Is Food Shopping Coming Back?

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“Food shopping” is quite different from “food buying.” Kosher retailers say that they are seeing more “shoppers” in their stores these days. You are probably familiar with the profile of the food “buyer.” He or she is usually extremely pressed for time, may have a specific list of items on a paper or perhaps on their phone, and is pretty much oblivious to any foods that seems out of the ordinary, such as a new and different item. Shopping for many of them is rote such as people who shop on Thursdays for Shabbos and pretty much buy the very same items every week. Compare this person with the “shopper,” slowly making her way through the aisles, eyeing every item that seems “interesting,” picking up the package and reading the ingredients or other interesting facts, and most importantly willing to take home a product that was never tried at home. The retailers say that with few exceptions the shopper had no real idea what would end up in their cart.

The food buyer most often covets “one-stop” shopping, having neither the patience nor the time to visit multiple stores. The food buyer might have preferences for certain stores like perhaps a bakery or take-out store. They like familiarity so that they walk right up to the shelf and pick up the items that they are looking for. The shopper, on the other hand, makes it a point to walk an entire store and even to check out other stores such as another kosher supermarket or even a specialty store or discounter that may have an interesting item or two. That’s right, even checking out Costco for that unique product.

You can walk through the parking lot of Pomegranate in Flatbush on a Sunday and notice many out-of-state license plates. Store officials say that some of these people who often come from other states spend many hours just walking the store. Clearly, the shopper is more relaxed and viewing shopping as part of an experience. Sure, it’s no different than shopping for clothes in a department store. The buyer is there for a skirt, suit or an evening dress for an upcoming event. The shopper is interested in whatever she encounters trekking through the aisles.

The kosher food shopper is a growing trend, say the retailers, often shopping on what is a slow day at a supermarket like a Monday or Tuesday. Howie Klagsbrun of Gourmet Glatt with stores in Cedarhurst, Woodmere, Lakewood and Boro Park feels that the “shopping environment” has changed. He says that the majority of his customers come to his large stores without a list. “There is a great deal of socializing which we encourage, even offering free coffee.” Frequently, customers interact with other customers recommending certain products, he says. Surprisingly he and other retailers say that the shopping experience is what is driving their steadily increasing sales over the internet where leisurely perusing is part of the experience.

The retailers estimate that 70% of their customers would be considered buyers as opposed to 30% as shoppers with the latter category growing steadily. While Malkie Levine of Evergreen with stores in Monsey and Lakewood agrees that she sees many more shoppers, she attributes a great deal of it to “impulse buying,” customers who simply pick up an item because it is interesting or new. “Much of it has to do with a much better economy in the frum world and the resulting increased disposable income.” She says people are buying more and even willing to spend for a new upscale item.” As an example, she cited Gefen’s new cooking butter which impulse buyers are picking up.

Mr. Klagsbrun differentiates between moms at home and working mothers. He sees many young mothers who simply spend time in the store with their toddlers in tow. He and Mrs. Levine say many of their customers shop on-line but supplement the “actual buying” with the shopping experience of actually walking the store, not to speak of the fact that many shoppers will not buy “fresh” items like fish, meat and produce on-line. Mrs. Levine says that working moms are typically “impulse shoppers” with more income. She says: “They will walk into the store and figure out what they can feed their hungry family and pick up some interesting items even if it is more expensive.” On the other hand, say the retailers, some of the younger moms are frequently on a tight budget and are very frugal in their buying of food.

Mrs. Levine seemed to have another way of categorizing shoppers: “Impulse Shoppers vs. Leisure Shoppers.” Irrespective, it appears that retailers are more conscious these days of the many types of customers. They want to make sure that they are prepared and stocked for all shoppers. They fully understand that the dynamics of shopping has dramatically changed. The large upscale kosher stores have become a destination, hence the social experience. They recognize the impact of technology and the new opportunities for sharing in real time. There is a recognition for the home chef who relies heavily on new recipes in magazines or on such sites as

Retailers are also fully aware of the changed demographics and the resultant buying habits. There are the younger set with more disposable income than ever. There are the very large families with a need for economizing but still interested in new quality items. Finally, there is the traditional shopper who seems to never change, always buying the traditional foods.

If you are the perennial buyer, you owe it to yourself to find some time to be a shopper. You just may very well enjoy the experience! The purveyors who have scouted out many new and interesting items are looking for you.

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The Art of Edible Gifts

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Handmade gifts. There’s just absolutely nothing like it. Predominantly when they’re edible and look as cute as the ones you’ve pinned on Pinterest. They tick the ‘more personal’ box, and absolutely no one I know can resist a mason jar full of homemade bourbon jam or truffle aioli goodness.

