Menu Plan: Week of Feb. 1, 2015

By | February 1, 2015

Even though I know people are following this blog (more than 10,000 last month! Thank you!), I always forget that my real-life friends read it, too. It happens all the time that I’m talking to someone and she mentions whatever I’ve written here most recently, and I do a double-take, like — “how did you know that?!” So last Sunday, when I wrote about never getting to go grocery shopping, it really did not occur to me that somebody reading it would up and offer to give me a ride. But yes, my friends are awesome like that.

So it’s thanks to Karen that my house now contains tons of swiss chard (my favorite thing ever), a friendly container of Ben & Jerry’s (a close second), portobello mushrooms, chocolate-covered coffee beans, 2 kilos of Medjool dates, and a dozen other things that make excited every time I see them. If you’re curious about what my toddler is eating in the middle of all this, come back soon. I’ve been collecting data.

Mexican tabbouleh

By | January 29, 2015

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Many moons ago, I was having computer trouble. It was time-consuming and energy-consuming and nothing was working. At some point in between my laptop dying and being partially revived, I transferred every last file to our friends’ external hard drive. This was the perfect rescue plan until our friends moved to Beit Shemesh, a decent shlep from Kochav HaShachar. But there was no rush to get the files onto my new laptop, so you know, if they didn’t mind storing them for awhile, I certainly didn’t.

This week, my husband decided to check this off our family to-do list. He made the trek, then he spent 90 minutes transferring the files with a flash drive, tremped trekked home, and spent another hour moving them to my computer. This is the kind of thing I would have done in maybe another 10 years. It helps to be married to someone different from yourself.

I bring all this up because until now, this recipe and photo were stuck in Beit Shemesh (where they received awesome accommodations). Now that they’re back at home, I wanted to share this dish with you right away. Tabbouleh is classically a Middle Eastern dish, with chopped parsley and mint and diced tomatoes and cucumbers. This Mexican spin on it has great flavor and comes together quickly, especially if you use canned corn and beans. It works perfectly for light but satisfying weekday lunches or as a side dish for a Shabbos meal. Especially one with a Mexican theme.

Menu Plan: Week of Jan. 25, 2015

By | January 25, 2015

Grocery shopping is one of my very favorite things. Whenever I get the chance to walk up and down those aisles, I automatically chill out. But those aisle walks are very infrequent. See, in this family, the shopper is the one who can carry the most groceries home in a tremp, and that is not a title I can claim. Luckily, my husband makes things exciting by picking up surprise items during his grocery runs. Last week, he brought back a jar of pecan syrup! Seriously the highlight of my week. I’m counting down the hours until we dredge some pancakes in it.

Congratulations to Tova, the winner of last week’s giveaway! Tova’s entry was #24 out of an even 100, and her copy of Secrets From Lori Rapp’s Kitchen is in the mail. Keep an eye out for the next giveaway — this one will be for a spanking new Pesach cookbook!

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Reader Q&A: Recipe testing

By | January 21, 2015

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I got a great question in the MQP mailbox recently about the practical side of recipe development. (Before we get to it though, have you entered the giveaway for Secrets from Lori Rapp’s Kitchen? Contest closes tonight at midnight EST!) Okay, as I was saying.

Ariela writes:

I love to cook and bake and always want to try new things but am scared, really, of what will come out. How do you experiment? What do you do when a dish fails?

Lately I’ve tried experimenting with different ingredients in recipes that I love and they all flopped. Well, not totally, instead of pumpkin pie we had pumpkin pudding and it was actually really good.

Especially since you have kids now and you need to get food on the table, how do you manage the testing? I need inspiration to continue trying.

It happens alllll the time in my cooking that food doesn’t come out like I thought or hoped it would, but it’s usually decent enough for us to eat anyway. Like with your pumpkin dessert: you expected (and wanted) a pie but you still enjoyed the pudding. There are exceptions, though. Once I made chickpea cookies that were so disgusting we threw them out — that is very rare for us. Most of the time, the dish is either alright as it is even if it needs tweaking, or it can be salvaged. A few months ago, I made my regular potato kugel but accidentally quadrupled the potato starch. It was inedible. But then I pulverized it to death in the food processor to break up all the extra starch, made a second kugel with sweet potatoes (leaving out the starch), mixed them together, and baked it up as 50 mini kugels. And they were great. (That was my husband’s solution, by the way. I was ready to give up.)

Experimenting teaches me a lot, so as hard as it is when I’m not happy with the result, I know it’s the only way to go. I do take it personally when I don’t get it right the first time, even though I should just accept it as a normal part of recipe development. And then when I do get it perfect right away, it seems too good to be true. Like, shouldn’t I have had to work harder for that?

As far as experimenting versus making meals I can rely on, that is a challenge, but like I said, we almost always do eat whatever it is that I made. I also have no problem with my husband and I having cookies for dinner if that’s all I had time to make that day because I was testing. (We did that when I was working on these and these.) And I really really try to have a bunch of different foods in the freezer for my toddler at any given time so I have things to fall back on for him. Pancakes, muffins, patties/burgers made from grains/veggies/beans, healthy rice crispy treats, homemade crackers, frozen mini pizza doughs, whole wheat rolls, and mini kugels are some things I’ve done or do regularly.

But if I’ve used my cooking quota for the day to test something and it didn’t come out well enough to eat, and I haven’t got anything in the freezer, you know what? Omelets for everybody. Or else my husband boils a bag of pasta.