Hanukkah: Potato Latkes

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While I like to say Hanukkah is my kids’ favorite Jewish holiday, I’ve never really admitted it’s mine too.

I truly enjoy turning out the lights after dinner to light the candles of the menorah and to sing the festive holiday songs.  Not surprisingly, my kids adore the holiday for the gift-giving.  We aspire to give a little gift every night.

For another year in a row, I was hell-bent on making Latkes from scratch.  After all, I was stocked with the necessary ingredients (even some Matzoh meal leftovers from last Passover) and I was eager to start shredding the potatoes.

This recipe is so easy and takes very little culinary skill.  But, there are just a few additional suggestions I’d make (now that I’m a conditioned Latke maker):

Make sure you place your shredded potato pieces in a sieve and press against the potato to adequately drain the excess water before you mix it with the eggs and other ingredients.

Potato Shreds…

Make sure your skillet is sufficiently hot, with the right amount of oil coating the bottom before dropping in the spoonfuls of potato mixture.  Gently press the potato down and let it brown around 2-3 minutes on each side.

Some Latke recipes might have you lightly brown the potato pancakes in the skillet and then transfer them to the oven for a couple minutes of baking to achieve a nice fluffy center.

Potatoes pancakes cooking on the skillet

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My Latkes were crispy and somewhat flattened—exactly how I remembered eating them as a kid.

Lastly, make sure you place your newly-cooked Latkes on a paper towel with which you’ll pat out all the grease.  While the oil is necessary to get your potatoes properly fried on the outside, if they’re too greasy, guaranteed you won’t even get through one whole pancake.

And, don’t be alarmed, Potato Latkes never look pretty.  In fact, they always look like a non-descript pancakes with irregular shapes. But, rest assured, with a little bit of salt to taste, some fresh apple sauce or perfectly chilled sour cream, you’ll enjoy each bite!

My kids gave the Latkes 1 ½ thumbs up.  My son couldn’t figure out whether he was to eat the Latke with his hands like a bagel, or cut into them.

Both kids preferred them hot, right off the skillet, and requested more salt and applesauce.  Neither tried the sour cream option.

In general, Potato Latkes tend to be bland, so don’t be shy.  Spruce them up with salt, pepper, and nice heaping spoonfuls of fresh apple sauce or sour cream as toppings too.

Enjoy!

 

 

Chocolate Cinnamon Bread Loaf

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There’s an amazing Chocolate Cinnamon Bread Loaf at Starbuck’s. It’s the perfect blend of rich chocolate and cinnamon with a crunch sugary topping. It’s just shy of amazing.

Of course I went home and immediately tried to find a way I could recreate my new favorite sweet. Thanks to the speed and accuracy of the internet search, I was able to locate a similar recipe within mere seconds over at the Taste and Tell blog. And, lucky for me, I had all the ingredients on hand— except for buttermilk (which can easily be found at any local market).

This recipe became my Sunday afternoon baking project with the kids. It was a rainy, cold day so the idea of baking something that would fill our apartment with the sweet and comforting aromas of chocolate and cinnamon seemed ideal.

As always, we had a blast using the electric mixer.  The kids split turns conquering parts of the recipes— my son made the topping, my daughter worked the mixer– and we all liked the spoons and bowl afterwards.

maddychocolatebread alexchocolatebread

All went smoothly and we felt very accomplished loading up the oven with our loaf pans.

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Ten minutes into baking, I realized I committed a faux pas—I didn’t pay much attention to the bottom of the recipe were the author recommends using Dutch processed cocoa in lieu of regular cocoa to help avoid cake sinkage in its center.

Of course I used the cocoa we had on hand and we witnessed a total disaster when the bread was baking. Not only did the cake sink, it bubbled over the side of the pan beforehand, making a complete science experiment out of the oven. While we were definitely bummed that our finished product wasn’t the perfectly-baked Chocolate Cinnamon Loaf we had all imagined, it was still amazing to eat— especially with the crunchy cinnamon sugar topping.

Lesson learned—don’t forget to read a recipe from beginning to end understanding all the steps involved.

Regardless of how it looked, it tasted divine.

