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Roasted Chicken and Potatoes 'In a Bag'

A little while back, I was making a large meal for family coming into town, but I left all the raw chicken I needed outside of the fridge for a long time. Later that day, I ran into an acquaintance who has a ton of cooking experience. I asked them if the raw chicken I left out was still good to cook with. I was nervous they would say I shouldn't use it and then I would burst into tears in public. But instead I was told: "Well, I'm not really sure because that kind of thing doesn't really happen to me. I think we have pretty different personalities. I don't normally forget things like that."

What a painful punch in the gut! I'm not sure I was able to respond. I just kind of smiled politely and maybe gave a thumbs up. I also don't know what happened to the chicken. I probably threw it away along with my self-esteem and ability to speak. 

I hear things like this from various people way too often. I think a lot of women do. We try to protect ourselves by trying to appear put-together at all times, but no one's immune. If you're like me and you can't breathe, let alone speak, after a rough comment, I'm totally there with you. Just come to this blog and tell me what happened. We'll get outraged together and then I'll remind you that you're actually a great mom.

As for the recipe for this post, it is in fact the dish I was at least planning to serve for that weekend with family. I hope you only get compliments for this recipe, and nothing else.

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Recipe for My Mom's Roasted Chicken and Potatoes 'In a Bag'

Ingredients

Increase based on the number of people you're serving. I do about 1 thigh and 1 leg of chicken per person. For 6 people, you could use 6 chicken thighs and 6 legs, but it doesn't have to be exact. Add a handful extra potatoes per extra person. Leftovers will taste great warmed up the next day.

6 chicken thighs
6 chicken legs
2 pounds baby potatoes (red or yellow)
1 sweet potato
1 onion
Olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika

Directions

Purchase medium/large oven bags and foil pans. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the potatoes in half (or quarters for larger ones). Cut the sweet potatoes to roughly the size of the baby potatoes. They'll cook faster but they add to the sauce and flavor. Cut the onion into quarters and separate the layers. Place half of the onion layers, as well as half of the potatoes into one oven bag. Add half of the chicken to the bag.

Drizzle about 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil into the bag. Enough so that when mixed, it will coat everything nicely with a little left over. Generously sprinkle the spices inside. Close the bag in one hand, and move around the ingredients with the other till well mixed. Close bag with a tie. Gently flatten/spread out the contents on the pan. Poke the bag with a fork about 8 times for holes. Repeat everything with a second bag*. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour or until the potatoes are soft (you can poke through the bag with a fork). When you're about ready to serve, empty the bag into a pan/oven-to-table serveware (careful - super hot!). Add more salt, pepper, and paprika and broil (or cook at 415 degrees) for several minutes to brown. 

 

*If you're increasing the recipe, use enough bags/pans so that the ingredients aren't overcrowded. The chicken and potatoes should be flat-ish (with some overlap) on the pan. 

 

P.S.  Another great way to make potatoes

P.P.S  Another thing women think they struggle with alone

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Grilled Cheese with Raisin Bread for Dinner

The other day I was invited for dinner and a play date at a friends house, which is a very rare treat because I find things like that so hard to coordinate. The mom is a super down- to-earth friend of mine, but I was intimidated by the dinner she served. Seasoned salmon, with sauteed zucchini and delicious rice.  Obviously I couldn't keep it to myself and said, "This is so tasty! You're amazing, I'm so terrible with dinners." She assured me that it was easy to make, and way fancier than usual. After that, there was no going back and things immediately spiraled into a 'bad-mom'-off over who serves the worst dinners.

"This is amazing. I wish I didn't rely on PB & J all the time."
"Oh my gosh, please. Last night I served crackers and peanut butter for dinner"
"I served animal crackers. Just animal crackers."
"Last week I served just peanut butter."
"Last week I gave them nutella for dinner."
"That doesn't even come close. I've served stale bread"
"Oh really? Because I've served lint on a tray. I served a lint tray"
"Oh that's pretty bad."
"Thank you, I know."

Anyways, dinners are always hard with kids.

