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Parshat Bamidbar

This week’s Parsha describes the encampment map for all the Shvatim (tribes) of Israel as they journey through Sinai.

Bamidbar (Numbers) 2:2  says: Every man by his flag, shall the children of Israel camp

According to Midrash Rabbah,

Each tribe had its own prince and its flag whose color corresponded to the color of its stone [in Aaron’s breastplate–see Exodus 28:15-21]. It was from the tribes of Israel that kingdoms learned to provide themselves with flags of various colors.

The tribe of Reuben has the ruby and the colour of their flag was red and embroidered with mandrakes. (Bereishit/Genesis 30:14)

Emerald was the stone of Zevulun, and the colour of their flag was white with a ship embroidered on it, a reference to the Pasuk, “Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea” (Gen. 49:13).

For a complete list of the stones and flags of all the Shevatim (tribes) please see the above link.

A lovely insight by Rabbi Yonatan Grossman:

The untamed desert bespeaks a world without boundaries: it is wild, devoid of order and regulation, a place without human habitation, a place where wild animals reign. Here, in the midst of the lack of boundaries that the desert embodies, a marvelous sight reveals itself: six hundred thousand foot soldiers, aside from women and children, journeying by tribes and by clans. It is specifically against the background of the desert that the splendor of the camp of Israel stands out: a nation that creates banners and tribes, that maintains clans and tents of families.

In a region where there are no boundaries, the Torah brings us God’s word; order, harmony, and guidance.

What can I say? It’s a camping Parsha, the weather is finally warming up, and I’ve got camping on my mind. (Hello Brian and Jeannine – are we heading back to Bon Echo this summer?)

Here’s a unique recipe from Candiquik. S’mores (we’ve got camping on the brain here) with a twist.

Parshat Bamidbar S’Mores – so simple and I had a blast making them

And they camped all over the desert, those people

Bamidbar (Numbers) 1:52 The children of Israel shall encamp, each man by his own camp and each man by his division.

So simple:

  • Stick a stick in a marshmallow.
  • Dip in chocolate.
  • Cover with crushed graham crackers.


B’tayavon and have a great Shabbos!





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Parshat Vayeitzei

At the beginning of this Parsha Yakov departs from Beersheva and travels to Haran. He spends the night on the way and has a dream in which a ladder extends from earth to heaven. Angels ascend and descend the ladder. God appears in the dream and promises that Yakov’s progeny will be a great nation.

Here’s a nice vort about these angels. According to the Sefat Emet, the ladder in the dream starts on earth and extends up to heaven. The foot of the ladder is in the physical world but rises to a totally spiritual one. In Pirkei Avot it says that worldly manners precedes Torah. The angels that rise and go down represent different angels. The ones that accompanied Yakov in Israel weren’t the same ones that traveled with him outside Israel. Angels that accompanied Yaakov in Eretz Yisrael are not the same as those outside Israel, just as Shabbat angels differ from those of weekdays. On Friday night we sing Shalom Aleichem, which refers to the changing of the angels.


Genesis 28:12 12. And he dreamed, and behold! a ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to heaven; and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending upon it.

This week’s recipe is about dreams. My mom used to make ‘dream’ squares which I thought would be a fine idea. When I looked for recipes for Yaakov’s dream I discovered a whole array of dream desserts: dream cookies, dream cups, dream bars, and dream puddings. I have no idea why. This one seemed yummy and it really is. This recipe comes straight from the Nestle’s website.

Double Chocolate Chip Dream Cookies


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz pkg) chocolate chips


PREHEAT oven to 375° F.COMBINE flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.BAKE for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are puffed. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
B’tayavon and have a great Shabbos!

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Parshat Emor – May 12, 2012

With apologies for this late posting. My writing is taking up more and more of my time so this blog is sometimes neglected. I’ll try to post next week’s recipe earlier in the week.

