Hanukkah 2013 Update

This time next year Hanukkah will begin. Hanukkah starts at sunset December 16, 2014. I hope that the gift giving season will be much better next year, than competing with Thanksgiving and Black Friday deals. With Hanukkah so early, it seemed like no one was very much interested in decorating this year. We did have some stand outs for the season. Quest dreidels again proved to be collectable. Their newest design; the pomegranate dreidel was a best seller, followed by their more abstract textured dreidel. We can see why customers love their items. Quest is an American company that has high quality standards. Jewelry also was on top of everyone’s gift giving list as well. Another item or items that were in high demand were Mah Jongg. Just about all of the mah jongg merchandise from Source 4 Judaica’s collection were stellar! So as the Christmas season winds down and interfaith families are trimming their trees or bushes; remember Judaica Specialties carries one of the largest selections of Chanukah ornaments on-line or in any “big-box” retailer.

Mama Batalin’s Knishes

knishIf you have a web page what I’m going to say is no surprise…Probably at least once a day keywords are put in google or whatever search engine you prefer to get a feel of where the natural directory has the site ranked. So today ..I put in Judaica Specialties. Not exactly the same, but…Jewish Specialties was in the top 5. It caught me eye, I clicked and read. The article was written by Wisconsin State Journal columnist Catherine Murray. Although the author is not Jewish she researched some familiar “jewish specialties” for her article. One of food delicacies was a knish. She posts a recipe from a Russian immigrant: Mama Batalin…who I guess became known in her circle as the queen of Knishes. Goodness I haven’t had a knish in years! Maybe when I feel ambitious I will try it… see if you are up for the task. She also highlights blintzes. I can make those and they are actually easy to make and taste much better then the frozen ones.

Let’s have some jokes for the Jewish father, nu?

You have to read this…it’s just too funny not to!!

There are, at last count, approximately one bazillion jokes about Jewish mothers. I tried to get a more accurate count by entering the question “How many Jewish mother jokes are there?” in Google, but, oddly, the search came back, “You shouldn’t know from it.”

My favorite, this week, has been making the rounds of the Internet — the Internet itself being a fairly Jewish concept, by the way, because who else but a bunch of Jewish yentas could have been working all these years on a way to have gossip travel even faster?

Anyway, here’s my favorite Jewish mother joke these days:

Non-Jewish mother: My child is tired and thirsty, he must have milk!

Jewish mother: My child is tired and thirsty, he must have diabetes!

But what about Jewish fathers? Don’t we deserve a little ribbing? Let’s not forget that the image that informs the Jewish Mother joke is ultimately a very loving one — when Elaine May says in an old routine, “I didn’t eat all day Thursday, I didn’t eat all day Thursday night, I didn’t want my mouth should be full in case my son should call” — she is not only lampooning the mother’s penchant for exaggerating her own suffering, but also enshrining an image of the Jewish mother as enormously caring, always sacrificing, always there for her children.

So what are the dads, chopped liver?

There are precious few jokes about Jewish fathers. One of the few that are out there comes from Jules Feiffer, who said, “I grew up to have my father’s looks, my father’s speech patterns, my father’s posture, my father’s opinions, and my mother’s contempt for my father.”

But rather than just objects of contempt (a role we play with gusto, I might add), Jewish fathers deserve their own dollop of sympathy and humor, because after all, do we suffer?

You shouldn’t know from it.

The suffering of Jewish fathers begins well before the baby is born.

Jews are not supposed to have baby showers, or order cribs, because you don’t want to anger God. He’s the only one who’s supposed to know what happens next, and if you act like you have an inkling of what’s in the future — for example, if you say to a friend, “See you tomorrow, Selma!” she’s likely to say, “What are you talking about? Who names anyone Selma anymore?”

Or, more likely, if she’s a neurotic Jew of our generation, she’s likely to say, “kin ahorah!” — a term that means “Excuse me, God, no offense meant, we know you’re the only one who can see into tomorrow, we’re nothing compared to you, you’re great, you know, did we ever mention it?”

That’s the sum total of all Jewish prayers, by the way. There are different prayers for every holiday, and they all sound different, but when you translate them, they all boil down to, Boy, that God, is he great or what? Holy Cow! Not that we think any cows are really holy, by the way, because Thou art the Lord our God and we’d never even think of idolizing a graven image. Not once! Well, we put the Beatles up on a pedestal, but not as high as you, God! Congratulations on being yourself!

His name, in Yiddish, even translates as, “I am that I am.” So, in other words, Jews have spent the last 4,000 years worshipping Popeye.

