Thursday, November 20, 2014

Giveaway: Secret Restaurant Recipes Cookbook

Although there aren't many kosher restaurants here in Denver, I was lucky enough to experience the amazing kosher options in the New Jersey and New York area, not to mention in Israel. Pair this with a childhood grown up with my mom whipping up some classic restaurant recipes from places like Red Lobster (those cheddar biscuits were to die for), and a cookbook with secret kosher restaurant recipes was made for me.

Yes, this is a review and giveaway post, and I shocked myself with this cookbook. After looking through the index and knowing a lot of the restaurants, I was worried I wouldn't be able to find anything with my two at-home cooking criteria:
  • gluten free
  • vegetarian
Luckily, I'm a creative cook and the recipes are easily changed for the discerning and committed cook.

As one of the things I'm missing most in the world is amazing kosher Chinese food (oh those evenings with Chopstix in Teaneck, I wish I had cherished you more), I immediately decided to make the Sesame Chicken from Kosher Chinese Express in Manalapan, New Jersey happen with tempeh in place of the chicken and tamarin in place of the soy sauce.

The result? This is seriously the most delicious thing I've made lately, and that's after absolutely falling in love with Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Buffalo Tempeh Sandwiches. I have a new love, and it's the sesame sauce in this recipe. I can't believe I never tried to make my own, because it was really easy and it's super tasty. I could put this on just about anything, and the tempeh was an excellent, meaty substitute.

Then I decided to tackle the Tilapia with Terra Chip Crunch from The Purple Pear, as Terra Chips are naturally gluten free, fish is a staple in our house, and when I lived out east I loved The Purple Pear. (Yelp has the reviews to prove it.)

I will admit that I didn't have granulated onion or garlic on hand, and I ended up subbing in some mirin for the corn syrup. I also picked up some seasonal Sweet Potato-Pumpkin Terra Chips instead of the Terra Sticks and Sun Dried Tomato Terra Chips. The result? Delicious and beautiful.

This cookbook has everything (yes, thinking SNL here): tips from the restaurant chefs and owners, advice on kitchen tools, beautiful pictures for every recipe, and more. I have to tell you that pictures are so critical in my decision on whether to purchase a cookbook. Basically, I only buy cookbooks with tons of pictures. I need perspective!

Thus, giveaway of this cookbook (a $29.99 value) just in time for Chanukah, too, so even if you're not a cook, you surely know one!

(NOTE: You must enter on the web. It will not work properly on mobile.)


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Do Jews Celebrate Thanksgiving?

I threw up an article over on on the topic of Jews, Judaism, Thanksgiving, and the 2013 anomaly that was Thanksgivukkah. (Note: It really wasn't that big of an anomaly.)

Go over and check it out now!

While you're at it, be sure to check out my article on the 13 Principles of Faith and the controversy surrounding the principles for hundreds of years after Rambam compiled them (based on the Talmud).

See something missing from's Judaism section and would like to see an article on it? Have a question about Jews, Judaism, Israel, the Bible, or something else in that realm? Let me know! I love writing articles that people want to read!

When Being a Girl Isn't Cool

I took a step back this week, paused, and decided to really focus on happiness, positive thinking, and willpower in an effort to get my happiness, health, and sanity in check. The result? I'm having a really good week. I mean, a really, really good week. I'm starting up my workout regimen, talking to HaShem before bed every night, thinking before posting negative/kvetchy posts in the social universe, managing my "feed the stress with food" habit, and I've even picked up more work. Yay!

I can do this.

While chatting with an old friend this week about getting together for coffee, I mentioned I'd rather get together on a day when Ash is in daycare because "I want to feel like an adult." You know, two adults getting coffee reminiscing about the good ole days behind the grill at McDonalds? He joked,
A phrase I strongly stand by is this: A man is a person who admits he's still a boy.
My initial reaction? "The keywords are MAN and BOY. Being a girl isn't as cool/fun as being a woman."

His response: "#MaturityisOverrated"

It got me thinking about what it means to be a woman. It seems like it's cool or funny or expected for a man to be a bit of a boy at times, whether that means playful or immature or downright juvenile about things. Men can roll around in the mud, make fart jokes, build a fort, make a mess. Be a big ole kid and it's cool.

