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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bumper Sticker Bullies-Abortion Causes Breast Cancer….Seriously?

You would think that the myriad of random things occurring to me yesterday would have set me off.  It started out with an unprecedented weigh-in which only proved that my 6lbs in six weeks plan was going to take far longer than anticipated.  I got over that one….sort of.  It was followed by a 1 ½ hour gouging of my teeth at the dentists office.  I knew it was coming as I had neglectfully made my annual six month cleaning ten months later.  Then the dentist told me I had decay on my back tooth.  I told him there was no way he was replacing it with a gold tooth, like the one he gave my husband a few years back.  Yuck. 

I wasn’t mad, just numb at that point.  It even rolled off my back when I was in a parking lot and the woman in front of me decided to drop her passenger off in a “no drop off zone” and then had the audacity to have a leisurely conversation as she blocked the road. When I honked my horn, she gave me the finger, finished her conversation and then proceeded to take off like a shot, but not without calling me a very unladylike name that rhymes with witch!  Hmmmm.  Seriously?   I got over it, even though I fantasized just a little about ramming her car at the stoplight, but who wants to deal with insurance and a rental car?

I was stuck in traffic coming home from the doctor with my 7 year old, after the doctor told me his heinous cough was habitual and caused by anxiety.  Boy was I glad when he developed 102 fever that night, and a rash….whew!

So, even after I managed to take this all in stride, I found myself spewing at a bumper sticker.  I usually don’t pay much attention to bumper stickers, as I don’t care if your kid made honor roll, or that you send them to private school.  It doesn’t change my life to know that you love your car more than your wife; or that Democrats do it better, that you brake for animals or wear fur, are a vegetarian, or have a soft spot for Jesus fish, or any other permutation of that emblem…and yes,that includes the lox and bagel fish…don’t ask. 

Perhaps, the events earlier had tainted my disposition, or that the traffic was awful, but when I saw (along with a colorful montage of pro-life stickers) Abortion Causes Breast Cancer on a bumper sticker on the car ahead of me, I totally flipped.  I’m sorry did the Academy of Medicine reveal this latest jaw dropping research and I missed the memo? Are you kidding me? I seethed the whole way home; I texted my husband (at a long stoplight might I add) growing angrier by the minute.  I have always considered myself a fairly liberal person in many respects and while certain views may have changed over the years, I have always defended the right to free speech. Today, however, just felt like pure venom aimed right at the jugular. 

Now, being a writer, I needed to satisfy my curiosity before going off on a rant, so I researched the concept of abortion being a catalyst for breast cancer, and here are my findings.  The literature indicates that while this topic has been a source of study over the last five decades, the results were flawed due to a variety of reasons.  The bottom line is that abortion does not increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

I guess it was a sensitive subject, as I know far too many women, young and old who developed breast cancer because of a bad spin of the genetic wheel .  Moreover, I know women who have had to make the incredibly difficult choice of abortion for a variety of devastating reasons.  We make decisions and have to live with them, and as a friend, a woman, and a member of the human race, I am in no position to judge what, why or where. 

Put that on a bumper sticker!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Featured recipe in Clean Eating Magazine!

I am very excited to present my allergy-free recipe featured in Clean Eating Magazine, June 2012!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rachel's Top Ten Food Allergy Lessons

This post is an extension of the recent conversation on Gina Clowes's Facebook page regarding allergy plans in school.  As I wrote on Allergy Moms yesterday, a plan is the most important thing to put into place to keep your child safe.  For what it's worth, after doing this for four years now, I compiled a top ten list of things I have learned along the way, about the myself, the process, and myself in the process. 

Rachel's Top Ten Food Allergy Lessons

1. The process sometimes stinks, but you have to be vigilant.

2. Don't expect the world ( and by that I mean the average public) to fully comprehend your fear because most of them don't. Once you release that anger, you will be  more productive.

3. Don't approach anything with guns blazing. I tried that at first and it only backfired with much alienation from the ones I needed help from.

4. Approach schools, camps, etc...with a sane persona, and a do-able plan.

5.While it's important to educate those who are with your child on a daily basis, don't forget to educate your child! No matter what age, it's imperative that they know how to advocate for themselves because sometimes even the adults (unfortunately) don't get it.

