Archive for the ‘Sample Recipes and Videos’ Category

Clean Snacks: Never feel “hungry” again!

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

If you are new to this post keep in mind it is a continuation to an effort we are making to lose 5 pounds for the summer! (see previous posts below)

 

 I have tried almost everything to lose weight in the past, Weight Watchers, starvation, crazy protein only diets, countless shakes, counting calories, Mediterranean diet …you name it! They all worked to a certain extent and then I would gain the weight again. It was very frustrating.  I was always hungry and I was always moody. With WW( one of the few experiments that kinda worked) I leaned everything was a number and when I would see a banana I would think “2 points.” I would splurge my points in pizza and starve the rest of the day because I had no more points…I was losing touch with myself. Unlike WW, all the other diets had no accountability so I dropped them all. How little did I know the one I have to give accountability for my eating is ME! Dieting, I found, was not going to be the solution for because that meant depriving my body from the food I loved. Deprivation leads to abuse.  I had abused enough.  Today I can say I have never felt so healthy, wholesome, and light in my life.

 

I slowly realized clean eating was not a “diet” and I learned it from people that were not trying to sell me food or a membership or anything. It makes total sense and it holds the healthiest most invigorating attitude. As you may know, I am a mother to 5 yummy boys, hence doing anything radical or unhealthy would be foolish because my family really needs me and I need my energy to be able to perform as the best mother I can be.

 

This is probably one of my favorite snacks!

One of my favorite things about eating clean is that I am never hungry. When you eat “clean” you do not wait until you are starving to eat. Considering you are eating every 2 to 3 hours that makes total sense. This is beneficial because when you are hungry you will reach for whatever if available to eat without thinking about it. Also, when we are hungry we get into a nasty mood and can’t even think straight, let alone get a good workout. Feeling hungry is not fun; trust me…I have fasted enough Yom Kippurs to know that first hand.

 

Clean eaters consume about 5 meals a day. Breakfast (extremely important) lunch and dinner plus a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. The meals are small but substantial and always combine a protein with a complex carb (see previous posts for food portions etc.)

 

I wanted to share with you my favorite clean snacks. I keep these snacks close at hand because I am always on the go and need to just “grab” something fast. If that is a cookie on the counter it will be that cookie…but if it is a healthy snack I will certainly make an effort to grab the healthy snack. These snacks make a meal and can be used for lunch or dinner as well. Some of these ideas were taken from Just the Rules by Tosca Reno.  Remember food portions are important but don’t use cups and tablespoons, try using your hands like the picture in previous posts.

 

Chummus and crudités

 

Sabra makes individual servings of 2 oz. each that are great to take on the go. Those are convenient, but my favorite is Trader Joes Chumus because it is preservative and Tehina free and taste incredibly home made.

 

Apple and a Handful of Almonds or unsalted nuts like cashews

 

So simple yet so satisfying and delicious!

Trader Joes carries these adorable little snacking apples that are sweet and crunchy at the same time. They also carry individually wrapped almonds and unsalted cashews that are the perfect portion for clean eaters.

 

Panir O’Gerdu (a fabulous Persian snack)

 

Two Persian cucumbers sliced with feta cheese and walnuts (add a small whole grain wrap or an Ezekiel wrap to make it into breakfast or dinner)

 

Protein Smoothie

 

Love my Vitamix! Besides whey, you can also get rice protein powder, Soy protein is not recommended for women.

My favorite is a scoop of vanilla protein powder, 4 oz water (or almond milk), half banana and a ton of ice…when mixed together it feels like you are eating ice cream! Purchase your kosher protein powders from www.koshervitamins.com, I am not involved with this site but I don’t know anywhere else you can get a good kosher protein powder isolate.

 

Persian Cucumbers and tuna

 

This is better than it looks! Funny enough this is what Osmel Sousa makes all the Miss Venezuela candidates eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I know it sounds crazy but I love opening a can of tuna and topping it with sliced cucumbers and a drizzle of limejuice. Yum!

 

Chopped vegetables (about 1 cup) with 1 cup cooked edamame pods

 

Feeling Italian or something…

 

This is SO delicious...just had it today for lunch...it works like that too!

