Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sneak Peek at Summer

The sudden hot weather this past weekend shifted my menu planning into summer mode, and even though the cooler weather came back, and chicken soup will make it onto the table one more shabbat, the dessert plans remained COLD!

The best compliment I ever received for this dessert was from a chocoholic friend. He was served a piece of this Frozen Chocolate Mousse Cake as a snack, and was shocked to find out it was pareve - and asks for it for a snack or dessert even when a dairy treat could be eaten. The pareve whipped cream has a less intense flavor than real dairy whipping cream, and lets the chocolate flavor shine through more clearly.

I've made this as a pie (using half of the recipe below), but this week, in honor of his 17th birthday, my younger son is having a group over for shabbat, so I doubled the recipe and made it in a 10" springform pan. Often I make a chocolate graham cracker crust, but this week, I noticed a package of Paskesz Cremeos (pareve "oreos") and made the crust with the Cremeos, and continued the theme with the decorations. In the past, I've decorated the top with chocolate curls.

This recipe is terrific, easy, and, assuming you can keep people away, can be made up to two weeks ahead of time.

Frozen Chocolate Mousse Cake with Oreo Crust

2 cups Fluff
1/2 cups pareve milk
9 oz Bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
12 pareve chocolate sandwich cookies
3 tablespoons pareve margarine
24 oz pareve whip cream

Melt chocolate, fluff and pareve milk in microwave by microwaving for one minute, then stirring, repeating as necessary. Allow to cool to room temperature.

In food processor, grind cookies and margarine until the cookies are fine crumbs and the margarine is uniformly incorporated. Press crust mixture into bottom and up sides of a ten inch springform pan.

When chocolate mixture has come to room temperature, beat whip cream until stiff. Gently fold in chocolate mixture.

Spoon mousse into pan over crust, smooth top, and decorate with extra whipped cream, chocolate curls, cookies, candies - have fun with this part!

Freeze at least 4 hours or up to two weeks before serving. Remove springform ring to serve. Can be served directly from the freezer.

Friday, April 17, 2009


My younger son and I were invited to a Mimouna party at the Azoulay home - Mimouna is a sephardic tradition, celebrating the end of pesach ( )- and what a wonderful celebration it was. There are traditional foods served, mofleta and birkooks. Mofleta is a delicious yeasted quick bread - it has to be quick since the preparation can't begin until pesach is over - The Azoulay women, looking beautiful in their traditional Moroccan clothing, made the dough starting with five pounds of flour, and spent hours lovingly rolling, flattening, and cooking the flat breads.

When we walked into the house at about 11pm, the intense smells of yeast and butter, after 8 days of matzah, were intoxicating. And the taste of the mofleta, coated with butter and honey was amazing. Bread in any form is a particular weakness for me, but warm, chewy yeasty bread after a week of matzah - sigh......

The table was set with traditional foods, and before I could even taste the mofleta, I had been handed a bowl of birkooks, a porridge made from tiny pasta, cooked in milk and butter, with a bit of salt, sprinkled with cinnamon - the flavors all combining into a wonderful creamy flavor. I had just spent several hours "un-pesach-ing" my own kitchen, and hadn't realized how hungry I was until this warm creamy porridge was there satisfying me!

I was told that all the foods on the table were traditional, and held significance - even the fish smoking a cigarette! The fish signifies life, common to many cultures, and the cigarette in its mouth indicated it was Moroccan!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Uneaten Enigma

If you're like me, and most hosts I know, the idea of having just enough food for your guests means you didn't prepare enough. So at this time of year, it's likely that your refrigerator is full of small, medium and large containers of various goodies - goodies that were acclaimed on their first serving and will be ignored on their second!

The best thing to do is purchase inexpensive freezable containers, and freeze single servings of all those yummy things. Even better is if you can find aluminum "tv dinner" trays. Don't even try to serve them as leftovers this week - put them away for a night when things are hectic, but a warm "fresh" meal will be welcome

And don't forget to label the containers - a brown mass of meatballs looks a lot like brisket when frozen!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Cari's Frogs

When a friend came by on Sunday to pick up her Deb's Delicacies order, she told me that her kids make origami frogs to absorb the drops of wine spilled during the recitation of the plagues -

Today, she dropped them off - what a wonderful new tradition! Now I just have to figure out how to make them!

Thanks Cari, Molly & Arielle!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Organization Is Its Own Reward

Early morning shopping trips, late nights waiting for the brisket to be done, weekends of working hard and keeping up with lists, lists and more lists have paid off - I have scheduled a manicure for my lunch hour today - and will be very careful to use rubber gloves tomorrow!

Being a good hostess is not only about the food on the table and the appearance of your home, but about the way you make your guests feel. If you've worked so hard that you are miserable, tired, cranky and feel a mess at your own seder, then you've done too much - and your guests will be uncomfortable.

Always make sure that in some way that is meaningul to you, you have taken care of yourself as well as you've taken care of your home, your family and your guests! For me, it's a manicure - for you, it could be a bubble bath - but in whatever way you can - be good to yourself!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Table is Set

The seder plate was my grandmother's

and the colorful items in the bowls are FROGS!

Pre Pesach Pics

The effort of organizing and being your own taskmaster pays off! As planned, I kashered about 75% of the kitchen Friday before shab bat, and was able to finish about an hour after shabbat ended. By midnight, I had eight batches of almond brittle in the freezer.

This morning I was in the kitchen before 7, and got everything done on my list -

And the reason for 4 container of tzimmes - simple, one for the seder, one for my mother, one for my grandmother and one for the freezer for my son when he gets home from Israel.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Setting the Table

I have made it a habit, not just for pesach, but for any holiday or shabbat, to set the table as early as I possibly can. Having the table festively set puts me in the right mood, and reminds me of the wonderful time that will be had, and why the effort in the kitchen is worth it.

If the thought of all those dishes after the seder is daunting, go with the nicest paper that's affordable - the selection is huge.

I use my mother's china, cloth napkins and pretty floral napkin rings which I use only for the seder. This year, I was inspired during a trip to Christmas Tree Shops and about a month ago, picked up some pretty planters and packets of herb seeds. I don't usually have a green thumb, but amazingly those little herbs actually grew - and the best grower was the parsley - so in addition to having 4 beautiful plants for a centerpiece, I have home grown parsley for Karpas.

Because a friend was gracious and invited us for Friday night dinner this week, I plan onhaving the kitchen half kashered before shabbat. Shabbat Lunch can be salad and cold cuts - so the oven and stove will be done (and lots of things packed) before shabbat. By the time I go to sleep Saturday night, the kitchen will be fully kashered.

In addition to doing LOTS of cooking and baking on Sunday, I will set the table - and as I cook into the night each night, the sense of gleeful anticipation will keep me going -

I'll post pictures of the herbs and table early next week.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Seder Leading to the Seder

For those of you who do not know, Seder means order. And in order to get to the seder without being either too tired to enjoy, or too stressed to speak, you have to plan ahead - and make an order of what you need to do when.

Once you've decided on your menu, sit with an extra copy and your calendar and decide what time slots you have available to cook. Take into account what can be made ahead and frozen.

The most important list, and the one you should make most carefully is your "to do" for the day of the seder - list everything that has to be done from warming the soup to putting up the hotpot for tea.

Try to think of yourself as your own assistant - and then keep yourself on track!

If anyone needs some help - post a comment with contact info, and I'd be happy to assist.

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