Hope you enjoy as much as we did…

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies

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I just participated in the 4th Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

It’s an exciting program, hosted by Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen, that brings together food bloggers from around the world “in celebration of all things scrumptious”.

The premise of the program is quite simple: I baked delicious home made cookies and sent a dozen of each to three other assigned food bloggers.  In return, I received three dozen cookies from three separate food bloggers.

The best part about this program is its partnership with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer, which claims the lives of more children in the US than any other disease. By participating in this cookie swap I not only contributed to the food blogger community, but also supported yet another great cause.

Through participation fees, extra donations, and contributions from the generous brand partners who matched our donations, dollar for dollar: OXO, Dixie Crystals, California Olive Brand and Sheila Q’s Brownie Brittle, this campaign is poised to raise well over $14,000 again!

For my contribution, I decided to recreate a sweet and savory cookie: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bacon.

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Yes, you heard it correctly, BACON. I’ve recently jumped on the BACON CRAZE too. There are BACON specialty stores popping up here in NYC, in addition to an all-bacon restaurant called Barbacon where you can enjoy everything from Bacon Caesar Salad to your very own “bacon tasting flight” accompanied with craft beers and bourbons, as well as beer pairings. And, don’t forget the tasty Maple/Bacon cookies!

So, why not create a cookie combing two ingredients I adore: bacon and chocolate? In fact, double the chocolate. I made sure to use real full fat bacon for the recipe- thick center-cut bacon. Admittedly, during a regular non-indulgent week, my family enjoys the Applegate Farm Turkey Bacon or Sunday bacon variety.

But, for this, you’ll need the thicker, meatier bacon. If you can find maple-cured bacon, it’s much more robust in flavor.

This recipe is super easy to make. In fact it only takes a few minutes of prep and approximately 10-12 minutes for baking. You should have all of the ingredients in your stocked fridge ad pantry, except for maybe the bacon. Next time around I would actually use a food processor to crush the bacon into bits. I simply chopped the bacon with a knife for my first batches and my kids (the ultimate taste testers) didn’t like the lack of consistency with the size of bacon chunks (some cookies had randomly-sized chunks and some didn’t have chunks at all).

Hope you enjoy and, don’t be scared off by the bacon.  It adds another flavor dimension to the traditional chocolate chocolate chip cookie.

Hope you love.

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    Sweet and Salty Popcorn Bark

    Popcornbark

    There’s a “no-gift” policy at my kids’ school. That means, no “official” gifting to the teachers. However, many parents find creative ways to work around that mandate. We’ve always baked some treats (that is apparently school-approved).

    I like choosing something to bake that’s easy for the kids to equally if not totally participate. Their teachers have the difficult task of teaching so my kids should at least be able to take the lead in our treat making.

    The past few years we’ve been mastering awesome Peppermint Bark. It’s so simple to make yet, it tastes so decadent. It’s quite festive with traditional holiday colors- red, black and white and we’ve even gotten really creative and started using white chocolate as well as dark chocolate.   This year, we (I) decided to take a little spin on our holiday fave and create Sweet and Salty Popcorn Bark.

    The premise of the bark is still the same: melted chocolate as the base but this time around, we used popcorn and dried cherries. So, we’re still keeping the same holiday colors but, changing the ingredients a bit.

    The Sweet and Salty Popcorn bark is a confluence of a salty crunch from the popcorn, sweet and tartness from the cherries, plus bitterness from the chocolate. It’s nothing short of wonderful. Each bite lends itself to a new surprise—it could be cherry and chocolate, popcorn and chocolate, or the flavor jackpot: chocolate, cherry and popcorn.

    We made a few batches and sampled with different types of chocolate- milk chocolate, semi-sweet and dark chocolate. Dark chocolate yielded our bests results (70% dark chocolate) as the milk chocolate rendered the treat a bit too rich to eat more the one piece.

    If you don’t have any dried cherries, feel free to use dried cranberries or even some apricots as your sweet and tangy element. Just remember, your bark can become a compost bark….start experimenting with whatever salty and sweet ingredients you have on hand. Pretzels could be tasty too (a nice crunch with salt).

     

     popcornbarkpackagedfinal gift – bark packaged in a glass jar
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