Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Boy, Oh Boyiko -- Easy Cheesy Balls


Every Jewish family has their traditional dishes to break the Yom Kippur Fast, which lasts 26 hours from sundown to sundown over 2 days.  Whether it is an Ashkenazi noodle kugel or Sephardi cheese bourekas--dairy and carbs are a running theme!  Boyikos very much embody what Sephardi cooking represents, a journey, an adaptation of the Spanish language, and embodiment of local dishes along the way.

Boyikos are similar to the Levantine Bourekas (a.k.a boreks), which are a flaky pastry with cheese and other savory fillings. However Boyikos have more of a doughy base. The word is derived from the Spanish word for buns--bollos. The -ko or -ka ending is a diminutive found in some Eastern European countries. Boyikos are credited to the Balkan region.

Given that gluten free dough can be tricky, I love to use prepared or easy to mix-up gluten free pizza dough. Recently, I've found a great one in the refrigerated section of Trader Joe's. It's useful not only for pizza, but garlic knots, cinnamon rolls and soft bread sticks. This recipe has 4 ingredients and you don't even need to knead...or properly roll anything out for that matter. It takes about 10 minutes to prep and bakes in 15 minutes. You can prepare it right after the fast or make ahead and reheat for a warm cheesy treat!  

These are my quick approximation of the dish--so apologies to all the traditionalists. You can also "bill" these as bagel bites for the more Ashkenazi inclined (and in all fairness...they are amazing gluten free copycats of Bantam bagel bites).

Note: The recipe calls for an egg wash and sesame seed topping, if you are allergic to either, you can omit both. This recipe works well with onion flakes, poppy seeds or even coarse sea salt as a topping. Just roll dough balls in topping if omitting egg wash. Non-dairy dough mixes like Bob's Red Mill are wonderful for this recipe too.


(Cheesy Dough Balls/Bagel Bites)

1 batch prepared gluten free pizza dough (such as Trader Joe's or Bob's Red Mill mix)

6-ounces of cheese, e.g., chevre, cream cheese, queso fresco or any easily meltable hard cheese (dairy or non-dairy), cut into dice sized cubes

1 egg white, beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Everything But the Bagel Seasoning, or onion flakes, or poppy seeds or coarse sea salt

Pre-heat oven to 425F degrees. Line a non-stick cookie sheet with parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil, set aside.

On a non-stick surface, such as parchment paper or Silipat, roll pizza dough into a 3-inch diameter log. Slice into approximately 12, 1/4-inch thick rounds. Lay an inch apart. Cover with a second sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper. Press flat with the palm of your hands, the bottom of a glass or a rolling pin or wine bottle. 

Place a cheese cube in center of each dough round. Pinch up edges in center. Roll to form a ball and place on prepared cookie sheet. For a more "bagel bite" shape, leave in ball form, or press down gently with the palm of your hand to form a more traditional bun shape. 

Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with topping of your choice.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown on top. Serve warm.

May be wrapped tightly in foil or plastic wrap and frozen. Reheat at 325 degrees, covered loosely with foil.

Yield: 12 dozen

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Singularly Delicious Eggplant Parmigiana


I have fond memories of standing by my mother's kitchen counter, barely tall enough to see over it, but just tall enough to be eye to eye with a plate stacked high with freshly breaded and fried eggplant slices. As they lay stacked up between grease-soaked layers of paper towels, I would swipe 2 or 3, before they made it to the 9 x 13 Pyrex to become encased in layers of sauce and thickly cut mozzarella cheese. I loved my mother's eggplant parmigiana and have not found one I like as much in any restaurant. 

I've found the ones in restaurants are often deep fried (likely), resulting in overly greasy eggplant. Combined with too much cheese this leads to pools of orangey oil surrounding the dish. When making at home, the simple dish can is often considered too much work for people, first slicing, salting and draining eggplant, breading, frying, draining, cooling and then the layering before you get to baking. People tend to like simple when it comes to casseroles. But the taste is sooo worth it! Given my love of oven frying to achieve a clean, crisp crust without the grease--most importantly, without the fuss of frying---I've developed an easy oven fried eggplant. I also have found that it works, and is attractive, well as a single layer, instead of the usual stack of 3 or 4 eggplant rounds.  As such, calorie counts are reduced since people tend to take just a couple of the rounds. Additionally, I like some cheese, but not drowning the dish.

