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Golden Potatoes with Garlic Chive Butter

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11/26/2014

Golden Potatoes with Garlic Chive Butter photo 1

You know how sometimes there are dishes that conjure up memories buried somewhere deep inside you? These potatoes do that for me.

These little perfect golden beauties are not new to my blog. They have been posted on my blog since I started blogging oh so very long ago…when my blog was here, complete with horrible pictures and all. I have come a long way since 2008.

That was also my very first year living in the house with the hubs. And that was the year I decided to undertake Thanksgiving for 20 people at our brand new house …

I started planning my menu a month in advance. Trying to figure out the best turkey (mine is still the best, by the way), the ultimate sides and the most unique potatoes. Hubs thought that no table is complete without a potato dish. How Russian of him.

Truth be told, I had to agree. But it could not just be any potato, it had to be gloriously delicious and unique, and these were most definitely them …

It was my mother-in-law that introduced me to these golden beauties. We happened to be at her house for one of the High Holidays when I noticed her removing the most gorgeous golden puffs out of the oven. They were resting right on the racks. “Strange,” I thought, and made a mental note to buy the woman some baking sheets, poor thing.

And then she brought over little ramekins of fragrant and warm garlic butter. My brother-in-law immediately grabbed two of them for himself and started dipping his bread into it, chomping down loudly and smacking his lips out of pure enjoyment after each bite. No he is not a toddler, he’s in his 30s.

His mom came by toting a platter of those beautiful little puffs and smacked my brother-in-law on the back of his head. “That’s not what the butter is for!” And she immediately placed three of these golden puffs on his plate. “Here, dip these into the butter.”

To say that he was happy was an understatement. He continued chomping away on the golden puffs and raised a few toasts to his mom’s golden hands, exclaiming that this is the only thing he needs to eat that night. I begged to differ. And we began one of our many arguments of the night. We both loved to argue …sometimes over food, sometimes over movies, always ending in a good laugh or me smacking him upside the head.

As we argued I proceeded to take one of these puffs and dipped them into the warm garlic butter. And I stopped dead in my tracks.

These weren’t puffs! They were potatoes! OMG … these round little golden nuggets were potatoes! And combined with that garlic butter … they were magic.

Golden Potatoes with Garlic Chive Butter photo 2

“Ella, there are potatoes?” I asked my mother-in-law.

“Da,” she said simply, with a proud smile on her face. “Amazing aren’t they?”

I am rarely speechless, but I was. How does this happen without deep frying them? What could possibly happen to make these tiny balls of tater sunshine? I stared at it in my head, rotating it around to inspect for any secrets. And as if reading my mind, my mother in law goes, “Salt, the secret is salt.”

Funny, I didn’t see any salt on them … well, with the exception of the salt that I had just doused them in.

She then explained that you simply parboil the potatoes in very salted water. Once they are fork tender, you pour them right over your baking rack from the oven and stick them into the oven until they are golden and deliciously crispy, about 20 minutes.

Naturally, I went and created these for Thanksgiving and they were so perfect, so elegant, so gone. Seriously, I think I made at least 40 for 20 people and there was not 1 left. Not one. I served them as an app and my family just devoured them, dipping them into my glorious chive and garlic butter, begging for more.

The coolest thing about this recipe is that you can make it ahead of time. I boiled these babies up a few hours before service, drained them, and left them in a pot covered with a towel so they stayed warm and moist. Then, once I was almost ready for the course, I placed them onto the oven rack and baked them off at 450 degrees.  

They really were perfection, and no one you serve will know how very easy they are.

Golden Potatoes with Garlic Chive Butter photo 3

Golden Potatoes with Garlic Chive Butter
From Girl and the Kitchen

For the Potatoes

1.5 pounds small-medium white potatoes or Yukon Golds, NOT red potatoes (just make sure that they do not fall through your racks) 
1 tbsp kosher salt 
1 gallon of water

For the Garlic and Chive Butter Dip

1 stick of butter 
4 cloves of garlic, minced 
3 chives, finely sliced 
1 pinch of red pepper flakes 
Salt and pepper

Instructions

1. Take out two of your racks from the oven and THEN preheat it to 450 degrees.

2. Peel the potatoes and make sure they are no smaller than a golf ball and no bigger than a small tennis ball.

3. Place the potatoes in a pot full of water and for every gallon of water use 1 tablespoon of Kosher Salt. The salt is why the potatoes brown so beautifully in the oven , so make sure you put it in

4. As soon as the potatoes reach a boil, dump them into a colander and then line them up on the racks. (This was the reason not to peel them too small, we don’t want them falling through the racks.)