6.Try not to let your fear overwhelm you or your child. I have a child who is anxious by nature and I see how my own anxiety fuels his.  It is definitely a lesson in patience.

7.Make sure you and your spouse are in sync with each other on this issue.

8.Find something you love to do that doesn't have anything to do with food allergies. We get so caught up managing our children's food issues we often lose our former selves.

9.Stay educated...but don't overdo it. Stick to reputable websites like Gina's and FAAN.

10.Just remember,we can't keep our kids in a bubble, (though if we could, I would be in the bubble alongside my kids with a full time chef and personal trainer, and maybe a hunky celebrity, ha) but that doesn't mean we can't insure their safety. 

For those of you that requested a copy of my letter to the parents, I am attaching it below. I did receive a favorable response from many parents when it came time for birthday parties and such. For the most part, I provided the snack for my son, but at least parents were courteous enough to let me know when and what they were bringing. Some even brought in one of my suggestions.   The letter is very informal, and the principal added her signature at the end (which I insisted on).  Hope this helps!

Dear Parents:
My name is _______________and my son ____ is in your child’s class.
 _____ has severe food allergies to all nuts and eggs.  Simply stated, he cannot eat anything unless it is specially prepared or packaged, in order to avoid a life threatening reaction.
I know that class celebrations and other occasions with special treats are an important part of first grade.  I am not asking for anything extreme, just two simple requests so _____ can safely celebrate with your child:
  1. If you plan to bring in a treat for the class, please let me or the teacher know a few days in advance. I will pack something for ____ ... no need to make anything special, just advance notice.
  2. Even though _____ will not be able to eat whatever you bring in, please try to be sure that there aren’t any nuts (this includes all types of nuts) on top or inside the item.
If you have any questions, or want suggestions for an allergy-free alternative treat for the class, please feel free to call me at ________or e-mail at ___________.
Thank you so much for your cooperation in this matter.  I look forward to a wonderful, safe school year.
Rachel Packer (___’s mom)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Grappling with the"Grapple"

What is a grapple you ask? Well, I assure you, it isn’t anything I made up. As I was grocery shopping the other day, gathering my brightly colored produce,  (it always makes me happy to see a cartful of produce ranging in the greens, purples, oranges, reds and yellows) when low and behold I noticed in the apple aisle, a package with four “grapples.”  My curious nature got the best of me and I just had to know what the heck a grapple was. 

Sorry, if I’m a little nostalgic for the 5 minutes of my life that I can never get back to research the seemingly innocent and innovative grapple.  A grapple, for those who aren’t aware, is a grape infused apple.  Now, you could say, “hey, that’s innovative; two great tastes in one, like a Reeses peanut butter cup.”  I would rather eat the Reeses. I would tend to agree with you if the grape flavor wasn’t a corn syrupy, artificially flavored injectible.  Besides, who even wants a grape infused apple? What’s with the identity crisis? You eat either an apple, or a grape, or here’s a fresh approach, how about a fruit salad with those fruits and have a grapple salad?  What’s next? A blueberry infused banana? A  Bluenana or a Nanaberry?  What about a pineapple infused pomengranate?  A Pomapple? Ridiculous.  

Here’s my nutrition tip of the day…if a fruit has ingredients listed on it….don’t buy it!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Living the NOT so Sweet Life…Kicking the Splenda Habit

My husband decided to quit coffee! Well, that’s just CRAZY talk! As his caffeine enabler, I was mighty upset when he ditched the happy juice…and he did it on vacation! It wasn’t a purposeful act, mind you.  He just wasn’t in the mood for coffee in the a.m.  I, however, was giddy with anticipation that the resort we stayed in had a Starbucks in the lobby.  Holy coffee beans Batman, a Starbucks store right in the lobby! Well, that’s just genius and I gladly shelled out the $2.07 for a tall blonde cup o’ Joe.  We won’t talk about the fact that a tall cup of Starbucks only costs $1.87 back home, however, I more than made up for the difference with my collection of plastic spoons (the kids ate yogurt and oatmeal in the room) Splenda hoarding, and a few packets of honey.  I digress.

