Monthly Archives: December 2011

Penultimate post, with a side of latkes

There’s something special about the Shabbat/Christmas/Chanukah combo, maybe even a little miraculous (see below).  On Friday afternoon, as we were doing last minute grocery shopping, hurrying home to cook, and generally feeling festive, so was everyone else.  Christmas is really when non-Jews understand what it’s like to host big Shabbat meals.  Though it’s hard to take myself seriously when I describe an 8-person dinner as very small and very casual.  Well, at least I succeeded on the casual part.  And “small” is all relative, right?

And as small and casual as it was, somehow we were still scrambling at the last possible moment before Shabbat started to finish cooking the food, light Chanukah candles, light Shabbat candles, set the table, shower, feed Aliza…  But it was all good, or at least good enough.

Recipe for a small, casual dinner

Baguettes from Le Bus
Green salad with almonds and craisins and a random salad dressing I made last week and added to as people were walking in the door
*Crockpot chili
Brown rice that miraculously cooked in half the time it should have taken
Chips, salsa, cheese, and sour cream
Guacamole left over from Naomi’s Chanukah party
Trader Joe’s latkes that Alex  miraculously happened to have in her freezer
Wine
More wine
Pineapple juice with rum and whipped cream (MUCH better than it sounds)
Candy cane Hershey’s kisses
Amazing chocolate chip cookies from Ilana and Adam
Vanilla Greek Yogurt just stuck in the freezer, that miraculously took on the right consistency even without the ice cream maker
Really good people around the table (probably the most important ingredient)

*Crockpot chili
I just made my normal chili recipe, but I started it at 10 a.m. in the crockpot.  That was going to be all I said on the matter, but somehow, searching through the blog, it seems like I haven’t included that recipe before.  I really, really thought I’d have all the recipes catalogued by now, but it just hasn’t happened.  Perhaps, after all of you start blogging instead of me in the coming weeks, I’ll have time for that project.  (If you haven’t yet signed up for a week, and I know you haven’t, now would be a reasonable time to sign up here.)  In the meantime, one of my favorite recipes:

1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil
1 can each kidney beans, black beans, and chick peas, rinsed and drained
1 or 2 cans of chopped stewed tomatoes with liquid
dash of soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons chili powder (or more to taste)
2 medium or 1 large sweet potato
1-2 teaspoons of dried or fresh parsley and/or basil
a cup or so of water, but less than I used (helpful, I know)
optional: a can of corn, can of chopped chilis, any other veggies you’d like to add, dash of cumin

Put it in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours, or in a pot on the stove for 45 minutes or so.  It’s super flexible, and it’ll be good pretty much no matter what. Don’t try to prove me wrong.

Naomi helped out with Aliza in the morning so we could sleep some more, and Josh hosted another small, casual meal for Saturday lunch, and it was just perfect.  Any perceived food problems were irrelevant,  there was an amazing ginger miso dip, my salad made another appearance, everything else was delicious, there were sufganiot (Chanukah donuts) and chocolate covered pretzels, and we talked a lot about Harry Potter.

And next week…we come full circle.  Back to New Year’s Eve, which is when this whole thing started.  And, just a little preview: there’s gonna be a dinner party.  And a lunch party.  I can’t wait.

But first, Aliza and a little Chanukah love, thanks to Emily’s latke artistry.

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3 dinners, 2 potlucks, 1 kugel

I knew it was a good Shabbat when I had 3 different dinners to go to Friday night.  And I actually made it to all of them.

First up, I went to the Grad Network potluck that Emily so graciously hosted.  There have definitely been times where I’ve gauged the success of an event solely based on the number of attendees, but even though the potluck was smaller than the other ones this year, the calm in the room made it really clear that for the folks who were still here at the end of the semester, a small, quiet dinner was just the right thing.  I had some challah and hummus then made my way to the next…

I stopped by Ilana’s where she was hosting the last of the sheva brachot meals for Ariel and Eric.  I didn’t even take off my coat, but I did manage to have a brussels sprout and some pumpkin mousse and borrow a tub of cool whip.  (I knew if any roommate pair would have such a thing available to borrow, it would be Ilana and Sarah.)

From there, it was home, where I actually ate a meal.  My parents were in town for Shabbat, and they put together most of the dinner while I was out making the rounds.  We had leftover rutabaga apple soup that Ruchama and I had made earlier in the week, tuna patties, spinach, and vegetable kugel (more on that in a bit).  Aliza managed to cry her way out of her crib, so she joined us for dinner, too.

