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!


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


  • 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


  • 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.


(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).


The Canvas of Life.

My little Shmuel ka”h, named after my father. Surely bringing his Zeidy smiles from above on his yartzeit. An expression of paint and love decorated on the canvas of life.

Today marks the 8th 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.

And then there comes those moments of feeling loss all over again.

Like a suffocating silence that is deafening.

It’s as if I cant hear anything other than pounding flashes of memories that make my heart beat faster and make my chest sore from feeling.

It’s like little polaroid snapshots of a life, that seem completely removed from the one I now live.

I find myself holding tight to the images and recollections of a past that remains but a scrapbook tucked deep inside the recesses of my heart.

It’s an ache that doesn’t go away, it becomes part of the rhythm of days and nights.

A love song between father and daughter with a harmony sung between the heavens and earth.

Notes that soar and fall flat, that are too heavy to revive and pick me up.

A song of silence that is deafening but only my heart will ever hear.

A finale, a last strum, an echo to hug me for a lifetime.

An end to a new beginning,

a beginning because of the end.

Just one step, and then one more.

A finish line that propels me to start,

Over again, but without you by my side.

Yet inside there’s a voice that speaks all on it’s own,

and sometimes it even sings.

As always though, we are choreographed

to dance away the darkness and bring heaven down to earth.


Bake for a Blessing. Challah Braiding. The Market Place. The toppings.

This was the ‘Market Place’ where I had displayed extra ingredients, gloves, and the trays that each guest would pick up after they had braided their challah.

The toppings bar included maple cranberry sugar, poppy seeds, cinnamon sugar, sesame seeds and a home made streusel topping.






These diagrams and explanations are from Rochie Pinion’s book “Rising The Book of Challah” and were so very helpful!

I made a display table of each of these braided challahs, baked and with toppings of my choice and in front of each one, were a pile of these printed cards. This really helped guests who wanted to try a new braid and needed some help.

I also included a napkin ring challah demo in my demonstration as well as making a challah in a ring around a glass bowl to fill with a dip. (I did not have detailed cards for these).

Each challah was tied with matching string (like the string used for center pieces) and attached to eat one was a chalkboard tag with the name of that Challah.

Definitely a helpful addition to the Challah Bake.

Once the challahs were braided, each guest would pick up a tray from the Market Place and gently slide their challah (that was already on parchment paper) onto the tray to be taken to the toppings bar and then they could easily carry it home!

The trays are from here.

Bake for a Blessing. Center Pieces.

The center pieces were really easy and fun to make. They were useful centerpieces as almost every item was an ingredient needed to make the Challah dough. This also helped minimize the preparation for preparing individual portions.

The retro oil bottles were from here (check your own sizing based on the recipe you use and how much oil it calls for ) and tied with divine twine in red and white just to add a little color and a look that was reminiscent of bakery twine. Attached to the oil was a measuring spoon which I bought from here. I also stamped a tag (purchased from michaels) which hung from the jar. The measuring spoon was attached with a mini clothespin purchased from michaels.com).

The vanilla bottles were adorable! (and I love the original addition of vanilla to challah dough!). The bottles were purchased from here and tied with divine twine and using a glue dot (purchased at any craft store) the measuring spoon , from here, was stuck on the side and easily removed for guests to measure and pour. I hand stamped a label and cut it to size and adhered it to the vanilla bottle.

The egg cartons which I had already used from a previous event a few years ago, can be purchased from here. They were so adorable and kept extra eggs for those ‘just in case’ moments. Tie with string and stamp a tag to bring the look together! (I only tied the string around the top of the egg carton so it would be easy to open.)

The centerpiece of wheat stalks took only minutes to prepare. Simply add oats around wheat stalks and spread open to display. Use cylinder vases to get that clean look! Wheat stalks are from here, I filled 9 vases by dividing three bundles of wheat.

The mini pushkas are from here and I covered them with kraft paper and tied them with the same string to make it all match. I placed nickels in a row near the pushka.

All these ‘center piece’ items can be done in advance which really helped!