5. Place racks CAREFULLY back into the oven into the oven for about 15-20 minutes.

6. While the potatoes are roasting, place butter, garlic, chives and seasonings into a small pot.

7. Over low heat, allow the butter to melt slowly and let all the flavors infuse into the butter. This should take about 5 minutes.

8. Once the potatoes are golden brown, remove and serve immediately with the garlic butter dip.

9. Please note, if you are making these ahead of time, just take them out of the oven once they are ready and let them stay on the racks. Right before service, stick them back in the oven and allow them to crisp up again and they will be ready for you!  

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The Value of 140 Characters

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11/25/2014

The Value of 140 Characters photo

I tend to believe that there are lessons to be learned in the world, and that most of them eventually connect within Jewish life. This is even the case in the social media world.

Twitter, for example, is great for getting the word out when you have some earth-shattering news to spread or pearls of wisdom to share. The only challenge is getting that message to fit into 140 little characters. The result, as most of us know, is that we either end up not saying everything we want to say or we throw grammar out the window. But what I totally like about Twitter is that it really forces me to think about exactly what I want to say.

There was a Jewish leader who lived in Poland named Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan (1838-1933). He was famously known as the ”Chofetz Chaim,” which means “seeker of life.” This is because one of the many books he authored was a called Chofetz Chaim. It's a digest of laws of speech and gossip or, in Hebrew, lashon hara.

During his lifetime, the Chofetz Chaim was all about teaching people why Judaism is against using words to harm others. He even had some pretty impressing sayings like, “Once you speak lashon hara about someone it is as difficult to take those words back as it to collect the feathers from a pillow that have blown in the wind.” When the telegraph was invented and he learned people were charged by the letter, he observed that the machine will help people understand the cost of what they say (no pun intended).

This brings me back to the value of words. Back when cell phone plans only charged per text message (thank God for unlimited texting) I understood the “cost” of a message in literal terms. Having to conform to Twitter's rule of 140 characters helps me be mindful of what I say, how I say it, and even the responsibility (or consequences) of spreading it.

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Knowledge, Gratitude and the Philtrum

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11/24/2014

Five Aspects of Parenthood I Didn’t See Coming photo 2

The groove in the middle of a human’s upper lip is called the infranasal depression, or a philtrum. There is a Jewish myth, stemming from the Talmud (Niddah 30B) that explains the infranasal depression’s origin as follows:

When a baby is in the womb, he/she learns the entire Torah from start to finish. Upon seeing light for the first time at the moment of birth, an angel comes down, taps the baby on the mouth, causing the baby to forget everything that was learned. The tap is the cause of the infranasal depression. According to the legend, Jews are urged to spend the rest of their lives trying to learn all the Torah that was forgotten at birth.

This past summer, my wife and I were blessed to welcome our son into the world. Like any baby, he was born, seemingly helpless, without any knowledge of anything, Torah or otherwise. In an effort to be the best parents we can be, we naturally tried to care and protect him. We certainly comfort him when he is in distress and love him for the special person he is. We also have already begun teaching him everything we have learned, know and love about life, including Jewish life.

Granted, as a child that is not even six months old, he is not spouting Torah texts and Talmud tractates just yet. At the same time, he has been hearing the songs and prayers at home and in synagogue, chewing on holiday-themed board books, and accepting our blessing for children every Friday night since he was born. We are doing our best to lay the foundation for him to pursue a lifetime of Jewish learning.

Over the course of my lifetime, my parents have probably taught me more than anyone else I know. They were each instrumental in laying the foundation for me to take in a world of Torah knowledge. I owe a lot of what I know about what it means to be Jewish to them. As I celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I wanted to take a moment and thank my parents. Thanksgiving is not a Jewish holiday, per say, but I think we can all agree that gratitude is an important Jewish value. I have the deepest gratitude for what I have learned from them and hope to be as good a teacher for my children.

