Monday, February 27, 2012

Portobello Mushrooms and Port Wine Reduction


I’m very fortunate that my husband loves mushrooms. In general, I find that most people either love them, or hate them. We’re a mushroom loving family, which is good since there are just so many different varieties available to us. Each week, when I place my fruit and vegetable order at our Greengrocer, I always ask if they have nice portobello mushrooms. They are definitely my favorite type of mushrooms, especially since they are so meaty and hearty. Now, I have never attempted to grill a portobello mushroom and serve it as a burger, but I’m hoping to try that this summer.

Instead, I like to make stir fries with the delicious fungi. I also like to serve it on its own, as opposed to crowding the mushroom with other vegetables. In this recipe, you can also swap out the port wine with another red cooking wine you like, or you can use balsamic vinegar. I happen to like the flavor port wine gives the dish, but go with what pleases your palate.

This side dish works great paired with everything from a nice cut of roast beef, to turkey meatballs. I also like it with my honey mustard corned beef, so stay tuned to future blog posts for that recipe!


Portobello Mushrooms and Port Wine Reduction

Yield: Serves 2-4

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 - 30 minutes

An earthy side dish that's aromatic, flavorful, and a perfect showcase for beautiful portobello mushrooms.


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 large portobello mushrooms, cleaned and dried
1 garlic clove, minced
2 sprigs of thyme, needles removed and chopped
1/4 cup Port wine (or any red wine of your choice)
Salt and pepper to taste


Slice portobello mushrooms lengthwise. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add extra virgin olive oil. While the oil warms in the pan, add the garlic clove. Stir until tender but not brown. Add the portobello mushrooms. Stir occasionally. You will notice the mushrooms, while cooking, will give off some water. Stir until some of that water evaporates. When it has cooked down, add the port wine. Stir until combined and cook until some of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and add thyme, salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Strauss 5% Cottage Cheese: Review

I grew up eating cottage cheese whenever I was dieting. Truth be told, I wasn’t always a big fan. But, I knew that when it was time to shed some pounds, a breakfast of cottage cheese and fresh fruit was the way to go. Over the years, the kosher cottage cheese options in the States just exploded. You could get full fat, low-fat, no-fat cottage cheese; cottage cheese with fruit on the bottom, even whipped cottage cheese. Just visit the Friendship Dairies website and you’ll be amazed by the selection!

But, then I made Aliyah in 2006 and I had to find a new cottage cheese to love, and it was very challenging. I didn’t have much of a selection at the Tel Aviv supermarkets I used to frequent, and I was very disappointed in the Tnuva brand. The 3% was really tasteless, and the 5% didn’t do much more to please my palate. I ended up tossing more cottage cheese containers than I care to admit, and so after a while, I just gave up on cottage cheese and moved on.

My husband wasn’t a big cottage cheese eater and, when we got married, we just didn’t buy the product. Our eldest was born allergic to all dairy products, and for the first two years of her life, our house didn’t have a single dairy item in it. But then, thankfully, she outgrew the allergy and dairy was allowed into our lives once again! She went off to gan slurping down yogurt drinks and chewing on cheese sticks. She came home from gan licking her favorite ice cream pops.  During the Spring, I discovered that she was eating a lot of cottage cheese at gan. And, not only that, but she loved it! Just when I was ready to start scouting out for the new cheese, the cottage cheese boycott broke out, and suddenly cottage cheese was on everyone’s minds.

I was so impressed with how Ofra Strauss, Chairperson of the Strauss Group, handled the crisis that I started looking for their cottage cheese. I am so glad that I did, because their 5% cottage cheese with calcium is the best on the market. The consistency is super creamy that is reminds me of goat cheese crumbles, and the taste is so good that I can’t believe it’s only 5%! It tastes like it’s full fat, which is a big plus. Each week, we go through anywhere between 3-4 containers.

My daughter takes it to school with sliced strawberries for Aruchat 10, I eat it for breakfast on whole wheat toast with orange slices, and when the baby gets old enough to eat dairy, I’m going to feed it to her by the spoonful!

And, for my husband who insists he wasn’t a cottage cheese lover, I make this delicious cottage cheese omelette and he almost licks the plate clean!



