Kosher Pigs-in-a-Blanket…Oy vey!

It’s been raining a lot lately here with the remnants of the season’s first two tropical storms blowing by the coast, and all of this rain has reminded me of the things my mother would make us on rainy days as a kid.  One of our favourite things was pigs-in-a-blanket with mustard.  They were so simple and delicious – true comfort food.  I’m not sure if it was just a recipe she picked up from some American cookbook or on a package of crescent rolls or if she somehow came to them by way of her Czech grandmother and their obvious relationship to kolachy, but we gobbled them up.  Needless to say, the ones I had as a kid were decidedly not kosher.  Store-bought crescent rolls, hot dogs made from who-knows-what, and sometimes she even wrapped cheese up inside too.  Well, I’ve adapted the recipe to make it a bit more kashrut and I hope you’ll give them a try.  This recipe is also easily adaptable for vegans.

The basics: (makes 12 ‘pigs’-in-a-blanket)

1 sheet puff pastry (Pepperidge Farms® puff pastry is vegan and will work here, but it’s got a lot of additives and is expensive so I recommend using the puff pastry recipe provided below.)

12 kosher hot dogs/sausages or vegan dogs (I just use plain old Hebrew Nationals®)

Spicy mustard

Preheat oven to 400 degrees if using the pastry recipe below (or follow the directions on the package if using store-bought).  Take the rolled out squares of puff pastry and then fold into a triangle being sure to lightly pinch shut the corner where the two halves meet.  Lay the hot dog on the long side of the triangle and roll up like a crescent roll.  Place on baking sheet with adequate space for ‘puffing.’  You could at this point melt some vegan margarine and brush the tops to get a shiny crust, but it’s not necessary.  Bake in the oven until golden brown or for approximately 18 minutes.  Serve with spicy mustard for dipping.  (These also go well with homemade tater tots.)

Vegan Puff Pastry Recipe (from Végétalion):

1 cup all-purpose flour (plus a bit for flouring the workspace)

10tbsp vegan margarine, very cold (use sticks for easy measuring)

3tbsp ice water

Put the flour and about 2tbsp of the very cold margarine into a food processor.  Pulse about 10 times to incorporate. Add the rest of the chunks of margarine, then pulse again, but only 3-5 times.  Add the ice water. Pulse for 10-20 seconds, until it starts to form a ball of dough.  Put the dough on a large sheet of parchment paper, form into a rough rectangle. Put another sheet of parchment paper on top.  With a rolling pin, roll it out long and flat; 6 by 9 inches. Remove the top layer of parchment paper, turn the dough over onto a well-floured surface, then pull off the other layer.  Fold the sides over the middle, so it’s now about 2 inches in width.  Roll it up length-wise.  Squash it into a square, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge until firm for at least an hour (preferably longer).  Take the dough out of the fridge.  Again, put the dough between two large sheets of parchment paper.  Roll to a 10- by 15-inch rectangle, then cut into 12 pieces.  Fold each piece over itself twice and roll out thinly again before proceeding with the recipe above.

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Super-easy Guacamole

Following up on my enchilada recipe, I’ve decided to share my guacamole recipe.  It’s super-easy, delicious, and has converted many a no-green-stuff person.

What you need:

2 large ripe Haas avocados*

1/2 cup sour cream

1tsp garlic

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp cumin

Slice the avocados in half length-wise and remove the pit.  Scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl and smash with a fork.  Add sour cream and the spices.  Adjust with additional amounts of garlic, salt, pepper, or sour cream depending on your tastes.  Mix well.  Done! I told you it was super-easy.

*A note about ripe avocados: I have seen many stores mark avocados with “Ripe” stickers (one chain grocer in particular is especially guilty of this) when the avocado is not actually ripe.  An avocado is ripe when it is black and gives slightly when you squeeze it (like a tomato).  If it is too soft, it is going to be very bitter and over-ripe.  If it is rock-hard and you have a few days before you plan to use it, you can place it in a brown paper bag on your counter and it will ripen.  Just be sure to keep an eye on it and move it to the fridge when it’s ready so that it doesn’t go past ripe.

