla ice cream, but if you are wanting to keep things kosher, Bonnie recommends a caramel sauce.  I will be trying that next time.

Chocolate Bark with Almonds, Ginger and Orange Peel
A simple, delicious, easy to make chocolate bark recipe.  This would be lovely to send home with guests (as Bonnie suggests in her book), or to give as gifts over the holidays.  The thing that I love about it is that you can add your own twist by using different nuts or dried fruits.  I will definitely be making this again - my grandfather absolutely loves chocolate bark so I think he might be getting a tin of this in his stocking!

Ginger Crackle Cookies
Make these cookies.  You will not regret it.  The recipe is here.
I made them extra big, because they are extra good.

Cookies, begging to be eaten!

And that is it.  I cannot say enough good things about this week's menu.  I post links to Bonnie's recipes when I can find them in places where they have been reprinted with permission.  If you are enjoying these posts, I highly recommend purchasing your own copy of Friday Night Dinners and cooking along with me.  As you can see in the pictures above, even my one year old enjoys reading Bonnie's book and adding his own notes to the recipes.  

Thank you all for reading!  See you next week...

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Back To Work

Posting has been light this week because it is my final week of maternity leave.  I have been working a bit (in preparation for my return), but on Monday I go back to full time work.  I will miss my little guy so much, but I am so thankful that I have a great job to go back to.  I am even more thankful for the wonderful daycare I found for my son - his caregiver there is a wonderful lady and I feel at peace leaving him there in the morning.  Earlier this week I was feeling kind of sorry for myself (which I think is actually sinful) because so many of my friends are stay at home moms and I have to go back to work.  I definitely needed to snap back to reality which is that my husband and I both have great jobs and we are so very, very lucky.  Please let me share a few things that made me realize how wrong and foolish I was to be throwing a little pity party for me:

Both my husband and my father were in unrelated car accidents this week.  Neither of them were seriously injured.  Yes, there is significant damage to both of their cars but in the big picture does that really matter?  No.

When I went to my office to meet with the girl covering my mat leave, I found out that she is also a young mother (of a 2 year old) who has desperately been looking for full time work for 2 years.  Covering my job for a few months was the first steady job she was able to secure.  My job is such a blessing.

I was driving home from a meeting when I heard an announcement on the radio for a fundraiser and swab drive.  It was being run by Canadian Blood Services for a young father of four who is in desperate need of bone marrow.

I got home and opened up the newspaper to read an article about a young mom, also a mother of four, who went to pick up her son - felt a shooting pain in her head and then went to the doctor to discover she had an incredibly rare form of brain cancer.  Thankfully, she is in remission.

All of this to say that I was a complete boob for letting these "poor me" thoughts creep into my brain.  Sinful.  Anyway, I think my confession time is over.

My posting schedule will likely change over the next couple of weeks, but the Friday Night Dinner Project continues (I have some of it in the oven right now!).  I also have a number of posts on remodeling and thrifting for décor in the works.

I do like to keep posting on some current events, particularly those relating to Israel, however time often limits my ability to do this.  If you are interested in this type of news I urge you to follow me on Twitter (link in right sidebar) which I can update more frequently.  Alternatively, Laura Rosen Cohen runs a wonderful blog over at

Thank you so much to all of you from across the globe (in particular Germany, Canada, and the United States) for following me on this crazy journey in life.

Free Stuff! (Optimum Rewards Day)

Today was a bonus day for Shopper's Optimum cardholders.  I redeemed 95,000 points to get $210.00 worth of FREE stuff!  The great thing is that Shopper's Drug Mart also had lots of great sales on.  The end result was that I had three (yes, three) carts full of stuff that I only paid taxes for.  

You can see my haul here.  Just to recap: that is $210.00 of FREE groceries, toiletries, and a few small Christmas gifts.

If you live in Canada - get an Optimum card.  Read my Optimum maximizing tips at this link.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Friday Night...Birthday!

There will not be a Friday Night Dinner Project post this week, due to my son's birthday party which took place over our weekend.  The Friday Night Dinner Project will be back in full force next weekend.

In the interim, a few notes about the birthday party...