The hubby didn’t feel like coffee, therefore, ever the martyr, I had to go it alone. Each morning I made the arduous journey from the 7th floor in the elevator, through the freezing hotel hallway to stand on line outside the mini Starbucks amongst businessmen, anxious to get to their rounds of golf. Did I mention we spent vacation at a premier PGA Marriot golf resort with it’s own cabana beach club?  Reward points are great!

So, by day four of vacation, the hubby doesn’t feel well. It dawns on us that …wait for it….he is having withdrawal symptoms. Aches, headaches, lethargy, you get it…DETOX.  However, he ventures on and while we are deliberating what this awful melee of symptoms can possibly be, we begin calculating that not only is he de-toxing from coffee but SPLENDA as well.  I accidentally took a sip of his coffee once, and spit it out because it was soooo sweet. Sickly sweet, too much Splenda sweet. That’s because he typically puts four in at once.  That’s assuming he only drinks one cup..., which he doesn’t. That’s not even including the diet soda, or iced tea on business trips (which are quite frequent), and let’s not forget the Splenda consumption through protein bars and other assorted foods where it lurks….check your Thomas’s Whole Wheat English muffins…Sucralose, just a scientific term for SPLENDA.

So, we estimated that he was consuming roughly 30-45 packets of Splenda PER DAY! The lab mice would have dropped dead at 20 packets.  So, he quit.  It was cold turkey.  Nonetheless, a miraculous thing happened. Something I told him would happen, but like all husbands, they never believe us.  He lost weight without even trying.  Now, it wasn’t an astonishing number by any means. He won’t be gracing the cover of Men’s Fitness any time soon, but it was just enough to get him over the stall. The point where your body just refuses to give up any weight no matter what you do.

I being a virtuous eater didn’t think I needed to give up my beloved Splenda, as I only use one packet a day (she says smugly).  Then the husband reminds me that “sometimes you use two, depending on the strength of the brew, not to mention (he says a bit too gleefully) you drink more on the weekends.” Hmmm, I needed to ponder this.  I didn’t like the fact, that I was being a hypocrite.  At the end of the week, I was roughly consuming 10-12 packets. HMMMMM.  I figured I had a choice. Give up coffee (which would necessitate giving up Splenda), or just give up the white stuff. 

I briefly deliberated kicking the juice….oh my god, what am I thinking? GIVE UP THE JUICE? It’s my morning salvation, the liquid of champions, the nectar of the gods, my life-affirming brew! NO WAY!  But, I did give up Splenda…and I was miserable. I couldn’t get the right sweetness proportion. I tried Stevia, real sugar (which required multiple packets-kind of defeating the whole health aspect) and Agave Nectar.  I tried extracts, cinnamon, even an extract cinnamon combo until I finally settled on a teaspoon of honey. Whatever.  I suppose I will have to get used to it.

Anyway, I have been living the not so sweet life these past few days along with a recently adopted lower carb diet since Passover (the eight-day carb fest) passed over.  I have gotten past the point of misery.  Though, the hoarded yellow packets from every Dunkin Donuts, and Panera across the United States, taunt me each time I open the cupboard. I suppose, I should throw them out, but their siren call is still so strong, luring me back to my bad habit. I shut the door, take a deep breath, I walk away.  Perhaps, it’s the lack of carbs that cloud my judgment.

At the end of the day, I am glad that my husband and I  are trying to conquer our chemical cravings and I hope that in the long run, giving the iconic yellow packets the old heave ho will truly reward us with a sweet life.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rustic Matzah Pizza

Hello, my fellow Passover sufferers.  We have exactly nine more Passover meals (not including any ancillary snacks) to go.  We are in the home stretch, the happy hump of day of Passover, almost at the end, you look in your closets, and you realize, “Wow, I sure bought a lot of matzo meal!”  Sometimes, we panic purchase, thinking we are going to bake, or cook, or create something on Passover that will be revolutionary!  Perhaps we just buy too much and wind up throwing it away or saving it for next year, hoping it won’t taste any worse than when it was fresh. 

Quite frankly, I still have a sealed jar of gefilte fish in a cabinet that I am embarrassed to say was purchased when Unit #2 was still in diapers (he is seven now).  Can hermetically sealed gefilte fish even last that long? Ah, the thought probing questions of life, like, if a tree falls in a forest, can anyone hear it?  Well can they?

