Monday, December 31

Menu Planning Monday

The Domino Potatoes were a total lose.  They looked interesting but were not crispy enough and lacked flavor and not worth the work at all.   

The Salmon tartlets were wonderful.  They turn the fish course into something we will eat not just right then but as leftovers as well.  The beet salad was interesting but needs some tweaking. This is the first recipe I have ever had that actually used the beet greens.  They had a neat flavor and I like that I use all the parts. The ratio of apple to other ingredients was too high.  It needs more oranges.  I will use clementines in the future as the navel orange segments were too unwieldy to eat.
The Cupcakes were a mixed bag.  I liked the cake part but noone else seemed to.  It was very rich moist chocolate, perfect in my opinion.  The frosting was a pain in the tush.  It did not work as written and I had to keep adding extra powdered sugar to get anything that was even functional.  But finally it held together and I got to use my new decorator tool.  It was tons of fun and the cupcakes looked much better than I have ever made before. 

Sunday - Salad, Pasta, homemade sauce, garlic bread
Monday - Dinner out with friends
Tuesday - Fish ala Jenn,Rice and Broccoli
Wednesday - Lasagna (experiment) and Salad
Thursday - Pulled Chicken, Peas and potatoes
Shabbat - Challah, butternut squash soup,gefilte fish, Pulkogi, rice, keem, bok choy, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate mousse cups

Friday, December 28

Shabbos Food

I did not plan a menu for this week as I have been all by myself.  The family came back on yesterday so we are all here and ready for a joyous Shabbat filled complete with what I hope will be lots of good food.  There are lots of experiments this week including my first ever attempt at Cholent. 

I am trying to follow a new guide for Shabbos food of having the following for Dinner Challah, 2 dips, 1 fish, 1 soup, 1 meat, 1 starch, 1 salad / vegetable side, 1dessert  For lunch it's challah, same 2 dips, cholent, 1 salad (can be the same as dinner unless there are guests) and 1 dessert.

Challah - I have discovered that if I make the dough ahead of time and braid it without letting it rise, that I can freeze it after braiding and have it rise/thaw on Friday and get a consistent great texture and make Shabbat prep even easier.
 Dips - Homemade hummus (old favorite) and a warm herb cheese dip (made with dip mix and parve cream cheese)
Fish- Salmon Tartlets (parve using Earth Balance and Tofutti)
Soup -  Chicken Noodle Soup
Salad - Beet Apple and Orange Salad
Meat - Roast Chicken with Honey Orange Glaze
Starch - Domino Potatoes
Desserts  - Double Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Frosting
 and Cinnamon Rolls

Thursday, December 27

Making Friends through Books

Froggy's best friends come from books.  She talks about the characters in her favorite books as though they are real and her dearest friends.  Her dolls change names as her favorites shift. This deep bond is part of why she likes series so much.

Some of her newest friends are Tova, Pippi and Greg

One of her Hanukkah gifts was the first two books of the Tova Bloom series.  Tova and her five sisters live in Philadelphia during the American Revolution.  What makes Tova special to Froggy is that Tova is Jewish.  The book does not focus on Tova's Judaism but it is sprinkled with Yiddish phrases and off-hand references. Tova is a middle child who for the most part is a regular girl.  It is bittersweet watching Froggy's dolls become Tova's sisters and see the love they share with one another and the antics they engage in.  Tova calls her father Tati, which is what Ms. G calls her father too. That clinched it for the book and made Tova "real".

Froggy also received the first three books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  Greg is in middle school and his problems/antics are not really part of Froggy's world yet.  I would not have thought this series appropriate for her yet but a classmate of hers was reading it and her father gave a high seal of approval.  What makes this series special and attractive to Froggy is that it is written like a graphic novel or comic strip.  As you can see, the pages / layout of the story is very different than the average book.  One of the skills an emerging reader needs to develop is being able to pull information from various styles of texts.  This book is a fun way to work on that skill.

The last friendship was exciting but short lived since her story was a one shot.  We spent about two weeks listening to Pippi Longstockings.  Pippi is a very very unusual girl.  her adventures and choices sparked tons of conversation for us.  "Why did Pippi do...?" or "What would you do if I. [did whatever Pippi had just done]?" were frequent questions from Froggy during this time period.  Pippi is somewhat magical in stregnth and agility but most of what makes Pippi so unusual is that she grows up without any adult guidance and thus has created her own version of 'appropriate' which is very peculiar.

