Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kasha Varnishkas (A.K.A Kasha with Bowties)

Is there even a kasha?  It's
Kasha Varnishkas!!
When I was growing up my paternal grandparents lived in the Logan Square Chicago neighborhood, about 20 minutes from where I lived in West Rogers Park.  They lived in a two bedroom apartment with a small kitchen, and a smaller enclosed porch where my grandfather would relax after a hard day’s work, watching the TV that my father, as a teenager, built for him.   Growing up, what my father’s family lacked in monetary wealth was more than made up for in the wealth of a close family.  My father and his two brothers had no choice but to be close – they all shared one bed!  My Bubbie was a short woman, probably less than 5 feet tall, but what she lacked in height she certainly made up for in the stature of her personality – she was a feisty, strong, independent, energetic woman.  Our family laughs when we recall the stories of her chasing her large sons around the apartment and under the bed threatening them with a broom!!

When my grandfather passed away, right around the time I was in High School,  my grandmother moved into our neighborhood.  Because she lived so close by, I was blessed to be able to visit her every Shabbat afternoon.  We would sit and drink a glass of tea out of Yahrtziet (memorial) glasses, nosh on her special “S” Cookies, and she would tell me stories about “the old days”.  I learned a lot about my father and his family, and about my grandmother’s life growing up in the Ukraine.  My paternal Bubbie also taught me to cook simple, but delicious, Eastern European dishes.  One of my favorites was Kasha Varnishkas, or Kasha with Bowties.  I’m sure that you have seen boxed Kasha, or buckwheat groats, on the shelves in the grocery store.  It comes in a variety of granulations, but for this recipe my Bubbie’s Kasha uses the coarsely ground version.  My Bubbie used to fry up an onion, I’m sure she fried it chicken fat (what else?), until it was golden brown.  Then she would add the Kasha, egg, and chicken stock and let it cook until all the liquid was absorbed.  She would add cooked bowtie pasta for the traditional Kasha Varnishkas.  I remember how good it tasted!   Kasha itself is a really healthy grain, it’s high in fiber, nearly fat free, and is shown to lower cholesterol and blood glucose (at least according to the Wolffs Kasha website!).  Also according to the Wolff’s Kasha website, it’s Kasha is gluten free, so the GFE (Gluten Free Eater) can enjoy this recipe too by just substituting gluten-free bowtie pasta! The version that I make for my family is even healthier than my Bubbies version – no chicken fat found here – but the recipe is essentially still the same:  fried onions, toasted Kasha and stock.  I also add a clove of minced garlic for a little more flavor, lowfat vegetable stock, and tri-color bowtie pasta instead of plain white for a little colorful pizzaz!  It’s “old school” meets “new school”…my favorite kind of recipe!!

I love making this recipe for my family because it gives me the perfect opportunity to pass on to my children a part of their heritage, to talk about my Bubbie, her life, and special family stories.  There’s a little bit of history in every bite of Kasha!!


1          large                 onion, diced
1                                  clove garlic, minced (or one frozen cube crushed garic)
1          tablespoon        extra virgin olive oil
2          cup                   coarse Kasha  
2          large                 eggs, lightly beaten
1          tablespoon        onion soup mix, or 1 ½ teaspoons salt (optional)
4          cups                 water or chicken/vegetable stock

1          pound               bowtie noodles
2          teaspoons         salt
1          tablespoon        olive oil

  1. If using chicken or vegetable stock instead of water omit the onion soup mix and salt.
  2. I use tri-color bowtie noodles to add color to the dish, although white ones are more traditional.

Prepare noodles according to package directions, adding 2 teaspoons salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil to the cooking water. 

In a large skillet, heat the tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic, and sauté until the onion is browned.  Add Kasha and stir to combine.   Pour eggs over the Kasha and quickly stir to coat.  Continue to stir the Kasha until completely dried and toasted.  Add stock.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 8-11 minutes until liquid is completely absorbed.  Fluff with a fork.  Stir in bowties and onion soup mix (if using).  Serve warm.

All the ingredients...version #1 
 All the ingredients...version #2 
(this is the one I made)
Sauté onions until browned...
Add Kasha & egg...
then stir until toasted!
Add the stock and cook until
all the liquid is absorbed...
Hooray!  It's Kasha Varnishkas...
just like Bubbie made!!

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These recipes are for sole, personal use of visitors to Sharon Matten -Edible Experience Kosher Everyday. Edible Experience Kosher Everyday recipes are for your enjoyment but are not to be posted or reprinted without express permission from Sharon Matten. Thank you!!