2 slices of either Ryvita or Wasa crackers with 2 tablespoons goat cheese and sliced

tomato and/or greens

 

Rice Cake fix

 

Brown rice cakes with almond butter (or any nut butter) and a banana or you can spread the nut butter on a wrap and wrap around the banana.

 

If you have a little more time…

 

½ cup non-fat greek yogurt with ½ cup berries (strawberries, blue berries, you name it!) and a sprinkle of flax seed. (add unsweetened granola for a great breakfast)

 

Mock apple pie

 

Sliced apple with a sprinkle of cinnamon put in the microwave for 30 seconds and topped with low fat cottage cheese and flax seed. Feels like you are eating apple pie! Add a scoop of protein powder for the perfect after-workout meal.

 

Home made protein bars or bodybuilding protein bars…yum! Next time I will share a great recipe I “Persianized” from Jaime Eason (my favorite bodybuilding athlete)

 

Let me know how you are doing…how are you feeling? I know, even after one day of clean eating, I feel like a superstar! It was very hard today because I baked cookies with my kids, I did have a little cookie…yep, I am not perfect but at least I am honest!

 

Cheers!

 

Reyna

 

 

BREAKFAST TIME!

Friday, June 15th, 2012

If you are new to this post keep in mind it is a continuation to an effort we are making to lose 5 pounds for the summer! Now that you know what eating clean entails (see previous post HERE), let’s put it into practice and see what those clean meals consist of.  With that said, I cannot stress enough the importance of a multivitamin and also [if you are a woman] the daily intake of calcium. I take my multivitamin in the morning with breakfast and my calcium at night before bedtime. Check with your doctor to make sure this is the best for you as well.

 

Since I keep kosher I get my vitamins and protein powders at www.koshervitamins.com  (you can get them also at any Kosher vitamin store, it is just that I don’t live close to any store that would carry these)

 

Don't these look sublime? If you are eating clean make sure the bread is whole wheat or skip the bread all together.

Breakfast is a must! Remember people saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Well, it is totally true! You need to fuel your body to begin your day with the right attitude. The most popular breakfast for clean eaters is: Oats and egg whites! However, I do break my “fast” by drinking a tall glass of water with a little apple cider vinegar to prep my body before I venture with real food. So, that’s what I have almost every day. My gorgeous friend Michelle asked me…what about coffee?!! Well, you can certainly have your coffee, but to sweeten it use truvia or stevia and preferably almond milk, although low fat milk is fine as well.  Almond milk gives you the same benefits as regular milk minus the fat. Make sure to purchase unsweetened almond milk.  Check my facebook page to see more pics of my favorite healthy products.

Persians call morning eggs “Omelet.” I will share with you that recipe (made clean) and also my favorite oats. You may think this is a lot of food, but it really isn’t. If you calculate the actual calories you will not believe how low calorie this meal is and how satisfied you will feel.  Note this meal includes protein (egg whites), complex carbs (strawberries) and starchy complex carbs (oats). I only have the oats when I know I am getting a workout about an hour after breakfast…no workout=no oats.

 

Reyna Favorite Oats

 

¼ Oats (the real ones…not little packages full of sugar)

½ cup hot water

1 package of truvia or stevia-optional (yep, sugar is not going to help lose anything)

3 strawberries, sliced

1 T ground flax seed

1T wheat germ

1T bee pollen

cinnamon or cardamom to taste

 

Mix all ingredients, except strawberries and cinnamon, in a bowl and cover for about 5 minutes. Top with strawberries and cinnamon.

Yield: 1 serving

 

This are the oats I use along with the flax seed and wheat germ.

You are what you Eat:

 

SUGAR: Yep, that’s right. Sugar, as treat, is ok but should not be an every day thing. The reason why we crave sugar is because it is actually a drug. I know…it is fantastic and makes you happy and makes things yummy…and then, after a while you find yourself with this deep sluggish feel that leaves you sad and needing more. So, I keep it as my drug of choice Friday night for dessert along with a glass of wine…did you know alcohol is also sugar? That is the only time a week I allow myself to eat cake, in fact, Shabbat dinner to me is what clean eaters call my “cheat meal”.