However, although the treats inside need to be delicious, let’s be real, it’s all in the DIY packaging. Start early, and collect random scraps from around the house. This way you can mix and match. My favorite is playing around with random swatches of fabrics and ribbons. Around this time of the year, I also love incorporating twigs and anything earthy or wooden. Use a mason jar as a base and work off it. Add a wooden spoon, cute note with twine or just gather that vellum with a lovely big bow and you’ve got this. Let the creativity flow with materials accessible.

The recipes ideas below make it super easy for you to step up the gift-giving this year. Skip the stress and instead have fun whipping up a treat for the cocktail enthusiast or sweet tooth friend.

Wine Jam:

Leftover wine is never usually a huge issue (there is NO such thing as too much wine), but sometimes when you don’t have a use for that half-empty bottle that wasn’t good to begin with…. a sticky wine jam is the answer. Spread this homemade delicacy on just about anything, (it’s totally addictive!) and package it into the perfectly unique hostess gift.

Get the Recipe:

Hot Toddy:

A fusion of vanilla sweetness, autumn flavors with a kick of bourbon. I’m sold. Hot Toddy’s are literally the quintessential cold-weather cocktail; warming, invigorating and rich with flavor. There are many different variations, but you can’t go wrong with bourbon or whiskey, woody spices (ugh!!), fresh lemon and a natural sweetener. They are light and hydrating, and your grandmother will probably remember this drink as the one that helps reduce those winter colds. Going to a party? You now know what to bring.

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Pumpkin Spiced Biscotti:

It’s the season of pumpkin, and we all have those friends who obsess over anything pumpkin spice (Yes, I’m rolling my eyes). However, even I get sucked into homemade pumpkin flavored things when it involves a perfectly-soft-with-a-pecan-crunch kind of biscotti. Homerun every time. Wrap parchment paper around the biscotti and tie two festive ribbons around the center. Brownie points for the handwritten note tucked under.

Get the recipe:


Seven ingredients or two ingredients. I’ll leave the level of complication up to you this time. I will say though; when it comes to truffles it’s not about how many ingredients you use, but the quality you choose. Use quality dates, and you’ll get perfection. Use quality chocolate, and you’ll be tasting paradise. They’re just the most perfect handmade one-bite delicacies that work for anyone at any time. I seriously love how raw you can get with these, and how healthy yet delicate they come out. Craving chocolate. Check. Craving coconut. Check. No space in the oven. No problem. I think I just gave away my secret love for truffles.

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Homemade Granola:

Once you’ve made homemade granola, there is no going back. The best bit about it, you’ll enjoy every single cluster. No need to pick out those raisins you hate. Customize it, jazz it up, add exotic seasonal dried fruit and any dry foods that you know your friend loves. Just make sure you add Silan. Serious game changer for homemade granola. Package it in anything glass and your good to go.

Get the Recipe:

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Help! My house smells like a deep fryer.

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It’s the season of frying and chances are the smell of all those deep-fried foods will linger well after you’re done cooking.

Here are a couple of life-changing ‘kitchen smell’ hacks.

Comes Chanukah and you’ll be so ready to roll up your sleeves and deep fry just about anything.

Close all doors- First up is making sure that all doors are closed whilst you’re cooking. By all doors, I mean literally down to the doors on your wardrobe. This will make sure that even if some smell does escape the kitchen; it will be heavily reduced and blocked from spreading or absorbing on fabrics. No need to fall asleep in a room smelling of fried food.

Windows- All windows, especially in your kitchen, should be opened before you even start cooking. Yes, it may be a little chilly out at this time of the year, but trust me (tried and traumatized); you’ll prefer that slight breeze over a smell that just won’t go away.

Homemade Potpourri- This one’s my all-time favorite even for days when my kitchen doesn’t smell. I love to boil up some cinnamon sticks with citrus peels and leave it on the stove for an all- natural air freshener. Not only does it get rid of the smell of oil, but it gives your house such a fresh and heavenly scent. Play around with flavors you like and you’re guaranteed to fall in love with your own homemade aroma. I’ve now given you THE reason to buy that fresh lavender bouquet.

Bake Last! – We all know that when a Jewish woman goes into the kitchen, she isn’t coming out with less than 3 sides, 2 mains, a couple of salads and definitely more than one dessert. It’s just the nature of our culture (No complaints.) All you have to do is make sure you cook the heavy smells first and leave the baking till last. What’s better than a house smelling of fresh hot cinnamon buns? (I hope they’re on your Chanukah menu!)

Clean up as you go- I left this for last because … who wants to be told to clean up right away when they just spent the last five hours in the kitchen on their feet? The truth is, it will save you in the long run. Turn up the music and just do it. Clean up all those oily, greasy frying pans as soon as you are done using them. Not only will you have a clean kitchen when the cinnamon buns come out of the oven, but the smell is guaranteed to linger less the quicker the conflicting odors are gone.

Happy fried food eating!

