Each morning we thank G-d for living another day. Gratitude is essential to our Jewishness. At this time of year, we are thankful for the New Year, for the harvest, for the Book of Life, for our Torah and so much more. My “so much more” includes that the fall that broke my shoulder this summer did not result in surgery (shoulder replacement was mentioned) and that I was not a foot further in the hotel hallway before I fell which would have resulted in my head hitting a stationary plate glass door! Yet as much as I think about gratitude every day, there was a time when I was particularly ungrateful for … of all things … my kitchen.
When we bought our house, we knew we would have to redo the kitchen. It had a door in the middle of a wall, only three cabinets and one 14-inch square oven. We met with designers, all of whom suggested pushing the kitchen out onto the 12x12 deck. I was excited and especially loved the concepts of one designer. However, the price tag felt out of reach for us. We were Jewish day school teachers and parents of the first of what we hoped would be more children. So we said no and used the existing footprint.
Over the years, I railed against the tight quarters. With three growing kids, I needed more drawers, more space for that extra box of cereal and can of tuna and jar of peanut butter, and more space just to move. It seemed I was always stepping on an errant toy, or bumping into a scurrying child running through the kitchen.
In short, I was not always as grateful as I needed to be, especially when I stepped on the 23rd Lego of the day, cleaned up the endless dishes from snacks and more and searched the completely covered counters for a place to put the roaster, scalding hot, from the oven. It was chaotic, crowded and always looked cluttered. No matter how I tried, there was not enough room.
Somehow, the kids survived, the black and blue marks on the soles of me feet healed and my kitchen continued to work. I fed countless kids and family members and friends — sometimes more than 35 at once; no one went hungry and we managed with a second refrigerator and a bookshelf downstairs that became our pantry.
The kids grew up and moved out and married and more. My counters are much emptier, the Legos are in the basement waiting for my grandsons to be old enough to play with them, “things” have found places and I decided that, yes, I am grateful for my compact and somewhat crowded kitchen.
In my little kitchen, I know where every spice jar is, every baking sheet, piece of parchment, can of tuna, bottle of gourmet vinegar and more. The cabinet that holds mesh metal bins to make up for the lack of drawer space is perfectly organized for my needs. The canisters on the counter hold all the beans and flours and more that I use so often.
I love the counters that survived markers, a toppled Shabbat candle, spilled glue, and the learning curve of children eager to cut, mix, bake and more. A toddler escaping with a fork was barely an arm’s length away, a child with a knife within easy reach, a high chair always close by so I could feed and cook at the same time.
I have learned, over the years, to be grateful for this kitchen that I helped design even while the contractor was urging us to expand. I am thankful for its cozy size, its packed-to-the-gills space that still had just enough room for my new 8-quart Instant Pot and for much more. It is the kitchen of my dreams because my dreams were always to have a kitchen filled with love, laughter, learning and great food. It has done that for decades and I hope it will continue to do so for at least a few decades more. I am grateful.
Simply Roasted Beets, Oranges, Apples and More (Pareve)
I picked up some amazing fresh beets from my local farm and then tried to figure out what to do with them. I saw a recipe for beets and blood oranges, but, since I do not like blood oranges, I decided to work off that and create something my family would like. They devoured this.
4 to 6 large beets, scrubbed, rubbed generously with olive oil and wrapped in aluminum foil
2 to 3 oranges, peeled, white pith removed and segments placed in a bowl
2 apples such as Honey Crisp or Fuji
*1/4 cup apple cider or white vinegar, or freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 Tbsp. honey or sugar, more or less, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
OPTIONAL: 1tsp. poppy seeds or sesame seeds
Lemon juice makes this a citrusy delight that kids will love. Vinegar gives it a sharper, sweet/sour flavor.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the foil wrapped beets on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast for 35 to 60 minutes until the beets are easily pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Open the foil packet and carefully remove a beet (wait longer if the beet is too hot) Run under water and slide off the skin. Place the beet on a plate and cut into slices. Cut the slices in quarters and place in a bowl. Set aside.
While the beets are roasting, peel the oranges with a knife, cutting away the outer white membranes. Cut the segments out of the remaining white membrane and place into the bowl with the beets. Squeeze any remaining juice into the bowl.
Cut the apples in half, remove the core and slice into thin slices. You can peel the apples if you like. Place in the bowl and toss to mix.
Mix the sugar and lemon juice or vinegar together and mix well until the sugar or honey dissolves. Pour over the beet mixture and toss to coat. Sprinkle with some pepper and the poppy or sesame seeds, if you like. Serves 6 to 10.
Confetti Cole Slaw with ‘Good Stuff’ and 2 Dressings (Pareve, Dairy. GF)
My kids named this because, while they hated the cole slaw when they were younger, they liked the sweet and crunchy additions to this dish! Add your own favorites to make a dish YOUR kids will call the “good stuff.” Ingredient amounts for this are easily varied.
1 small head green cabbage
1 small head red cabbage
1 green pepper
1 bunch scallions
4 stalks celery
1 small sweet onion, red or Vidalia
5 large carrots, (more or less)
Use any or all of these in whatever amounts you like:
1/2 to 1 cup snipped apricots
1/2 to 1 cup raisins
1/2 to 1 cup slivered, blanched almonds
1/2 to 1 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1/2 to 1 cup candied walnuts or pecans
OPTIONAL: Chopped cherry or grape tomatoes, Pomegranate arils, sunflower seeds
Dressing 1: Sweet and Sour Mayonnaise Dressing (Pareve)
The amount of mayonnaise you use depends on the amount of vegetables you have. Adjust other dressing ingredients accordingly and, especially, to taste. I use very little sugar in this and have substituted Pure Maple Syrup for the sugar.
1 to 2 cups mayonnaise 1/4-1/2 cup vinegar
2 to 5 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 to 1 tsp. sweet paprika
salt and pepper to taste
Dressing 2: Sweet and Sour Dressing with Poppy Seeds (Pareve)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 yellow onion, finely minced
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 to 3/4 cup vegetable oil
OPTIONAL: 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
Place sugar and vinegar in a small pot. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add the minced onion, salt, and paprika. Pour into a jar and refrigerate until cooled. Add the poppy seed and oil and shake well. This can be easily doubled if you need more.
Use a medium shredding disc blade in a food processor and shred the cabbages, carrots, onions and pepper. Dice the celery and cut the scallions into small pieces. Toss together and add the fruits and almonds.
Mix the Dressing ingredients together and pour over the vegetable mix. Stir well and let sit, refrigerated for several hours before serving.
NOTE: If you are using this for dairy meals, you can use half mayonnaise and half plain yogurt for the dressing. Serves a crowd.
Creamy Warm Potato Salad (dairy)
This is a delightful side dish with fish. My children loved it with salmon croquets.
3 lbs. boiled small red potatoes
1/2 cup mayonnaise (low or non-fat is OK)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (low or non-fat is OK)
3 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. Apple Cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar
Pinch to 1/2 tsp. salt
OPTIONAL: Snipped chives
Boil small red potatoes until fork tender. Don’t overcook or they will break apart. Drain and cool them for about 10 minutes. You may peel them if you like, but I leave the skins on. Cut up the potatoes in a large bowl. Whisk the mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl. Pour the dressing over the potatoes and toss gently. Serve warm or cold.