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Food pathways show the influence on recipes from region to region and neighbor to neighbor. In Germany, a recipe for gingerbread men was adapted and adopted by Eastern European Jews to make Zimsterne, or “star” cookies to be served at the end of Shabbat after Havdalah services. Containing the spices found in the Bisomim box used during the close of Shabbat service, the symbolism was to take the sweetness of Shabbat with you into the coming week.
With the holiday season coming up and relatives visiting, this cookie is the perfect bridge between Jewish tradition and Christmas cookie baking. Everyone will enjoy the treat and you can share two celebrations with all family members at one time. Best of all, everyone can help make these soft spice cookies or, you can make them in advance. They keep very well in an airtight container and their flavor gets better, as all spice cookies do, with age.
Makes 4 or more dozen depending on size of cookie
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup honey
5 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. ground ginger
Confectioner’s sugar for rolling out dough
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1-2 Tbsp. milk
1. Cream the butter and the sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until mixture gets lighter in color. Beat in the honey.
2. Combine the baking soda and spices with 1 cup of the flour. Set aside.
3. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the remaining 4 cups of flour, mixing well to form a thick dough. If your mixer is powerful, use it to add the reserved cup of flour and spices until well combined. If not, stir the remaining flour into the dough by hand. Make sure that the mixture is thoroughly combined.
4. Pat dough into a flat round and place in a plastic storage bag or airtight container. Seal and store in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until firm and easy to handle.
6. Cut the dough into star shapes using a cookie cutter, and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool for 5-10 minutes while you make the icing.
To make the icing:
1. Place the cup of confectioner’s sugar in a 1-quart mixing bowl. Whisk in the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, whisk in some more milk until the mixture resembles mayonnaise in consistency.
2. Using a pastry brush, brush the icing over the tops of the warm cookies and let sit at room temperature until the cookies are cool and the icing is dry and no longer sticky. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or freeze until later use.
After dealing with the challenges of food in an interfaith family during the Passover and Easter season, it’s nice to come back together at Mothers’ Day to celebrate without the pressure of not serving meat on Good Friday when it also happens to be the first seder or how to have a traditional Easter dinner without a ham.
I also love Mothers’ Day because it’s another great excuse for BRUNCH! My favorite meal.
When I got married my mom’s friends threw me an amazing bridal shower and put together a recipe book with favorites contributed by all of the guests. I treasure these hand-written recipe cards, which have a place of honor in my kitchen, and they have become even more special as many of the recipes were contributed by my grandmother (bubbe) who passed away in the fall. I know I’ll be missing her as we sit down together for Mothers’ Day, so I’ll do my best to evoke her memory by baking one of her recipes.
I love my grandmother’s banana bread, and whenever my bananas are turning brown, I toss them in the freezer to be used later. The original recipe calls for margarine (which I don’t like to use), LOTS of sugar and sour cream. I switched it up a little bit here, and prepared it as mini muffins instead of as a loaf, since my kids will eat nearly anything if shaped like a mini muffin (think: meatloaf muffins, egg muffins … you get the picture).
This recipe is also great because it requires no fancy equipment. You don’t need a stand mixer or even a hand mixer; you really can do the whole thing with just bowls and a fork!
If you’re serving this dish at a meal that involves meat to people who keep kosher, you can easily substitute the yogurt with soy yogurt.
Bubbe’s Banana Bread Muffins
Yields 48 mini muffins (or 24 regular sized muffins)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Liberally grease 2 mini muffin tins.
3. Combine baking soda and yogurt in a large bowl.
4. Cream together coconut oil, sugar and honey in a small bowl until well mixed. Add to yogurt mixture.
5. Use a potato masher to mash the overripe bananas into the batter.
6. Add smashed bananas and beaten eggs to mixture.
7. Combine flour, baking powder, vanilla, lemon zest and salt in a medium bowl.
8. Add dry ingredients to wet in two batches, mixing as you go.
9. Using a medium sized scooper, fill the tins to just under full.
10. Bake for 20 minutes (25 if you are making full size muffins), turning the pan once. Use a toothpick to check for done-ness: If it comes out clean, they’re ready! They should be just slightly golden brown on the edges. Let the muffins cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the special women in our lives! What are some of your Mothers’ Day favorites?
Jon Stewart, born Jonathan Leibowitz, is one of America’s best known Jews, and also in an inter-faith marriage. In 2012, as Passover and Easter were approaching Stewart encouraged Jews to up the ante on Passover as it wasn’t competing very well against Easter, especially for kids. In the “Faith Off” clip below, from The Daily Show, he says where Easter has chocolate, Passover has Matzah. Where Easter has Peeps, Passover has hard boiled eggs. You get the idea.
“Oh wait, I’ll see you over at the Red Sea ride when I’m done building ice cream pyramids.”
What about spicing things up, Jon asks? What about ice cream pyramids? Well Jon, in honor of your last Passover behind that Comedy Central desk where we’ve come to depend on you to deliver us news we can actually digest, we’re giving you just what you asked for: Ice Cream Pyramids.
