Tag Archives: food

#72 Passover Traditions from Jewish Cultures Worldwide–Guest Blog by Rachel Landau

I miss being with my family on Passover. It was a really big deal in my house where, in addition to recalling the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, we regularly recalled the Seder in which the children accidentally got the real wine while the adults wondered why their wine, actually grape juice, had no kick. This year, while enjoying a holiday brunch at my in-laws’ house, I began to wonder why some of the foods they served where different than those I’d grown up with. So I googled my question and this article is what I found. I thank the author, Rachel Landau.

Beyond Victoriana

This Monday is the first night of Pesach, or Passover. In the days when the Temple was standing, every Jew was required to make a pilgrimage to the Temple and make an offering there. Around the world and on six continents, Jews still follow the same structure for a Passover seder, as outlined in the Haggadah nearly two thousand years ago. But Jews are not monolithic: each community adds its own variations and customs to the mix.

A picture from the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the oldest Sephardic Haggadahs in the world. The Haggadah is the text that contains the order and the ritual traditions of the seder meal.

There are roughly three different strains of Jewish cultural movements, all of which have many different subgroups. After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Romans forcibly removed Jews from their homeland and scattered them throughout the Empire. Thus, three distinct…

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The U.S. Census and Adoption

I don’t want to dwell on being adopted. It really shouldn’t affect my life. I got the family I was meant to have. I believe it. However, I’m surprised how I’m constantly reminded I’m an adoptee.
I got a form from the census bureau in the mail today. I was instructed to go online and answer some questions. One in particular really surprised me. They wanted the relationship of children living in the house. They listed the usual: son, daughter, parents, etc. then they added step children and adopted children. What does being adopted have to do with the census? I thought, by the process of adoption, one became the “real” child. Why make this distinction?
Then, they wanted to know my ethnicity in detail. The country of my origin. What about adoptees who don’t know their background? They don’t have a check mark for “don’t know.”
This morning on The View, actor Jay Thomas announced how he recently reunited with his son. And they were so much alike. What about the non-celebrities who can’t find their birth families?
My favorite. I just received test results warning me that I am pre-diabetic. After cutting out almost all sugar from my diet and adding exercise, my numbers are getting worse. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I have recently learned this condition, for me, is genetic. My two bio half-sibs had, have diabetes. One passed away very young.
Like it or not, an adoptee rarely forgets they are adopted.
I know I don’t.

What reminds you about your adoption?

My memoir. How I found my bio family.

My memoir about how I found my bio family.

Who Moved My Cookies?

cookies cover 3Jessie Newman was a smart, sexy, successful Weight Watchers leader, who had it all, until she caught her cheating husband, in the act. After tossing him to the curb, she had to quit the part-time career she loved and wound up stuck in a dead-end job, watching her butt grow. Now, married to a prominent and handsome neurosurgeon, who happens to think she’s cute, cellulite and all, Jessie is ready for a change.

Although it kills Jessie to leave her family, when her new husband, Dr. Tad Newman, gets offered a job in our nation’s capital, this former weight loss guru, still reeling after her failed first marriage, considers this the opportunity she’s been waiting for to quit job she hates, drop the twenty pounds she’s packed on, and embark on a new career.

Happily married at last, Jessie looks forward to letting go of her former life and embarking on a journey of self-improvement. In Who Moved My Cookies?, Jessie sets out to start a new career during a time when companies are downsizing, not hiring. In between tackling online job applications, Jessie works on figuring out the perfect diet while fantasizing about fitting into those clothes she’s been saving since shoulder pads were the height of fashion, even if it means giving up meat and cookies. But not M&M’s. She has her limits. Most importantly, Jessie is determined to make this marriage work, in spite of the many hours her husband is now spending with his sexy new assistant, who just happens to become the subject of the murder mystery she is writing????

As a former Weight Watchers leader who helped thousands lose weight on the Weight Watchers program, I know what it is like to stand in front of the freezer, sneaking a few bites, licks and tastes from the half-gallon containers of mint chocolate chip ice cream and tubes of frozen cookie dough I kept hidden behind the frozen broccoli.

If you can relate to Jessie, or just want a really fun Bridget Jones- type of read, please take a look at Who Moved My Cookies?

Food Porn and Weight Watchers

Did you ever notice how packaged ice cream is at its peak of perfection the moment you bring it home from grocery shopping? OMG…Stop me now.