Alas, I opened my closet and realized I too had an abundance of matzo meal and cake meal, so I got to work.  My latest invention is the Rustic Matzah Pizza.  Yes, rustic. That’s a nice word for it doesn’t look like professional pizza, or even taste like it.  However, in the scheme of Passover where slapping on sauce and cheese on a piece of matzah, melting it and insultingly calling it pizza, rustic pizza is a nice change.

Now, this recipe comes with a warning. If you think this is going to taste like New York, Chicago, Papa Johns, or gourmet style pizza, then your taste buds will be sadly mistaken. However, if you are so sick and tired of matzah, gefilte fish, and leftovers, then your taste buds will be much more accepting. It’s better to set your expectations a little lower, I say, and then no one gets hurt. The crust is crunchy, dense and chewy all at the same time.

It’s easy, takes hardly any time and it’s egg free.  While most of my recipes are dairy free as well, this one does contain cheese.  If you want to make it dairy free, use grilled veggies in lieu of the cheese.  I also made a makeshift tomato sauce, since I cannot stand the Passover marinara.  I have included that in the recipe as well, though, the measurements were really to taste, but you will get the idea. I am still working on perfecting this one. So, if you are game, and ready for a change, try it and let me know your thoughts.

Rustic (I use the term loosely) Matzah Pizza

Crust Ingredients

2 cups matzo meal

½-cup cake meal

1 tsp. salt

2 TBSP starch diluted with 1-2 TBSP water

1-cup warm water

2 TBSP olive oil

1-cup mozzarella cheese shredded 

Sauce Ingredients

1 6 oz can of tomato paste

1 TBSP of honey



Onion Powder

Large handful of chopped parsley (great way to get rid of the extra from Seder)

½ of water


You can make this in the food processor and process until it becomes a ball, or you can mix all the ingredients with a spoon and then by hand. I used my hands just because I didn’t feel like washing out my food processor AGAIN!

Roll into a ball. 

Divide into 4-5 individual pizzas.  It’s hard to make this one big pizza as the dough cracks.  I like the individual pizzas because everyone likes to have their own toppings sometimes.  Keep the unused dough under a slightly wet paper towel while you are working to prevent it from drying out.

Flatten each ball in a circle, pressing down all the sides until flattened (as best you can).  You may have to press a bit with your fingers and the edges won’t be perfect. If you have a rolling pin, you can use that as well.

Bake the crusts for 8-10 minutes at 425 until crunchy on edges.

While you bake the crusts, you can work on the sauce (of course, you can use the jar, I won’t tell).

(For the sauce, just heat all the ingredients in a small pot and stir.  If it’s too thick, add a little more water. I didn’t give any measurements for the spices, as they were to taste. I like a lot of onion powder and the fresh parsley really makes it great!)

When the crusts are done, let them cool for about 5 minutes or so.

Spread the sauce in a thin circle.

Sprinkle about ¼ cup of cheese (if you have parmesan you can add that too)

Bake for about 10 minutes in a hot 425 oven

Voila….Rustic Matzah Pizza.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The BEST Passover Choco Chip Allergy Free Cookies

Hello to all of those who are celebrating the eight days of affliction…sorry, I mean Passover. As most of you know, Passover is my least favorite holiday because of all the food restrictions in our house.  There’s egg and nut allergies which we all know are the cornerstone of Passover cooking, not to mention that my daughter doesn’t eat meat.  Since we don’t eat rice, soy or beans on Passover, she is now pretty limited, which is why under strict supervision and visceral protocol, I allow eggs in the house.  We have learned to cope with it, though it feels a bit weird.

I had all but given up on Passover baking.  There was a time where I would create huge platters of mouth watering goodies for seders, but, alas, I just didn’tknow how to do it without eggs, so I stuck to basic recipes like melting chocolate and mixing farfel and raisins into it and plopping them on a baking sheet to freeze.  They were tasty but hardly impressive.

This year I found myself buying a cake mix or two. Since they only required one or two eggs, I figured I could just replace the eggs with applesauce, the results were acceptable, but the ingredients on the box were quite disturbing.  I just couldn’t serve my kids all those fake …so back to the kitchen in an effort to create something that had minimal ingredients that I could actually pronounce.