And then on top of that, parents need to eat at some point to. One quick and easy dinner that I also enjoy is grilled cheese. This 'recipe' may or may not be appropriate to post on a blog... but I thought it may be worth a shot. Just put a little butter on a pan, and add two pieces of honey-wheat raisin bread (I like the double sweetness it has) with two slices of cheddar cheese in between. Then when it gets toasty, carefully flip the sandwich over and get the other side toasted. Use medium heat so that the bread doesn't get burnt before the cheese melts (woops, look at the last picture for that). 

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What easy dinners do you rely on? What are the "worst" dinners you've eaten and/or served your kids?

And here's a more elaborate grilled cheese recipe with sauteed onions, and a short-cut I use to get a fancier dinner on the table!

Lox and Cream Cheese Brunch Platter

I don’t know why they love it so much, but for some reason both of my daughters will eat lox - plain. No bagel, no cream cheese, no buffer of any kind, just lox. I’m tempted to put it in their lunch boxes during the week but I’m worried that the day I pack it will be the day they stop liking it, and I’ll just be the mom who packs her kids smelly fish. But for now they love it, and they also like things like smoked salmon, eggplant, and tahina. My parents and extended family are all Israeli, so I guess I shouldn’t be that shocked.

For this platter, I really intended for family/guests to enjoy what I was preparing for the blog today, but that’s not really what happened. There was a birthday party this weekend at my place, and I didn’t time things so well with my photo-shoot. As everyone was eating cake, I realized no one was going to eat olives and smoked fished when there was chocolate frosting around. So instead, a few of us picked at the platter here and there, and then we packed up the lox and smoked fish to be eaten by my little daughters, of course, for dinner.

Here’s everything that was on the brunch board:

Feta cheese
Cream cheese
Lox
Smoked white fish
Pickled peppers
Olives
Avocado
Crackers
Raspberry jam
Babka

 

Check out this post for another party platter idea and these would actually work pretty well for fun party

P.S. I'm so happy the post below (from last week) on prenatal/postpartum anxiety and depression was able to offer some comfort to readers going through the same thing... Thank you so much for all your support on social media. I'm sending you much love and will do many more posts on these issues in the future <3

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A Few Great Snacks for Unwinding

I'm not trying to be an advocate here for emotional eating, but at the end of an overwhelmingly long day, when I desperately need some time to unwind and clear my mind, I like to wander around my apartment in search of a good.... snack. Now, if you can get yourself to eat something healthy, that's amazing. But if you're looking for something a bit more indulgent, I have a few ideas for you. These snacks also go very well with friends, spouses who share well, humorous family members, and of course, very cute pets. May I also suggest blankets, a good movie or a magazine, or depending on the day (or the movie you're watching) - maybe even a little box of tissues. Here are four fun snacks to to relax with: 
 

1. Classic combo - strawberries and chocolate (chips) 


2. Cinnamon animal crackers dipped in caramel sauce - trust me. 

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3. Microwave kettle corn with cheese. 
   Pop the bag, then top with shredded cheese in a microwavable bowl and melt for 20-30  seconds.      Be wary of cheesy kernels that get stuck together (this snack is better for adult consumption)


4. Mint chocolate chip ice cream with dry red wine. Perfect for an at-home date night


What do you snack on after a long day? Any interesting combinations we should try? 

... and here's another time I remember snacking 

Recipe for Half-Eaten PB & J Sandwich

Happy News Years everyone! For today I thought I'd share a quick and easy recipe I use all the time for half-eaten PB & J. It's a staple in our home and the kids really do most of the work for you. It's five simple steps and I know it's something you'll want to reach for on "those days" when you need things to be simple. Am I right??
 

Recipe for half-eaten PB & J

1. On a Monday, go to your local grocery store and buy tons of groceries. By Tuesday, you should feel like you don’t have any food in the house.  

2. Because you have no more food in the house, make a few PB & J sandwiches for your small child/children. Use whatever bread, peanut butter, and jelly you have available. 

3. Allow your child to eat the sandwich and take it apart as they see fit.

4. Wait for the child to abandon the sandwich and resolve that you are going to clean it up soon. Make an announcement that you're going to do a little bit of "laundry" first (check your phone, look at the mail) before you clean up the kitchen. 