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This post may or may not have been written in the shower

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11/21/2014

This post may or may not have been written in the shower photo 1

Though I’m sitting here at my computer, I very well could have written this blog post from the shower.

For my birthday this year, I received a unique and amazing gift: a waterproof notepad and pencil, designed for the shower.

I had requested this gift from Michael and Rachel, my brother and sister-in-law. “I’d like a dry erase board for my shower,” I told them. “I don’t know if it exists, but I figured if anyone in the world could find it, the two of you could.”

So, they presented me with these packs of waterproof notepad paper and pencils.

I stuck the notepad and the pencil to the wall of my shower using the attached suction cups, and I was ready to write.

This post may or may not have been written in the shower photo 2

Why do I want this unusual product? I thought you’d never ask.

My best ideas come while in the shower. With the warm temperature and the sound of calming water, my mind is clear, allowing me to let the creative juices flow without distraction. Many of the ideas for posts on my blog originated in the shower.

To-do list items. When I’m not thinking of exciting, creative, fresh ideas, my mind wanders to my stress level and things I need to accomplish. My brain is filled with “Oh no, I forgot to email my advertising rep at the newspaper about an ad we’re running,” or “I need to buy stamps,” or “It’s been a while since I’ve had dinner with Kayla.” I’m a much happier Lia when my thoughts are on paper (or on pixels), and this will allow me to never be more than an instant away from a pen. To my journalism, English, and writing teachers, who taught me to keep a journal and a reporter’s notebook nearby: you’ve again ruined me.

Memory issues. Upon seeing this gift, my dad said, “Lia, either your showers are too long or your short-term memory is not functional. Can’t you just remember these ideas and items until you get out of the shower?” Both may be true, but … what was I saying? Oh yeah, memory issues. I find myself making up a song so as not to lose my new thoughts — see how long you could survive singing “Contact solution, e-mail Rachel, blog about the vegetable aisle in the grocery store” to the tune of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”

So, I’d like to thank Michael and Rachel for this great gift — and actually, maybe I’ll even write their thank you note while shampooing my hair.

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Shabbat in Layers

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11/20/2014

Shabbat in Layers photo

In the heart of downtown Chicago, a large party room was filled with young Jewish professionals. Candles were radiating, wine was poured, homemade challah was savored, and the communal companionship was felt by all. My wife and I were relieved that Shabbat had begun and the hours of preparation in the kitchen (and on social media) had come to a close. It was now time to disconnect, to stop and savor the moment. It was a beautiful occasion, and it was time to take the occasion to the next level.

I found myself thinking about a story regarding three construction workers who were interviewed at the same construction site. The first interviewee was a boy about 19 years old. When asked why he was there, he responded that he doesn’t have the money for a membership to a gym; construction work is a great work out, he gets paid to get ripped, and the chicks dig it. The second worker interviewed was in his mid-20s. When asked why he was there, he responded that he doesn’t have the money to get through college. He works as a construction worker by day to pay for his college courses that he’s taking at night. This way, he’ll be able to eventually make a living to support the family he dreams of having. The third worker was in his late 50s. When asked why he was there, he responded that he saw an article in the newspaper that they were building a children’s hospital in this location. He wanted to be a part of that.

We can’t help but feel there’s a difference between their experiences, each one taking us another layer deeper into the significance of the work. Although Shabbat is the opposite of work, this particular Shabbat was unique in that 1 million Jews throughout the world, with 1 million different stories and reasons for participating in Shabbat, were celebrating together as part of a new initiative called The Shabbat Project. And I wanted our piece in Chicago, the Downtown Shabbat Experience, to reach that deeper level.

At the meal, everyone had their share of challah and matzo balls. That was level one: sustenance and delicious food. And then as they ate, everyone was enjoying the company around them, and we were already getting to level two. The third level took a little more effort. Each table was given a different insight about our heritage and was asked to discuss their topic and then to choose a representative to present the table’s insights to the entire group. Amazingly, everyone in the room gave each table their full attention, listening to all the insights and wisdom. One hundred young professional Jews sitting around the Shabbat tables sharing words of Torah and our heritage: we were taking our Shabbat to a deeper level.

