We have been so sick in this house - and if I hadn't been sick too and if I was at all into epidemiology, I'd have been fascinated by watching how the germs and the sneezing, coughing and fever jumped from one person to the next. But I'm not and I wasn't and all I wanted for the past ten days was to just lie down. Not for a long time, just for a little.
It ain't easy being the mommy and the sicky at the same time. Josh is amazing but at the end of the day (or really, at the very beginning of the day), he couldn't really hang with us; he had to go to work.
Today is the first day that everyone is back at school. I'm home and I'm still coughing and I really think that the doctor that told us that we had a virus was wrong. I think this was the flu.
Anyway, besides following kids around the house, picking up dirty tissues and watching way too much PBS and Food Network with my kids, I spent the week making chicken soup. I made many batches and speaking as the girl who grew up thinking that chicken soup is made by squeezing chickens and who couldn't fathom that water could be turned into soup, I think I can safely say that I have come a long way.
There are hundreds (thousands?) of chicken soup recipes out there. Here's mine. And may you only eat it because it's part of your dinner plans and not because you must as part of a cold remedy. And let us all say, Amen.
My Chicken Soup
1 whole onion
3 lbs carrots, washed, peeled and cut into large pieces
4 parsnips, washed, peeled and cut into large pieces
3 big zucchinis, washed and cut into thirds
2 lbs of chicken - bottoms, tops, whatevers - cleaned and skinned
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
salt to taste
Place all the ingredients in a really big pot.
Add water to cover the ingredients and bring to a boil.
Lower the flame, cover almost all the way with a pot lid and let it simmer for at least two hours or until dinner.
Your house will smell amazing and don't be surprised if you find yourself with the urge to bake challah.
This Shabbat we read Parshat Noach, the story of Noah and the ark which ends with a rainbow acting as a symbol that G-d will never again destroy the world through a flood.
And all week I have been watching a flood of amazing rainbow themed recipes flow out of Pinterest, Facebook and many mommy-blogs. I really wanted to throw a rainbow themed something into the mix, but I have been trying so so hard (and it's so so hard) to stick to eating clean, and food coloring filled goodies just doesn't mix well with all the clean. I kept telling myself I'd make rainbow cupcakes or this rainbow cake that I made last year, and only give it to the kids, but:
1. we both know keeping frosted cake around the house is pretty much a direct line to finding yourself covered in frosting, alone in the kitchen at midnight, stuffing your face and
2. if I am trying to keep it clean for myself, shouldn't I avoid being the one to give the kids food-colored food? I know, mean mommy. But they get plenty of that in school; I should, in theory, hold back at home.
So I thought and thought and thought and decided to go with a rainbow salad, and not just any rainbow salad, but this rainbow salad, one I shared about six months ago and make all the time.
It's delicious, it's healthy and it's fun to look at. And not too hard to put together.
We're going to have some rainbow salad this Shabbat, but if someone were to, maybe, stop by with some rainbow cupcakes, we wouldn't ask you to leave. I'm just saying.
I try to make challah for Shabbos every week - and I always braid my
challah using three strands. I've been playing around with a six-strand braid
lately, but the results are pretty pathetic. I need some more practice before I
One Friday afternoon I tried something even easier than a three-strand braid. Look:
Divide the same amount of dough you would use for one challah into eight or ten
pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place them around the perimiter of a
greased circular pan. Put the last ball of dough or two in the center, brush with an
egg wash and bake exactly the same way you would a regular challah* - I bake mine
at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.
My cousin makes her challah in a round pan like this every week - but she's
much braver than me. She sprinkles a different topping on each section of
challah. Some of the topping - sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic salt, chopped
onions, and I can't remember what else. Maybe chocolate chips? Eh, probably not,
but totally sounds like something my family would go for.
*If you noticed the aluminum foil key shaped thing in the challah, you're not wrong.
These were my challahs from the Shabbos after Pesach, when there is a custom to
bake schlissel challah.
