• In our home, the holidays are full of family traditions. From cutting down a fresh Christmas tree in the nearby Santa Cruz mountains to seeing what is behind the door each day of the Advent calendar, we love this time of year.

    While most of our traditions are focused around the kids, one particular favorite of mine is not. What is it you ask? Well, it is whipping up a batch of our favorite holiday cheer called 44. Yep, 44.

    44 is a recipe that has been passed down to me from my Ukrainian grandparents. It was a favorite holiday drink back in the cold winters of the Ukraine. There, they used their own homemade potato vodka but here any store bought vodka will do.

    The simple recipe is as follows (you'll see why it has the name 44):
    Ingredients *44 sugar cubes *44 coffee beans *1 Bottle of Vodka *4-6 whole oranges

    Pour the vodka into a large container with lid. Add the sugar, coffee beans and oranges. Put the container in a cool place (such as your pantry) and let sit for 44 days.

    After

    Read More »from User post: Holiday Homebrew
  • Being that Thanksgiving is this week I thought it would be appropriate to jot off a list of things I'm grateful for.


    1) Kids and a dog who are potty trained. Really this I count as one of my greatest achievements as a mother- the fact that I got two kids ( and a dog)- to learn how to use the potty. No my dog doesn't actually sit on a toilet- but you get the gist! Having a diaper-free life - where I don't have to worry about forgetting to take one with me- and thus need to resort to using a makeshift paper towel one instead on a toddler who has just majorly pooped his pants - well it's just plain liberating.

    2) Coffee. Really need I say more-it is the sweet nectar of the gods and the spring in my step- the reason I manage to drag myself out of bed every morning at the crack of 6am, to make PB&J sandwiches for my kids- and smile sweetly at them, when they spill their chocolate milk all over their uniforms, as their carpool ride honks at our front door.

    3) Nutella.

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  • As a full fledged member of the tribe- and a yeshiva graduate (okay I dropped out after 10 th grade for the mean streets of public high school- but still feel I logged in plenty of quality Jewish learning during those formative ten years) in my opinion Chanukah is by far one of the best Jewish holidays.

    For one, there's no dwelling on suffering…you don't need to fast, atone for your sins or spend all day in synagogue praying to g-d to shine his mercy on you. NAH- this holiday is all about getting your party on; gorging on greasy fried foods like latkes, aka potato pancakes, and sufganiyot, aka jelly donuts. And then there is the present factor. Unlike our Christian friends- we get eight nights of presents.

    Still growing up all I really wanted was to slip into a window display at Macy's and embrace the pimped out Christmas tree, and rosy-cheeked electronic Santa as my own, drink a punchbowl full of eggnog and of course go caroling. Hanukkah just didn't hold that same

    Read More »from User post: Get your Chanukah on
  • I spent a great deal of my young life rebelling against one thing: Being in the kitchen. I come from a traditional Mexican-American family and, in my mind, learning how to cook (and clean) meant you were destined to get married.

    What did married mean? Cooking and cleaning up after messy, disrespectful children while your husband was out living a more interesting life. To me, it was all a trap that had to be avoided at any cost.

    All the relationships I had I held at an arm's length so they didn't end up liking me enough to want to get married. Not only did I go out of my way to not be a particularly good girlfriend, I went as far as to not learn how to cook. As a child, I would ignore the steps my mother took to make Mexican Wedding Cakes, enchiladas, beans, posole, albondigas, and especially tacos. Her arms are scarred with splattered grease from frying the tortillas. I viewed them as marks of her servitude.

    Loathing the idea of cooking did not get me out of kitchen.

    Read More »from User post: Remembering My Mother's Kitchen
  • The month of December can be very difficult for Jewish children in the United States. Most of the country is gearing up for Christmas and reminders of it are everywhere - shopping, music, television, decorations - you can't escape it. As an adult, I've become immune to it, but for children, it is hard not to feel left out.

    Chanukuh is celebrated for eight days, therefore many families give eight days of gifts. When I was a child, my parents would take one gift a day out of the closet for me and one for my brother. Although we loved getting gifts, it lacked a certain holiday feel.

    When my sons were young I decided to make the Chanukah gift giving more festive. I would pick a day, a few days before Chanukah, when my kids were at school and wrap all of the presents, including my husbands. I would make three piles of eight gifts each in front of the fireplace using different sheets of brightly colored wrapping paper. My kids would arrive home from school and see the piles and the

    Read More »from User post: How I made Chanukah exciting for my kids
  • Yes I am one of those read-all-the-labels, organic milk buying, farmers market shopping, will not make mashed potatoes from a box kind of moms. But then Thanksgiving rolls around and every inch of my Midwestern rooted soul craves some particularly 1950s-centric foods. I spent every Thanksgiving of my childhood in suburban Michigan, staying at my grandmother's house and feasting at my aunt and uncle's with no less than 40 people every year. Kids' table? Check. Tex-Mex dip? Yup. Giant round pumpernickel bread filled with spinach dip? Hell yes. But the most steadfast and true addition to the Thanksgiving buffet had to be the Jell-O mold shimmering brilliantly alongside the pumpkin and apple pies.

