Category Archives: Food

Chili Relleno Casserole Gluten Free and also an Egg Free Version, Bonus Salsa Recipe too!

Chili Relleno Casserole (gluten free), Yummmmmmm!

I am no longer eating gluten, but one of my favorite things is Chilis Rellenos. I found a recipe from the 1970s that was a for a casserole that didn’t involve the time consuming deep frying and the flour. Although their original recipe had flour in the egg mixture. I adapted their recipe to make these. I did use about 1/2 cup masa/corn flour, but you could eliminate that if you want. I find it gives the casserole just a tad of texture that I like.

The hardest part of all Relleno recipes is that you have to roast them to get their skins off. This is something you can do a day before, but it takes time and it stinks up your kitchen and messes up your stove top or broiler. If you don’t have a gas burning stove, I don’t know how to tell you to do these. I’ve never tried broiling or roasting them without an open flame. So, you can set the Poblano or Anaheim peppers, one or two at a time, over your gas flame and let them cook directly on the flame and get blackened and turn them frequently to get as much of the skin cooked/browned/black. Immediately after getting the pepper cooked put it in a glass bowl with a cover, you can use a plate if you don’t have a glass bowl cover. The point is to seal the heat in the glass which helps steam the pepper.

So, you repeat this process ten or more times for each pepper. It’s okay for the heat and steam to escape each time you add another pepper. Eventually all the peppers will be finished and you will keep the plate or lid on your bowl for a 1/2 hour or so. You can do this overnight as well. If you are using the broiler, less messy, not as flavorful, you have to pay attention and turn the peppers (and you can do them all at once) every few minutes. I have cooks’ fingers, which means I can turn these peppers with my bare hands, if you don’t have toughened fingers, wear a clean cloth mitt or use tongs to turn the peppers.

You cannot cook this recipe if you are in a hurry or distracted.

This is a labor of love.

Once you have steamed the rellenos, you will start to peel off their skins. This is a messy job. I recommend having a small bowl of warm water to rinse your hands off with. Put the whole peppers in the bottom of a large glass casserole dish that has been liberally dosed with olive oil. You can leave the stems on or cut them off as you wish. If you cut them off, your cheese will run out more into the casserole, leaving them on is a nice visual. For this batch I cut them off, but I’ve done it both ways.

Cut up as many long thin strips or wedges of either Monteray Jack cheese or Pepper Jack cheese or a vegan equivalent. Make a cut in the peppers vertically, they may have natural tears in them from the roasting, and insert the long wedges of cheese. It’s like a pepper burrito, you are stuffing the peppers with the cheese.

Separate the yolks from the whites of twelve eggs. Whisk the egg whites so they are fluffy. Mix the egg yolks with some milk, or half & half, just a 1/2 cup, and a 1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraiche. Add salt, pepper, cayenne and paprika as you like. You can omit the cayenne if you don’t want spicy. I always want spicy! Add 1/2 cup of corn meal/masa or whatever flour you want to use that works for your diet. I don’t recommend a nutty flour, you could use rice flour or cassava flour. Add the egg whites and fold so you have a light mixture. Add a cup of grated cheddar cheese.

Pour this whole mixture over your chilis and bake in the oven at 365 for 45 minutes to an hour. The egg mixture will puff up and become a beautiful golden brown.

This is the color that you want your casserole to be when it emerges from the oven

Eggless Version: Do everything the same for the chilis, but instead of mixing up the egg batter, make a fresh red salsa or use a good one from the store and coat the Rellenos with it. Bake in the oven for 1/2 hour. It won’t need as much time.

Relleno with homemade fire-roasted tomato, cumin, salsa

This casserole is best served with a warm fresh marinara sauce. I make mine from scratch and the recipe is from my daughter’s Israeli grand mother. I’ve never found a better one: Sapta Rachel’s Best Tomato Sauce. If you are using the fire-roasted tomatoes, instead of fresh tomatoes, which is what I do in the winter, I just adapt her recipe and use the defrosted tomatoes I’ve had waiting in my freezer for just this moment. I also omit the basil from this marinara as the flavors are more Mexican than Italian.