My sixteen-year gig as a Weight Watchers group leader in the Cleveland suburbs was like doing eleven shows a week at the Improv. Standing in front of a packed house— 20 to 100 members on average— I would mime sneaking a taste of my newly purchased 1/2 gallon container of Pierre’s chocolate-chocolate chip. Opening the lid immediately after placing it on the kitchen counter, not even caring if my other groceries spoiled from neglect, I would attack the carton like a vulture going after his prey. I just needed one taste. One perfect mouthful. I’d swirl my plastic, (yes it had to be a plastic spoon so as not to give a metallic taste to the ice cream), around the top, savoring the creamy goodness at its peak of perfection. I would glance around the room, noticing my members at the edges of their seats, living vicariously through my experience. I’d watch their eyes tearing up, their lips quivering, as if they were watching pornography. In a way, this was our pornography. Food porn. And we loved it. We craved more. We needed to hear other members’ experiences to learn how to deal with our own issues with food. And to know we were not alone in our struggle with our weight.

During the sixteen years I taught Weight Watchers, I feared that if I no longer had to do my weekly/monthly weigh-ins, I’d put back on the weight I had lost years before. That was scary.

Eventually I had to give up my meetings and I have been struggling with the scale ever since.
I’m sharing some of my weight challenges, along with many experiences members have discussed in thousands of my meetings through the voice of my fictional character, Jessie Newman, in my novel: Who Moved My Cookies? available now on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00G3Q91CS.

Tomorrow’s Diet

I will give up
My favorite treats
From food made with sugar
To food made with wheat.

No more spaghetti
Or tart lemon drops
No more sandwich cookies
Or Tootsie roll pops.

No more ice cream
Or crispy French fries
Or buckets of popcorn
Or even fried rice.

No more lasagna
Or BBQ food
No more large pizza
Unless I’m in the mood.

If I get too hungry
Or get really mad
I know I’ll succumb
I know I’ll be bad.

So forget my new plan
It’s way way too crude
I’ll just be more sensible
When choosing my food.

Veggies and fruit
Fresh, no cans
I’ll be good tomorrow
Tonight, I have plans.

I’ll clean out the fridge
The pantry of Pringles
Polish off the cookies
The ice cream, with sprinkles.

Once all the goodies are
Out of the house
I’ll face my new scale
And so will my spouse.

Valentine Courage in a Bowl

Tickled I am
Though not fully pink
I laid down my pencil
And picked up my ink. 

I started to write
Jotting down notes
Dazed and confused
I don't get a vote. 

With hands that were trembling 
No fear in my soul
I tackled my feelings
Then dove for the bowl. 

My bowl filled with ice cream
Glistened with delight
It tempted and cajoled me
On this lonely night. 

Green swirls and brown
Chips in there too
Swimming in fudge sauce
Only the best would do. 

Liquid courage came next
Kahlua worked well
To ink down on paper
What the hell. 

With heart in my hand
Without fearing I'd fail
I signed sealed and stamped the words I love you
And sent them to mail. 

Whatever the result
If he loves me too
We'll know sooner or later
I hope sooner, wouldn't you?

Now time for sleep
My lover away
I pray for his answer
I worry what he'll say. 

We can't always get
The answer we want
Life's just not as easy
As picking a font. 

I long for the day
He answers my prayer
With a bushel of roses
Or scarf, showing he cares. 

I hate Valentine's Day
So much on the line
Hearing I love you
Will you be mine?

If its meant to be
It will
We all know that's true 
I told him my feelings
That's all I can do. 

My cell just beeped. 
A text from my man
"I can't wait to see you
I've made a big plan."

OMG what is this?
He just got my letter
He'll say that he loves me
He'll commit now, he better. 

He stands in my hallway
Drops down on one knee
Darling I love you
Will you have me?


Doctors recommend daily chocolate!

This is for your health!!

Although doctors keep changing their minds about whether or not alcohol is healthy for women, they all agree that chocolate, taken in moderation, is a healthy additive to your daily diet. Here are some helpful suggestions for adding chocolate to your diet.

If you are like me, you probably already realize that although chocolate is the perfect breakfast food, whether you enjoy a lowfat, high fiber muffin top or a puffy chocolate cereal, it’s good other times during the day as well.