So anyway, it falls to the Jewish father to figure out how to get all the baby stuff without making God mad. When my Uncle Artie’s first kid was born, he ordered the crib, but had them leave it at the warehouse. And now that it was up to me to work my way though all this, I thought, how dumb is God to fall for a trick like that? What, God can’t read the receipt tacked up to the bulletin board?

If you manage to negotiate these spiritual-consumer conundrums and actually have a child, your troubles have just begun. Trying to keep your toddler safe while not passing on all of your intense neuroses is a Catch-22 equal to, say, Republicans saying they want to lower taxes while balancing the budget. Those kids on the playground, tottering under oversized football helmets and kneepads, or wearing industrial face masks to enter the sandbox? Look three feet over their heads. Hovering like a helicopter: a balding guy with a “chai” necklace.

Jewish mothers are notorious for over-feeding their children, but the task of feeding the child makes the Jewish father even crazier. Reason: Jews imbue food with such significance. Start right on Rosh Hashanah, when you’re trying to teach your son to say “L’Shana Tovah,” which means either “Happy New Year” or “pass the apple cake.” Jews like to eat round things on Rosh Hashanah, so they will have a well-rounded year. Also, things with a head on them, so they will be at the head of things, not in the rear. Also, apples and honey, so we’ll have a sweet year. This culminates on Passover, when, I think, we thank God for the right to wash our hands in the tears of our ancestors and then dip parsley in it. Or something like that.

Are you not surprised that so many Jews wind up overweight? Forget counting carbs: Our food is all laden with polyunsaturated symbolism. “Oh, eat these chocolate chip cookies, my son, you should be a chip off the old block.” “It’s Simchas Torah, you must eat this banana split. We are only eating things shaped like smiles on Simchas Torah” “A McDonald’s happy meal? It goes without saying! Fress, mine kinder! Eat and be happy!”

Ben and Jerry’s could make a mint marketing to Jews. Instead of cute hippie names like Heavenly Hash and Cherry Garcia, they could just make Your Mother Is Proud Of You Have Some Chocolate, No One Should Get Hit By A Van-Nilla, and May Your Child Get Into Harvard He’s Such A Smart Boysenberry.

So, this Father’s Day, I suggest that you be kind to the Jewish father. Thank him for his suffering, his worrying, and his eternal place as a second-class citizen.

Remember that like all the great Jewish baseball players, Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg and, um, well, there you go — like them, the Jewish father may be a little different, but he is still, in his own way, a hero, for triumphing in the face of adversity.

Or, at least, for failing miserably, but keeping his sense of humor while doing it.

Walk up to him, shake his hand, smile warmly, and say: “How many Jewish fathers does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Two! One to tell his wife he can do it himself, and one to call the super.”

Philip Lerman is the author of “Dadditude: How A Real Man Became a Real Dad,” published this month by Da Capo Press. Parts of this article were adapted from the book.
It was published in jweekly.com

Are you a “Balabusta”?

For hands-on, Jewy projects with to do with kids, for Hebrew/ preschool teachers seeing if there is something new out there to do….this is a must view site…Bible Belt Balabusta. You won’t be disappointed. From a menorah made from pool noodles (which is just too easy (why didn’t I think of it! (lol) to matchbox mezuzahs, you will find that she is one crafty lady or how she likes to be called a “balabusta”.. For those of you not familiar with that term Balausta it means: Yiddish for female boss of the home, a praiseworthy Jewish homemaker. So let me ask you how many of those types to you know? I bet a few. I really think you will enjoy looking through the site.

You followin’ me?

I confess I am a “pin- addict”! Have you pinned yet? Pinterest allows you to bookmark images of everything …and for the visual person it an endless bounty of stimulation! Pins are organized boards a user creates and categorizes. You can search within Pinterest to find anything of interest to you. It’s easy to join and create your own boards (if I can do this…anyone can) Judaica Specialties is modest in comparison to most with currently about 15 boards (topics)…but will grow as we make time to share our interests with you. Not only can you pin your own info…you can “re-pin” things from others. If you find areas of interest you can “follow” those boards and you will see any new additions.

If you are easily distracted, please allow a couple of hours to look around on Pinterest! I can start looking at one thing and venture so far from my original point of interest it is scary. Obviously we are always looking for Judaic merchandise and ideas…but with that said the food boards, travel destinations and “craft projects” side track me A LOT.

So if you are visiting our site www.judaicaspecialties.com and see any item you would like to share with your friends…please “pin”, tweet, or e-mail! We would love that.

