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Autumn Borscht

There are more versions of borscht than I can list or even know about, most of the recipes originating from various Eastern European countries. Hot or cold, as a drink or as a soup over hot potatoes, or as a warm meaty stew, borscht is one of the most argued-over dishes. People are often consumed with the question of “what is the REAL original recipe?”, so here’s what I think: I’m a cook, not an archaeologist, and I couldn’t care less whether Russians would use caraway seeds in borscht! This recipe is delicious and very autumnal; enjoy!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 Tablespoons of grape-seed oil (or/and butter)
  • 2 onions, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 head of garlic, thinly sliced/minced
  • Generous pinch of caraway seeds
  • 4 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2-3 yukon potatoes, chopped
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch red beets, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups water (approximately)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 of a squeezed lemon (juice)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup chopped parsley and/or dill & beet greens
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sour cream or plain yogurt to serve

Directions: heat the oil in a large stock pot. Add the onions, and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and caraway seeds and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes and beets. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables have started to soften. Add the water, salt, sugar, vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Stir in the greens and lemon juice, simmer for a minute, and then add black pepper to taste.
Serve warm with fresh dill and sour cream.

Chef’s tips: Please feel comfortable to measure very approximately. This is a rustic village-style dish and exactness is not necessary. You can make it more soupy or more stew-like depending on how much water you add. This recipe can easily be adapted to be made with beef (Jews: without the sour cream of course!). You can brown small pieces of beef stew on the side and throw them in at the same time as you add the beets.

Serves 4 as main course, 6 as an appetizer

Photograph by Itta Werdiger Roth

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Unforgotten Soldier

This poem is being published as a tribute to all of the Israeli soldiers that are fighting for Israel. As Israel takes a stand and retaliates against Hamas and the terror that they unleash on a daily basis to the citizens of Israel, we pray for our Jewish Chayalim to be protected and for the safety of the Holy Land during these trying times. If you live anywhere in or near the danger zone, we are sending thoughts and prayers your way. Three causalities are three too many.  Hashem Yikom Damam. To all those who are reading this, if a chapter of Psalms can be said or simply a good deed done, that would mean a whole lot. Please share and be safe.

Written by: Lieba Bard-Wigdor

From the city of Tel Aviv
He walks to the door
Gradually turns around
And kneels on the floor

Aba, please don’t leave me
We need you right here
The child sounds so desperate
His voice is filled with fear

Our Jewish brothers need me
My son, please understand
This is what I must do
To protect our holy land

Wherever Elokim takes me
My son, I want you to know
You will be with me always
But now I really must go

He watches his father leave
As a tear rolls down his cheek
He waves the soldier goodbye
For he can no longer speak

Many years pass on by
Since that very last day
His father’s final departure
And forever taken away

He looks into the mirror
He sees his father’s face
It brings back memories
Of a familiar time and place

From the city of Tel Aviv
He walks to the door
Gradually turns around
And kneels on the floor

Aba, please don’t leave me
Your father did the same
I do not want to lose you
To be another forgotten name

My son, Saba is remembered
Although we may be apart
He’s been watching over me
As he is always in my heart

Now I will watch over you
As my father did the same
I love you, B’ni Hayakar
I won’t be a forgotten name

Stay strong, my dear son
I will be okay, don’t cry
For this land is ours forever
B’ni, Am Yisrael Chai

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The Grouchy Ladybug

“At five o’clock in the morning the sun came up. A friendly ladybug flew in from the left. It saw a leaf with aphids on it…”

Eric Carle has a great collection of books for kids with a distinct look. His illustrations are a collage of hand painted paper. His book, “The Grouchy Ladybug”, is an intriguing book with a surprise on each page. Unlike many books, he does not restrict himself to the typical rectangular pages of many children’s books.

The grouchy ladybug and friendly ladybug both found a leaf with aphids on it. The friendly critter wanted to share but the grouchy ladybug did not. “Want to fight?” the grouchy bug dared, then switched its mind and looked for someone bigger to fight. Throughout the day the grouchy ladybug dared a yellow jacket, stag beetle and bigger, until he dared a whale to fight. Needless to say, this experience changes the grouch’s attitude.

Each page features a clock as a way to familiarize children with the time. The child-friendly pictures and flaps make this book a good read for any time of day, and would be great for kids of ages five to seven.  Since this book is aimed for preschool aged kids, it is better to get the paperback book then the board book version.

Which Eric Carle book is your favorite?

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Pumpkin White Bean Dip

I always love to create new dips with seasonal ingredients. Once you learn the base behind making pestos, bean dips and salsas, you are really set to turn almost anything into a dip. This white bean dip uses almost the exact same logic behind making a traditional chickpea hummus. I start with a cooked bean, something to make it smooth (oil), something acidic to cut the fat (lemon juice) something to give it an edge (garlic), something to make it creamy (pumpkin; in hummus/tahini would be used) and lots of fresh herbs and spices. I used a food processor for this recipe many times and it does make for a very smooth and delicious dip, but lately I have much preferred this more rustic version. Some of the beans get mashed, some stay whole and I really enjoy being able to identify all the different ingredients that make this dip so intensely flavourful.

