Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Healthier Double Chocolate Muffins

I altered another recipe of mine, the Dark Chocolate Applesauce Cake, to make whole wheat pumpkin double chocolate muffins. They are almost sinfully delicious.


2 1/2 cups white whole wheat or all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (I use and recommend Ghiradelli unsweetened)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp decaf or regular instant coffee granules
4 large eggs, beaten (or the equivalent in Ener-G Egg Replacer, which works great!)
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1 and 1/4 cups oil (I use, and recommend Mazola Vegetable Plus with Omega 3's)
2 cups unsweetened pumpkin puree
2 cups (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine eggs, honey, sugar, vanilla and coffee granules in a mixer and blend well. In another bowl, combine baking soda and powder, salt, flour and cocoa. With the mixer on, add half the dry ingredients and half the pumpkin puree, and then repeat. Stop the mixer as soon as the ingredients are blended to prevent over-mixing or any gluten development. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon generously into mini-muffin tins, larger muffin tins or loaf pans. Mini-muffins will take 12-15 minutes  to bake, while larger tins will take longer. Muffins are finished when they are firm on top. Yields 28-36 mini-muffins or 14-16 regular muffins. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Kosherfest Preview

With my twin girls walking, running, flying, and getting into all manner of cute trouble (and they're not even two yet!), I have less time than ever to commit to Kosherfest, our industry's largest event of the year. I won't be hanging at CKCA's booth either the whole time like the past two years (though I will still leave my coat there!), so I will have the opportunity to really see the booths and make an effort to check out as many of the new products as possible.

As you may know, my mission at Classically Kosher is to utilize healthier cooking methods and products to recreate classic Jewish recipes. I hope that some of the products coming out will support my work, as it has in past years. Products like MimicCreme, Earth Balance and others have permanently altered and broadened the way kosher cooks can function in the kitchen, and while Jack's Gourmet's Facon product might not be the healthiest of options, it is sure to open up a whole new world of recipes previously untried by the kosher cook (Julia Child's beef bourguignon recipe comes to mind).

I also am happy to see a pronounced interest in social media platform development forming around Kosherfest this year. While I was unable to attend the (first annual?) Kosher Food Bloggers conference in NYC today, I was thrilled to see that most (if not all) of the names of the speakers were familiar to me, especially Ely Rosenstock, a social media/branding expert and beloved former colleague of mine.

While the topics discussed at the conference seemed to be focused on how the bloggers can present themselves, I hope that this additional interest in social media from the kosher community will lead to bloggers taking more responsibility to use their Internet powers for the benefit of the marketplace. I say this because much of the information about what happens in the kosher world is now accessible through the Internet and, like never before, kosher food bloggers have the opportunity to help promote or hurt kosher food purveyors by their posts and commentary. It is more important than ever that social media representatives take their roles seriously to avoid misinformation or abuse of the larger marketplace.

Enough of my soapbox: Feel free to visit this space over the next couple of days to see my impressions of this year's Kosherfest offerings, and feel free to follow me in real time on Twitter at #kosherliz.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Water Challah With Cinnamon Streusel

My daughter is allergic to eggs, so I have been busy altering much of my baked goods recipe repertoire to make things taste great without those incredible edibles. But the great thing about water challah is that eggs aren't part of the original recipe so you still get a great rise and great crumb without compromising on taste. I altered a plain water challah recipe to make it sweeter, and added a crumb topping to make it more festive.


3 cups lukewarm water
1 and 1/2 packages active dry yeast
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
2 and 1/2 lbs flour (I use a 50/50 mix of all purpose and white whole wheat flour for improved texture and taste) -- to make a bracha on this recipe, use 2 lb 10 oz. flour, which is halachically acceptable and works with this recipe.
1 tbsp plus 1 and 1/2 tsp salt
3-4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract

for topping:

4 tbsp white or white whole wheat flour
4 tbsp white or brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 dash vanilla extract
2 tbsp canola oil (add one tbsp at a time, you might not need all of it, especially if you use brown sugar, which is often quite moist)
1/4 cup oats (optional)


Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water, add sugar and let sit for 5 minutes. Combine flour, salt and cinnamon. Add oil to yeast mixture and then combine both mixtures. Knead or use bread hook on mixer, and knead for 3-5 minutes. Place dough in a lightly covered oiled bowl and let rise for 1 to 2 hours (or overnight if in the fridge).  Shape dough. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle on tops of challahs. Let rise again for 1 hour, or slightly longer if the dough has been refrigerated.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until brown and crusty.

