Hot Cocoa for Dieters: Comfort Food when we Need comforting.

I’ve got no words to say about last week’s brutal attack but like many people here I feel a great need for  comforting and my  go to comfort food is hot cocoa which presents a problem. As anyone with any sense knows hot cocoa with milk and or milk and whipped cream is fattening. Having spent the better part of last winter and spring, shedding 15 extra pounds  I didn’t want to revert to my old tubby self so I  created a more slimming alternative. Yes, I guess that qualifies me as a recipe developer–an occupational category in 2014, though I prefer to think of myself as someone who potchkes in the kitchen. My tiny stroke of genius involves the decision to combine whole milk   with  soy milk.

I’ve been drinking soy  milk for years mostly as a whitener for coffee substitute but frankly I always thought of it as a food that had certain limitations, one of which was that it couldn’t survive boiling or microwave boiling. Without testing this hypothesis, I took it as a article of faith that when set on a flame or blasted at high temperatures, soy milk would freak out and  curdle into something disgusting but it just isn’t so. Amazing right? Soy milk is microwaveable and combined with whole milk and cocoa and sweetener it makes a very good hot chocolate.Unlike hot chocolate made from skim milk this hot chocolate is  rich, smooth,  and not watery tasting and it has a a more manageable calorie count than a hot cocoa made with only whole milk. (don’t ask me to provide it. I’m not a nutritionist. All I know is that my weight stayed the same over the past two days)
1 tablespoon best quality unsweetened cocoa powder (you can use 1 and 1/2 T for a richer taste)
3 saccharines or 3 teaspoons of sugar or other sugar substitute
Combine cocoa and sugar or sugar substitute in a mug
Meanwhile in a microwave safe cup combine 3/4 of a cup of soy milk (I use Tnuva whole or lighly sweetened) and 1/2 to 3/4 cups of whole milk. Microwave together for 2 minutes. Remove from microwave. Then pour off two tablespoons of the heated milks and combine with the cocoa sugar combination to make a paste. Return the milk to the microwave until it’s almost boiled and then combine with the paste. Yumcocoal melt step 1hot choc

Lazy Person’s Lentil Soup

With the biblical story of Jacob and Esau’s infamous business deal ” one pot of lentil soup extra hot for one birthright, thank you” included in the Torah reading, I’m not surprised that I craved lentil soup this week. Alas Jacob’s recipe has been lost to history –the Bible excludes information that is unessential for eternity so I created my own. Though perhaps not worth a birthright, it was nonetheless quite tasty .
My secret ingredient was one large and fat parsnip which I smuggled back from the US.For some unknown parsnips are scarce e in Jerusalem. Its a great piece of luck to find one or two small and scrawny specimens, so I import my own. Yes, you can pack vegetables in your suitcase, just not tomatoes. Nothing else has that has the same sweet, earthy taste but you can make do instead with one turnip plus one small sweet potato. Y
If you’re’ pressed for time, and who isn’t then chop the vegetables with the food processor, using the blade attachment to make the prep quick work but  peel the veggies first–these are root vegetables and they are dirty.
The one thing you can’t rush is the cooking time (well, unless you have a pressure cooker but I don’t). Lentils need time to soften–my soup simmered for  over two hours until the lentils had become soft but not mushy and the vegetables and tomato sauce blended into a mixture that could tempt even Esau.
Lazy Persons Lentil Soup serves six
One small Vidalia onion diced and sauteed in two tablespoons of olive oil until translucent.
After that add four carrots peeled and diced or processed into chunks, two medium sized zucchinis diced, one fat parsnip, peeled and diced and 3/4 cup of brown lentils.
Add one 15 oz can of tomato sauce
Add enough water to cover and cook on a low flame for two hours
Adjust seasonings adding salt and pepper as needed
Eat right away.