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I ❤️ Kosher: New and Inspired Recipes from Kim Kushner

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The signature of an excellent cookbook is that it tells a story.

With the profusion of easily accessible online recipes, we’re always on the lookout for cookbooks that offer the reader more than just a list of recipes — when we turn the pages we want to learn something new, to hear the voice of the chef, to feel a part of her story.

A Cookbook to

Kim Kushner’s latest cookbook, I Heart Kosher: Beautiful Recipes from My Kitchen (available January 2019), tells a delectable story, with themes of family, entertaining, and inspired cooking.

A graduate of Manhattan’s Institute of Culinary Education, Kim has worked as a recipe developer for Food & Wine and Chile Pepper magazines and as a private chef. Currently, Kim teaches cooking classes — some of which are based in her home kitchen.

Kim’s cooking classes are varied and cover topics such as: Essentials in the Kitchen, Make-Ahead Classes, and Kosher Family Gatherings. Though her immensely popular classes have been sold out for years, reading I Heart Kosher feels much like you have stepped into a cooking demo in Kim’s kitchen.

A Social Experience

Kim’s voice throughout the beautiful pages of I Heart Kosher is personal and confiding. The stunning photography by Kate Sears (whose work has appeared in magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, Everyday with Rachael Ray, and Martha Stewart Living) introduces us to Kim in what seem to be her happiest environments — casually clothed and cooking in her all-white kitchen, entertaining friends and family outdoors, refilling guests’ wine glasses.

In her introduction, Kim tells us: “My objective, much like my recipes is simple: it’s to give you an entire book that offers go-to, tried-and-true recipes that you can rely on for any and every occasion and for any meal of the day.”

Kim describes her cooking style as “less is more” and her aim is to create recipes “simple enough to memorize.”
With its bold and colorful photos, practical prep tips, and a unique point of view, this cookbook may be more than the sum of its recipes … but WOW are the recipes fantastic.

“Oh, and the recipes just happen to be kosher too.”

Kim’s first cookbooks, The Modern Menu (2013) and The New Kosher (2015) aimed to meld the traditional and the new — to show the world that kosher cooking and modern cooking are not mutually exclusive.

Now, however, the culinary world has recognized that kosher has caught up with the times. Every recipe is I Heart Kosher is, of course, kosher, but that is almost an afterthought. The quality, ease, and delightful flavors of these recipes are what take center stage.

Blend of Cultures and Flavors

Kim, who was raised Modern Orthodox in Montreal, Canada, credits her early cooking style to her mother, who was born in Morocco and raised in Israel. She visited Israel every summer as a child, and the eclectic blend of flavors and ingredients in her recipes reflects a delicious melding of cultures.

Many of her recipes feature an unmistakable Middle-Eastern, particularly Moroccan vibe, with a penchant for fruits like dates, pomegranates, and figs (CHOCOLATE-DIPPED FIGS WITH PISTACHIOS & ROSE PETALS); spices such as turmeric, cumin, za’atar (CHOPPED KALE, AVOCADO & ZA’ATAR); classic Moroccan recipes like beef and lamb kebabs and hamin (KEFTA BEEF & LAMB KABOBS WITH TAHINI); and unique flavors including rose petals and fried lemons, the latter, Kim tells us, lends a “rich,smooth, malty-lemony flavor” to a variety of dishes (CRISPY CHICKEN WITH RICE, SWEET POTATOES & LEMON SLICES).

Organization + Prep

An especially unique aspect of I Heart Kosher is the attention paid to the details of organization and preparation.

The book includes illustrated lists of kitchen tool essentials, fridge and freezer essentials, spice shelf must-haves, and pantry must-haves. Kim’s philosophy relies on always being prepared — with ingredients, ready-to-go recipes, and easy prep hints.

Her recipes are not only streamlined and easy to follow, but also include invaluable bits of wisdom in the form of blurbs such as: “Make-ahead tips”, “Can I freeze it?”, and “How to reheat”

For Every Occasion

I Heart Kosher is kosher not only in the sense of adhering to the kosher guidelines, but also because the recipes are perfectly suited for the Jewish household. With recipes for one-pan meals (ROASTED SALMON TOPPED WITH SQUASH AND ZUCCHINI CRUNCHIES), gorgeous dishes for Shabbat and holidays (PULLED LAMB SHOULDER WITH RED ONIONS, PARSLEY & POMEGRANATE), and easy yet impressive snacks for a crowd (WALNUT & ROSEMARY SAVORY BISCOTTI), this well-curated collection of recipes offers delicious possibilities for every occasion.

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Why Matcha Might Be Your Newest Cup of Tea

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For nearly 1,000 years, powdered green tea, or matcha, has been used in Japanese Zen tea ceremonies. The tea-making ritual is said to transport the participants to a meditative state of mind.
(Warning: If you’re not well-practiced in the meditative arts, you may find watching a video of the matcha tea ceremony about as electrifying as harvesting rice by hand.)