    The Jell-O mold is a lost art. Both of my grandmothers were masters of the form. It wasn't enough to pour that boiling, artificially colored liquid into a mold and just let it set up. No. There were ribbons to be created, sour cream to be swirled in forming pastel shaded layers, slices of

    Read More »from User post: A Retro Thanksgiving
  • Thanksgiving is an angst-ridden cooking day for many people. Throw in a food allergy, and well, I can see how it can make for an even tougher situation. We have none of these issues in our family, though once you learn a thing or two, I think they're much easier to deal with than picky eaters who show up with their own box of Stove Top stuffing.

    Isabella has been friends for a few years now with a little boy who has a cow's milk allergy. For those who've been with me for a while, you know how Oliver has been an inspiration in my recipes. While butter and dairy are a huge part of my cooking, I'm challenged in a good way to think differently of how to add flavor and texture.

    Another little voice that I often find whispering sweet somethings in my ear is Shauna.

    One word echoes in my mind when confronted with adapting or developing a recipe to make it tasty and safe for everyone to eat: yes.

    That's all Shauna's doing.

    Rather than fret over what I can't use, I

    Read More »from User post: An All-Inclusive Thanksgiving Menu
  • roasted Thanksgiving turkeyroasted Thanksgiving turkeyEvery year I think I will try something fancy with my Thanksgiving turkey -- perhaps brining it, or cooking a turducken or maybe even frying it in peanut oil -- and every year I make my turkey the exact same way. Why? Because it always turns out perfectly and it tastes so darned good. For anyone interested in a juicy, tasty, simple-to-cook turkey, I'll share my big secrets.

    My turkey cooking days began my first Thanksgiving away from home when my mother sent me a sage, yet humorous email, with instructions. I printed that email out and pulled it out year after year and managed to keep it despite moving cross-country twice since then. I've also picked up a few tricks of my own along the way and have written them in the margins over several years, and one day finally got smart and typed everything up so I wouldn't lose those precious notes.

    Turkey Prep (notes written for myself and future generations)

    We buy a local brand of turkey, Shady Brook Farm, rather than a national

    Read More »from User post: Roast a Thanksgiving Turkey They're Sure to Gobble Up
  • Blame it all on Alton Brown - I've been brining and smoking my Thanksgiving turkey since 2007. This year I'll be doing a Maple-Herb Brine. I've also made Alton's Honey Brined Smoked Turkey recipe, a Citrus-Stuffed Herbed Turkey with a honey and citrus brine and a Savory Turkey Brine using Kikkoman Soy Sauce. Yes, I'm a little brine happy, but who wouldn't be when it results in a delicious, succulent turkey!

    Thanksgiving turkeyThanksgiving turkey

    So what's brining anyway?

    Brining is a process that is used to add flavor and moisture to a meat before cooking. Brine consists of water, salt, herbs and spices, and something sweet like juice, honey, sugar, molasses or maple syrup.

    Many recipes have you heat the water to dissolve the salt and sugar. Afterward, you need to cool the mixture before use.


    What kind of container?

    When you're ready to brine, you'll need a clean, non-reactive container large enough to hold the meat and the brine. I've used a cooler (both plastic ice chests and Styrofoam coolers). Some people Read More »from User post: How to brine your Thanksgiving turkey
  • To me the holidays have always had a magical pull of tradition laced with new traditions. In other words, anything fun and new is added to the stack of holiday traditions, and nothing is EVER removed. It's a one way pot of fun goodness that is truly more than anyone could logically handle, and yet it drives me and my family to the point of sheer exhaustion topped off with a permanent smile. I am convinced it is a form of civilized, and socially acceptable, insanity that really should be prohibited. But the question is - what to give up?

    It all starts in October with visions of pumpkins dancing in our heads and by December we are in full-on frantic holiday mode. The days are a filled with a combination of good food and fun crafts. With time being one of the most limited resources of this festive season, this is a craft that you can do once and it will last for years.

    Leafing Supplies:

    30-40 leaves, fresh so that they can be pressed flat, once they are curled they will

    Read More »from User post: What to give up? Leafing it up to you.

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