Keschem: A Passover Breakfast Worth Waiting For!

This post isn’t textile-art related. Tonight, however, is the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover. And so I thought it was a great opportunity to share with you the recipe for my favorite Passover breakfast: Keschem.

This isn’t a fancy dish. Nor is it hard to make. But I find myself looking forward to it year after year. It’s especially good when my father makes it (he has a magic touch!), but when he’s not around my kids reluctantly let me make it instead. In fact, the kids like it so much that we sometimes cheat, and eat it even when it’s NOT Passover…

I’m sure you’ve all heard of Matzo Brei, the fried Matzo and egg dish. Well, this is a bit similar, only A LOT better.

Most people I know, even if they’re Jewish or Israeli, have never heard of Keschem. I don’t know which part of the world the recipe originated from. I also have no idea what the name Keschem means, or even what language it is (it doesn’t sound like Hebrew). Even my dad doesn’t know anything about its origins. But it’s been a long tradition in my family. My father grew up eating it every Passover, and he made sure that we did, too.

Here is how to make Keschem. Try it this week, when all the stores carry Matzos!

How To Make Keschem:

The following is for one portion. If you want more, multiply by the number of people you want to feed.

Ingredients:

2 Matzos

1 egg

Salt, pepper, ginger powder

(optional: sliced cheese)

Directions:

Run the matzos through running tap water, so they are wet but not soaked. Let them sit for a minute or so to absorb some of the water.

Crumble the matzos into small pieces, and put in a bowl. Add the egg. Add some salt, lots of pepper, and the secret ingredient: ginger powder. You can play with amounts according to taste.

With your hands, mix it all together.

Melt LOTS of butter in a frying pan.

When the butter is very hot, make patties from the mixture in the bowel and put in the pan. It works best if you make the patties small.

Fry until golden and crisp. Add butter as needed. Turn over and fry the other side. The crispier the better!

The Keschem is ready when both sides are golden and crispy. It is great as is. But if you want, you can add a slice of cheese while frying the second side. The cheese will melt into the patty by the time the bottom is ready, and will add to the taste.

Enjoy!

Don’t Turn That Grill On Before You Read This! My Mom’s Potato Salad with a Tweak

Summer officially arrived (with a record-breaking heat wave here in California!), which means it’s BBQ-season time!

Whenever we have a BBQ, I like to make my mom’s (slightly altered) potato salad as a side dish. This was a summer staple for my family when I was growing up, and I was only happy to adopt it as an adult (thanks mom!).

Over the years I received so many compliments on this dish, and so many friends have asked for the recipe, that I thought I will share it with you here. Make sure to try this potato salad next time you have a BBQ, or with any other meal, for that matter. It’s a great dish to share with friends, too!

Ingredients:

  • Half a sack of red potatoes (more if they are small)
  • Six/seven eggs
  • One jar pickles
  • Mayo
  • Mustard (my little addition!)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Cook the potatoes until soft (but not until they fall apart!). I cook them with the skin, as by the time they are ready all the germs are long dead. The skin is actually good for you, and adds lots of fiber!

At the same time, boil the eggs until they are hard boiled.

Peel the eggs and squish them in a bowl.

Cut the potatoes into small cube, and add to the bowl.

Cut the pickles into cubes, and add them, too. (Save the liquids to the end).

Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Add a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, to taste.

Finally, (and that’s my personal little tweak, which makes a big difference!) add a little mustard for an additional pop of flavor.

Mix everything together and taste. Adjust salt, pepper, mayo and mustard as needed. If the salad feels too dry, add some of the liquid remaining in the pickle jar.

This can be eaten while the potatoes are still warm, or after refrigeration. Leftovers can be refrigerated for several days, and still taste really good!

Enjoy your summer and happy BBQing!!

 

 

In Need of a Quick Dinner? Try a Spinach and Puff Pastry Roll!

We all have these days (weeks, sometimes!) when things just get really busy. We run around all day, doing the things we need to do, and the last thing we want to think about is dinner. But then, inevitably, a few younglings return home from school absolutely famished, and there is no choice but to cook something with which to fill their bellies.

