So it seems that as I head into the post Chag season I have fallen into an old bad habit. I have been neglectful of writing and posting here and sharing my culinary adventures with you. So I am challenging myself to break this habit and start a new one. Bzrt’H (with help from GD) I am going to post a new post by Tuesday of each week. If you don’t see it email me! Some weeks I will post recipes others just anecdotes from my life as a personal chef, wife, mother and grandmother. Now I know myself pretty well and this is seriously going to be work. It is widely accepted that it takes on average 66 days to make something a habit. Three times as long as scientists originally thought. So like my Reduce, Reuse, Recycle project I am diving in headfirst. So long old habit, hello posting at least once a week habit!
After a crazy busy winter and an even busier Pesach (Passover) it’s time to catch y’all up on my Reuse, Reduce & Recycle campaign. It is in full swing. In my house we have stopped buying disposable bake ware, plates, cutlery and storage containers. Now I didn’t throw out any of the above that were already in my garage or pantry that would have been counterproductive. Learning how to store foods without using Ziploc bags and plastic containers is definitely a challenge. Not using disposable plates over Pesach proved to be uber challenging. So much so that at one point over Yom Tov I actually had a baby melt down and caved in and used fancy disposable ‘china’. I keep thinking big lasting change comes by making little steps. Here are some things we have changed and seem to be able to keep doing.
All of this has taken time and practice. I make mistakes as does my husband but we are working on it daily. The herb and vegetable garden happened because I couldn’t get enough of my neighbors interested in a food co-op. The co-op that I really like is just too far to make it feasible for me to join and purchase from weekly so after looking into a few more local options I decided that growing my own was the next best thing. It has taken planning and research and knowing that I could end up with little to show for all of the effort but I think in the end it will be worth it. The herbs I purchased from an organic nursery and they are potted and shelved on a rustic old plant stand just outside of my kitchen. The vegetable garden is a work in progress. My husband and I purchased the lumber and built a 4’ by 8 ‘ by almost 2’ frame and placed it in the yard. The plan is to create a permaculture style lasagna bed. Tomorrow I will make my second trip to the organic dirt farm about 30 minutes from us to pick up ½ yard of organic soil and ½ yard of organic compost and a bale of pine straw. These will be layered with cardboard, dry organic garden waste (twigs, cuttings, etc.) as well as cornhusks, coffee grinds and guinea pig droppings. Since I live in southern Texas our planting season is longer than what I am used to from the northeast. We will be planting corn, watermelon, cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, sunflowers, peppers and marigolds to start out. The herbs are doing well and I expect to be able to take clippings of them to use in the kitchen relatively soon. Hopefully in time to use in the recipes I will be making for Shavuot. Here are some photos of the work in progress.
It’s been two weeks since I jumped head first into the Reduce My Footprint Mode and so far the biggest challenge has been changing the mindset in our home. We agreed to use the disposable products that we already have and that when we those products are nearing an end they will be replaced with the best reusable choice. I have slowly started buying more dishtowels anticipating the end of the paper towels. My research into various non-disposable storage methods has continued – mason jars are seriously unbelievably versatile. I made a trip to an organic, non-GMO bulk store that has a CSA. There are details to work out and I ma looking at more local alternatives as well. The little changes are easy and mostly go unnoticed but changing things that impact the convenience factor in my home seems to be the hardest hurdle so far. Old habits took time to form and making change is almost always painful and takes more time. The first of the reusable silicon zipper bags is in my fridge – no complaints yet. Our progress will be slow but I hope steady and your insights would be greatly appreciated.
Another area we are attempting to make change in is being less wasteful with our leftovers. That means on my end being more thoughtful of the portions I prepare when cooking but also coming up with creative repurposing of food that is left over. Sometimes the challenge is a no brainer – left over chicken can be shredded and made into a multitude of things – chicken salad, egg rolls, stir fries, etc. But other foods are less amenable to being repurposed. This week for our Shabbat lunch I served a very hearty vegan chili. Full of beans, veggies and an assortment of slightly spicy seasonings served over a bowl of brown rice, it was perfect. We even had it again Motzei Shabbat as an evening meal. The problem is there is still a good bit left and shy of freezing it for another day I decided to use it as the base of my meal for tonight’s Meatless Monday entrée. Knowing my household though nobody is going to be up for another round of brown rice and chili. How to use it in a creative tasty way, staying true to the theme of the evening, not breaking my budget while doing so became the impetus of tonight’s recipe.