Winter Soup for Lazy People

Last week I attended Kosherfest, the kosher food industry’s annual extravaganza, where I witnessed a cooking demonstration by New York chef Avi Roth of Gotham Burger. Roth’s subject was Shabbos cooking–updating it and simplifying it at the same time and he  demonstrated a delicious and oh so  hip  menu, grilled Ahi tuna steaks in place of gefilte fish,  bulls eye soup instead of chicken soup with kneidlach, grilled steak instead of brisket and mashed  potatoes with mustard instead of potato kugel. Cool!!!!

I liked Roth’s menu appealing because it was tasty, fresh and quick –a meal you could put together in under a hour! I especially liked the soup and I wanted to  replicate Chef Roth’s bullseye  made from   two chicken stock based vegetable purees   plated to look like a bullseye–as in dart board . The trick is to pour one of the soups into a mould ring. (you can improvise with a disposable coffee cup and cut off the bottom) for a circle within a circle effect and drop a dot of pesto in the center for the bullseye. Neat.

And so  I headed off to the makolet in search of fresh basil frozen cauliflower–the bulleye is a combination of  a tomato, basil  puree and cauliflower cream but I couldn’t find fresh basil or frozen cauliflower. Instead of sulking in disappointment, I embraced what I did find which was   California mix  a combination of frozen broccoli, carrots and yes cauliflower.

Following Chef Avi’s instructions I baked the mix  in  a hot oven , added two garlic cloves and sprinkled a bit of olive oil on top   (Chef Avi uses a dozen cloves plus shallots but I omitted the shallots (another ingredient my makolet doesn’t  stock and I limited myself to two garlic cloves) I roasted the vegies  until they were soft and starting to toast(about 40 minutes)  At the same time I boiled up a pot of instant consomme–I didn’t have homemade chicken stock and then  I blended them both to create a surprisingly tasty soup and no peeling, chopping, grating or dicing anything at all. The perfect warmer upper for lazy people on cold rainy days.

By the way, it’s exquisite with croutons. For this. Make your own–Slice up any leftover homemade challah–cube it and saute it with three tablespoons of olive oil a clove of garlic and a pinch of salt  adding more oil as needed until the cubes are crunchy )(about five minutes). Store them in a tightly closed jar and they will keep for a month in your pantry or freeze for up to three months. Yum.IMG_3391IMG_3407

Winter Soup for Lazy People with apologies to Chef Avi Roth

1 bag Bodek California mix

8 cups of chicken stock, Home made is always best but consomme powder will do in a pinch

Roast the California mix. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of olive oil and add one of more garlic cloves

Bake at 400 F for 45 minutes or until the vegetables start to toast

Then using a stick blender, regular blender or food processor puree the vegetable and add to the consomme. Adjust seasonings adding a pinch of black pepper.

Eat right away or freeze

Serves 8

Garlic Croutons

Dice left over challah or any good quality left over bread (preferably home made) into cubes (this recipe works for about a half a  challah sliced)

Head three tablespoons of olive oil and one of more garlic cloves in a frying pan. Add the cubes and saute together until the challah pieces are toasted. Add kosher salt to taste.

Eat right away or store in a tightly closed jar for up to a month or freeze for up to three months.

Edith’s Chicken, The Recipe

I wanted this recipe to appear alongside the photograph but for some reason WordPress wouldnt let me , Ah the woes of being untech savvy in 2014.

This is a wonderful and extremely  easy recipe which I used to make all the time forgot about and rediscovered. The reason it is called Edith’s chicken is that I learned it from Edith Fuchs of Sydney Australia, my mothers lager shvester, her concentration camp buddy, a wonderful woman and wonderful cook who taught it to us while visiting  New York almost a decade ago. It’s so amazingly easy that I wonder how I didnt think of it myself. Chicken, red peppers, paprika , garlic and  potatoes? How could you possibly go wrong with those ingredients? Its a one pot supper that looks and tastes elegant enough to serve company. I’ve been making it every Shabbos for the past few weeks and don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. If this has whetted your taste buds, here’s the recipe