Flax Seed, Wheat germ, bee pollen…make the perfect mix for a wonderful working body. Flax seed and wheat germ help tremendously with digestion and will make you as regular as you will ever be! Bee pollen (available in Whole Foods-no need for kosher symbol according to the Star K) protects me against allergies and it is also considered a superfood!

 

Keep these refrigerated. These are all super foods and keep your engine working nicely. Do not heat flax oil or fish oil. According to the Start K you do not need a kosher symbol on the bee pollen..

Persian Breakfast Omelet

 

½  small onion, finely sliced into half-circles

¼ teaspoon olive oil or coconut oil

¼ teaspoon turmeric

1 tomato, finely sliced into half-circles

 ½ cup eggwhites, whisked together

salt and pepper to taste

 

In a medium skillet, sauté onions in olive oil and turmeric over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and sauté for additional 5 minutes until soft. Combine eggs with salt and pepper. Pour over onion-tomato mixture and cook over medium/low heat, covered, for 10 minutes or until eggs set.

Yield: 1 serving

 

My favorite egg whites! They are pasteurized which means you can even eat them raw if you wish...I cannot get myself to do that even to save my life!

You are what you Eat:

Olive oil and Coconut Oil: The time to get rid of the corn and vegetable oil in your kitchen has arrived. You cannot compare them to the health benefits of olive oil and much less to coconut oil. Coconut oil is one of the most incredible oils readily available and with hechsher (kosher symbol). Worried about fat? Well, your engine needs fat to run just like a car needs oil to run. Just make sure you feed it with the best lube available. Oils like coconut, avocado, olive, flaxseed (you had this with your oats already), grapeseed oil and canola oil are fantastic. These fats actually keep you lean and boost your metabolism.

 

Next post will be dedicated to lunches and dinner. We will then tackle healthy snacks. If you are going to do your grocery shopping this weekend remember to download your healthy shopping list from Tosca Reno’s website HERE.

 

SHABBAT SHALOM!! Cheat meal is tongith YAY!

Reyna

 

 

Persian BBQ! On fine china please!

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

A Persian BBQ for 4th of July is not like anything you have ever experienced in your life!

 

Let me illustrate…

Persians are thrilled when they see a park filled with flowers and fitted with barbecue stands, tables, and running water. By running water I don’t mean drinking fountains; I mean a stream. When my husband invited me for the first time to “a BBQ in the park” with his family, I never thought I would end up transported to Iran! When we arrived, the park was already overflowing with Persians [fine, it was L.A., but still], to the point that most Americans must have felt like foreigners in their own backyards! All of a sudden, his mom whips out a small barbecue, a large pot of Chelo (Persian White Rice), freshly made Chai (tea), fresh cut-up fruit, nuts—and a mini reproduction of her kitchen! I was stunned! I looked to my side, and to my amazement his dad had already set up several feet of sitting room…meaning several blankets on the ground, along with a few cushions and, of course, a giant backgammon board and a deck of cards. In the blink of an eye, Sam’s mom was already shaping Kebab into large (and slightly scary) swords and the smell of Persian cuisine was filling the air. If you think a Persian 4th of July BBQ consists of hamburgers and hotdogs you are in for a surprise. You will most likely be served Persian Rice, Kebab, roasted tomatoes and onions served on fine china!

I have lived this experience many times. I have seen innumerable Persian men, old and young, take their shoes off and stick their feet into a stream of questionable water while smoking water pipes as I would hold my breath, hoping the police would not come—because, even though it is just tobacco, it looks too much like something else! I have seen random people in the park coming and sharing their Kebab with us because they felt like they belonged to the same big family. I have seen the same old man, who seems to clone himself from park to park, playing the violin while Sam’s grandmother sings basunak (wedding songs). I have witnessed many poem recitals that neither Sam nor I could understand because the Farsi is so advanced that only a few people in the park have the intellect to comprehend it. I have been harassed by cute old Persian ladies trying to convince me their son is a good candidate for marriage—until the moment they realize I am not Persian! So, although I honestly do not look forward the swarm of flies, the mosquito bites, the leaves that fall in my rice, and the general mayhem of being in a park filled with Persians, I still can’t help being mesmerized at this people’s ability to transport me to the infamous private gardens of Shiraz!