What I came up with may not be a complete overhaul of the chili but hopefully will give it a lift and new life for one more meal. The weather here in Houston has been on the cold side and those low temperatures while mild for people that reside in northern parts of the continent are bone chilling to those of us that are used to more mild temperatures. I am taking advantage and have made soups and stews and thought that perhaps the chili would meld into one of those but wasn’t so sure my husband would buy into that, Meatless Mondays are a hard sell to my meat and potato guy to begin with. That was the thought that gave me the “AHA!” moment. My first thought was to make chili stuffed baked sweet potatoes with vegan sausage crumbles, something different but not really changing the chili too much. Then it hit me vegan Chimichangas! Ok maybe not a complete flavor profile change but definitely a reinvention of leftover chili. To satisfy my husband’s need for meat I will add in the vegan sausage to the filling and we will go with the following toppings: salsa, guacamole and vegan sour cream and cheddar shreds.
Left over vegan chili (recipe at the bottom)
Flour tortillas – as many as you need to use up your chili, using about ½ cup of filling in each chimichanga
Vegan cheese shreds (I use Daiya cheese, it smells a little funky but melts nicely and loses the funky smell as it cooks)
1 egg beaten to seal the edges of the tortilla
Grape seed or other oil for frying
Toppings & Sides
Vegan Sour Cream
Lay the tortilla out and fill with ½ cup of the chili and a small handful of vegan cheese shreds. Roll the edge of the tortilla over the filling and then fold the sides in to create and envelope – similar to rolling an egg roll. Roll the tortilla over to close sealing the edge with beaten egg let the chimichanga rest seam side down for a few minutes to make sure it is sealed. Meanwhile while you are wrapping your chimichangas heat a few inches of oil in a deep frying pan or in a stockpot. When the oil is hot place one or two chimichangas in the oil seam side down. Let fry for a few minutes then turn the chimichanga should be golden on the fried side. When the second side has cooked drain on paper bags. Serve on a platter with the sides in small bowls.
1 46oz. can black beans or dry beans soaked over night to equivalent amount
1 46oz. can kidney beans or dry beans soaked over night to equivalent amount
2 cans Ro-Tel Original Tomatoes
2 small cans Diced-Tomatoes
1 small can diced Green Chili Peppers
1 large white /yellow Onion diced
2 or 3 whole Jalapeno Peppers
½ bottle Dark Lager (you may need more)
4 or more Tablespoons of Chili powder
1 Tablespoon of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Tablespoon (you can use less if you like it less spicy or more) Chipotle Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
Salt & Pepper to taste
Put all of the ingredients into a large crockpot making sure the liquid is up to the top of the ingredients. Set at low and cook 10 hours or overnight. Serve over brown rice.
It is time for The Out of Town Cook’s first challenge and it’s a doozy. For a while I have been trying to figure out how my husband and I are able to generate so much waste and garbage on a daily/ weekly basis. We recycle, we compost occasionally, we are aware . . . so what are we doing wrong. I started to do a little research about recycling and discovered that like everything else recycling is big, I mean seriously BIG business. Where the recyclables you put at your curb end up really in the end depends on where your municipality sends it – who buys it. The largest buyer of recyclable waste is China and well its mindboggling. This is a good article https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/29/climate/recycling-landfills-plastic-papers.html
and so is this
Reading these and other articles that I found was rather depressing and didn’t make me feel better about the waste my household generates. It got me thinking about what is taught in schools regarding trash. It isn’t just about recycling it’s about reduction and reusing what we have. The more I thought about this the more I realized that the waste my family generates is overwhelming. By no means do I think I can reduce my waste to a handful as I have seen some bloggers do, but in reality I started to think that with a little effort we could vastly reduce the amount of waste. It isn’t going to be easy, it is going to mean that there will always be dishes to wash – no more disposable plastic/ paper dishes, no more plastic cutlery, bakeware, napkins or paper towels. As I started looking into the non-disposable alternatives I realized that although there is an expense involved in the long term I wont be (literally) throwing my money away. Here is a list of the things we plan on replacing with non-disposable alternatives over the next few months.