Cottage cheese omelette

Yield: Serves 1

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5-10 minutes

Total Time: 10-15 minutes

Unlike the sophistication of a French blinz, this cottage cheese omelette is humble yet flavorful and packs a giant protein punch with extra calcium.


Cooking spray
2 eggs, scrambled
2 Tbs Strauss 5% cottage cheese with calcium
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 handful of walnuts, crushed
2 strawberries, sliced


Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and heat gently. Add the scrambled eggs to the skillet and cook, flipping midway to cook both sides through. Remove from skillet and let cool.

In a separate bowl, mix cottage cheese, sugar and vanilla. Add to the center of the egg omelette and fold both sides over. Flip the omelette over so the "seam" side is down on the plate; the cottage cheese mixture should peak out of both sides.

Serve with crushed walnuts and strawberries.

This product review was not paid for by The Strauss Group, and the cottage cheese was purchased by me at our neighborhood SuperSol.

Product reviews are a regular feature of my blog, and I would LOVE to review your products! To let me know about a new product, please click on the contact tab to send me the information. In February, I would like to start reviewing products for Passover!



Monday, December 19, 2011

Kitchen Mishaps

The Colmans Mustard Explosion


We’ve all been there. Kitchen mishaps; when things just go awry. My most memorable kitchen mishap happened back in college, when I was making zucchini bread while gossiping on the phone with my friend. I accidentally put in a tablespoon of baking soda, instead of a teaspoon, and realized my mistake midway through the baking process. Rather than just toss it out and start again, I decided to tell my Shabbat guests and not the members of my family, about my little mistake. When I served the dish for lunch, my friends wisely avoided the zucchini bread, as I goaded my parents and siblings into eating large pieces. I asked them what they thought, and saw out of the corner of my eye my sister choking her way through her portion. They hemmed and hawed and tried to come up with something nice to say, but most just chewed in silence. Then my Dad declared that it was delicious, and so I came clean about my mistake.

All hell broke lose.

My sister spat out her mouthful and declared it was awful. My brother started yelling at me for making him eat it, and my Mother just could not believe that I kept this information from them.

What? I didn’t know that much baking soda would make the whole thing taste absolutely bitter.

(BTW – to this day – I really, really do think my Dad liked it)

The zucchini bread was tossed and I was banned from cooking in the kitchen for years! I am NOT exaggerating, my Mother only let me back into the kitchen once both of my sisters were married and she desperately needed my help getting food ready for the Jewish holidays.

To this day, the family still calls it “Shira’s Zucchini Bread Incident,” and I will never live it down.

As I got more familiar with the kitchen, I made many ingredient mistakes. Recently, I was lazy while checking my eggs and I cracked an egg directly into a giant bowl of peeled, cubed and cooked sweet potatoes.  I don’t know why I did that, since I almost ALWAYS crack my eggs into a glass to check for blood spots. Sure enough, there was a blood spot with my egg, and I had to toss the WHOLE thing. 2 hours before Shabbat. And I had no other dish in mind to replace that side dish for our Shabbat lunch. I still have the bags of marshmallows in the pantry since I never did manage to make another  sweet potatoes with marshmallow casserole. In the end, I made a lentil dish and didn’t have enough time to fully cook the lentils. Sigh. It wasn’t my best meal.

Then, last week, I decided to surprise my husband with a special dinner. I had all four burners going while the girls played in the living room. I was sweating it out, trying to make something he would really like. I opened the spice cabinet to reach for something and BAM! The Coleman’s mustard exploded. All over everything. And let me tell you, trying to clean up dried mustard that is so powdery and fine, is not an easy task. And, I’m pretty sure, everything I served DH for dinner, tasted faintly of mustard.

Here’s some more photographic evidence of my kitchen mishap.

All over the counter tops!


Inside my block of knives! (Dora candy dispenser was spared)


On top of the microwave!

Have you ever had that whoops moment in the kitchen? Let me know in the comment section!






Sunday, December 11, 2011

Polenta Pie with Roasted Tomatoes & Pesto

Polenta Pie with Roasted Tomatoes & Pesto


I spent about four months, starting this past summer, on a strict gluten-free diet. It was a miserable experience for me, not so much that I was upset about being gluten-free, but because I didn’t have the time to figure out what I could and could not eat. I went hours without eating and would literally just stand in front of my cupboards and look at all the stuff I couldn’t eat.