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Crunchy Heartland Salad

A crunchy taste of the Midwest!
This past week our family was able to get away for a few days to Lake of the Ozark, Missouri.  Lake of the Ozark is about 7 ½ hours southwest of Chicago (unless you take a detour to the Kosher Krispy Kreme donut store in St. Louis…the extra hour detour is definitely worth it!).  The drive is through the heartland of the US, miles and miles of Midwest farmland.  Corn growing on the right, soybeans growing on the left.  Soybeans on the right, corn on the left.  Corn on the right and left…you get the idea. The Midwest is one of the primary suppliers of corn and soy worldwide, and driving through Illinois and Missouri you can see why.  We also spotted some sunflower fields which were a sunny burst of color amidst the blanket of green.  

Corn on the left...
Soybeans on the right...

Soybeans on the left!
Corn on the right!

Additionally, we saw a lot of livestock – cows, horses, and goats, grazing happily in the summer sun, and made sure to shout “COW!” every time we saw one (yes, we did shout “HORSE” and “GOAT” too).  With so much time in the car, and nothing but miles and miles of corn and soybeans as far as the eye could see, it shouldn’t be shocking that my husband and I started to talk about possible recipes that would incorporate all the crops that are harvested in the Midwest.  The recipe would include corn, and soybeans (a.k.a in fancier circles as edamame) of course, but could also include some of the other crops we saw like sunflowers.  We figured that some sort of salad could incorporate all of those healthy ingredients, in a colorful and delicious way – and so Crunchy Hearland Salad was born.  (No fish in the recipe because all the fish we caught when we went fishing on the trip were too small to keep!)  You can even top the recipe with some tangy feta cheese, made from either cow or goat milk (COW!).  

So that's where Feta comes from...

This recipe is super simple to make. You just go to the nearest corn, soybean and sunflower farm, pick what you need for the recipe, mix with the other ingredients and serve to your friends and family.  Ok, so it’s even easier than that, with frozen corn and edamame, vegetable oil (which is really soybean oil), scallions that I grow in the backyard (or that you can buy at the store), toasted sunflower seeds, a little vinegar, and ramen noodle soup mix all tossed together in a bowl.  It’s incredibly crunchy and yummy.  We also came up with the idea of using cooked orzo pasta with the corn, edamame, and sunflower seeds and making a fresh “pesto” with basil, parsley, garlic and a little soybean oil (sticking to the Midwest theme), but given the fact that we got back and found my poor basil and parsley didn’t survive the lack of tlc while we were gone, that version will have to wait for a later update.  

Now if I only had a good recipe using Krispy Kreme donuts…I guess I’ll just have to sample them all to come up with a good one!  Sigh…

No fish tale here...too small -
back into the water...even the bigger one!!
(BTW, it was 4 of 5!)
16        ounces frozen   corn niblets, defrosted
12        ounces              frozen shelled edamame, defrosted
½         cup                   toasted and salted sunflower seeds
2          tablespoons      vegetable (soybean) oil
1          tablespoon        rice vinegar
2                                  green onions, sliced diagonally
2          packages          oriental style ramen noodle soup mix
½         cup                   feta cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 350° F
Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  Set aside.  Open the ramen noodle soup mixes and remove the seasoning packets.  Place the ramen noodles on the prepared cookie sheet, then break into small pieces.  Toast in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes until the noodles are crisped. 
Place the corn, edamame, sunflower seeds, and green onions in a large bowl.  Toss in the vegetable oil, rice vinegar and contents of the two seasoning packets making sure to evenly coat the vegetables, then add the toasted ramen noodles and toss to evenly distribute.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.  Serve topped with feta (optional) for a complete Midwest experience!
  1. You can make this salad in advance, just don’t add the toasted ramen noodles until 30 minutes before serving.
  2. Alternate method #1: Use the same amount of vegetable oil, corn, edamame, and sunflower seeds.  Add ½ red onion, finely diced, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, chicken or vegetable flavored ramen noodle soup mix.  Proceed as directed above.
  3. Alternate method #2:  Cook 16 ounces of orzo according to package directions.  Drain and cool.  Blend ½ cup basil, ½ cup parsley, and 2 cloves garlic, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional), and ¼ cup vegetable oil in a food processor.  Combine corn, edamame, and sunflower seeds in a bowl.  Stir in orzo until thoroughly combined.  Toss in blended basil mixture until orzo is completely coated.  Served chilled.
 All the ingredients...
Salad all mixed together in a bowl! 
SO yummy topped with Feta!

Don't forget to get your Krispy Kremes hot...look for the light!

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These recipes are for sole, personal use of visitors to Sharon Matten -Edible Experience Kosher Everyday. Edible Experience Kosher Everyday recipes are for your enjoyment but are not to be posted or reprinted without express permission from Sharon Matten. Thank you!!