I hope you enjoy my favorite Persian Kebab: Chicken Kebab (Joojeh Kebab). Serve with Persian Rice…check out the video in my YouTube channel HERE. Don’t forget to purchase my cookbook “Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride” by clicking HERE. Thanks!

Happy 4th of July to everyone and to my wonderful Persian family in LA…I will miss having a BBQ with you today!

 

Chicken Kebab

Joojeh Kebab

When I first tasted this absolutely moist and tangy chicken, I could not figure out what gave it that little “kick.” When I learned how to make it, I found out it was lime! I never would have thought of marinating chicken in lime! In my country we marinate fish in lime. But, what a clever thing to do, indeed!

You are what you eat

To lime or to lemon? That, my friend, is the question at least in my mind! Limes are closely related to lemons but are smaller, green with a sour pulp, and a bit juicier. Limes are usually cultivated in tropical countries, so they are the most familiar to me. Lemons are larger, with bright yellow skins. In the past, lemons were used as cosmetics to make lips red and acquire a pale complexion.

You might think I am biased toward limes because I grew up consuming them, but research shows that while both fruits have antioxidants and anti-cancer properties, limes in particular contain flavonoids that can prevent the contraction of illnesses such as cholera. Not too bad for such a tiny sour fruit!

 

1.5 pounds boneless chicken (breast or dark meat) cut into chunks or 6 drumsticks

Marinade

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

3 cloves garlic

½ onion, grated

½ teaspoon saffron

½ teaspoon turmeric

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

¼ cup olive oil

 

metal skewers or wooden skewers soaked in water for 15 minutes

Place the poultry into a one-gallon ziptop bag. Mix all marinade ingredients and pour into the bag. Shake the bag to coat all the chicken and place into the refrigerator for as little as 20 minutes or as long as overnight.

 

From this point on there are 2 choices: grilling or broiling

Grilling

  1. Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill to 400°F.
  2. Thread the chicken chunks or drumsticks onto the skewers. Place on the heated grill. Cook each side for about 10 minutes or until no longer pink. You can also check for doneness with an instant-read food thermometer, which should read 160°F.
  3. Remove the chicken from the skewers and divide into portions.

 

Broiling

  1. Preheat the oven to broil.
  2. Slice the pieces of chicken or drumsticks into chunks and thread them onto the skewers. Place the kebabs on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil. Place under the grill and cook each side for about 10 minutes or until an instant-read food thermometer reads 160°F.
  3. Remove the chicken from the skewers and divide into portions.

 

Yield: 6 servings

 

 

Passover Persian-style in BostonHerald.com

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Holiday delights from the ‘Non-Persian Bride’

SAVORY SEDER MENU: Reyna Simnegar shows off a variety of Passover dishes from her cookbook, including stuffed artichokes, haleg with matzoth and a veal stew.

On Passover, Reyna Simnegar and her family will enjoy a Persian Seder. Many of the dishes served will be out of Simnegar’s new cookbook, “Persian Food From the Non-Persian Bride” (Feldheim Publishers, $34.99).

Venezuelan by birth, Simnegar learned Persian cooking from her then-soon-to-be mother-in-law when she and her husband Sammy were students at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Persian cooking is romantic, it’s infatuating,” said Simnegar, welcoming a guest to her Brookline home. “Maybe it’s exotic for me because I’m not Persian but I find a lot of people feel the same way.”

What do you need to cook Persian?

“If you are going to be a non-Persian bride, you’ll need saffron, cardamom and turmeric in your pantry,” Simnegar said. “Sea salt, pepper, olive oil and maybe some grape-seed oil, which is really good for frying. Lamb, lots of eggplant, onion, fresh garlic, dill, cilantro, cinnamon, allspice, paprika.”

Rice is a big deal in Persian cuisine. It’s typically steamed in oil, which creates a lovely golden crust on the bottom of the saucepan.