Oreos, already in sandwich form, are well suited for lunches at school, work or on the go. They can easily be eaten at your desk, while watching TV or standing directly in front of the kitchen cabinet while choosing a dessert.

M&Ms are handy for afternoon snacks and you can never go wrong with chocolate chip ice cream.

Dinner time calls for heartier fare. When making your homemade chile, don’t forget to add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to make sure your meal is healthy.

An evening snack of popcorn is delicious enhanced with a few dark chocolate chips or cocoa powder.

Remember, these are suggestions for your health which is never something to take lightly!

To your health!

Oh, don’t forget the chocolate martini!

The Happiest Woman in America?

When the nightly news tease announced an upcoming story about the “Happiest Woman in America”, I was intrigued. Who is this woman who holds the secret to happiness? She must be rich, gorgeous, have a fabulous family. I was confident she wasn’t a Kardashian, although we all need to keep up with them, don’t we? Since they got my attention, I pressed the record button on my DVR just in case the phone rang. I didn’t want to risk missing this potential life altering story.

What did I learn that would change the course of my life so I too could be on the list of happiest women?

For starters, she is in her 50s. Like me, she is not a spring chicken. Isn’t fifty the new thirty anyway? Yes, in my eyes, she is still young. Perhaps she has the world’s best plastic surgeon. I pulled out my mirror from my purse and decided I could definitely use some work. At this point I was literally at the edge of my seat.

They said she has a child old enough to drive himself to school. That must suggest that carpooling or driving your children to and from school followed by piano lessons, gymnastics and play dates in the afternoon is stressful.

She has a husband who comes home to make her lunch. Let’s stop there for a moment. She has a husband…. Is that making her happy? Would she be happy with a boyfriend who makes her lunch? Is it the relationship, or the lunch part? I’m so confused. My husband used to make me dinner when I came home late from work. He stopped when I became vegetarian claiming he has no idea what to cook. Maybe I should hand him my vegetarian cookbook and I’ll become happier. It’s worth a try. I’m getting bored of thinking of something for dinner.

She has a managerial job and is well respected in her field. On top of that, she is able to telecommute one or two days a week. That’s it. She obviously makes the big bucks. What about all the people slaving away in their 6X10 cubicles all day, every day? Can they ever hope to achieve her level of happiness? Must we all be managers to be happy? Or maybe her income is at the perfect level of the happiness scale. Lower, she would be stressed out by bills, higher she would be bombarded by the overwhelming investment opportunities and unsure whether to buy a BMW for the status, or continue driving her economic and environmentally and politically correct Prius for another year.

They also mentioned that she has a good friend at work. That brings her happiness.

I disagree with all of this. What if she lost her job? In this economic environment that is a very real possibility. What if she found out her husband was cheating on her or her son was using drugs or was in a car accident? What if he was in a car accident while using drugs? Even with the job and the status, would she still be the happiest woman in America? Does she need all of these factors? And what about that friend at work? Is she having an affair with him? What if he wanted to have an affair? Would she still be friends with him? Would this cause her stress? OK, I have to assume, for argument’s sake, that her friend at work is either a woman or a happily married man or gay. I don’t want this friend to potentially ruin her marriage. Oh no, what if that friend wants to go out drinking at happy hour and her husband expected her home and they got in a fight?

I know. I’m analyzing this way too much. But I don’t think happiness should be job dependent. I don’t think happiness should depend on the age of your children or if your husband cooks for you. I think people can be single and be happy. I think people can be working two jobs and still find happiness. I think happiness comes from within. I believe that a job should provide you the freedom to find happiness in life, not to depend on that job for happiness. I think sometimes we are happy and sometimes we are sad. We have good days and we have bad days. We make the sale or we lose the sale, but we can still be happy.

I was in Costco last week. There was a lady handing out samples of Mango Salsa like this was the one product in the world that would bring happiness to everyone who tried it. My husband loves mangos and salsa so I took a sample and thanked the nice lady. When I turned around there was a cute little girl in a shopping cart. She must have been around two years old. She had a piece of cheese in her hand. She looked up at me holding my salsa sample. She showed me her cheese sample. Then she started laughing hysterically. I couldn’t help but laugh myself. Then her mother laughed as she looked at the two of us laughing at each other. Almost in tears, at that moment I felt like I was the happiest woman in America. A child’s laughter will always make me smile.