In Parshat Emor, three mitzvot (commandments) relate to the counting of the Omer – the seven-week period spanning Pesach (16th of the Hebrew month of Nissan) to Shavuos (6th of Sivan):

  1. the commandment to bring the ‘Omer’ (barley) offering on Pesach
  2. the commandment to bring two (wheat) loaves offering on Shavuos (‘Mincha Chadash’ – new meal offering)
  3. the commandment to count the Omer
We’ve learned already that barley represented animal feed and wheat is human food. When the Israelites left Egypt they had descended 49 levels of ‘Tumah (impurity)’. The 49 days between Pesach and Shavuos represent a daily elevation of the Jewish people from the depths of Tumah to the height of spirituality, manifested by the giving of the Torah at Sinai.
The Omer is a mourning period, for according to the Talmud (Yevamos 62B) 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students died in this period because of their lack of respect and consideration for each other. There are many explanations, but we know that their behaviour contradicts the spiritual elevation that is supposed to be taking during this period, in preparation for receiving the Torah.
Here’s a recipe that commemorates the loaves offered by Bnei Yisrael during the festival of Shavuot – Babka. It’s a lot of steps but sooo worth the effort!

Vayika 23:17: you shall bring bread, two loaves…they shall be of fine flour,and they shall be baked leavened, the first offering to the Lord.


Basic dough:

For the basic dough you can take off part of your Challah dough (2 flour cups worth) if you have a big Challah recipe. If not, this recipe can be easily mixed up in a breadmaker:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon yeast

Place the ingredients in the bread maker in the above order and set to ‘dough’:


This is the hard part. There are a number of ways to go with this but at the very least, this is what you’ll need:

  • 12 oz chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup margarine
Melt margarine and add remainder of ingredients.

Egg Wash:

  • 1 egg

Crumb Topping: (optional)

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup margarine

Melt margarine and add sugar and flour and mix until crumbly.

Directions: (see pictures below)

  • Roll out dough into an approximately 18″ square shape.
  • Brush all four edges with beaten egg.
  • Spread the chocolate filling on the dough, reserving a few tablespoons for later.
  • Roll up the dough jelly-roll style. Squeeze the edges closed.
  • Twist the dough 5 -6 turns.
  • Brush the top with the egg and then sprinkle on (more like pack on carefully) the remainder of the chocolate filling.
  • Fold one side over the other (length-wise)
  • Place in a greased bread pan that’s been lined with parchment paper.
  • Brush egg on top and sprinkle the crumb topping on top.
  • Bake in pre-heated oven (350 degrees) with a piece of foil loosely placed on top for 1/2 hour.
  • Rotate the pan and bake another 20 minutes, with the foil still on.
  • When it’s cool, remove from pan.
  • Try to control yourself!

Spread the chocolate filling on the dough. If you want to be decadent, add 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder also!

Now you’re going to twist it five or six times:

Fold one side over the other and place in pan.

Cover with beaten egg and press the remaining chocolate filling on top.

Bake and enjoy!


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Parshat Vayak’hel-Pekudei

Meet the Sisterhood of the Travelling Freilachs

Alex, Jackie, Channah, and Arielle: the sisterhood of the travelling freilachs

Here are four young women who have all changed their lives.

Three are in public school. One transferred to a Jewish high school. Their journey back to Judaism brought them together and much of that path was centred on Shabbat. (This week’s Parsha opens up with the mitzvah of Shabbos!) They celebrate every Shabbos together, all over the city, in different people’s houses. (I had to book them two months in advance – that’s how popular they are.) Next year they’ll be studying (together) in a seminary in Jerusalem. One day this is going to be a book, because this is one inspiring story.

It’s not an accident, that there’s a theme of FOURS this week.

The double parsha here is almost an identical repeat of the parshas Trumah and Tetzaveh. Four Parshas that deal with the design and construction of the Mishkan. (Sanctuary) But the repetition occurs after a significant event occurs – Eigel Hazahav – the golden calf.

Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky describes the meaning of the difference between the two double parshas. Terumah-Tetzaveh gives instruction for building the Mishkan, while this week’s Parsha recounts the actual construction. Rabbi Sobolofsky writes:

The area of the mishkan endowed with the highest level of kedusha was the kodesh hakodashim (holy of holies) which housed the aron containing the luchos.(tablets) While the aseres hadibros (Ten Commandments) appeared on both the first and second luchos both, the essence of the two sets was different. The first set is described as “v’haluchos maaseh Elokim – the work of Hashem”, whereas the second set was carved out by Moshe Rabbeinu, with only the letters being carved out by Hashem.