What a difference a year makes. Last year, when we went away for the
weekend with Josh's school, my kids trashed the hotel room, the drive took twice
as long as it should have and once back home, we (I) didn't unpack for weeks.
You can see all the fun we had here.
We vacationed with the school once again, this past weekend, and now we're
back. I still haven't unpacked, but we've only been back home 36 hours, so I
think I'm still okay.
One of the deals Josh and I made before we left, was that he needed to
vacuum out the car. I was very much opposed to sitting in a car with all the
kids and the huge mess that is our everyday life in the van. It's one thing for
cheerios to fall out of the car when the kids get out of the car at the dropoff
line. It's quite another to spend hours in the car, having no where to put your
feet because there are so many empty water bottles on the floor and watching
granola bar wrappers tumble out at a rest stop on the NY Thruway.
So Josh vacuumed, and you can see the clean carpet here, slightly.
Twenty minutes into the drive, I kid you not, this is what the car looked like. You can
shake your head. I did.
This is where we pulled over when someone had to go now and there was no
bathroom in sight.
And this is why he had to go now. Josh and his Super Big Gulps. You can shake your
head here too. I did.
This year's weekend away was an entirely different experience, both good
and bad. The kids, obviously, are a year older, so the things they found
fascinating and I used to distract them (look, it's you in the mirror!) last
year didn't really work this year. The baby too, a year older, had a whole other
set of issues. Last year, she was (somewhat) content to sit in her stroller and
just watch. This year, at twenty months old, she is more of a mover and a runner
and climber and a faller. And there were lots and lots of steps and ramps and
couches and tables and water coolers to climb and run and jump on. On the bright
side, the kids were able to stay up later without falling apart, and their table
manners were slightly better than they were last year. Oh, and there was only
one incidence of vomiting this year, so we're making progress.
You know, it's funny. We drove and drove and drove and the baby repeated her refrain
of "owwt! holllle me!" pretty much the entire way there. And at some point, the highway
turns to road and it looked like you have completely left civilization. Or New York. When
in reality, you have left neither. And you wanna know how I know. Because at the
turnoff before the hotel, this is what greeted us:
Of course we stopped, you don't even have to ask. It was a SuperCenter for goodness
sakes. We haven't been to a good Walmart SuperCenter since we lived in Phoenix,
back before we had kids and shopping meant actual shopping and not sprinting through
the store like your panties are on fire.
So yeah, the kids had a blast and were so exhausted when we got home, that all four
of them were sound asleep by 6pm last night, which for me, was the best part.
And, and, one of my boys even slept until 7:45am this morning,
completely unheard of in this house of children who wake before the dawn.
The sleepfest did make us late for school, so instead of worrying and
yelling and making everyone eat breakfast and get dressed faster, I just let it
be. Then I patted myself on the back for being a mommy who thinks before she
We mosied on out of the house at about 9am and because sometimes it takes a
totally laid back morning to remember how cute and sweet and cherished your kids
are, we made ourselves even later for school, and stopped at Dunkin Donuts. And
$4 later, I had four oh-so-happy little kids. Sometimes it just takes a donut
to remember how little it takes to make them happy.
Thanks so much for stopping by! If you like what you've read, leave a comment please!
I must start off by saying that decorating a cake with a 20-month-old must be a lot
like decorating a cake with a pack of monkeys. Drunk monkeys. They reach, they fall,
they laugh, they stuff things into their mouths and most of all, they try to help.
Except they don't really want to help, they want to do it all "self"!
And now that I've shared and put that out there, I can show you what I made.
This morning, baby and I made a rainbow cake in honor of this week's
parsha, or Torah portion, the story of Noah. Last year we made
animal sugar cookies, marching onto Noah's teiva or ark.
We started off simply enough, with a 9x13 Duncan Hines yellow cake, cooled
and turned over so the flat bottom was on top; much easier to decorate a flat
cake than one with a mound, baked that way because your oven is off kilter and
you have no idea what to do about it.