Fresh Fire-Roasted Salsa: Combine in a blender two or three Serrano or Jalapeño peppers with a quart of fire-roasted tomatoes (which have garlic, salt and pepper already in them if you are using ones you made from my recipe). If you are using canned ones, add four or five fresh garlic bulbs, salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon or more of oregano and a handful of fresh cilantro. Blend until smooth. Grind with a mortar and pestle or in a molcajete two tablespoons of fresh cumin seeds, heat up in a small skillet or cast iron pot the ground cumin seeds and let them toast gently, stirring constantly. After about one minute, add the liquid and cook for 1/2 hour or so, stirring frequently and don’t let it boil, but get it hot and keep stirring. Add more salt or black pepper to taste and serve it warm on the table. Or pour it over your eggless rellenos and bake.

Molcajete de Lava Niegra

I also make pico de gallo, click on the words to get taken to that recipe, for a compliment as an added bit of crunch. Then you can make guacamole while the casserole is cooking. Serve with a fresh salad, corn chips, sour-cream and black beans (also made best from scratch).

Pico de gallo, Fire Roasted Cumin Warm Salsa, Marinara sauce, fresh black beans, guacamole, fresh salad and my husband Kevin’s birthday treat of fresh berries, flan and whipped cream for dessert.

I know this seems like a lot of work, it is, but it is way less work than making the actual Chili Rellenos the regular way, trust me on this!

Here’s the list of ingredients and amounts:

  • Ten to twelve Poblano or Anaheim peppers (don’t bother making this in a small size, you can always freeze portions of this and have a treat at a later date)
  • a dozen eggs (or vegan alternative)
  • two large blocks of cheese or vegan alternative (one Pepper Jack or Monterey and one Cheddar)
  • Fire-Roasted Tomatoes a large amount
  • olive oil
  • garlic bulbs -6-10 for salsas
  • fresh cumin seeds 2 tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup corn masa/corn flour/ or flour of your choice
  • 1/4 sour cream or vegan alternative
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • cayenne powder, paprika, salt and pepper to taste
  • Pico de gallo ingredients are in the recipe you can link to

Enjoy!

Maren’s Summer Bean Salad

Maren Summer Bean Salad
Summer Bean Salad with Neukom Family Farms Heirloom tomatoes

I learned this easy simple recipe from my beloved Mother in Love Maren Frank. She and I don’t like the terms “mother-in-law, daughter-in-law.” They often have negative connotations and the relationship the two of us have is one of loving kindness, shared values and supporting each other in our differences. Much like a good bean salad, the different ingredients make a great combination of flavors. I’m a spicy pepper and she’s a good tomato, or perhaps she’s a nice sharp white onion and I’m the ripe tomato. I’ll let you decide!

Ingredients: Combine all of the ingredients below in a nice glass bowl and mix gently with a spoon and then refrigerate until you are ready to eat. This dish is better served at room temperature, in my opinion, so you can always take it out 1/2 hour before your meal or make it before you are about to eat.

  1. One large 16 oz can of good organic garbanzo beans, my brand preference is Westbrae. If you have time and want to make garbanzo beans from scratch, that’s always better, but this salad is good with canned beans and much quicker to make this way
  2. Three to four good tomatoes, this time of year, I’m getting mine from Neukom Family Farms and they are incredible. Slice up the tomatoes into small squarish pieces
  3. One white onion, chopped very fine
  4. Three to five garlic cloves, pressed or chopped very fine. Remember to always take out the center part of each clove
  5. Sliced black olives, 1/2 a can or more depending on how much you are making
  6. Fresh oregano and flat leaf parsley (you can use dried oregano if you don’t have fresh, but don’t use dried parsley). Chop up finely
  7. Salt and Pepper to taste. Maren prefers white pepper, so when she is here I use white pepper, but when she isn’t visiting I use black pepper. This salad will taste different depending on which pepper you use.
  8. 1/4 cup good organic red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar or some combination of these.
  9. 1/2 cup or less of good organic virgin olive oil, don’t use cheap stuff for this, the salad needs a really good olive oil.
  10. 1/4 cup or so of pickled sliced banana peppers (these are not spicy, similar to pepperoncinis, but less piquant). My husband doesn’t like this ingredient so sometimes I leave it out, but otherwise, I think it is essential and love the little tang it gives this summer salad.

