Philly Cheese Steak, the Kosher way

Philadelphia. City of Brotherly Love. So named (from the Greek words "philos" meaning love and "adelphos" meaning brother) because the city's founder, William Penn, wanted the place to be a refuge from religious persecution. 

I wonder what Penn might think of that today, what with this year's contentious election and the Democratic National Convention at hand in the city.

But, current times aside, Philadelphia has a lovely history.

Home of the Liberty Bell. And Independence Hall, where the founding fathers debated (and adopted) the Declaration of Independence AND the Constitution.

Once the temporary capital of the United States while the newly minted America waited for the District of Columbia to be built.

And, among the more mundane of matters, home of the Philly Cheese Steak.

Philly Cheese Steak.

I have to say, I've been to Philadelphia several times and never ate one.

But thoughts of the city and its famous hoagie (hero sandwich, sub, whatever others may call it) got me to think about trying one at home.

Kosher.

I looked at lots of recipes and saw that they called for different cuts of beef, cut into strips. I decided on skirt steak because it's so juicy and flavorful.

I also noticed that the cheese could be cheddar or American or provolone and even -- OY -- cheese whiz. 

I opted for provolone (non-dairy, soy-based from Daiya Foods) because it has such a magnificent tang to it.

Some recipes called for sauteed mushrooms or other vegetables in addition to the more usual onions and red bell pepper. I decided not to.

In the end -- magnifico!!

Does it taste the way a Philly Cheese Steak is supposed to? 

I have no clue.

All I know is that it tasted good. Very good.

And so, in honor of Philadelphia's few days in the sun again -- my recipe for Philly Cheese Steak.

 

Kosher Philly Cheese Steak

  • 8 ounces skirt steak, semi-frozen
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced into narrow strips
  • 2 hoagie rolls
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 slices Daiya soy “provolone style cheese”

Cut the beef into thin slices against the grain. Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and pepper strips and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until soft and lightly browned. Add the meat to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until browned. Cut the rolls in half. Move the meat and vegetables to one side of the pan (or temporarily spoon into a plate) and place the 4 pieces of roll, cut side down in the pan. Cook for a minute or so, to lightly toast the rolls. Turn the rolls cut side up. Using equal quantities, place equal quantities of meat and vegetables on each of the two roll bottoms. Top with equal amounts of the soy cheese. Cover with the tops of the rolls. Turn the heat to low. Cover the pan and cook for a minute or so or until the cheese has melted.

Makes 2 sandwiches

Cleveland Cuisine! Really.

Cleveland cuisine? Really?

Yes!

Cleveland is an important place.

For one thing, it's the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

And that should be enough.

But there's also The Cleveland Museum of Art -- it has a large, diverse collection. And unlike so many museums of its kind, admission is FREE!!!!

Also -- Cleveland has a world-famous orchestra, a distinguished university (Case Western Reserve), an AFC football team (the Browns) and a major league baseball team (the Indians).

AND, of course, their basketball team is this year's NBA Champions! (You've surely heard of the Cavaliers!)

I'm impressed!

And now there's more. This summer Cleveland will be home to the 2016 Republican National Convention (July 18-21).

And, whatever the goings on at the convention itself, the city will get lots of extra attention in the press. There will be loads and loads of extra people in Cleveland.

So, me being me, I got to wondering about what those people might be eating during their stay. 

I don't mean the food they're going to get at the convention. I mean real, special, famous Cleveland food. 

Not every city has its own culinary specialties. Surely nothing in Stamford, CT., where I live. 

But Cleveland does! And some real goodies, at that! 

For example, because the city is home to large numbers of families whose origins trace back to central and eastern Europe, bratwurst (on a bun) and crunchy apple fritters are really popular.

The apple fritters alone are worth a visit I think.

But also this -- among the most famous of "Cleveland food" is something called the Polish Boy (basically a kielbasa sandwich with coleslaw, french fries and barbecue sauce all on a club roll).

