Are There Blog Posts Up in Heaven?

Tonight marks the 9th Yartzeit (anniversary of passing) of my dear father Shmuel Tzvi ben Yosef a”h. This blog was lovingly created in his memory. May all the creativity in these pages bring him much nachas, as shluchim around the world, bring their communities close to yiddishkeit (Judaism) through meaningful, creative experiences full of laughter, love and chayus. IN LOVING MEMORY – a tribute to the father I love with all my heart and soul. (This photo was taken about 14 years ago, holding my daughter Chaya, age 2)

There is so much more I want to share with you, as every day turns to night…

and every night turns to dawn.

The ache in my heart has only become more painful and I am now certain that ‘time’ does not heal.

I want to talk to you. I want to laugh with you.

And mostly I want to live life with you.

The memories mix into my day…ingredients that I cannot live without.

I can pour milk into a bowl of cereal and the tears well up in my eyes.

Just like that. Soggy cheerios and salty tears. All at once.

I know you would love to see my kids now…you would so much enjoy their smiles, laughs and their budding personalities…

And it stings…

so badly.

I talk to you all day…but it’s lonely with your silent reply.

I day dream of sunny days in my yard with you sipping a cup of black tea…

just watching the kids play.

I think of how much you would enjoy chatting with all of us and I imagine what it would be like if you wouldn’t have died.

I wonder.

And I remember.

I flip through pages and pages of what we call ‘time’ in the album of life.

The moments and memories become a collage, and that becomes my day.

Photos of nostalgia plaster my page all while living in the moment.

Embellished with sounds, scents, laughter and living.

Recognizing the emptiness and filling it with as much comfort as I can gather, and with as much strength as I can muster.

Loving more, living more, being grateful for.

A testimony to how you raised me with that sparkle in your eye.

And on this day I have not buried you.

I never did. And never will.

Alive in every part of my life.

Soggy cheerios and salty tears.

And all.

BROOKLYN – A PROJECT OF CHABAD OF MILL VALLEY

Dear Friends,

I know it has been a while. A very long while. In fact it has been over six months since my last post, sharing the exciting news of the birth of our new baby.

I am grateful for all that has transpired in these past few months, the laughter, the spills, the mess, the sleepless nights, the piles of laundry and the incredible beauty that a new baby adds to the family and home.

I am also grateful to share with you another ‘addition’ to our family that just opened up a mere four weeks ago.

BROOKLYN – A Project of Chabad of Mill Valley.

We have moved into a retail space to host our programs and classes while at the same time we have filled a need in the community and have combined this Chabad space with a high end Judaica Boutique store – the first of it’s kind!

Above are just a few photos that showcase how we designed the space, a large dining table for classes with plenty room to add tables and chairs. The ‘Shabbos table’ is my demo table, set to show some of our products for sale and inspire others to bring a taste of Shabbos into their own home.

The shelves that hold our products are set up according to color so that the ‘look’ is neat and clean and pleasing to look at.

We have a full coffee and tea bar with a couch nearby to relax and enjoy a Jewish book or conversation…we wanted to create a sense of warmth and community…

As we say…this is not just a store…but rather a story. A story about building community.

We have a gift wrap bar cart to make gift giving beautiful with our unique packaging…and yes…this was one of my favorite parts of designing BROOKLYN!

And the name…. BROOKLYN…..you may wonder why, but the answer is quite simple.

BROOKLYN  is a city everyone knows. And everyone either loves someone or something in BROOKLYN. Either an old sweet Bubby, a friendly Zeidy, a slice of Babka or a NY style Deli Sandwich….

The list is endless and so too at BROOKLYN.

Chabad – the place you can find it all.

So, welcome to a new page in our chapter…

Where creativity takes on a whole new look.

I can’t wait to share it all with you!

 

new BABY & new COFFEE CAKE!

 

Welcome to our family, beautiful new baby boy Levi!

Three weeks old today, and happily sleep deprived, I seem to be craving all things caffeinated!

So here is an incredibly delicious cake I baked this morning, definitely a keeper and definitely a perfect addition to any dessert table.

Baby in arms, coffee cake at hand and a latte on the side…

It’s a perfect moment in time.

What could be more delicious?

Coffee and Cardamom Pound Cake (By Yotam Ottolenghi from his cookbook: “Sweet”)

Serves 10 -12

6 Tbsp. whole milk, and room temp. plus 1 1/2 Tbsp for the coffee. (I used coconut milk to keep this recipe parve)

6 large eggs, at room temp.

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 self rising flour (I made my own by adding 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt to 1 cup of all purpose flour – I did this twice to get enough ‘self rising’ flour)

2/3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups sugar (I used a little bit less of sugar)

1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance margarine to keep cake parve) softened slightly and diced.