Boiled down to its basics, the tea ceremony consists of whisking hot water and powdered green tea; its aim is to increase alertness and presence of mind.

In the last few years, matcha has taken a wild turn from the spiritual to the stylish: a highly-Instagrammable trend, the brilliant green of matcha lends itself to photography as well as health trends.

Is It Healthy?

You betcha your matcha it is!

Made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis shrub (the same plant that gives us black, oolong, white, and green teas), matcha is a specially grown and processed form of green tea.

In contrast to regular green tea, in which the leaves are brewed or steeped, with matcha, the tea leaves are ground up to a fine talc-like powder and ingested whole. Because matcha contains the entire tea leaf, the nutrients are more concentrated.

Also, the leaves are shaded during growth, which causes the plant to produce high levels of theanine, catechins, chlorophyll, and caffeine.

Theanine: This amino acid is found in tea leaves and some mushrooms. Research has shown that theanine promotes relaxation and eases stress. Theanine comes in pill form to treat anxiety and high blood pressure.

Catechins: A class of flavonols which may act as antioxidants in the body. Catechins are believed to prevent cell damage, help with weight loss, and fight diseases like heart disease, hypertension, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

Chlorophyll: A natural detoxifier, chlorophyll can regenerate cells, fight infection, and help with wound healing.

Caffeine: Matcha has more caffeine than green tea, but less than coffee. Matcha has been gaining traction as a coffee alternative; many matcha drinkers find that they get the same caffeine high from matcha as they do from coffee, without the accompanying jitters or afternoon crashes.

From Matcha’s Devoted Fanbase

Though the taste and effect of matcha is not universally loved, reading the Amazon reviews of a premier matcha product explains why matcha has been catapulted into a superfood stardom

This review makes me want some right now: “It gets me going in the morning but without any of the jitteriness like from coffee.”


And this one is so glowing I’m thinking of giving up coffee for good: “I love the flavor and I am addicted to this stuff. I have lost 3 pounds since I started drinking this daily, my skin looks fabulous and I have noticed my appetite has decreased while my energy level is better.”

And just…WOW: “If You’re 73 & Want to Feel 21 Again, All You Have to do is Put a Cup of Booo Yaaaa Tea in Your Hand (The Bummer is You Won’t Look it…)”

(If you’re curious, “Booo Yaaa Tea” apparently contains 1 teaspoon of matcha with honey, lemon, and vanilla bean paste.

Mucho Ways to Get Your Matcha

In the Japanese tea ceremonies of old, matcha powder was enjoyed simply — just stirred with hot water.

But now, there are about as many ways to devour matcha as there are Instagram accounts that use matcha in their flauntable grass green creations.

Matcha Custard, Oreo Matcha Cheesecake, Matcha Froyo, Matcha Macarons, even Matcha Chocolate Swirl Cookie Pops; matcha powder can be used in applications ranging from baked goods to smoothies and soups.

Different Grades of Matcha

Before you buy, be aware of the differing qualities of matcha and what they are used for

Ceremonial grade: The ultimate grade of matcha, used in Japanese tea ceremonies. Ceremonial grade matcha is made from the youngest tea leaves, with the stems and veins removed. By far the most expensive of the types, ceremonial grade matcha can be recognized by its superfine texture and brilliant green color. It is the least bitter grade of matcha, and is used exclusively for traditional tea.

Premium grade: For unschooled drinkers of matcha, premium grade is hard to distinguish from ceremonial grade matcha. It is good for daily consumption in matcha teas, or any other use that requires a high-quality matcha flavor.

Cooking/culinary grade: The cheapest matcha, culinary grade is expressly for recipe use, like in matcha smoothies and baked goods. On its own, culinary grade matcha is bitter and not as smooth as its higher quality counterparts.

Some Limits on Intake

Because of its super-concentrated form, matcha can cause an upset stomach in users who are not used to it. Experts recommend starting with a small dose (¼ teaspoon) when first ingesting matcha.

Because of the caffeine content, the recommended amount of matcha intake for pregnant women and children is unclear, and seeking medical advice is recommended.

Also, one study found that a Chinese-grown matcha contained high levels of lead. For safety and quality, look for matcha that is grown in Japan.

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Why We’re Obsessed with Comfort Food (…and Why That’s Totally Normal)

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In one word, comfort food is nourishment.

Comfort food is what tastes delicious to us — physically, emotionally, and viscerally.

If comfort food was a location, it would be home.

It would be, more specifically, our childhood home. In a kitchen, probably, with fragrant steam rising over bubbling pots, sharing a meal with our loved ones, and our most meaningful memories.

Comfort food is not simply a burst of fat or sugar, or the happy marriage of both (buttercream frosting, I’m talking to you!) The specific foods we choose to eat to lift ourselves out of bad moods, or to engage in happy ones, are wired deep inside the mysterious pathways of our brains.

