When I first got married, I planned on having a sparkling, shining home each week for shabbat. Shabbat is the Jewish sabbath that starts on Friday sundown and goes till Saturday after sundown. We prepare for it beforehand because we don't use electricity during this time, so there's no cooking, driving, or turning on or off lights. I was determined to have a beautifully prepared home each week. After a few attempts, I saw that the only things shining in my home were the many stainless steel pots in my kitchen sink and the lights in my room that I forgot to turn off. I thought to myself, what am I doing wrong?? I tried starting to cook earlier in the week, but that too was overwhelming. Slowly, slowly, I realized that maybe it's not me...maybe I'm actually trying to do way too much.
Some people love cooking and so shabbat is a fantastic opportunity and outlet. But for me, I needed to accept that I enjoy cooking - to an extent. I don't enjoy cooking many different dishes, following long recipes, or committing to too much baking. Now I keep my shabbat cooking very simple and only do what I like to do. If what I want to do that week is take a break - then my husband will pick up some ready-made chicken from the store and some delicious, packaged brownies. Voila! We have a wonderful dinner. And sometimes we'll do that pretty often!
But if I am in the mood to cook, this is my personal shabbat philosophy: Use simpler recipes, have much less food on the table, but put a little more into the flavor and presentation. If that sounds good to you, below are my practical tips!
For simple, pretty food on shabbat...
- Sprinkle almond slices, crushed walnuts or pecans on top of dishes you find easy to make. Pictured above is my go-to apple kugel recipe sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar too. (P.s. I double the recipe and add a bit of water to thin out the mix)
- Slice some fruit - such as lemons, oranges, apples, or strawberries - to top things off on main dishes or salads
- Make a very simple dish, but use better spices such as rosemary or thyme, and/or top them with a few fresh herbs, such as basil or parsley.
- Add a simple sauce to easy dishes, such as baked chicken. I like to make a sauce of mayonnaise, lemon juice, a little olive oil, and salt and pepper.
- Present things in smaller portions. For some reason this makes things look fancier... Use cupcake liners with pretty designs and colors.
- Buy a cake mix for dessert, but divide the batter up into those ramekins you forgot about in the back of your cupboard. Top with fruit, nuts, or both.
- Buy the things you don't enjoy making as much. Challah is too big a commitment for me, so we buy it!
- Make potentially complicated things simpler. For example, my chicken soup consists of onion, baby carrots, celery, chicken breast, spices, and water. I throw it all in at once and it tastes great.
- Use disposable foil pans for cooking and paper or plastic plates
In conclusion, I invest less in main ingredients for multiple, big dishes that take a lot of time and invest more in flavors and toppings such as nuts, a couple pieces of fruit, spices, and basic sauces that involve no cooking.
Does this cooking philosophy appeal to you? Or do you like to get creative in a different way?