I started trying to plan a big Truck and Tractor themed extravaganza.  At some point I realized I did not have the energy, more specifically the time, to do present Modern Motherhood Perfection at the party, so I toned the plans way down.  We invited family and a few friends over for an open house style party.

The party started with some appetizers that are featured in the current issue of Ricardo magazine.

Goat Cheese and Beet Crackers - this is a super simple but super delicious appetizer.  I made it using pickled beets from my garden that I canned this past summer, Carr's crackers, goat's cheese, and honey.  They were quick and easy.  One note: keep a close eye on these while they are under the broiler - it does not take long before the crackers start to burn.

The substance of the meal involved a frozen turkey, which I am a huge fan of as previously noted.

The day before the party, I roasted a turkey.  The day of the party we sliced it for sandwiches and we had a make your own panini buffet (even though we actually just had buns from Costco and no paninis).  If you are looking to save money, it's actually cheaper to do the roast turkey dinner but given lack of space and the number of people we were having I wanted something that would be easy for people to carry and eat.

And there you have it.  Buns from Costco (which I presliced before putting them in the basket), mayonnaise, dijon mustard, some vegetables, lettuce and tomatoes, red onion, turkey, Swiss cheese and Havarti cheese, all lined up in a row before the Cuisinart griddler with panini press.  I had lots of refills for each station waiting in the wings (it was a 16lb turkey!).

Finally, there was the dessert buffet.

From right to left:  In the 125ml Bernardin jars with green lids was Lemon Tiramisu.  This was featured a few weeks ago in my Friday Night Dinners Project - the Vegetarian Dinner.  I put the leftovers in these individual serving sized jars and froze them for the party.  I took them out the day before the party and put them in the fridge.  When I was still in theme mode I was going to label them as "John Deerimisu" which I thought was pretty genius.  It is!  But then I didn't label them so instead they just looked pretty with their green lids.

To the left of the Lemon Tiramisu are cupcakes.  Rainbow Bit.  From a mix.  Because you can't have a kids birthday party without rainbow chip mini cupcakes smothered in vanilla icing and sprinkles.

Beside these, in the yellow Le Creuset ramekins is "Really Easy Chocolate Cupcakes" from Bonnie Stern's Friday Night Dinners.  I have not yet featured the menu this recipe is included in (you can find it here), but I make it often- I use plain yogurt instead of buttermilk.  I made it as a 9x13 cake and froze it.  Before the party I thawed the cake and broke it into pieces which I used to fill the ramekins.  I like to top the cake with French Vanilla ice cream and a Strawberry Maple sauce.

Finally, at the end of the buffet on the cake plate are more cupcakes.

And that was our party menu, not including drinks.  I am pretty sure nobody left hungry.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Modern Motherhood Perfection

I read this article earlier in the week, a few things stuck out:

No longer are kiddie parties an event of pizza and sheet cake. The trend is for moms to themselves bake and decorate an elaborate cake in cohesion with the party’s theme. Yes, kiddie birthday parties now have themes.
It’s all so twee and cute. The best part is that it all seems almost, possibly, within reach.
Thanks to social media and sharing, not only will the perfect homemaker show you her photos of little Penelope’s perfect “Frozen” birthday party, but also where to buy the milk in glass bottles with colored paper straws, where to get the printables for seating cards and how to painstakingly construct that life-sized Queen Elsa cake.