You can eat this plain or throw it over a green salad. It’s a great dish to bring to a potluck, although nobody is having those right now with Covid-19. This recipe is probably the quickest recipe in my repertoire. It takes fifteen minutes to make and if you let it sit for a half hour before serving the flavors are perfectly blended, but you can eat it right away too. It’s wonderful and keeps for two or three days in the fridge.

Thank you Maren! Enjoy!

May 14, 1986 Family Wedding
May 14, 1989 Family Wedding of Nicole and Kevin. Maren (my brand new Mother-in-Love) is in the blue dress next to me. Maren is next to her son Andrew with my brand new husband Kevin. I’m in the front row center holding Issac, my mother Helen Redman, my brother Paul Barchilon, and my Aunt Ellen Weissberg Whyte, in black. Behind me, in glasses,  are my Uncle Roger Weissberg and my Beau-Pere Kenny Weissberg (I don’t like the word step-father either). The French Beau Pere is softer and literally translates to handsome father. Not pictured, but still present at this wedding, were Kathryn Taylor, Shira and my father Jacques. He was probably reading her a fairy tale so this picture could get taken.

Spicy Moroccan Carrots, More Yum than you will know what to do with!

Moroccan Carrots nicely plated and ready to serve in local Fire and Light recycled glass bowls. This picture is from Pesach. These carrots are a perfect addition to any meal, holiday or just regular, but they add a definite flair to your fare!

  • A large bunch of really excellent carrots, not pre-peeled “bunny love” in a bag. Good, large or fresh carrots, only! 2020-06-25 14.19.25
  • five to ten cloves of peeled garlic with the centers taken out as per my previous instructions about proper garlic preparation.
    Garlic prepared properly
    Properly Prepared Garlic
  • juice of one to two fresh lemons
  • 1/4 or more of olive oil, depending on how many carrots you are making
  • fresh chopped parsley
  • 1-3 teaspoons fresh cumin seeds ground in a mortar and pestle, do not use this much if you are using already ground cumin, perhaps 1/2 the fresh amount, but I warn you, it will not be as tasty with the already ground cumin
  • 1-2 teaspoons good salt, See previous posting about salt:
  • 1-3 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon or more of hot cayenne powder

(These carrots will be yummy without the spice for folks with a milder palette, but the spiciness is truly part of their charm. You can try substituting a milder cayenne or paprika.)

You need to clean your carrots well, if you aren’t peeling them. Have a large saucepan/soup pot of boiling water on the stove and put in some salt. You need to chop the carrots into long slivers for this dish, so it take a little bit of time to do so. More carrots is better. You will love this dish two days out and it’s unlikely it will make it that long as most folks just can’t stop eating these. Once you’ve got the carrots ready add them to the boiling water and blanch them for five to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the carrot slabs you cut. You need to have a bowl or large pan with ice water or cold water handy and you will remove the hot carrots immediately into the cold water with tongs or a strainer or whatever implement you have handy. Keep the boiling water handy and once it’s cooled you can use it for making rice or soup stock. It’s full of yummy carrot goodness.

Put the carrots aside and start working on the fresh cumin grinding. Once you’ve ground the cumin well, not to a powder, but you’ve broken down the seeds a fair amount, add your salt, and the garlic cloves directly into the Suribachi (bowl of your mortar and pestle) and mush, mash, pound that garlic into the salt and cumin seeds, it will start to break down fairly quickly because of the salt.

2020-06-25 14.55.14
Suribachi with smashed garlic, red peppers, salt and ground fresh cumin seeds,

Once you’ve got it pretty mushed so folks aren’t eating giant cloves of garlic, add the cayenne, red pepper flakes, lemon and olive oil and mix it all up and then pour onto your carrots. Stir all of that up and add the chopped parsley.

2020-06-25 14.55.43
Carrots with all the ingredients getting ready to be tossed together, your’e almost done!