But we didn’t stop there. Around dessert time, each table was given a list of typical items found in a Jewish home including candle sticks, a Kiddush cup, a book about the Holocaust, matzoh balls and challah, a Bible and prayer book, and more. They were tasked with ordering each item from most to least important in making a Jewish home. Each shared their three most important items – you can imagine how the room filled with debate! There was laughter, zero agreement (we’re Jews, right?), and lots of thought-provoked faces. We were tapping into the deeper meaning of our lives as Jews.

The festivities continued throughout the entirety of Shabbat. We were blessed with the last sunny day of the year to have our Prayer in the Park workshop on Shabbat morning, with chocolate cake and all. (What’s a Prayer workshop without chocolate cake?) That was followed by a luncheon replete with good food, good company, and meaningful conversations. Many people stayed to play games, chill out, and relax for the rest of Shabbat. As Shabbat concluded with guitar and song, we said goodbye to each other and Shabbat with a hope to reconnect with both again soon.

The Downtown Shabbat Experience was a project of Chicago YJP in partnership with JCC 20s & 30s, Masa Israel Journey, The Center for Jewish Genetics and Jewish Singles Social. A special thanks goes out to Becky Adelberg, Tovah Goodman, Leah Steinberg, Elisha & Jordana Fried, and Tehilla Fried for all their help in putting this event together, and to a number of YJPers who helped finance the event, especially Louie Whitesman for hosting. To find out about the next Downtown Shabbat Experience and other upcoming events with Chicago YJP, you can like Chicago YJP on Facebook.

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Being ‘Paciente’

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11/19/2014

Being ‘Paciente’ photo

My grandpa has no patience for impatience. He’s usually a pretty excitable person, but he positively boils over when it comes to the subject of how my mother and I need to control our tempers.

“I have never raised my voice in my LIFE!” he declares, his voice gradually rising to a shout with each word. As he’s speaking, he cracks his cane against the floor and stamps his foot. In fact, I’ve hardly ever heard him speak without raising his voice. But in his eyes, he has a perfectly patient and calm personality.

To tell the truth, I’ve never been much of a patient person either. I’m hardly even able to pop a Lifesaver into my mouth without immediately sinking my teeth into it like a stick of gum. And although he suffers from the same problem I do, my grandfather is completely right. Being impatient and losing my temper has only made me, and the people around me, miserable.

There’s an old anecdote about patience, regarding Hillel and one particularly pesky student. This student agrees to a bet to put Hillel’s renowned composure to the test. He shows up to his house and begins firing off round after round of useless questions. He leaves, only to return with a new batch of dumbfounding queries. Hillel calmly answers each one, until the student erupts and blames Hillel for making him lose the bet. Hillel responds, as tranquil as ever, that it’s better that the student lose his money than Hillel lose his temper.

Recently, I’ve been teaching English at a Jewish primary school in Buenos Aires. After two months on the job, it’s pretty clear that I’m no Hillel. I always imagined that while I might not have patience for people in general, I’d scrounge up some sort of tolerance for a group of kids who are just trying to learn. But to my utter dismay, it’s been harder than I imagined.

The other day in fifth grade, 9-year-old Dara strolled up to me with a question. ¨Que significa ‘size’?” she inquired, pointing to the word in her workbook.

Tamaño,” I translated. She nodded and walked off.

A few moments later, she appeared at my side again. “Size?” she asked, her brow furrowed in consternation. “Que significa?”

Tamaño,” I repeated, a little baffled that she was asking again, and went back to helping another student.

Several minutes went by. I felt a tap at my shoulder. It was Dara. She was pointing at a word in her workbook, completely lost on its meaning. The word was “size.”

``Tamaño,” I replied, unblinking, resisting the urge to flip a table. Tamaño. Tamaño. TAMAÑO! Why couldn’t she understand?!

Of course, my skewed, heavily accented version of the word “tamaño” probably meant as little to Dara as the word “size” itself. But I couldn’t help it. My impatience, which is usually simmering beneath the surface, was dangerously close to bubbling over.

In truth, I know that my temper is always much more my fault than whatever is bothering me. After all, why am I getting worked up about someone walking slowly on the street in front of me? Maybe they sprained their foot earlier this week and every step is a strained and concerted effort. Why do I get irritated when my mom drives over the curb? I do that sometimes, too. As for Dara, she wasn’t even trying to irritate me. She was just asking a question.