Well, this week has been such a week for me. I’ve been gearing up for my first big craft fair this coming weekend, and the preparations just kept piling up (literally!). Therefore, I decided to make a Spinach and Puff Pastry Roll. This dish requires a bit of planning (mostly because it uses frozen ingredients, which should be taken out of the freezer in the morning to thaw), but is otherwise quick, easy, and fairly healthy. My kids absolutely love  this dish, and often end up fighting over the last piece. Consequently, I sometimes make two, just to keep everybody happy 🙂

It occurred to me that you might find use for the recipe, too. So here goes:

Spinach and Puff Pastry Roll

Ingredients:

Everything you need for a spinach and puff pastry roll

A package of 16 oz chopped frozen spinach

1 onion, peeled and chopped (if desired)

A pack of 6 oz crumbled Feta cheese

1 cup grated cheese (could be any hard cheese you like)

1 tbs flour

1 egg

A roll of frozen puff pastry

 

Directions:

In the morning, take the frozen spinach and the puff pastry out of the freezer, put the spinach in a bowl and leave on the counter top to thaw. 

Thaw frozen spinach

About an hour before dinner, fry the onion (if desired) and add it to the spinach. Add the feta, grated cheese, flour and egg and mix well.

Adding all the filling ingredients

Flatten the puff pastry out, and spread the spinach mix on the pastry.

Spreading filling on dough

Finally, roll it all together. Tighten the pastry’s edges (so that the filling does not spill out).

Put on a baking sheet, punch a couple of holes, and toss in the oven.

Bake roll in oven

Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until brown.

Ready spinach and puff pastry roll

I usually combine the spinach roll with a potato dish, some protein and a salad.

Spinach roll on the dinner plate

Enjoy!

Why Everyone Should Consider Hosting an Exchange Student

At the beginning of this school year my daughter’s high school sent a school-wide email, asking families to volunteer to host an exchange student from Japan for one week in March. We thought this sounded like fun and signed up. In August, March seemed a long way off. Yet, it snuck upon us before we knew it. Our international exchange student arrived last week, and yesterday we sent her off in a cloud of hugs and tears.

Despite the language barriers, cultural differences and early-morning drop-offs I would encourage all families to consider hosting an exchange student. Here’s why:

1. Hosting a student will provide a great motivation to tidy up your house. Unlike visiting friends or family, an exchange student is a stranger who will be a part of your family for a short period of time. While you might tolerate some mess with close people around, you will probably feel a lot less comfortable doing so with a stranger.

A fellow host mother I met at school the night the students arrived told me she’s been scrubbing her house for two weeks straight. I didn’t go to such extremes, but I did clear all of my projects out of my sewing room, a week-long endeavor. My family and I returned the sewing room to its original manifestation as a guest room, and meticulously cleaned it up. I suddenly remembered how beautiful it could be. The kids, on their part, were amazed by how big it looked. And so, like in the story of the Rabbi and the Goat, we all felt as if we had more space in the house:

2. You will appreciate other people’s courage. When our exchange student arrived, I was impressed with how courageous she and her classmates were. These young teenagers left their homes and everything familiar, to travel to a faraway country, with a different language, different customs, and different foods. They did come as a group, true, with teacher escorts, but shortly upon arrival they were paired up with their host families, and driven off, each alone with a bunch of strangers, into the dark and the unknown… I’m sure they were all quite nervous at that point. I, too, traveled alone to faraway lands, but I was a lot older. My own experiences helped me respect my young guest’s bravery.

3. For a short period of time, you will gain one more child. I’ve always been curious as to what it feels like to have four children. This week gave me some idea 🙂 It was interesting to see how fast mothering instincts take over when you suddenly become responsible for a child. When our exchange student arrived, I immediately wanted to feed her, make sure she’s warm, and take care of her in other ways. Somehow, it seems, by caring for other people you make them your own.

4. Your children will learn that the basic fundamentals of humanity cross all cultural and linguistic barriers. My daughter and my Japanese daughter had some difficulty communicating, but they quickly found ways to connect despite their differences. The two girls traveled on school tours together and had a lot of fun. They attended classes together, and learned a little about how schools in their respective countries compared. The girls taught each other some basic words in their own languages. They bonded over a shared love for everything Harry Potter, and spent a few evenings watching the movies together. And they realized that their mutual passion for piano-playing and music erases all differences. Our Japanese child turned out to be a piano genius, and we all greatly enjoyed hearing her play.