This is what you will need to make this delicious dip:

  • 3 cups navy beans (or other white beans) pre-soaked and cooked with salt until very soft.
  • 2 cups cooked, Japanese pumpkin aka kabocha squash (or other winter squash.)
  • 1 head garlic, wrapped up in foil and roasted until soft.
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • A few grinds of fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes

All or some of the herbs listed below:

  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ sliced scallions
  • 4-6 sprigs of thyme, leaves pulled off stems.
  • 1 fresh sage leaf or 1 sprig of fresh oregano finely chopped.

Directions: place the soft beans, peeled garlic and cooked squash into a large mixing bowl. Mash with a potato masher or fork. Focus on the cloves of garlic, as the rest will figure itself out. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Serve on a plate, make a little well in the center of the dip with the back of a spoon and put some more olive oil and red pepper flakes.

Chef’s tip: I usually cut the squash in half and bake it flat on a tray until soft, about 30-40 minutes on 350F/180C. When it cools enough, I either peel it or spoon out the flesh. I also throw the garlic wrapped up on the same tray with the pumpkin and take it out when soft, for about 25 minutes. Peeling the roasted garlic can be messy. I usually put gloves on, slice off the top of one end and squeeze the base. Most of the cloves will ooze out, but some will need serious intervention.

You can serve this with pita chips, celery sticks, radish wedges, or on the Shabbos table with Challah. Enjoy!

Photograph by Itta Roth

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Get Your Weight Back on Track, and WIN Cash!

By request, Balaboostas is featuring their 3rd Weight Loss Competition this year!

If you want to work off those extra pounds that seem to pile up during Chagim, or in the winter months, then this might be perfect for you! Come join the Balaboostas Weight Loss Competition, where other women like you compete for a CASH prize and shed those pounds at the same time. Sounds too good to be true? It’s not! The last Winner won a total of $250 cash prize and 20lbs! This round, the cash price is the same and may climb. Closing date is tonight at midnight, so if you would like to join, this is your last chance.

(If you cannot join yet due to the power outage caused by the hurricane comment here we will consider another few day extension). Read here for terms.

Shout out to past competitors: please share your success stories! 🙂 Good luck to all the contestants thus far.

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Swirling Thoughts on Sandy

On August 24, 2011, just one day after the famous Virginia earthquake, Hurricane Irene took over the Bahamas. As I watched the short weather man and his hands spread across the map of the east coast, his grim looking face matched the swirl of dark clouds on the map that hovered over the island in its whirlpool motion. The hurricane is said to be heading towards New York and that certain areas will be instructed to evacuate.

The “paranoid” people (meaning, me) ran to the nearest food shops and bought out the aisles of bottled water and canned goods. The shelves were left as bare as an in-compliant school boy’s notebook. I watched the windows of neighboring buildings seal their windows as though they were trying to keep out the devil himself. People blew up their inflatable boats in case they had to row down the flooded streets. Luckily, the storm wasn’t half as bad as expected.

Between the earthquake and Hurricane Irene, New York got to experience Nature’s fury twice within one week. Just days after, it was as if nothing threatened the tight and fast schedule of the New Yorker’s bustling life. The sun yellow cabs drove on and the latest rap song found its rhythm in the pungent polluted air. The New York people, from all walks of life, blended once again into the picture of a city that will forever be home to the millions of people – that have come to paint their story onto the grand canvas of a bright and successful tomorrow.

Fast Forward to October 29, 2012…

When I wrote about Hurricane Irene a week after its occurrence, and I recall how it was broadcasted to affect New York and the other states down the east coast, never did I think that its narrative would be so different to that of Hurricane Sandy. After all, Irene started out as a category 3 while Sandy was only a category 1 a few days before she hit. We have been told before that evacuation would be necessary, we were told to hunker down and stay indoors, we were told to take it seriously. But we heard it before and it was not that bad. We bought out the shelves once before, and so we personally did it again. But I know others who did not, and I could understand why. Why would we do this again, when these weather forecasts seem to overhype the storms and how bad it is going to be? My friends in Florida, who frequently experience storms, seemed to agree. It is exaggerated. It is not really that bad.

Only this time, it really was that bad. People had good reason to buy out the store shelves. People were not over dramatizing the dangers when pinning up their doors and windows with large boards of wood. Stores had cause to build a wall of heavy sandbags along the sides of their businesses. Families were not silly to inflate their boats, and were foolish if they did not take heed to the call of the authorities, whom announced mandatory evacuation in areas prone to flooding. Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in her wake, as fires, floods, fallen trees and electric lines affected the lives of millions. Seeing pictures of destruction and yellow cabbies floating about, all I can think of is how they were right…It was the worst we have ever seen.