Comfort foods are the foods we have learned to associate with our childhoods; we subconsciously link comfort foods with safety, security, and the warm fuzzies of being cared for.

What is your favorite comfort food?

Is it a melty, bright orange mac and cheese? A pint of ice cream crammed with chocolate peanut butter cups? A beef burger with delicious fat dripping onto its white-bread bun?

Far from universal, comfort food is in the eye — ahem, on the tastebuds — of the beholder.

Gender Differences (This Will Not Surprise You)

According to a 2003 University of Illinois study, males and females report drastically differing comfort foods.

Studies show that women go cuckoo for cocoa, while men are mad for meat.

For comfort, males turn to warm, hearty meal foods (like steak, casseroles, and soup). Women, on the other hand, prefer cold, sweet snack foods (like chocolate and ice cream).

But we’re betting you already knew that.

Now That’s Some Scrumptious Psychology!

Remember Pavlov’s salivating dogs? The experimenter’s canines started to drool when they heard the bells they were conditioned to associate with mealtime.

Turns out we have lots in common with Pavlov’s pooches — at least when it comes to comfort food.

An Atlantic article (“Why Comfort Food Comforts”) quotes psychology professor Shira Gabriel. “I tend to think of it in terms of classical conditioning,” Gabriel said. “If you’re a small child and you get fed certain foods by your primary caregivers, then those foods begin to be associated with the feeling of being taken care of.”

In other words, our go-to comfort foods come drenched in the savory sauce of nostalgia. (P.S. If you grew up in the U.S., this sauce may very well taste like Heinz.)

And it’s not only the cooking of our parents and grandparents that shape our comfort food preferences — our individual cultures play a huge role as well.

Cultural Comfort Food

“Nearly every culture and religion uses food as an important symbolic custom, from the American Thanksgiving feast to the Jewish Passover Seder,” write Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, nutrition therapists and co-authors of the book Intuitive Eating. “Each time a significant life experience is celebrated with food, the emotional connection deepens.”

So, if you wash down a wedge of handmade shmura matzah with grape juice, the part of your brain marked “Pesach” will fire up with neural activity. Oh, and don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly overcome by an intense horseradish craving.

The Dark Side of Comfort Food

Food has the astonishing capacity to walk us through the vagaries of life — food is there when we learn, grow, build relationships, worship, and celebrate our most precious occasions.

“Occasionally eating comfort foods can be a part of a healthy relationship with food, if you do it while staying in touch with your satiety levels and without guilt,” write Tribole and Resch.

But when comfort food becomes the #1 relied-upon coping mechanism, it can be painfully damaging.

Finding Comfort Without the Food

Make time to explore the nurturing activities that can provide comfort without the food:

  • Nap
  • Take a do-nothing break
  • Listen to music
  • Play Scrabble
  • Pet a kitten
  • Make time for an old friend
  • Write a poem or journal
  • Spend time in nature

When it is not your primary coping mechanism, food can be a great (and healthy) comfort. Take Geneen Roth’s advice in the book When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair: Eat a Hot Meal Every Day.

“When you don’t have a built-in way of giving time and attention to yourself, food becomes the main source of sweetness in your life. And ‘treats’ are usually cold,” Roth writes. “Diet sodas, salads, cookies, chips, protein bars, or frozen yogurt are not food. Neither, although hot, is coffee.”

Carve out the time to cook and enjoy some nourishing (and hot!) traditional Jewish comfort food.

Some of Our Favorite Classic Jewish Comfort Foods:

Classic Easy Chicken Soup

Oven-Fried Potato Latkes

Have it Your Way BBQ Chicken Schnitzel Fingers

Lazy Man’s Cholent

Hungarian Apple Pie (“Olmash”)

What’s your favorite childhood comfort food?

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Talking Tahini and Turmeric with Ruth Fox and Vicky Cohen

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To many, Middle Eastern food is something that’s wrapped up at a falafel truck and eaten on the go. However, the cuisine of the Fertile Crescent is far-reaching, spanning entire countries and generations in its evolution. Two of the most enticing and versatile ingredients in this cuisine are rich tahini and bright, fragrant turmeric- ingredients which open an entire world of culinary possibilities. In a cookbook named in their honor, recipe developers and sisters Ruth Fox and Vicky Cohen modernize Middle Eastern cuisine with dishes that celebrate their plant-based sensibility, many of them created with an eye toward every-day ease.

I sat down with the superstar sisters to discuss the book, their upbringing, ingredients that intrigue them, and, of course, some of their favorite food obsessions.

Mussy: Was there anything you wanted to do before you started cooking?

Vicky: I have always been an entrepreneur; I owned several businesses before starting “May I Have That Recipe” with Ruth.