Want to be happy? Smile at someone. Chances are they will smile back.

What makes you happy?

The Confused Vegetarian

Is it just me? Or does anyone else think it’s strange to offer bacon on a Gardenburger?

I asked if it would be possible to pay less than full price for my Gardenburger since I did not want the mandatory cheese and bacon. “Yes,” the nice server agreed. “I’ll go check to see if we can prepare for you a Gardenburger with just lettuce and tomato,” she said.
“Oh, thank you so much. ” I responded.

Why was I  looking forward to a vegetarian meal in a restaurant that served almost everything with bacon? I know it’s silly but they specifically listed Gardenburger on the menu. Since that’s where everyone wanted to eat I was a sport. I’m good at rolling with the punches. I was still optimistic. I even got excited when she offered healthy broccoli instead of the fries.


Anticipation. Out comes my plate. The broccoli looks fresh. Yum. But the burger doesn’t look right or smell right.

Turkey Burger

“Would they cook this on the grill with the bacon and burgers?” I ask my server who seems to be losing patience with me.

“Of course” my server responds, smiling. Now she’s looking at me like I just stepped off the boat.

I look at my burger again. Being vegetarian for two years I know what a Gardenburger looks like. I touch the patty. “OMG, this is beef! ” I send it back.

The server comes back a few minutes later, laughing. “It wasn’t beef, it was turkey.”

It’s funny when people ask about vegetarianism. “Does that mean you don’t eat fish and chicken?” They ask.

Hummm. I think we need to work on educating the service industry.

Being a real trooper, I ordered a flatbread pizza. What I won’t do for my family:)


It was yummy.
By the way,  “I don’t eat anything with a face. “

My Cheesecake Frisbee

We’d been going together for three months. I was ready to take the leap. I’m not so sure he was.

“Are you really sure we’re ready for this? It’s a big step,” he reminded me.

“I have confidence,” I said. I didn’t want him to know I was scared to death. I’d been married before. I knew this was a major turning point in our relationship. It was now or never. I’m a good cook. I’d make the best dinner ever. And it would be my first dinner party in my new condo. Most important, our two families would meet for the first time.

I carefully planned out the menu. I’d cook my favorites. The dishes I was confident I’d make as well as any star on Food TV. Serving chicken cacciatore, salad and my famous cheesecake for dessert, what’s not to like?

He wanted to help. He offered to make the topping for my cheesecake. I figured that should be easy enough. I’ll let him. He won’t think I’m a control freak.

My kids arrived first. For once they didn’t complain, “Chicken again!” They knew to be on their best behavior. They were rooting for me. They liked this boyfriend. They wanted things to work out for us. There were no complaints when I asked them to set the table.

Next he arrived with his teenagers. Unlike my kids who are loud and outspoken, they seemed shy, reserved. I didn’t feel right to give them a job to do at this point so I invited them to sit down at the table. I was glad I went the extra mile and made place cards so they didn’t have to guess where to sit. I was so nervous, I figured they were nervous as well. What could go wrong? I thought to myself. Calm down. It’s just dinner. I’ve made these dishes a million times before.

As my boyfriend followed me into the kitchen I thought he was going to try to sneak a kiss. How romantic, especially with everyone in the next room. Instead he handed me a “vintage” harvest gold Tupperware container filled with the fruit topping he made for my dessert. “Sorry,” he said. “I forgot to add sugar. It’s more like mushy fruit than a cheesecake topping.”

“That’s ok.” I told him. I handed him a bottle of wine and said, “Just go sit down at the table and entertain your kids.”

Ok, I thought. I can handle this. It’s no big deal. I’ll just put his topping in a nice crystal bowl and we can spoon it on our cheesecake. I go into the refrigerator and take out the cheesecake so it can come to room temperature while we’re having dinner. I carefully run a knife along the edge of the cake and pull on the release on the springform pan. The cake cracks. Not a little crack. This is a major, Grand Canyon crack. It would take a whole container of Cool Whip to cover it but I only had a little left. I had to come up with something. Chocolate is always good. I had a bag of chocolate chips. Quickly I melted half the bag in the microwave and poured it on my cheesecake and returned it to the refrigerator to set.