My son's birthday party is this weekend.  I started out with a big theme and all kinds of theme related ideas, because I am an A type personality who loves this kind of stuff.  I was going crazy coming up with all kinds of theme stuff.  Then I realized that I do not have time to do all this stuff.  I am in my last few days before going back to full time work, and am trying to finish up all those projects that I thought I would have so much time for while on mat leave.  I am still breastfeeding, which means I am pumping when my son is at daycare.  I am trying to keep everything in our house afloat.  So, you will all understand when I do a little write up about my son's birthday party why I decided to forget about the printout labels I planned for all the food, the frosted personalized jars I was going to make for each attendee, and the elaborate truck and tractor shaped food.  All these things are fun and totally fine to do, but if they have become the expectation for birthday parties there is a serious problem.  Why are we doing this to ourselves?  (Unless we want to...)
On the birthday party note - another thing that has come to my attention recently is that kids will not eat junk food.  My sister-in-law told me she had a birthday party for her son and a number of the boys there were refusing cake and ice cream because they were health conscious.  This blew her mind.  Seriously, I love that parents encourage their kids to eat healthy snacks but since when do five year old boys refuse one piece of cake with a small scoop of ice cream at a birthday party?  This is a control issue that can easily snowball into an eating disorder, it's no wonder that doctors have recently identified a new, unhealthy trend - orthorexia.  
Anyway, getting back to motherhood perfection for a minute.  There are so many blogs on the internet featuring pictures of perfectly manicured nails, blending a perfectly healthful drink, in a perfectly immaculate house it is no wonder that moms are feeling the pressure.  Somehow this seems attainable.  Especially when so many of these bloggers are moms.  I do not think there is anything wrong with these blogs, I love reading them myself.  The problem is that sometimes we become disconnected from reality.  I started this blog to share my experiences of being a working mom who holds strong family values, in the hope that some people might relate to what I write, and that maybe somewhere along the way someone might learn something useful that can help them.  If you are looking for a blog of motherhood perfection you are on the wrong site.  My house never looks perfect.  I am in the middle of about 7 different projects.  My son's birthday party tomorrow and I am wondering how I am going to find the time to finish icing the cupcakes, pickup the final groceries, and clean the house before company arrives.   But I love it, and I love my life.  It's an organized mess.
On that note, I have to go put a turkey in the oven before I run to work, before I pick up my son from daycare.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"I don't think I've seen you here before..."

Heartbreaking and beautiful:

The middle child, he said, also wanted to donate to her brother, but was not a match. So instead, she made an IV bag full of decorations and stars and hearts, and they "dripped" it down to her brother, so that all her love would drip down to him. And he hugged her as he told me this part. For her part, she seemed puzzled at the attention, but I was mesmerized by the entire tale as I think only a fellow parent could be. 

Never take your health, or the health of your loved ones for granted.  It can be taken in an instant.  Cherish every single moment.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Friday Night Dinner Project: Nostalgia Dinner

For this week’s Friday Night Dinner Project, we made the Nostalgia Dinner.  This week, at least for me, it was all about the challah.  More on that later.  This is a wonderful dinner, featuring both Sephardic and Ashkenazi dishes.  It is the perfect meal for the cold, snowy day we are having here in Ontario. 
Before I dive in – if you do not have a copy of Friday Night Dinners you can purchase one here.

Whiskey Sours
The first thing on this menu is a drink, which I actually did not make.  I do not drink whiskey, and I cannot imagine how to make a non-whiskey Whiskey Sour….so I cannot comment on this recipe.

Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions

This soup is quick andeasy to make.  It is flavourful (thanks to the onion, garlic, and cumin) but not hot which is just how I like it.  The soup pairs wonderfully with the challah.

Friday Night Brisket
This recipe reminded me of one of the truly special things about this book – Bonnie Stern’s thoughtful commentary which is woven into each recipe.  She provides excellent tips to help the reader as he or she works through the recipes, she offers great suggestions for using leftovers or substitutions.  However, the thing I like the most is reading her memories of family dinners with everyone from friends, to children, to parents and grandparents.  Any regular readers of my site know how important the family meal is to me.

This was my first time cooking a brisket.   I am pretty sure it was also my first time eating one.  I have to confess that my husband actually cooked this recipe (I prepped everything for him but then my little one had to go to bed.  My husband stepped in and finished the recipe, he did a great job.  He’s not a cook – at all – but he followed the instructions as written and it turned out wonderfully.)

With regards to the brisket – whenever I need a special piece of meat and I am downtown Toronto, I go to Carnicero’s in the St. Lawrence Market.  Unfortunately I was not able to get there this week, so I purchased our brisket at Costco.

Our dutch oven was not big enough to hold the brisket (now I know what I need for Christmas!) so we cooked the stovetop portion in a large skillet, and then transferred everything to a 9x13 stone dish for the oven portion.  Bonnie Stern suggests cooking this a day or two ahead, so my husband cooked this the night before we ate it. We reheated it (as instructed in the book) the next day and served it with salad and mashed potatoes (the potatoes were the only dish not actually in this menu, but I just love them).  We also made the roasted broccoli to have with leftovers. 