Ruth: I always wanted to be a doctor. As I got older, I became more interested in food and nutrition, so I got my degree in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Mussy: What’s your favorite breakfast?

Vicky: My favorite breakfast is overnight oats.  I love how I can spend five minutes at night and have a ready-to-eat breakfast the next morning.  During the cold months, I like to eat overnight oats warm. In our cookbook, we have a delicious overnight oats recipe with pomegranates, persimmons, pistachios and a touch of cardamom.

Ruth: My favorite breakfast since we developed the recipes for our cookbook is the Tahini Smoothie Bowl, because I just love tahini. I like to use different fruits depending on what’s in season.

Mussy: What made you decide to write a cookbook?

Vicky and Ruth: We have both been working together on our blog “May I Have That Recipe” for six years.  The idea of a cookbook was always in the back of our minds.  After several of our readers asked us if we were going to come out with a cookbook, we decided to go for it.  We wrote a proposal, looked for an agent and she found us several publishers who were interested.

Mussy: What does the name Tahini and Turmeric mean to you?

Vicky and Ruth: Tahini and turmeric are evocative of the Middle East and of our family background. It means warm, fragrant, aromatic food, and family gatherings around a holiday table.

Mussy: Is there one food that you’re secretly obsessed with having at home at all times?

Vicky and Ruth: We are both obsessed with tahini, we just love it. It is such a versatile ingredient that can be used for sweet and savory dishes.

Mussy: Do you have a favorite childhood comfort food?

Vicky: Toasted pita bread topped with olive oil and za’atar. We made it into croutons for our Lentil Fattoush with Mint and Sumac in our cookbook

Ruth: Za’atar Manaish (basically a za’atar pizza). Our mom used to make the dough from scratch and I always looked forward to it. We have a recipe for Za’atar Manaish in our cookbook.

Mussy: The first thing I noticed about your cookbook was how gourmet the recipes were. Tell me a little about your cooking background.

Vicky and Ruth: We are both home cooks.  We learned to cook from our mother and grandmother, and learned to develop recipes and photograph them since we started our cooking blog six years ago.

From the book: Crispy Mini Meatless Pies

Mussy: As I flip through the pages I notice a lot of healthy recipes. Tell us a little about why you cook the way you do.

Vicky and Ruth: We are so glad you noticed, we’ve been told often that our recipes are not only tasty, but healthy as well.  We like to use a lot of vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and beans. But what brings it all together are the herbs and spices we use to flavor our dishes.

Mussy: What’s a favorite recipe you’ve created?

It is really hard to pick, because we put so much time, effort and love into all our recipes!

Vicky: Saffron-Infused Cauliflower Soup with Sumac Oil. It sounds fancy, but is really easy to make and has a ton of flavor.

Ruth: Creamy Tahini Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust and Fresh Pomegranates.

Mussy: What do you hope your cookbook will accomplish?

Vicky and Ruth: We’re hoping people realize that plant-based food doesn’t have to be boring, and it can easily be made flavorful and exciting. Also, our cookbook isn’t just for vegans or vegetarians. It’s a great tool for anyone who wants to add more fruits, vegetables and grains to their diet.

From the book: Melt-Away Moroccan Cinnamon Cookies

Mussy: Do you have any tips on how to cook on a budget?

Vicky and Ruth: When it comes to produce, buy what’s in season! Also, stock up your pantry staples when they go on sale.

Mussy: Do you have any tips for the busy person who wants to eat well at home but doesn’t have a lot of time?

Vicky and Ruth: Do your shopping and food prep over the weekend (or whenever your day off is). A little bit of planning will save you a lot of time!

Mussy: Best food advice?

Vicky and Ruth: Play with your food! Try new things, experiment. Give recipes your own twist by adding your favorite ingredients.

Check out the stunning and delicious Tahini & Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics-Made Irresistibly Vegan on Amazon.

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Hate Boring Gifts? Us Too. Holiday Gift Guide 2018

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The holiday season is here and there’s absolutely no turning back.

If you’re freaking out over gift ideas, don’t fret. Just take a couple of deep breaths and keep on scrolling ‘cause today’s your lucky day. We did the hard work for you…

The Ultimate Gift Guide 2018:

Espresso in a Minute

If you’re anything like us, the most important part of a morning routine is getting that steaming hot, double-shot, frothy coffee down pat.

Our secret to daily coffee perfection? Nespresso machine.

For every coffee addict, there is nothing better than an efficient coffee machine. Not only does a Nespresso machine make the best tasting coffee ever, but it’s also fast. (And by fast we mean it takes half the time it takes you to apply your eyeliner in the morning.) Once this sleek machine is sitting on your kitchen counter, you’re bound to look like you have your life in order. Gift yourself, or gift your friends, we don’t care, as long as you make The. Best. Purchase. Of. Your. Life.