This version is vegan as I skip the eggs, dairy milk and dairy cheese. Of course, it is gluten free! So, it's a satisfying version that meets the allergy and calorie counting needs of our family.

This is a great dish to make ahead and freeze for Shavuos...it's right around the corner!  If you wish to sub dairy milk or mozzarella for the vegan milk and cheese...please do. It is an exact measure substitution, and the cooking time and temperature remains the same.

Single Stack Eggplant Parmigiana

1 medium eggplant

Sea salt

1 3/4 cups gluten free panko (or favorite) breadcrumbs

1/4 cup potato, tapioca or cornstarch

1 teaspoon ground onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground garlic powder

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1/2 teaspoon dried

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup non-dairy milk (e.g., rice, soy, oat)

1 1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce

1 cup non-dairy cheese, such as Daiya Mozzarella Shreds (more to taste)

Slice eggplant into 1/4-inch slices.  Place in a colander and sprinkle with sea salt.  Allow to rest 15 minutes to 1 hour. 

Pre-heat oven to 400F degrees (Convection bake 375F), or pre-heat air fryer to 375F degrees. Spray a non-stick baking pan with non-stick cooking spray (for an air fryer you will spray basket once preheated), set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, toss together panko, starch and spices. Pour milk into another mixing bowl. 

Wipe off eggplant with a dry paper towel. Dip in milk then panko mixture, pressing to coat well with crumbs. Place in a single layer on prepared baking sheet, or in air fryer basket. 

Liberally spray coated eggplant with non-stick cooking spray, or brush with olive oil. Bake in prepared oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden and crunchy. If using air fryer bake for 8 to 10 minutes, turning once.

Remove from oven and top each eggplant round with marinara sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. If using air fryer, first transfer eggplant to a baking pan, suitable for your air fryer, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Lower heat in oven to 375F degrees (350 for air fryer) and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese melts. For air fryer, cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings

 Dairy Cheese Version

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Fry, Fry Away


So the item I had to sit on my hands for this Black Friday--which unfortunately lasted a whole month this year--was an air fryer. Now, I've been bucking the trend on air fryer's for a few years now. If you haven't seen one of these popular items in person, let me fill you in. They are very large and the size of the cooking basket is very small. I tried a friend's in what seemed to be the most popular size, and the basket was adequate for maybe two people. They do have large ones, which are about the size of my microwave. I have very limited counter space, so even the kitchen appliances I use almost weekly like my KitchenAid mixer, Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker) and Crock Pot need to remain stashed elsewhere. And, the elsewhere space is in short supply too. In the past couple of years a better option has emerged-- the air fryer ovens. Essentially, they are toaster ovens with an air fry feature. This seemed reasonable to me, but I replaced my toaster oven not so long ago. Lastly, there is a lid you can buy for the Instant Pot that turns your Instant Pot into an air fryer. The catch is it costs about as much as a dedicated air fryer. The draw of this is you don't need to have an entirely different product taking up space in your kitchen.

When I tested my friend's fryer I made egg rolls, crispy tofu and breaded chicken fingers. What I learned is:

1) It is not oil free. I was surprised by the amount of oil the recipes called for to be brushed on the food.

2) You have to turn the food every few minutes. The egg rolls were the most amazing product of all. But, I wondered if it was worth it just for one amazing dish. Could I buy eggrolls every so often and be just as happy with the end product?

3) See 2 above. For people on special diets tools like an air fryer, which produce food that's hard to find in restaurants as gluten free or allergen free may be worthwhile.

4) As previously mentioned, the basket on the air fryer is small. For a normal family dinner I would have to do many batches.  So although the chicken fingers came out good, they weren't markedly better than when I oven fry a large quantity on a cookie sheet.

5) The tofu came out not terribly different than when I oven fried it, and was a bit more styrofoamy in texture.

Trying to keep the negatives in mind, I survived another Black Friday and Cyber Monday without an air fryer. But, I do love a crispy crunch. What I figured out is that most of the things coming out of the air fryer were similar to my tried and true convection-oven frying method. In fact, many reviewers mention that an air fryer is essentially a convection oven, which uses a fan to circulate heat evenly throughout the oven. 