5. Make sure to leave the sandwich unattended on the high chair/table for at least a half hour to an hour. You want to let it become not quite so stale that you wouldn't still consider eating eat it... but just stale enough that you will regret eating it afterwards. 

6. Repeat the same process for half-eaten pasta and apple slices later in the evening. 

I hope you guys enjoy the meal. Please leave a comment with some of your favorite half-eaten recipes!

Delicious Jewish Food to Make this Week

For those of you celebrating, what have you been cooking and/or buying for Chanukah? I asked around for different recipes and ideas and was blown away by the answers. I almost fainted when I heard about some of these mouth-watering dishes you guys are casually whipping up. Here's some of what I've collected from you so far:

Tuscan Jewish Fried Chicken

Bimuelos with Honey-orange drizzle

Shwarma with pita

Potato kugel

Sfinj (Moroccan Donuts)

Akara (fish fritters) with tamarind sauce 

Pholourie (fried, spiced dough balls)

Tunisian Yo-Yo

Maybe - just maybe! - I'll get the courage to try out a couple of those ideas when the kids are being watched by someone else. Because I will certainly need to focus. Any cooking I do nowadays, I like to keep extremely basic. Three, four,  or five ingredients. If you're with me on this, scroll to the bottom for a few quick and fun recipes that don't involve splashing oil and flour-y hands. For those of you indeed filling up pots with oil this week, I very much wish I was eating at your house!

Roasted Eggplant with Tahini
Eggplant
Salt for sprinkling
Olive oil
Tahini
Pita/challah (optional for spreading the eggplant on. highly recommended)

Cut eggplant in half and score each half (pictured below) in a crisscross manner, as deep as possible without cutting the skin. Sprinkle with salt and put aside for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven at some point to 400 degrees. After 30 minutes, squeeze the sides of the eggplant to extract the salty juice and then pat dry. Brush with olive oil and lay down flat on a baking sheet drizzled with a bit of olive oil. Cook for an hour (or for about half hour for baby eggplants) or until the eggplant skin has wrinkled and the flesh is browned. I often don't get that perfect brown I want... but it's okay. Because the next step is to smother it with tahini. Serve with warm pita or challah. 

Israeli salad
Several plum tomatoes
Several baby cucumbers (or one long one)
Parsley
Olive oil, juice from fresh lemon, and salt and pepper for dressing

Dice vegetables as small as possible. Very difficult to get them as small as my grandmother could, but we can try. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. There is no measuring! Just tasting and refining!

Raw fennel with Harissa
Harissa - 1 tsp (I like the Mina brand, mild. can't handle it too spicy!)
Olive oil - 3 tbsp
1 Lemon
1 Fennel 

Cut and wash* fennel. Mix with the harissa, olive oil, and lemon and marinate in the fridge for up to four hours. Multiply recipe accordingly for more fennel of course. If you need the marinade a little less intense (like me!) than use two fennel with half a lemon, 1 tsp harissa, and 3 tbsp olive oil. Thank you to my good friend for this recipe! For the originial one... not my Americanized, less spicy version.... 

*kosher wash resource

 - Love and good food to all - 

Live, TalkNurit SiegalComment
Caramel-filled Sufganiyot from Tel Aviv Bakery in Chicago

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend! 

Last Friday my husband was working from home and we both went to drop off the girls at daycare. When I came by myself to pick up our oldest, her teacher warned me that she was looking forward to her Aba picking her up... The minute she walked up the stairs and saw that it was not her Aba, she collapsed onto the floor with her backpack and winter gear and yelled out, "Noooooooo! I want Aba to get me!!!!!". Thank God she eventually recovered from having to leave with her mother but it was a slow and gradual process with a decent amount of hyperventilating. My daughter and I are now on good terms and she allowed me to drop her off today, which is great progress.  

After dropping her off, I picked up a dozen caramel-filled sufganiyot for Chanukah. They are soooo very delicious and we started getting them every year. I don't make homemade sufganyot or latkes because they're quite labor-intensive... but I highly recommend going over to Tel Aviv bakery in Chicago for the ones pictured above. If you celebrate Chanukah, do you make your treats from scratch? Pick them up at a local store? Take advantage of them at your parents' house? 