So that’s 3 dinners.  And 1 of the potlucks.

Potluck 2 was at Minyan Tikvah on Saturday.  After our first sticker experiment a few months ago, we revised the procedure, and though we still have a few kinks to work out, this was definitely an improvement, and, as is to be expected, no one went away hungry.  My family’s potluck contributions were a lemon-mint chip ice cream (made by Marc, of course), a no-bake chocolate mousse pie from my mom (made possible by the borrowed cool whip), and, here it is again, the rest of the vegetable kugel from Friday night.

When I was a little kid, I got sick a lot.  Like, really, a lot.  And pretty much each time I was home sick, my dad would rent a VHS tape of a movie musical (usually Singin’ in the Rain), and we’d watch that and make a potato kugel.  But somehow, I never really learned how to make the kugel.  Maybe something to do with being 5-9 years old and congested every time I saw it made.  Even with my dad’s recipe in front of me, it’s just never worked out.  So I took the opportunity of having my parents in town and no other food plan to speak of to learn firsthand how to make this childhood favorite.

Even with the addition of other veggies, it somehow tasted just like I remembered.

Potato Kugel with other veggies (doubled, because why would you, and by “you” I mean “I,” ever make any less?)

8 potatoes, peeled
2 carrots
1/2 butternut squash
1 sweet potato
1 onion
6 eggs
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup oil
salt and pepper

Peel and cube the veggies except the onion, and process in batches in the food processor.   Move to another bowl.  Combine the other ingredients in the food processor and give it a spin.  Mix it all together, pour into a greased large rectangular pan, and bake at 350 for an hour.  Though it will actually need longer than that.

In other news, Aliza seems to be adjusting to her new teeth, just in time to enjoy an early Chanukah present.  Check out this awesome frog!

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Toothsome

One of the first chana masala recipes that Marc and I ever tried to make said that by cooking the chickpeas for a long time over low heat and gradually adding water, the chickpeas would become “toothsome.”  We wondered what that meant, we joked about it, we quoted it, but we didn’t really understand the impact of “toothsome” until this Friday night, when, while 20+ people ate chana masala in our living room, we were upstairs comforting Aliza while she experienced her first teething pains.  Toothsome indeed.

Friday was Heymish Minyan, and we volunteered to host,  mostly so that we could be there (7:00 bedtime and all).  I tried a second version of “cholent masala,” but worried all afternoon that it wasn’t doing what it was supposed to in the crockpot.  (It wasn’t.)

I was really moved by the beauty of having services in our living room, and when I took Aliza upstairs to put her to bed, I thought about how incredibly lucky she is to have be born into such a truly wonderful community, and to be able to fall asleep to the sounds of friends davening downstairs.

The potluck fare was plentiful and varied, though I only really remember that my chana masala didn’t taste like I wanted it to.  (Sleep deprivation = tunnel vision.)  I’m not going to include a recipe, but I have three more weeks to perfect my craft, and I should remember to use tomato paste and ginger ale next time.  I also recall eating some nutella tart yogurt off of a paper plate and ripping off a corner of the plate to use as a spoon.  And I may have said something about my skill with opposable  thumbs.

During dinner, Marc and I spent about 20 minutes in Aliza’s room while she screamed louder and scarier than I’ve ever heard out of her, and then spent the rest of the night taking turns going up and down the stairs to check on her/comfort her.  I will also admit to calling my parents not once, but twice, during the fiasco, and then daydreaming about Aliza calling us in 30 years asking for similar advice.

With sincere apologies to anyone who wasn’t there, my favorite part of the night was the bitter end when only a few people were left, we started drinking peppermint mocha Kahlua, and Aliza was finally asleep.

That didn’t last long, though, and while we had a tough night, and didn’t clean up as much as we should have before going to sleep, I stumbled downstairs in the morning, found Oreos and Alex’s fig cake still on the coffee table where we left them, ate some of both, fell asleep on the couch with a baby on my chest, and was glad things are going the way they’re going.  Sleep deprivation and all.

We must have eaten on Saturday, but I don’t recall.  I do know I was in my pajamas until 5:00, that I sadly missed Ariel and Eric’s aufruf, and that Sara paid us a lovely visit.  And, on Friday, I got this incredible picture of Aliza in her pink bearcub best.