My tried and true method is cooking spray (or oil) below, cooking spray above and high heat. The general rule is that for convection ovens you set the temperature 25 degrees below the desired temperature. So if the recipe calls for baking the dish at 400F degrees, you will set the convection bake to 375F degrees. If you don't have the convection feature, it's generally fine too. Just make sure the baking tray is set in the middle of the oven and has nothing above it to hinder crisping.

For Chanukah, it's customary to eat foods deep fried in oil to remember the miracle G-d did for the Jews who managed to capture and rededicate the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after it was desecrated by their enemies. They found only one small vial of consecrated oil to light the menorah, but it miraculously lasted for 8 days--the time it was needed to produce new oil.  That generally translates to latkes and donuts in modern times. I personally hate deep frying. I find the smell invasive, the process somewhat scary, but the resulting food delicious albeit tough to digest.  This oven fried smashed potato appetizer is a great substitute for the heavier, traditional latke. Bonus, it also requires no grating of the potatoes!  I pair it with tzatziki a Greek yogurt and cucumber dip, which cuts the oily taste with a nice hit of acid from the yogurt and lemon juice.

So whether you fry, air fry, or oven fry, enjoy your special holiday foods with those that are special to you.

You may use plain non-dairy yogurt or non-dairy sour cream, such as Tofutti brand, as a substitute for the Greek yogurt in this recipe. If you substitute a regular cucumber for the cucumbers called for in this recipe, deseed before chopping.  An air fryer may be used instead of the oven cooking method. Follow your manufacturer's recommended settings for french fries, and adjust according to doneness of potatoes. This is an attractive dish as an hors d'oeuvres or an appetizer.

Easy Crispy Smashed Potatoes and Tzatziki Appetizer

12 small Yukon Gold or New potatoes

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste


2 Persian cucumbers (or 1/2 an English cucumber), unpeeled, diced

Juice of 1/2 a lemon (about 1-1/2 Tbsp.), more to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh, chopped dill, additional to garnish

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (or non-dairy sour cream or plain yogurt)

sea salt and black pepper, to taste

For Potatoes:

Pre-heat convection oven to 425F degrees (if using a regular oven, set at 450F degrees).  Spray a non-stick cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

Wash and dry potatoes. Poke in several places with a fork. Set on a microwave safe plate and cook on high for 4-5 minutes until soft. If your microwave has a "Potato" button, use that.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Transfer potatoes to a flat surface between two sheets of parchment paper or foil. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, or a frying pan, flatten each potato to about a 1/4 inch thickness. Transfer to prepared cookie sheet using a spatula. 

Mix together olive oil, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Brush on top of potatoes.  

Bake in pre-heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes until tops appear golden brown and crisp. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to serving tray.

For Tzatziki:

Mix together all the ingredients for tzatziki and place in a plastic container or covered bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve:

Arrange potatoes on serving plate. Top with a dollop of tzatziki. Garnish with dill sprig.

Yield: 1 dozen


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Simply Thankful


So I realized that we haven't been home for Thanksgiving since another pandemic, Swine Flu. At that time my egg allergic child, who could not get the vaccine, contracted the virus. It was almost a non-issue for most families in the United States, as there was thank G-d an available vaccine. When Rosie contracted it, she was still a toodling toddler, and of course to say I was "alarmed" is a gross understatement. It turned out to not be as bad as some colds she's had. Unfortunately, Covid hasn't been so kind to millions worldwide.  For many, their lives became unexpectedly complicated this year, and for some almost unbearable. 

I have always found the going around the table saying what we are thankful for to be kind of corny and cringy, as it's very personal. But, this year, although I'm reluctant to say that anything good has come out of a situation where over a quarter of a million of our countrymen have died, I have noted a few things in the "good" category (besides the many blessings we experience daily K"H): 

*The child whose specialty was melted soy cheese on a rice cake has learned to cook---and well.

*I was reminded how hard our teachers work to prepare and lead their classes, by actually hearing my kids classes.

*As an introvert who values alone time, I learned I can have some equilibrium with everyone home.

*My children learned how to clean for Passover because they were zooming at home in the weeks leading up to it, and I had no cleaning help. 

*I learned I could not have a breakdown in the above situation.

*My mother broadened her computer skills thanks to her social activities turning to zoom.

*The child who often misses the school bus can now do her classes at home.

