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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Charoset and more

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Charoset and more

I realize that posting a charoset recipe AFTER the seders is a bit late, but with all the craziness leading up to my seders I didn’t have a chance to post my recipe and photos.  I started with a traditional charoset then decided to do a bit of a twist in the end.  Traditional charoset is made with usually one type of apples, a sweet red wine, walnuts, and cinnamon.  You can either chop your apples and walnuts by hand or put them in a food processor to pulse mix.  I prefer a chunky charoset so I did mine by hand, but if you prefer more of a “paste”, go with the processor.

Charoset Ingredients:

  • 6 apples (I used two each of Gala, Macintosh, and Fuji)
  • 1/4 bottle of semi sweet red wine for Passover (cheap is good)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (more or less to taste)
  • 3/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts
  • Optional ingredients: dried dates, preserved lemon

    Basic Ingredients

    Basic Ingredients

Spread the walnuts out on a lined baking sheet.  Set the oven to 350 F and put the pan in.  After 10 minutes shake the pan to turn the walnuts.  You will know when they are done as you will smell the nuts toasted.

Toasting Walnuts

Toasting Walnuts

Finely chop the apples in a small dice.  You could use your mandoline to either do even slices or julienne the apples then dice them further.  To the apples add the cinnamon and the 1/4 of a bottle of wine.  You want the apples coated, but not drowned in the wine.  When the walnuts have cooled, chop them in a rough chop  and add to the apples.

Apples in wine

Apples in wine

If you want to change up your charoset this year, take 5 (or more or less) dried dates and chop them.  Add these to the mixture.  I also used some of my preserved lemon peel to add a punch to the charoset.  I loved the taste, but you could used just some lemon rind instead.  Make this at LEAST 24 hours before you are going to serve it.  This allows the flavors to really meld together.

Optional ingredients

Optional ingredients

 

Now begs the question as to what to do with the rest of the bottle of wine.  Hopefully you did not purchase a very good bottle.  So, drinking is out of the question.  I used mine for a dessert.  I made poached pears in wine.  It’s an EASY dessert, I promise.  For each person prepare half a pear.  Chop a pear in half and spoon out the seeds.  Place the pears cut side down in a pan and add the rest of the bottle of wine and a few cinnamon sticks.  You can do this in the beginning of the day to let the pears soak up the wine.  After the dinner has cooked put the covered pears in the oven at 350 F.  While you’re eating dinner the pears will cook and be ready.  Place a pear and a bit of wine on a plate.  Top with a bit of honey, whipped cream, or mascarpone.  This can even be served at room temperature, so it’s really a SUPER easy dish with little to prepare and big rewards.

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Friday Flicks: Oz the Great and Powerful

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Movie Poster

I was going to avoid reviewing movies that are currently out in the theaters, but I had been super excited to see this movie.  Not sure if you caught the past tense.  I am a HUGE fan of the Wizard of Oz and I read the book “Wicked” a few years ago.  So, I’m a fan of the Oz genre if you will.  The casting is great, so again, I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t like the movie more than I did.

Zach Braff as monkey side kick

The premise of the movie is that Oscar Digs “Oz” (James Franco) is a circus magician and lothario.  In trying to escape a jealous boyfriend Oz hops on a hot air balloon and into an oncoming tornado.  He wakes up in a new land.  There he is greeted by Theodora (Mila Kunis) who tells him of her father’s death and the coming of this great wizard, which he agrees to being due to promises of wealth.    Once they arrive in the Emerald City, they meet up with Evanora (Rachel Weisz).  Evanora is not who she seems and manages to convince Theodora that Oz is not a good guy and has cheated on her.  This causes Theodora to go crazy and go to the dark side with Evanora.  She eats a piece of fruit and “bam” she turns green and becomes truly wicked.

Theodora/Wicked Witch

As this is going on Oz goes out in search of Glinda (Michelle Williams) who is falsely accused of killing her father.  Oz and his sidekick monkey (voice by Zach Braff)  and the China girl realize they’ve been duped and join Glinda and the people of Oz to fight back.  They use Oz’s ingenuity and know how along with the help of the people to mis-direct and terrify the wicked witches.  Their plan works and sets up the future of Oz as the wizard.

I saw the movie in 2-D, so it didn’t have the pop and wow of 3-D. There were some scenes of the movie that I recognized were specifically shot for 3-D.  I do realize that I probably missed out in the full experience of the movie, but if I can’t enjoy it as 2-D, then I would not have enjoyed it at home later.  It allowed me to fully appreciate everything going on in the movie with the characters.  And I just didn’t feel like there was a whole lot to be overly excited about.  I did absolutely LOVE the acting and the surprise actor that I had no clue was in the movie.  For all you “geeks” out there Mr. Bruce Campbell has a very small part in the movie.  You could totally miss him, but he’s the gatekeeper at the entrance to the Emerald City.  I totally geeked out at the movie when I saw him.

Bruce!