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35X53

Shabbat starts and ends really early these days.  We’re talking 4:18 on Friday afternoon and, by my imprecise calculations, 5:18-ish on Saturday.  That means Friday afternoons in the winter are typically a flurry of crazy until candlelighting, and then a drawn-out haze until dinner.  But this week, even with a big work event, everything got done on time, and I didn’t have the panic.  I didn’t miss it, exactly, but I also felt like that must mean I was doing something wrong.

But no, it was just a super smooth afternoon sliding right into Shabbat.  Ahhh.

And then, Friday night, another really amazing thing happened: the Grad Network held its first ever  Kabbalat Shabbat services.  And people came.  A lot of people.  We were hoping for a minyan (a minimum of 10 adults), and ended up with 38.  It’s a real testament to a lot of things I’m really proud of that this happened and that I had almost nothing to do with organizing it.

And, services being followed by fleishig (meat) Chinese food didn’t hurt matters either.  Though I am still a reluctant and somewhat embarrassed meat eater, the food was just really seriously good, and hard enough to come by in Philly that some people showed up for the food and were, I think, pleasantly surprised by the caliber of the company.  The vegetarians, though, to be fair, probably showed up for the company and made do with the food.  Next time we’ll make sure there’s tofu.

Saturday afternoon, Ilana hosted a bunch of Tikvah-affiliated folks to talk about the recent Hadar Minyan conference (am I even allowed to use the word ‘affiliated’ in this context?!).  Since Marc and I didn’t go to the conference this year, it was great to hear reports from others who were there.  And Ilana made awesome crockpot chili.  And I had my first peppermint Jo-Jo of the season.

The other part of dessert was a concoction Marc dubbed “yo-milk surprise.”  Special shout-out to Williams-Sonoma for replacing our ice cream maker with no questions asked!  I wasn’t around for the ice cream making, but I hear it went something like this: the corner store didn’t have cream, so milk and yogurt went into the ice cream maker along with m&m’s that then lost their color, turning the whole slurry the color of hospital walls, which Marc then tried to improve with food coloring.  It tasted surprisingly good, but I’m not sure it’s a recipe we would try to recreate on purpose.

At lunch, Josh, the most calendrically-minded person I know, helpfully pointed out that 2011 is one of those years where there are actually 53 Shabbats, making the title of this whole deal, well….  That just means I have four more weeks to go, instead of three.

And after that, dear readers, it’s your turn!  You’re all invited to be part of 25x52x2, that is, the next year of this project.  I hoped all along that this blog would inspire people to host Shabbat meals of their own, and I’m really hoping that if you sign up to write about your Shabbat experiences for a week, that will provide both an inspiration and a pretty direct motivation.  You certainly don’t have to host to write, but it’s something to think about.

Here’s what I’m asking:

Click here to access the google doc where I’m keeping track of next year’s Shabbat dates (52 of them, ha!).  Write your name next to one of them.  When that week comes…

1) Write about your Shabbat experience in 300-700 words.
2) Include a recipe.
3) Include a photograph of food or something else related to the experience.
4) Refer to people by first-name only, and try to ask their permission first.
5) Send me your piece by 10:00 p.m. Sunday night for posting.

Other thoughts:

a)  You don’t have to live in Philly to be part of this.
b) You don’t have to invite me to your meal(s).
c) But you can if you want.  I’m a fun guest.  And I come with a good-looking entourage.
d) You don’t have to be observant in any way as long as you have something to say about Shabbat.  And food.
e) I want there to be a way for non-Jews to write, too, so I’m open to ideas.
f) Check out the Sabbath Manifesto for inspiration.  Also, I just started reading “The Sabbath World,” and my overwhelming emotion so far is that I wish I’d written this book.
g) I will plan to fill in on weeks when no one signs up, but I want to limit how often that happens.
h) So sign up.  Tell your friends and other interesting people you know to sign up.  It’s going to be a Shabbat blogging blogosphere.  Maybe we’ll meet each other and expand who we invite to our Shabbat tables.  Maybe we’ll have a big party next New Year’s with everyone who contributed.  Maybe I’ll learn a recipe that will change everything.  Maybe other awesome stuff will happen.

This is not the last you’ll be hearing about this.  You’ve been warned.  And invited.  And with that, a picture of Aliza swinging at the playground for the first time.   (No, there’s no picture of the yo-milk surprise.  You’ll have to use your imagination for that one.)

 

 

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