*My family has recognized and encouraged my writing endeavors due to the many letters to the editor I've written, and have had printed, on Covid related issues.

*People have gained a broader understanding of what it's like to be alone on holidays, etc., and perhaps relate to those who are without family.

I encourage you to reflect on the good that may have come out of your pandemic experience.

It's very easy for those who have a family unit, or social pod, to downsize and "keep it tight", as our Governor has asked of us. But, it's for those sitting alone that I feel a pain in my heart. I hope they find solace in either a phone call, zoom, favorite movie, pet or comforting holiday food. Keeping it simple isn't bad as long as we are at peace with the situation within ourselves. I'm making a very basic pumpkin pie---the Libby's back of the can recipe. After trying many different more gourmet recipes over the years, I've always come back to the simplest recipe as my favorite. For the easiest crust, next to store bought, try this recipe. Enjoy, and may there be better days ahead.

Check out my pie making tips on youtube.com.

I have adapted the recipe to be dairy free by substituting canned, full fat coconut milk, and I used a frozen Gluten Free crust. If you wish to make your own crust, you can use this very easy foolproof recipe. For an egg free version, substituting a 1/4 cup silken tofu for each egg or an equivalent egg substitute is the best option.

Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie

by Nestle Tollhouse


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Easy Peasy Lemon Cheesy Muffins

13 Research Based Health Benefits Of Lemons

If you have some cottage cheesy,
and you want a recipe that's easy.
Try these muffins so lemony. 
Your guest will think they're heavenly!

Cottage Cheese Is the New Greek Yogurt - The AtlanticAs usual, I'm pressed for time before the upcoming holiday of Shavuos, therefore my quippy and to the point blog post. It's traditional to eat dairy food on Shavuos for several reasons, which Chabad.org does a better job of explaining then me (click on link). This easy recipe is perfect for a snack or as a side dish to a big green salad on the holiday.

I used the "Cottage Cheese-Dill Bread" recipe from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen as a jumping off point for this recipe.

Easy Peasy Lemon Cheesy Muffins

non-stick cooking spray
1 cup cottage cheese (preferably whipped)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar (for a sweeter muffin use 1 cup)
Juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups all purpose gluten free flour blend (with xanthan gum)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray (you may line with paper cupcake cups if you like). Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together first 5 ingredients. Add sugar, lemon and lemon zest; stir until well combined.

Add dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

Spoon into muffin cups filling 3/4 full.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until no longer wet in the middle.

Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 1 dozen. May be frozen.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Pickle Chicken


Is it a trick or a treat? When you find a surprise flavor or hidden ingredient in a dish are you pleased or peeved?  Given all the hype about chicken sandwiches lately, I've been wanting to try a copycat of some of the more popular fast food items, but found the obstacles great and the need for many subs due to my family's food allergies (i.e. soy "buttermilk", GF flour), although I'm generally not daunted by such things. But along the way of my chicken recipe search, I came across a trend of brining the chicken in pickle juice! "Eww" or "Ohh"...you decide.
Image result for pickle jar
After the pickles were all eaten in a medium sized jar (which took about 1 day in my house), I stuck the leftover brine in the fridge until I was ready to cook my chicken later in the week. A great sale on chicken legs dictated the cut of chicken I would use. I decided to keep it simple and just used pickle juice and a about a tablespoon of agave nectar, to take the edge of the acidity of the brine, to marinate the chicken. I marinated it overnight, then crumb coated with GF panko and rice crumbs for a majorly crunchy coating. I prefer to oven fry my chicken (and many other things), it's simpler, less messy and healthier. It yielded  a perfectly browned and crispy coating!

But, the proof is in the eating. After the initial crunch of the coating, I was gifted with one of the most tender pieces of baked chicken I ever sank my teeth into. The brining really did the trick to soften the meat.  The taste was  a surprise. To me it tasted like a chicken or turkey sandwich with pickles on it, which I love!  To others who tasted it, they couldn't quite place the taste at first and then they reconciled that it looked like one thing and tasted like another.

We decided that these would work great with pickle strips and a creamy dip like ranch or creamy jalapeno. The dish isn't hot spicy, but rather has a bright "zingy" flavor. The type of pickle juice you use will affect the dish too. I don't recommend using a too sweet variety like bread and butter, but dill or half sour would work well.  Overall, this chicken dish is a great addition to the plethora of pickle flavored foods from potato chips to ice cream.