I hope everyone has a relaxing, food-filled holiday break and for those celebrating, a happy Chanukah! 

Here are a few fun things from around the web to keep you busy...

First and foremost, I have to link to this year's Chanukah Maccabeats video.

An amazing story up right now on Kveller about a young woman who started the organization "Warm Winters" for the homeless.

If you're traveling this week with your kids to visit family, feel free to take advantage of my less-than-trustworthy guidance on road trips.

A genius idea of a drink to dip your sufganiyot into...

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My Favorite "I-Did-Not-Grill-This-Steak" Salad

This past weekend I bought a large supply of little girl's socks for my daughters and felt extremely relieved (blog post coming soon on this new sock purchasing idea). As I was putting them on my oldest, she started asking me about who got them for her.

"Aba got these for me, right?" 
"No sweetie, actually Ima got them for you." 
"No, no Aba got them."
"Aba gets you so many good things, but Ima got these socks."
"Nope."

Oh. Got it. Since she's still a toddler I knew there was no reason to be frustrated, but uhhh, I kind of wanted the credit.

There is one thing, however, that I don't mind giving up credit for nearly as much as I thought I would - cooking. I remember the last time I cooked a very large meal from scratch for family and guests. I spent the whole day in the kitchen and when I finally served the food, my mom said to me, "Nuriti - you're going to fall asleep walking to the table". I took note of what my wise mother observed. There is a grocery store with a kosher grill close to my house and they will grill your meat at no extra cost. I started to take advantage of this free service a lot. Honestly, I love it. For this recipe I have them grill a boneless rib-eye steak (or two depending on if we have guests) and I serve it with spring mix, colorful tomatoes and pomegranate seeds. I only add olive oil, lemon, and salt to the salad part but feel free to go crazy with different toppings and/or a mustard-mayo type dressing (that's what my husband does). Mustard and mayo dressings taste amazing with a smokey steak salad. 

Are there any dishes you make where you "share" the burden with a local store? 

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Winter Steak Salad

Grilled boneless rib-eye steak, cut into thin slices
Spring mix
Assortment of tomatoes
Pomegranate
Olive oil, lemon, and salt for the dressing

LiveNurit Siegal Comments
What Food Could You Eat Forever?

The other day, my youngest daughter (who's right on the brink of becoming a toddler) was playing very quietly when I offered her an applesauce pouch for a snack. She loves fruit pouches and can go through two or three at a time. For some reason, she became very upset with my offer, ran across the room and crashed herself into our couch while yelling, "No applesauce! No applesauce!". I walked away to see if she would forget about the whole thing, but it didn't quite work that way. Instead, she followed me into the other room and cried out again, "No applesauce! No applesauce!". When I picked her up to console her, I realized that she had a full diaper. During the entire diaper change, she continued to plead with me, "No applesauce! No applesauce!". After taking a second to come up with a new strategy, I sat her down in front of the toy she was playing with before. Thankfully, she calmed down. But then she caught a glimpse of the rejected applesauce pouch, walked up to it, and proceeded to hit it away in the other direction. She then walked up to me, tugged at my shirt, and pulled me to play with her in the other room while I tried to understand what in the world had just happened. 

There are some foods I feel like I could eat every day "forever", but I guess we all have our limits... Until I find myself crashing into a couch in protest, I can't help but say that I could eat a soft-boiled egg every day. With two little, adorable girls running around at home, boiling eggs (...and making pasta, and warming up oatmeal, etc.) is oftentimes as fancy as it gets. And when I make them slightly under-cooked for myself, it's so good every time. 

What food could you eat "forever"? 

Check out another great way to use boiled eggs here!

Or, use any leftover eggs to make these extremely easy banana pancakes - I could eat these forever too!

The Status of Cake on Lipstick & Brisket

As you may have noticed, we haven't had as many "brisket" posts about food up on the blog lately. And as long-time L & B readers may have noticed (hey, mom!), we definitely haven't had a "lipstick" post in a very long time. Instead, I've been writing more about "lipstick and brisket" discussions. In other words, the topics I'm curious about and interested in as a traditional woman living in a really modern world. 

