Tu B’Shevat Treat – Seven Species Muffins

Seven Species MuffinsThis post is taken from Tori Avey, aka The Shiksa in the Kitchen. She has a great site that I encourage you to visit at www.toriavey.com.

Typical foods served on Tu B’Shevat include fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables. The almond trees bloom at this time of year, so almond-laden foods often make an appearance on the holiday table. Those who partake in a Tu B’Shevat Seder will eat at least 15 different types of fruits and vegetables. Chocolatey carob pods are sometimes included in the meal. It is also customary to include the Seven Species mentioned in the Torah: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates.

Ingredients:

¾ cup golden raisins
½ cup dried figs*
½ cup dates*
1 ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
¼ cup applesauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
2 eggs
⅓ cup light olive oil
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (¾ cup all-purpose + ¾ cup whole wheat flour will work too)
½ cup barley flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup chopped walnuts
Nonstick cooking spray or paper muffin tin liners

Topping Ingredients (optional)

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

* To learn how to properly inspect these fruits, click here.

You will also need:

Blender or food processor, large mixing bowl, medium mixing bowl, standard muffin tin, ice cream scoop or small ladle, cooling rack

Directions:

  • If your raisins are particularly dry, cover them with water and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, turn off the heat and let the raisins sit in the water to plump for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. If your figs have tough stems on them, remove them and discard.
  3. Roughly chop dates and figs. Set aside.
  4. Use a blender or food processor to blend together the following ingredients until very smooth: dates, figs, almond milk, applesauce, cinnamon and allspice.
  5. It may take a couple of minutes to blend all ingredients to a smooth consistency, depending on the power of your blender. The end result should be similar to the texture of apple butter or smooth fruit preserves. Set mixture aside.
  6. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, light olive oil, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, barley flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  8. Gently mix the pomegranate seeds into the dry mixture, making sure the seeds are well coated with flour.
  9. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the fruit mixture from the blender into the well.
    Add the egg mixture to the well.
  10. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the dry ingredients are just moistened and a lumpy batter forms. Do not over mix – if you do your muffins will turn out heavy and dense.
  11. Fold raisins and chopped walnuts into the muffin batter with a light-handed stir.
  12. Prep your muffin pan by spraying a small amount of non-stick cooking spray into the bottom of each muffin tin (not the sides), or use paper muffin cup liners. Divide batter equally into muffin cups, filling each cup to the top and mounding the surface slightly. I’ve found that it’s easiest to do this using an ice cream scoop.
  13. If you’d like to top the muffins, mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl using a fork. Sprinkle about a ½ tsp of cinnamon sugar mixture evenly across the surface of each muffin.
  14. Place muffins in the oven and immediately turn heat down to 375 degrees F. That extra heat blast at the beginning of the baking cycle will help to activate the baking powder and baking soda. Bake for 25-27 minutes until the tops of the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let muffins cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and cooling on a rack. Do not let the muffins cool completely in the tin, they are quite moist and may stick to the tin if you leave them there too long. Serve warm.
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Moroccan Mains: Chicken & Couscous

tumeric chicken

Moroccan Chicken

Serves 8
Ingredients:

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast meat – cubed
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon salt
olive oil
2 onions, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, diced
4 carrots, sliced ¼” rounds
4 stalks celery, sliced ¼” rounds
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained
2 zucchini, sliced ½” rounds
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat adding a little olive oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and brown in the saucepan until almost cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Sauté the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in same pan. When tender, stir in ginger, paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and turmeric; stir fry for about 1 minute, then mix in broth and tomatoes. Return chicken to pan, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add chickpeas and zucchini to pan and bring to a simmer once again; cover pan and cook for about 15 minutes, or until zucchini is cooked through and tender. Stir in lemon juice and serve over the rice, plain couscous or the delicious couscous recipe below.

CouscousMoroccan Couscous

Ingredients:

1 ¼ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 red, green, or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
2 zucchinis, halved lengthwise and cut into ¾” pieces
½ cup golden raisins (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
grated zest of one orange
1 540ml can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups chicken broth
½ cup orange juice
1 ½ cups couscous
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint*

Directions:

Place a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir in the cumin, ginger, cloves, cayenne, cardamom, coriander, and allspice; gently toast until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in oil and onion, cook until softened. Stir in the bell pepper, and zucchini; cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the raisins, salt, zest, and garbanzos. Pour in the chicken broth and orange juice; turn heat to high and bring to a boil. When the mixture is boiling, stir in the couscous and remove from heat; cover, and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and fold in chopped mint.

*To learn how to inspect fresh mint, click here.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Cassarole
*This dish calls for the use of dairy ingredients such as butter, milk and buttermilk. If you wish to have this dish be non-dairy or parve, you can substitute margarine and a non-dairy milk product, such as soy milk or almond milk, instead. For non-dairy buttermilk, please see the instructions at the end of the recipe.