It’s not that I’m NOT recommending this movie, it’s just that if you go see the movie, I’ve heard that it’s MUCH better in 3-D.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Official Trailer

Vegan Moussaka

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Vegan Moussaka

Well, Passover is here.  This year I was in charge of the main dish for the vegetarians/vegans the first seder.  I’m off eggs and limit my dairy intake.  But apparently my sister has developed a lactose intolerance and a tree nut allergy.  Plus she doesn’t like mushrooms.  So my ideas for the main dish started to shrink considerably.  I’d had a vegetarian moussaka recently and thought I could recreate it for Passover using a milk substitute that is ok for Passover.  I got my inspiration for the recipe from the Avalon Wine website.   A word of warning.  I mostly keep Passover.  I don’t eat anything that’s specifically prohibited, but the milk I used did not have a kosher for Passover hecksher on it.  Flax has been approved by Star-K as ok for Passover, so I used the “milk” as my base for the bechamel.  If I didn’t have to deal with the tree nut allergy, I would have used almond milk, which you can find with a hecksher or make your own.  Another option would be to use cashew “cheeze” instead of a bechamel sauce.

Moussaka Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant

    Moussaka Ingredients

    Moussaka Ingredients

  • 2 medium/large potatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2-4 garlic cloves
  • 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Using a mandoline cut the eggplant and the potatoes into even slices.  Place the eggplant in a collandar with salt to draw out some of the bitterness.  If you cut the potatoes at the same time as the eggplant, you can put the potatoes in a bowl of water to prevent the potatoes from browning.

In a saucepan, heat up the olive oil then add the chopped onion and the garlic cloves.  Heat until the onions are transluscent.  Add the salt, peppers, oregano, and cinnamon to the pan then the tomatoes.  Cook for about 10 more minutes.

Grease a pan and add a layer of the potatoes, the sauce, then the eggplant (that you’ve since rinsed off and patted dry).  Then add more sauce, potatoes, then eggplant.  Finish with the last of the sauce.  Cover the dish and put at 375 F for one and a half hours.  While that is baking, make the bechamel.

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Vegan Bechamel

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3.5 tbsp matzo meal (I used whole wheat)
  • 2 cups milk of choice

In a saucepan heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add the matzo meal and whisk together.  The mixture should clump together.  Slowly add the milk to the pan and whisk well.  Lower the heat to medium low and allow  the mixture to thicken.  You will know the bechamel is  complete when it sticks to the back of a spoon.  It will thicken up more as it sits, so if need be, add more milk to thin out the sauce.

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When the vegetables are completed spoon the bechamel on to the veggies and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes and allow the bechamel to brown more.

Bechamel added

Bechamel added

If you have used whole wheat matzo meal (or maybe whole wheat flour) the color will not be the appealing light brown.  It’s more of a brownish-grey in the end.  It’s not a really pretty dish.  But, it is good.  Like we had non-vegans at the seder who work at a restaurant and had seconds.  I’d say that was a hit :).

Finished product

Finished product

Friday Flicks: MIB 3 and a PSA

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MIB 3 poster

I wasn’t able to get in a film review for last week, so hopefully my TWO reviews this week will help make up for it.  The first movie I want to review is Men In Black 3.  I happened to catch this  on Sunday afternoon and thought “why not”?  The movie was both better and worse than I expected it to be.

The premise of the movie is that Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is erased in the future because an alien named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) goes back in time and changes an interaction they had.  Agent J (Will Smith) goes back in time to the day before the interaction in an effort to try to kill off Boris before he has a chance to kill K.  J is not supposed to make himself known to K, but of course things go awry.  J gets brought in for questioning and almost neuralized.  He eventually convinces K of his mission and the two of them go after Boris with the help of Andy Worhol (he’s an agent!) and Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), an alien who sees all possibilities in time.  Eventually they succeed in defeating Boris, but there is a cost.

Jemaine!

What was bad about the movie?  Will Smith.  He plays the same character in almost all of his movies.  He’s the fast talking black guy.  It’s getting old.  And he’s getting too old to be playing that young guy part.  I kind of liked his character in Persuit of Happyness, but that’s been the exception for him lately.  What’s weird was that I didn’t hate Tommy Lee Jones in this.  He’s playing the same character, but I guess I have just liked enough of what’s he’s done to appreciate this role of his.  I just feel like Will Smith never does anything else except Will Smith movies.

What I did like was the ending of the movie.  The twist was original and very heartfelt.  The interactions between the characters and the addition of Emma Thompson as Agent O are also very good in this movie.  I loved Jemaine Clement as Boris the Animal.  Any time I can see Jemaine is a good time.

Rating: 6.0 out of 10

Bonus: I also watched Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence recently.  I know I’ve discussed my love of Nicholas Cage before.  But this movie was too much.  No matter how much you may love terrible acting by terrible actors, this movie goes even farther to just plain AWFUL.  Do NOT watch this movie.  It is not worth it at all.