Well, okay. Maybe.

Then I discovered that among the iconic Cleveland dishes are pierogi.

Pierogi. Do you hear my heart pounding? Can you see my grin?

Oh! How I love pierogi! Doughy dumplings stuffed with stuff. Like beef cheeks or potato and cheese (served with thick, tangy sour cream).

Pierogi. The kind of food some of us used to get at grandma's, if we were lucky.

I haven't had a pierogi for as long as I can remember. Thanks to Cleveland I was reminded of that fact.

I had to have some. But the only ones I could find in Stamford, CT. were packaged.

So I decided to make some myself. And after a couple of tries -- oh!

They are as wonderful as I remember.

Thank you, Cleveland, for inspiring this recipe. Good luck this summer.

 

Potato Cheese Pierogi

Filling:

  • 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes (about one pound), peeled, cut into chunks (about 3 cups mashed potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup farmer cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the potato chunks in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes and spoon into a bowl. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 12-15 minutes or until soft and golden brown. Add the onions to the potatoes. Add the farmer cheese, sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix the ingredients until well blended. Set aside to cool before filling the dough.

Dough:

  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup water, approximately
  • 1 cup dairy sour cream

Extras:

  • butter
  • vegetable oil
  • sour cream

To make the dough: place the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and work it into the dough until the mixture is crumbly. Add 1/2 cup of the water and the sour cream and mix the dough until it is smooth, soft and well blended. If the dough seems too dry, add more water. (You can do this in a food processor.) Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes. Using portions of the dough, roll the dough on a floured surface to 1/8-inch thick and cut out circles with a 3-inch cookie cutter. Place the circles on a board or cookie sheet and cover them with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel while you cut the rest of the dough. Fill the dough using about one tablespoon of the filling for each circle.

To fill the pierogis: place the filling in the center of the dough circle. Fold the circle in half, pinching the edges to seal in the filling.

To cook the pierogis: bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the filled pierogis, 6-8 at a time, and boil for about 3-8 minutes depending on whether they are at room temperature, refrigerated or frozen (or until they float to the surface). Remove the pierogis with a slotted spoon and set aside; repeat with remaining pierogis.

Extras: To serve the pierogis: serve boiled (as above), with sour cream (can also serve with caramelized onions – make more when making filling above). OR, heat 1 tablespoon butter plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add some of the pierogi (do not crowd the pan) and cook for 3-4 minutes on the flat side, or until golden brown on the bottom, then turn the pierogis over and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until crusty and golden brown. Repeat using more butter/vegetable oil with the remaining pierogis. Serve with sour cream (and sautéed onion if desired). 

Makes about 4 dozen

An Egg Roll Like No Other

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A few weeks ago I attended a dinner at Six Thirteen, a local kosher restaurant in Stamford, CT. It was a fabulous multi-course offering served as a "pop up" with the fabulous Dini Schuman Klein of "Dini Delivers" doing the cooking.

Dini is a personal chef, a caterer, food demonstrator, blogger.

Yes, she does it all. She's an energetic young woman whose enthusiasm as well as her food ---- delivers!

The entire meal was wonderful. But two courses stand out as memorable. One was a chicken dish that my friend Liz Arronson Rueven will be blogging about.

The other was an egg roll like you've never had egg roll.

With avocado and cumin. Herb marinated mahi-mahi. Pineapple Salsa. Jalapeno peppers.

That kind of egg roll.

Oh my.

I could have eaten 4 of them, but I was trying to be polite and besides I was at a table with several other people, including Liz and her husband as well as Rabbi Yehuda Kantor and Dina Kantor, so I didn't want to appear gluttonous.

But I did ask Dini if she would give me the recipe.

And so she did.

And so, here it is. It's an ambitious recipe, to be sure. But so, so delicious!