As a WAHM who is also a SAHM until I go to work late at night, I have no time to breathe let alone prepare gluten-free meals for myself. I was also dairy free, which made it even harder to find things to eat, and foods that I could just grab and gulp. I was living off of large quantities of white rice and gluten-free crackers with peanut butter, which was boring and not really very filling. After some web research, I was introduced to polenta.

Polenta is essentially ground corn that’s very similar in consistency to farina. It’s a staple in Italian cuisine and, I’ve discovered after scorching too many pots of polenta, that I make mine like the Northern Italian women do. Prepare to get a work out while making this dish! I literally stand at the stove, whisk in hand, and whisk for almost 30 minutes. This ensures that the polenta doesn’t stick to the sides of the pot, nor does it burn at the bottom. It’s a bit of work to make, but this dish is definitely worth it!

My whisk and muscles get a workout while making polenta!

This recipe was created out of a bare bones kitchen and a need to have a carb that wasn’t rice. I had these beautiful, beefsteak tomatoes that were not going to find their way into a salad and a bottle of pesto that had been sitting in my pantry for way too long. I had read a number of polenta recipes online and originally, I wanted to make creamy polenta with sauteed wild mushrooms. But, I didn’t have any mushrooms or cheese in the house. So, I decided to make the polenta as a “kugel” that could be cut into wedges, and top it with roasted tomatoes and pesto.

Tomatoes, olive oil, kosher salt and pepper - before roasting


Another alternative would be to swap out the pesto with olive paste and add kalamata olives with fresh basil on top on the tomatoes.



Polenta Pie with Roasted Tomatoes and Pesto

Yield: 8

Prep Time: 25 - 35 minutes

Cook Time: 1hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

A delicious, gluten-free side dish that's perfect for mid-week dining and the Shabbat table!


1 cup polenta
4 cups of water, divided
2 tbs chicken soup powder
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
2-3 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
1 8 ounce jar of pesto with crushed walnuts (if you make your own pesto, use about 1 cup)
Olive oil spray


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C
Spray a round pyrex and set a side
Slice the tomatoes into 2-3 inche slices and arrange on a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. Arrange flat on baking sheet and roast for approximately 30 minutes until soft but not burnt. Take out of oven and set aside to cool.

Combine 3 cups of water with 1 cup of polenta over a medium flame and whisk constantly. Midway through whisking, add 1 tbsp chicken soup powder with 1/2 cup of remaining water. About 20 minutes into the cooking, add remaining chicken soup powder and water. Continue whisking until polenta is cooked, which will take approximately 30 minutes.

Pour polenta into the greased pyrex and spread to cover with a spatula. Spoon pesto over the polenta and arrange tomato slices on top.

Serve warm!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


1 kilo from the butcher

Sometimes, your butcher decides what you’re going to have for your Shabbat meals. This past week, I went to my butchers with a list of exactly what I was planning on making for Shabbat. And, sure enough, I walked out of there with completely different ingredients. Originally, I wanted to make this delicious marinated turkey breast recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s first cookbook. I’ve made it before and it was really a great dish, even my 3 year old ate it. So, you can imagine how disappointed I was when they told me they were fresh out of turkey breast.

I really didn’t want to make a second chicken dish for Shabbat, so I walked up and down in front of the meat counter and took in the sights. That’s when I noticed a sign for shawarma and what looked like turkey breast wrapped in saran wrap. When I asked the butcher for a closer look, he took it out of the wrapping and laid it on the cutting board for me to view. It honestly looked a bit like a turkey breast, just darker meat and not at all what I was used to seeing in shawarma. I’m used to the giant spit of meat, roasting and rotating while the shawarma guys squeeze bottles of oil onto the meat, before cutting little pieces and stuffing it into my pita.

I told the butcher to wrap it up for me and that I would figure out how to prepare it later. He cut the meat into two and then asked if I wanted little pieces. I quickly stopped him, as I  preferred the meat whole as opposed to chunks, so I could figure out a different way to prepare it. I didn’t want to serve shawarma pieces with rice for Shabbat lunch, I wanted to find a more sophisticated way to serve the meat.