These carrots are best served at room temperature, but you can refrigerate them for days. Just take them out an hour or so before your meal.

Enjoy and Lots of Love to you in your food making and food sharing!

Not Ready to Say Goodbye to Saying Kaddish

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The Altar I made to mark the eleven months since my father Jacov ben Perla v Chaim Ha Cohen’s death according to the Jewish calendar.

I’ve been weepy the last two days and I just figured out why. My body and heart are always ahead of my mind and brain. In Hebrew the word Lev means Heart and also Mind. So, my heart/mind was knowing something that my brain hadn’t figured out yet. I woke up with pain behind my eyes and a headache, yesterday. It was pretty early in the morning, but my husband woke up to hold me. I know when I have that kind of pain it is because I need to cry. I didn’t know why, but the why wasn’t important. So, he held me and I sobbed and released, still not sure what my tears were for or about.

Before falling asleep last night I thought, I need to check about the Jewish date for my father’s Yahrzeit. This is the day we mark once a year on the anniversary of a person’s death. The calendar for us is a combination Lunar and Solar calendar, so it is different than the Gregorian one used by most folks in this country. I knew that we stop saying Kaddish in the eleventh month from the death and since it was May 9th and my father died June 18/19th of 2018, I figured I better check. The Orthodox website run by Chabad.org is where I go when I need to calculate Hebrew birthdays or deathdays. They have a very easy interface and give you the dates for ten years out if you want.

So, I went to their site and plugged in my dad’s information and here’s what I got:

Yahrtzeit Information
The date of passing for this person was on:

Monday, June 18, 2018 – Tammuz 6, 5778

Observe the upcoming Yahrtzeit on:

Tuesday, July 9, 2019 – 6 Tammuz, 5779

Yahrtzeit observances begin on Monday evening.
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Kaddish Information

Kaddish is recited until mincha on the afternoon of:

Friday, May 10, 2019 – Iyar 5 5779

About the kaddish end date:

>Kaddish is recited for eleven months from the date of passing. Even if the interment took place a number of days after death, the 11 months are still counted from the date of passing. However, if the burial was postponed for two or more weeks after death, kaddish should be recited until the end of 11 months counting from the date of the burial.

I burst into tears upon seeing the Friday, May 10, 2019 date as the last time to say Kaddish for my father on a daily basis. I haven’t been saying Kaddish everyday for him for the last eleven months, but that didn’t matter. I have been thinking about him and saying the Kaddish whenever I was in a Jewish setting with a Minyan (ten Jewish folks or any ten loving folks will work for me).

I wasn’t, I am not ready to stop grieving my father. And, of course I don’t need to stop grieving him, but this marker hit me hard and I realized again with waves of tears that I am still very, very sad and missing my father every day. Grief is just not a one time thing you feel and are done with. I have been living it and reeling from it for the last eleven months very intensely. So, in the morning, this morning I again asked my husband for his loving arms and I cried some more and shared stories with him about my father.

2018-04-29 Kevin and Nicole
My man and I over a year ago celebrating my Beau Père Kenny Weissberg’s 70th, photo taken by Kenny’s very talented sister Ellen Weissberg Whyte.

I had big plans for tonight’s Shabbat dinner. I was going to cook Iranian Eggplant and make Raita and create a sort of pre-30th Anniversary vegetarian feast for my husband. Instead, after my energy/chiropractic/sound treatment with Sarah Griffith and my healing MAT (Muscle Activation Training) with Jazz and then shopping to get groceries, I found myself in a puddle of tears once I got home, barely able to get the groceries up the steps, for emotional, not physical reasons.

IMG_5208
Close up of altar, with the picture of my father and my sister about three months before she died. The Columbine and Lilac flowers are from my friend and MAT practitioner Jazz’s garden. The Columbine is the state flower of Colorado, and I could never pick it there, but here in California I can, in honor of my father and my sister Paula, whose Yahrzeit is coming up soon this May 16th in the Gregorian calendar.