“I always think of Persian rice as the fancy lady, the queen, because she needs all this pampering,” Simnegar said. “It’s very elegant, very fragile.”

Rice steamed with black-eyed peas and cabbage will be on the Simnegar table this Passover. Also on the menu — lamb stewed with prunes, veal stew with basil and parsley, stuffed artichokes, cucumber salad and almond brittle candy, a favorite of her mother-in-law’s.

Among the Persian traditions at the Simnegar Seder: The entire table is covered by a white sheet for the recitation of the 10 plagues to protect the meal from bad luck. Participants playfully hit each other with bunches of scallions during the singing of “Dayenu” to symbolize the whipping of the Hebrew slaves.

And the final matzoth of the night is eaten with the arm wrapped around the back of the head — a metaphor for the crooked path the Jews followed to their homeland.

This year, as in years past, Simnegar, her family and friends will gather around the long table in the dining room to celebrate Passover.

“The home has two hearts — the kitchen and the dining room,” she said. “My husband has a special chair, I have a special chair and each child has a special chair. The walls of the dining room hear a lot of words of Torah, a lot of words of friendship and camaraderie. It’s really important.”

For more information, go to kosherpersianfood.com.

Haleg (Persian charoset)
1 (6 oz.) package ground walnuts (1 1/2 c.)
1 (6 oz.) package ground almonds (1 1/2 c.)
1/2 c. pistachio nut meats, ground
1 c. date paste (available in Middle Eastern stores or make your own by pureeing dates in food processor)
1/2 c. raisins, ground
1/2 c. grape juice
1 banana, peeled and ground
1 apple, peeled and ground
2 T. charoset spice (available online or mix equal parts ground cardamom, ginger and cinnamon)

Grind together all the ingredients that do not come already ground. Then combine all ingredients very well.

Yield: 4 cups.

Lamb with Prunes Stew
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, pressed
3 T. olive oil
4 lbs. lamb stew meat, shoulder or neck, cut into cubes
1 c. water
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. ground saffron
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg or allspice
2 c. pitted prunes
2 t. cinnamon
1 T. honey (optional)
1 T. toasted sesame seeds (optional)

In a 6-quart saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion starts to look translucent, about 1 minute. Add lamb; cover and cook until it no longer looks red, stirring occasionally. Add water, salt, pepper, saffron, ginger and nutmeg. Stir well. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes. Add prunes, cinnamon and honey, if using. Cover and simmer for 30 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Garnish with optional sesame seeds and serve.

Yield: 8-10 servings.

Slivered-Almond Brittle
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. canola oil
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. crushed saffron threads
1 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. crushed pistachios

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour honey, oil and sugar into the middle of a small saucepan. The ingredients should form a small pyramid; make sure they do not touch the sides of the pan. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat to medium and add saffron and almonds. Mix well. Simmer, uncovered, over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 285 degrees. Remove from heat immediately and quickly spoon portions of the syrup (forming pools about 2 inches in diameter) onto prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle each portion with crushed pistachios. Allow to cool at room temperature for 20 minutes, or until hardened.

Yield: 14 pieces.

(Recipes from “Persian Food From the Non-Persian Bride.”)

Hamantashen Ready!

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Adar is in the air! I love this month! It is so cute to see my little children come home from school singing “Mishe nichnas Adar, marvin b’shimcha,” which translates to “when the month of Adar arrives, our happiness increases.” Adar is also the month when we celebrate the holiday of Purim! YIPEE!! I love Purim!

Yes, you are right, I love Purim because we are encouraged to drink and get pretty intoxicated (I am a Mojito lover.)However, I am a mother of 5 boys (and a husband) and I am really careful not to go overboard. Nonetheless, you have to admit it is still kind of cool to belong to a faith where drinking a little here and there is not the end of the world! Wait a minute, let’s be honest here, the real reason I love Purim is because of the incredible, delicious and impossible-to-resist Hamantashen!

Hamantashen are an incredible European invention and were not consumed at all in Iran. However, I would not feel it is Purim without them, so I provide you with the recipe in the cookbook and now I am sharing it here in my Blog for all of you to get working on those yummy cookies! Please send me pics!!