1 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom (I used already ground)

1 1/2 Tbsp. instant ground coffee granules

2 tsp. dutch processed cocoa powder (I omitted).

ICING

1 1/2 Tbsp. instant coffee granules

3 Tbsp whole milk, warmed (I used coconut milk)

2 Cups confectioners sugar

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter at room temp. (I used Earth Balance)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degree. Grease and flour a 9″ bundt pan (I used pam spray)
  2. Place the milk, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk lightly, just to combine.
  3. Sift both flours and the salt directly into the bowl of an electric mixer with then paddle attachment in place, then add the sugar and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and half the egg mixture and continue to mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated. increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then gradually add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, making sure the first batch is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and divide the mixture among two bowls. (I found that the Earth Balance margarine had not incorporated very well so I poured the batter into my vitamin to get rid of the lumps by pulsing it a few times). Add the ground cardamom to one bowl and fold to combine. Warm the 1 1/2 Tbsp milk in a small saucepan, then place in small bowl with the coffee granules and cocoa powder. Stir until the coffee dissolves and the consistency is that of thick pourable milk. Combine this with the cake mixture in the second bowl.
  5. Spoon the two mixtures into the prepared pan in four alternate blocks, two of each color. Then , use a skewer or small knife to make a zigzag shaped swirl once through the mix to make a marble effect. (Do not overdo the swirling).
  6. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes,(check it at 30 minutes) or until a skewer inserted into he center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes. The cake sometimes tends to dome in the oven, so if you want a perfectly flat base, just slice off the top to flatten it out before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely. (mine did not dome, as I used a larger bundt pan).
  7. To make the icing: combine the coffee and warm milk in a small mixing bowl. Add the confectioners sugar and butter and whisk until smooth and thick. (I had to add a bit of hot water to make it a better pourable consistency).
  8. Spoon the icing all over the cooled cake, so that it drips unevenly down the sides. Allow the icing to set slightly before serving.

 

Without icing the cake, it can be kept at room temp. for up to 3 days, covered in plastic wrap. It can also be frozen for up to three months. Once iced, it is best eaten on the same day.

Purim at the Campgrounds! (Mishloach Manos)

A super fun and easy Purim theme!

While the weather did not quite hold up for hosting the event outdoors with scattered tents and a fire pit in our backyard, it was still cozy and fun camping indoors (with a few adjustments:)!

Here’s what we did:

Mishloach Manos Packages were brown cardboard boxes 4″ x 4″ x 4″ purchased from http://www.evermine.com (look in their packaging section) and filled with brown craft paper scrunched up and neatly packaged “twigs” (pretzel sticks) , “Rocks” (chocolate rock candy purchased from Munchies in LA and Hamantashen! (I packaged the food items in adhesive clear packets from http://www.papermart.com – you can choose your sized based on how much you wish to pack and give out.)

To decoarte, I printed labels and tags from http://www.evermine.com  and tied the tag with divine twine. I also added a cute little compass attached with a glue dot to pull the theme together! (The compass is from HERE.)

We personalized some pins for guests to wear to get into the Happy Camper (and Happy Purim! ) spirit!

Our Purim postcard information included the following….

Hope you all had a most beautiful Purim!

 

Dutch Apple Pie!

Simply delicious and a definite winter comfort food!

DUTCH APPLE PIE

(Recipe by http://www.smittenkitchen.com)

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
  • 2 1/3 cups (300 grams) flour
  • 14 tablespoons (200 grams) butter, diced, no need to soften
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cold water

Finish

  • 3 1/3 pounds (1500 grams or about 5 large apples) peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • About 1/2 cup (70 grams) raisins
  • 4 tablespoons plain breadcrumbs (I used panko)
  • 1 large egg, beaten, to finish

Make your dough: In the bottom of a large bowl, ( I used my kitchenmaid mixer with the paddle attachment) combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the diced butter and using a pastry blender or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal, with the largest pieces the size of small peas. Add the egg, vanilla, and water, and if using a pastry blender, use that to work them into the butter-flour mixture, or if not, use a fork to work it in. Reach hands into bowl and lightly knead the mixture together into a single mass. Transfer to a piece of parchment or waxed paper or plastic wrap, and wrap it tightly. Chill in fridge until firm, at least 60 minutes.At some point during this hour, make the filling: Combine apples, lemon, cinnamon, sugar and raisins in a large bowl and toss to combine.

Assemble crust: Coat a 9- to 9 1/2-inch (24 cm) diameter springform pan lightly with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Remove chilled dough from fridge and cut it roughly into thirds. On a well-floured counter, roll the first third to a circle the diameter your pan and fit it into the bottom. Roll out the second third of the dough and cut it into strips the height of your springform pan (usually 3 inches). Patch them up the inner sides of the springform. Use your fingertips to press and seal the sides and base together. If any holes form or there are spots you’re worried aren’t sealed well, patch in another pinch of dough.