No fancy dinner tonight. I finished setting up the altar for my father, pictured above and I’ll make a simple salad and asparagus for dinner. I’ll cook tomorrow, if I feel up to it. Today is about grieving and being sad and surrendering to my sadness, honoring that eleven lunar months have passed since my father was in a body. I don’t have to recite the mourner’s prayer for him everyday any more. Instead, I move into the wisdom of the Jewish practices of saying this prayer for him on the anniversary of his death, and three times more a year during the Yiskor service. So, four times a year, I’ll say this prayer for him, until I’m no longer able for the rest of my life.

Standing up when the Rabbi asks: “Is there anyone observing a Yahrzeit or in the first year of mourning, please stand,” has been a very powerful thing for me. I’ve cried every time I was asked for the name of who I am remembering, not expecting to each time. But, the tears, the body/mind/heart knowing cannot be denied or stopped. I have no desire to change that.

At Passover this year, I was in San Diego at my mother and beau-père’s home. When we got to the teaching and questions about why is this night different from all other nights, something strong came through for me. We ask “why on all other nights do we not even dip our greens/vegetables once, but on this night we dip twice?” This refers to dipping parsley in salt water and charoset into horseradish, so two dippings, double dipping that is encouraged. I was inspired to get honest with my parents about something very hard and sad for me, and so I gave them access to my feelings by introducing the subject through this idea of double dipping.

IMG_5169
The Pre-Passover double dipping table in the San Diego home of Helen Redman and Kenny Weissberg

I shared that usually we all avoid our feelings and on Pesach/Passover, we are being asked very clearly NOT to do that. If we think of the salt water as our tears and ourselves as the thing that needs to dip into them, we can see that our first dip is just a small foray into the emotional realm. Oh, there’s my feeling, yes, I know you’re there, that’s enough. We have that choice, most of the time, to stop ourselves from actually deeply feeling the sadness, grief, joy, fear or whatever emotion we are just lightly touching/dipping into. But, if we have the time or are able and have the support to immerse completely into our emotions, to really double dip, then something transformational and intense happens and we are no longer on the outside looking in, we are fully immersed.

So, this is the territory of emotional work, of grieving. It’s a place, where if we are healthy, we can have some agency and choice. I can’t live in this immersed in pain place all the time. Nothing would get done. It’s also not fair to my friends, family and community because I’m really not able to be present for others when I’m fully immersed in my emotional territory. My husband likes to say that I’m due and can take all the time I want. This is just one of the many things I adore about him. My middle son Issac, upon hearing about some of my sadness a few months back, said: “Mom, you’ve done so much for us, for so many people, if you take the next thirty years off to do whatever you want, that won’t even come close to covering it.” Both these men in my life are deep wells of grounding and tenderness in my life. I’m so very blessed by there understanding of my emotional double dipping.

To be fair, neither one of them likes it when I’m sad, but they don’t push me or aren’t upset by my sadness. I don’t feel as if they’ll topple or be hurt by my pain and grief. I trust their own steady grounding.

Mama Nicole and Issac
My man Issac, able to hold up whatever needs holding up. We take good care of each other, he and I.

The thing about family is that it’s not perfect or fair. Some members are better able to be around and take care of each other than others. Some parts of my family can hold my emotional double dipping better than others. This doesn’t mean the folks who aren’t able to do that don’t have gifts for me and aren’t available in other extremely helpful and important ways. My family is a messy, complex, messed-up and deeply caring for each other family. I think probably, this is true of most families.
As, I let myself be sad today and grieve the passing and end of day to day interactions and laughter and shared toast in the morning over coffee moments with my father, I’m so grateful for all the members of my family still here for me to cherish and honor and love and be loved by.

Mom Ken Ethan April 2017 Beard
My mother Helen Redman, Beau-Père Kenny Weissberg, and youngest son Ethan, cherishing each other!

Issac.Shira.
Issac and Shira honoring each other.

 

Maren and Iris
Maren, my Mother-in-Love (because we are much closer and care for each other much more than the Mother-in-Law moniker makes room for). Maren and I share a deep love for all things flower and here she is cherishing one of her Iris blossoms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014-10-17 04.23.31
My brother Paul and his partner Kathryn and me too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I were to put up all the pictures of my sisters, my many G!dchildren, my bonus brothers and sisters and all my friends and community who actually are also behind what makes me smile, this blog post would never be finished. So, to all of you, not pictured here, please know, deep in your bones that you are in my heart/mind/Lev always and enable me to double dip, to triple dip and to just be all around drippy as well as silly and whole.