This is a great way to get your kids excited about the upcoming Passover holiday, and if you’re serving a non-meat seder or Passover meal during the week of the holiday, this could certainly be the piece-de-resistance to serve as dessert.
When I started this experiment I had hoped to build a pyramid using small blocks of ice cream, similar to this sugar cube pyramid. But no matter how solid the ice cream was, or how quickly I worked, it wasn’t to be. So, plan B!
What you’ll need:
Before you begin:
Choose a gallon of your favorite ice cream that comes in a rectangular box. Make sure it is frozen solid.
Place your cutting board and a serrated knife in the freezer so that the ice cream won’t melt as quickly.
Clear space in the freezer for the finished product.
2. Cut the ice cream so that you have 1-inch thick square slices.
3. Start by placing a square on the cold cutting board, and then, if desired, cover with favorite ice cream topping, then continue to layer the same way using all of the ice cream.
4. You may need to re-freeze at a few points along the way if the ice cream is melting too quickly.
5. Next comes the carving. Each piece, from bottom to top, should be trimmed with your knife so that it’s slightly smaller than the last, until you’re at a small point for the top of the pyramid. You can then leave as is, or smooth the sides to be flat.
6. Continue by decorating the sides with chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, etc.
7. Then place in freezer to re-firm.
8. The end result is delicious, and the process is fun! You can set this up as a race between a few teams to see who can build the pyramid the quickest, or set a timer and see which group could build the tallest pyramid in the allotted time. Traditionally, matzah is only kosher for Passover if it’s made in 18 minutes or less, so you could try setting an 18-minute limit for your game as well.
9. As soon as it’s completed, place the finished product in the freezer to let it firm up before serving. You may actually have to let it set in the freezer as you go, depending on how quickly you are assembling it.
10. To finish off, you can drizzle some chocolate sauce or caramel on top.
Chag sameach (happy holiday)! Please share your ice cream pyramid photos on InterfaithFamily’s Facebook page!
Every week my family travels around the world without leaving our dinner table. For some people the flavors of a culturally diverse menu seem unattainable, especially when presented with challenges like keeping kosher, dealing with food allergies or health concerns related to unknown ingredients in restaurant or takeout food. When you cook at home, all of those challenges disappear, and you have complete control over what goes into each mouthful.
Every week I’m faced with feeding my family of four quick, healthy and kid-friendly food. I make the commitment to cook at home five nights, and the other two nights we either eat out, with friends or have leftovers. To keep things interesting I play mix-and-match with flavors and main components. So, most weeks we eat something Asian, something Latin-flavored, something Italian-style, breakfast-for-dinner and one of our family favorites—but it’s never the same thing two weeks in a row. One week we might eat Ground Turkey Tacos and the next Sweet Potato Enchiladas. They have the same flavor profile, so I’m not restocking my pantry all the time, but the main ingredients are different, so nobody is getting bored—myself included!
Everyone in my family loves Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese food, and in many interfaith families there can be quite a range of different cultural tastes. But take-out or eating in a restaurant gets expensive and it’s not always the most healthy, but if I use these flavors at home I can control the cost and the calories, and make sure we have leftovers for lunch at work and school the next day. We’ve been doing a lot of stir fry, since it’s simple and quick.
One of the ways I’ve tried to simplify things for myself in the kitchen lately is by doing a big round of fruit and veggie prep on Sundays. I’ll cut up peppers, carrots, squash, etc. and keep them in a large food storage container in the fridge so most of the prep work is done for me when I get ready to throw dinner together. An added bonus is that it’s now easy to reach for a healthy snack to dip in hummus or salsa, instead of the crackers or chips I may have reached for before.
Here is my recipe for a super simple stir fry. You can sub in any other protein you like (my husband is a big fan of this recipe with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which you can cook and then just pull apart with 2 forks when you are plating it) or if you’d like to avoid the protein altogether, just add more veggies. If you’re looking for another short cut, we LOVE to use Soy Vey or the Trader Joe’s version for stir fries as well; just marinate the protein in ¼ cup of the prepared marinade.
Another note: The size of the vegetables and the order you add them is important, as all these things cook at different speeds, so be aware as you prepare.
B’tayavon (eat with gusto–enjoy!),
Simple Veggie Stir Fry
1. Prepare all ingredients, slice and dice, etc.
2. In a medium bowl, combine marinade ingredients and mix with tofu, set aside
3. In a large heavy-bottom pot (I like to use a dutch oven) or wok, sauté the onion in the olive oil for 2 minutes, until starting to soften, then add garlic and ginger and sauté for 5 more minutes until fragrant and soft
4. Add carrots, cook stirring occasionally for 5 minutes
5. Add peppers, cook stirring occasionally for 5 minutes
6. Add ¼ cup of water and deglaze bottom of pan, cook for 5 minutes
7. Push veggies to the side, add tofu and lightly brown, combine with all other ingredients
8. Serve alongside white or brown rice, or atop rice noodles or even spaghetti