As mentioned above, you can use any cut of chicken and any type of gluten free bread crumbs. To pump up your pickly flavor, you might want to try pickle flavored potato chips crumbled up in place of some of the bread crumbs. 
Pickle Chicken

1 chicken cut into 1/8ths (or equivalent amount of other cuts of chicken)
Juice from a 32 ounce jar of pickles (can be less, as it just needs to cover chicken)
1 Tablespoon agave nectar or honey
2 cups gluten free panko or favorite bread crumbs
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon spicy paprika
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Sea salt, to taste
non-stick cooking spray

Place chicken in a non-reactive bowl or baking dish (like pyrex) or a large ziploc. 

Mix together the pickle juice and agave or honey and pour over chicken to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or lid, and refrigerate 8 hours to overnight, turning midway through marinating time.

Place panko and spices in a paper or plastic bag, big enough to hold a piece of chicken. Shake to combine.  Spray a non-stick baking pan with cooking spray. 

Drain pickle juice from chicken and discard. Put chicken pieces in bag of crumbs one at a time, and shake well to coat. Place chicken on baking pan. Generously spray top of chicken with cooking spray.

Bake at 375F (for whole pieces) for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (or until a meat thermometer reaches the correct temperature for doneness). 350F for half an hour for chicken cutlets, until they are no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

Yield: 6 servings

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Holy Zeppole!


When I was a child we lived near a very Italian neighborhood. I recall their annual fairs where we could enjoy a ferris wheel ride, carnival games and the smell of frying zeppole dusted in powdered sugar that seemed to be everywhere.

For Chanukah, when Jews traditionally eat fried food, my neighbor's daughter will usually show up at our door with a plate of fresh sfenj, the Moroccan equivalent of a zeppole. They are always fresh and tempting, but neither Lillie nor Rosie could partake b/c of the wheat and eggs (or so I thought). Then this past year, I came across a sfenj recipe with no eggs! I thought I discovered something new. After some research and discussion with me neighbor, I found that traditionally sfenj doesn't have eggs. So I reverse engineered the recipe to make a gluten and dairy free version and lo and behold they were lovely.  I felt the addition of seltzer water, citrus flavor gave the lift much needed in an egg free dough, but also the citrusy hint so common in Italian desserts.

What I discovered, in a very Proustian moment, was that my kitchen smelled like those long ago Italian fairs, and the sfenj was reminiscnet of zeppole in taste and appearance. Further digging found that would be the case.  The recipes were near identical, and the end product certainly so.

With Mardi Gras coming up this week, and fried goodies abounding, I'd like to share this recipe. For whatever religious holiday you observe, or non at all, these zeppole/sfenj/fried dough beauties are delightful for dessert or brunch. Check out the "How To" video on You Tube below.

You can substitute granulated sugar mixed with cinnamon for the powdered sugar, or drizzle with melted chocolate. A favorite restaurant dessert in the past few years is zeppole with several dipping sauces like raspberry, chocolate and caramel.

Gluten Free Vegan Zeppole (Sfenj)

¼ cup warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons (1 packet) powdered yeast
2 tablespoons granulated Sugar (up to a ¼ cup may be added for a sweeter dough)
3 cups All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend with xanthan Gum (such as Bob’s Red Mill 1-       to-1 GF Flour or King Arthur Brand)
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups seltzer (plain or lemon or orange flavored)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Canola or favorite vegetable oil for frying (about a half-gallon)
Powdered Sugar (optional)

In a large mixing bowl whisk together with a fork warm water, yeast and sugar. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until bubbles appear.

Add flour, salt, seltzer, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat on medium heat or mix with a large wooden spoon, or your hands, until very well combined.

Cover and set aside for 3 hours. They dough should about double in size.

Heat oil in a large pot or wok to 375 F degrees. Put a piece of carrot (optional) in heated oil to keep from over browning.   Scoop up batter with a soup spoon or 1/8 cup measure. Using another spoon, shape into a mound and transfer to oil. Fry about 4 sfenj at a time. Fry for about 3-4 minutes per side, until deep, golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack set on top of a cookie sheet to cool for a few minutes.  Toss in powdered sugar or drizzle with honey and serve.

Yield: About 12