Vegetarian (Kosher!) Enchiladas

I love Tex-Mex food.  When I was growing up in California, it wasn’t a real party unless there was guacamole and enchiladas.  Birthday? Enchiladas.  Family reunion?  Enchiladas.  I have what you might call a family recipe since it began with my grandmother, was adapted by my mother, and now has been adapted here by me.  No matter what you call it, your guests will call it, “Mmmmm!”

What you need:

1 large casserole dish, sprayed lightly with cooking spray

8 large flour tortillas (burrito size)(you could use corn but the consistency will be different)

1 28oz can of mild green chile Old El Paso® enchilada sauce (trust me, get the green stuff)

1 cup shredded “fiesta” blend cheese (Monterrey jack, cheddar, queso fresco, etc.)

1 cup cremini mushroom caps cut into large chunks

1/2 cup pitted black olives

1 cup red and/or green bell peppers sliced thin

1/2 cup salsa (I use a medium salsa, but you could use mild or hot)

1tbsp olive oil

Okay, now prepare yourself.  These are probably the easiest enchiladas you will ever make and everyone will love them.  First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Then, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and then add the mushrooms.  Let them soften slightly and then add the sliced peppers.  Once everything has softened, add the salsa and cook down until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Remove from the heat.  Next, get a work space ready and spread a few tablespoons (just enough to coat) of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of your casserole dish.  Take a tortilla and make a line of the mushroom/pepper filling slightly to one side.  Add a few olives (you could slice or chop these, but I love biting into whole olives).  Sprinkle with some of the cheese (not too much).  Roll up beginning with the side with filling.  No need to tuck the sides while rolling unless you are using a narrow casserole dish.  Repeat for all 8 tortillas placing each one in the casserole dish perpendicular to the longer sides.  If it seems like they won’t all fit, cram them in.  Smashing them together actually makes them better.  Once all of the enchiladas are in the pan, pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the top (you may not use it all depending on the size of your pan, the dryness of your tortillas, etc…use your judgment).  Sprinkle liberally with remaining cheese and put in the oven.  All of the ingredients are cooked so you’re just waiting for the sauce to warm and the cheese to melt.  Twenty minutes should be fine unless you like your cheese a bit more brown.  Serve with sour cream, guacamole, black beans, and rice.

Nachal Margarita Recipe

It’s the unofficial beginning of summer this weekend and that means it’s time for tropical drinks of the tame and more adult varieties (in moderation of course).  This is the only margarita recipe I use since it tastes so great.  Nachal is Hebrew for wadi or “seasonal river” which I think is appropriate for this thirst-quenching summertime treat.  I like it over ice without salt, but I think you could probably do it frozen and get some fancy rimming sugar if you were having a party and wanted to impress your guests.  The blue curaçao gives the drink a gorgeous blue glow.

What you need:

1 pitcher filled with ice

2 parts tequila (use your favourite, but it should be good)

1 part blue curaçao (I use Dekuyper’s)

1 bottle Simply Limeade®

Pour in your tequila and blue curaçao and then fill to the top with the limeade.  Give it a gentle stir.  Done!  Super easy and delicious.  Please drink responsibly.

Old-World Veal with Mushroom Gravy and Egg Noodles

As someone of German and Czech ancestry who lived in the Midwest for a good portion of my formative years, I have a special love for meat smothered in gravy.  This recipe is my kosher adaptation of one of my favourite ‘Old-World’ recipes.  If you don’t do veal or if you’re trying to be healthier, I occasionally substitute kosher boneless skinless chicken breasts in for the veal.

What you need:

2lbs. veal chops (kosher or not)

1lb package of wide egg noodles, boiled and drained

2 cups mushroom broth (kosher or not)(if you can’t find mushroom broth, you can use beef stock)

3tbsp flour

1/2tsp kosher sea salt

1/2tsp black pepper

1/2-1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms (depending on how mushroom-y you like things)

3tbsp olive oil (kosher or not)

Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet.  Season all sides of your veal chops with the salt and pepper.  Add to skillet and brown on both sides (depending on the thickness of your chops, about 2-3 minutes per side).  Remove the chops.  Add the remaining 2tbsp of oil to the pan and then add the mushrooms.  Allow the mushrooms to soften.  Once the mushrooms have softened, add the flour and stir to coat everything.  Next, add the mushroom broth and whisk vigorously to prevent any lumps.  Allow the broth to come to a boil and then reduce to a simmer while continuing to whisk.  The broth will begin to thicken.  Once it begins to thicken, add the chops back in and simmer until gravy is thick and the chops are cooked through (time varies based on thickness of chops, but about 10 minutes should do it for average chops since you don’t want to overcook them).  Serve chops and gravy over egg noodles.