Yield is 2 medium sized challahs plus 6 mini challahs, or 2 large challahs. In order to make enough challah to say the bracha, simply double the recipe!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Hash

I never would be able to make a dish like this without kosher sausage maker Jack's Gourmet (Thanks, Guys!). With their incredibly pungent, spicy Jamaican jerk chicken sausages, I was able to make a flavorful, filling weeknight meal with a red meat feel, without using any red meat. Jerk flavoring is not a common flavor seen in Jewish homes, but my thought on this is that it's only because it's not marketed too much to the kosher consumer. Jamaican jerk seasoning, like many seasoning mixes, is herby and spicy, with undertones of things I like but can't fully identify, like nutmeg, cloves, allspice and chives. This hash is stuffed with filling and nutritious fiber (obviously) and also has little added fat. It is Weight Watchers friendly and comes in at approximately 6-7 WW points plus per serving. My recipe yields four generous servings.
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 large onion, sliced 2 links Jack's Gourmet Jamaican jerk chicken sausages, minced 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cooked and shredded (or use 10-12 oz. of any type of leftover chicken) 1 15.5 ounce can baked beans, in sauce (I like Heinz Vegetarian Baked Beans, one of the first products to carry the OU Union Symbol in America!) 1/2 cup brown or red lentils 2 cups boiling water 2 tsp granulated garlic 2 tsp chili powder 1 tbsp kosher salt (or to taste) 2 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
Procedure: Sweat the onion in the olive oil over medium high heat until browned, about five minutes. Add the chopped chicken sausage and shredded, cooked chicken thighs and sear lightly, just to get some color. Next add the baked beans and the spices. Taste and correct seasoning. Finally, add the lentils and the hot water and cover with a tight fitting lid and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Serve immediately hot, but it's amazing the next day too as a cold leftover. To add more heft to the hash, you may also add a can of small white beans, or a can of cooked chickpeas. This will stretch the dish to serve more people and will not affect overall flavor.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Butternut Squash Crisps

Peeled squash crisps are crunchy, flavorful and when prepared with canola oil spray, completely and utterly guilt-free. I invite you to crunch your way to happiness with my yummy crisps.

1 butternut squash, peeled
kosher salt and finely ground black pepper
canola oil spray
nonstick baking sheet(s)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a vegetable peeler, peel long, wide slices off each side of the butternut squash. Spread slices in a single layer on baking sheets and spray lightly with canola spray (not too much!). Sprinkle a small amount of salt and pepper over the slices. Since the squash shrinks when baked, it's easy to overdo the salt, so go lighter than you would normally with roasted vegetables.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 20 minutes until browned and crisp. Turning your baking sheet halfway through may help you get more even browning. A convection oven will take significantly less time. Allow at least a few minutes for cooling so that the chips finish crisping up. If you don't eat them all before you get to the table, declare victory. And, hey, you're welcome!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Redux II: The Art and Science of Hamantaschen

Originally published on behalf of the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts for Purim 5770, on

Few, if any, fancy culinary arts textbooks include recipes for Hamantaschen, because, hamantaschen are sentimental little triangular trifles from the old country that are really only popular one day a year. And yet we all have Jewish moms and grandmothers who we have watched carefully as they rolled out delicious rounds to create the Jewish world’s most perfect cookie.

Hamantaschen are a unique and special thing, because, unlike rugalach or even babka, the best of the best simply cannot be found in professional bakeries. Rather, the most delectable and mouth-watering of these cookies are found perfuming the kitchens of Jewish homes throughout the world, during the few days preceding the Purim holiday, which will be celebrated this year March 19th and 20th, 2011.

Bakeries never get hamantaschen truly right because the recipes we have, which are overwhelmingly passed down from our European ancestors, were meant to be made in small batches, with attention given toward the inclusion of fresh ingredients and good tasting fillings, all designed to deliver a delicate, soft, sweet cookie.

I’ll share an amazing recipe for hamantaschen at the end of this article, but we also recognize that most people have a recipe from their own grandmother tucked away for this time of year. Therefore, we have found that the following five tips will provide excellent guidance when using any hamantaschen recipe.