Monday, December 24

An Enchanted Garden

Our Inaugural visit to the National Botanic Garden was a resounding success.  The parking situation  has made me leery of venturing there. Yet everyone who had been spoke so highly of it I wanted to make an attempt.  I was told there is a special holiday train exhibit every year as well as lights and music two evenings a week. So we decided to brave it.
It was glorious.  The theme for this year was "The Enchanted Garden."  The blurb put out by the museum gives no indication of the scope of the exhibit.  The designer Paul Busse of Applied Imagination in Alexandria, Kentucky built an entire enchanted village all out of living materials.  The detail in each house was amazing.


This shows how the houses were built out of natural materials.
There was also a minature display of the DC monuments.
Who can recognize these two?

Sunday, December 23

Recipe Redux - MInnestrone Soup

One of Abba's favorite soups is Minnestrone Soup.  I have been playing with the recipe for awhile now trying to find that happy mix that fits everyone.  To me Minnestrone Soup is an Italian recipe and the flavoring should reflect that.  To me, it should have both beans and pasta.  So I scoped out lots of recipes and finally came up with the following.  Zucchini can easily be substituted for the green beans and I frequently do that in the summer when it is easily available.  Bear in mind, other than when baking I do not actually measure ingredients.  I tend to eyeball and estimate and do what looks good.

The spices make a big difference.  If you do not have quality dried spices, then use fresh herbs.

1 medium onion diced finely
2 large carrots sliced
3 ribs celery (including tops) sliced
1 28oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
6cups chicken broth
dried basil
dried oregano
fresh ground pepper
2 cups white beans (I used canned this time but preferred to use dried)
1 pkg frozen spinach
8oz fresh green beans cut into 2 in pieces
1 cup small pasta

Cook onion, carrot, and celery in soup pot over medium high heat until onions turn golden. Add tomatoes, broth and spices. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer as long or as short as you like.  Add green beans and spinach 30 -60 minutes before serving.  Add pasta no more than 30minutes before serving.

Wednesday, December 19

Just Dance

Many people have asked me why I send Froggy to Religious School even though I teach all the subjects here at home.  She is far ahead in the book learning compared with her classmates yet I won't ever take her out.  Why?  Because I can't give her this. 

I can't give her the community and the music and the fun and the friends here alone at home.

Tuesday, December 18

Anonymous Giving

Tzedekah is a recurring theme at our house be it through Girl Scouts, Parsha topics or friends in need.  It came up this week during story time.

We are reading Understood Betsy. In our chapter this week, Betsy and her friends make a set of new clothes for poor little 'Lias who lives only with his mean drunken stepfather.  As the clothes near completion, the girls discuss the best way to present 'Lias with his new bounty so that he could be properly grateful.  Cousin Ann asks a couple of gentle yet pointed questions which help the girls remember why they are really making the clothes.  As a result, they decide to leave the clothes at his door anonymously. 

Froggy and I talked about the differences between their initial plan and what they ended up doing.  This led into a discussion of Maimonide's eight levels in giving tzedekah.  Froggy wanted to know what made one level better which led us into a discussion of Shame and Pride.  It was a very interesting discussion for me to have with a little girl who seems to only understand empathy about half the time.

Monday, December 17

Menu Planning Monday 4 Tevet 5773

Review - the doughnuts were a disaster. I loved making them and they were great fresh from the fryer but by the time Shabbos morning came they were yucky.

Sunday- Pizza and Salad
Monday- Pulled Chicken, tator tots and peas
Tuesday - Fish ala Jenn, rice broccoli
Wednesday - Froggy's performance - Dinner out
Thursday - Kasha Varnishka and Salad
Shabbat - Challah, Minnestrone Soup, Gefilte Fish,Roast Chicken, Butternut Squash, Green beans, a mixture of cookies from my holiday baking bonanza (pictures and recipes coming),
Shabbos Morning - Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Friday, December 14


Today is Rosh Chodesh Tevet. To me the Rosh Chodesh during Hanukkah is extra festive.  Last night even more so.