1 medium roaster, whole, excess fat and pin feathers removed

4-5 medium size potatoes, peeled and diced

2 red peppers sliced into strips

3 tomatoes , cubed

Lay vegetables   on the bottom of a roaster under the chicken

Spice Rub

1 and 1/2 tablespoons best quality Hungarian paprika

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1-2 garlic cloves minced or crushed

Combine into a paste and rub on the chicken

Preheat oven to 450

When the oven is really hot (this could take 15 minutes of preheating) put in chicken and vegies. Bake covered for 50 minutes. Then remove cover and bake another 10 minutes

Eat right away. Serves four. Don’t freeze



Onion Pletzl

IMG_1976own square. Onion Pletzl as a superannuated onion roll, a  sandwich bread fit for Gulliver the Giant.  Pletzl means square in Yiddish as in town square and this bread is square, albeit imperfectly so. Think of it as Sicilian pizza with the sauce and cheese replaced by raw  onions. According to Arthur Schwartz, the author of Jewish Home Cooking,which inspired this recipe, Onion Pletzl is still produced at  Jewish bakeries in New York where it is called  “Onion Board.” .  I lived in New York for twenty five years and , I never heard of it  until I stumbled upon Schwartz’s recipe .That was my loss because Onion Pletzl is not just delicious, it’s  easy to make.    It’s basically a variation on challah    but instead of braiding the dough you roll it out , dot it with fresh onion pieces and seeds and bake it that way..

During the summer, I serve this loaf  for Seuda Shlishit , the third Shabbat meal together  with salads, dips and cheeses. My family loves it and so do my guests.   Aside from uncorking  a rare vintage, there’s almost nothing that impresses guests more than home made bread It always get eaten, but if there is some left over, it’s also excellent toasted.

Note: your guests make confuse this recipe with it’s close cousin foccacia. This loaf does resemble a foccaccia but it’s sweeter and richer.

Onion Pletzl

1/2 tablespoon of  instant yeast

2 and 1/4 cups of  tepid water

3 tablespoons of sugar

3 tablespoons oil

1 egg yolk

3 and 1/2 cups of flour, unbleached white or whole wheat pastry flour (in Israel Rubinfeld 80 %)

1/2 tablespoon salt

Topping: I medium sized white onion diced , 1 teaspoon olive oil. 1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds, black sesame seeds or a combination and  pinch of kosher salt

Knead  using a stand mixer with a dough hook until it forms a ball. Use a slow speed. It could take up to five minutes.

Oil the ball , that is pour one tablespoon of oil on the surface and rotate so that it forms a thin film over the entire dough ball. This prevents the dough from drying out.

Cover with a kitchen towel and set the down in a warm place to rise

Punch down and roll out into a big circle or oblong–the shape doesnt matter large enough to cover the entire surface of your baking tray. It’s best to roll it out on the tray.  Let the dough rest for 15 minutes–it needs to relax after all that kneading and rolling. Then sprinkle on the  topping.

Prick holes in dough with a fork

Bake in preheated oven at 375 F or 180 C until brown on both sides (about 40 minutes, give or take some depending on the strength of your oven)

Freezes well

Creamiest Homemade Humous

IMG_1963 IMG_1968

Humous, the Arabic name for chickpea pate  along with it’s close cousins tehina and matboucha has become a Jewish food. In Jerusalem , in Bnai Brak, in Boro Park ,in Monsey, all over the Jewish world Shabbos doesnt seem quite right without the  so called dips course, a Jewish variation on the Middle Eastern mezze, in which numerous dips and salads are presented in tiny bowls.

According to Jewish mystical teachings  starting the Sabbath meal with the dips course is a no no. . The  fish symbolizing fertility and renewal is meant to be eaten immediately following kiddush and hamotzi. A good compromise is to serve the dips alongside the fish. You’ll be surprised to discover how humous complements the flavors of gefilte fish and chrain.