Purim Cookies

Hamantashen

This is a great recipe to make with kids. I love getting my kids all excited about the holidays, and getting messy over a batch of hamantashen is part of the fun! Hamantashen are cookies that are traditionally consumed during the holiday of Purim. Hamantashen cookies mimic the three-cornered hat that the villain, Haman (boo!) wore. Hamantashen actually means “Haman’s pocket” in Yiddish…wait a minute! Yiddish? Yes, in fact, back in Iran there were no hamantashen! Very funny, considering that all the events that lead to Purim happened in Iran. Traditionally, Persian Jewish families in Iran made halvah for Purim. I love halvah, but I can’t give up my hamantashen on Purim!

Another beautiful explanation for eating cookies with hidden fillings is because Queen Esther was a hidden Jew.

My friend Shifra Schwartz taught me this recipe.

Tricks of the trade

When I first made these cookies they looked more like a Mexican sombrero than the famous three-cornered hat. To keep the corners together, it is helpful to brush egg onto the edges of each dough circle. It is imperative you do not overfill these cookies; if you do, they will pop open—at which point they are totally useless and have to be tragically eaten by the chef (ahem, me!) before anyone dares to see them. Another great tip is to show as little of the filling as possible. Also, pinch them very well (getting all your aggression out) with moist fingertips and, to prevent the dough from drying out, keep the remaining dough inside a zipper-top plastic bag while you work on each batch.

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

¾ cup canola oil

1/3 cup apple juice or sweet wine

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 tablespoon baking powder

5 cups flour

Fillings (your choice)

strawberry or apricot preserves

chocolate chips or brownie mix, prepared according to package directions

prune butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Beat eggs and sugar until creamy. Add oil and combine. Add juice or wine and extracts. Add baking powder. Gradually add the flour until a dough with smooth consistency is achieved.
  3. Flatten a portion of the dough 1/4-inch thick. Cut out 3-inch diameter circles and spoon ½ teaspoon preserves or any other filling onto the middle. Pinch at the corners with wet fingers, sealing very well. Place raw cookies about 1 inch apart onto prepared cookie sheets. Repeat until all the dough has been used.
  4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the bottom is golden. Cool on racks.

Yield: 50 cookies

Be sure to pinch, pinch, pinch!!

Don’t forget to send me pics of your Hamantashen…even if they end up looking like Mexican sombreros!

Have a wonderful Adar!

LOVE!

Reyna

Polo Lape: Rice with Yellow Split Peas, Currant Raisins and Caramelized Onions

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

This was the first Persian rice I ever made…boy, did I make mistakes! I cooked the split peas for too long and I didn’t caramelize the onions! My husband was so gracious that he didn’t complain! Or was it we were both starving students and anything that at least looked like Persian food was better than nothing?! Well, many years later I can probably make Polo Lape with my eyes closed! I love, absolutely love, sweet Persian rice.  It must be because the “sweet with salty” mixture is also part of Venezuelan cuisine! I am going to let you in a little secret…I am already working of a fabulous Latin American Kosher cookbook…not the gringo Taco Bell style (although I have to be thankful to them for being the vehicle for meeting my husband!…long and funny story).  I have authentic recipes from Mexico to Argentina!

Polo Lape…picture perfect!

Going back to my first culinary love (Persian Food!) I want to let you know the cookbook will be available in February (B”H).  I will keep you posted! I am starting to schedule cooking demos…if you know anyone interested please email me at kosherpersianfood@gmail.com.

Yellow split peas…cooking al dente…

Polo Lape’s ingredients are so simple.  All you need are currant raisins, yellow split peas and caramelized onions.  If you are wondering how to caramelize onions, all you need to do is to fry them in over medium heat.  Wait for the oil to be hot before adding the onions, otherwise these will steam instead of caramelize and the result will be soft translucent onions instead of crispy ones.  Also, I like adding some turmeric to the oil to give it an instant golden color.

Currant raisins frying to perfection!