Heat your oven: To 350°F (175°C).

Assemble pie: Sprinkle the bottom of the pie crust with breadcrumbs.(I omitted this). Pour the apple-raisin mixture on top. Roll the last third of the dough into a large round and cut into thin strips. (Mine were about 1/2-inch wide.) Space them in a lattice pattern over the filling, either by arranging half in one direction and the second half in the other direction on top, or by getting cute and weaving them together. Trim the overhang so that the latticed top meets the walls of the crust, and press/pinch them together to seal it. Brush beaten egg over top crust.

Bake: For 60 to 70 minutes, until you can see filling bubbling slightly up between the latticed strips (use this to determine doneness, and the baking time as just an estimate), and crust is a deep golden brown. Let cool in springform on rack for 45 minutes or so before running a knife around the outside of the crust to ensure it isn’t sticking to the pan in any place, and opening the ring to serve it with an abundance of softly whipped, barely sweetened cream or ice-cream.

Incredible Spice Cake.

This cake has become my new favorite. It is especially delicious for a shabbos dessert with a cup of tea and so very perfect for a winter cold day when you are craving flavors of comfort. I usually double this cake and freeze one for another time.  Enjoy!

Tessa’s Spice Cake: by Yotam Ottolenghi in his cookbook called “Sweet”.

3/4 cup plus 2 tsp (Earth Balance) margarine

3/4 cup , plus 1 Tbsp., packed brown sugar (I actually did not pack it in, as I prefer using a little less sugar in my baked goods. I did this as well with the light brown sugar too.)

3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp., packed light brown sugar

finely grated zest of 1 large orange (I omitted)

3 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream (I used tofutti sour cream)

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

1 Tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 3/4 cup flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper. (8.5″ x 4.5″)
  2. Place the margarine, both brown sugars, and orange zest in a bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat until lightened and smooth but not too fluffy. You don’t want to aerate the cake too much.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs by hand, add the sour cream and vanilla extract and whisk again until smooth.
  4. Sift the mixed spice, flour and salt together in a separate bowl and set aside.
  5. In alternating batches and with the machine on medium low speed, add a third of the egg-sour cream mixture to the creamed mixture, followed by a third of the sifted dry ingredients. Continue with the second and third batch, continuing to beat until combined. Stir the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl: it will fix up a little but thats fine. Add this to the mixture and as soon as everything is combined, turn off the machine. Don’t worry if the mixture starts to split at this point; it will still cook up well. Scrape the mixture into the loaf pan and bake for 50 – 55 min (I check it at 40min) until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  6. Transfer the cake to a wire rack for about 15 minutes to cool slightly before placing on a platter. Serve at room temperature.

(This cake will keep well for up to 5 days in an airtight container)

Winter Squash Soup with Coconut Milk.

After a long stressful week of our special needs son being in the hospital, my oldest surprised me with a cookbook that he knew I would love. I was so touched by this kind gesture and the sensitivity he had to the much needed ‘normal’ day I had been craving. For me, I find relaxation and comfort in creating. This cookbook is just what I needed! So this afternoon, I took the time to create in the kitchen and the results were warm, delicious and comforting. I had to share, because don’t we all need a nice warm bowl of something soothing? Enjoy!

The cookbook is called King Solomon’s Table by Joan Nathan.

WINTER SQUASH SOUP WITH COCONUT MILK

(Serves about 8)

8 small acorn squash (These squash are used as bowls, to spoon the soup into for a decorative delicious serving dish…this is not essential for the actual soup recipe.)

1 Kabocha or butternut squash (about 4lbs), peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (I used Butternut)

6 Tbsp. olive oil divided

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

5 small shallots

2 Idaho potatoes ( I used yukon gold potatoes )

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 tsp – 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (  I omitted)

1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar

6 – 8 cups vegetable broth ( I used water)

Sour cream or greek yogurt to garnish (I omitted)

chopped parsley to garnish ( I used cilantro)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off about 2 inches from the top of the small acorn squash, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Smear the inside of the squash with about 3 Tbsp of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the squash for about 25 minutes or until tender when pressed with a fork. Set aside the acorn squash and their tops, if using.
  2. Heat the remaining olive in a soup pot and add the kabocha or butternut squash, shallots, and potato chunks sautéing for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the coconut milk (I pureed the can of coconut milk before measuring), red pepper flakes, brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste, and about 6 cups of vegetable broth (or water) or enough to cover by about 4 inches. Cook for about 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft, then puree the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings. (I started with 1/4 cup brown sugar originally and then at this point added 1/8 of a cup more. I also added a bit more salt and pepper).
  4. To serve, put a ladle of soup in a wide soup bowl. Then add the acorn squash and their tops if using and ladle more soup inside and around. Add a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and sprinkle with parsley (or cilantro).