Rating: 1.0 out of 10

TERRIBLE movie

Preserved Meyer Lemons

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Preserved Meyer Lemons

It’s winter (almost spring!) and I’m slowly making my way through the jars of veggies I preserved this summer.  I still have some pickles, carrots, and tomatoes, but my hot peppers are long gone.  It’s a cue I guess for next year.  But in the mean time I had an itch to do SOMETHING in the kitchen.  So, I knew a bit ago that it was Meyer Lemon season and I’d never made preserved lemons before.  It seemed easy enough, so I gave it a try.

Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons

  • Meyer Lemons (about 4-5)
  • Kosher salt (non-iodine kind)
  • Sterile quart jar

The process is pretty simple.  Quarter the lemons, but DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH.  Put about a tablespoon or two of salt in the bottom of the jar.  Pour more salt into the cuts of the lemons so that the flesh gets covered.  Pack the jar with the cut lemons and then squish the lemons down.  REALLY pack them down and get the juices running.  If you have extra lemons that won’t fit in, you can juice them into the jar.  That’s all.  About every two days shake up the jar to make sure the lemons are covered with juice.  After three weeks the lemons should be ready.  Store in the fridge for up to a year.

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I cannot WAIT to make this recipe.  I have been making my own salad dressing lately, so this would work GREAT!

 

Falafel Pie

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Do you like falafel?  But do you hate to have to make the little balls and possibly frying them?  I know I do.  I do really love enjoy eating falafel.  My favorite was in Israel on the street with fries in the pita (and lots of harissa!).  I made this recipe a few weeks ago for a potluck and I think it went over well.  This recipe is actually a two-fer as I’ll give a recipe for tzatziki sauce as well.  I got the recipe from a blog called The Vegan Stoner.  It’s actually a really great recipe site.  All the recipes are super quick and easy.

Ingredients:

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • Falafel mix
  • Hummus
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • 10 oz soft silken tofu
  • lemon juice (from half a lemon)
  • dill
  • salt, pepper
  • optional: avocado, olives

Directions for Falafel Pie:

Mix falafel mix with prescribed amount of water and allow to sit for ten minutes.

Falafel mixed up

Falafel mixed up

In a greased pan, spread the falafel mix.  Bake at 425 F for 15 to 25 minutes (depending on your oven).

Falafel out of the oven

Falafel out of the oven

Bring the falafel out and allow to cool for  15ish minutes (until you can handle the pan).  Spread hummus in an even layer on to the falafel.

Hummus on top

Hummus on top

Top with you cut up veggies, such that you form circles (if you want to make it pretty).  Lastly, top with the tzatziki sauce.

Veggies added

Veggies added

Directions for Tzatziki Sauce:

Tzatziki sauce

Tzatziki sauce

In a blender (a magic bullet works GREAT), add the silken tofu, lemon juice, salt, and dill.  Blend for two minutes or until the mixture is smooth.  Add more lemon juice if need be.  Add some chopped cucumber to the tzatziki.

Finished pie

Finished pie

Happy Pi Day!

Friday Flicks: 50/50

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Awesome scene

Have you seen this movie? Don’t judge it by having Seth Rogan on the cover. Yes, Seth Rogan plays a big role in this movie. Yes, he plays Seth Rogan, the buddy who does these crazy antics and wants to “get laid” and “get wasted”. But there is a purpose to his actions, which you find out at the end of the movie.

The basic premise of the movie is that Adam, played by Jason Gordon Levitt (who is an AMAZING actor), is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer at age 27. He immediately starts chemo to hopefully beat the 50/50 odds of surviving the cancer. During this time his girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) has been supportive, but the support slowly starts to diminish the longer Adam is sick.

Therapy session

During the sessions of chemo Adam befriends two other guys, Alan and Mitch, who become his mentor in cancer, life, and love. Also during this time Adam starts to see a therapist, Katherine (Anna Kendrick) who is very inexperienced at therapy, in fact Adam is only her third patient. She tries to reach him, but in truth he’s very resistant to therapy.

Kyle (Seth Rogan), finds out Rachael is cheating on Adam, and presents the evidence to him. Adam promptly breaks up with her and tries to do the dating thing, but that doesn’t really work out. Adam’s mom is bugging him and keeps trying to take care of him, but he wants nothing to do with her. Katherine ends up showing Adam that his mom is being pushed out, so maybe he needs to cut her some slack.

Skeletor the dog 🙂

Adam gets some bad news in that the therapy is not working. His only possible chance at survival is a very risky surgery. In this decision he not only has to decide his own fate, but he also gains much insight into his life and the lives around him. Kyle hasn’t been a dick this whole time, he’s just been over compensating as he’s scared. His mom just wants to have someone to talk to. His therapist may be more than what she may be on the surface.

I honestly really liked this movie as it seemed pretty realistic. Yes, there were a lot of “bro movie” aspects to it, but the emotional relationships that are built in this group seemed very real.

I give the movie a 9 out of 10.