The brisket was delicious.  The meat was so tender and the sauce poured over it as well as the potatoes made it the perfect meal for a winter day.

Pierogi with Potatoes and Caramelized Onions
Well, this is my first Friday Night Dinner Fail.  It was not the fault of the recipe though.  It was the cook.  I had the pierogis all prepared, lined up beautifully on my parchment lined baking sheet, about to go in the pot when….CRASH!!!  Someone (not naming names) knocked it off the counter and they went all over the floor.  I tried to piece them back together, but I did not have enough time to do it properly, so many of them leaked in the pot.  I still ate them (not wasting food!) and even took a picture of them with the salad, but they were definitely not as they should be.  I am hoping to make them again sometime soon as I still have leftover wonton wrappers and the filling was very easy to whip up.

At least they look good in the picture!

Roasted Broccoli
So simple.  So good.  Not much to say about this recipe - straightforward and good.  Somehow salt makes everything (including broccoli) taste better.

Anna’s House Salad
One of the most pleasant surprises of my project so far is all these great homemade salad dressing recipes.  There are so many salads in this book that I had not made before, and every time I am really impressed with the dressings.  I have made my own dressing before, but the variety of different dressings in this book is great.  I am never going to buy pre-made salad dressing again – except for Ranch because I love it. 
The sweet Asian style dressing (recipe here, scroll down) that tops this salad is great.  I served it plain on green leaf lettuce, but it would be wonderful on a salad topped with cashews, chicken and peppers or snap peas.  

Jenny Soltz’s Challah
This recipe begins with a beautiful introduction Bonnie (can I just call her Bonnie? I don’t actually know her…) wrote about her grandmother who raised eleven children and “kept her family in bread all winter by winning first place in the county fair with her amazing challahs” (Stern 94).  Bonnie says she likes to think this was her grandmother’s own recipe. 

This challah is amazing.  It is hands down the best challah recipe I have tried.  I have made this challah, many, many times and it is always loved by anyone who tries it.  (Note: There is also a sidebar here which includes a recipe for French Toast Casserole, made using the challah, which I have made numerous times topped with a raspberry sauce.  It is divine and always gets rave reviews.  It is wonderful for a brunch.  I digress…)

If you are not a bread baker do not feel intimidated, the instructions are very clear and easy to follow.  You need time to allow the dough to rise (twice) but it is not a complicated recipe.  The other thing I love about this recipe is that it uses all purpose flour – no special bread flour kneaded.  Ha!  Get it, kneaded instead of needed.  Sorry, I know I am the only one laughing.  Anyway, this is a beautiful bread.  I usually add about 5 ½ cups of the recommended flour in the bowl, then take it out and start kneading, adding flour as necessary.  Oh it is so, so good.  Do not take my word for it – make it for yourself.

First rise

The three sticks, as I call them

The braid

Brushed with egg


Patti’s Apple Cobbler
This apple cobbler is sort of a cross between apple cobbler and apple crisp.  At least that is what it reminded me of, the topping has sort of a crispy cake like texture.  If ever there was a dessert for Nostalgia menu this is it.  You can drizzle the top with oil (to keep your menu Kosher) or butter.   I used butter and I served Patti’s Apple Cobbler with Breyer’s Creamery Style Maple Walnut Ice Cream.  It was excellent and a wonderful comfort food dessert.

And that’s a wrap.  Until next week.  

You can view previous menus here:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Five Tips To Make Life With Baby Easier

There is nothing life changing here.  Just five very simple things that I found made my days easier.

1.  Keep a small package of diapers as well as a pack of wipes in all vehicles you drive.  Always.  (Trust me - when you are changing your baby's diaper in the back of your car only to discover that you have no wipes in your bag - oops -  you will be glad you stuck that container of wipes in there.)

2.  Keep one extra outfit for baby and an extra shirt for you in all vehicles you drive.  (See above.)

3.  Non latex gloves.  You can get them in bulk at Costco.  Seriously.  You deal with enough gross stuff as a mom, when your kid has a poop explosion, or Poocopalypse as I just saw Noah Rothman tweet, it is nice to not get poop all over your hands.  (And just so you know, regardless, you will at some point end up with poop all over your hands.)