Rose Gold Stainless Steel Straws


If you been keeping up with the latest trends you would know that plastic straws are so 2017. At first, we were like you, totally hesitant about this whole reusable idea. Until we came across the cutest and chic-est rose gold stainless steel straws ever. Extra? Yes. But we love being extra, especially around this time of the year.

Whether your giftee loves sipping cocktails on the couch (no shame!) or just gallons of La Croix (really no shame!!) this is the perfect gift for them.

So, no, using mason jars just won’t cut it at this year’s holiday parties. Rose Gold straws are where it’s at.

Linen Napkins like these



When it comes to party décor, every detail counts and so does every dollar. Let’s be real, guest lists only get longer and expenses higher at this time of the year. Investing in high-quality linen napkins just might be the answer that you’re looking for. A onetime expense, cloth napkins give that clean and sophisticated look everyone’s aiming to get when they try and purchase the classiest print napkins that somehow end up looking cheesy anyways.

Who wouldn’t like receiving a full set of monogrammed linen napkins?

Soda Stream


This one is for the relative or friend that hasn’t stopped trying to cut soda out from their diet. Not only will this solve their problem, but will also save you from having to listen to them complain daily.

With a touch of a button, the soda machine makes the bubbliest, thirst quenching soda water ever.

Game changer for when it comes to craving a drink that not only quenches your thirst but gives that fizzy feeling without the two cups of unnecessary sugar.


Let’s be real, they’re more than just adding a protective layer under your morning coffee or afternoon beer. Coasters are that funky individualized drink accessory that takes “drinks with friends” to a new level.

It’s the type of gift that is just infinitely useful at literally any time of the day.

Lucky for you, there are endless options when it comes to picking colors, materials, and shapes. You’re gonna have a blast just placing the order. You’ll probably even end up buying a set for yourself. Don’t blame us, we warned you.

Marble Board

They love marble anything, and you know it.

A timeless trend, you just can’t let your cheese and crackers be #basic no more. The best part about using boards in the kitchen; there are absolutely no rules. Display homemade goodies, cheese or even boring green veggies on a marble board and you’re guaranteed everyone will go wild.

DIY food boards just got an upgrade.

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Does the Instant Pot Live Up to Its Hype?

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It’s 5 p.m.

Do you know where your family’s supper is?

I knew where it was. Problem was, it wasn’t ready.

Supper that night was Miriam Pascal’s Crockpot Brown Sugar Beer Chicken (delish, by the way.)

Dinner was bubbling under the glass lid of my crockpot, which I kept lifting up every 17 and 1/2 minutes, waiting, WAITING until the chicken was no longer in that rubbery stage of limbo (technically edible, but far from that ideal chickeny, melt-in-your-mouth stage).

It was ALMOST ready…but at 5:17 (and 1/2) p.m., when you’re waiting to serve (and to eat!) almost doesn’t count.

You’ve been there, right?

When you gotta deal with homework, or bathtime, or cleaning up the cereal bowls that were left on the table since that morning, suppertime stress can bring you to the brink of madness. And possibly over the edge.

Could the Instant Pot be the answer to our dinner-making woes?

The Instant Pot has a cultish following. On Prime Day alone, Amazon sold a staggering 300,000 Instant Pots in 36 hours (that’s more than 138 Instant Pots per minute!)

Super convenient and very safe (a completely different appliance than the old-fashioned stovetop pressure cooker), the Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker that can take the place of seven kitchen appliances.

We investigated and discovered Instant Pot users’ plentiful pros and handful of cons.

Pros of the Instant Pot:

  1. 7 functions in just one appliance. The Instant Pot functions as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté pan, yogurt maker, and warmer.
  2. Lightning-quick cooking. The crockpot chicken recipe I made had me waiting 6 hours for the chicken thighs to cook completely. With the Instant Pot, dinner would have been ready in a total time of under 30 minutes; the chicken itself only needs 15 minutes of cook time, but the pot needs 10-15 minutes to be brought to full pressure before it starts cooking. Not including pressure time, the Instant Pot can fully cook dried beans in 30 minutes (no soaking required!) and baked potatoes in 15.
  3. No defrosting needed. With only an added few minutes of cooking time, you can cook frozen meat and chicken directly in your Instant Pot.
  4. Improved tenderness. A pressure cooker quickly melts the connective tissues in meat, making roasts much more tender than standard oven or slow-cooking.
  5. Retains nutrients. Long cooking times over high heats can destroy nutrients. Pressure cooking speeds up cooking times, thereby retaining valuable nutrients.
  6. Foolproof. Instant Pot recipes and programmable cook times make it easy for virtually anyone to cook. It’s just set and forget.
  7. Eggshells slide off like magic. This may seem like a minor benefit, but if you cook hard-boiled eggs often, you can appreciate not having to peel off tiny bits of stubborn eggshells piece by piece.

