Sunday, December 30, 2012

Surprisingly Kosher: Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joes

It just doesn't seem like anything candy-cane-containing should be kosher. It seems like such a product should contain gelatin, or perhaps tiny crunchy bits of communion wafer. But happily, neither is the case for Trader Joe's amazing and festive Candy Cane Joe-Joes.

These cookies-- still available now at Trader Joe's, but I'd hurry, since they're a "holidays-only" thing-- combine the delightful unhealthy creaminess that sandwich cookie aficionados know and love, with the crunchiness of tiny candy cane pieces. Perfect for snacking on while you sit in front of a roaring fire, or a roaring episode of "Breaking Bad"...whichever.

And yes, they really are kosher, I wouldn't lie to you. See?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pan-Fried Tofu Pilaf

Rice pilaf has a glorious history in many areas where Jews reside, from Eretz Yisrael to the Balkans. Plus, it's delicious, and takes about 5 seconds of actual effort to make. What more do you want? And tofu, while having less of an illustrious Jewish heritage, is healthy, cheap, and also pretty easy to prepare.

Laziness Rating: 1 (uses boxed products, but you actually have to chop, stir, and whatnot)

Category: Pareve

Ingredients that don't require a hechsher:
- Extra-virgin olive oil (make sure you buy extra virgin!)

Ingredients for which you may or may not need a hechsher, depending on your views and whether you use fresh or frozen (more details below):
- Broccoli

Ingredients that do require a hechsher, and recommended brands:
- Tofu (try House Foods organic, if it's available in your area)
- Rice pilaf mix (Near East brand)
- Sriracha (has a hechsher in the U.S)

Stuff you'll need to do the actual cooking:
- Frying pan for the tofu
- Medium/large frying pan or a pot for cooking the rice pilaf
- Sharp knife, to evenly cut the tofu
- Heat-proof spatula for flipping tofu while cooking
- Bowl for washing and microwaving the broccoli
- Optional: salt for making a saltwater solution in which to wash the broccoli, and for sprinkling on the tofu
- A fork and plate, for eating-- because seriously, eating this dish with your hands would just be one step too lazy.

First, open the cupboard and take out your box of rice pilaf. Or maybe you didn't even bother to put it away. You didn't, did you.

In a medium frying pan or saucepan, put 1 3/4 cups water and a teaspoon or so of extra-virgin olive oil. Bring to a boil. Yes, all the way to a boil, don't cheat.

Add the rice pilaf, and seasoning mix packet. It'll look like this:

Stir it, and return to boil. Now turn the heat down to low, and cover the pot. Set your timer for 20 minutes.

While the rice pilaf is cooking, get your tofu ready. First, open the package and rinse off the gross tofu juice, using cold running water. Then, place the block of tofu on a plate and press out the remaining water in it using a paper towel:

When the tofu is nice and de-water-ized, cut it into thin, even slices, around 1/4" thick:

Before you put the tofu on the stove, get started with your broccoli. If you're using fresh broccoli, you want to rinse it and check it carefully for bugs. Some authorities recommend rinsing your broccoli in a saltwater solution. If you are using frozen, two brands that have a hechsher are Birds Eye and Eden-- some people prefer Eden because it's greenhouse-grown, but it's hard to find in some places. So anyway, rinse your broccoli until the water is clear, and make sure that it's delightfully bug-free:

By now, your rice pilaf should be about done. When it's ready, most of the water will be absorbed, and it'll look like this:

Take the rice pilaf off of the heat, and get your tofu started. You want every piece of tofu to be laying flat in the pan, so if you have a small pan, you may need to do this in multiple batches. If using a small pan, put about 1 tsp olive oil in the pan; if a large pan, use 1 tbsp. Coat the pan with the oil, and then place your tofu slices in it. Sprinkle the tops of the tofu slices with a bit of salt.

With heat set to medium, cook your tofu, keeping a close eye on it. When you can see a nice tan color starting to creep up the sides of the slices, it's time to flip it over. When your tofu is done-- probably in around 6-8 minutes-- it should look like this:

(Ok, actually it could look a little better than that. Hopefully yours does).

Now, cook the broccoli. If using frozen: microwave for 3 minutes in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir and check, and microwave 1 to 2 minutes more if needed.

Now, put your food in a pile on the plate and eat it. Oh wait, I forgot the most important step of all: a heaping serving of that most glorious of kosher condiments, Sriracha.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas for the Jews...

It can be a little boring to be a Jew this time of year. Friends and coworkers are off Christmas-ing it up, and we're left sitting in an empty office, or searching in vain for an open coffee shop, or checking once again to see if a Chinese restaurant that's not a festival of ham has magically sprung up in our city, only to find out that the answer is "nope". So, this seemed like the perfect time of year to start a blog.

Who is this blog for? Well, many of us love to keep kosher for many reasons: because it's a mitzvah, because we feel it helps us spiritually, or even just because it's tradition. But if you live in an area with few kosher restaurants-- and if you're pressed for time, or simply aren't a big fan of cooking-- things can be rough. So if you love keeping kosher but aren't up for spending hours every day preparing food, this blog is for you.

One other thing you'll notice about this blog: all recipes will be meat-free. Even if you're not a full-time vegetarian, everyone needs dairy or pareve recipes sometimes, right?

All recipes and product reviews will be rated on a laziness scale, where 0 is "not lazy at all! Actually involves some real cooking," and 5 is "open package, open mouth, insert food."