This loss of holiness corresponds to the two Batei Mikdashot (Temples).

The first Beis Hamikdash resembled the original plan for the mishkan – present were the shechina, the urim vetumim, and prophecy. It had all the qualities of “maaseh Elokim – the work of Hashem.” On the other hand, the second Beis Hamikdash, devoid of the urim vetumim and nevuah (prophecy), was built by the Jewish people and endowed with sanctity through human effort and fervent prayer that the shechina rest upon it to some degree.

Continuing the theme of four

There are four Shabbatot during the year, which are unrelated to holidays or Rosh Chodesh, but feature two portions. (The Maftir and Haftorah are read from different Parshas). These Shabboses are:

  1. Shekalim
  2. Zachor
  3. Parah
  4. HaChodesh

The first Shabbos after Purim is Shabbat Parah – the Parah Adumah. (red heifer -Bamidbar/Numbers:19)

The ashes of the of the red heifer were used for the purpose of ritual purification before making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Pesach. (Passover). This particular Mitzvah (commandment) is a Chok, meaning that it is practiced on the basis of faith and not logic. Between Moshe and the destruction of the second Temple there were only eight or nine red heifers.

According to Rabbi Frand:

The Be’er Yosef offers a powerful insight. The reason G-d hid the understanding of Parah Adumah from us, is to teach us a vital lesson. The lesson is that there are things in life that are inexplicable. We must learn the lesson that things will happen in life that we will never be able to understand. We will come across things that will be terrible paradoxes, things that have apparently no rhyme and no reason.

In honour of this being Shabbat Parah, I bring you the following recipe… Red Velvet Cake.

Bamidbar/Numbers 19:2 This is the statute of the Torah which God commanded, saying; speak to Bnei Yisroel that they shall take to you a red, perfect cow without a blemish, upon which no yoke was laid.

This one baked and decorated by my daughter Aliza!

Bamidbar/Numbers 19:2 This is the statute of the Torah which God commanded, saying; speak to Bnei Yisroel that they shall take to you a red, perfect cow without a blemish, upon which no yoke was laid.

Red Velvet Cake


  • ½ cup or margarine
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • red food coloring
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa (heaping)
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar


  1. Cream shortening or margarine, sugar and eggs.
  2. Mix the red food colouring and cocoa.
  3. Add to the margarine mixture.
  4. Add soy milk, flour, salt, and vanilla.
  5. Mix soda with vinegar, and add to the batter.
  6. Pour into a greased and floured 8″ cake pans.
  7. Bake at 350°F for 35 -40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.Read more:

Here’s another four in the Parsha:

The Shulchan (table) and Aron (ark) each had four rings on the corner, with which the rods could be threaded through. But the poles were never removed from the rings. Why? To teach that the no matter where the Jewish people travel, the Torah must always be with them.

Here’s a dessert with four rings:

Shemot 37:3 And he cast four golden rings for it upon its four corners, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side.

I used a cookie cutter that was the same size as the dessert cup to cut out the fruit. Four rings for four colours.

Here’s another ring recipe:

Frozen ice rings with fruit.

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Purim – March 8, 2012

For Ashkenazic Jews, Purim’s cuisine features two main staples: hamentaschen and kreplach. The variety is greater among Sephardic Jews. For example, Koloocheh is a Persian Purim cookie in which a walnut and rosewater filling is encased in a buttery cookie dough. Ghouribi are Moroccan sugar cookies, Orejas de Haman, Sephardic hamentaschen.  Sambusak el Tawa is an Iraqi chickpea turnover that represents the ‘secrets’ of the Purim story as well as the vegetarian fare that Esther had to eat in Achashveirosh’s castle in order to maintain her kashrut. Hadgi Badah is another Iraqi Purim cookie that’s made with cardamon and almonds.