I crossed corned beef off my list and added shawarma, and then I let the butcher talk me into buying some slices of beef carpaccio for my husband. He was thrilled, and ate it marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, for first course this afternoon. I also picked up a kilo of brisket, which they had on sale, and had the butcher chop up for me. We watched Top Chef last week and everyone was making Texas style chili, which means no beans but plenty of brisket. It looked so good that I want to experiment and make chili in the slow cooker, as opposed to chulent, when we have a really cold Shabbat!

After the kids were in bed and before my Thursday night conference call, I decided to make the shawarma. Fortunately, I had plenty of time to search for inspiration from some of my favorite foodies. After a rousing back and forth about the shawarma on my Facebook page, I found inspiration in Baroness Tapuzina, who recommended roasting with some mustard and herbs. My husband’s Aunt also had a really interesting recipe, which was Asian inspired, that I hope to try next time.

Rinsed, patted, and in two pieces ready for seasoning

With Gaby at my side, we debated using dried mustard or a prepared mustard. I usually use dried mustard when I create a spice rub for lamb chops, but something made me reach for the Dijon. I’m so glad I did!

Seasoned and ready for the oven!

I also ended up using dried parsley because of my knife skills. I have to refine my skills to really get my herbs chopped fine enough for these types of dishes. The final dish was delicious and so, if you’re looking for a time saver, definitely go with the dried herbs. But, if you have the time, I highly recommend cooking with fresh herbs.

The best part of this dish is that it didn’t taste like the shawarma you get in a pita, smothered with chummus with oily french fries mushed on top. It reheated well, tasted great, and was sophisticated enough that I would serve it to guests.

Do you have a recipe for shawarma? Share it in the comment section below!



Shawarma with Dijon and Herbs

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

This is not the typical shawarma you'd find at the corner bodega! Using a combination of spices and a good French Dijon mustard, it's a winning dish that's perfect for a Shabbat lunch.


1 kilo shawarma, cut into two large pieces
4 Tbsp French Dijon mustard
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp black pepper
cooking spray


Pre-heat over to 350 degrees F/180C. Wash and dry the shawarma and then place into a greased cooking dish. Spread 2 tbsp of French Dijon mustard over each piece of shawarma. Sprinkle remaining ingredients. Cover with foil and bake. Let rest 10-15 minutes and then slice and serve!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Salad

Shira's Thanksgiving Salad


Thanksgiving is arguably my favorite holiday. I love everything about it, from the food to the traditions, and it’s important for me to try to pass that holiday love on to my children. So it’s fitting that my first recipe be a Thanksgiving inspired one, since I have chosen this holiday weekend to officially launch my food blog.

What’s great about this recipe is that it can be done as you’re cooking the rest of your Thanksgiving fare. I had leftover butternut squash from the soup I was preparing, and decided to cube it and roast it in the oven. Once it cooled, I put it into the refrigerator, earmarked for this leftover salad. Same thing with the sweet potatoes, I had some leftover from the sweet potato casserole and so I cubed and roasted it in the oven along with the butternut squash.

We also always have leftover turkey since my butcher tends to give me the largest turkey he can find! And,  I also like to try to be creative with how I serve the leftovers. Most of my family won’t even look at another slice of turkey until the next major Jewish holiday. But, they don’t seem to mind it in this delicious and refreshing salad. I served this as our salad course on Shabbat lunch and it was a big hit with the entire family!

And, if you like the taste of Thanksgiving all year round, substitute the turkey for 2 cups of turkey shwarma. It’s absolutely delicious!


Thanksgiving Salad with Maple Dressing

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes - 1 hour

A refreshing salad that creatively uses up your Thanksgiving leftovers!


2 cups leftover diced turkey (use both white and dark meat)
2 cups cubed butternut squash and sweet potato
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup craisins
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
2-3 Tbsp Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Maple Syrup dressing (courtesy of Martha Stewart)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and ground pepper


Toss the butternut squash and sweet potato with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the squash and sweet potatoes are fork tender. Let cool.

Wash, chop and dry the lettuce. Place in a bowl with the other ingredients. Add the cooled butternut squash and sweet potato.

For the dressing: Whisk together olive oil, cider vinegar, maple syrup, and Dijon mustard. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

Add the dressing to the salad, toss and serve!