Split peas are a great source of protein! They come in yellow and green varieties and, to speed the cooking process, they are mechanically split after their skin is removed. Make sure to cook them al dente so they don’t fall apart while steaming. Fry the currant raisins in a little oil to bring them back to life.  Just be vigilant, fry until plump, this happens really fast and burn really easily.  You can end this little number with the secret Persian Spice (Advieh) or you can also add cinnamon. The recipe for Advieh and Polo Lape are very well explained in the cookbook.

All ingredients together…make sure to mix them carefully, you don’t want to break the precious and elongated grains of rice!

I like using potatoes for this rice’s tadig.  If you use the mixed rice the currant raisins will burn and become bitter.

Have a wonderful holiday season!!

Reyna

Rice with Lima Beans and Dill – Baghala Polo

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

There are a few aromas that can take us beyond the realm of reality…I think freshly chopped dill is one of them!  One of my favorite Persian Polos is Baghala Polo.  Now, if you are not familiar with Persian food, you are probably wondering, “What in the world is a Polo?  I didn’t think Polo’s were editable! “ Well, to Persians, Polo is plain Persian rice made fancy! Women know that a very simple outfit can look like a fancy ensemble if the accessories are right. If you are a girl you understand exactly what I mean! In this case, the plain rice gets embellished with lima beans, onions, fresh chopped dill and tinted with turmeric.  Not to mention the incredible and crunchy potato and caramelized onion tadig!

When it comes to regular Persian rice it takes two to tango. Plain rice needs a partner, and for Persians that partner is Chorosh (Persian stew).  When it comes to Polo, there is no need for a mate.  Polo stands on its on, all gorgeous and intricate, without the need of any sauce to make it tasty.

In my book there are over 10 recipes for fantastic and unforgettable Polos.  I can’t wait to share them with you!  Here are some pictures of delicious Baghala Polo to entice your appetite and curiosity!

Here comes the Polo! When making Polo, the water often gets tinted with turmeric.  This will give the rice a gorgeous golden color.

Here the rice gets mixed with frozen lima beans and onions. Traditionally, this rice is made with fava beans (broad beans) but I like to make it with lima beans or also green peas.  I add them frozen and these defrost to perfection while the tadig gets made.

Here comes the dill! The scent is invigorating!

Don’t forget to make the tadig! I love using potatoes and onions for this tadig!

Here is Baghala Polo, picture and palate perfect!

With crunchy potato and caramelized onion tadig on the side…this is what Persian culinary dreams are made of!

Enjoy your day!

Reyna

Challah, Women and Judaism

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Women are very fortunate to have an integral role in Jewish life. We have been blessed with a unique wisdom (called bina in Hebrew). This is the wisdom that enables us to have that “extra” sense and sensibility. It is also the wisdom that enables us to multitask! Just trust me on this—for a mother, multitasking is crucial!

Women have three major mitzvot to fulfill. The first is lighting the Shabbat candles, the second is Taharat Hamishpacha (family purity and the secret to a happy marriage), and the third is making challah. I have never known any woman who does not feel a huge sense of accomplishment after making her own bread. Yes, you can buy challah at the store; I am all for that when I cannot manage to make it myself. However, the kedusha (holiness) and bracha (blessing) that making it brings to the home and the family—not to mention the taste and yummy smell emanating from it—are enough to convince me to make it myself!

I love making round Challah.  I know most people use this shape for Rosh Hashana only, but I find that round challot are just so beautiful that it would be a shame to use them only once a year.  Also, they rise really well and look very professional.

For most Sephardim (Jews from Spain or Middle East –Mizrahi), water challah is the only challah that requires the blessing of Hamotzi. While our Ashkenazi (Jews from Germany or Europe) sisters use eggs in their dough, we try not to. This is because the eggs render the dough more like cake than actual bread. Although, if you are invited to an Ashkenazi home you can recite Hamotzi (blessing over the bread) over their challah, in your own home it is preferable to say it on water challah. Water challah is also a better canvas for the many savory dips most Sephardim serve at the table.