Disposable aluminum pans - USA brand baking pans & Pyrex baking dishes
Paper towels - cloth dish towels
Paper napkins - cloth napkins
Plastic storage containers - glass storage containers
Ziploc bags - glass containers / silicon reusable washable zipper bags
Plastic/paper grocery bags - canvas & insulated grocery bags
Super market plastic produce bags - reusable mesh bags
Food packaging - mason jars to store bulk bin purchases
Kcups - refillable washable cups
Disposable plates - bulk purchase of simple glass plates (20 place settings)
Disposable cutlery - bulk purchase of stainless cutlery
Plastic drinking cups - glasses in assorted sizes
Disposable water bottles - stainless steel reusable bottles
Gallon water bottles - water filtration system for tap water
It seems daunting but in reality we spend a fortune on things we throw away – that we buy knowing we will throw them away. So I am not jumping in and ordering all of the non-disposable items today but as I get to the end of a non-reusable item or close to the end I will replace it with a reusable item. So instead of spending around $25 for a bulk package of Bounty paper towels that maybe will last a month to six weeks I will order a bulk pack of 24 dishtowels for $17.99. Just there the savings over the course of the year is over $200.00. What is even better when the dishtowels are too dingy for my liking I can donate them cleaned to an animal shelter. I am starting to like this.
Who is game? Join me in the Reduce & Reuse Challenge. Let support each other and help clean up our little corners of the world. Share your inspirations, solutions, questions etc to my facebook event page. Let’s share our creative ideas!.
So the past few weeks have been busy. Cooking for new clients and teaching cooking classes twice a week. I’m grateful for the work and wouldn’t change anything (ok well maybe I would want a little bit more but things are good). I know I have been running all around Houston. Going to different markets daily to find the best ingredients for my customers. Strategizing new marketing ideas and writing recipes. When I started this weekly parsha salad post I wrote an outline and came up with some interesting salad to parsha connections. The posts actually were the inspiration for my children’s weekly parsha cooking class. This has been an amazing class and each week the children and I prepare something that like the salads is connected to the parsha of the week. So here I am all set to start class today and as I say the name of the parsha to the children it hits me like a brick – the recipe I have planned isn’t connected to this weeks parsha at all but next weeks and when I have an opportunity to look at my outline for the salad of the week it’s another palm to forehead moment. I somehow missed a parsha!
When I arrived home out came the Chumash and I dove in. Usually I try to read a little everyday but well I have been busy. The parshiot of the next few weeks have always been ones that I found easy to teach when I was in a preschool classroom. When my own children were younger I remember learning these with them as well. I am not sure how my perspective has changed but I find different images and meaning to the text as I am learning it now but there is still something about the image of Yosef parading about in his special coat his father gave him that mesmerizes me. The fury that his older brothers must have felt to be taunted and then to have their younger brother rub salt into their already damaged egos with his dreams. The disfunctionality takes sibling rivalry to a whole new level. Does Yosef crumble into despair and depression. No he has emuna and he trusts in Hashem. He holds true to the values he learned form studying with his father. He keeps his faith close and doesn’t allow himself to be tempted even though it lands him in prison. Somehow in his actual imprisonment he loses his arrogance of youth and becomes the man we refer to as Yosef Ha’tzadik. The transformation is in some ways a nes (miracle). He changes; perhaps the splendid colorful coat was a foreshadowing of the transformation he would undergo. A reverse butterfly going from a primping boastful boy to a man of virtue and character.
Hopefully this weeks salad will entice you with its vibrant colors and hold you with it’s depth of flavor.