5. You will get to see your surroundings with fresh eyes. Our entire family took pleasure in introducing our guest to our world. We soon realized how refreshing it was to see things through her eyes. When we took her to visit places we took for granted, these familiar spots suddenly seemed a lot more interesting and exciting. A nearby office building revealed itself to be a fun playground. Our downtown appeared as an exciting, opportunity-filled hub. Even our familiar neighborhood trail all of a sudden seemed amazing, covered as it was with spring blooms.

6. Mundane, everyday activities will become more appealing. Making dinner, for example, can often feel like a chore. But if you’re teaching someone from another country to make a dish that is new to them, it no longer feels this way. We taught our guest to make pizza from scratch, for example. Preparing the dough felt more special when done together, and putting toppings on personal pies became an activity that all the kids enjoyed.

7. Family dinners might become a bit more nutritious. It’s not always easy, with everyone’s busy schedules, to make room for daily dinner preparations. And although I really try to cook a fresh meal every day, and to make sure it’s as nutritious and healthy as could be, I sometimes find myself slacking. I also tend to get in a rut, repeating the same five or six dishes over and over again. But when our guest was here I found myself thinking about dinner more. Suddenly I wanted to make something different every night, so that she could taste a variety of new foods. I also made sure to include several dishes in every meal, to give her options in case something wasn’t appealing.

8. You will become more conscious of what you eat. We enjoyed introducing our Japanese child to different foods. By doing so we realized just how international our daily cuisine actually was! We had Italian food one day, Mediterranean goods the next, some European dishes another time, and then some Mexican cuisine. This is how it usually is, except we we haven’t paid attention before!

9. You will realize that sharing a meal connects people. There is something very basic in eating together. Food bridges gaps and creates bonds.

10. Everyone will learn that giving unconditionally feels good. Giving gifts is an important part of Japanese culture. In the school’s parent orientation we were told to expect to receive gifts, as well as be prepared to give presents. But while it was really nice to get Japanese tea or origami paper, we all found that buying and gifting our own gifts felt even better. My kids excitedly thought of what things to buy our guest, and aimed at items she might really like and use. They enjoyed wrapping everything nicely, and derived great pleasure from handing them over. Making another human being happy was all the reward they needed.

11. A nice bonus: kids tend to fight less when a new person is around. I got one week or relatively-few quarrels. Priceless!

12. Everyone will have lasting memories. Experiences, not material things, are what happiness is based on, or so researchers say. By hosting a child from abroad for one week we created memories for everyone that will last a lifetime. We forever became a part of someone else’s life, and she became a part of ours.

Our week of hosting was over in a flash. As expected, it was hard to say goodbye. We are hoping to someday get a chance to see our exchange daughter again, but even if not, her stay with us has made the world a little bit smaller.

On Friday Bake a Challah!

I used to try and bake a challah every Friday. Well, almost every Friday. I love waking up on Saturday mornings to a fresh slice of homemade bread and honey. Since I started sewing, however, my enthusiasm for baking seems to have decreased. Not because I no longer like it, but because I always seem to have other, more urgent things to do on Friday mornings. The silver lining is that when I do bake challahs these days, they are extremely popular. When I made them regularly, I was often the only one trying to eat the dried-up leftovers for Thursday breakfast. Now everyone fights over my loaves, leaving not a crumb by Saturday afternoon…

Today I decided to make time for challah baking, and it occurred to me that other people might like to try some, too.

My regular challah recipe is actually based on a Swiss Bernese Zupfe. Bread, it seems, unites many cultures, and maybe we should learn something from it…

Ingredients:

1 kg white flour

2 packs dried yeast (30 gr each)

1 tbs salt

1-2 tbs sugar
1 stick butter

2 cups milk

2 eggs

Preparation:

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add milk ,eggs and butter, and knead until you get a soft, non-sticky dough. Add milk if too dry, or flour if too wet, until you reach the right consistency.

Let rise for two hours. Punch down, knead again, and shape into whatever shape you want. I often braid my challahs, but sometimes I make them round. Every now and then I let the kids shape them whichever way they want. We recently had an elephant, a snail and several Pokemons.

Let rise again for another two hours.

You can now bake your bread, but if you would like a nicer finish this is the time to mix an egg with a bit of water in a small bowl, and brush it over your loaves. You can then spread sesame seeds or poppy seeds for an even nicer, more finished look.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, until your loaves are nice and brown.

Let cool.

Homemade Challah for Shabbat

Tip: it’s really nice to grab a slice while the challah is still warm. It’s especially tasty with melted butter on top!

Enjoy!