To make an extra fancy cake tray like the one you see in the picture,
just flatten an extra large cereal box or grab a piece of cardboard and wrap it
many times in foil. Tape the ends of the foil together on the bottom, turn over
and yahoo, a tray!
Center the cake on the tray as best as you can and set it aside.
Next, gather together all the tools that will make this go as smoothly and as
quickly as possible. You will need the larger container of vanilla Duncan Hines
frosting*, food coloring in the colors of the rainbow (either liquid drops or
gel colors, I used gel because that's what I have around), toothpicks, 6 plastic
cups, 6 spoons, and a small offset spatula. And something for the baby to do. In
this case, she played with the small and tightly closed - I repeat closed, tightly,
my friends, tightly - gel food coloring pots. Because getting that stuff off your hands
will seem like a walk in the bakery compared to getting it off a squirmy toddler's hands
and neck and ears and feet.
Do what you will, I'm just giving fair warning.
Divide the frosting between the six cups and stick a spoon in each cup. Tint
each cup a different color (Let's sing, all together now : Red, orange,
yellow, green, shiny blue, purple too, all the colors that we know, shine up the
rainbow! One more time, with feeling now!) I used the toothpicks to put
some of the gel coloring into each cup. Be sure to never stick a toothpick that
has been in the frosting back into the gel coloring, you'll ruin the whole pot.
Instead, if you feel you need more color in your frosting, use a new toothpick.
Don't be stingy, it's a toothpick. Just get up and get another one. If you are
using liquid food coloring drops, just squeeze a few drops into your frosting,
mix and see what the story is before adding more.
Use a knife to kind of sketch out your rainbow on the cake. Don't drop the
knife into the cake, taking a chunk of cake off with it, like I did. But if you
do, don't cry. It'll be okay, just kind of smoosh the piece back in, it'll be
fine and covered in frosting and no one will know but you. I promise.
I frosted the top section of my cake, on the sides with blue for the sky. I
was planning on frosting the bottom with green to make grass but I ran out of
room, but by all means, do so. It sounded really cute in my head. It also sounded really
cute to parade animal crackers across the bottom of the cake, but I didn't have any. But
if you do, go for it, I would if I were you.
Then I used each color and filled in the rainbow, all the while having the
baby sit on the counter next to me, trying to eat the cake and the purple
frosting. Looovved the purple frosting. And learned a new word today,
poople. Perhaps I should call this the "one-handed-frosted-cake".
Once the rainbow was done, I realized the sides of the cake were still
naked. I didn't have enough frosting of any one color to finish it off so I just
used all the colors. Looks like a kindergartner did it, kind of in keeping with
this whole experiment.
And then we were done, almost. Because store bought frosting just doesn't have
enough added sugars and poisonous dyes, I added some kind of store brand
fruit loop cereal. I matched up the colors of the cereal with the frosting and there ya go,
a rainbow cake.
I had a thought to use sprinkles, but my sprinkles are rainbow colored, all mixed
together and the thought of separating the sprinkles into colored piles made my
knees go weak and not in a good way, so fruit loops it was. Although, I must take a minute
to share here and tell you that I do have a good friend, mentioned on this blog
more than once, that once did just that. I won't tell you who, but I will tell you that
she spent a considerable amount of time searching for the white sprinkles in a box
of assorted ones, in order to decorate a sushi cake. No, really.
Anyhow, I'm not sure what the protocol here is, but I am going to cover it
very loosely with foil and store it in the fridge.
*did you know that this stuff is now non-dairy? I learned that this
past summer when I sent Josh to Shoprite for chocolate chips and he came home with chocolate chips AND frosting. So fun and so much easier for the kosher baker!
If you like what you've read, leave a comment please!
I tried, I really did. I just couldn't shape that challah dough into the shape of a key. It kind of just looks like a sad little arrow.