Kosher Turkey Tex-Mex Burger

It’s that time of year again, and one of the hardest things to give up when I started going kosher was my favourite big juicy cheeseburger. I had to come up with an alternative, and here it is!

Makes 2 1/2lb burgers

  • 1 pound Kosher Valley ground turkey
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1.5 teaspoons kosher sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Hungarian hot paprika (yeah, I know…I buy it in bulk, ha!)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher olive oil
  • 1 organic avocado
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • 1 handful washed and dried baby spinach
  • 6 strips Turtle Island tempeh bacon strips, browned (if you eat pork, you could use real bacon but the tempeh gets extra crispy)
  • 2 whole grain kosher hamburger buns

In a medium mixing bowl, combine ground turkey, salt, pepper, and paprika (hands work best).
Form meat mixture into two 1/2lb patties.
Heat 2tbsp olive oil over medium high heat and add meat patties once the oil is hot. They should cook to an internal temperature of 175 and then be allowed to rest for a few minutes before serving. This will likely take ten minutes per side (especially if you like it a little crisp on the outside like I do).
While the patties are cooking, cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and place the flesh in a bowl. Smash well with a fork and mix in diced Roma tomato. Set aside.
Toast the whole grain buns in a toaster, toaster oven, or under your broiler and then spread the avocado mixture evenly over both.
Distribute tempeh strips and spinach evenly between the two bottom buns and place the rested meat patty on top. Place top bun on top, and you’re done! Goes well with sweet potato fries.

Chicken Paprikash (By popular demand!)

Everyone seems to love this recipe.  I personally can’t get enough hot paprika in my diet, and I guess maybe you could use sweet paprika for this recipe, but it wouldn’t be as much fun.

What you’ll need:

2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts (kosher or not, and if you’re not trying to be so healthy, you could also just cut up a whole 2-3lb chicken)

2tbsp olive oil (kosher or not)

1tsp kosher sea salt

1tsp black pepper (I like mine peppery, you can put more or less)

1 chopped yellow onion

1tbsp Hungarian hot paprika (this is what makes it paprikash so you must get it!)

1/4 cup white wine (for kosher, Ben Ami Chardonnay works well)

1/4 cup no sodium-added chicken broth (I like to add my own salt, personally. [kosher or not])

1/2 cup sour cream (using real sour cream renders this recipe treif, but to keep it kosher, you can get some really good vegan sour creams like Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream® or you could make your own with tofu)

 

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and brown chicken on all sides.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Remove the chicken and set aside.  Add onion to skillet.  Cook just until tender, but not totally translucent or worse, brown.  Stir in paprika.  Return chicken to skillet, turning to coat with all the goodness in the pan.  Add wine and broth and stand back!*  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked and tender. Remove chicken and keep warm.

Boil pan juices until reduced to about 1/2 cup liquid, or for about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup sour cream (or sour cream substitute).  Heat through.  I serve this over latkes made with Streit’s latke mix (because I have not yet mastered the art of the homemade latke).

 

*It is better to add the wine first so it can de-glaze the pan, but beware!  The first time I did this, I had company over and when the white wine hit the hot paprika, it sent up a cloud of steam that burned everyone’s lungs.  You could probably add the broth first.  Either way, be careful.  That hot paprika is feistier than it appears.

Lee’s Favourite ‘Fried Chicken’

Better for you than real fried chicken but not so healthy that it tastes like cardboard…

1lb. boneless skinless chicken breast (kosher or not)(I slice them in half lengthwise so they’re thin)

1 cup matzo meal

1/4 cup dijon mustard

1tsp kosher salt

1tsp black pepper

1tsp Hungarian hot paprika

4tbsp olive oil (or enough to cover the bottom of the pan)

 

Heat oil in pan over medium heat.  Thoroughly rub down your chicken with the dijon mustard.  In a dish, mix together matzo meal, salt, pepper, and paprika.  Once the oil is nice and hot (you could make a mini matzo ball to test it…just don’t use your fingers!), dredge the mustard-coated chicken through your matzo meal mixture and add to pan.  Make sure there is enough room between each piece (you may have to do batches).  The edges will turn golden brown and you will want to flip the pieces very gently after about five minutes on each side (if they’re thin-sliced…longer if not).  You can drain on paper towels to be extra-healthy, but these really don’t come out that greasy.