We all gathered around the table. I set the salad bowl on the table for everyone to take their own. I’d already tasted my chicken in the kitchen before I brought it in. I knew it was delicious. Moist and tender, it had just the right amount of garlic and oregano. It was just the way I liked it. After everyone had a bite no one said a word. I was afraid to ask. My kids finally opened up and started talking about their day, their frustrations with their jobs. His kids sat in silence. My kids finished their plates asking for more. His pushed their food around. Mine were begging for dessert. They love my cheesecake. His remained quiet.

I was starting to take this personally. Maybe they didn’t like being dragged out of the house, away from their computers, their TV, their friends. Maybe they didn’t like chicken. Maybe they didn’t like my kids. Maybe they didn’t like me. Soon, we’d have the piece de resistance; my fabulous dessert. All will be well.

Clearing off the table, it took all the strength I had to not finish the chicken his kids left on the bone. Someone might be watching. I tossed it in the garbage. What a waste. This evening was not going well at all. I was counting on the cheesecake to save the day. I don’t know what they didn’t like about my chicken but I loved it.

I reached into the refrigerator. There it sat in all its glory. My cheesecake. I will redeem myself, I thought. The night will not be ruined. I put on a pot of coffee. I set out the dessert dishes. I passed around new silverware, fresh napkins. I couldn’t wait. I love my cheesecake. “I hope you like the cheesecake.” I announced, practically begging for approval. “It’s my own recipe.” Yes, no frozen Sara Lee* or low fat version for my company. I put my heart and soul into this cheesecake.

I set the cake on the table in front of me. It looked beautiful. The chocolate coating glistened. I topped it with a little dollop of Cool Whip. I even placed a few raspberries on top. It was perfect. I took a deep breath. I lowered my knife to make my first cut. Nothing happened. I tried again. The knife wouldn’t go through. The chocolate had solidified like a rock. It wouldn’t give. The harder I tried to cut the tougher it seemed. I heard chuckles. They were starting to laugh. I started stabbing it with the knife. They laughed harder. I grabbed the knife in my fist and plunged it into the chocolate Frisbee. The entire topping came off at once. Wiping my brow in frustration I couldn’t help but smile as I was getting a round of applause. I took my bow saying, “Now, for my next act…”

The hard part was over. Not only had I gotten through the chocolate, I finally broke the ice. I handed the Frisbee to my boyfriend who delighted in breaking it up into smaller bits and passed them around the table as if he was passing around a ceremonial matzo during Passover. I had no trouble slicing up the rest of the cheesecake and passing that around. The praises were great, but the laughter was priceless. It’s the mistakes that make memories. And I’ve had my share of them.

“By the way,” my boyfriend told me after everyone had left, “the kids hate any chicken on the bone. And so do I. But dinner was perfect.”

To this day, they have never let me forget my first family meal cheesecake.

*Note: There’s nothing wrong with Sara Lee cheesecake. I’ve enjoyed it many times directly out of the freezer, especially the night before starting a new diet.

This is what the cheesecake should have looked like!

My Best Cheesecake Recipe

Serves: 12


40 oz. Cream Cheese, Softened.

1 ½ cups sugar

3 large eggs

2 t pure vanilla

2 t almond extract

1 cup sour cream

3 T flour


1 ¼ cups crushed vanilla cookies

1 T sugar

1 T butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375º.

Crust:  Melt butter and mix with sugar and cookie crumbs.  Spread on the bottom of a 10” or 12” springform pan.

Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool. Lower the oven temperature to 350º.

Filling:  In a large mixing bowl, on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar together.  Then beat in all the remaining ingredients, adding eggs one at a time, until smooth.  Do not over beat.  Pour into pan and smooth top with rubber spatula.

Bake:  350º for 1 hour, until filling no longer jiggles.  Chill in refrigerator at least 3 hours before removing from pan.

Serves 12.


Toppings:  Serve with fresh strawberries, blueberries, canned apples with cinnamon, cherries, whipped topping, whatever you like!

Crust variations:  Graham cracker, Oreo Cookie Crust, Cinnamon Wafers!!!  Yum.  Whatever you have in your cupboard.

Like chocolate?  Top crust with chocolate chips before adding filling.

PB&J sound good?  Use peanut butter instead of the butter when making the crust.  Then top the cheesecake with strawberry or grape jelly before serving.

Thanksgiving:  Mix canned pumpkin into the filling and flavor with a tablespoon of cinnamon.

Please add your ideas:   ______________________________________