Original recipe makes 1 -2 ½ quart dish

Ingredients:

2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
salt
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 large eggs
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup buttermilk*
⅓ cup milk*
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground allspice
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Pistachio crust:
½ cup chopped roasted, salted pistachios (or other preferred nut)
½ cup light brown sugar
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup butter or margarine, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with butter or margarine. Place sweet potato cubes into a large pot, cover with water, and add a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until a knife is easily inserted into a sweet potato cube, about 10 minutes. Drain well. Return to the pot and mash 2 tablespoons butter or margarine into sweet potatoes. Whisk eggs, maple syrup, buttermilk*, milk*, vanilla extract, cayenne pepper, allspice, and ½ teaspoon salt together in a large bowl until smooth. Gradually mash sweet potatoes into egg mixture, starting with 2 tablespoons of sweet potato mixture, until all sweet potatoes are incorporated. Transfer sweet potatoes into prepared baking dish. Mix nuts, brown sugar, flour, and ¼ cup melted butter or margarine together until completely mixed. Crumble topping evenly over top of sweet potatoes. Use the back of a fork to gently press nut mixture down onto sweet potatoes. Bake in the preheated oven until topping is browned and casserole is set, 25 to 30 minutes. If desired, place under oven’s broiler for 5 minutes to give topping a little more brown colour. Let rest to cool slightly before serving, about 10 minutes.

Non-Dairy “Buttermilk”

Ingredients:

½ tablespoon lemon juice, white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Enough dairy-free milk to add to the ½ tablespoon lemon juice (or vinegar) to equal ½ cup total liquid

Directions:

Combine ingredients; whisk. Set aside 5 minutes. Milk will thicken and may separate, depending on the type of dairy-free milk you use. (This is fine, don’t worry!) Stir and use as you would use buttermilk in recipes. You may double the recipe for 1 cup of dairy-free buttermilk, if needed.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

This recipe calls for dairy ingredients, however they can be substituted for non-dairy (parve) items of the same type: i.e.: margarine or shortening instead of butter, soy cream cheese instead of regular. Regarding the use of the crystallized ginger, it is a really wonderful and unique ingredient. It starts off slightly citrusy when you first bite into it, and then you get the heat of the ginger. If you’re finding it difficult to find crystallized ginger, just know that it is the same as candied ginger, sugared ginger, or ginger chips – they are all just different names/sizes. If you choose not to use it, just up the total amount of powdered ginger to 1 ¼ teaspoons instead.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant butterscotch pudding mix
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅓ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 24 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners. Whisk together the flour, pudding mix, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, cloves, and crystallized ginger in a bowl; set aside. Beat the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. The mixture should be noticeably lighter in colour. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to blend into the butter mixture before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla and pumpkin puree with the last egg. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake in the preheated oven until golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 20 -25 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Allspice Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
¼ cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon allspice

Directions:

In a medium bowl, blend the cream cheese, butter, and allspice. Gradually mix in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until the mixture is spreadable. Spread or pipe onto the cupcakes.

A Treat With No Trick

Pumpkin Spice

So we are coming to the end of October, and around here, that pretty much means only thing: Halloween. Now Halloween is not a Jewish holiday, and in fact has it’s roots in the Christian All Hallows’ Eve, but it has become, like many holidays throughout the year, completely secularized and commercialized. Now Halloween is all about the costumes and the candy, and not about remembering the dead. Even though it is not a holiday that I celebrate, I can’t help but look around and be inspired by all of the pumpkins! So with that in mind I thought a Pumpkin Spice Cupcake with rich Allspice Cream Cheese frosting would be a hit! I mean, everywhere you look these days, something, ANYTHING, is flavoured with pumpkin spice! The rich, warm flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove just fill you up with toasty goodness. So I say, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

Slow Cooked Pot Roast

Pot Roast

This recipe will serve 8 to 10 people, depending on how much your guests like their meat! The recipe calls for fresh thyme and parsley. I’ve noted the equivalent in the ingredient list for dried thyme, but for the parsley, it is slightly different. Because you are using half the parsley on the vegetables and half in the gravy, you would need the equivalent of 2 tablespoons dried on the vegetables and 2 tablespoons dried in the gravy. If you wish to use fresh herbs, please refer to the vegetable checking page to learn how to properly clean them.

Ingredients:

One 4-pound beef chuck roast
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for coating
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, cut into ½ inch wedges
3 cloves garlic, mashed
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
3 cups low-sodium beef/chicken/vegetable broth
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ cup loosely packed parsley leaves, chopped

Directions:

Sprinkle the roast all over with 2 ½ teaspoons salt and 1 ½ teaspoons pepper. Coat in flour and shake off any excess. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the roast to the skillet and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes, turning as needed. Transfer the roast to the insert of a 6-quart slow cooker, along with the carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet over medium heat. Add the tomato paste and stir until the oil begins to turn brick-red, about 1 minute. Add the flour and wine and whisk until thick (it’s OK if there are some lumps). Add the beef broth, bay leaves, thyme, allspice, ½ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper and bring to a simmer, whisking, until the gravy is smooth and thickens slightly, about 4 minutes. Pour the gravy into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. The roast and vegetables should be tender. Remove the roast and let rest for a few minutes. Discard the thyme stems and strain the vegetables, reserving the gravy. Toss the vegetables with half the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Stir the remaining parsley into the gravy and season with salt and pepper. Slice the roast against the grain. Serve the meat and vegetables on a platter, moistening them with some of the gravy; serve the remaining gravy on the side.

If you want to make this ahead of time, follow all the same steps, browning the meat and creating the gravy, but allow them to cool. Slice up your vegetables, and add everything (minus the parsley) to a large gallon sized freezer bag. When you wish to actually cook your roast, let it defrost in your fridge first, then add it the crock pot and follow the remainder of the above instructions. It may take a while for the roast to defrost, even overnight. I suggest having a drip pan underneath it in the fridge so that you don’t have to worry about any errant juices.