But that doesn't mean that we won't ever talk about food again! Food and recipe posts are such a fun way to share and swap everyday life stories, creative ideas, and "tips and tricks" with all of you in an easygoing style. They will however be a bit less frequent, and serve as a way to just have fun and take a break from the more serious stuff... 

In the mean time, here's a look at some posts from the past from both the "brisket", and the "lipstick and brisket" sides of life! 
 

Motherhood: Sanity is unfortunately not included...

My first contribution to Joy of Kosher!

Still my favorite easy pancake recipe that I use a lot for a quick, fun meal 

Why do we expect our female leadership to be both attractive and "fierce"? #GirlBoss

My struggle with the social pressure to be a natural mom 

Salmon steaks with pesto. Yum!

Women: like men, only cheaper?

My views on feminism and a feminist identity

But Isn't Judaism sexist? This is part 2 of my response to that frequently asked question.


What do you like talking and reading about the most when it comes to blogs you follow? What would you write about if you had a blog? If you have one, post it in the comments section!

Crustless Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches for Kids

There is nothing better than being something like an hour and a half late for daycare or for summer camp. I always tell myself that life is crazy, and there's no need to give an excuse to the teacher or counselors. But the second they open the door I blurt out, "I couldn't find their socks!" Or, "my toddler insisted on carrying all her bedding down to the car!" The mornings can be chaotic, and I'm still experimenting with the strategies that work for us.

One particularly rough morning, my kids had woken up the night before at around 3:00 AM "just for fun" and then woke up ready to start the day at about 6:30. While they were playing, I sleepily started to get things ready for daycare, only to realize a few minutes later that they had sneaked into my room with a container of bread crumbs and sprinkled them generously on the bed and floor. I don't remember, but after the shock subsided I probably just packed them string cheese and leftover breadcrumbs for lunch that day. 

Do you have any good morning-routine "horror" stories? Or do you guys struggle with what to pack for your kids and/or yourself for lunch every day? What are your strategies? One thing I've been doing lately is making crustless PB + J sandwiches for the girls. I stack two sturdy plastic cups (the fancier ones) and after making a standard PB + J sandwich, I press down over the bread, and use it as a cookie cutter to create a circle shape, sans crust. Stacking two plastic cups works best, and the better the cup fits the size of the sandwich, the less leftover bread there will be. Is this something you'd try? Any other ideas?

Summer Fruit Salad for Fourth of July

When I was younger, I either attended or worked at the summer camp my brothers and I grew up loving. By the middle of high school, I was going each summer for almost two months. It was a long break from people back home, but they didn't seem to mind... One summer, my best friend organized an amazing BBQ party with all of our friends... for my mom. My mom has always been very popular and I can't tell you how many times I'd come home in the evening to find a friend hanging out at my house without me. With two extremely charismatic older brothers in addition to my amazing mother, I'm no longer phased by this confusion in loyalty. I only ask that if someone would like to ask a question, offer a compliment, or request to hang out with one of my family members, that they please communicate directly with them. 

Fortunately, I had the privilege of hanging out with my family without an appointment. One thing we loved to do each summer was grill outside on our back porch, with plenty of salads and fruit. This easy fruit salad below reminds me of my mom - a true papaya enthusiast who raised us on lots of fruit (and a good cup of tea). The combination of papaya, strawberries, bananas, and blueberries would go perfectly at your fourth of July barbecue. Enjoy with your family and friends! Even if your friends are just there to be with your family.

Crispy Fingerling Potatoes, Two Ways

Married or not, kids or not, family in town or not... have you ever invited guests over and then immediately panicked? I have! Quite a few times. Which is why we don't have many guests other than our families whom we see often. They are no longer surprised when everything on the table was cooked from scratch... by the local grocery store deli. We thankfully have amazing kosher options in Chicago and we've used our store for everything from soup to sides to main dishes.