1. Prepare hamantaschen Dough in Small Batches.

No matter how many dozens of hamantaschen you make this year, it is important to prepare your dough in small batches to ensure good consistency. Otherwise, you run the risk of a chalky, heavy, hard pastry; the kind most often found in bakeries. It is key to mix your wet ingredients very well, and then add the dry ingredients alternatively with liquid, and to combine everything well. And this is key: Don’t overmix the final product! As soon as the dough comes together, the mixer should be turned off. There are some baking recipes in which it is good to keep the mixer on to develop the strands of gluten in flour, like with many breads, but this is not one of those times. Like all pastry dough, it is best to handle hamantaschen dough as little as possible so that the dough keeps a light and airy consistency, not chalky, hard or chewy. The dough should also be chilled before you roll it out. This will make it less sticky and easier to manage, and it will ensure that each cookie rises and bakes evenly.

2. Shape and Seal.

Hamantaschen dough should be rolled out on a floured surface, very thinly, to approximately ¼ of an inch thick. Then, using a floured drinking glass or cookie cutter, cut a circle shape about 2 inches in diameter. After dotting the center of the circle with filling (approximately 1 teaspoon), draw up the bottom of the circle and then each of the two sides, to create an equilateral triangle with a little of the filling showing in the center. Dip your fingers in cold water, and then pinch the three corners with your fingers to seal and perfect the shape of the triangle. (For those who don’t know, the triangular shape is made to approximate the three-cornered hat worn by Haman, the bad guy in the Purim story).

3. Determine Your Precision Baking Time and Temperature.

Most recipes we see for hamantaschen recommend a 375 degree oven and a 15-minute maximum baking time. This means two things: First, make sure your oven does not run too hot, or else the edges of your hamantaschen will burn before the center is baked. And second, a 15-minute maximum means that there is a very small time period between the time your cookies are done, and ruined. The best way to solve this problem is to hover (like a Jewish mother!) around the oven from about the 12 minute mark until the 14th. To avoid making too crisp a cookie, take the tray out at about 13 minutes. If you do like a crispy cookie, it makes a difference to line your pan with white parchment paper. This will keep the bottoms of the Hamantaschen from being scorched when baking a few minutes longer to achieve a crispy cookie. I recommend using parchment paper either way, for easy cleanup.

4. Flavorful Filling, Measured Precisely.

In this day and age, we are very lucky that many kosher supermarkets carry good tasting fillings for hamantaschen throughout the year. But that does not mean that you should just add the filling from the container to the hamantaschen without tasting it. Take a sample, and remember that a squeeze of lemon juice or some freshly grated zest will take prune, poppy seed, and apricot filling to a gourmet level. Puree a mango and combine it with marmalade or raspberry jam for a tropical treat. Add a few drops of peppermint flavoring to chocolate filling for a refreshing “peppermint patty” surprise. Throw some dark chocolate chips and a dash of vanilla into your tart cherry filling, and your family will know you have baked up something special. Most often, very small changes to your filling will result in a big flavor bonus. Just make sure the filling does not have too much liquid, or else you will end up with hamantaschen soup. Achieving the consistency of paste or a very thick jam will be most successful.

Measuring exactly the same amount of filling into each cookie will also result in a nice looking plate or platter of evenly sized hamentaschen. A slightly heaping teaspoon is most often the perfect amount of filling for a two-inch-in-diameter cookie. You may decide that more or less is your speed, and that’s great. Just make sure to try to keep your measure precise for all your cookies, so that they all bake evenly and end up the same size. Measuring precisely will also cut down on leaky hamantaschen.

5. Airtight Storage.

This last piece of advice comes not from the hallowed halls of my culinary school, the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts, or from our grandmothers who grew up before Ziploc and Glad containers, but from my mom, whose fantastic recipe for hamantaschen has been in great demand for many years. If you want your hamantaschen to stay fresh and soft for several days, store it in a truly airtight container, and, as insurance, cover it with lots of waxed paper. My mom’s five children each live in a different state, and we all deeply believe Purim will not arrive until her hamantaschen have been received in the mail. The best way to mail these guys is to cover them under and over, with waxed paper, place them in an airtight plastic container, and fill to the top with more crumbled wax paper. This will keep them secure and soft until delivery!