I came up with an awesome choco chip cooke that has no dairy, eggs or nuts, and actually tastes like a REAL chocolate chip cookie. So, my Passover allergy suffererers (or just Passover sufferers), you can eat a cookie with real ingredients that actually tastes good.  Enjoy. 

Passover Choco Chip Cookies

1/3 cup oil ( I used safflower)

½ cup brown sugar ( these cookies were a bit sweet for me, you can probably lower the amount of the sugar)

½ cup sugar ( I used organic sugar crystals, they are less processed and kosher for Passover)

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 TBSP vanilla

5/8 cup cake meal (it’s easier to think of this as ½ cup and another 1/8 cup)

5/8 cup potato starch

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ cup mini choco chips (they now make them KP). You can use large if you like, or more, it’s up to you.

Preheat oven to 350.

Line pans with parchment paper

Makes 2 dozen

Combine in a large bowl the oil, sugar, applesauce and vanilla and beat with a whisk really well.  This is an improtant process as it creates the lift you need for the cookies.

Combine the cake meal, starch, salt and baking soda and mix together with a wire whisk.

Pour dry into the wet ingredients and mix together. If the dough appears a little sticky you can add a little more cake meal, but not to much.

Add chocolate chips and incorporate with your hands until they are evenly distributed.

 Put in the freezer for a few minutes to harden.

Place on baking sheets ( I used a TBSP as a scoop but only filled it halfway). You can make them larger, but they come out better as normal sized cookies.

Press cookies down with your fingers.

Bake for 12-14 minutes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In Pursuit of the Vegan Matzo Ball

This is an article I wrote two years ago that was published in the Baltimore Jewish Times.  Since Passover is only two days away, I figured it was a great time to post it again. Enjoy!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Panty Hose and Incontinence

Okay, so it’s time for my annual Spring Pre-Passover rant session.  Normally at this time, I spend a few qualitative moments discussing (okay, ranting) about Passover food prices, or the store manager’s lack of education regarding kosher for Passover fare.  I mean, really, why do people think that tea biscuits, cream soda and kichel are typical Jewish holiday essentials? Yet, I see them on the shelf in all of their NOT for kosher Passover glory. 

 No, I have chosen to move on from Passover, the money is spent, the items are expensive, the work is daunting, the cleaning is a pain in the tuchus, but that’s neither here nor there because today’s rant is far more important.  Today I have chosen to rag on CVS, because, well, I can.
My sordid tale begins with the innocent search for a pair of panty hose. I needed a nice, very sheer pair that provided Spanx like control without having to mortgage my house.  Now, here’s the deal, while I don’t like to admit that “truss hose” are an important essential , they nonetheless are and I have come to accept the fact, that when dressing for a formal affair, they really do provide the smoothness and control one needs.  After extensive research (Google), I came to understand that no self respecting celebrity walks the red carpet without a good pair of Spanx, so I began to feel better. After all, if Gwyneth, Jessica Alba, Carrie Underwood, and Jennifer Garner need Spanx to pour skinny their little selves into hip hugging couture, then there is no shame, NO SHAME, in buying a $5 knock off to smooth out whatever needs smoothing on my not- so- perfect body.  After all, self acceptance is an important thing!

I found the panty hose. I found the color, size, and control I looked for, RIGHT NEXT TO THE ADULT DIAPER SECTION…A.K.A. THE INCONTINENCE AISLE.   Seriously CVS?  You couldn’t put the hose in a different section or daresay move the incontinent section elsewhere like, closer to the soda aisle?  It was like looking at my present and my formidable future all at once and it definitely annoyed me.  It’s one thing to accept a flawed body, it’s quite another to accept a flawed bladder accompanied by the shadow of old age.  Sigh.