When we do have guests or when I have the urge to cook, I stick to the recipes I feel are a total treat to serve, but not at all complicated. Potatoes are generally a pretty common side dish, but fingerling potatoes are more interesting and special. I love them best when sauteed - they are addictive. You can control the crispiness and I love the texture. But if I'm pressed for time and don't want to deal with a greasy pan and the extra supervision time, I'll roast them instead. The result is still so delicious. The real trick is to add juuuust a bit of extra salt, right before you serve. They will be hard to stop eating...

sauteed fingerling potatoes   

sauteed fingerling potatoes
 

roasted fingerling potatoes   

roasted fingerling potatoes
 

Crispy Fingerling Potatoes

Ingredients
Fingerling Potatoes
Olive oil
Garlic powder, dried thyme, salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut potatoes lengthwise in half, down the line of symmetry. Cook in water for about 8 minutes, or until they are fork tender. Drain the potatoes very well (it helps to put the potatoes face down on a kitchen/paper towel to dry, but this takes longer!).*  To saute, drizzle olive oil in a large pan and bring to medium high heat. Place the potatoes face down, add spices, and cook until they have become golden brown and crispy, gently moving them a bit so that they don't stick to the pan. Add a little more oil if necessary. Turn over gently to get the skin crispy as well, stirring occasionally. Move to higher heat for a moment for extra crispiness. Transfer to a plate, sprinkle with a little extra salt, and serve!

*To roast instead of saute: Set your oven to broil (400 degrees should work too). After draining potatoes well, drizzle an oven-safe pan with olive oil. Place the potatoes in the pan and mix them around, coating them in the olive oil. Add spices and mix again, leaving the potatoes mostly face up. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to brown nicely. 

Contributing to the Joy of Kosher Website! A Fun, Colorful Menu for Shavuot

*See the full feature here on Joy of Kosher*

My first Shavuos (or Shavuot, the Jewish holiday coming up this weekend) as a married woman I did what any newlywed wife would do. I created the most complicated, intricate menu I could think of and hosted several guests for each meal. Though I’ve mostly pushed the memories out of my mind, I remember something having to do with homemade ravioli and three different types of cheesecake. I also remember finally accepting my sister-in-law’s offer to help when I realized we had about 30 minutes left before the holiday began to fold more than 50 squares of ravioli. When the ravioli came out sticky and ripped and the cheesecakes were just barely edible for humans, I was completely disappointed in myself for failing to create the perfect experience.

Two kids, the discovery of Wacky Mac and an unidentifiable amount of Chinese take-out later, I’ve finally learned that my self-worth is not dependent on the number of side dishes I've made. I now actively avoid cakes that have five paragraphs of instructions and sauces that burn if you turn off the flame 0.03 seconds too late. I slowly gained more confidence in the kitchen and found I could both enjoy cooking and be relatively enjoyable to my loved ones afterwards.

&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;Sparkling grapefruit  moscato

           Sparkling grapefruit moscato

For this all-dairy Shavuos menu, I wanted the recipes to be flavorful, fun, and even a little adventurous… but I promise there is no homemade ravioli in sight. Hope you enjoy the cooking… and your family afterwards.

As a new contributor to Joy of Kosher (!!!), all of the recipes are on their website and the links are listed below. The fruit and cheese board pictured above is here

&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;  Pasta  with mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes, with a garnish of walnuts and parmesan

      Pasta with mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes, with a garnish of walnuts and parmesan

&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; Salmon  steaks with pesto garnish

                                                 Salmon steaks with pesto garnish

&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; Almond  cake  with chocolate buttercream frosting

                                      Almond cake with chocolate buttercream frosting

 


 

 

Peach Puff Pastries with Chocolate Drizzle

I try to remember that with small children, there is no such thing as a "picnic" in the park. You'll try your best to make the perfect day out at the beach perhaps, only to find out that your baby has an unshakable fear of sand. But no matter how hard I try to remember this, I still get caught off guard when plans fail. I was so excited when I decided to make a fool-proof field trip for my girls to a large park in the Chicago suburbs overlooking the lake about 30 minutes from home. They ran around and played and giggled, and I watched and smiled and laughed... for about 15 minutes. After a water-spilling incident, the tables turned and the girls were done. When I finally gave up trying to stabilize the situation, I walked us back to the car totally defeated. On the way there, the girls found a drinking fountain and couldn't have been more excited. We stayed and "played" there for a long time while I grappled with the fact that we just drove a half hour to play at a drinking fountain.