Technicolor Dream Salad
2 cups cooked quinoa or 2 cups cooked cous cous
1 cup shelled cooked edemame
1 cup diced cooked sweet potato (cooked until still firm)
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup diced red & yellow bell peppers
1 cup seeded & diced cucumber
1 medium red onion diced finely
½ cup shredded carrots
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro / parsley
½ cup low sodium tamari sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine / apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 scallions chopped using both the white & green parts
1 tablespoon sesame seeds – if you have black sesame seeds use those
1/8 to ½ teaspoon sriracha sauce depending on taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Combine well. In a measuring cup or small container combine the dressing ingredients and blend well. Pour over salad and toss to evenly distribute.
Yaakov is on his way back to Eretz Canaan after living in his uncle Laban’s tents for 20 years. He has amassed wives, children and material wealth. He hopes to reconcile with his brother after all of these years. Sadly he is told that his brother is headed toward him with hundreds of men on a warpath. Yaakov does all he can to prevent this, he davens, he prepares for war if he must, he prepares gifts for Esav and sends his family across the river Jabbok to protect them. While he sleeps he is visited by Esav’s malech (angel) and Yaakov wrestles with this malech all thru the night. During his struggles his hip is injured but in the end he wins. The angel imparts a new name on him. He calls him Yisroel, meaning “he who prevails over the divine.” As I was preparing a recipe for this week’s parsha salad it this stood out as the first thing I remembered about the parsha before I actually read it again. So in that merit this week the parsha salad will be my take on the humble but delicious Israeli Salad.
Israeli Salad ala Shoshana
2 large hothouse cucumbers seeded and cut into ¼ inch dice
4 medium roma tomatoes seeded and diced
1 medium red onion diced
1 red bell pepper seeded and diced
3 or 4 depending on the size Israeli pickles diced
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
juice from 1 large lemon
½ cup olive oil
1 or 2 teaspoons onion powder
salt & pepper
Mix all of the chopped veggies in a bowl. Add herbs and seasonings. Add lemon juice & olive oil. Mix well. Serve at room temperature. You can change the veggies you use but keep the cucumbers and tomatoes as your base, see what you like. Also lime juice in place of the lemon juice is a nice change as well.
When Yaakov leaves the tents of his father and mother it is in haste and in fear for his welfare. Although he leaves with his father’s blessing and his mother’s guidance he has hurt his brother. He leaves Be’er Sheva and heads toward his uncle Laban in the land of Haran a distant and strange land far from all that he has known. We learn that he arrives at ‘the place’ and he sleeps there. Using stones as a pillow he dreams of a ladder reaching to the heavens. The melachim (angels) are traveling up and down this ladder and Hashem comes to him and tells him that the land upon which he sleeps will be his and his descendants and that they will be as many as the dust of the earth. Hashem promises to protect and guard Yaakov wherever he wanders and that he (Hashem) will bring Yaakov back to this land. Upon arising Yaakov turns the rock he had rested upon into an alter and calls the place Bet El. The image of the angels has always fascinated me, crafting ladders out of challah dough or art supplies has been something I have done with students and my children over the years as part of learning this parsha. In keeping with my parsha salad theme however I decided to play on the text a bit and came up with an interesting salad dressing. As you mix the ingredients together perhaps you can imagine the image of a ladder reaching up to Hashem and think about the emuna (faith) that Yaakov gained from this vision.
“Beer” Sheva Dressing
½ cup pale ale or beer of your choice (darker beers will have a deeper stronger flavor)
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 teaspoons your choice citrus zest
2 teaspoons stone ground or Dijon mustard
1 or 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste
Mix all of the herbs and seasoning ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add the liquids. Either pulse in a food processor or magic bullet until fully emulsified. Serve over leafy green salad of your choosing.