Pinterest trivia (as of May 2013)
Garlic cheesy bread is the most re-pinned
The most followed brand is Nordstrom

Please follow any of our boards on Pinterest

Stunning Glass Art from Faye Miller for Shardz

 

shardz flower

 

Faye Miller is the artist and all her work is stunning; more on the contemporary side. Her gallery includes many Judaic items (that has the crushed glass used from the wedding ceremony) along with contemporary sculptures and home décor items. Be sure to shop with us as we will offer the most competitive prices on line or in any store you might see her work. All of her pieces are custom, so you will need to be patient. The good news is that you can request certain color ways that fit into your personal décor. You won’t be disappointed with any of her designs!

shardz flower 1

JEWISH SPORTS TRIVIA

Here’s something to “nosh” on…the first Jewish baseball player was Lipman Pike. He broke into professional baseball in 1871 and was the first home-run Champion…Oy, his mother was so proud. The first batter in Fenway Park was a Jewish ballplayer from the NY Highlanders (now the NY Yankees), named Guy Zinn. The first unanimous (MVP) in baseball was Al Rosen who played in the 1930s.
Major League Baseball currently has the most Jewish players since 1938 including Ike Davis, Sam Fuld, Ryan Braun, Josh Satin and Jason Kipnis (to name a few).
When basketball first began in 1946, the majority of the players were Jewish. WOW. The first Jewish player in the NBA was Twister Steinberg. In 1946 4 of the 5 players for the Knicks were Jewish…and by the end of the year all of them released primarily because of antisemitism.
In 2009 the number of Jewish owners outweighs the amount of Jewish players of all sports teams!

Who is Judaica Specialties?

Over thirteen years ago, my husband said “why not try an on-line business”. This was just the beginning of the on-line explosion. So what would make me qualified for this you ask? As I like to say in my “previous-life” (before kids and moving to Texas) I was a work-ahcolic in the garment district of NYC. Yes…fondly known as a “garmento” to those familiar with the tr-state area. I loved my job; most days began at 6am and ended at 7:30pm. Working in NYC was exciting. This was the 80’s, expense accounts were big as your hair…good times! I traveled to my accounts (I was lucky to have all corners- Pacific Northwest, Southern CA, Southern states, Chicago and a few stores in NY) I had a really good territory. Buyers then actually merchandised… “data analysis paralysis” had only just begun. Buyers actually had somewhat of a “fashion-sense” and were not totally number crunchers. Sadly times have changed (as most can see by how department stores are run and operated today). This adventure took a detour with the arrival of the most adorable little boy. I temporarily became a “stay-at-home mom”.
Stuck in the suburbs (yuck…I actually had to drive everywhere- when you are used to walking and mass transit…driving is a huge adjustment)

Even with the new baby…I still needed more to do. I opened a woman’s boutique. We incorporated a spot for the baby in the back. For the time being everything worked just fine. The store looked great, business was good. The economy took a nose dive in the early 90’s and wham! A good job opportunity became available in Texas for my husband and we moved to Plano, Texas. We closed the retail business and relocated to the Bible Belt.

Talk about culture shock! I thought I was in a “Stepford” community. (I guess only people of a “certain age” will understand that term.) Plano was a place where the woman all had big “frosted” hair and wore broom skirts with coordinating applique vests to celebrate the holiday of the month. Can you even image that ever being a NY look? Everything was clean and new, the lawns (and street islands) were manicured, no front driveways, everyone has fenced in properties and you could find a church in any denomination on every-other corner. The environment so not resembled New York or New Jersey…but Plano was our new place to call home.

After we settled in synagogue shopping was on our “to-do” list; this is a much more different experience than that of the East coast. Most bordered on the modest side, and that still is a stretch. We joined a friendly small congregation and enrolled our daughter in pre-school there. It was the perfect fit for the family. I became very involved with fund raising activities, social committees and embraced the Jewish community. The synagogue was growing. An addition was needed to expand the pre-school; with that addition they carved a small room off the new lobby designated to be a gift store. I had found another volunteer opportunity! I was back at home merchandising and buying for the shop. I loved it!

With my new knowledge of Judaic resources I decided to open an on-line business. Late September of 1999, Judaica Specialties went live on the internet. Through the years we’ve grown from carrying 225 products to over 2,500. I’m fortunate the Dallas market has gift shows; (Plano is a northern suburb) I have the opportunity to be exposed vendors selling unique stuff while keeping a pulse on fashion trends. In the last few years we have be able to develop our own products and work with synagogues to offer them items at wholesale prices. We’ve tried hard to earn the respect in the “Judaic” field as a company that treats our customer how we would like to be treated. We appreciate all “regular” customers who always come back and even send us a “how–you-doing” e-mail. Thank you. So for all of you just getting familiar with us…welcome; we would love help you with whatever Judaic items you need. We are not like many on-line Judaic stores that “catalog” every vendor’s items (not to say we can’t get the merchandise) but all items you see on our site are in our inventory and at our warehouse for immediate delivery. Now that you know about us, let us have the opportunity to know you.