Not only is there nothing fool proof with kids, there's nothing completely fool proof with food. I appreciate when a recipe says "stress free", but there's nothing more stressful than botching a recipe that promised a newborn panda could put it together. When I was checking out ideas for an easier summer dessert, I realized that brilliance of store-bought puff pastry. Puff pastry with a bit of sugar, summer fruit, and chocolate drizzle, and you have an absolutely delightful summer treat. 
 

Peaches on Puff Pastry with Chocolate Sauce (Not Pictured)

Ingredients
A few sheets of puff pastry cut into 6 small squares or rectangles (or more)
About 5 to 6 white peaches
1 egg
Sugar for sprinkling
Powdered sugar for dusting
6 oz chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk or soy milk

Preheat the oven to 400. Cut puff pastry sheets into 6 (or more) small squares or rectangles. Slice peaches about 1/4" thick and arrange on the puff pastry as pictured above (in a straight line down the middle, overlapping one another slightly). Mix the egg with a splash of cold water and then brush onto the sides of the puff pastry for an egg wash. Sprinkle sugar onto each square. Place onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Take out and let cool. Dust with powdered sugar.

For the sauce, carefully heat up 1/2 cup of soy milk or regular milk right until it looks like its about to simmer but not quite. Turn off the heat and add chocolate chips. Stir until completely melted, turning the heat off briefly if necessary. Add more milk if desired. Serve in a small bowl or drizzle on pastry.


 

Heavenly Buttercream Frosting

My husband and I have recently realized how much our oldest daughter (she is almost 2 and a half now) repeats things that we say with an amazing sense of context and nuance. Oftentimes when she'll ask me for juice or for a snack and I'm not quite ready to fulfill the request I'll say to her, "I'm working on it buba" (pronounced boo-bah... means doll in Hebrew). The other day my husband asked her to start getting ready for bed while she was busy with toys. She just kept playing and said, "I'm working on it". 

For better or worse, there were quite a few "working on its" as I was experimenting with buttercream frosting. I did however make up for it by allowing her to taste test quite a bit.... and she agreed that it was heavenly. I'm extra excited about this recipe because it represents a project I've been working on for a while now outside of the blog. I'm looking forward to sharing it with you soon! In the meantime, below is what you'll need to experiment with buttercream frosting. You might want to add more powdered sugar or milk to get the consistency you love the most. Play around with it and enjoy! 
 

Heavenly Buttercream Frosting 
Ingredients
1 stick of butter (room temp)
3 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup whole milk

Directions
In a sturdy, medium/large bowl, break up the butter into small pieces using a wooden spoon. Using the backside of the spoon, cream the butter against the bowl until completely smooth. Slowly add and work the powdered sugar into the butter (it’s recommended to sift the sugar, but I've found that it's okay if you don’t). Stir in the whole milk a little at a time until the mixture is completely smooth, with no large clumps. Take a moment to stir as quickly as possible, creating “airiness”. If needed, you can add a bit more powdered sugar, or a bit more milk, to get the desired texture. Spread on cakes, cupcakes, or... eat it plain!

Is Yoga The New Coffee? (And My Own Version of Nicoise Salad)

I've been meaning to do my own version of a nicoise salad for some time now because they've been coming up everywhere. Martha Stewart magazines, healthy food blogs, and all over social media. At the same time, I've also heard more and more about people cleaning up their diets and avoiding coffee in hopes of raising their energy levels in more organic ways.

I have to say that I'm both very intrigued and incredibly uninterested. I love the idea of authentic methods to feel energized, whether through healthy eating, more sleep, or bikram yoga (!!!!!!!!). I wish I had tried to form those kinds of habits back in college, but that would have undermined my quest to be the most exhausted, sleep-deprived, and creative architecture student of all times (I held onto that major for three years before switching to Women's Studies, where "self-care" was basically a syllabus requirement). As an architecture major, wearing the same clothes two days in a row was a badge of honor. Sleeping under your studio desk was completely accepted and applauded. At one point, during coffee with a friend around finals week, I fell asleep so quickly and deeply during our conversation that I actually said "Frank Sinatra" out loud to her before waking myself up. There was no concept of "work/life balance" to say the least.