And why would I be attempting to shape my challah into a key? I'll explain. It is a segula for parnassah, or livelihood, to bake schlissel challah this first Shabbos after Pesach. Schlissel literally means key in Yiddish - and so challah is baked either in the shape of a key or with your actual house key (covered in foil please, cause who knows what kind of dirt and dirt's friend, the germ, live inside your keyhole) baked right into the challah. And so I hedged my bets and did both. My house key is now baked into my challah and we also have that other challah, the arrow shaped one that is pretending to look like a key.
And now, back to the beginning - why a key? And why in challah? And what does a key have to do with money? I am not a rabbi, but I will share my own insights - and will try to answer the last question first. At first glance, a key and money don't reaaly seem to be related but if you sit and think about it while the dough is rising, you, like me, might see that a key really does have a lot to do with money. For example, if we had no money, we would not have a house and by extension, would have no house key. And so we bake a key into the challah, the epitome of Shabbos and the anchor of the week in our home. You know when you've hit on a good thing when your kids ask when kiddush and challah time is - all week long.
Another thought that I had while trying to shape my challah is that a key, obviously, opens up locked doors. And sometimes it might seem that the door to heaven is locked and that G-d just might not be hearing out prayers. But then, the mitzvot or good deeds that we perform - such a baking challah for Shabbos - combined with the silent and very personal prayers said over the Shabbos candles, right before we eat the challah, might be the key to opening to the gates of heaven, allowing our prayers to ascend and thereby having goodness and blessings rain down upon us, and the world. Maybe that's why my challah came out looking like an arrow pointing up - to help us (me) remember that everything good comes from up there.
For more explanations and for some very interesting insight into why we bake schlissel challah click here. This comes from my Josh's longtime friend, also named Josh (we are lucky to have many many beloved Joshes in our lives), who made some very delicious looking schlissel challah of his own this week.
Because I have talked many times about baking challah, and I am not at all sure I ever shared the recipe, here it is, straight from my cousin Chanie, in Israel:
2 packets of yeast
2.5 cups warm water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp salt
7 cups of flour
Pour the yeast into the bowl of your standing mixer. Add the warm water and let it sit for about five minutes. Add the sugar, oil and salt and mix, using the dough attachment. While the mixer is on, add the flour one cup at a time, until it is all incorporated. Mix the dough on medium (level 2 or 3) for 5-7 minutes.
The dough can rise in the mixer bowl, or if, like me, you need the bowl to keep cooking, place the dough in another bowl and cover with a damp hand towel.
Allow the dough to rise until it is doubled in size - between 2 and 3 hours, depending on the weather.
Shape the challah (I usually get four or five nice sized three-braid challahs from this recipe) and let it sit for about 30 minutes, rising again. Brush the challah dough with a beaten egg yolk mixed with a tablespoon of water and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes, checking the challah for doneness after 20 minutes. I can't explain it, but sometimes they are done after 20 minutes and sometimes they need to stay in for a full 30 minutes. Who knows.
Let the challah cool and then wrap them in foil. They can either be frozen, or if it is already Thursday or Friday, just place them in a ziploc bag and they will keep for Shabbos. We like to rewarm ours on the blech on Friday night and Shabbos day but it is not needed - they are delicious as is.
(Just as an aside, this recipe only uses 7 cups of flour. The dough is usually not very sticky and thus requires hardly any extra flour at all when shaping the dough. Therefore this recipe does not require that the baker make a bracha when "taking challah". However, if you find that the dough is very sticky, measure out the extra flour you are using because you may reach a level of flour where a bracha is needed. Either way, according to my husband's rabbi, the baker should "take challah" when baking this recipe, but no bracha is needed for this small amount of flour. Of course, to avoid all this trouble, the answer would be to double the recipe, "take" challah, make a bracha, and freeze half the challah for next Shabbos. Just a thought.)
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)