During the dark of winter, the dark of moon may seem even darker, but last night the sky was lit up with meteors.  We are not night owls but still took the time to go out and watch for a bit.  It was a beautiful.  Hopefully tonight will be even better.

Wednesday, December 12


We are finishing up Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess on audiobook.  Froggy is fascinated by her life and the changes in the world that occurred during it. 

We started out discussing World War 1 and spent hours poring over various map including this one which shows the progress of the war.  We talked about alliances and how they contributed to the war getting so big. It surprised me how interested Froggy is in the progress of the war and the who "was friends with whom"

Later as the book progressed, we got into a discussion of the Russian revolution.  And I realized how little I knew.  I answered Froggy's questions to the best of my ability but that was not enough.  So we checked out The Russian Revolution by Adrian Gilbert from the library. 

It was the perfect extension evenif it was not a living book.  Froggy wanted to see the other side of the revolution.  The next step may be a book about Lenin and/or Communism.  We will see if Froggy's interest is sustained. 

Sunday, December 9

Menu Planning Monday- Hanukkah Week

Sunday - Leftover beef barley soup and challah
Monday -Cranberry Chicken, rice and broccoli
Tuesday  - Salad, Pasta, homemade sauce, and garlic bread
Wednesday - Fish ala Jenn and Rice
Thursday -  Pulled Chicken, Latkes and peas
Fried Friday - Dinner at Shul - I am going to make either these or these for Shabbos morning

Wednesday, December 5


Hanukkah starts very very soon - Motzi Shabbos.  That means I need to have all my preparations ready before Shabbat. 

We are having some friends over for Havdalah and Hanukkah.  We will have latkes and sufganyot to celebrate the holiday.  To balance out all the oily foods, we will have veggies with hummus and beef barley soup.  I am also making cut out cookies.  I will have some decorated nicely for the guests to eat and some undecorated for the kidlets to decorate.

Abba made a really cool hanukkiah that will sit outside and truly publicize the miracle.  All the others will be on our card table next to the door and in front of the window thus satisfying everybody's traditions. 

We will be using this sufganyot recipe for the party. It is tried and true.  It is easy to make in advance and let rise for ages in the fridge and then just fry up after Havdalah. 

  • 1 pkg yeast
  • 1/2 c warm water with 1 TBS sugar added
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 c oil
Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Scald the milk, then add shortening, sugar, and salt.  Add milk mixture to yeast mixture.  Stir well then add egg.  Gradually beat in flour.  Knead for several minutes.  Refigerate until ready to use. When ready, roll flat and cut into balls then fry until golden.  Fill with jelly and roll in powdered sugar.

Tuesday, December 4

Being a Sister to Every Girl Scout.

This past week our Daisies earned their violet petal - A sister to every girl scout - while the brownies finished up their Girl Scout Ways Try It. 

The main thing we did was decorate our Tzedekah box.  We had precut bodies, dresses, and backgrounds. Each girl got a body, background and dress, either blue for the Daisies or brown for the Brownies to glue together and decorate.  Once the slips were decorated they exchanged them with a sister scout who wrote something nice about the first scout under her paper one.  When the strips were glued onto the box the dolls end up holding hands.   It turned out super cute if I do say so myself.
We also played a game where they had to try to do jumping jacks in exact matching time with the leader.  Each girl got a chance to be the leader.  Here is one example where they actually were able to match.

Sunday, December 2

Menu Planning Monday - 19 Kislev

Oh Gosh I am feeling overwhelmed again.  I hate fast food but I also hate not eating as a family.  So we are struggling to find hot meals that can be waiting for us when we arrive home or travel with us.

Sunday-Daddy prep - Salmon croquettes and peas
Monday - tacos rice and beans
Tuesday - Beef Barley Soup and fresh baked bread. 
Wednesday -leftover buffet
Thursday - Fish ala Jenn, peas, rice and keem
Erev Shabbat - Challah, TriColor Gefilte Fish Loaf, Minnestrone Soup, Roast Chicken, Mashed Sweet potatoes, Green Beans, Mint Chocolate Cookies
Shabbat Morning - Apple Breakfast Bread