I was tempted to cook up a Persian Purim feast to commemorate the community of Esther and Mordechai. I also contemplated branching out to more Sephardic Purim fare. But the fact is that we live in a generation where Ashkenazic food is quickly disappearing. When Purim rolls around the ubiquitous hamentaschen seems to be increasingly seen more than its eaten. After years of making chocolate-filled hamentaschen, chocolate-dipped hamentaschen, reverse-chocolate hamentaschen, and white-chocolate coated hamentaschen, I tried something new today — Meringue Hamentaschen. It was a hit, so I’m posting it.

Purim Recipe #1:

Meringue Hamentaschen

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  1. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper and heat oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
  3. Add sugar gradually, then salt and vanilla.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of meringue ‘batter’ and place on cookie sheet. With the back of a spoon, shape the ‘batter’ into an approximate triangle. With a clean finger, smooth the edges to a sharp triangle.
  5. Place a spoonful of chocolate chips into the middle of the meringue.
  6. Place in oven for ten minutes. Shut off oven and leave the meringues for an hour or so until slightly golden in colour. Remove from oven.
  7. When cooled, drizzle chocolate across the ‘hamentaschen’ and over the centre. Enjoy!



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Parshat Beshalach – February 12, 2012

Note: Both recipes are up – see below.

This week’s Torah portion includes some spectacular moments. Hashem parts the sea for B’nei Yisrael, the sea closes on the pursuing Egyptians, Moshe and Miriam sing a song of praise for G-d with the entire nation, G-d sweetens the waters of Marah, Moshe brings water from a rock, manna rains down every morning, and quails are available every night.

So many miracles. So many recipes.

So little time.

The first one is based on Pasuk, (Shemot 15:24). After three days of wandering in the desert without water they arrive at Marah where B’nai Ysrael complain that they can’t drink the water because it’s bitter.

G-d showed him a tree and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There’s a Chassidic tradition that says, because they — the Children of Israel — were bitter, everything they tasted was bitter to them.

The Zohar describes the tree as  actually being the Tree of Life whereas the Midrash says it was bitter to the point of poisonous. This contradiction is explained by Rabbi Schneerson, the 7th Lubavitcher rebbe as representing the different stages of overcoming evil. Controlling behaviour while still experiencing evil urges is the first step that leads to eliminating these urges and then ultimately channeling them to do good. The tree thrown in the water transforms the water from bad to good, representing G-d’s desire for us to change the physical world to a spiritual one.

Shemot 15:25 God showed him a tree; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet

This recipe is a literal interpretation of Moshe throwing a tree inside the water and transforming it to sweetness.

Lemon Grass Lemonade

  • three stalks of lemon grass, rinsed, checked, and cut in half, lengthwise
  • eight cups water
  • one cup sugar (adjustable to taste)
  • one cup bottled lemon juice
  • one lemon, sliced

Mix ingredients in translucent or clear pitcher, and place in fridge a few hours before serving.  If you can’t get lemon grass, use mint or peppermint as a substitute. The drink will still be lemony and refreshing, and most of all, will have the tree-in-water effect. Add ice right before serving.

Recipe Number 2: Miriam’s Drum

Shemot 15:20. Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances.

According to the Mechilta, Moshe sang and the Israelites sang back to him. Then Miriam, his sister sang to the women and they responded. Why did the women have ‘timbrels’ or ‘drums’ (Hebrew word: ‘Tof’). It was because they were so sure that they would witness God’s miracles. So they took their instruments out of Egypt. I assumed the translation of “Tof” is drum, but I see it also translated as ‘timbrel’ or tambourine. I’ve done the cake as ‘drum’ but it can easily by done as a tambourine by horizontally attaching Oreo-type cookies around the sides of the cake.

Miriam, the prophetess...took a drum in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances.

Miriam’s Drum Cake

(this can be done as a tambourine by horizontally attaching Oreo-type cookies around the sides of the cake.

I’m rushing off to the OLA Super Conference now so I’ll just post the most important part of this recipe. The cake is a basic chocolate one with a butter cream icing on the sides. The top (when done properly, not the way I did it this morning as I’m rushing to get to the conference) is a beautiful and smooth glaze.