Cons of the Instant Pot:

  1. Expense. A 6-quart slow cooker retails for about $25, the same size Instant Pot hovers at around $90. However, extra cost may be worth it for you considering the time savings. Plus, if you’re on a budget look out for seasonal sales when the price can dip considerably. (Check out deals on Black Friday/Cyber Monday in November, or Amazon Prime day in July.)
  2. Steep learning curve. We’re so accustomed to cooking on a stovetop fire and in our ovens, but the Instant Pot is a completely different way to cook. You prep the food and the pot does the rest of the work (no midpoint stirring, sipping, or smelling the dish you’re preparing!) Many users say they mess up when they first use the Instant Pot.
  3. Special recipes. There’s no relying on prior cooking knowledge — because the Instant pot cooks in such a unique way, you’ll need to follow specialized Instant Pot instructions.
  4. Not crispy-crunchy. Despite its meat-browning “sauté” function, you can’t get a truly crusty finish or a fried texture with the Instant Pot.
  5. Not for every food. Pasta, fish, fresh vegetables, and other delicate foods can be tricky to cook in an Instant Pot. Since the high pressure cooks the pot’s contents super fast, it’s easy to overcook foods that need short cooking times.

Overall, the Instant Pot can come to the rescue on days when dinner can’t be ready fast enough!

Have you tried the Instant Pot? Let us know in the comments if you think it lives up to the hype!

Written by Lubicom for

3 Ways to Reinvent Traditional Thanksgiving Dishes

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Does anyone else roll their eyes, when Thanksgiving rolls around and everyone’s ‘gramming the typical pumpkin pie on a fall themed tablescape? Let’s be honest, more often than not, it probably looks way better than it tastes. I mean come on; store-bought pumpkin puree with a frozen pie crust is not the kind of pie I crave. Those leaves made out of pastry just don’t cut it. (Sorry if you thought you were original to plant those on top of your pie.)

It’s time to outdo those perfect instagramable pictures and concentrate on the actual flavor off-screen. Don’t get me wrong! I love a good fall-themed Instagram shot, but I love a mouthful of flavorful homemade heaven even MORE.

Thanksgiving at its root is all about tradition. Granny’s homemade Giblet Gravy, Auntie Janet’s perfect mashed potatoes and of course who could forget the ubiquitous corn pudding. For us Millennials, besides for not even knowing what those dishes taste like, we’re all about “out with the old and in with the new.”

Here are some ideas to help you veer away from the ‘traditional’ dish mindset and spice things up at your upcoming ‘friendsgiving’.

  1. Speaking of mashed potatoes, whoever knew that there would be so many ways to alter this staple “old-fashioned” dish? Whether you fry ‘em, half-bake them, blend in your Vita-mix for that velvety texture, potatoes are a true lifesaver. So this year, instead of the typical boring mash, try some fried mashed potato balls. We’re not trying to create more work for you, it’s as simple as combining your potatoes with herbs, garlic and the usual spices you like. Scoop into mini balls, dip in egg and then roll in panko crumbs and fry. If you’re looking for a slightly less indulgent form, pop them in the oven. I know I’ll be deep frying them until they get more golden than the piece of jewelry I’ve been eyeing all month.
  2. If you’re like me, you’ve probably caught on to the sous vide trend. I mean who could refuse THE solution to all problems that relate to the word ‘dinner’ or ‘meal prep’. Although your mind probably associates Thanksgiving prep with a bird in the oven for hours and hours, this hands-free approach will not only free up your precious oven space but you just might have created a new family tradition. There is seriously nothing more reliable or effortless than sealing your well-seasoned turkey into a ziplock, dropping it into water and walking away. (By away we mean to the other side of your kitchen where you can now spend time making homemade shortcakes.)Do it! Take one of the hardest dishes to master and turn it into a stress-free delight. (Get the recipe for Michal Frischman’s Sous-Vide Lemon-Herb Turkey)
  3. Now, let’s talk about pumpkin pie. It’s so convenient to use store-bought ingredients, but a homemade fresh, hot, healthy pie is really not difficult to make, we promise. Nowadays with 3-ingredient pie crust recipes, there is really no excuse.  Rachel Kor’s crust in her Oats and Honey Granola Pie is perfect (water and salt don’t count!), and if you want to add a health element to your pie crust you can try this one by From My Bowl. Not only do you get to choose which gluten-free flour you want to use, but you get the luxury of adding a health element to the crust alone: chia and flax seeds add the nutritional value that will ensure you’re not so guilty when you go in for a second slice. Rachel Goodman’s date-oat crust in her Flourless Pumpkin Pie is simplicity personified.)As for the filling, go on, just do it. Buy that fresh pumpkin (they sell already-cut pieces, LIFE CHANGER!), cook it, mash it, spice it and use that as your filling. You’ll be forever thankful.
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