A flooded parking lot filled with taxi cabs in Hoboken, N.J.

I grew up in the amazing state of New York. When I settled down in New Jersey to live with my husband and child, I did not look back. I love suburbia. Well, maybe I looked back when storms were a threat, as New York hardly ever loses power in a storm because of the underground wiring. In New Jersey, power is easily lost when a tree rips down the electric wires that run above ground. When we heard that Hurricane Sandy would be serious enough to run down power lines, my husband and I decided that it would be best for us to stay by my parents in New York, where we can have proper heat and food for our child. If we lose power in mild storms, then we probably will lose power in this one. We were right. Our neighbor informed us that indeed, we do not have power.

So here we are in New York with power and I cannot help but wonder. In life, how often do we brush off something attention worthy, only because it did not end up being as serious as expected the first time around? I know I do that sometimes. I do not always take heed and listen, as I would sometimes rather not be inconvenienced than staying on the safe side. Little do I realize that it may not hurt to keep caution. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It is telling my child that I will listen to what he has to say. You have a tummy ache? Let’s get it checked out. It is telling my parents that I will listen to them when I take my family on a road trip and we will sleep in a hotel overnight, instead of driving with droopy eyes. It is telling my husband that I would rather spend a nice evening at home, than hire a babysitter that we do not know well enough. It is telling myself that I have a life, a family, and many responsibilities.

Mistakes happen, accidents occur, and at often times, we cannot control them. But when we can, see your life, listen to your loved ones, and feel contentedness in your grasp. Know that safety always comes first. Care enough to go the extra mile by getting out of harm’s way, and not taking a single moment in life for granted.

Sandy taught me this…what did she teach you?

Streets are flooded under the Manhattan Bridge in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, New York.
A surveillance camera captures water surging into the PATH station in Hoboken, New Jersey, as it flooded.
Seawater pours into the Ground Zero construction site in New York, on October 29, 2012.

Photo Credit:

Charles Sykes, AP – Yellow Taxi

Bebeto Matthews, AP – Bridge

Port Authority of NY & NJ, AP – Path

John Minchillo, AP – Ground Zero

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Apple Thyme Tart!

This apple tart is divine! Here is what you will need:

For the Pastry:

  • 1 ¼ cup whole grain pastry flour
  • 2  teaspoon sugar
  • 1 salt pinch
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into about 10 pieces and put in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
  • Approximately 4 tablespoons ice water (or vodka!) – or as much as you need for the dough to come together.
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme

For the Filling:

  • 4 apples (to fill the pie plate, adjust amount as needed), cored and thinly sliced.
  • 2 tablespoons butter, chopped or melted.
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1salt pinch
  • Grated parmesan or similar sharp cheese (about ¼ cup)

Simply like this: the dry ingredients (sugar, salt and flour) for the pastry go in the food processor with the cold cold butter. Pulse pulse pulse. A few more times. You want everything to look very choppy. If you over-pulse, your crust will not be flaky. When the flour has the look and consistency of breadcrumbs, tip the flour/butter mixture into a bowl and using a spatula, add just enough ice water (or vodka) for the dough to come together. Knead into a ball, wrap with plastic and put it in the fridge to get it nice and cold. About an hour or less if you’re short on time.

Butter a tart or pie pan (or you can use parchment paper). Make sure the room (and your hands, if you have any control over that) are both on the cool side, and then quickly roll out the dough into a roundish circle. Put flour on the rolling pin and on the top of the pastry so it doesn’t stick. Flip it once before it gets too large to easily flip and then transfer it straight into your chosen dish. Later, you can fold any excess dough back over the apples or cut it off using the back of a knife and crimp the edges. Refrigerate while you slice the apples.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Toss the apples with the sugar, salt, thyme and butter. Take the crust out of the fridge, pierce it a few times with a fork. Arrange the apples really neatly so it looks just perfect or chuck them all in and call it rustic. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is firm and the apples start to turn brown. Serve warm or room temperature. Possibly with a scoop of ice cream.

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Post Wedding Bliss

Two nights ago I had my brother in law’s wedding.  It was beautiful, emotional (he is the youngest) and as usual, long.

We came home at 4am and we did not head to bed but rather, we sat at the kitchen table to nosh…and talk. I always get jealous of newly married couples. The newness, the shyness, the freshness, and the excitement of everything and of course, all the attention – I miss it. I also cannot stop noticing what they have or do and what we did not have or do as newly weds.

Now let me tell you, my newlywed stage was bliss. We got married in my small hometown; the wedding was gorgeous and fun and did not end in the early morning hours, rather at an hour in the evening when we could all still get some sleep.