Ruth Book’s Famous Hamantaschen

My mom has generously given her daughters and daughters-in-law her best recipe for Hamantaschen, and we provide it to you here. But we have all made it our own by adding or deleting certain ingredients. For example, I add a teaspoon of cinnamon to my dough, while my sister-in-law replaces half the water in the recipe with lemon juice. We encourage you to develop your own flavors and tricks for this delicious treat, and we wish a Frielichen Purim to all!

4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted margarine
1 ½ cup sugar
2 eggs
4 tsp milk/rice milk/water
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup of your favorite filling

Cream together margarine and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla. Separately, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture with the mixer on low, alternately with water or rice milk. Chill the dough for 1 hour to overnight, then roll out to ¼ inch thickness, and using a water glass or round cookie cutter, cut into 2'' rounds.
Fill with 1 heaping teaspoon of your favorite filling, and draw up sides for triangle. Seal edges with cold water. Bake at 375° for about 12 to 15 minutes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tofu Shirataki Primavera

The bandwagon of House Foods Tofu Shirataki noodles is pretty big. Are you on it? With a Weight Watchers points plus value of just 1 point for a 12 oz. package of springy, yummy noodles, I never get a craving for pasta that derails my diet. I just keep a stash of noodles in the fridge for those times, and I can adapt any recipe (marinara, alfredo, or primavera) to suit my needs.

The national availability of Tofu Shirataki noodles seems a little patchy, but they are carried at Ralphs in California and are similar to Miracle Noodles (but healthier in that they have nutritional value). I questioned someone from Miracle Noodles about what they were made of when I was at Kosherfest, and they couldn't or wouldn't tell me what was actually in them. I decided not to buy them as I am not interested in eating something that is nothing more than, say, edible styrofoam.

I get Tofu Shirataki at Glatt Express in Teaneck. They are housed in the refrigerated tofu section, and are a combination of tofu and an asian yam. I find them filling and I enjoy their springy texture, which does take a little getting used to. I'm not gonna lie; The mouth feel is a little different from regular pasta, but I really like it. Possibly even more than regular pasta!

To prepare the noodles, drain the pasta and rinse off the stinky tofu smell in a colander. Then heat it for a couple of minutes. Three minutes in a microwave or a quick parboil works fine. Don't forget to redrain the pasta very well after heating, even in a microwave. Patting the pasta dry with a paper towel helps sauce adhere to it a little better.

To make primavera, I add roasted vegetables (a winter melange of brussel sprouts, asparagus, carmelized onions and sun-dried tomatoes are pictured), and I often add leftover cubed chicken and wilted red cabbage or kale to up the protein and/or fiber content. To sauce it, I combine 2 tsp olive oil with 1 tsp minced garlic, fresh herbs, salt, freshly ground pepper and a dash of rice vinegar or fresh lemon juice.

To make a low-fat alfredo-like sauce, I combine 2 tbsp of plain fat-free Greek yogurt (I heart Chobani), with 1/2 tsp granulated garlic, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, pepper to taste, one tbsp of granulated parmesan cheese and 1 tbsp of shredded mozzarella.

Fiber-Rich, Low-Fat Pancakes!

I know, I know... the only pancakes us Jews are famous for are fried in oil and stuffed with potatoes, onions and salt. But that's got to change, at least just for everyday eating; After a 25 pound weight loss over the past four months (yay!!), I am absolutely thrilled to be lightening up recipe after recipe. We have our comfort classics for the holidays and every Shabbos, but I feel strongly that we have to eat healthier on a daily basis so we can enjoy special meals and times together for many years to come.

I got a breakfast pancake idea from someone at my Weight Watchers group, and I adapted it for a family meal of breakfast for dinner (my favorite time for breakfast!). This recipe makes 8 medium-sized, heart-healthy, low-fat pancakes.

1 cup quick oats
3/4 cup water
1 and 1/3 cup refrigerated egg whites
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp pure maple syrup (or more, if desired)
2 tsp brown sugar (or more, if desired)
cooking spray and a non-stick skillet or frying pan

Add the oats to a mixing bowl and moisten the oats with the water, mixing with a fork until all the oats are moistened. Then, add the rest of the ingredients and mix until incorporated. Heat a cooking sprayed skillet to medium high heat, and add 1/3 cup of the mixture. If the oats pool in the middle of the pancake, press them gently toward the outer corners with a fork. Flip after approximately 1-2 minutes or as you start to see the sides curl up and brown. Add cooking spray after each pancake as necessary, and Keep warm in an 220 degree oven for up to one hour. (WW: Yields 8 pancakes, 2 points per pancake). The recipe easily doubles for a larger family or a husband with a strong interest in pancakes.