The following recipe can be made by hand or by using an electric mixer large enough to hold 15 cups of flour. You might be thinking, “That is so much dough!” Well, you can either freeze some of it for the next week or give a few challot away…what a way to put a smile on someone’s face! The reason I am giving you a recipe for 15 cups is so that you are able to make the brachaL’hafrish challah teruma…[Who commanded us] to separate the challah [the portion consecrated for the Kohanim]….” Also, it is customary to give tzedaka (charity)…a few coins in a pushka will do…I just love that Yiddish word! The bracha provided above is said in the Sephardic community. It differs slightly from the bracha said by Ashkenazim. If you are Ashkenaz, please check in your Siddur (prayer book) for the proper bracha.

Then, proceed to wash your hands three times each, using a washing cup, previous to making this special dough. Trust me, if I can make this, you can too!!

Here is my challah dough being mixed by my beloved Bosch mixer.  It can take 15 cups of flour no problem!  I love this machine so much! I know it is very meaningful to make it by hand, but I still use my Bosch…hey, G-d allowed man to create this machine for a reason!

For the yeast

3 tablespoons active dry yeast (do not let yeast scare you, it just bubbles…it doesn’t bite!)

¼ cup sugar

1½ cups warm water (¾ cup boiling water mixed with ¾ cup cold water)

For the dough

1½ cups sugar

1 cup canola oil, plus additional for spraying on the dough

1 tablespoon salt

3 cups warm water, divided

1 (5–lb.) bag flour (approximately 15 to 15¼ cups flour)

For the glaze

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon oil

  1. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the yeast mixture. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl or the bowl of a large mixer, place the sugar, oil, salt, 2 cups water, and 7 cups flour. Mix until a smooth paste forms.
  3. Add the yeast mixture, which should be bubbling, to the dough. Then, add the remaining 1 cup water and 8 cups flour until a consistency like that of play dough is reached.
  4. Pinch off a piece the size of a lime and say this bracha: “Baruch Ata Ado-nay Elo-heinu Melech ha-olam, asher keedshanu be-mitzvotav vetzeevanu lehafrish challah teruma.” this means: “Blessed are You, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.” Then lift up the piece and proclaim “Hariv Zu’Challah” which means: “This is challah.” Wrap the dough in a piece of foil; it must be burned, but not while the challot are baking! Keep in mind that the doors of heaven open up at this point and you can pray for anything your heart desires.
  5. Spray the dough with canola oil and cover with plastic wrap.
  6. Let dough rise 1 hour and then punch down. Then shape the challah. You can make braids or just big balls of dough. Several small balls of dough placed together in a round baking pan that has been sprayed with oil make a pretty “pull-apart” challah. Remember that challah grows; so don’t make the balls too big. I shape 12 balls the size of limes and place them next to each other in a 9-inch baking pan.

I like to “flatten” my dough and then roll it like cigars instead of making coils with my hands.  This makes the dough rise a lot nicer.  I am sure you’ll love that trick!

This is a very easy Challah to shape.  I explain it thoroughly in my video (coming up soon)  Keep in mind if you are not a good braid maker, simply rool into a ball and bake.  A ball rises nicer than a braid.  Although there are all sort of Kabbalistic explanations for the meaning of braiding Challot.

7. Place into oven preheated to 350 °F for approximately 25 to 45 minutes, depending on the size. The challot should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Wait until the challot cool before putting into plastic bags. At this point you can use them, freeze them, or give them away. You can also wrap them in foil and warm them in the oven right before “Hamotzi” (the blessing recited before eating bread).

Look at this super easy and super original way to shape Challah!  Many of my friends make Challah napkin rings.  Use paper towel roll wrapped with tin foil and parchment paper.  Drape a 3-brand small challah over and around it and pinch the ends together.  My goodness there are so many cool and creative ways to shape (and eat!) Challah! Please share your creations with me on facebook!

Here are my beautiful round Challot ready to be put in the oven and magically become exquisite bread!

Keep your eyes open for a really cool video I made teaching how to braid Challah and many more secrets involved in this beautiful mitzvah (commandment).

Women are experts on taking a raw resource and making it into something unique and special.  Look at what we do with our children! We are so powerful!  This is our mitzvah!I hope your Challah turns out delicious!

Much love!

Reyna