We spent hours talking in bed that night as did we the next night and the next and the next. We looked at each other sweetly, went on long walks together and visited family like a real good couple. We did not eat at Sheva Brachot but instead, ate cookies late at night when we got home. Yet there is still something that I am jealous of. I have not forgotten and I never will, those first few months. But I do not have the new fresh feeling anymore and I miss that… I want that.

Thank G-D, my married life is amazing. We know each other, we have a baby, we have fun, we argue and we go on trips. We are a family now. But I still miss that first stage.

It is funny though, seeing how happy my brother in-law is, smiling at his new wife, whispering to her and winking at her. I suddenly forget that we still do that now, forget how when I saw my husband walking into the dinner at the wedding, I still felt that way! Reminiscing that amongst all the fun, all the happiness and excitement, I was still feeling miserable.

As a newly wed, I missed being with my family all day. They were having fun and I was stuck, alone with my husband. I was nervous and shy. I had talked to him for four months and suddenly, he was using my bathroom, we were sharing closets, and he was eating breakfast with me. I was constantly worried that there would be awkward silences, and being nervous that married life would be too hard for me to deal with.

When my husband got sick three weeks after we got married, a minor upset stomach, it sent me into huge bouts of tears while sitting in my parent’s house. As I cried for 45 minutes, he sat in the other room feeling sick and worried what was wrong with his new wife.

When we moved to America, I called my father and said that I want to consider leaving him because I cannot deal with all the new things, the new house, a new city, a whole new family and a new best friend.

I was always embarrassed to tell him things, ask him stuff and suggest things. I worried myself sick if my food was good; if I looked okay for him and if he loved me, even though I was making him crazy. Over time of course, life got easier, I settled and marriage showed me its good sides (as I did to my husband!).

So I tell myself when I see a couple, be jealous, be wishful, be angry that you no longer have all that. BUT be happy, be thankful and be grateful that you are over that stage too.  You got through the phase and you came out on the other side, a better couple, a happier couple and an in-love couple. Marriage has its ups and its downs, its hard stages and its easy stages, its highs and its lows, its happiness and its sadness. So when we are down, we remember it all, and I tell my husband that as much as we are jealous, they just may be jealous of us too.

 

Photograph by Rivka Bauman Photography

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Time Keeper

“Soon man will count all his days, and then smaller segments of the day, and then smaller still—until the counting consumes him, and the wonder of the world he has been given is lost.”

We scribble “dentist appointment, 4pm” on our calendars. We fit shopping into our busy schedules. Everything has time allotted in our days. Time. We need more time.

Mitch Albom tackles this theme in his newest book “The Time Keeper,” a short but inspiring novel that rewards Albom fans. This book tracks the life of a business man and the life of a teen girl full of angst. 

Some people want more time. They cry for it, go through surgery or painful procedures, just to have a few more months. Some are miserable and want the time to fly by so that work would end, and so that the week would zip by to the weekend. Some want to sacrifice their time and give up their lives.

We each choose how to spend each hour of our day and we show how important something is by allotting time for it. We show people how valuable they are by spending time with them, calling when we have a free moment, and stopping by on Shabbat afternoon.

“The Time Keeper” is an easy read, very relatable to people of all paths of life, and inspirational. This book is definitely worth your time.

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Everyday Makeup Routine

Putting on makeup daily does not have to take up a lot of time; in fact you don’t even need more than five minutes. This makeup look is quick and easy, and will fit perfectly into everyone’s morning routine.

Here is a step by step tutorial:

1) Apply a moisturizing face primer all over your face, including your eyelids. If you don’t have any, use a regular facial moisturizer. It’s also a good idea to use one with SPF. You can use your fingers to apply.

2) Apply a neutral light brown eyeshadow to your eyelids. If you don’t have any, you can use foundation powder. The best way to apply it is with a small eyeshadow brush. However, if you don’t have one, you can use your fingers.

3) Apply a slightly darker brown eyeshadow in the crease right above your eyelids. You can use regular bronzer.

4) Apply black or brown eye liner right above your upper lashes. You can play around with different colors that complement your eyes. I’m using black. If you are a beginner, apply the eye liner very slowly and carefully. Practice makes perfect.

5) This step is optional; I like the look of it a lot. Smudge the eyeliner to give a softer look. If there is no ‘smudger’ on your eyeliner, you can use a Q-tip.

6) Apply mascara.

7) Apply Vaseline on your lips. If you want, you can apply lipstick, as I am in the picture.

It’s a good idea to let your skin breathe and not apply liquid foundation every day. Personally, I don’t have the patience; therefore I almost never wear it. However, if you wanted to, I would suggest applying it sparingly, using a sponge.

Yes, it really is that simple! It’s subtle makeup that will really make a difference. You won’t look ‘done’, you’ll just look refreshed 😉

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