Somehow, between then and now, I've been able to slowly back away from this idea that the most accomplished person is the most hard working, sleep-deprived person. If I couldn't say that I was drinking four cups of coffee a day, then who was I?!?! But now, I've seen how easy it is to go to the other extreme in pursuit of your inner zen. Have you ever tried to emulate the look of a magazine's "Perfect Bubble Bath"? Prepare to take out a second mortgage on your home. Relaxing the right way takes so much time, money, and energy that it almost feels like just another barometer for faux-success. I'd love to be healthier and have more energy - but only in a manner that fits into my budget and mental limits. A really flavorful and filling salad comes to mind...

Unless I'm doing a photoshoot, I wouldn't eat a salad the way it looks above. But I can say that it was still easy to prepare. I bought the smoked salmon fillet and cooked green beans from the grocery store's kosher deli, and I cut and heated up the potatoes in the microwave and then added a little butter. I prefer this without dressing, but feel free to add a simple vinaigrette to the mix. It's a delicious, sanity-friendly lunch. 

A "Date" Night with Blue Cheese

It's great to be back!  Passover ended a bit over a week ago, and an interesting phenomenon occurs among young families after a holiday break ends. Spouses slowly start to smile once again and say "Hi" to one another. Families venture out with optimism to parks and weekend trips. Mothers are seen delighting in the tiniest smile or giggle from their babies...

Daycare has resumed. Hope has been restored. 

If you're starting to feel back to normal, I have a recommendation for a date night by yourself, with a friend, or with your spouse. All you have to do is pick up a baguette, dried dates, and blue cheese at your next grocery trip. Toast the baguette slices if you'd like, drizzle everything with a bit of honey, and voila! You have a sweet and delicious treat for one, or for two. 

Bon apetit! 
 

Have a Wonderful Tuesday

On Tuesdays I've typically been posting simple recipe ideas with pictures from that week's photoshoot. I was looking forward to finishing up today's post because it was a recipe that could be made on Passover. However, as you can tell in the above picture, my Monday seemed to have other plans for me (starting with these magically re-organized chairs at around 7:30 in the morning, and ending with a lovely bedtime grand finale a bit past 8:00 in the evening). My apologies for the lack of post, but I do hope you enjoy whatever the day brings you on this wonderful Tuesday.

Best of luck to all of us!

Freshly Caught: Simple Backgrounds for Food Photoshoots

Since I started L & B, it took me some time to accept that not everyone will know how much time and effort blogging takes. Right after my first daughter was born, I was completely overwhelmed and didn't know when I would ever be ready to publish my first blog post. Once I started working on the blog again, I quickly realized it would be much harder than I had ever imagined. I ran into an acquaintance during that time and when I told her I was currently at home with my baby, blogging when I could (instead of working at my previous job) she responded with, "Oh! Now that you have more time we should go for coffee!" I wanted to faint. Taking care of a baby is already more than a full time job. 

That was when I realized I would have to say no to many things, whether or not people expected me to say yes. Since that encounter, I have declined requests for favors, said no to volunteering for a few organizations, awkwardly gave an excuse for not joining a late-evening exercise class (that one was slightly easier to decline), and at a particularly low point, hid behind a tree to avoid being asked to do something extremely time consuming... While I'm clearly not always as graceful as I would like to be in saying "no", I'm proud of myself for the times I set boundaries to prevent future regret or even resentment.

In addition to saying no to people, I also have to say no to potential blog ideas. I would love, for example, to get more creative with food photoshoots. However, it's better for now if I improve my photos slowly over time. I have been grateful for the different stone and marble slabs I found a long time ago at the Home depot for simple photoshoot backgrounds. They are elegant, sturdy, and easy to move around to find the best lighting. The one below is my newest addition for a slightly more dramatic, artistic look. Depending on the material you want (marble, stone, wood, etc.), there are different options for sizes. Some are 1' by 1' slabs and/or 2' by 1' and they are often less than $5 or $10 per tile. Place them in natural light and you'll see what a difference it can make in pictures!

 

What have you had to say "no" to when it comes to your life and/or work? Have you found others to be respectful or do you feel you have to fight for it? I would love to hear your advice and experiences!