Herb Marinated Mahi Mahi-Avocado Eggroll Served with Papaya Salsa, Chili Lime Sace, and Jalapeño Chimichurri

Marinade:

  • 1 large bunch parsley
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 medium fillets mahi mahi (24 oz), thinly sliced in 1-inch thick strips

Papaya Salsa:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 papaya peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • salt to taste

Chili Lime Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 8 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder

Jalapeño Chimichurri:

  • 2 jalapenos
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  •  salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To assemble Eggroll:

  • 10 eggroll wrappers
  • 1 avocado sliced
  • pickled onions (optional)
  • canola oil for frying

Directions:

Combine all marinade ingredients in saucepan and bring to simmer. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Add fish and let marinate for 1 hour. 

Meanwhile prepare the sauces:

Papaya Salsa: Saute the onion and garlic in oil in a small pot. Add in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes until thickened and all the flavors have mixed together. Use an immersion blender to create a slightly smoother salsa. Let chill until ready to serve.

Chili Lime Sauce: Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. 

Jalapeño Chimichurri: Using a food processor, puree all ingredients until well blended. Transfer to a bowl and cover. 

To assemble the eggrolls:

Lay out an egg roll skin with a corner pointed toward you. Place 1/4 cup fish (straining off as much marinade as possible), 2 slices of avocado in the center, and a tablespoon of pickled onions (if using). Sprinkle the avocado with a touch of salt. Fold the corner closest to you over the filling. Fold left and right corners toward the center and continue to roll. Wet the top corner with a drop of water to help seal the egg roll. Continue rolling egg rolls until you've made 10. Place in the oil and fry until golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and let cool on a rack or paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately with all three sauces. 

Makes 10

Salmon Spread for Easy Summer Entertaining

My mother was one of those women who always had too much food in the house. Just in case.

Just in case company came. You can't just let them sit there and not eat.

Just in case you needed a little something extra for supper. Or as a snack over the weekend.

Just in case you had some leftovers and you didn't want to throw them out.

If you ever took a look in my freezer, my fridge and my kitchen cabinets you would know, like mother, like daughter.

I have a ton of food things.

Just in case.

This past weekend when my cousins came for a sleepover, I discussed this with my cousin Leslie, whose mother was my Mom's sister. She was bemoaning her overstuffed freezer, refrig, pantry. With all the "just-in-case" stuff. 

We are who we are, products of our upbringing, including our need for just-in-case food.

But I did point out to her that with the leftover salmon I made the other day, the dill, lemons, celery and cream cheese I always have on hand, I made this spread. Which is a perfectly easy-to-make, quick-as-a-wink to make hors d'oeuvre to be served with chips or crudites. And I served it over the weekend.

Easy. 

You can do it too. And if you don't have leftover salmon, you can used canned salmon, tuna or sardines. It's also delicious with leftover cooked bluefish.

 

Salmon Spread

  • 8 ounces cooked salmon, crumbled
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Place the salmon, scallions, celery, cream cheese, lemon juice, dill and Dijon mustard in the workbowl of a food processor and process until thoroughly blended. 

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

Potato Salad with Lemon-Oregano Vinaigrette

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Some people say potato salad comes from German cuisine. Others tell you it is French. Or from some other European country.

But I think potato salad is actually thoroughly American.

Potatoes are a "new world" plant. Back in the 16th century, before Europeans ever knew there was even another continent, Spanish explorers sailed to what would later become the "Americas." They were looking for gold and plenty in the mythical kingdom of El Dorado. 

Surprise!

What they found were plenty of potatoes, and that was their real treasure.

They brought potatoes back to Europe, where it met with mixed reviews, especially because so many people thought potatoes were poisonous. Others refused to eat potatoes because they weren't mentioned in the bible. 

Fortunately potatoes are nourishing and easy to grow, so in the poorer European communities the people were obliged to eat them or starve. 

And so by the time Europeans settled in what would become the United States, potatoes were a staple part of the diet.

With all this in mind, I say again: potato salad is an American food, because -- it all started with the potato. And so it's the perfect side dish for a 4th of July picnic, barbecue or any other sort of get-together.

