CHALLAH FOR BODY AND SOUL (OR YEAST MEETS WEST, FROM DAD)

Today's post is written by none other than Rina's amazing mama bear, Ruth! Welcome to the blog, Mama Gato.

Rina always stood on the little green stool.  I stood behind her, her crazy curls tickling my nose as she stretched her tiny fingers to reach the kneading bowl. My grown up hands guided her child hands.  Palm down, fold and turn, palm down, fold and turn, again and again. If the dough was too sticky Rina would make monster fingers with the tacky mess, and I would slowly add small pinches of flour to the bowl.  “Does it feel like an earlobe, yet?”  When Rina’s crazy curls bobbed up and down I would announce, “Then it’s done!”

That was how we made challah every Friday after nursery school.  I showed Rina how to check an egg for blood spots, how to wake up the yeast with warm water and feed it with sugar and then proof it— wait patiently (or not so patiently) for it to froth in the bowl.  This, Rina understood, was what it meant to “make Shabbos.”  The Sabbath did not come on it’s own—if we wanted Friday night to become Shabbos, then we had to make it so. We had to invite the guests, shop for groceries, prepare the meal and set the table.  In this way we transformed the mundane into the holy. A key step to turning an ordinary end-of-the-week dinner into a Shabbos feast was to bake the challah.

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ROASTED PEAR CINNAMON SCONES

They say, when life gives you lemons; make lemonade. Well, dear idiom inventors, what do you do when life gives you pears? And not just a plastic grocery bag of pears - a huge brown bag of them every week for three weeks (thanks, CSA). Well, I say, when life gives you pears, you make some damn delicious pear scones.

Getting three pounds of scones wasn't exactly what I anticipated this season, but it seemed I couldn't eat them fast enough. And while pears are deliciously sweet on their own, there's only so many yogurt adornments, salad additions and snack time treats before you shout "no more!" Gliding past the whole poached pear thing, which was recommended to me by many a co-worker, I began to research ways I could turn pears into something more comforting. Fruit is great and all, but fall means hot cider, cozy sweaters, crunchy leaves and cinnamon baked goods. 

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HOMEMADE SOFT PRETZEL GRILLED CHEESE

Yesterday, I found out that one of my kickball team's favorite bars closed. It was a pretty tragic revelation for our whole group, to be honest. We had spent many evenings there - from rained-out kickball games to Saturday night skee-ball matches - and, despite the beer towers and stronger-than-words Moscow Mules, we always returned for one thing - the soft pretzels. 

Now, these pretzels were hardly what you're thinking - they didn't come from a heated glass box, spinning on a mindless rotisserie, drying out by the minute. No, these pretzels bigger than your head, fluffy and flavorful, full of thick, bread-like texture and accompanied by an out-of-this-world honey mustard dipping sauce. Exactly what you need before (or after!) a night of drinking with great friends. 

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FOUR-HOUR HOMEMADE BREAD

I pride myself on my intellect. I know, deep down, that I am a smart person. I have two degrees, can memorize large swaths of information, and am really good at applying lip liner. A skill is a skill.

Which is why, when I have particularly stupid moments, I just have to laugh. I say to myself, "Hey girl, it's totally fine that you just shattered that glass baking dish by putting ice cubes in it and then transferring it to a 475 degree F oven! You still know so many animal facts!"

Yeah...when a recipe says to use a cast-iron skillet, it isn't a suggestion. Use the cast-iron skillet. Apart from cockroaches, they'll be the only things left after the apocalypse.

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PITA BREAD

You know what I'm always in the mood for? A good pita. 

And let me tell you, good pita is nearly impossible to find at your local grocery store. The kind that comes in the plastic bag with the twist-tie seal is mediocre at best, and, even warmed up, delivers a stale, sad taste. To find a good pita, you have to head to your local family-owned Lebanese restaurant, where they serve pita in a cute little basket, kept hot with a napkin or towel. 

But sometimes, the effort of putting on pants and stepping out into the world is just too much. That's where we come in, and, boy, are we more than happy to support your no-pants decision.

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HONEY + THYME BISCUITS

I have a confession to make: I am not an herb person. I don't like most fresh herbs, most notably cilantro and dill - the latter results in shame, seeing as I am the only one in a family of six who detests it. Trust me, I wish I liked herbs! They're so beautiful, and can totally change a recipe with a small addition. I'm hoping this recipe is the beginning of my beautiful love story with herbs. This might not be the biggest leap, considering these biscuits have a small amount of thyme and a copious amount of butter, but hey, it's a step.

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FOOLPROOF BANANA BREAD

My mom makes the best banana bread ever.

Growing up, it was one of her two dessert staples, her other being chocolate chip cookies (sometimes baked in the form of a cookie-cake) followed verbatim from the back of a bag of Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chips. Even still, her back-of-the-bag cookies were so divine they never lasted more than a couple of days (especially when my brother’s friends came over). But her banana bread is something else.

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MAGICAL VEGAN CINNAMON ROLLS

I'm a vegan doubter. There, I said it. I know it makes no sense for me to co-run a (mostly) vegan blog, but, before you give me that look, let me explain. My dessert motto has always been "it's not worth it if it's not real," which still reigns true when people try to convince me applesauce is a good substitute for sugar (sex with pants on, as Whole30 appropriately calls it). Living healthily doesn't mean depriving yourself of every sugar-filled good thing life has to offer. And let me be clear: these cinnamon rolls are by no means what I would call healthy. But, if you have a sensitive tummy, as many in my family do, having a dairy-free way to satisfy your sweet tooth means you're one step closer to food paradise. 

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