Being a woman, however, means not being a girl.

Being a girly girl as a grown woman just doesn't fly. As a grown woman, you have to be strong, confident, driven, and able to handle anything that flies at you at any hour of the day in any form. There's no crawling back into your dollhouse or putting on a tutu and dancing around the room all day. It just doesn't fly. Be a big ole kid and it's very not cool.

It's all about the perception. What do you think? Can men be boys and women can't be girls? Is it just society?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Reconstructionist Judaism and the Chosen People

I present: The Havdalah Hedgehog

While working on an article on havdalah for, I came across the detail that Reconstructionist Jews, at the urging of founder Mordechai Kaplain, omit the portion of havdalah that highlights separation. (Havdalah is the post-Shabbat ceremony that marks the separation of Shabbat from the beginning of the work week.)

Specifically, the havdalah text says:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַמַּבְדִיל בֵּין קֹֽדֶשׁ לְחוֹל, בֵּין אוֹר לְחֹֽשֶׁךְ, בֵּין יִשְׂרָאֵל לָעַמִּים, בֵּין יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי לְשֵֽׁשֶׁת יְמֵי הַמַּעֲשֶׂה. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, הַמַּבְדִיל בֵּין קֹֽדֶשׁ לְחוֹל.
Blessed are You, G-d, our Lord, King of the universe, who separates between the holy and the profane; between the light and dark; between Israel and the other nations; between the seventh day and the six days of the week. Blessed are You, G-d, who separates between the holy and the profane.
The portion that is omitted by the Reconstructionist movement is "between Israel and the other nations" because Kaplan rejected the concept of chosenness and this is a central tenet of Reconstructionist Judaism.

Unfortunately, the concept of chosenness is soooooo misunderstood. It doesn't mean chosen to be better than or more loved by G-d or more awesome.

The origins of the text are Deuteronomy 14:2:
כִּי עַם קָדוֹשׁ אַתָּה, לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ; וּבְךָ בָּחַר יְהוָה, לִהְיוֹת לוֹ לְעַם סְגֻלָּה, מִכֹּל הָעַמִּים, אֲשֶׁר עַל-פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה.
Because you are a holy people for G-d, and God has chosen you to be an am segulah from the nations on the earth. 
The beef probably comes from the concept of being an am segulah -- roughly translated as a treasured people. But what comes next is important. It doesn't say ABOVE or MORE AWESOME than other nations of the earth, but "from" the nations of the earth. 

The concept of chosenness for the Jewish people means to be different, to be a "light unto the nations." This means to live a certain type and style of life that will inspire and motivate the other nations of the world toward an ethical, positive, empowered life. There's nothing about being better than or more special than the other nations of the world, contrary to popular belief. 

So that's news to me. Did you know that Reconstructionist Judaism rejects the idea of chosenness? I'd like to hear your thoughts -- especially if you're a Reconstructionist Jew. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Lech Lecha: Chaviva and Avram

Terach left with Sarai, Avram, and Lot to go to Ca'anan, mostly because it was his dead son's inherited land. So they left but stopped along the way.

Then HaShem speaks to Avram, tells him to Lech Lecha -- go forth, to yourself. Avram leaves with Sarai and Lot and heads to Ca'anan, fulfilling the original destination goal. It's there that HaShem promises so much to Avram and his future offspring.

So essentially, the first bit of the journey was not enough and HaShem and to tell Avram to keep going. Would he have gone on his own? Would he have stayed with his father?

The truth is, I feel like this about my journey and my conversion.

I found and began my Jewish journey in the Reform movement of Judaism around 2002/2003 and after much teeth grinding and examination of myself, who I was, and where I was going, wound my way through other branches of Judaism until I landed at the doorsteps of Orthodoxy in 2008.

That first leg of the journey was like leaving my land with Terach and heading toward the land of my inheritance -- Judaism.

The second leg was HaShem telling me to go further, to go forth to who I was truly meant to be. To embrace that person I was.

I feel a bit like Avram. But only a bit.