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PLEASE vote early and often!
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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Plum Kuchen

Plum Kuchen - looks like it
came from a magazine....
Nearly every newspaper ad, and store email advertisement are headlined with “Back to School Sales”!  The PTA back to school committees are hard at work planning for the new school year, and we’re all starting to get our kid’s school supplies ready for the start of school just a few short weeks away.  Where did the summer go?  Wait, I know what happened…I blinked…and summer flew by while my eyes were closed! 

One of the back to school tasks we parents have (for those of you yet to be parents you can live vicariously through me) is getting in those ten thousand sheets of back to school forms.  Many of them are important medical forms which require us to have our children on the expedited appointment list because we didn’t get them in to see the doctor during the year!  This also generally means long waits in the doctors’ waiting room, while the doctor sees the children of other procrastinating parents!  Now most people might see the need to kill time as a down side to a doctors’ visit...not me!  As long as I don’t have another urgent appointment, I love waiting in doctors’ waiting rooms (please don’t tell them that…even though I happen to like being there I still have other things I could be doing)!  The reason is because I get to read all the magazines that I don’t subscribe to at home.  I don’t mean Golf Digest, or Modern Undertaker, I’m talking about magazines like Rachael Ray, Cooking Light, Family Fun, and Good Housekeeping – magazines that have great articles and especially great recipes!   I always manage to find the best recipes in the magazines I read while waiting for appointments.  I think the receptionists hide when they see me because I’m the crazy patient that begs them “Can you make a copy of just this one recipe…please!? Doesn’t it look SO good?!”   The better offices have more current magazines…those are the best.  You can find awesome recipes using fresh seasonal ingredients.   I was recently at the eye doctor with my daughter and found an amazing recipe for Plum Kuchen in the July 2011 edition of Cooking Light Magazine.  A Plum Kuchen is just a round coffee cake baked with tons of fresh plums on top.  I love the fact that it uses a rainbow of different colored fresh plums.  It caught my eye because it was just so pretty!  Additionally,  I was excited about this recipe because I got to use my pastry cutter gadget, which normally doesn’t get a ton of use.  The Plum Kuchen also has some incredibly interesting spices which blend deliciously in this cake.  Even though this recipe came from Cooking Light, I made it even lighter.  I cut the amount of margarine in the recipe by nearly half, and also cut the amount of sugar.  It’s a great breakfast cake with your morning coffee or tea.  It just tastes incredibly fresh!

My cool pastry cutter tool!
Although school is just a few short weeks away, we may try to squeeze in a short family vacation to a place that’s a driveable distance away.  Here in the Midwest we may even find some farm stands along the way…how fun would that be?!!  I’ll let you know what I find…

For those of you that are trying to figure out what to make while on vacation take a look at my past blog Cooking Kosher Vacation Style for fun and yummy recipes you can make while on the road!

1 ½      cups                 all-purpose flour
2          tablespoons      sugar
2          tablespoons      brown sugar
1          teaspoon          baking powder
¼         teaspoon          salt
1/8       teaspoon          ground cardamom
4          tablespoons      margarine
½         cup                   soy milk
½         teaspoon          pure vanilla extract
1          large                 egg
                                    Non-stick vegetable spray
1 ½      pounds             plums, multi colored, pitted, and
                                    cut into quarters (I cut the reallylarge ones into 8ths)
1          teaspoon          grated lemon rind
¼         teaspoon          ground allspice
½         cup                   sugar (original recipe calls for 2/3 cup)
1/8       teaspoon          salt

Preheat oven to 425° F.  Spray a 9” springform pan with non-stick vegetable spray, then line with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamom in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Cut in 4 tablespoons margarine with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles a coarse meal.

Combine soy milk, vanilla, and egg in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add milk mixture to flour mixture, and stir until just combined.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread with an offset or regular spatula until evenly distributed.  Arrange plums in a circular pattern over the batter.

For the topping, combine lemon rind, allspice, sugar, and salt in a small bowl.  Evenly sprinkle over the top of the plums.  Generously spray the cake with non-stick vegetable spray.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until browned and bubbling.  Cool in pan 1 hour on a wire rack.  Cut into wedges and serve to excited family and friends!

Original recipe can be found on the Cooking Light website: Cooking Light Plum Kuchen

The ingredients...
 This is what a "coarse meal" looks like:
Evenly spread the batter in the pan...
Fresh, colorful, juicy, sliced plums... 
so pretty!
Place the plums in a circular pattern
on the batter...
Make the sugary topping...
Sprinkle the sugar on the plums...
My version of the Plum Kuchen...
sooooo yummy!!
and..."It tastes as good as it looks!"

Look for additional information about Edible Experience Kosher Everyday at,,
 or on Facebook at Edible Experience by Sharon Matten.

These recipes are for sole, personal use of visitors to Sharon Matten -Edible Experience Kosher Everyday. Edible Experience Kosher Everyday recipes are for your enjoyment but are not to be posted or reprinted without express permission from Sharon Matten. Thank you!!