Frozen to Fabulous…Stir-Fry Fast!

Are you tired, lazy, or don’t feel entirely comfortable cooking from scratch?  Sometimes at least two of those three apply to me, and in response, I developed a super-easy way to get stir-fry without calling for take-out.  This recipe feeds two hungry people with some leftovers.

1lb. boneless skinless chicken breast (kosher or not), cubed (about 1″ cubes or smaller if you like)

2 pkgs. frozen stir-fry veggies (I use Target brand’s  ‘Harvest Stir-Fry Medley’ 8oz. packages…and they’re kosher)

1 cup Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki®

1-2tbsp hot red pepper flakes (to taste)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2lb thin spaghetti pasta

3tbsp olive oil (kosher or not)

Start about 1qt. water boiling for your pasta.  In a large non-stick skillet, begin heating 2tbsp olive oil on medium-high heat.  When oil is very hot, add chicken cubes.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown.  Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.  Add last tablespoon of olive oil and allow to come to heat.  Add in frozen stir-fry veggies and red pepper flakes.  Add pasta noodles to boiling water and boil just until al dente (about 8-10 minutes).  Add the chicken back to the pan with the veggies once they’ve thawed and softened some, and then add the teriyaki sauce.  Turn heat down to simmer and turn your attention back to the pasta.  This is very important…do not overcook your pasta!  The last thing you want is mushy stir-fry noodles.  Once the noodles are al dente, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking (you can throw them in an ice bath, but I think running the colander under cold water works just fine).  Add noodles to pan with veggies and chicken and mix thoroughly.  Add additional sesame seeds if desired. Ta-da!!!  Easy frozen to fabulous stir-fry.  I serve it with vegetarian spring rolls.

Best Roasted Kosher Turkey Ever

I tend to make rather outrageous claims to the awesomeness of my cooking, but according to my husband, this is legit.

1 kosher turkey (or not kosher if that’s your thing)

1/4 cup olive oil (also kosher or non depending on your thing)

1 large bunch tarragon (rough-chop half and keep the other half whole)

2 small lemons, halved

1tbsp kosher sea salt (you can do regular, but the chunky stuff is better)

1/2tbsp black pepper

2 medium shallots, peeled but not chopped

 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Ideally, your bird will include a pop-up thermometer (it seems to be the fad these days), but if not, you’ll want to have a meat thermometer handy.  Carefully remove any extraneous bird parts, rinse the bird, and then pat dry.  Place breast down on a prepared rack in a roasting pan.  Whisk chopped tarragon, salt, and pepper into olive oil.  Carefully separate skin from meat so that you can run your fingers underneath.  Rub oil all over bird, inside the cavity, and underneath skin.  You want that bird thoroughly greased up (don’t worry, olive oil is full of good fats).  Next, stuff the cavity of the bird with the lemons, shallots, and whole tarragon.  Tie legs together with kitchen twine if necessary (some birds come with a connector already) and place in oven.  If the top of the bird starts getting too brown, cover with an aluminium foil ‘tent.’  Cooking times will vary based on bird weight, so check the package for the approximate time for your poundage.  If the bird includes a pop-up timer, keep an eye on it.  You don’t want to overcook the bird, so remove it as soon as it pops up and let it rest twenty minutes before carving.  If you are using your own thermometer, you’re looking for about 175 degrees Fahrenheit (the temperature will continue to rise slightly while resting).  Serve with roasted potatoes and sauteed mushrooms or any of your other favourite sides.  This is a great recipe for Thanksgiving or just Shabbat since it can be prepared before sundown and the leftovers are super-yummy, and it works great on a chicken if you have a smaller crowd (just reduce the amounts of oil, salt, and pepper…the tarragon should still be fine).

These leftovers work well in my recipe for ‘Cure-All’ Slowcooker Soup.

Please observe safe food handling practices when dealing with all raw meat, especially poultry.

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