4.  Buy a baby carrier.  Personally, I love the Baby Bjorn active mesh carrier.  The mesh part is key for airflow.  For the first year of my son's life I used my Baby Bjorn so much more than an actual stroller.  It is so quick and easy to strap this on and pop the little guy in it when shopping, walking, running a quick errand, etc.  As he gets older the stroller is a better fit, and I am sad that he is just a few pounds away from being too big for his baby carrier.  They are not cheap - but it is so worth it.

5.  Write things down.  I do not mean about baby, although that is a good idea too.  I find I am always thinking of something I need to get or do, but then I forget.  Baby Brain is real.  I think.  Anyway, I keep a notepad on the island in our kitchen where I am constantly jotting stuff down (anything - lists, passwords, phone numbers) so I do not forget.  It helps me stay organized and gets rid of a great deal of unnecessary stress.

That's it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Money Saving Tip: Using New Tax Reforms to Maximize Your Savings

Note: This post applies to Canadian residents.  Also note that I am not a financial planner.

Let's talk about saving money for your child's education.

Recently, the Canadian government announced several important tax reforms that will benefit families with children under the age of 18.  The changes include income splitting, changes in the maximum families can claim for child care expenses, and an increase to the Universal Child Care Benefit.  You can read a brief summary of these changes here.

Let's talk about how you can use the changes in the Universal Child Care Benefit to help save for your child's future.

Currently, the federal government will add 20% to your child's RESP annually, up to a maximum of $2500.00.  So - if you put $2500.00 away annually the government will top it up to $3000.00.  Let's be honest - saving this much money is not easy.  But for many people it is doable, albeit sacrifice will be involved.  When you consider that many people are saving for more than one child it seems daunting.  The important thing to remember is that any money you are able to sock away is better than no money.  Below are three different scenarios envisioned using the Universal Child Care Benefit to help you save.

Scenario 1
Under the announced changes, you will receive an additional $60.00 per month per child.  If you are able to save that amount alone, you will have $720.00 saved at the end of one year.  The RESP top up from the government would bring this to $864.00.  If you do this starting now, for the first five years of your child's life, you will have $4320.00 in their RESP (not including compounding interest or investment growth).  That is a great start!

Scenario 2
You are able to save $100.00 a month (the current amount of the Universal Child Care Benefit) but you need to keep the additional $60.00 to cover child-related expenses.  At the end of one year you will have $1200.00 saved.  The RESP top up from the government will bring this to $1440.00.  If you do this starting now, for the first five years of your child's life, you will have $7200.00 in their RESP (not including compounding interest or investment growth).  Fantastic!

Scenario 3
You are able to save the entire $160.00 per month (the full new amount of the Universal Child Care Benefit).  At the end of the year you will have $1920.00 saved.  Imagine, if you will, that through a great deal of planning and sacrifice you are able to top this up yourself with an additional $580.00 - bringing your total contribution to $2500.00.  The government top up will then bring this to $3000.00.  If you are able to do this for the first five years of your child's life (starting now), you will have $15,000.00 in their RESP (not including compounding interest or investment growth).  Amazing!!!  If we can forget about the opportunity cost of using up your UCCB for this, you are essentially taking $580.00 and turning it into $3,000.00.  Incredible.

Any money that you are able to put away for your child's future is amazing.  Anything at all.  It is not easy.  Just raising a child is expensive.  I have talked to many young parents who are overwhelmed by the cost of raising a child in the first year (it is true - so many big expenses!).  However, children cost more as they get older, not less (think sports, activities, lessons, clothes, school expenses, etc.).  Of course child care is a major expense when kids are young.  There are so many things to balance out, which is why it is critical you have a solid financial plan in place.  Everyone's plan will look different.  The more you can save when your kids are young, the more wiggle room you can give yourself later for expenses such as sports.  But don't take my word for it (seriously, don't) - make an appointment to speak with a Certified Financial Planner to discuss how you can maximize the benefit of these new tax reforms for your family.

The Rabbi in Wartime

I came across this article via Laura Rosen Cohen's blog End of Your Arm.

It is a beautiful story published over at Tablet that showcases the important role of chaplains during wartime.