For my money -- potato salad is best when served at room temperature. Not hot, not cold. There are a zillion versions. Here's one:

Potato Salad with Lemon-Oregano Vinaigrette

  • 2-1/2 pounds small red potatoes        
  • lightly salted water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped        
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (1-1/2 teaspoons dried) 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with lightly salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain under cold water and peel, if desired. Cut the potatoes into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl. Pour in the olive oil and lemon juice and toss ingredients gently. Add the scallions, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper. Toss gently. Let rest at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

 

Easy Guacamole

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Recently I posted a recipe for an Avocado, Egg and Tomato Sandwich with Pesto Mayonnaise, in which I mentioned that I eat a lot of avocados. In fact there are always 4-5 avocados in my house, some in the crisper bin of the fridge, others ripening on the counter top.

Besides eating avocados as a snack, I find that when I am at a loss for a vegetable side dish or when I am rushed, stressed or busy, an avocado comes in really handy (not to mention delicious and also healthy). Just peel and cut it up and serve with anything: chicken, beef, eggs, whatever. Maybe sprinkle a little lime juice on top.

But of course, as I mentioned in that previous post, there's always Guacamole! One of the tastiest, easiest, well-loved dips there ever was.

Here are some ideas for guacamole in addition to serving it with chips:

1. spread on top of toast for a sandwich (by itself or with tomato slices, chicken or turkey)

2. use instead of ketchup for burgers

3. use to replace the butter on a baked potato

4. tuck inside eggs within an omelet 

5. stuff inside hollowed tomatoes

Here's my easy recipe for guacamole. It will take you far.

Guacamole

  • 2 medium avocados
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 small serrano chili pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 medium clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro, optional
  • 3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
  • salt to taste
  • chips

Peel the avocado and scoop the flesh into a food processor (or bowl or molcajete). Chop the tomato and add the tomato pieces, chili pepper, garlic, cilantro, if used, juice and salt to taste to the food processor. Process to desired texture using pulse feature (or mash with a fork or tejolete). 

Serve with corn chips.

Makes about 2 cups

Burnt Ends! Let the Grilling Begin

I'm not a big brisket fan. Not when it's braised and swimming in liquid anyway, and I realize that it is an almost heretical thing for a Jewish woman to admit. But there it is.

However -- SouthWest style brisket? With barbecue sauce and dark, crusty burnt ends?

Oh yes! Love that. And now that grilling season has arrived (at least here in Connecticut), I can have some!

Briskets were on sale recently at Fairway supermarket, so I bought a whole, gigantic piece and cooked it with a new recipe for barbecue sauce.

SO good. 

Really.

The instructions on how to cook brisket before grilling it are here.

Here's the recipe for the barbecue sauce. Keep slathering it on the meat. If you make a smaller hunk, you can keep the rest of the sauce in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

Applesauce and Tomato Barbecue Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped chili pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup apple sauce
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, chili pepper and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the tomato sauce, apple sauce, honey, cider vinegar, soy sauce and chili powder and stir until the ingredients are well blended. Simmer the sauce for 25-30 minutes, or until thickened.

Makes about 2-1/2 cups

 

 

 

Avocado, California's Big Winner

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When I was a young Mom I met another young woman for a playdate for our daughters. She lived in the same town in Connecticut as I did, but had originally come from California. We became friends, and so did our kids, and we spent time together talking about things most mothers talk about. School. Babysitters. What our children should/don't/won't eat.

We also talked about food. One day she mentioned avocado. 

What?

Please don't think I'm a dinosaur, but back in the late 1970s avocados were not a thing. REALLY! I had heard of them. In fact once, when I was a little girl my mother took me for lunch at Lord & Taylor in the city and I insisted on trying tuna-salad-filled avocado (which my mother let me do although she insisted I would hate it -- and I did). 

I hadn't had an avocado since that time.

And I had not yet heard of guacamole, which this women raved about. She said everyone in California made guacamole. So, I started to also.