Do you have a “Sweet-Tooth”?

With two-in-a-row entries on desserts…don’t get the wrong idea. I like to make them more than I like to eat them, and this week I had more entertaining than usual. So what was on the dessert menu? I made two previous successful “repeats” and one “untested”. I did change up the cheesecake by making a crust, “Passover approved”..and the recipe for the macaroons is fail proof. I guarantee they will come out perfect each time!

I always pull recipes from magazines when they seem tasty and interesting. I have folders and binders full of “cut-outs”. Most of them go “untried”…but when opportunity presents itself…I like to give them a whirl. Unfortunately, I don’t like to bring or serve something I never actually taste tested..so when I “in the mood” for baking I give them a try. This Passover I wanted to do flour-less chocolate cake. I broke my rule and went for it, even though it was unproven. It was so easy and was delighted to see the results. It certainly looked like the picture from the magazine, but the proof is when the first piece is cut. I will tell you it is extremely decedent! You need to serve slivers. The recipe is posted on my blog.

Here is the recipe for the macaroons:

2 (14 oz) bags of sweetened coconut flakes
1(14 oz) can of sweetened condensed mil
2 tbsp. sour cream
1 tbsp heavy cream
1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325. Line cookie sheet with parchment. Bake for 20 minutes. That’s it and they look great. I added a cherry to mine and on some put some cherry juice in the mix for some “soft pink” delights. Try this and let me know what you think.

macaroon

Now for the cheesecake. If you have a cheesecake recipe you like; go for it. Mine is always a hit so if you are interested:

3 – 8oz packages of cream cheese
1- cup of sugar
¼ cup of amaretto liqueur
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1/3 cup of whipping cream (I don’t always have it and have substituted ½ and ½ and it was just fine.
4 eggs.

Beat the first 5 ingredients and gradually add one egg at a time. Pour on to crust.

Passover crust: (I mix them together in food processor and press on bottom of greased spring pan) If it isn’t for Passover use 40 vanilla wafer cookies in place of the matzah….it does taste better!

½ cup matzah
½ cup almonds
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes and then reduce heat to 225 and bake for another hour.

Sadly, every time my cake cracks, but my quick fix is the slice strawberries on the top. If you don’t know this tip..you slice them with an egg slicer…and wow…it looks pretty good doesn’t it?

cheese

 

Killer flour-less chocolate cake

Have you ever seen a recipe that catches your eye and you say, “I should try that some day” Well I’ve come across many of those recipes “waiting to happen”….and nothing! However; a couple of weeks ago in the Sunday Parade section of the newspaper there was one for a flourless chocolate cake. Mmmmm, with Passover coming I thought it certainly is worth a try…so I made it yesterday for Passover. Hold on to your seat and get ready to take your cholesterol meds. Their catch phrase was: “go ahead Sin a little”. After I tell you the ingredients you be the judge if it is just a little sin or straight to you know where!

I will share it with you:

1 lb of bittersweet chocolate
1 cup of unsalted butter
1/4 cup of hazelnut liqueur

Heat the above 3 ingredients until the mixture is melted…after the mixture is melted remove from heat and let cool.

Now beat 7 room temp eggs with 1 cup of sugar on medium for 5 minutes or until fluffy. …gradually add the chocolate mixture…pour in 9″ deep sided (you will see how high it rises) spring-form pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. When cake is cooled sprinkle with powdered sugar. Store cake in refrigerator.

I have to tell you I was quite impressed with myself..the cake came out looking great..just like the picture (mine actually rose higher than the picture…how about that)

Not always good to serve an “untested” recipe for a holiday gathering…but I did.  As the first piece was cut…..I was just hoping it was cooked…eatable and tasted OK. It (or I) passed the test..it was all of the above.

The recipe said it served 12 at a whopping 490 cal a serving. Do you want to know the fat breakdown? Just so you’re not totally in suspense..It is under 35%. The good news is if you make the slices thinner (which I would recommend because it is so rich) you might bring the calories down to 390. You didn’t expect miracles…did you? At least I cut it 25%!

So if you are looking for a Passover treat with a cake that doesn’t weigh a ton (anyone that has actually baked a Passover cake…knows what I mean) this is a beautiful dessert.  That picture is the cake still on the pan…once it was on a beautiful cake dish…it looked even better.  Enjoy!

Photo: I was quite impressed with myself....my flour-less chocolate cake came out just like the picture! 4 ingredients...(hint..."a heart attack waiting to happen")...but I wanted to try it.  Very rich!!