Someone shook Pvt. Richard Eisenberg’s shoulder, waking him from an afternoon slumber in the tin hut he called home.
“Who the hell are you?” Eisenberg blurted. He looked up to see the stripes and insignia on the visitor’s shoulder, signifying a lieutenant colonel, a chaplain.
The visitor was Rabbi Meir Engel, a thin, bespectacled, no-nonsense, witty man who retained a trace of his sabra accent from his native Tel Aviv. Engel had come to the U.S. Army’s air base at Soc Trang, along the Mekong River Delta at Vietnam’s southern tip, because that’s what military chaplains did.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Friday Night Dinner Project: Diner Dinner

For this week’s installment of the Friday Night DinnerProject (using Bonnie Stern’s cookbook Friday Night Dinners, Menus To Welcome The Weekend With Ease, Warmth and Flair) I decided to make the Diner Dinner.  Excellent choice.  Our house was in total chaos this weekend.  My son is getting his first tooth, my husband got sick (he never gets sick!) and we had company.  The Diner Dinner was most needed.

Smoked Chicken Noodle Soup
This was first up on the menu.  After checking three grocery stores, I could not find a smoked chicken or smoked deli chicken or turkey, so I decided to just roast a chicken myself.  I roasted two chickens and used the meat from one of them for this soup.  True, it was not smoked – but the soup was still wonderful.  This soup is so simple to make – and very fast.  The timing was perfect with my husband being ill.  This soup looks like healing in a bowl.  The soup was topped with green onions, and to add that smoked flavour I shredded some of the smoked mozzarella cheese that was leftover from last week’smenu.  So good.  My son (he’s almost 1) also enjoyed the soup. Smoked Chicken Noodle Soup
This was first up on the menu.  After checking three grocery stores, I could not find a smoked chicken or smoked deli chicken or turkey, so I decided to just roast a chicken myself.  I roasted two chickens and used the meat from one of them for this soup.  True, it was not smoked – but the soup was still wonderful.  This soup is so simple to make – and very fast.  The timing was perfect with my husband being ill.  This soup looks like healing in a bowl.  The soup was topped with green onions, and to add that smoked flavour I shredded some of the smoked mozzarella cheese that was leftover from last week’s menu.  So good.  My son (he’s almost 1) also enjoyed the soup. 

 After eating this soup and deciding it was good I also had a bit of a brain wave – this is perfect for a quick dinner (with buns, or salad, or Melted Cheese and Corn Quesadillas – in fact I served the leftovers with the quesadillas for lunch today).  Imagine this – you throw a chicken in your Crock-Pot before you leave for work in the morning, using Ricardo’s recipe which roasts the chicken and also provides you with the broth you need for the soup.  You come home from work – throw the broth in a pot, take the meat off the chicken and then follow Bonnie Stern’s recipe for Smoked Chicken Noodle Soup and in about 15 minutes dinner is served.  Good idea, non?

Chicken Meatloaf with Barbecue Sauce
This menu offers a choice between two different entrées, I cooked them both (this being the first one) but for different meals.  The chicken meatloaf is hearty and quite good.  My company loved it.  The Bullseye Barbeque sauce is a nice touch.  I accidentally added two much chicken to this recipe (in fact an entire extra pound of chicken, long story) but it still turned out well.  (We definitely have leftovers!)

Potato and Carrot Mash
This mash is simple and straight forward.  I made it with olive oil, but if you are not a fan of the olive oil taste you could replace the olive oil with butter.  The carrot, potato and sweet potato combination is delicious and healthy.  It is a win win – especially if you have little ones who do not like to eat their vegetables.  This dish pairs wonderfully with the Chicken Meatloaf.

Meatball Sliders
This was the second entrée.  The Meatball Sliders were made with all beef (not the beef/chicken combo – because the chicken I had for this accidentally got included in the meatloaf).  These were my favourite and were very good.  I made them a bit smaller than the recipe called for (so I could fit two meatballs on one dinner roll).  Comfort food central.  These would be excellent to serve at a party.
Iceberg Lettuce Wedges with Thousand Island Dressing
Alright – this is amazing.  First, I loved reading Bonnie’s comments about lettuce snobs not wanting to use iceberg lettuce.  I love this lettuce because it reminds me of my maternal grandmother who always makes a beautiful salad using iceberg lettuce when I go to visit her.  I followed the recipe exactly, I even used the lettuce de-coring trick recommended in the notes (worked like a charm!).  Even my husband, who does not really care for salads, commented that he really liked the homemade dressing and iceberg lettuce combination.  I served the wedges with the sliders.