Wasn’t it only a few weeks ago I was saying that Fall had arrived in Houston? Well it’s now as cold as a cast iron commode! Things happen in big ways here in Houston. Weather is no exception. It is totally normal to wake up in the morning and have temperatures hovering around 70F and then by dinnertime they have dropped 20 or more degrees. The thermostat is hovering in the low 50s now (it is predicted to drop into the 30s tonight) and let me tell you the house feels nippy. It seems that a nice pot of savory soup is what it will take to remove the chill. Being that I had a whole day of stay at home plans today I appraised the groceries on hand and decided a nice aromatic pot of Roasted Garlic & Tomato soup is on this evenings menu. To make the meal complete I will be making grilled cheese sandwiches and a green leafy salad to accompany the soup. I love shopping in my own refrigerator and pantry to inspire a recipe. That means I can experiment and create new things. This isn’t a new recipe per say but it is one you can improvise with and use the produce you have on hand.
Roasted Garlic & Tomato Soup
5 or 6 roma tomatoes cut in half (you can use any tomatoes you have on hand)
1 or 2 garlic bulbs split open or 12 or more garlic cloves
½ cup fresh basil or a few tablespoons of dried basil
4 cups vegetable stock / water
1 cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese grated
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Place cut tomatoes and garlic on the sheet pan and liberally drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven at 350F until the garlic and tomatoes begin to caramelize. Remove from the oven. On the stove bring the stock/water to a soft boil and add the roasted veggies. Chop the basil if using fresh and add it to the pot. Once the pot returns to a boil turn off the flame. Slowly add the heavy cream stirring. Using an immersion blender zhoom the soup to a creamy consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. Serve hot sprinkled with the Parmesan cheese and a nice slice of crusty bread or a grilled cheese sandwich.
(Parve version can be made by adding coconut cream or unsweetened nondairy substitute of your choice)
For years as a preschool and supplemental Hebrew schoolteacher this week’s parsha was always one of my favorites to teach regardless of the age of my students. The smell of a hearty soup cooking in the back of the classroom as we studied the text makes for a really strong memory. In each setting part of the fun was preparing the soup, chopping the vegetables, measuring the lentils. Red Lentils. Most often the children would curl up their noses and insist that there was no way they would eat lentils. Often parents would tell me that there was no way their children would eat lentils. Yet each year with all of the different groups of children they ALWAYS ate the lentil soup that we made. Often asking for seconds. After having such amazing success in getting my students to eat lentils I would rush home and make lentil soup for my family. The reception at home was not as consistent. Over the years my children grew up their tastes changed and then I met and my husband. He is my biggest fan and supporter. He loves the food I prepare. There are almost no exceptions. One of the biggies is the tiny little lentil. He has no problem telling me he doesn’t like lentils in any form. So for a number of years parsha Toldot has been without lentils in our home. Creating this series of parsha salads had me bound and determined to change that. So in honor of the parsha our Shabbos meal this week will include a robust salad made of lentils, red lentils to make us think of Yaakov brewing his stew and Esav returning from the fields famished and demanding “some of that red stuff”.
Yaakov’s Lentil Salad
1 cup dried red lentils
1 cup sliced baby carrots / diced carrots
1 cup red onion diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic or 2 cloves fresh garlic minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup to 1 cup diced celery
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
1 or 2 tablespoons caper berries
In a saucepan combine the dried lentils, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaf and oregano. Add enough water to the pan to cover by an inch. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer until the carrots are tender and lentils are soft but not mushy. Drain water from veggies and remove bay leaf. Place in a bowl. Add the oil, lemon juice, celery, parsley, capers, salt and pepper. Toss gently to mix and then let sit to allow flavors to meld. Serve at room temperature.
Hi, I'm Chef Shoshana. I have been cooking as long as I can remember starting out in both of my grandmothers kitchens learning by observing and practice. Over the years I have cooked my way through all of life's moments; cooking for family, friends, and clients. For me cooking has always been an expression of caring and love. Each meal I prepare is a reflection of that. When I cook for a client I want them to feel as if the meal was made by a loved one especially for them. The blog section of my website is where you will find recipes & anecdotes from my daily experiences in the kitchen with both clients and family. I hope you enjoy!