My mom and I almost always get annoyed when my grandpa accuses us of being impatient. The fact is, patience is something all three of us need to work on. Maybe next time Dara asks me for the definition of “size,” I’ll just calmly respond instead of developing an eye twitch. If nothing else, my grandpa will most certainly be proud. 

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Is Derrick Rose the next Penny Hardaway?

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11/18/2014

Is Derrick Rose the next Penny Hardaway? photo

This feels all too familiar. Coming off of his second major knee surgery in as many seasons, Derrick Rose is having trouble staying on the court yet again. Two ankle sprains and now a hamstring have kept Rose out of half of the Bulls’ first 10 games this season. The buildup of minor injuries such as these is exactly what led up to Rose eventually tearing his ACL during the 2012 playoffs.

When Rose has been on the court he has been good, showing flashes of his former MVP self. He’s put up averages of 18 points and 5.5 assists per game, and displayed the same speed we always remembered. While the Bulls are taking a much more conservative, cautionary approach to his injuries this year, I cannot help but wonder if we are watching the beginning of the end for what was once a very promising NBA career.

An all-star caliber player with a unique skill set, an NBA lottery pick out of Memphis with potential to be one of the greatest point guards ever. Sound familiar? That’s because we’ve seen this before.

Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was selected third out of Memphis in 1993 by the Golden State Warriors and later traded to Orlando for the top pick, Chris Webber. During the 1994–95 NBA season, the Magic won a franchise record 57 games while Hardaway averaged 20.9 points, 7.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game. He started in his first All-Star game and was named All-NBA First Team. The next season, Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal led the Magic to the Eastern Conference Finals, only to lose to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. O’Neal left Orlando for the Lakers the next season; Hardaway was finally the lone star and leader of the team but failed to lead the Magic to another playoff win.

The very next year, Hardaway suffered a devastating knee injury and was never the same. His unique size and ability helped him still achieve some success, but his numbers dropped drastically. Hardaway couldn’t stay healthy for a full year after that, battling foot and ankle injuries causing him to miss time until two micro fracture surgeries put him out for the season. He battled back and returned again, but he was a shell of the player he used to be in stints with the Suns, Knicks and Heat. Yeah, it’s starting to sound like the Derrick Rose story.

But could Rose’s story have a different ending, perhaps a more positive one involving the NBA title Hardaway never received?

The similarities of a year-by-year stat comparison of the two players in their first four years are mind-blowing. The fourth year for both players was strike-shortened and they both missed most of the following year with a career-changing knee injury.

Year 1  Games Played  PPG  AST  Season Result 
Rose 81  16.8  6.3  Round 1 Loss 
Hardaway 82  16.0  6.6  Round 1 Loss 
Year 2        
Rose  78  20.8  6.0  Round 1 Loss 
Hardaway  77  20.9  7.2  NBA Finals Loss 
Year 3         
Rose  81  25.8  7.7  East Finals Loss 
Hardaway  82  21.7  7.1  East Finals Loss 
Year 4         
Rose  39  21.8  7.9  Round 1 Loss 
Hardaway  59  20.5  5.6  Round 1 Loss 

Are we seeing another story of a potential NBA star’s career cut short? The similarities are eerie and hard to ignore. For Bulls fans, you just have to hope this is not the case. The Bulls this season could be special and make a real run at an NBA title – but I don’t believe that’ll happen unless Rose is on the court, something we’re starting to see as more of a challenge than I think he, or anyone, expected.

It’s hard to imagine Rose ever returning to MVP form, and while Hardaway did develop into a quality role player, his career arc was riddled with injury. Maybe these little early season nicks are nothing, dealing with the rust of sitting out two years in a row. But it’s hard to ignore that Rose’s style of play is not built for a career of longevity. Players who move like he does and hit the lane with that amount of power and quickness don’t play very long without making significant adjustments to their games.

Then there is the mental aspect, which is clearly starting to take a toll on Rose. A constant hot topic in the media, and understandably so, Rose is becoming more defensive all the time. On top of the fact that he has to continue playing knowing that any wrong turn on the court, any awkward landing, could spell the end for him.

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