No matter when and how you serve it,  humous is good to have around, particularly when it is home made–the commercial stuff is awful, hardly worth it’s name but DIY is remarkably easy.  Using and improving on Mark Bittman’s wonderful recipe in  ” How to Cook Everything,” I humbly  offer the Creamiest Homemade Humous Ever.


2 and 1/2 cups of chickpeas

1/2 cup tehina (raw)

1/4 cup of olive oil

Juice of one lemon (or more to taste)

1 or more cloves of fresh garlic

2 tablespoons of cumin

Salt and pepper to taste.

One cup or more of cooking  water from the humous

Fill a large soup pot 2/3 full of water. Add 2 and 1/2 cups chickpeas. Boil for three hours until chickpeas are soft. (if you are in a rush add a teaspoon of baking powder and cook for 40 minutes but if you do this rinse the chickpeas and discard the cooking water and use tap water instead)

When chickpeas are soft remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and add to the bowl of a food processor fitted with blade attachment along with a half cup of the cooking water. This is best when the water is hot.

Add 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup of raw tehina , garlic , cumin and lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Process gradually adding more cooking water  (one quarter cup at a time) until the mixture is smooth.(gradually add one quarter cup of water at a time–you will end up adding 3/4 to one full cup of water)

If the mixture seems lumpy add more cooking water and adjust seasonings

Eat right away or refrigerate. Yields one liter (quart) and keeps for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Humous is wonderful when smeared inside a wrap with diced cucumber, pepper, tomato and kohlrabi on top and its great for dieters.


Quick, easy, delicious but not low cal Chocolate Mocha Passover Brownies

The batter

Very low tech. You mix everything with a large spoon.


I have mixed feelings about posting this recipe, not that it isn’t yummy–these brownies deliver in the taste department and they are easy; you can put them together in less time than it would take to drive to a bakery, find parking and stand in line to pay. Baking your own Passover brownies will save you lots money and you’ll  enjoy a better brownie than store bought. If you’re looking to occupy the kids over Hol HaMoed, baking is a great project. This recipe is so easy that even a five year old could put it together , with minimal  supervision–but they are “F.” not naughty but FATTENING.
I wish I could fix that  . For now, that is until the Messiah arrives and/or the geniuses in food technology discover how to zap the calories out of   oil and walnuts. eat these in small doses–one small square at a time.
Chocolate Mocha Passover Brownies
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup best quality cocoa powder
1/2 cup matzo meal or potato starch (depending on whether you are Hassidic or not)
2/3 cup ground walnuts
2/3 cup Passover oil (not olive)
1 tablespoon freeze dried coffee (also optional but nice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Oil a 9-11 or 8 by 10 baking tray. (regular sized foil tray is fine)
Bake in medium oven for 20-25 minutes
Freezes well

Ready to eat

My Mother’s Egg Salad Guacamole

holy moly guacamole
The other day I discovered two left over hard boiled eggs and two soft avocadoes. When I looked at them together the proverbial light switch went off in my brain– avocado plus eggs equals guacamole. I learned that math from my mother. No, it isn’t Hungarian–they didnt have avocadoes in pre War Hungary. My mother discovered this recipe in Mexico where she lived after the Second World War, waiting for a visa to enter the US. It’s a keeper, easy to make and if you use light mayonaisse not even terribly fattening . Spread it inside a tortilla wrap add chunks of fresh tomato and cucumber slices and you’ve got a wonderful light meal.
My mother’s Egg Salad Guacamole
TWo hard boiled eggs
Two medium sized soft avocadoes
One tablespoon mayonaisse
One to two tablespoons finely minced raw onion
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
Peel the hard boiled eggs and cut into chunks. Peel the avocado and cut into chunks.
Mash together or combine using the blade attachment of your food processor. Pulse slowly, otherwise you’ll end up with a smooth baby food like puree. The goal here is to preserve texture. Add the minced onion. Adjust seasonings. Serve with fresh vegies, crackers or as a sandwich spread
Do not freeze
Serves four to six