This isn’t my first gripe over product placement. Should I even mention how they placed the “planned parenthood” section smack dab in front of the pharmacy?  Yeah, truly appreciative that my precocious 7 year old with a third grade reading level wants to know what a lubricant is, or begins to sound out the word con-dom.  “Hey, Mom, what’s a condom, and why is there a horse on the box?”  Lovely.  Who knew that waiting for your asthma inhaler could be so educational and informative?  I’m so “grateful” to CVS for providing an open forum opportunity to talk to my 7 year old about safe sex.   Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who complained, because they eventually moved that section. Now, it’s next to the Tums and other assorted indigestion meds…hmmmmm.  Now what kind of message is that?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

This ain’t Your Traditional Hamantashen

Here it is…the allergy free, awesome, delicious, contemporary flavored hamantshen recipe just in time for this weeks holiday of Purim. You asked for it and I delivered (albeit a little late).  I decided to go a little funky on the flavors this year. It’s not that I don’t love a good ole apricot triangular pastry, it’s just that, I wanted something a little more contemporary, new, refreshing and I instantly thought of chocolate and lemon.  They go well together, and they taste great separately, so roll up your sleeves, here we go…

PS...though not pictured here, take your hamentaschen to a new level and use some melted chocolate for dipping (creating a black and white look)or drizzling over the top (creating a zebra effect).

Lemon Hamantashen

½ block silken tofu (don’t be afraid, trust me, you’ll never know)

1-cup sugar (I use organic crystals)

2 tsp good quality vanilla (not the stuff with corn syrup in it)

2-4 drops lemon extract

 1 tsp. lemon zest

1/3 cup canola oil

1 tsp. baking powder

1 TBSP soymilk

¼ tsp. salt

2 ½ cups flour (with a little extra for kneading)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1.     Drain tofu in a strainer for about 10 minutes, lightly pressing on it to get out the excess water.

2.   Cut tofu in half (use the other half for the chocolate hamentashen, later) and cut into smaller pieces and place in the food processor.

3.   Add the sugar, oil, vanilla, soymilk, zest, and lemon extract.

4.   Pulse until it is smooth and creamy.  Make sure there are no bits of tofu lying at the bottom or on the sides.

5.    Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl

6.    Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix.  As it becomes more difficult, use your hands to work the dough. It will eventually become  soft, pliable dough. If it is too sticky, add more flour.

7.   Once dough is smooth and elastic, wrap it in a ziploc bad and place in the freezer for about an hour.

8.   When you are ready to roll out the dough, work with what you need and keep the rest in the fridger. The dough softens rather quickly and is delicate so you have to keep it cold and work fast.

9.   Place the dough on a floured surface (I usually cut a gallon size Ziploc bag in half and place the dough between the two sheets with a little flour, I find that the dough doesn’t stick to the bags as much.

10. Roll the dough to ¼-inch thickness and use a round cookie cutter to make rounds. I actually use a small juice glass that is 2 ½ inches round. You can make them bigger if you so desire.

11. Fill the hamantashen with a ¼ to ½ tsp. of filling. You can use fruit preserves, jellies, chocolate ganache, plain old chocolate chips (use mini chips for mini hamantashen because they don’t tear the dough), or my favorite…Israeli chocolate spread.

12. Bring the sides up over the filling and press into a triangular shape. Pinch the seams closed so the filling doesn’t ooze out.

13. Space the hamantashen out about an inch apart on your baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remember, if you want them crunchy like a cookie; keep them in for the full 15 minutes. If you are a cakey hamantashen lover, then begin checking them at around 13 minutes to see how well cooked they are.

Remove and cool for about 1 minute on baking tray, then transfer to a cookie rack.

A Word about Tofu

Tofu is very easy and versatile. In fact, I use it in many baking recipes for various holidays. Below are a few tofu pointers.

  • It comes in different consistencies. For this recipe, soft, silken tofu is best. Drain the tofu for a few minutes to remove any excess water.
  • Tofu comes in a vacuum-packed box in the refrigerator section of your grocery store (usually in the produce section).
  • Cut along the dotted lines at the top and the tofu will easily slide out, just gently guide it into the strainer.
  • After draining, cut the block in half.
  • Before placing it in the food processor, cut the ½-block piece into smaller pieces to distribute it more thoroughly in the food processor.


You can use raspberry, apricot, as they go well with lemon.  I used all of these (Polaner All Natural Fruit Spread) and a chocolate ganache.  The only problem with the ganache is that it takes a while to cool down and thicken, so if you are in a rush, you can just use mini chips, frosting, or I like Israeli chocolate spread (which is made in a nut free facility)!

Ganache recipe-From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

4 oz. chocolate ( I use Enjoy Life mini chips

2 TBSP maple syrup (the real stuff)

¼ cup soymilk

Place the soymilk in a pot and bring to a boil. Immediately take off the flame and dump the chips and syrup into the pot and mix until smooth.