Carrot Tube Cake

This is a wonderful carrot cake recipe (you can find it at this link, scroll to bottom).  I omitted the raisins.  I also cooked it in a 9x13 pan simply because I do not own a tube pan and everything was so crazy in our house that I did not have the time to make the cupcakes.  There are actually three different recipes to choose from for the icing, I made the Best Ever Cream Cheese Icing.  It might actually be the best ever too.   Simply wonderful.

Now I have to decide which menu to make next weekend...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Mid-Week Read. Or two.

From Laura Rosen Cohen:

I cannot stand this ridiculously tyrannical idea of "fighting hatred". Fight your enemies to the death-but fighting hate is a useless, band-aid, liberal, utopian idea that needs to be buried once in for all. And yes-of course I include "fighting antisemitism" in that category. Fight the Jew-haters, yes. Fighting "hatred"-a freaking waste of time, money and energy.

In a civilized society, the marketplace of ideas is the best way to 'fight' the unpalatable and uncivil ideas among us. Hate is a normal human emotion. There are things we need to and ought to hate. 

Unfortunately, most people nowadays are too terrified to articulate the things that out to be hated, and hated publicly. 

We should hate tyranny. We should hate the jihad. We should hate all attempts by government to rescind our personal liberties. We should hate all attempts to nationalize the family and our bodies. We should hate all attempts to destroy the family.  We should hate being afraid. We should hate hiding our opinions.

Read the rest here.

Also: I do not often buy into these mommy type articles but this one (although a few months old) really resonated with me when I read it this week.  Probably because I am in the middle of this.  But let me just note that hopefully if you do your best to raise your kids as good, loving, generous souls you will never, ever be a burden to them.  Take note with how you treat your own parents.  Your kids are watching.  I have to remind myself of this sometimes.

Speaking of which, my baby is crying for me so off I go.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Easiest DIY Headboard. For real.

A room makeover is underway in our house.  A basement room/storage space is being converted into a guest bedroom (but will also still double as storage space).  It has been in the works for a few months, but we are making or redoing most of the furniture ourselves so it is taking a bit of time.  (Note: Furniture paint needs to cure for 30 days).  Alas, I can share this small part of things to come - the headboard.  We (ie. my husband because I was busy with baby) made it ourselves.  It was so easy.  No sawing or cutting required!!!!

What materials did we use?
-two half pallisters - These were purchased at the Habitat Restore (see another great Restore find here) for $15.00 a each
-5 Cedar planks - Purchased at Home Depot for $4.00 each.
-One sheet of particle board - cut to size by the find young lads at Home Depot.  We have leftovers, I would estimate the portion of the particle board we used cost about $5.00.  This is the genius - they will cut this to measure for you in the store.  Beauty.
-Para Primer - We always have this on hand.
-Para Furniture Paint - It was $20.00 for the paint we used, we are also using this paint for other furniture going in the room.  The colour of the paint is Lemon Verbena.  Sounds delicious, non?
-finishing nails

You do not need to cut anything for this project (if it is for a double sized bed), but you do need a hammer, sandpaper, screws, and a drill.

This is how easy it is:  I laid out the cedar planks as desired (based on the grain and knots in the wood).  My husband used finishing nails to nail them to the particle board (from behind, not from the front!).  Then we placed the half pallisers (I'm pretty sure that's what their called...) onto each end and my husband screwed them in (again from behind).
After this, I sanded down the pallisers but not the cedar.
Then the whole thing was primed (I did three coats because it was going right onto the wood and because I knew I was using a very, very light paint colour on top).

Apparently I did not take any pictures of the primed headboard.  Oops.  Oh well.  It was white.  Moving on...
Finally, we painted it a lovely colour - Lemon Verbena by Para Paints.  This colour reminds of the Lemon Tiramisu I just made.  It is making me hungry.

Yes, it really is that easy.

It is now in the bedroom.  The entire room reveal will be at a later date.