Now, these many years (and thousands of avocados later) I can say I am well acquainted with avocados, not just for guacamole but for dozens and dozens of recipes

Many thanks to the woman who name-dropped avocado. Many thanks to California, thriving avocado country (in fact, according to The California Difference, the Hass avocado is a California native).

Today that state will have its presidential primaries. And no matter who you are rooting for, I can say without question, the avocado is the state's big winner.

Avocado, Egg and Tomato Sandwich with Pesto Mayonnaise

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 slices Tuscan-Italian style bread
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 tomato, sliced

In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, basil and garlic and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to use (may be made 2 days ahead). Toast the bread slices lightly. While the bread is toasting, heat the butter in a small pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, pour in the eggs and cook, moving the egg around slightly to allow wet portions to reach the bottom of the pan. When the egg is almost cooked, flip it over, cook briefly and remove from the pan. Spread some of the pesto mayonnaise on 2 slices of the toasted bread. Top each with half the cooked egg. Top with slices of avocado and tomato. Cover with remaining bread slice. Cut sandwiches in half.

Makes 2 servings

Grandma's Blintzes

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I feel blessed that my children and grandchildren come to stay over at my house in Connecticut for holidays and birthdays and occasionally just to hang out. It reminds me of when I was a kid and visited my grandma -- almost every weekend -- along with practically everyone else in my mother's family (aunts, uncles and cousins).

That was back in the day before children had so many other activities. Sure, there were brownies and cub scouts, but back then I never heard of things like soccer or gymnastics. Art classes happened during school hours. The only cooking classes for children took place in your own kitchen if you were lucky to have a Mom like mine who let you patchky around.

Weekends were strictly for family activities.

I'm not saying one way of life is better than another. One size does not fit all, as they say. And maybe today's kids are better educated or are more well-rounded than we were.

But I have wonderful memories of that life. 

It was good. I got to play with my cousin Leslie every weekend. She and her family lived with our grandma.

I also got to eat some of my grandma's wonderful food. 

I hope that in years to come my grandchildren will feel happy when they recall their visits to Ed and me. And have good memories of some of the favorite foods I cooked when they came.

Like Macaroni and Cheese. Apple Pie. Matzo Brei.

My grandma also made matzo brei and macaroni and cheese. But one of her signature dishes was blintzes.

She filled the blintzes with cheese, the classic, but, as I learned later, most people made the cheese filling sweet, seasoned with vanilla and/or cinnamon. My grandma's cheese-blintz filling was lemony, with just a hint of sugar.

Also, because there were so many of us, she had no time to fry them a couple at a time and still have everyone eat at the same time. So she placed the blintzes, seam-side down, on a baking sheet, topped each with a little dab of butter, and baked them until they were golden brown.

Me? I still love blintzes lemony and baked. And -- surprise to me! -- so do my grandchildren.

Her recipe is below, but the filling instructions give you the option to make the more popular vanilla version (and also how to fry them). Don't worry if the wrappers don't fry into perfect circles -- you're going to roll them and if they're a little off, no one will ever know.

Grandma Rachelle Hoffman’s Blintzes

Wrapper:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk, approximately
  • 2 large eggs
  • softened butter for frying

Filling:

  • 1 pound farmer’s cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional

To make the wrapper, combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and stir to blend the ingredients. Add the milk and eggs and whisk until the batter is smooth and uniform (you may do this in a food processor). Add more milk if the batter seems too thick (it should be the consistency of heavy cream). Set aside for 30 minutes. Place a small amount of the softened butter in a crepe or omelet pan and place the pan over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and the foam is beginning to separate, add enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan (for an 8-inch pan it will be 1/4-cup), shaking the pan quickly to spread the batter evenly. Cook for a minute or so or until the bottom is lightly browned. Turn the wrapper over and cook briefly. Remove the wrapper and proceed with the remaining batter, separating the cooked wrappers with aluminum foil or waxed paper.