Serve hot with fruit on the side (berries and winter melons are perfect!) and, if you have it in your budget, a little dash of maple syrup (1 WW point per tbsp).

Note: With many egg whites-based pancakes on the Internet, a tsp of baking powder is recommended to add to the batter right before frying. I haven't tried this, but it purports to help the pancakes rise a bit and feel a more pillow-like. Let me know if you try it!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spicy and Healthier Whole Wheat Applesauce Muffins

So moving on from the applesauce cupcakes I made for the girls' first birthday, I am experimenting with the same general recipe to try to make it spicier, chewier and more healthy and low-fat overall. Obviously we won't be doing that ridiculously sweet vanilla frosting either on a regular basis (but it's good to have on hand for emergencies/birthdays).

I started with replacing the flour with white whole wheat, with a half cup of wheat germ thrown in instead of that last half cup of flour. I also replaced one of the two cups of sugar with honey. Here goes. For Weight Watchers adherents, we're looking at a WW Points Plus value of 4 per muffin, if you're making 36 regular-sized muffins. Not bad and not bad tasting either!

2 and 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp tsp ground pumpkin pie spice
1 scant tsp salt
1 cup egg whites egg substitute)
2 and 1/3 cups applesauce
1 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup honey
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients, mix and set aside. Combine wet ingredients except for the applesauce in a mixer and mix well. Add half the dry ingredients, then half the applesauce. Repeat until all ingredients are just incorporated. Mix only until just combined. Pour batter into muffin tins or loaf pans that you have sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 11 to 15 minutes, or until firm on top. Yields 36 regular-sized muffins.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Shepherd's Pie Redux

I originally published this recipe in November of 2009, but I've recently improved it. I hope you like the changes. For WW followers, this is about 11 points per serving if you use lean ground beef (less if you use turkey or chicken), and I count the whole recipe as having five servings.

What do you cook when you don't have much in the house except leftover turkey, or a random pound or two of ground meat from the freezer? Here's something really, really good that you can make with a pound of lean ground beef, turkey or chicken, or even a mound of leftover turkey, chicken or beef.

Quick savory pie crust (makes 1 crust):

1 cup flour
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 and 1/2 tbsp water
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp dried rosemary

Mix together in a bowl with a fork and press into a pie pan. Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven.

Shepherd's Pie filling:

1 cup carrots, minced
1 cup celery, minced
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup butternut squash, minced (optional)
1 15 oz. can mixed garden vegetables, drained (optional)
1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp dried thyme or rosemary
1 pound lean ground beef, turkey or chicken (or 1 pound turkey or other meat slices, chopped)
1 tbsp flour
1 cup vegetable stock


1 and 1/2 to 3 large potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold), peeled, boiled and mashed with salt, pepper and granulated garlic

First, put your potatoes up to boil. Then, in a large deep bottomed saute pan, combine the carrots, celery, onions and squash and cook with olive oil until softened and lightly browned, about ten minutes, then add the garlic and continue cooking an additional three to five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the beef or turkey, making sure each piece is reasonably bite-sized. If you are using ground meat, make sure the meat is already thoroughly cooked and drained, with no pink. If you are using canned veggies, add those after the meat, as they are already cooked and quite soft.

Now, push the veggies and meat over to reveal a fourth of the pan, where you will make a very simple low-fat roux. Place your flour in that empty corner and combine it with a small amount (approximately 1 or 2 tbsp) of the vegetable stock. Mix thoroughly, until the mixture thickens and starts to boil. Continue mixing it for approximately 20 seconds to cook out the floury taste, then add the rest of the stock and mix the roux together with the meat and veggie mixture. It should be smooth. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Turn heat to low and cover.

Mash the potatoes. For additional creaminess, you can also add 2 tbsp of almond milk, MimicCreme or non-dairy creamer, but generally, I recommend salt, pepper and granulated garlic.

Pour the meat mixture into the pie shell, and then spread the potatoes over the mixture, so that no meat shows through. For added sheen and that trademark crispiness, spray cooking spray on top of the potatoes. Bake in a 350 degree oven for half an hour, until the potatoes are crisp and the inside is piping hot. Enjoy!