Thank you All!

Magnificent Matzah Ball Soup, Vegan, Vegetarian or with Chicken Stock

IMG_5149
Finished Matzah Ball Soup just waiting to make someone’s tummy super happy

Ingredients:

  • three to five carrots cut into small rounds
  • one large onion or two leeks, cut finely
  • one fennel bulb, cut into thin slices or small chunks
  • white turnips (small delicate kind that look like radishes are better, but if you cannot find those, one fresh white turnip, cut into small chunks)
  • one rutabega or parsnip, cut into small chunks (optional)
  • two to three stalks of celery cut into small pieces or slivers
  • three to six cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • 1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh turmeric root (finely grated or micro-planed) or powder if you cannot get the root
  • finely chopped fresh herbs (tarragon, parsley, oregano, dill)
  • Matzah Ball Mix (I use a package, and don’t make my own mix, the package version just makes better Matzah Balls than I find I can with my own mixing of plain matzah meal and other ingredients.
  • two to four eggs

In a large stockpot/soup pot heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and/or leaks and sauté for at least ten minutes, then you can add the chopped garlic and some freshly chopped turmeric and let that cook together for another five minutes or so, then you can add the carrots, turnips, celery and fennel. Sauté all of these veggies together for ten to fifteen minutes and add a bunch of the freshly chopped herbs. Then add whatever stock you are using, chicken or veggie.

Stocks:

This recipe requires using a good stock. If you are vegetarian or vegan, use my Roasted Root Vegetable stock, or your own version of a robust vegetable stock. If you have cooked a chicken, you always want to save the bones. If you don’t have time to deal with making stock, throw them in the freezer until you do. To make a simple easy and healthy chicken stock, put the chicken carcass and bones and whatever is left over from your cooked chicken into a large pot of water; you will be boiling this for at least an hour or two, so fill the pot to accommodate the fact that the amount will reduce. Then strain the liquid into another pot, and let cool down and refrigerate or freeze the liquid. Once the chicken bones have cooled down you can pick off all the remaining chicken and freeze this too or use in a chicken salad or add to another soup.

Matzah Balls:

I use the mix, as I said earlier, but I amend it, of course. I learned this trick from my brother Paul. Add turmeric, either fresh or ground, freshly and very finely chopped dill, parsley, tarragon, oregano, etc. The turmeric makes these matzah balls a gorgeous color, plus adds yummy flavor. You have to make the matzah ball mixture ahead of time as it needs to rest in the fridge for at least fifteen minutes or more. I also add a few teaspoons of the stock I’ve made in the mix, even though the instructions on the box don’t necessarily call for that.

IMG_E5143
Matzah Ball mix with added herbs, a drop of Maldon smoked salt, turmeric, eggs etc. This mixture gets covered and refrigerated for at least 20 minutes before you can use it to make matzah balls.

You also need to have a separate large pot of boiling water handy. Once your matzah ball mixture has cooled down, you will be forming the balls and dropping them into the very hot, rapidly boiling water and covering them. They need to cook in this water for at least twenty minutes or so. I then transfer them to the soup so they gather the flavors. I only do this the day I’m serving it. If you leave the Matzah Balls in the soup, they absorb the liquid and you don’t have so much soup left. If done correctly, the balls will float and be light and delicious. I hope they turn out this way for you.

IMG_5146
Matzah Balls floating to the top of the hot water that has been boiling and covered for 20 minutes.

I do not know how to make a vegan matzah ball, you can try using an egg replacer of some kind or as my friend Bel-Ami Margoles suggests, just make the Vegan version of this soup and have the Vegans throw in some pieces of matzah to their soup. You can get gluten-free matzah as well, so if you are gluten intolerant and vegan or any combination of these you can try that. The soup itself is delicious, whether it has a Matzah Ball in it or not.

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My parents’ table in San Diego, ready for soup to be served once folks sit down.