To make the filling, place the cheese, egg, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the lemon peel OR vanilla extract and mix in thoroughly.

To fill each wrapper: use the first fried side as the inside of the blintz. Use about 2 tablespoons of filling for an 8-inch wrapper and place the filling in the center of the wrapper. Fold the bottom side up, over the filling. Fold the left side, then the right side over the filling, then roll up to enclose the filling. Fry the blintzes seam side down first over medium heat (using the same method as for frying the wrappers – let the butter melt and become foamy). Or, you can bake the filled blintzes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the blintzes in a single layer on a jelly roll pan, top each with a tiny piece of butter. Bake for about 10 minutes.

Makes 8 8-inch blintzes

I Hate Going on a Diet

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I hate going on a diet.

The thing is, I like food. I like to eat. It's not even that I have a sweet tooth and consume too many doughnuts or that I drink soda (haven't had one for decades).

I just like regular food. 

And unfortunately, last year I ate a lot more of it than usual. Stress eating. It was a difficult year.

I gained TEN pounds.

That's a lot.

My children tell me I am not allowed to use the word "fat" because of "shaming."

So I suppose plump and chubby are off limits too.

I am supposed to say that I don't like how I look.

OK.

I don't like how I look.

Unfortunately my son-in-law Greg said he read an article that said women who go on diets and lose weight tend to re-gain the weight plus more.

OY!

Just in time -- comes THIS: The JoyofKosher 28 Day Challenge.

This is a four week diet plan of the most scrumptious non-diet sounding, most gorgeous food you ever saw in a weight loss plan. 

Check out the photos. The first for Grilled Fennel with toasty, crunchy quinoa seeds. The second for an avocado and egg-filled portobello mushroom cap that is so easy I am going to make it when my cousins come to sleep over in a few weeks.

This is not your ordinary "diet food."

It's good food, coming to you via two good friends of mine: Jamie Geller, cookbook author and founder, JoyofKosher, and Tamar Genger, a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition.

Have a look, even if you aren't on a diet. Even if you aren't kosher.

Here's what it is: When you sign up you get the menu plan for 28 days, plus a shopping list, plus 75 recipes with vegetarian and gluten-free substitutes (in a downloadable pdf file), plus nutritional info, plus tips, plus a Facebook page where you can discuss food stuff with other people on the challenge, plus --- go ahead and click the link and you'll see it all. For $28.

It's not a crazy diet. Just a simple plan, great, healthy, delicious food, easy, doable recipes with lovely photos and so much more. 

Inspiring.

Sounds like a plan. I'm determined to like the way I look.

GRILLED FENNEL AND TOASTED QUINOA (from JoyofKosher 28 Day Challenge)

Servings 6

Fennel is high in potassium and loaded with other nutrients that have been found to improve bone health.

Ingredients:

2 fennel bulbs, sliced

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

1⁄4 cup fresh herbs like basil, parsley, and thyme and some fennel fronds

Zest and juice of 1 lemon 1⁄4 cup raw quinoa

1. Trim fennel bulbs by removing stalks and fronds (set aside fronds to mix with herbs).

2. Cut off any hard inedible outer layers.
3. With your fennel bulb upright, cut 1⁄4-inch slices vertically.
4. Brush each side using 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5. Place slices on a medium hot grill, turning until you get a nice char on each side and fennel is tender to the touch. Alternatively, place on a baking pan and broil until charred.

6. Whisk together remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, herbs, and lemon juice and zest, adding salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle all over fennel.

7. Meanwhile, toast quinoa: Rinse well, drain, and pour into a medium sauté pan. Stir grains over medium-high heat. Watch as quinoa dries out and begins to brown and even pop—that’s how you know it is ready. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.

8. Sprinkle toasted quinoa over fennel and serve warm or at room temperature. Nutritional Information / Per Serving

110 calories, 7g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 67mg sodium, 10g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 3g sugar, 2g protein