That’s it! Of course, you need to wait for it to be room temperature, where it will thicken a bit. 
Chocolate Brownie Hamantashen (OMG)!

½ block tofu

1 cup sugar

2tsp. good quality vanilla

1/3 cup canola oil

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking poweder

½ cup cocoa powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 ¾ cups unbleached flour (you may need up to ¼ cup extra if the dough is sticky)


They are pretty much the same as the lemon hamentashen. Though, they take a few minutes longer to bake.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor, blend the tofu, oil and sugar until ingredients are smooth and creamy. Make sure to scrape down the sides in order to get all the little bits of tofu blended.
  3. Add the vanilla and blend again.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Combine the liquid ingredients with the dry and mix. You will have to switch to using your hands until it becomes dough. The dough will be sticky. If it is too sticky, just sprinkle with some more flour while you work it into smooth dough.
  6. Place the dough into a Ziploc bag, or wrap in saran wrap and chill in the freezer for an hour.
  7. When you are ready to roll out the dough, work with what you need and keep the rest in the freezer. The dough softens rather quickly and is delicate so you have to keep it cold and work fast.
  8. Place the dough on a floured surface (I usually cut a gallon size Ziploc bag in half and place the dough between the two sheets with a little flour, I find that the dough doesn’t stick to the bags as much.
  9. Roll the dough to ¼-inch thickness and use a round cookie cutter to make rounds. I actually use a small juice glass that is 2 ½ inches round. You can make them bigger if you so desire.
  10. Fill the hamantashen with a ¼ to ½ tsp. of filling. You can use fruit preserves, jellies, chocolate ganache, plain old chocolate chips (use mini chips for mini hamantashen because they don’t tear the dough), or my favorite…Israeli chocolate spread.
  11. Bring the sides up over the filling and press into a triangular shape. Pinch the seams closed so the filling doesn’t ooze out.
  12. Space the hamantashen out about an inch apart on your baking sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes. Remember, if you want them crunchy like a cookie; keep them in longer than 15 minutes. If you are a cakey hamantashen lover, then begin checking them at around 13 minutes to see how well cooked they are.
  13. Remove and cool for about 1 minute on baking tray, then transfer to a cookie rack.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beating the Bender

You know how life just seems to get too overwhelming?  You know how you’re supposed to take deep breaths, go for a walk, pamper yourself, or mutter encouraging mantras to get you through the drama?  You know how after you try all of those things, and you’re still feeling affected, you figure that nothing beats an eating bender?  You know how you go on a bender with all the self-loathing that goes along with it, but you know you’re going to come out of it the next day stronger and more determined not to do it again? You know how that never works and the bender lasts  four more days than you expected, followed by a huge cookie baking, tasting and consuming swan song?  Yep, I know, and don’t ask me why.  I plead the fifth. Well, not really.

My stomach has concurred that it takes a lot longer to get over benders these days.  In fact, it gurgled in retaliation begging me to stop last weekend. My brain, however, devilishly coaxed me to continue my egregious behavior. Clearly, my upper and lower half, were not in sync with each other coupled with a really anxious hormone fairy spreading insatiable cravings like angry pixie dust.  OY.
Benders are an interesting beast.  They come on suddenly, throw you off course, wreak havoc of epic proportions, and disrupt one’s clean eating balance.  The good news, however, is that they strengthen one’s clean eating resolve, restoring one’s virtuous eating habits once more, like a beautiful, sunny day following a hurricane. 

I have often wrestled with the bender.  Sometimes I win, and sometimes I don’t.  Clearly, I didn’t win this past weekend and had to deal the grim aftermath. My pants were a wee bit tight on Monday (I was still in the cookie bender phase), but today, I am feeling much better.  Workouts have resumed, water consumption is high, clean foods abound, and yes, I admit, my body is much happier.  
If you have been on a bender, don’t fret my sugar, greasy, salty, crunchy, victims... it’s okay.  Get back on the horse.  Life is all about screw-ups.  What’s done is done.  Movin’on.  Forge ahead.  Make it work.   It won’t take long to get back to where you were, because where you were, is how you get to where you want to be.