  • 1 part margarine
  • 2 parts chocolate chips
  • optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla flavouring

Melt in a microwave for 30 – 60 seconds. Pour on the top of cake and allow to drip down sides.

Have a great Shabbos and Betayavon!


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Parshat Bo – January 28, 2012

In the earlier plagues, Paroah’s heart was hardened. From the sixth plague onward, the Torah states that Hashem hardened Paroah’s heart. The obvious question then, is how can Paroah be punished for his deeds if his free will was removed by Hashem.

There are a number of explanations. Rambam focuses on the removal of free will as a punitive act of G-d.  Rabbi Yosef Edelstein offers the following answer from the Chafetz Chaim:

The Chofetz Chayim explains that Hashem did not, in fact, take away Pharaoh’s free will.  When the Torah says that He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it means, simply, that G-d took away the divine assistance that is usually offered to a person who sincerely wants to repent. In the fifth blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei, which deals with teshuva (repentance), we ask Hashem to “…influence us to return in perfect repentance before You.” (Artscroll Siddur, p. 103; emphasis mine.) In choosing this wording, our Rabbis wanted to teach us that we need help from G-d Himself if we want to achieve complete repentance. By hardening Pharaoh’s heart, Hashem is, in effect, saying to Pharaoh, “If you want to repent, you’ll have to do it on your own.  I withdraw My helping hand from you.” Pharaoh’s free will is not taken away, then; he can still choose to change his ways, and act righteously. But the path will not be so smooth.

This week’s recipe is a nod to Hashem’s act of hardening Paroah’s heart.

A heart-shaped potatonik with a ‘no’ strip on top. Potatoniks are a bit starchier than regular potato kugel. This recipe reminded me of  the potatoniks we used to buy at Moishe’s bakery for Shabbat when we lived in the East Village of Manhattan.  If you live near a dollar store somewhere in Galus, Valentine’s Day has a strange proximity to Parshas Bo. That gives you a good shot at picking up a heart shaped pan for almost nothing at the Dollar Store. Once again – way to go, Dollar Store!

Paroah’s Hardened Heart Kugel

Put 1/4 – 1/3 cup vegetable oil in the pan. Place on the bottom rack of the oven set to 420 F.

  • 5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking power
  1. Chop potatoes into small chunks in food processor with steel knife. Empty potatoes into a bowl of water so they don’t get brown.
  2. Place eggs and onion in food processor and grind until smooth and creamy. Stop the food processor and add salt, pepper, flour with baking powder sprinkled on top.
  3. Process for another five seconds.
  4. Add the potatoes and process just until all the ingredients are mixed. Pour contents into hot pan and spoon some of the extra oil on the sides, to the top of the potatonik. Bake in over for 40 minutes or until it’s brown on top.
  5. Top with a diagonal strip of salami or corned beef that you can cut with a meat knife.
Happy Birthday Dad!
This Parsha is a special one. I just discovered that it was my dad’s bar mitzvah Parsha. (Hello Mordechai Aharon Ben Shneir Zalman HaKohen!) He was able to recite part of his Parsha and the Haftorah when I asked him about it yesterday. His bar mitzvah was at the old Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa. He remembers a Kiddush at their home on Stewart Street right after davening. This took place in 1932. He’s been making wine for almost 70 years now and in recent years has been making delicious liqueurs. Here’s a recipe of one of our favorites:
Delicious Coffee Liqueur (Imitation Kahlua) 
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup instant coffee (or 1/2 cup cocoa powder for chocolate liqueur)
  • 3 cups vodka
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla extract
  1. Boil water.
  2. Add coffee (or cocoa) slowly, to avoid lumps.
  3. Add sugar and boil for an additional five minutes.
  4. Remove from stove. When cooled, add vodka and vanilla.
  5. Mix thoroughly. Bottle and close cap tightly.
  6. Store in a cool dark place for a minimum of two weeks.
Shake well before using. This recipe should make around 40 oz. of 25% alcohol. My dad says not to bother using expensive vodka – it won’t make a difference.
He also says: Enjoy…Ober mit Rachmonos!!

Have a great Shabbos and B’tayavon!

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